Tag Archives: annie whitman

SVH #94: Are We in Love?

26 May

areweinlove

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Steven Wakefield and Cheryl Thomas have been spending a lot of time together.  They get along well and Steven has been teaching Cheryl to drive (stick).  They notice that everyone seems to think they’re dating, and they aren’t sure how they feel about it.  Everyone has an opinion about an interracial relationship, and they aren’t shy about them.  Most of these opinions are super, super racist, by the way.

One night, Steven and Cheryl go to a restaurant for a bite and they’re hassled by some skinheads.  It shakes them both up, and after they leave, they embrace on the beach and then end up kissing.  Because of this, or because they feel like they have something to prove, the two start dating.  It’s clear from the start that neither one is into the other, though.  Both agonize over how to deal with this privately, because they want to prove that people of different races can be attracted to each other.

This drags on for over 150 pages.  They continue to date, mostly to prove a point, while also dealing with casual racism and ignorance at every turn.  Jessica tries to be super supportive because she loves the idea of her brother being a trailblazer, but it just makes everyone feel even more awkward.

It isn’t until the wedding of Cheryl’s father and Annie’s mother that Cheryl finally comes clean to Steven by making her toast to her parents all about love and standing up for it or something.  The point is, she’s just not into him.  They laugh it off, embrace, and decide to just be friends.  Everyone celebrates the marriage of Walter and Mrs. Whitman! Hooray!

The B-Plot involves Jessica baking the wedding cake for the wedding.  Shenanigans ensue.  I can’t bring myself to care.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Steven takes Cheryl to the Crooked Canyon Cafe, which has Mexican food and burgers.
  • Marpa Heights is a town near Sweet Valley, though this is the first we as readers have heard of it.
  • Apparently Steven has friends, because they all go with him to the Beach Disco one night, including token black friend Martin Bell
  • Jess and Liz talk about their future weddings. Liz would want Enid, Penny, Olivia, and Jessica to be bridesmaids, and they’d wear cornflower-blue dresses.  She thinks Todd would pick his dad to be his best man (WHAT?) and Winston, Ken, and Aaron would be ushers.  WHAT IS THIS?
  • Andrea Slade and Nicholas Morrow have broken up.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Look, all I’m saying is that Steven could have any girl in Sweet Valley,’ Lila defended herself. ‘Cheryl’s fine for a friend, but I think it’s kind of odd that he’d like her that way.'” (19)
  • “She looked over at Steven, feeling something like awe. My big brother is half of the very first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High!” (20) [blogger’s note: LOL WHAT?]
  • “Why is everybody so racist?” (51)
  • “She and Steven had needed to hug, to kiss. Cheryl’s eyes stung with tears. They had come together, briefly, for the right reason. But they had stayed together for the wrong one.” (130)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is the last of the regular series books.  After this, it’s all mini-series, all the time.  I’m excited for the shake-up, but this book as the conclusion to the traditional run of the series is TERRIBLE.

The problems here are myriad, but one that sticks out is that the book seems to have taken the issues of race, racism, and identity in the last book and run with them.  What was problematic (and it was super, super problematic) in the last book is off the charts bizarre here.  While readers are supposed to recognize the blatant displays of racism on the pages here, where characters talk about race in a blatant, horrible way, there’s also a lot of weird, underlying racism intrinsic to the story.

Both Steven and Cheryl think a lot about the fact that they’ve never dated someone of the other race, and they worry that it’s because they can’t be attracted to someone of the other race.  This is a theme revisited again and again by multiple characters in the book, and it is weird and oddly tone-deaf, considering the fact that the book culminates in the wedding of Walter Thomas and Mrs. Whitman, people of different races.

But also worrying is the fact that everyone keeps talking about the fact that Steven and Cheryl will be the first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High (nevermind the fact that they won’t actually appear at SVH because Steven is [allegedly] in college).

I’m sorry, but what?  Haven’t we dealt with this before?  There are at least three other coupes at SVH who are interracial.  This issue has been dealt with before.  I read this as the (presumably white) writers acknowledging their own bias in that a white person dating a black person is, in some way, a “bigger deal” than a white person dating someone who is Hispanic or Asian or whatever.  Which is totally FUCKED.

Okay, enough with the race stuff, SVH.  This is starting to really bother me.

