Tag Archives: actual murder

SVH #126: Tall, Dark, and Deadly

8 Apr

talldarkdeadly

Jessica raised her eyebrows. “It’s garbage. How do you expect it to smell?”
“There’s so much of it,” Lila whined.

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks, in the loosest sense.

Summary/Overview:

One night at the Dairi Burger, Jessica loses one of her new earrings and decides the best place to search for it is in the dumpsters out back.  She drags Lila along, but she doesn’t find the earring. Instead, she finds a live kitten, which she decides to adopt and name Jasmine, and then, more horrifyingly, she finds a dead body.  The body, belonging to a teenage boy from Big Mesa, appears to have been drained of all its blood. The police are called, everyone is shocked, and Jessica, ever the sociopath, plots on how to turn her discovery into fifteen minutes of fame.

Everyone at school is abuzz over the news of the body, and there’s a special assembly called to discuss it with students.  At the same time, Chrome Dome Cooper announces that there’s a new transfer student, a dark-haired, gorgeous senior named Jonathan Cain. Jessica, like most of the female student body, is immediately transfixed by him.  Elizabeth is not, having seen him act like a total jerk in the hallway earlier. But she’s in the minority, as Enid also decides that he’s her soulmate. It isn’t long before nearly all of the girls in school are dressing in black and wearing dramatic makeup in an attempt to catch Jonathan’s attention, but he remains an enigma.

Even though he never seems to interact with any of the other students, Jonathan becomes the topic of conversation at school. Apparently he’s super good at advanced chemistry, knows more about European cultures than the teacher, can sink baskets from across the gym, and drives a motorcycle. All of the girls–and then, hilariously, most of the dudes–at school begin to dress in all black and wear dramatic makeup in an attempt to get his attention. Enid loses her mind completely and has her hair chemically straightened and dyed black, and completely changes her makeup look.

Despite all this, Jonathan ignores everyone. Jessica is not deterred and continually tries to win his affection, attempting a bunch of different stunts like draining her car battery and passing him flirty notes in French class. He doesn’t take any of her bait, which just makes her want him even more. She buys a bright red minidress and hops onto his motorcycle at the mall, and he takes her for a ride before dropping her off and telling her to never do that again. Then he totally returns her missing diamond earring by dropping it off on her bedroom windowsill, but Jessica doesn’t see him do it.

When Jasmine, the new kitten, escapes one night, Jessica finds her up another tree, and Jonathan is nearby. He tells her to listen to her kitten, who is freaking out, and avoid predators. Jessica doesn’t get his heavy-handed meaning, because she’s an idiot. Instead she thinks about kissing him.

Both Enid and Jessica seem to be particularly obsessed with Jonathan, and when Enid tells Jessica that she followed him home one day, Jessica manages to get the address out of her. Jessica tricks Elizabeth into thinking that she’s home, steals the Jeep, and heads out to Forrest Lane, where Jonathan lives. The house is a crumbling mansion, creepy as fuck, and just before she loses her nerve, Jonathan answers the door, and then they kiss. Then he threatens her life. Romantic.

The B-Plot, as it is, involves Liz still struggling with her waning feelings for Todd while pining for Joey, the boy she dated while she was a camp counselor. While she’s not sure she’s ready to throw in the towel with Todd, she is worried to learn that Joey is transferring to UCLA, and he won’t stop writing her letters and doing weird things like putting a canoe paddle in her locker (what the actual fuck, Joey?).

Because Maria Slater was at Camp Echo Mountain with Elizabeth and saw the entire thing with Joey unfold, Elizabeth confides in her. This bothers Enid, who seems to be undergoing another psychotic break. She lashes out at Elizabeth and is super bitchy to Maria, and then cries about how no one understands her. She loves Jonathan, and she needs to be near him.

Elizabeth and Maria Slater seem to be the only two people who have not fallen under his spell, though it’s unclear why they are immune to whatever magic is happening. When Jonathan appears at The Oracle office after school one day and warns Elizabeth that if she loves her sister, she’ll keep Jessica away from him, her feelings about the danger everyone is in are solidified. When another body is discovered near Secca Lake, Elizabeth becomes convinced that it’s Jessica and calls Todd in a panic. As he tries to get to her house, Elizabeth opens the door to find Joey on the steps. They embrace, and of course Todd sees them. DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica and Elizabeth’s grandma sent them each a pair of diamond stud earrings, and Jessica regales her friend group with the anecdote that her grandmother was the first girl in her town to get her ears pierced at age 12.
  • Jessica considers the color purple to be a “power color”
  • Lila wears a designer called Pierre Jove
  • Mr. Fellows is teaching his students about Spanish settlers in the Americas.
  • When Maria was a child actress, she starred in a movie called The Visitor, and commercials for Crystal Drops, Feathersoft, and was something called The Macaroni Princess.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Experience had taught [Elizabeth] to listen to her gut feelings; more often than not, they were right.” (38) [Ed. note: This is 100% inaccurate but ok]
  • “‘French is one of the few classes offered at SVH that’s worth attending,’ Lila declared. ‘Bo says that French novels are the most lushly romantic in the world, but unless you read them in the original language, you miss most of the subtle richness of the text.'” (62)
  • “Her face was different, too. Her eyebrows had been plucked into thin, glamorous arcs.” (107)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

So after a super, super long hiatus, I’m back at it. The truth is that I’ve been thinking about trying to finish the series for a long time, and then I looked at how many I have left and was all, “That’s IT?!” as if it’s completely accomplishable. But these books are so, so bad.

