Tag Archives: alice wakefield

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 #110: Death Threat

6 Aug

death threat

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 incredibly long days

Summary/Overview:

After Jeremy shows up to tell the twins that Sue is missing, they go and search for her at the Project Nature cabin.  But as the twins search, Jeremy goes up to an attic where Sue is hiding.  He’s kind of a dick to her, but it becomes clear that they’re staging her kidnapping as a way to extort the money she’s owed from her mother’s inheritance.  This makes absolutely no sense.  None, whatsoever.

The next day, the entire Wakefield family debriefs about Sue.  While talking, they get a ransom call asking for a half a million dollars–the exact amount of Sue’s inheritance.  They’re told not to go to the police, so Mr. Wakefield calls his friend Sam Diamond, who is a special detective or something to come help out.  The twins stay home from school, which makes all their friends wonder where they are and what’s going on.  SUBTLE.

Jeremy ties Sue up in the attic of the cabin because he gets pissed when she tries to warm herself by the fire.  He tells her to remember to call at 5pm to arrange the drop-off.  She wonders if her mother was right about Jeremy and feels sad. Meanwhile, Sam Diamond shows up at the Wakefield house and turns out to be a super hot lady.  Jessica and Liz debate feminism or something, which feels both misguided and out of place.  Liz tries,  once again, to tell Jessica that there’s something wrong with Jeremy.  Jessica won’t listen.

The kidnapper calls with a recorded voice (?) and tells the Wakefields because they involved a detective, the ransom has been raised by $100,000.  The drop will be made the following evening, and he wants the twins to do it.  After this, Lila calls and begs Jessica to tell her what’s happening.  Jessica tells her but covers the receiver with her hand so her voice is muffled.  The result is, as you’d guess, that Lila thinks the entire Wakefield family has been kidnapped.  She calls Todd, who immediately hatches a plan with her and Robby to save the day.  YOU ARE ALL THE WORST.

The night of the drop, Liz and Jess head off with Sam to drop off the money that Ned pulled from the bank.  Jessica films from across the street while Liz drops off the bag.  Sue is returned to the twins, and the kidnapper (who is Jeremy, by the way, who left as soon as the twins did, though he was tackled by Todd and Lila and Robby but WHO CARES) gets the money and runs.

Once back at the house, Mrs. Wakefield serves everyone cake.  It is so, so weird that they wouldn’t go to the police and have Sue inspected for signs of assault, etc.  Sue says she didn’t get a look at the kidnapper.  Mr. Wakefield reveals that the money was counterfeit and her fortune is safe.  Sam pops the recorded video into the VCR and asks for help identifying the kidnapper.  No one can recognize him, until Jessica realizes the kidnapper is wearing the ring on his pinky that she gave Jeremy just hours before.  DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently Bruce won the costume contest at the Halloween party by dressing as a Porshe.  Oh…kay?
  • Sam “I’m totally a lady” Diamond wears a “winter-white” Chanel suit

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Ned, we’ve got to do something right away,’ urged Alice. ‘Sue is like a daughter to me.’ Jessica groaned inwardly at her mother’s words.  First Sue had tried to steal her fiance, and now she was stealing her mother” (35). WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
  • “‘Detectives are always men,’ explained Jessica.” (79)
  • “She watched with distaste as Todd began slithering across the lawn like a snake, padding along on his hands and elbows.” (122)
  • “Mrs. Wakefield gasped.  ‘But that’s torture!’ she exclaimed, slicing another piece of cake and putting it on her plate.” (187)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

Sigh.  I’ve been sitting with this book in my purse for like over a week.  That’s how much I didn’t want to read and recap it.  Once I got started, it flew by, but only because the plot is LITERALLY SO DUMB that it doesn’t require any actual attention.  In fact, the less thinking, the better.

Everyone is dumb.  But I still can’t get past how weird this entire plot is, and how quickly it has derailed from where it started.  Like, wouldn’t it just have been enough for Jeremy to be creeper who scams on underage girls and cheats on his fiance?  No?  We need to add a faked blood disease, a faked suicide, an inheritance with weird strings attached, and then a TERRIBLE ATTEMPT at FAKING A KIDNAPPING?  Really?  That’s what these books needed?

I still don’t understand why Sue and Jeremy didn’t stay apart for the 60 days needed for her to get her inheritance.  This makes no sense.  WHY.

 

 

SVH #102: Almost Married

20 Jun

almost married

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth is still obsessing over her mother’s suspected affair with Hank Patman. She lets Jessica in on the secret, and Jessica’s response is to go and ask Alice about it, but Liz tells her not to. We wouldn’t want to wrap this plot point up too fast, now would we?