 

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SVH #93: Stepsisters

23 May

stepsisters

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Annie Whitman’s mom has been spending a lot of time in New York as part of her work as a fashion model (strictly catalog work, Annie is quick to tell her friends), and when she comes back from her latest month-long trip (leaving Annie alone, I guess?), she tells her that she’s been seeing a man in New York–a photographer named Walter Thomas, and the two of them are getting married! Walter has a daughter about Annie’s age named Cheryl, and the two of them will be moving to Sweet Valley.  Oh, and they’re black.  Annie is stunned but works hard to not be prejudiced about the fact that her new family will look different from her.  Whatever, I hate this book already.

In the span of like a day of this news, Annie’s mom buys the house next door to the Wakefield twins, and within the week, the new family is moving in, Walter and Cheryl already in tow.  The twins are excited about the new neighbors and are totally cool about Cheryl.  They help the girls unpack and notice that things between Annie and Cheryl are already tense, despite the fact that it’s clear Annie is trying as hard as she can to make Cheryl comfortable.  The problem is, Annie’s so concerned with not being a racist that she ends up being super, super racist, obsessing over color and inviting a bunch of students of color to the party she throws in Cheryl’s honor even though she’s not good friends with them.  She also doesn’t tell anyone that Cheryl is black before they meet her, making the situation even weirder.

Annie keeps trying to include Cheryl in her life, but everything keeps going wrong.  She encourages her to join Pi Beta Alpha and go to football games, even though neither is Cheryl’s scene. The two continue to resent one another but neither one is willing to admit it out loud.  At a pool party at Suzanne Hanlon’s house, Cheryl makes a little speech thanking the PBAs for considering her for membership, but then declines to even pledge.  She also accuses Annie of trying to make her fit in by turning her white.

Eventually, the two figure out a way to talk to one another, but it takes a trip to the hospital to do so.  Annie’s mother had appendicitis–but she’s fine now.  The girls decide to allow them to be themselves or something, and all is well with the world.  Cheryl also starts flirting pretty seriously with Steven Wakefield.

Oh, and Annie and Tony Esteban get back together.  YAWN.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Cheryl’s friends spend their summers at Blue Water, a place for musicians
  • Cheryl is a lacto-ovo-vegetarian
  • Rhomboid is a new up-and-coming band.  The name is literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
  • Annie throws a party for Cheryl at their house the DAY AFTER they move in.  Jesus, that’s fast.
  • Apparently Annie is quite the cook?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Annie thought carefully about the question. She was friends with Patsy Gilbert and Andy Jenkins, who were black, and Rosa Jameson and Manuel Lopez, who were Hispanic, and she could honestly say that she didn’t think about their skin colors or ethnic backgrounds any more than she did about, say, Jessica and Elizabeth’s English and Swedish background.” (13) [Blogger’s note: Are you fucking kidding me?]
  • “‘You actually have sororities in high school here?’ Cheryl asked, sounding surprised. ‘Sweet Valley sounds like something out of a 1950’s beach-party movie–football, cheerleaders, sororities, surfing. I suppose you have a burger joint, too?'” (75)
  • “‘And there’s something else I wanted to ask you about,’ Cheryl went on, looking a little troubled. ‘What gives with all these black, Asian, and Hispanic kids here? I don’t think I’ve seen this many people of color since I got to Sweet Valley, and certainly not in place.'” (86)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Guys, this book is fucked.  Like, seriously, seriously fucked.  It’s hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure that the underlying message of the book is that skin color doesn’t matter and that people who worry about whether or not it does are doing the real anti-racist work, but the message is so, so wrong and so convoluted it’s hard to tell.  Annie’s obsession (and seriously, she is OBSESSED) with the fact that Cheryl is black is so hard to read, because I think we’re supposed to identify with Annie?  We’re supposed to think that because she’s worrying about it, it means she’s not racist?  When the reality is that she comes off as more racist than anyone else, even Suzanne Hanlon, who is clearly a racist little twat?

There were so many moments when I laughed out loud because I was completely incredulous about what was being said or done in the book.  Take this quote, for instance:

‘I’m sure you have less to worry about than you think,’ Elizabeth suggested. ‘Maybe you should talk to Patty or Tracy Gilbert, or maybe Andy Jenkins. I know Andy did have that trouble with Charlie Cashman, but aside from that I don’t think he or any of the other black kids have had much reason to feel uncomfortable at Sweet Valley High.’ (40)

She’s talking about that time that Andy Jenkins was jumped by five guys, punched in the stomach by his best friend, and was hospitalized.  You know, “that trouble” where Andy was the victim of racialized violence.  But apart from that, students of color at Sweet Valley don’t worry about racism in their high school or their town!