I jumped back in with almost no refresher on what’s happening in the series. The book spends the first few minutes having Jessica’s friends razz her about her breakup with Ken, telling her that when she cheated on him it made him into an asshole. Jessica almost cries because it was such a painful breakup, but I’m left confused because she’s dated like at least half a dozen dudes since they broke up, including Poor Dead Christian.

It’s obvious that the series has completely dispensed with trying to make sense in terms of a timeline, which is maddening but weirdly understandable? The book refers to their time at Camp Echo Mountain as being during the previous summer, but they’re a.) still sixteen, b.) still juniors in high school, and c.) on their fourth or fifth summer vacation? I DO NOT GET IT AND I DO NOT KNOW WHY IT BOTHERS ME SO MUCH.

Apart from that, the most bizarre parts of this story revolve around Jonathan’s magical charisma that seems to make everyone want to be like him or near him, despite the fact that he doesn’t ever interact with anyone. Jessica has to literally jump onto his bike while he’s on it to get him to interact with her, and we never see him talk to anyone else, apart from when he vaguely threatens Elizabeth.

Yet everyone wants to be like him. I suppose we’re supposed to believe that there’s a supernatural element at play, but the writing is so bad and the plot and character development so flimsy that it completely relies on a suspension of disbelief that’s staggering. Nothing about this greasy, brooding, goth douche canoe indicates that he’s charismatic or even interesting, and yet everyone is losing their goddamn minds over him.

The other weird thing is that readers are suddenly treated to Jonathan’s thoughts three-quarters of the way through the book. This shift in character perspective is lazy writing, but it’s also jarring and doesn’t make sense. It’s clear that he’s conflicted about hurting people, and there’s a lot of angst about ignoring his “needs,” but if this is true, then why would he choose to start attending class at a local high school? What fucking sense does that make?

I guess we’ll find out in the next installment. I know I can’t wait.

 

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SVH Magna Edition: Return of the Evil Twin

18 Feb

return twin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3  weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s Christmas time in Sweet Valley yet again, and the twins are excited about vacation.  Jessica and Elizabeth are working with some arbitrary inside twincharity group to raise funding for a new children’s wing at the Fowler Memorial Hospital, and they get the brilliant idea to host a New Year’s Eve party at the traveling carnival that will be in town over the holiday.  The owners of the carnival agree to donate all profits to the charity, which is super convenient to the plot.

To celebrate the start of the holiday, the entire gang throws a caroling party.  The group meets at Secca Lake for a bonfire before heading out to sing carols to the unsuspecting Sweet Valley citizens, but Jessica and Todd are both very late, and Elizabeth worries about them.  On his way to the lake, Todd’s car spins out after he sees something move across the road and he slams into a guardrail, fading into unconsciousness.  Jessica sees his car on the road as she approaches and jumps out, saving him just in time, as his car goes over the side of the cliff and blows up.  This is obviously big news, and Todd’s gratefulness for Jessica’s heroics lead him to start to have romantic feelings for her.  This is probably exacerbated by Liz’s completely irrational feelings of jealousy over Jessica saving her boyfriend’s life.  It doesn’t help that everyone wants to ask Jess about it, and the paper even runs their picture on the front page, calling Todd her boyfriend instead of Liz’s.

Things continue to go badly for Liz, who has started dreaming about Margo again, even though she’s totally dead, right?  Also, Todd and Jess are totally into telling their story about the harrowing experience near Secca Lake, and Liz and Ken both feel shunted aside.  Jessica and Liz argue a lot.  Jessica starts having nightmares about Margo.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, Georgia, a moody girl named Nora Chapelle has just lost her father.  Because her mother died years ago, this makes her an orphan.  This is especially true when her evil stepmother offers her $5o,ooo to disappear from her life.  She also lets the bomb drop that Nora had an identical twin sister who was so evil that they gave her up for adoption.  Nora takes off to New York to track her sister’s whereabouts and it isn’t long before she manages to trace Margo’s life from there to Ohio to Sweet Valley.  Despite providing the readers a solid recap of the first evil twin saga, this book also adds information about the ambulance carrying Margo’s body never reaching the hospital, and that it ended up in a river (Margo’s body wasn’t found).  Convinced it’s all the Wakefield twins’ fault, Nora hops a plane to L.A. to get revenge for her sister.  She books a room at the Sweet Valley Inn and starts spying on the Wakefields.