At any rate, Alice goes out of town with Hank again, and Ned is away for a legal conference, so the twins are on their own.  Because Todd’s parents are also away, he decides this is the perfect time for them to practice living together.  He says they’ll be able to be together all the time, but he will sleep on the couch or in Steven’s room, because these teens are actually neutered.  In order to get Jessica on board, they agree to do her chores and cook for her during the week Todd is there.

When Elizabeth and Todd get home, she rushes off immediately to meet with Bruce Patman without telling Todd anything.  Jessica gets home and “accidentally” spills the beans about what Liz thinks is happening with Alice and Hank, and Todd is irritated.  Meanwhile, Liz and Bruce dig through the Patman mansion attic for clues and find a gushy love letter and Alice’s engagement and wedding rings.  They also share A Moment.

Upon returning to her house, she finds that Todd is sort of annoyed, but they make up quickly and Todd tells her that they’re partners and generally sounds way, way older than 16.  This entire plot is so weird.  While Elizabeth and Todd act like they are 40, Bruce plays tennis with Pamela but is distracted with thoughts of Elizabeth, even as Pamela tells him about Project Youth facing budget cuts.

Todd and Elizabeth continue to spend time together, but nothing is really going the way they plan. When they have a date at the Videomat, a new laundromat that also rents DVDs and sells espresso, Elizabeth drinks six cups of espresso and won’t stop yammering.  Todd overfills the washing machine and ends up with suds everywhere.  The two oversleep the next day and nearly miss putting the recycling out.  To make matters worse, Elizabeth keeps zipping off with Bruce, which pisses Todd off.  Jessica keeps giving him a hard time about how much Liz and Bruce are hanging out, which only further infuriates him.

After school one day, Liz misses a ride home with Todd and goes with Bruce.  The two go up to the attic at the Wakefield house to dig around and decide to visit their parents’ college to keep digging for information.  Todd comes home to find them hanging out and begrudgingly ends up making dinner for all of them, plus Lila and Jessica.  Later, Bruce and Jessica are watching TV and Bruce sees the hotel room number for Alice, realizes that it’s the same room number as his father’s, and freaks out.

Liz and Bruce head up to the local university to investigate their parents’ shared past.  They share several Moments together, and on the way home they stop to help a stalled vehicle and realize it’s Todd.  That night, a bunch of them sneak off to the Beach Disco, and Liz spends a great deal of time dancing with Bruce.  She’s attracted to him and is clearly enjoying the rush it gives her, but she pretends to feel conflicted about it.

The twins and Todd decide to throw a pool party at their house, and Todd loses his shit when Elizabeth invites Bruce along to help run errands.  He sulks inside as they get everything ready on the patio.  Elizabeth and Bruce flirt, Todd acts like a creepy, jealous loser.

Bruce and Pamela end up breaking up at the party, because she’s the only person in this book who isn’t an idiot.  Then Bruce corners Liz in the kitchen, cries, and they end up making out.  OF COURSE Todd walks in, they fight, and he storms off.  But as he’s driving away, he has a change of heart and returns to the party.

He arrives just in the nick of time, too, because Liz is so upset that she does a bad dive off the diving board and belly flops into the pool so hard she blacks out and nearly drowns.  Todd saves her and they make up, with Liz realizing he’s the one she truly loves.

Mrs. Wakefield surprises everyone by showing up early and acting super pissed off about the fact that the girls have thrown a party with no alcohol or drugs.  She then tells Liz that the Beckwiths (JESUS CHRIST THESE PEOPLE MOVED AWAY AGES AGO) called her to let her know that Todd’s car had been parked in the driveway all week (this is basic sneaking around 101, idiots). She yells at Liz, but then Liz goes ballistic on her, telling her she and Bruce know everything about the affair.  Alice sits them all down and tells the tragic story of her and Hank.  Liz and Bruce decide that now that they know Hank and Alice aren’t having an affair, they’ll work on getting Hank and Marie Patman back together.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Fun Fact: When I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t let me read this one based on the title alone. Oh, mom.
  • The ghost writer spells Barry’s last name as “Rourke” in this one, but it has always been “Rork,” hasn’t it?
  • Jamie Peters has a song called “Lawless Love”

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘People say it’s a man’s world,’ Mr. Wakefield commented…’but let me tell you, girls, sometimes it’s not so easy being male…for example, having to wear a suit and tie on a scorcher like this. Talk about oppression!'” (6-7). Die in a fire, Ned.
  • “‘OK, not twenty-four hours,’ Todd amended with a grin. ‘I’ll sleep on the couch or in Steven’s room, of course.'” (17)
  • “Jessica hurried to defend Elizabeth’s honor. ‘Of course they’re not sleeping together. This is Elizabeth we’re talking about! She’s relegated Todd to the downstairs couch–they’re the king and queen of self-control, believe me.'” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s really only one thing that bothers me about this book a lot.