Except for when Rosa Jameson lied about her ethnic heritage because she was afraid that students wouldn’t accept her.  And when Sandy Bacon dealt with comments about the fact that her boyfriend, Manuel Lopez, was Hispanic and she was white.  Except for those incidents.

Also, how completely fucked is it that Liz is speaking on behalf of students of color to begin with?  YOU ARE THE PROBLEM, LIZ.

Ugh, I just can’t.

 

SVH #89: Elizabeth Betrayed

9 May

elizabethbetryaed

Estimated Elapsed Time:  3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Penny Ayala gets picked to be a Washington correspondent for some arbitrary contest and needs someone to take over her editor duties on The Oracle in her absence.  She chooses Elizabeth, because reasons.  Everyone is stoked for Elizabeth, except for Olivia Davidson, who feels like she does a lot of work for the paper as well as her visual arts magazine Visions.  Further adding salt to the wound is her boyfriend Rod Sullivan’s CREEPY AS HELL obsession with everything Elizabeth Wakefield.  He brings her up constantly and keeps talking about her “special talent.”  It is seriously, seriously weird.

But then Elizabeth mentions that she has some poems to contribute to Olivia’s Earth-focused issue of Visions, and Olivia decides she’s happy for Elizabeth after all.  The two over a shared love of poetry and swap poems with each other.  Both are in total admiration of the other’s poetic abilities.  It’s a regular old lovefest.  If I were Enid, I would be super, super nervous.

At any rate, Liz struggles to run the paper as half the school is out with a flu that’s going around.  She ends up enlisting the help of Rod, who offers to write a piece for the paper.  Olivia is stunned that he’d want to write anything, because apparently he’s a pretty terrible writer, but whatever.  He writes a piece.  So does Jessica.  The paper goes out as scheduled.

Elizabeth is really struggling with an essay for Mr. Collins’s class about art, so she asks Rod to help her one day after school.  He comes onto her pretty strongly, but Elizabeth brushes it off and just feels vaguely uncomfortable.  She uses Rod’s ideas in her paper but doesn’t have time to write a second draft.  She’s ASTONISHED when she gets it back and Mr. Collins has failed her–and accused her of plagiarism.  It looks like all that stuff that Rod had told her was actually the work of a famous art critic.

When she confronts Rod about it, though, he’s super nonchalant.  He takes no responsibility for not citing the critic in his own ideas and basically is like, “too bad, lady.”  She’s distraught, especially because Mr. Collins kicks her (temporarily) off the staff of The Oracle.  She cries in her room a lot.

Jessica finally confronts Olivia about what  douchebag Rod is, and Olivia realizes she has to do something.  He’s not talking, so she digs up the article he wrote for the paper and realizes he lifted entire sections of famous people (like Jefferson) for his article.  She brings the evidence to Mr. Collins, who calls a meeting with Rod and Elizabeth.

Rod is completely unable to take the blame for any of it, but whatever.  It hardly matters.  Mr. Collins and Elizabeth have a heartfelt about plagiarism, and she’s reinstated on the school paper.  She and Olivia make up.

The B-Plot involves Jessica deciding that total brutal honesty is the only way to live life.  She tells everyone exactly what she thinks, which obviously pisses off a lot of people.  Lila decides to give her a taste of her own medicine and has everyone tell Jessica the absolute truth one day, including reminding her of every dumb thing she’s ever said or done.  I guess it works?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila straightens her hair and adds plum-colored streaks to it.  It sounds awesome, but everyone hates it.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield buy a set of crystal glasses with a matching pitcher for Ned’s (?) parents.
  • Enid and Liz joke about being Lucy and Ethel from I Love Lucy because they are 100 years old

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She was paying so little attention to everything for the last day or so that she probably wouldn’t have noticed if her classes were completely empty. ‘Of course I’ve noticed,’ she fibbed. ‘I’m a journalist. I don’t miss anything.'” (20)
  • “That hairdo makes Lila look like a Transylvanian,” she admitted. “A very expensively dressed Transylvanian.” (33) WHAT?!
  • “His eyes met hers. ‘Thank you will do just fine for now,’ he said softly. ‘Especially if I get another hug when I turn in my piece.'” (53)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