One night, she goes to visit the gravestone that a local teen shelter erected in Margo’s honor.  This makes no sense whatsoever, but neither does what comes next: Margo appears in the cemetary, and the girls realize that the other still exists.  Nora takes Margo back to her hotel room and cringes a lot because Margo is messy and Nora is pathologically clean.  Margo convinces Nora that the Wakefield twins’ lives are rightfully there, and it’s time to claim their dues.

Jessica and Liz make up, but then Margo and Nora mess with their heads one night at the most spectacularly attended screening of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Liz and Enid go, and Ken and Jessica go, but Nora, posing as Elizabeth, goes with Todd and makes out with him.  Liz and Enid see it and assume it’s Jessica, and Liz FREAKS OUT and screams at Jessica and Todd (separately, and later, instead of confronting them at the theater, which makes way more sense).  The twins stop speaking and go to the New Year’s Eve carnival at odds with one another yet again.

Meanwhile, Nora and Margo fight over who has to be Elizabeth once they take over for real. Margo tells Nora that she should be, since she’s so neat, but Nora also wants to be Jessica.  If this isn’t the most perfect encapsulation of the Liz/Jess dynamic, I don’t know what is.  At the carnival, Liz sulks and Jessica goes into the house of mirrors for a good spook.  After the carnival, Jessica goes home to sleep and Liz stays to clean up.  Nora realizes that Margo has left her to do her own spying and decides to go and kill Jessica before Margo can so that she can take over the twin’s life.  She sneaks into the Wakefield house, stabs the sleeping form of Jessica, and is nearly out the window when Liz walks in and sees it all happen.  Liz collapses onto Jessica and blacks out.  Nora takes off but is seen escaping by Alice and Ned on their way home from party.

The doctors can’t save Jessica, and it’s a few days later when they have a memorial service for Jessica at SVH.  Despite telling the detectives that she knows it was Margo, no one believes her.  When she’s standing in the auditorium, she suddenly realizes that Jessica is still alive and needs her help.  No one believes her about this, either.   She furiously works out the clues Jessica has sent her in dreams.  When the police come to question her again, she steals one of their guns and goes back to the school.

Nora is convinced she has to kill Margo so that she can take over the only remaining Wakefield twin’s life.  She becomes convinced that Margo’s hiding in the basement at SVH and goes there to kill her.  But it’s Jessica! Elizabeth arrives and points the gun at both girls, then makes a decision about which is which.  Nora spills the beans about how she’s not Margo, realizes that she killed her own sister and seems sad about it (even though she was prepared to do that again right here), and then cries.  The police come and arrest her, and all is well again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Outfit alert: Jessica “borrows” Liz’s candy-striped sweater, white pants, and Christmas tree ornament earrings for the caroling party.
  • Liz and Ken go to see The Shining
  • According to Margo, she’s able to hold her breath for up to 3 minutes underwater

Memorable Quotes:

  • “I have a librarian friend–a former paramour of mine.” (75) [this just made me laugh because i’m a librarian]
  • “Elizabeth is such a prude, she makes me want to throw up.” (182)
  • “Do you know that in all this time Todd has never even managed to get Elizabeth out of her clothes? It’s positively sick!” (210)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s something deeply unsettling to this reader about the idea of a father giving away one of his daughters to an adoption agency/foster care because of clear psychotic tendencies.  The family clearly has money, and it is astounding to me that they wouldn’t even consider psychiatric help before throwing in the towel on a toddler.  I’m choosing to ignore the idea that the Wakefield twins have not one but two doppelgangers, though.  I just can’t handle it.

My favorite part of this book is when Elizabeth steals a gun from the police and faces literally no repercussions.

SVH Super Thriller #10: A Killer on Board

9 Feb

killerboard

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1-2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

To celebrate the capture of John Marin and the fact that all the Wakefields are unfortunately still alive and kicking, Ned decides to take Alice and the girls (but not you, Steven) on a family vacation to Catalina Island.  The girls get Maria Santelli to cover their waitressing shifts for a week, because that’s how this shit works, and they head off towards a beach vacation at a fancy resort.  All of them are still quite tense about what has just happened with Marin, but they all try hard to put the past behind them.

Meanwhile, Marin is in prison for about five seconds before he convinces a young prison guard named LeighAnn LaShay that he’s in love with her.  He fakes sick, takes her hostage, kills another guard, and kidnaps LaShay in her own car, finally disposing of the car in the desert.  He leaves LeighAnn bound and gagged in her car.  Then he manages to make it back to Sweet Valley, convinces an associate named Griffin Pierce at Ned’s office that he’s with the phone company, and hacks into Ned’s voicemail to determine where the family is staying.  Once on the island, he sweet talks his way into a suite despite the hotel being booked solid and then gleans information about what rooms the Wakefields are staying in.