That is how completely weird and improbable the entire plot is with regard to Todd “moving in” with Elizabeth for a week and not expecting to have sex or at least fool around hardcore.  I’ve written before about how weird it is that every teen seems to lack a sex drive (I’m not counting incidences of sexual assault as those are about violence) completely.  Despite the fact that the teenagers in these books kiss a lot, no one ever has sex, and when they think someone else has, they FREAK OUT ABOUT IT (see: Pamela Robertson’s weird, inaccurate reputation).

So for Todd to move in and sleep on the couch rings false in many ways.  The teens in these novels aren’t at all religious.  There is no overarching idea that Christianity or God is governing their lives.  Their decisions to “wait” seem to have more to do with the intended audience age of the readers.  So then why even write a story like this one?

Todd wants to move in to practice living together, but they only engage in the hardest aspects of living together: doing chores, squabbling, etc.  There’s no benefit to this arrangement, and OH YEAH THEY ARE SIXTEEN AND WOULD BE WAY MORE INTERESTED IN THE PHYSICALITY.  So I call bullshit.

 

 

SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Lila are spending the week of spring break in Jamaica, at Lila’s uncle Jimmo’s beach resort, Club Paradise.  Jessica won’t shut up about how excited she is, and Lila is being extra nice to her.  When they arrive, Jessica discovers that her luggage was lost in the layover.  It also becomes clear to Jess why Lila was being so nice: they’re working as camp counselors at the kiddie version of the club. She tells Lila she’ll never forgive her/never speak to her again.

Jessica gets saddled with a group of bratty five-and-six-year-olds for the week.  They bicker, do gross things, and generally don’t listen to her.  She’s infuriated to see that Lila’s group is much better behaved, and then she’s fascinated when she sees Lila talking to a super hot guy who turns out to be the windsurfing instructor named Mick Myers.

Of course they both end up going out with this guy, who is a total skeeze.  Jessica dumps her campers off on Charles, a geeky guy who is totally into her.  This pisses off Julia, another counselor who is described as “chubby” but has a lovely voice.  She decides to get even with Jessica, because Jessica told her she was too fat to attract a man.  I kind of hate Jessica, too.

At any rate, Jessica and Lila continue to both date Mick and compete with each other when it comes to their little campers and the daily talent shows.  Meanwhile, Julia also starts dating Mick, who is starting to seem like a pathological liar and also a sex addict.  He takes each girl to his “secret” lagoon to make out.

Jessica runs into Larry the hot lifeguard on the beach one day, and they flirt.  Then they run into Lila and Mick, who are clearly on a date, and Jessica is such an idiot that she thinks Mick is only pretending to like her because her uncle is his boss.  They have a stupid game of chicken in the ocean and all of them get dunked.

It isn’t long before they realize that Mick is totally playing them.  After Jessica slaps Lila and she pulls her into the ocean with her as she falls, the two have a good laugh and decide to get revenge.  They get back to their cabin to find out that Mick is literally dating every female employed at the camp.

The last night of camp, Lila and Jessica put on a magician’s show and use Mick as their audience “volunteer.”  They break his watch, cut his hair, and dye it purple, and he has to sit and take it.  They get their revenge, totally make up as friends, and have a lemonade.  All is well.

Elizabeth has plans to spend the break sweating it out in Sweet Valley.  She wants to work on an Honors English project that asks students to do a biography of an ancestor.  Conveniently, Liz has chosen to focus on her mother.  The problem is, Alice has just accepted a freelance position working with Hank Patman in his Chicago office.

Amy shows up at the Wakefield’s house to ask for help with the English assignment, which she has to do for extra credit.  She doesn’t tell Elizabeth that Jessica told her she could “borrow” her ancestor Jessamyn, the circus performer.  The two look at an old family tree of Alice’s.

She runs into Bruce at the Dairi Burger and he blows up at her about her home-wrecker of a mother. She thinks he’s cracked until she gets home to find Alice rushing off to catch a plane to Chicago with Hank Patman.  She grills her dad for information about Alice’s life before they met, but he’s sort of cheerfully vague about it all.  She starts to worry that Bruce might be right.

Instead of really working on her project, she continues to obsess about her mother’s past with Hank.  She manages to awkwardly tie it into every single old classic movie she goes to see with Enid and Olivia that week, arguing with them about the meaning of leaving a fiance for an old flame, etc.  It’s boring and pedantic.

Bruce Patman is feeling the pains of his parents splitting up.  He lashes out even more than usual and feels the sads about his family fighting.  His mother accuses Hank of cheating on her.  He decides he’s going to tell his father exactly what he thinks of their separation and how its impacting his life.  Bruce is insufferable.  Before he can do so, he overhears a conversation between Hank and Alice on the phone that leads him to believe the two are carrying on an affair.