You know what the weirdest part of reading this book was?  How weird Rod is throughout it, and no one ever really calls him on it.  It’s not even clear if Olivia and Rod break up at the end of this one (unless I missed it somewhere?), which seems like a gross oversight.  I mean, he was CLEARLY HITTING ON LIZ, and everyone seems okay with this?  She does tell him “We need to talk,” but it doesn’t feel very resolute in my mind.

And Olivia is such a doormat throughout the entire book!  What is that?

SVH #77: Cheating to Win

31 Mar

cheatingtowin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Tony Esteban is a track star determined to win the upcoming All-County race, but he also has his sights set on the Olympics one day.  The drive to win isn’t entirely internal, though: he gets an immense amount of pressure from his former-football player dad, who wants nothing more than to see Tony win big.  At a track meet, Tony falls and tears a tendon in his knee.  It’s very painful, but the doctor says that he should be back to normal if he stays off his feet for a full week and doesn’t push himself too hard.  His new girlfriend, Annie Whitman, worries that he won’t be able to follow doctor’s orders.

Tony FREAKS OUT about not being able to work out like he normally does.  He manages to stay off his leg for the week, and when the doctor gives the all-clear, he starts working out immediately.  But he’s not as fast as he was before his injury, and this is unacceptable to him, despite the fact that it’s literally the day he gets the okay to start running again.  When a dude at his gym offers him some “magic vitamins,” promising him that they’ll improve his speed and make him stronger, Tony accepts without asking what’s in them.  And lo and behold, he’s stronger than ever before.  But he’s also more of a douche than he was before, if it’s possible.

Obviously a bit ‘roided out, Tony starts lashing out at Annie and his friends.  When Annie finds the pills in his locker, she sneaks one to her biochemist cousin to run some tests on.  Then she enlists the help of Liz to switch out the pills for placebos, arguing that it might all be psychological.  Meanwhile, Tony finally feels guilty enough to come clean with his coach and his dad after blowing up at troubled 13-year-old Mitch Ferguson.  Mitch has been staying with Roger Barrett Patman while suspended from school, and Mitch takes a liking to Tony.  Whatever.

Tony gets in some trouble but everyone is really pleased that he came clean.  Annie also tells him that she swapped out the pills, and because of this, he’s still able to run in the All-County race–and win! Duh.  Winners never quit.

The B-Plot involves Liz and Todd feeling like they can never get quality alone time.  After both get frustrated with the other one blowing them off or agreeing to group outings, they both hatch a plan to “kidnap” the other one and bring them to a romantic getaway.  For some reason, they plan this for the same day at the exact same location, and they think this is hilarious and not at all creepy.  Whatever.  They’re boring.  NEXT.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • For some reason, Roger Barrett Patman’s name is hyphenated in this book.
  • Tony drives a used Mazda.
  • Annie has a cousin named Beth.
  • This book is the worst.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Liz and Todd,’ he drawled. ‘I guess you’ve come for our “rescue a hoodlum” barbecue.’ He laughed. ‘Roger’s out back with the little fiend. But I warn you, don’t expect too much. You know what those people are like.'” (16)
  • It isn’t too late, a voice inside him protested.  Just walk away from this place and don’t come back.” (95)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

You can tell how much I don’t care about a book by how short my summary is.  But it’s also that this one is just so stupid–why do I care about this character who is a total douche bag BEFORE he starts taking steroids?  I won’t ever really have to read about him again, so why does it matter?

Also, this one is so PSA-heavy it’s a joke.  The didactic walls of text about the dangers of steroids read like the script of an episode of Saved By the Bell.  There’s so much info-dumping about steroids and the research on them it’s clear that someone was doing some reading while they were writing this book.  Blech.

And yet, no mention of testicle shrinkage, which makes sense, since every dude in Sweet Valley High appears to be castrated at birth, considering how low the sex drive of teens is around town.