In a bizarrely quick plot point, Ned manages to figure out that Marin might not be where he’s supposed to be.  A quick call into the Sweet Valley Police tells him what he feared: Marin’s escaped and on the hunt.  He tells the detective not to bother calling the Coast Guard, because Marin is already on the island.  He knows because Marin’s using LaShay as an alias. Dun dun DUN.

Jessica and Liz enjoy a day of horseback riding with a guide-led group.  They grow tired of walking their horses and convince the guide to let them go off on their own.  Of course they get lost, and then they end up trapped next to a cliff.  Jessica’s horse starts to go over and panic just as John Marin meets up with them on his own horse.  Liz tries to distract him while Jessica gets her footing, and Jessica manages to leap into the air onto Liz’s horse.  They run off, Marin in hot pursuit.  It rains and they continue to pound away, finally getting free of his sights.  They run into Ned, who has been searching for them, and return to the hotel for a tearful reunion with Alice.

Instead of sitting and waiting with the police, Ned insists that he get his family off the island immediately.  The hotel acquiesces and gets him a boat from a local woman.  He sails his family towards the California shore, but Marin is already onto him and steals a motor boat after knocking the owner unconscious.  He approaches the boat and makes it look as though his craft is in danger.  Ned takes a raft to investigate while Alice calls “the coastguard” which is really just Marin.  Then he jumps off the boat and heads for the Wakefields while Ned is still trying to help whoever is on the motorboat.  Is this book over yet? Jesus.

Marin climbs on board and knocks Alice unconscious before tying up the three of them.  He pours gasoline all over the boat while taunting him, then lights a match.  The boat goes up in flames, and it seems all is lost, but Ned has managed to get the motorboat working and jumps onboard in the nick of time.  He wrestles with Marin before helping the women get free, and then orders them off the boat onto a waiting dinghy.  He goes back for Marin, and the twins and Alice row away from the boat before it explodes.  Ned arrives emptyhanded, saying that Marin is dead.  The group rows towards shore.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The hotel Ned has booked the family at is called Hotel Orizaba
  • The horse Jessica rides is named Black Beauty, and Liz’s horse is named Fred.
  • John Marin makes a Doublemint Gum commerical joke, which is HILARIOUS because Brittany and Cynthia Daniel, who played the twins in the SVH TV series, were in one of those very same commercials.  SEE? HILARIOUS.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But really, Liz, we’re perfectly safe now. The odds of running into another super-sexy guy who’s also a serial killer are practically nonexistent.  There just aren’t that many murderers out there, and we already found one this summer. So, statistically, there’s no danger anymore.” (18)
  • “Do you rehearse your lame comments ahead of time,” Elizabeth asked, “or do you improvise on the spot?” (114)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Where to even start?  Let’s start with the “maximum security” prison Marin breaks out of, and the fact that they had one 23-year-old girl on guard duty.  Then let’s deal with the fact that Marin was able to basically walk out of the prison with her as a hostage.  No one stopped them.  It makes no sense.  NONE OF IT DOES.

But probably my biggest beef with this book is the completely insane response of Ned Wakefield to take his family on a boat in the middle of the night in the midst of a storm instead of waiting it out at the hotel, surrounding by other people.  Why wouldn’t he wait with the police for Marin to return to the hotel?  Why did he think it was safer to travel alone in the water in the dark? HOW?  HOW IS THIS SAFER?

TERRIBLE.

SVH Super Thriller #9: A Stranger in the House

6 Feb

stranger

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

For some bizarre reason, it is summer vacation AGAIN.  Steven is home and working at Ned’s law office, and the twins stranger 2have both gotten jobs at the Marina Cafe as waitresses.  Jessica thinks it’s going to be all hot guys and big tips, but Liz is, predictably, much more practical about the entire endeavor.  When Jessica points out that Liz is in a rut, she actually agrees and wonders if she can shake things up.  Their first day of waitressing entails a lot of running around and getting mixed up by the restaurant’s manager.  Liz leaves with Todd for a date and Jessica ends up meeting  handsome young man named Scott Maderlake who tells her he’s a scout for a television series.  The two flirt and make plans for a date.

Meanwhile, Ned Wakefield is obsessing over news that convicted murderer John Marin is being release 15 years early from prison.  Ten years prior, Ned put him away while working as an assistant district attorney.  Before Marin was locked up, he swore he’d get his revenge on Ned by coming at him through his family.  Worried about the safety of his children, Ned leaps at the chance to send Steven down to San Diego for a month to work on a case, and frets over Liz and Jess’s safety.

When Ned receives a threatening card from someone who signs it “JM,” he is sure it’s from Marin.  But the police basically tell him that they can’t do anything unless Marin violates parole, which he does about five minutes later, as he gave his PO a fake address.  But now no one can figure out where Marin went, so they have to look for him.  In a panic, Ned calls in a favor to a PI friend and arranges to have someone follow Jess and Liz during the day, for their “protection.” He doesn’t tell the girls–or even Alice–this, of course.  This will end well.