Bruce and Liz meet several times to discuss their parents affair, which they are sure Alice and Hank are having.  Bruce seems to be working on a plan to split them up before serious damage is done, but he doesn’t bother to share it with anyone.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • It seems like everyone is going away for spring break: Barry Rork to Palm Springs, Pamela Robertson to the Grand Canyon, Ken Matthews to Monterey, Todd to Yosemite.
  • Lila still plays the marimba and listens to Jamie Peters’ music.
  • The old movies Liz, Olivia, and Enid see include My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, Philadelphia Story, and Casablanca.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Bruce grabbed the lunch tray and hurled it away. He heard it clatter against a tree trunk and imagined that it was the sound of his whole world shattering into pieces.” (7)
  • “They turned to gape as Lila walked by with her nose in the air. In a straight line behind her, six obedient kindergartners waddled like baby geese, singing in unison, ‘Row, row, row your yacht…'” (51)
  • “‘Do you like my picture, Jessica?’ Suzy asked. ‘It’s a picture of you screaming at us.'” (81)
  • “Elizabeth had amnesia and her defenses were down. Bruce had tried to take advantage of her–what guy wouldn’t?” (165) [IS THIS REAL LIFE?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps what’s oddest here is not that Jessica and Lila compete over the same dude, which has happened before, but the fact that Mick seems interested in anything with a vagina.  He literally dates something like six girls at once, and he’s also supposed to be the club’s full-time windsurfing instructor.  How does he manage to do this?  How can all the girls think that he’s only interested in them when he’s literally seen with other people in every scene?  There is virtually nothing about him that would indicate he oozes charm (except for the fact that we are told this).  Ugh.  Gross.

The other thing that really bothered me about this one is how fucking judgmental and antiquated Elizabeth is in her thinking about her mother.  She holds fast to this bizarre, sexist idea that a woman should only be in love once–and that she should marry that man.  Setting aside the fact that this is heteronormative drivel, it’s also so tone-deaf considering the fact that Elizabeth has been in love at least 3-4 times herself, and she is only 16 years old.   Is she damaged in some way?  Isn’t it possible that Alice was in love with Hank at one time, and then fundamentally changed and fell in love with Ned?

Also, could it be LESS of Elizabeth’s business?

SVH #97: The Verdict

4 Jun

theverdict

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth goes on trial for manslaughter.  She feels lonely and alone, because Jessica won’t talk to her, Todd is cheating on her with Jessica, and her mother has turned into a zombie 50s housewife.  When she gets on the witness stand, she can’t really give testimony because she can’t remember.  This is seriously the most boring trial ever.  At one point, Liz takes the bus to the ocean and contemplates suicide.  On the last day of the trial, Ned calls a surprise witness–a man named Gilbert–who was drunk driving the night of the accident and swerved into the path of the Jeep. He sideswiped the vehicle and caused the accident.  With this news, the judge rules Elizabeth guilty of drunk driving but not of vehicular manslaughter.  The Wakefields (sans Jessica) rejoice.

Jessica continues to go out with Todd, including to the beach disco the night before the start of the trial.  They slow dance and make out.  She worries constantly about losing him to Liz and is generally a crazy person, doing everything she can into manipulating him to stay with her.  She intercepts a letter Todd wrote to Elizabeth and hides it from her sister, lying to Todd about how Liz read it and ripped it up when he asks about it.  Despite the fact that Todd is clearly miserable and the fact that Jessica is exhibiting signs of a psychotic break, the two continue to see each other.

Lila watches her parents reminisce about when they were young and in love and wonders if they could ever be a real unit again.  When she asks her mom if she’s thought about moving back to Sweet Valley, Grace tells Lila about why she left.  She tells her that she threatened to take Lila and leave George because he was a workaholic.  George told Grace that if she tried, he’d sue her for full custody and prove she was an unfit mother.  And then he did just that.  So Grace fled to Paris.  Jesus.

Bruce is still refusing to speak to Pamela, who has transferred to SVH.  He continues to be really cruel to her in public, and doesn’t seem to care that she keeps crying.  This story is so fucking boring.  When Amy and Lila see Pamela volunteering at Project Youth, they decide to give her a chance and become fast friends.  Then Amy tells Bruce how wrong everyone was about Pamela, and he finally finds her (and rescues her from some dude trying to take her out) and they embrace.