SVH #46: Decisions

18 Nov

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Robin Wilson has been accepted early decision to Sarah Lawrence.  The book goes on and on about how she has to have the perfect grades to get into college a year early, and I want to throw the book against the wall, because “early decision” does not mean that you decide to go to college a year early.  It means that you apply early in your senior year and you are locking yourself into attending that school if you get in.  OKAY?  At any rate, Robin’s aunt has pushed her into going to Sarah Lawrence, because she’s an alumna and will pay for Robin to go.  Robin’s mom also pushes her to go there, because it’s a full ride.  Robin isn’t sure if she wants to go.  She waffles about this without actually weighing the pros and cons for the entire book.

Things go from bad to worse when her boyfriend George Warren blows up at her about even thinking about going to college across the country.  Robin hadn’t told him, so she assumes that her best friend Annie Whitman did, and the two have a fight.  Robin feels terrible, and it’s affecting her diving abilities, which is bad, because there’s a huge competition coming up.  To add serious insult to injury, Robin’s aunt Fiona comes into town and freaks out when Robin says she isn’t sure about Sarah Lawrence.  She also disparages diving as a sport and acts like a total snob.  She tells Robin that if she doesn’t go to SL, she’ll never see another penny from her.

Robin’s not doing well during the warm-ups at the diving competition because she’s so depressed.  When she sees George pull her family into the bleachers, she feels a swell of confidence and totally rocks the diving competition.  Afterward, Robin and Annie make up, George and Robin make up, and Robin and her aunt make up.  Fiona tells her she’ll pay for college wherever she wants to go.

The B-Plot has to do with Jessica getting a babysitting job for the Kane family.  She ends up falling for Alex Kane, the little girl’s older brother.  Alex is a serious musician trying to work on his senior composition, and when Jessica can’t seem to get his attention, she decides to become a musical prodigy…using a plastic recorder.  The problem is, Jessica’s terrible.  She can’t get it to work right, and nothing seems to catch Alex’s attention.  When she fakes a fainting spell, he’s concerned, and then he starts to tell her that once he’s done with grad school, maybe they could date, she decides she’s no longer interested and that’s the end of that.

Also, Liz discovers that she’s really good at the recorder, but she doesn’t want to step on Jessica’s toes, so she angsts about whether or not she can take it up as a hobby.  Jessica doesn’t care though, so Liz decides to pursue it.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Don’t worry,’ Robin said.  ‘Every time I go to diving practice and see myself in a bathing suit, I say, “Don’t eat–don’t eat.” So far it’s worked.'” (10-11)
  • “Obviously the way to this man’s heart was through music, she reasoned.  So it was equally obvious that although she had no ear for music, sang off-key, and had never wanted to learn to play an instrument, Jessica had to become a serious musician.  It was as simple as that.” (19)
  • “Sometimes she felt like living with her impetuous twin was like being part of a soap opera!” (28) [Did they just break the fourth wall?]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Robin has two little brothers: Troy (8th grade) and Adam (9th grade)
  • Aunt Fiona carries Gucci luggage and favors chunky jewelry with semiprecious stones

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are so many things wrong with this story that I feel overwhelmed every time I try to begin to analyze it.  Let’s start with the issue of Robin herself: her weight is still mentioned constantly, she lets people walk all over her, and she can’t seem to make up her mind about anything.  Is this the strong-minded girl who turned down PBA after they decided to take her once she was skinny?  I mean, she’s always been weird about her weight, but since when does she let George yell at her and make her feel like shit?  Ugh.

Also, the issue of Aunt Fiona: the woman is a caricature of what an overbearing adult is supposed to be.  The woman is like every bad stereotype pop culture has ever had of a wealthy, privileged woman who tries to enforce her own ideas about life onto other people.  She uses her money as a weapon and maintains her power by making everyone else around her feel stupid, small, and uncultured.  This is Sweet Valley, so we know that she’s going to have a change of heart by the end of the book, but she’s so obnoxious that the ending isn’t cathartic so much as disappointing.  I wanted Robin to push her into the pool or something.

SVH#10: Wrong Kind of Girl

21 Mar

Estimated Time Elapsed: Two weeks, I think.