Of course, Marin is already in Sweet Valley, has already broken into the Wakefield home, and has gathered intel on the twins and their lives.  He’s also set up a phone tap on the house phone, because of course he has.  So he’s one step ahead of Ned (or, like, seven, but whatever).  Ned continues to receive threatening mail from him, including an envelope with Jessica’s lavalier necklace.

Liz locks eyes with a mysterious cute boy at the Dairi Burger one night and thinks he might be her soulmate because he’s writing in a notebook.  When he shows up at the cafe the next day, she finds out from Jane that he’s living on a boat and is a writer.  Liz practically swoons.  When she finally gets a chance to talk to him a few days later, she finds out that his name is Ben Morgan.  They take a walk along the docks.

In fact, both twins continue to see their new dudes (who is totally the same person but whatever) in secret, not even telling each other about their newfound love.  When Ned asks tensely if either girl has met anyone new or unusual lately, they both lie, and it’s clear that they are both lying.  Ned doesn’t tell the girls about the necklace and though he worries about it and Jim the PI tells him it’s important to know which twin it came from, he continues to sit on it.

The police call Ned with good news: they’ve arrested who they think John Marin is.  But then the twins are attacked while closing the cafe one night, and when they ID the man they think did it, it’s the dude the police had already arrested.  It becomes clear that Marin set this guy up to take the fall.  Although both twins know about John Marin and their father’s past now, Elizabeth still sneaks out to meet Ben for a midnight sail.  Ned is distracted by the fact that Marin has killed Jim, his PI.  The police also find the body of the security detail that was hired to watch over Jess and Liz.  What a murdering spree!

Once Jessica figures out that Liz isn’t with Todd like she said (because he calls the house), she and Ned and the police rush to the beach disco to interrogate Jane about who Liz has been seeing in secret.  They go to find the boat and end up sending out the coast guard (and riding along, because why not) to meet the boat.  John tries to kill Elizabeth with a knife but she stomps on his foot and runs towards the back of the boat while he heads towards the dinghy to make an escape.  She nearly drowns, but Jessica saves her.

At home, the police show up and tell the twins they found bloody remnants of Marin’s jacket and that he’s believed to have been eaten by sharks.  Because that’s the most logical explanation for his disappearance.  The twins rest easy for approximately five minutes before Marin shows up, having hidden in the basement and drugging Prince Albert.  Marin hits Ned with a piece of wood and goes upstairs to kill the twins.  Before he can, Ned storms in and throws him against a wall.  Then Marin jumps out a window. I’m not sure why.

The police arrest Marin and all is well with the world.  OR IS IT?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Marina Cafe makes their waitresses wear turquoise polo shirts and khaki shorts. Glamorous!
  • Ned has “progressive views on rehabilitation”
  • Jane has just graduated college but at one point she sees Todd and says, “If I were ten years younger…” So, you’d be into him when you were 12? WHAT?
  • “Ben’s” boat is named Emily Dickinson

Memorable Quotes:

  • “After ten years in prison, there isn’t much I don’t know about picking a lock.” (37) [Wait, what?!]
  • “Calm down, Ned. Your daughters are attractive girls. They might not have realized that this was different from the kind of surveillance they must be used to from men.” (174)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

My first issue with the book is the entire concept of John Marin.  First of all, he committed a horrific crime, was convicted of it, and was up for parole in 10 years.  He murdered two people brutally, which under California law would have made him eligible to be tried under a Capital offense, unless I’m mistaken (I’m no lawyer like Ned, but I think this is right).  So he wouldn’t be up for parole.  But even if he hadn’t been tried under that, he still wouldn’t have been eligible for parole after 10 years.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Not even for a pretty white dude in prison.

But then there’s the complete ridiculousness of Ned Wakefield.  He tells no one in his family that he’s worried about John Marin, even after John Marin has started to break into the house.  This is not the reaction of a human being who loves his family.  This is the reaction of a person who has lost his grip on reality, or someone who secretly wants his family dead (can’t blame him there).  It makes no sense.

My favorite part of this book was when the police show up with scraps of the windbreaker Marin was wearing on the boat and they tell the Wakefields that there’s blood on the clothes and it’s being tested for a DNA match, but it’s only a “formality” because they’re sure Marin is dead. I actually laughed out loud, because this is legitimately the dumbest thing I have heard, maybe ever.

SVH #116: Nightmare in Death Valley

4 Feb

nightmare

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 days

Summary/Overview:

The teens are still in the desert and they’re running out of food.  They camp overnight in the cave where the third treasure was supposed to be, and they argue over their quickly dwindling food supplies.  Heather’s ankle is still messed up from her fall while climbing, so the next morning, the group decides to leave Jessica and Heather behind and continue on, sending help when they reach the Oasis (which is still, weirdly, like 25 miles away).  It isn’t long after the remaining four set off that they argue about which fork in the trail to take.  Liz and Ken think it’s too dangerous to take the low ground, because there have been storms in the area and a flash flood could be imminent, while Todd and Bruce think it’s stupid to climb to higher ground because they don’t have enough water or food to fuel extra exertion.  The four split off into twos, which seems like a supremely bad idea.  Todd worries that Liz will cheat on him with Ken, which is a nice break from worrying if Liz will cheat on him with Bruce.