Steven is enjoying living with his new female roommate, Billie Winkler.  She’s a great cook and decorator and is very empathetic.  The two share some creepy, totally not-normal-roommate-behavior moments before Steven goes home for the trial.  When a classmate mentions that he heard Steven’s mom is really losing it, Steven gets super pissed, wondering who could be spreading rumors about the family and then comes to the totally logical conclusion that it must have been Billie.  He goes off on her and she tells him she’ll move out.  When Steven finally realizes that it was Jessica who was talking about how unhinged Alice has become, he takes a while to work up the nerve to apologize to Billie.

Margo arrives in Los Angeles and promptly runs into Josh, the brother of Georgie, who she killed.  He confronts her in a diner, but she escapes and boards a train to San Diego instead of Sweet Valley as a way to throw police off the scent.  When she finally arrives in Sweet Valley, she buys a blond wig and thinks about how she’ll soon take over Elizabeth’s life.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The district attorney prosecuting Elizabeth’s case is named Hempstead Dilworth, and that is legitimately the most amazing thing this series has ever done.
  • Liz’s license has been “indefinitely” suspended because of the accident and the trial.
  • According to Grace, she was 19 when she met George, and he was 27.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Wakefield Manslaughter Trial Starts Tomorrow,’ she read. Lila shivered. ‘Manslaughter trial–they make it sound like she’s a serial killer or something!'” (20) [Blogger’s note: you’re an idiot.]
  • What’s she doing here, anyway? he wondered as he sauntered down the hall, hoping everyone could see that Pamela Robertson meant absolutely nothing to him. Has she slept with all the guys in Big Mesa? Did she switch schools so she could make some new conquests?” (26)
  • “Couldn’t he see that Jessica was the one he was meant to be with? Hadn’t they secretly been drawn to each other from the very beginning? We would have been going steady ages ago, if Liz hadn’t stolen him away from me, Jessica reflected.” (64)
  • “‘That’s what families are for,’ Steven declared, his own eyes damp. ‘When everything else is falling apart, your family will always be there for you. We would never have let you face something like this on your own.'” (169)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  Okay, first of all, let’s talk about the fact that this new mini-series format makes each story line absolutely interminable.  These stories have no substance and are severely underplotted, but go on FOREVER.  There was no reason to have Bruce and Pamela stretch their will-they-won’t-they stuff over three books.  The trial of Elizabeth Wakefield didn’t need three books, either, especially because the trial itself was over in a week.  JEEZY CHREEZY.  Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Jessica needs serious psychological help. I don’t feel qualified to go any further, but seriously.

Not going to lie: I will never understand the rational for the trial plot-twist readers are treated to in this one.  So Elizabeth isn’t guilty for the death of Sam even though she was intoxicated because the eyewitness testimony of someone who was also drunk says “she was driving just fine”? Like, this is seriously all it takes?  It’s such a bizarre plot twist (the first and perhaps most ominous of those to come) and such a way of providing an out so Elizabeth isn’t a murderer.

 

SVH Sweet Valley Saga #2: The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story

28 Apr

wakefieldlegacy

As if the maternal family tree of the Wakefield twins wasn’t wacky (read: awful) enough, readers are treated to the paternal family tree in this one.  Blech.

Summary/Overview:

Theodore Wakefield, 1866

Theodore is the second son tothe Earl of (you guessed it) Wakefield, England.  When his older brother dies in a terrible horse accident, his father insists that Theodore take over his roles and marry his brother’s fiance.  Theodore refuses, and leaves home to board a ship to America. Onboard, he meets Alice Larsen, after he saves her from a near death by drowning.  The two are separated when they reach land, and Theodore joins up with a circus.

There, he meets a young half-Indian woman (this is seriously how she’s described the moment she appears on the page) named Dancing Wind.  Dancing Wind is something like 16, and Theodore is definitely in his mid-to-late 30s, so this is all kinds of super creepy.  The book glosses right over, that, though!  One night at the circus, Theodore meets a young blond girl named Jessamyn who is the spitting image of his long-lost love, Alice Larsen! He is distracted with thoughts of her all through the show.  Distraught, Dancing Wind attempts a dangerous move during her routine and falls from the air.  The net breaks, injuring her badly.  Theodore realizes he loves her, and they end up married in Nebraska.

Four years later, Dancing Wind gives birth to twins: Sarah and James, and then DIES.  Theodore continues to raise the twins by himself, eventually transporting them to California.

James and Sarah Wakefield, 1905

Now settled in Vista California and rich off the wine business Theodore started, James and Sarah are 16 and inhabit many of the same characteristics SVH readers are comfortable reading about when it comes to twins.  Sarah falls for one of her father’s employees, a boy in her class named Edward Brooke.  When she brings him to the Manor (this is what they call their estate, y’all) to formally introduce him to Theodore, though, she’s shocked when her father is kind of a douche to him.  He tells her that Edward isn’t good enough (read: rich enough) and she’d be better off with some dude named George.  Sarah decides to keep seeing Edward anyway.