The Overview:

Annie Whitman is a passionate 15-year-old.  She’s graceful and beautiful and is friendly.  She tends to fall in love with every boy she meets and lacks the critical thinking skills necessary to discern when these boys are maybe a bit on the unsavory side.  Annie’s terribly lonely; she doesn’t have any close girl friends, and her mother is dating a lecherous loser.  She wants to be liked, which is why she dates as much as she does.  But most of all, Annie wants to be on the SVH cheerleading squad.  Jessica Wakefield wants this least of all.  There are two spots on the squad to fill, and she’s absolutely determined to make sure that neither one goes to “Easy Annie” Whitman.  Elizabeth tries to change Jessica’s mind, and she helps tutor Annie in math so she could get her grades up high enough to qualify for the cheerleading squad.  This infuriates Jessica.

The problem is, Annie’s really good.  She’s graceful and enthusiastic and puts the rest of the cheerleader hopefuls to shame.  Everyone is amazed by Annie’s talent, but Jessica remains firm in her belief that Annie’s reputation with guys will bring down the reputations of all the rest of the girls on the squad.  But she’s powerless to stop Annie making it through several rounds of cuts.  Finally, she convinces a few of the other girls to vote against Annie by giving them an ultimatum: it’s either her or Annie.

Which means that Annie’s out.  When she finds out she’s been cut, she freaks out.  She goes completely manic for a day and then disappears.  The cheerleading team’s manager Ricky Capaldo, who has a major crush on her, calls the Wakefield house to tell them that Annie’s being rushed to the hospital after attempting suicide.  Both twins rush to the hospital and have a bedside vigil, willing Annie to get better.  The doctor tells Jessica that Annie has no will to live, and so Jessica tells Annie that the cheerleaders mixed up and she’s on the squad.  This is, apparently, the source of Annie’s will to live, and she wakes up and all is right with the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I think I’m going to cut down on my dating,’ Annie said.  ‘I used to need a lot of attention.  You know, to make up for that empty feeling inside.  But boys aren’t always the answer.'” (62) [ed. note: That’s right, Annie.  Sometimes a giant bag of Skittles are the answer.  Or a huge donut with sprinkles.]
  • “‘When people try to take their own lives, they often don’t want to be brought back.  When you catch them in time, as is this case, they have a second chance.  But they have to want that chance, you see…Mrs. Whitman, I have no idea why your daughter did this to herself, but she seems to have no will to live.'” (120)

Trivia and Fun Facts

  • Annie’s mom had her at 16, a fact that Elizabeth clutches her pearls over.  She also looks down at the fact that Mrs. Whitman seems to drink during the day and dates a skeezeball.
  • According to this book, Lila and Cara were both on the cheerleading squad but were kicked off due to a prank.  Lila has no interest in going back, but Cara does.
  • Pop culture references in this book are scarce but include: Tarzan, Flashdance, and Pat Benatar.
  • There’s an awful lot of foreshadowing about Tricia and tragedy that might befall her.  There’s also the set-up for the next book involving Suzanne Devlin and the trip to New York.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

There are so many things wrong with this book I don’t even know where to begin, but perhaps the biggest issue apart from Annie’s attempted suicide (which is alarming, unsettling, and unbelievably mishandled) is how harshly everyone judges Annie’s proclivities for serial dating.

I’ve been keeping track of who dates who from book 1, both on the site and on a sheet of paper (the dating web graphic organizer is getting more and more complicated), and so I know how many guys Jessica has dated.  Readers have seen her flirt mercilessly with these boys, often leading them on, promising things that she never intends to do.  Rest assured that this reader is not attempting to shame Jessica for being, essentially, a cock tease, but it is important to note that she often puts herself in situations where boys have one expectation and she has another.  The fact that Jessica is allowed to serial date but Annie is not is confusing.

Whether or not Annie is sexually active is left frustratingly ambiguous.  One gets the idea that perhaps she is sexually active, but it is never confirmed.  Boys tend to exaggerate when sharing details with their friends, and there’s never any indication that the things they are saying about her are true.  In fact, much of what Annie says when confiding in Elizabeth leads the reader to believe that Annie is quite innocent not only in how she views the world but in her experience with boys.  Yet she is branded the harlot of SVH because she dates a lot of boys?

What kind of message does this send to readers of the book?  Is Jessica’s behavior considered acceptable because the reader knows she will never go all the way and in fact acts indignant when a boy suggests she should?  Annie’s behavior is considered unacceptable because there is the question of the unknown with her.  At the end of the day, we don’t know what she does with boys, but we’re led to believe that although both girls are serial daters, one of them is good while one of them is morally reprehensible.