Heather and Jessica are still camping near the cave.  The two bicker and worry about what will become of them, and they’re awoken in the night by the sound of crunching gravel. The escaped convicts are rummaging through Jessica’s bag, and Heather screams, alerting the men to their awoken state.  They end up bound with ropes and held hostage while the convicts rummage through their things.  One of the men, who Jessica starts calling “Jack,” seems gentler than the other two, offering the girls water and beef jerky.  The convicts decide that sending up a flare is a good way to get the rest of the gang back, so they do that.

Meanwhile, Todd and Bruce fight and separate.  Bruce is at the top of a hill when he hears a scream and realizes that Liz is about to fall (?).  He saves her but loses his bag of gold to a bald eagle at the same time (I am not making this up).  Then Todd comes back and he and Liz make up.  They see the flare go up and decide to go back to the camp.  Ken follows behind the other three, in case it is a trap.

Which, of course, it is! The five are held hostage for a bit until Ken sneaks up and tries to steal one of the convict’s guns.  It doesn’t work, and the entire group gets bound up with rope.  BUT THEN it starts to thunder and rain! Liz convinces the men that they have to move to lower ground to avoid lightning strikes.  The men decide to leave, even though Jack expresses regret at leaving the teens alone.  The teens break free thanks to Bruce’s hunting knife and start to move to safer ground, but then they realize Jack is drowning in the river! They save him, and then he helps get Heather to higher ground (flash floods? this terrain is so confusing) by carrying her up the side of a cliff.  The group welcome him as one of their own magnanimously.

But it isn’t long before they meet up with the other two convicts, who most certainly did not drown in the flash flood.  “Moe” grabs Elizabeth and holds a knife to her throat.  Jack tries to rescue her and ends up getting shot, falling DEAD to the ground.  Moe hears a plane and goes outside of the cave they’re in to investigate, leaving the other dude to kill the teens.  Instead of killing them, he listens to Jessica’s pleas and fires the rounds into the roof of the cave, causing a cave-in.  The teens are trapped and running out of air.

After another near-brush with randomly rising water, the teens follow a tunnel towards another area.  By accident, Ken bangs a wall, and it falls away.  They manage to climb through the rock and find that they secretly discovered a shortcut to the Oasis! They are saved!

Oh, and the gold they found is really fool’s gold.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ken wears a sailor’s cap to keep the sun off his head, and Liz wears an “Indian-print bandanna.”
  • Ken and Liz see Orion’s belt in the sky, which must mean it’s winter (?)
  • Jack has a tin of brownies his lady made him, and they have walnuts in them, which makes them GARBAGE.
  • According to Jack, Moe was in for murdering a bunch of people with guns and also explosions, which would certainly put him on death row and not gen pop, but WHATEVER GHOSTWRITER

Memorable Quotes:

  • “We’re moving at the rate of an inch an hour.  It will be March of the year 2000 before we get back to the Oasis.” (37)
  • “Elizabeth, I need to say something…But you’ve made your point. So right now I wish you’d stuff a sock in it.” (52)
  • “Now it was up to her: Jessica Wakefield, sexy seductress of Sweet Valley High, was about to swing into action.” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Like, where do we even begin?  All of it is so preposterous that I feel overwhelmed by choice when it comes to mocking.

It makes no sense that the group would continue to split up after leaving Heather and Jessica in the middle of nowhere.  I mean, I know they are teens and therefore impulsive, but this is why they would have a guide.  WHATEVER.  Furthermore, there are a lot of discrepancies in how much distance the group has traveled and why they keep crossing paths with the convicts.  It makes no sense and many of these moments felt like ways to push the plot forward (but made no actual logical sense).

The convicts are dumb, even Jack, who is supposed to be the most humane of the trio.  When Jessica asks him what he did to land himself in prison, he says he was talked into holding up a liquor store.  Okay, buddy.  You aren’t a murderer but you definitely made some questionable choices.  But he’s the least bad of the bunch! He has a woman waiting for him! He wants to run away to Mexico!

I guess the thing that sticks out the most in this book is how many natural disasters they face.  Cave-ins, flash floods, near-lightning strikes, and so much more.  The cave-in thing actually made me laugh because they talk about nearly running out of air and then follow a huge tunnel for a while, which would mean they had way more air than the ghostwriter thought.  I don’t know.  None of it makes sense.  I HATE IT.