When an influenza epidemic runs through the country, James dies.  Now that Sarah is all Theodore has left, she feels guilty about the fact that she’s been lying to him.  Doesn’t matter: Theodore reads her journal while she’s at school, discovers her secret, and tells her she can stop seeing Edward or she can leave.  So she leaves, and she and Edward escape to San Francisco.  OF COURSE THEY ARRIVE ON THE DAY OF AN EARTHQUAKE.  Trapped in their hotel room, the two perform their own marriage ceremony, declare it “legal enough,” and consummate the “marriage.”

After they are rescued, Edward goes back into the hotel to help save others, and, of course, dies.  Sarah returns home to her father, but their happy reunion is sullied when she realizes she’s pregnant.  Her father sends her away for the duration of the pregnancy.  After she gives birth to a healthy boy named Edward (Teddy), her father tells her he will return for her–and only her.  Sarah refuses and decides to live on her own with Teddy.  Afraid of causing a scandal or upsetting her son, she decides not to tell him he was conceived out of wedlock and pretends to be his aunt.  This will end well.

Ted, 1924

Ted is working as a waiter in a jazz club and tells his “aunt” that he doesn’t want to go to college.  She disagrees, and the two fight about it.  When she gets a letter with news that her father has died, Ted is confused, because he’s always been told his grandfather died years ago.  This is when the whole story comes tumbling out.

Confused, Ted ends up fleeing his house for college in Ohio.  He does well at school, and on a break one year, he goes home with his friend Harry Watson.  There, he meets Harry’s twin sisters, Samantha and Amanda.  This section is literally a retelling of what we already heard in the first saga.  Since it bored me then, I’m skipping it now.

After that whole fiasco, Ted travels west to discover his family’s roots.  He tracks down his grandmother’s tribe and it is there he meets the super blond Julia Marks, a reporter working a story about government corruption relating to the tribe.  The two fall in love despite the fact that he’s been burned before and is a bastard, and it isn’t long before they’re married and living in Washington.  They have a son together, named Robert.

Julia dies in the Hindenburg explosion (I’m not joking).

Robert, 1943

Robert joins the military at 16 after lying about his age.  He ends up working in communications and communicates with a POW who goes by the code name of Pacific Star.  They communicate for months before finally liberating the camp and meeting.  Pacific Star is Hannah Weiss, and the two end up married and settling in Sweet Valley, California.

Hannah gives birth to Ned.  I can’t be bothered to care.

Ned, late 1960s (way to fudge the numbers, SVH ghostwriter)

Ned and his cousin Rachel are total hippies, working to set the Man straight and fight the good fight.  At college, Rachel introduces Ned to her friend Becky, who seems like she sucks, but he sort of falls for her after she starts calling herself Rainbow.  The two date, and then Rachel finds out that Becky’s using Ned for help studying (?) so she can become a lawyer.  Whatever.  Her true colors finally come out after an arrest at a protest, and Ned breaks off their relationship.

His senior year, he rescues a blond woman who ends up being Alice Roberts.  Even though the two have a connection, Alice is set to marry a Patman.  Heartbroken, Ned mopes around until Alice shows up at his door, still wearing the wedding dress she was supposed to marry another man in.  Okie dokie.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Someone did a little research and actually got the date of the Great San Francisco Earthquake (4/18/1906) right.  Kudos.
  • Theodore’s father is either named George or Theodore, depending on whether or not you consult the family tree or the book’s first chapter.  OKAY.
  • There are some pretty big gaps in continuity here: Ned once told Steven that he named him after his friend who died in a car crash in college, but that doesn’t work here.  Also, at one point, Grandma Wakefield mentioned that Ned had a half-brother from her husband’s first marriage, but maybe she suffered a stroke? Because that doesn’t happen here at all.

Memorable Quotes:

  •  “When Dancing Wind approached him, she was surprised to see that he was in the grips of a very powerful emotion.” (47)
  • “‘I don’t get it,’ Ned went on. ‘You’d think the more well-off people are, the more generous they’d be.'” (290) ARE YOU A FUCKING IDIOT?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’ve been carrying this book around with me for something like two weeks, and I really only managed to skim it.  I don’t know why these Sagas are so hard for me.  I remember loving The Fowlers of Sweet Valley, so I guess we’ll see when I get to that one.  But these super long books about the lame Wakefields of the past?  I’d like to take a hard pass on them.

That being said, isn’t it weird that people die in every single one of these stories in horrifically tragic and yet oddly famous historical disasters?  Isn’t that super weird?  Like, we needed people to die in both the San Francisco earthquake AND the Hindenburg disaster?  Doesn’t that seem a bit much?

The only other thing I have to say about this one is how weird it is that Theodore would be so weird about Sarah’s pregnancy and desire to keep the child.  After being sent away by his own father, do we really believe that’s something he would do?  It seems incredibly out of character for him to banish the only family he has left after losing his other two relatives in tragic accidents (this isn’t even counting the time he lost his brother in a terrible horse accident, either).

Oh, the melodrama.

SVH Sweet Valley Saga #1: The Wakefields of Sweet Valley

2 Apr

wsv

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 generations…

Summary/Overview:

Summarizing this book is kind of a nightmare, but I’ll see what I can do.

Alice Larson, 1866

Fresh off (on) the boat from Sweden, 16-year-old Alice Larson meets handsome Theodore Wakefield and falls in love before the boat hits land.  He rescues her from near-drowning one night during a terrible gale.  The two are separated at immigration and never meet again.  Alice moves with her aunt and uncle to Minnesota, and eventually meets and marries a very nice man named George Johnson.  The two have three children: Steven, and identical twins Jessamyn and Elisabeth. Steven dies as a child of Scarlet Fever, but Jessamyn and Elisabeth are raised in Prairie Lakes, Minnesota.  Jessamyn is a wild tomboy who dreams of joining the circus, and Elisabeth is a mild-mannered good girl.  Hmm.  Alice still thinks about her true love Theodore and absolutely FREAKS OUT when Jessamyn mentions that a man called Theo W. is part of the circus.  The two never cross paths, though.

Jessamyn and Elisabeth Johnson, 1893

Sixteen years old and beautiful, the girls live a fairly nice life in Minnesota.  Both of them are crushing on Tom Wilkens (seriously?), but he chooses Elisabeth to kiss after winning a corn husking contest.  Then Jessamyn sneaks off in the middle of the night to join the circus as a bareback rider.

Elisabeth befriends Peter Blue Cloud, the man who taught Jessamyn about horses, and when his health fails, she hops a train in search of her sister, despite her parents protestations.  She finds Jessamyn, who agrees to return home the next day.  Elisabeth asks to ride Jessamyn’s horse, and gets thrown from it, promptly DYING.  Jesus Christ.

Jessamyn Johnson, 1900-1908

Now living in San Francisco and making her way as a single lady, Jessamyn brings all the boys to the yard.  She’s being courted by a man named Taylor Watson, who runs a car company.  He asks her to marry him, but she has commitment issues due to the death of her sister.  She sort of says yes, but then starts seeing Taylor’s friend and race car driver protege Bruce Farber.  She’s torn between the two men until the day of the San Francisco earthquake when Taylor rescues Bruce from a collapsing building and Jessamyn decides her loyalty has always been with him.  The two marry, move to Michigan, and she gives birth to a boy, Harry, and  two identical twin girls, Samantha and Amanda.

Samantha and Amanda Watson, 1920-1935

Coming of age during the roaring twenties, Samantha and Amanda could not be more different: Samantha wants to be a famous actress and Amanda wants to be a writer.  Hmm, again.  Amanda has a serious boyfriend named Geoffrey (seriously?) and isn’t interested when her brother Harry writes about his college roommate, Ted Wakefield (are you fucking kidding me).  But then she meets him and falls in love, despite the fact that Samantha is quite taken with him, too.  Despite her feelings for her boyfriend, she totally kisses Ted and they fall deeply in love, keeping their relationship a secret even after she breaks up with poor Geoffrey.

Much of their relationship is carried on through letters, which Samantha conveniently intercepts one day.  She FREAKS OUT and decides to sabotage the relationship in any way she can.  This includes intercepting all future letters, sabotaging her sister’s newspaper room at school so she misses Ted’s next visit, and then, when Ted still declines her advances, posing as Amanda in an attempt to frame Ted for selling illegal alcohol.  All of this is so convoluted and stupid it’s hardly worth recapping.

TL;DR: Ted gets arrested and released after Amanda finds out what’s happened and begs the police for mercy.  Ted’s already left town, claiming heartbreak that his girlfriend would set him up like that (this dude is an idiot).  Amanda’s not an idiot, I guess, because she figures out that it was all Samantha’s doing, and she gets into a huge fight with her, leading to complete silence between the two.

Samantha leaves for Hollywood and promptly gets married and pregnant by a man named Jack Lewis.  When the doctor calls to tell the Watsons that Samantha might not survive the delivery of her baby, Amanda rushes to be by her side.  She arrives just in time to meet perfect little Marjorie and then watch her sister perish.  Although she promised her dying sister that she would help raise the little girl, she doesn’t end up doing such a great job: when Jack gets a job overseas in France, Amanda declines tagging along, citing her job as a teacher at Sweet Valley High as more important.  Okay.