SVH Super Thriller #8: Murder in Paradise

28 Jan

murderinparadise

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Alice Wakefield has randomly won an all-expense paid trip to a spa in a glamorous location.  Because Alice has no friends, she takes her daughters, as well as Lila and her mom, Grace, and Enid (her mom has to “work” and can’t make it). The spa, creatively named Paradise Spa, is full of beautiful people, with the exception of the spa’s owner, Tatiana Mueller.  While Alice has a feeling of deja vu when she meets Tatiana, she largely ignores her feelings of foreboding.

The ladies settle into life at the spa.  Jessica and Lila are horrified to find that there are no mirrors anywhere at the resort, and when they ask if they can have a mirror delivered to their room, Tatiana tells them no, because the spa focuses on inner beauty.  Except this is a beauty spa, so that makes no sense, but whatever.  It takes approximately five seconds before Jessica meets a golf instructor named Chris and falls in love with him.  She gets worried when he seems to be pretty into Liz, though.

And indeed he is, because he asks Liz to meet him for a rousing game of tennis.  She agrees, so long as he’ll bring a friend for her friend, Enid.  Enid has been feeling bad about how gorgeous Liz is and how she gets all the boys or whatever.  Tatiana has actually been feeding into Enid’s insecurities, but they are boring, so whatever.  Enid hits it off with Chris’s friend Alex, and the date goes well until Jessica shows up and acts all distracting.  Enid is miserable and consumed with jealousy, which is only compounded by the fact that Tatiana has started hypnotizing Enid and telling her that her mother never loved her.  WHAT?

Liz and Chris run off and make out.  Later, the group of teens is on a fun outing of frisbee golf, like teens are wont to do, and they stumble upon a super weird building in the woods without any windows.  The hotel staffers run away, and there’s clearly something weird going on.  Liz overhears Tatiana yelling at a waitress named Katya about letting guests into the woods, and when Katya ends up dead in the steam room later, Liz finds it mighty suspicious, despite Tatiana saying that Katya had a heart condition.  Liz does some more snooping and discovers that not only was Katya a runaway, but so are most of the spa’s staff.  They work at the spa for room and board and make no actual income.  Liz also thinks that they seem a tad brainwashed.

Then Alice goes missing, and Tatiana brushes it off, saying she probably just wanted some time alone.  The twins try to call home, but the phone’s dead.  Tatiana continues to act weird, and Jessica spies on her and sneaks into her office when she’s not there.  Once inside, she finds a yearbook from Sweet Valley University with Alice’s picture cut out.  DUN DUN DUN!  Eventually, Elizabeth manages to get her laptop plugged into a phone line, and after a little research, pulls up some weird stuff about the spa and plastic surgery.  While she does that, Jessica goes through Tatiana’s files and finds that all of the staff have undergone plastic surgery, and Enid is next!

The twins get an email from Ned, who tells the girls that they did know a Tatiana Mueller in college.  She was obsessed with Alice and everyone made fun of her because she was unattractive.  Liz goes to do some thinking by a waterfall and gets kidnapped by Chris, who is wearing a lab coat.  Once she’s kidnapped, Chris reveals to her that Tatiana wants to look like Alice and has trained another person to be the perfect plastic surgeon so this can be accomplished.  The plan is to kill Alice once the surgery is complete.

Right before Elizabeth dies, Lila, Jessica, and Enid come rushing in to save the day.  Enid’s brainwashing unravels as Chris spews his story, and she helps overpower Tatiana and her assistants.  The police arrive, and all is well.  Everyone goes home.  Even the surgically-altered runaways.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The shelter for runaways that Liz calls is called Manford House
  • There’s another plug for the search engine (?) INFOMAX in this book

Memorable Quotes:

  • “’I’ve gained four pounds since Hugh dumped me.’ Her green eyes glittered; a tear slid down her freckled cheek. ‘If I were prettier, if I looked more like you and Jessica, Hugh would have never gotten tired of me.’  Elizabeth continued to shake her head empathetically. Inside, though, she had to admit that there might be a tiny measure of truth to what Enid said.”

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I mean, what is there even to say?  The idea that Alice would bring her daughters, their friends, and their friend’s mothers (well, except Enid’s) to a spa for a week is sad enough.  Don’t you have any friends, Alice?  Isn’t it weird to bring the mom of one of your daughter’s friends whom you barely know?  Setting aside that, don’t you think it’s weird that you can’t remember the name Tatiana Mueller, which is fairly unusual?  Remember how she lived down the hall from you in college and was OBSESSED with you?

But then the rest of it is just silly.  Both Jessica and Elizabeth are supposed to have boyfriends at home (Ken and Todd, respectively) and within minutes of arriving at Paradise Spa, they’re macking on the same dude.  Like, what the hell?  A fling when you’re across the world is one thing, but you’re going to be home in a matter of days (provided you don’t die at the hands of a deranged, body-image-obsessed psychopath).  Cool your jets, ladies.

Then there’s the issue of Tatiana and her hare-brained scheme.  How did she really see this playing out?  She was going to kill the entire group and take over Alice’s life?  That seems unlikely.  So she just wanted to look like Alice and go on living her life?  Did she not think that people were going to start getting suspicious about how many people “disappeared” or actually died in her health spa?  Are there not regulations regarding those sorts of things?  Didn’t she have to put in purchase orders for her medical equipment?  DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE SENSE?

Also, Enid.  LOL.

SVH #106/Super Thriller #6: Beware the Wolfman

2 Jul

bewarewolfmanEstimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

The twins are still not speaking because Jessica is pissed that everyone thinks her boyfriend Robert Pembroke is the werewolf on the loose.  Determined to clear his name, Jessica starts investigating the murders in earnest, going so far as to sneak into the murdered Dr. Neville’s house and snoop through his files.  She finds a file for a mysterious Annabelle S., who died some years ago.  She isn’t sure what to make of it.  At the same time, Liz enters the house and tries to search for files.  The two don’t cross paths, though.  Liz finds an address for Mildred Price, nanny to the Pembrokes.  Then the intruder/werewolf comes in looking for the same files.  Whatever, this is beyond the beyond.

Liz puts the necklace with the “A” on it in Jessica’s bag, thinking she needs it more than Liz does.  The next morning, Jessica wakes up late for work and leaves in a rush, forgetting her bag.  By the time she gets back to HIS to grab it, it’s clear someone has been in the room, searching it.

The nanny of the Pembrokes turns up dead.

The intruder/werewolf searches the twins’ room again, looking for the silver bullet but only finding the files they took (Robert’s and Annabelle’s).  He steals them back.  The twins finally start talking to each other again, trying to piece together the mystery they seem to think they’re embroiled in.

Lord Pembroke is attacked but survives and is in the hospital.  A visit tells Jessica that Robert Pembroke Sr. was in love with the woman named Annabelle, then that he has another son.  Whatever, I’m bored.  While this is going on, Liz decides to go visit Pembroke Green in the country and snoop around some more.  This time, she brings Tony from the paper to help her.  The two go to the Werewolf Room and discover hidden love letters between Annabelle and Lord Pembroke.

Meanwhile, Jessica enlists the help of Portia and her famous actor father to get back into the house to talk to Lady Pembroke.  She tells her she knows about the lord’s affair and Robert’s brother.  Lady Pembroke rants on about Annabelle and her demonic son, Lucas.  Finally, Jessica puts it all together, but by the time she rushes back into town, Liz has gone off with Luke to investigate Annabelle’s old home.

While Luke goes to find a fuse box, Liz snoops around the house in the dark.  She discovers the room of Annabelle’s son, and finds that whoever it is is a crazy person.  There are hundreds of newspaper clippings about the Pembrokes all over the walls, and then she finds a diary.  Then Luke shows up in the doorway wearing a werewolf mask and tells Liz she has to die.

LUCKILY Rene (who has been stalking Elizabeth to keep her safe), Robert (who has been disguised as a homeless man to keep Jessica safe), and Sergeant Bumpo all show up.  There’s a fumble with a gun and it goes off, killing Luke.  Jessica and Tony arrive just in time to witness the aftermath.  The twins are safe, and Luke is revealed to be a crazy person.

Then Lucy Friday and Tony get married a week later.  The end.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • At one point, Liz remembers she has a boyfriend named Todd back home. She misses him for a second and then thinks about how much she likes making out with Luke.  Weird.
  • Jessica eats a burger and fries from an “American-style fast food place” in London.  Um, McDonald’s, maybe?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Ann, not Annabelle. So much for that brilliant idea, Jessica thought, disappointed.” (104)
  • “‘Not that he isn’t weird,’ she said with her mouth full. ‘He’d make a pretty good werewolf because he knows so much about them. And he’s a loner, and serial killers are always loners.’ Still, it didn’t jive. ‘People who write poetry are too wimpy to be murderers,’ Jessica concluded.” (133)
  • “‘So much for Rene supposedly wanting so badly to be my friend,’ she grubnled to herself. ‘I can’t believe I actually wasted time feeling guilty because we weren’t seeing much of each other!” (155) YOU ARE A FUCKING SOCIOPATH, ELIZABETH.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

…sigh.

This was exhausting, and not in a good way.  I still don’t understand any of what happened.  Like, it makes no sense.  I literally have nothing to say about it.  Luke was the killer, there was nothing supernatural about the plot (except for how SUPERNATURALLY DUMB it is), and the twins survive another murderer on the loose.  Like, is this plot tired or is it tired?  Why do the books resort to this stuff?

I know that the Evil Twin plot with Margo was the start of a new direction for the series, but it still feels like such a colossally weird way to go.  The twins have always been this ideal to strive for.  Like, they aren’t supposed to be relatable because humans this perfect don’t exist, but their experiences in high school were supposed to largely stand in for high school experiences of the readers.  But this stuff?  I can’t get behind it.