Marjorie Lewis, 1940-1949

Despite the fact that it’s wartime in France, Jack doesn’t send Marjorie home to Sweet Valley.  When he finally does attempt to ship her back to the states, it’s too late, as he’s been taken by the Nazis and Marjorie is taken into hiding by a family friend who is also hiding a Jewish girl named Sophy.  The two live in hiding for a year, when Sophy’s brother Jacques comes to them and asks Marjorie to send coded messages for the resistance.  She works for the resistance fighters bravely and falls in love with Jacques along the way.  Ah, romance.

When she learns that Sophy has been captured, she and Jacques work out a plan to pretend to swap Marjorie for Sophy, since they believe Marjorie has more value to the soldiers as someone with insider knowledge of the resistance fighters.  At the train station, they get Sophy on the train headed to Spain with faked papers, but before the rest of them can get on the train, all hell breaks loose and Marjorie loses sight of Jacques and his friend Pierre.  It looks as though Jacques is killed in the shooting melee that ensues, but Marjorie makes it into the compartment with Sophy.

Once on board, Marjorie and Sophy cry over Jacques.  Then Marjorie tells her that she doesn’t have papers and plans to jump off the train before it gets to Spain.  INSTEAD, Sophy gives her her papers and tells her to go home, choosing instead to stay and fight for the resistance.  Um, okay.  Marjorie goes home to Sweet Valley and eventually marries a man named Charles Robertson (and her dad is totally still alive and walks her down the aisle).

Alice Robertson, 1962-1969

Alice goes off to college and finds herself while she draws pictures and deals with the advances of rich, arrogant Hank Patman.  After Hank saves the day at a sit-in protest by helicopter dropping food to the student protesters, Alice decides to finally go out with him.  See? You can wear people down until they’ll date you.

At any rate, the two date for a while, become fully enmeshed in the hippie culture, and eventually get engaged.  But I guess Alice can’t keep Hank’s eyes from straying, because they fight at a beach party after she catches him chatting up another woman.  Angry, she dives into the water and nearly drowns, only to be saved by Ned Wakefield.  She’s startled by how she feels as though she has met him before.  Whatever, they have a connection, but she is marrying Hank Patman and that is that.

When she overhears Hank talking about how Alice’s friends are a bunch of worthless hippies, she decides she can’t go through with the wedding and calls it off moments before it happens.  She looks up Ned’s address in a phone book and the rest is history.  I guess.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Pi Iota Gamma is the name of a frat at Alice’s university.  I don’t know why I think this is so funny.
  • All the identical twins in this line of women also have identical moles on their left shoulder, just like LIZ!
  • Pop culture references: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix
  • One of Amanda’s students at SVH is named Walter Egbert, and he is–you guessed it–a jokester!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessamyn looked up at her friend. His back was as straight as a boy’s, and he led Smoke Signal with a sure step.  True, the deep lines in his face made it quite impossible to imagine him as ever having been young.  But Jessamyn thought he was like a great, ancient tree that had been growing almost forever–and would always be there for her.” (45) Jesus Christ.
  • “‘Instant wealth,’ Samantha said. ‘Sounds like a plot for a motion picture.'” (142)
  • “I never thought I’d see the day when these squares joined the revolution.” (299)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This entire book is a moron.

First of all, the title doesn’t make sense, because these are Alice Robertson’s female ancestors.  None of them are named Wakefield until she marries the dude named Wakefield, no matter how close they come to it in generations before.  And speaking of that–no one else thought it was fucking stupid that ALL these women kept running into these men with the surname Wakefield who all descended from the same magnificent man?  Seriously?  What is the message here?  Past lives are real?  True love knows no time limit?  Are we really to believe that Alice and Ned’s marriage was MEANT TO BE from the time their ancestors arrived by boat?

Setting aside the historical inaccuracies and weird white-washing of historical events, this book is still dumb.  The slang terms clunkily inserted into the dialogue alone make it cringe-worthy on nearly every page, but the stories set in the 1920s and 1960s are by far the worst.

If you start to think about the timeline for Alice Robertson too much, you realize that it doesn’t make sense.  If the original SVH novels began their publishing run in 1983 when Jessica and Elizabeth were 16, then Alice had to have given birth to them in 1966-1967.  That means that by the time she meets “Ned” after her engagement to Hank, she’d already have had Steven and the twins.  Which is probably why the book fudges the numbers a little bit with Alice: her last few chapters just say “Sometime in the late 1960s.”  LIKE THEY HAD ALREADY GIVEN UP TRYING TO MAKE THE TIMEFRAME WORK.

I mean, I understand that when you have a series that runs for over a decade (seriously, think about that for a minute) and the characters remain the same age the entire time, you run into serious problems with consistency.  But it still really bothers me, much more than it should.