Tag Archives: beach party

SVH #108: Left at the Altar

11 Jul

left at the altar

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jeremy and Jessica continue to see each other behind Sue’s back, despite the fact that he’s still completely engaged to Sue and going forward with the wedding.  They sneak off to Miller’s Point and make out, and Jeremy tells her he’s going to break it off with Sue and tell her he just wants to be friends.  Jessica believes him for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, Sue tells Liz that she was diagnosed with the same rare blood disease that killed her mother and she only has a few years to live. She tells Liz that she wants to set Jeremy free so he doesn’t have to bear the burden of her illness.  I thought Sue’s mother died of cancer, but whatever.  Liz thinks Jessica will have to give up Jeremy now, because everyone is an idiot.

When Sue tells Jeremy that she’s calling the whole thing off, he refuses and then rededicates himself to her.  He tells Jessica they can’t keep seeing each other, but then she corners him in an elevator and they make out.  Todd finally arrives back in Sweet Valley and before Liz can tell him about her affair with Luke, he tells her that he met someone when he was staying at his grandmothers but he realized Liz is the girl for him.  She FREAKS THE FUCK OUT and breaks up with him, telling him she only thought of him in London.  What is this book?

When Sue and Jeremy go on a nature hike to clean up trash, Jessica volunteers to go with, so Liz does too.  The twins end up separated from the couple and when Jessica realizes it’s a 6-mile trek, she pretends to twist her ankle so Jeremy has to carry her to the car.  That night, they have a barbeque on the beach and Jeremy and Jessica sneak off to make out before Enid and Liz interrupt them.

The night before the wedding, the twins and their friends throw a bridal shower for Sue before deciding to crash the bachelor party Robby is throwing.  Sue goes home to bed and the teens hit up the party, which turns out to be a stuffy dinner.  Liz and Todd make up after Steven gives some good advice, and she finally comes clean about Luke not-a-real-werewolf.  All is well.

The day of the wedding, Sue and the girls get manicures and she loses her shit when the manicurist accidentally hurts her hand.  Then she blows a ton of money on a dress that Liz thinks would be weird to wear in the rain forests or wherever the fuck Jeremy and Sue are going on their honeymoons.  Jessica moans about having to be in the wedding and watch this farce but Liz cajoles her into it.  When the minister (or “Father Bishop” or whatever) asks if there’s a reason they shouldn’t be wed, Jessica bursts out with “YES” and Jeremy admits he’s not in love with Sue.  The wedding is called off!

The B-Plot involves Lila and Robby, who are back together after a brief time apart in the previous book because Robby lied about having money when he was really a penniless artist.  Lila worries that he’s only into her because she’s rich so she spins a yarn about how she was taken in by the Fowlers and her parents were servants and she’s been forced to work for the Fowlers, etc. etc.  What century is this?  At any rate, Robby eats that shit up and asks for more.  Finally, Lila confesses that she’s rich, but Robby still loves her.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Despite the fact that in the previous book, Steven was away at school, he is back and has now been sleeping on the couch in the den so Sue can have his room.  This makes no sense to me.
  • Liz is now reading a book about women with love addictions.
  • Jeremy’s parents send the happy couple a matching pair of Koala sweaters as an engagement gift, while the Fowlers give them pink satin bedsheets.  GROSS on both accounts.
  • Liz reads a book called Women as Seen Through the Eyes of Male Society
  • Lila wears an ivory raw-silk dress to the wedding, which, isn’t that a big no-no?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I hope that you and Jeremy will continue coming to stay with us after you’re married,’ Mrs. Wakefield said. ‘That is, if you don’t mind Steven’s single bed!'” (29)
  • This should keep Jessica away from Jeremy now.  There’s no way even Jessica would continue to deceive a dying woman.” (59)
  • “‘How could you? I trusted you. I thought about you the whole time I was in London.'” (71) YOU ARE ACTUALLY INSANE.
  • “‘Jessica’s still in high school,’ Sue said. ‘Isn’t that adorable?'” (132)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analsysis:

I guess I don’t understand any of this.  Like, why is Jessica so into Jeremy?  Why is Sue?  I can’t get past the fact that none of her family nor her friends are at the ceremony.  Like, why are all the Wakefields and their friends the only people (I guess besides Robby) at the bridal shower and bachelor party?  Why is Liz so terrible?  How can this story be drawn out over so many books when there isn’t an actual plot?

BLERGH.

SVH #107: Jessica’s Secret Love

9 Jul

jessicas secret love Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview: 

Jessica and Lila meet some dudes on the beach when a Frisbee collides with Jessica’s head.  Lila goes off with one, named Robby, immediately, while Jessica and the other unnamed dude make googly eyes at each other.  It is love at first sight, they kiss, and before she can get his name or give him her number, he tells her they can never be together and then runs away.  Jessica is completely distraught and can’t believe her friends won’t take her seriously when she tells them she just met her soul mate.

Alice gets a letter from her dear dead friend’s daughter, Sue Gibbons.  She is planning her wedding and wants to do it in true California style.  So Alice invites Sue to stay with the Wakefields while she plans the wedding.  Sue arrives and is lovely but sad.  She tells the twins all about her dream man fiance, Jeremy, and Jessica gets excited when she realizes that they might know her mystery man, who she has found out works for a conservation group, too.

Imagine Jessica’s surprise when her mystery man turns out to be one Jeremy Randall, fiance to Sue and general creepster.  They’re both shocked when he shows up at the door, but neither one says anything.  Jeremy sits with the Wakefields and they talk about the wedding.  It’s clear that Jeremy has a different idea about the kind of wedding they should have, and Liz and Jess are surprised when Sue just goes along with what he says.  Jessica decides that she’s got to try to convince him he’s with the wrong girl, and after confiding in Elizabeth, who tells her to leave it all alone, she plots and plots.

The first thing she does is lie to Jeremy about what time they’re supposed to go ring shopping with Elizabeth.  At the mall, he picks out the ring Jessica chose and then they have a moment where the clerk thinks she’s his fiance.  Then, later, she finds out that Jeremy is taking Sue to the Carousel, and she begs every dude she’s ever dated to take her there, finally getting Bruce Patman to agree.  They go and it’s a weird encounter.  Jeremy seems jealous, which thrills Jessica. Things continue to truck along, in terms of wedding planning.  Jessica and Jeremy alternate between making eyes at each other and sniping at each other, and tensions between Sue and Jeremy seem to rise, too.  They seem to be getting married for very different reasons, although neither will admit it.

Jessica and Liz go with Sue to look at wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses and Jessica freaks out about the fact that she should be the one marrying Jeremy.  She goes so far as to “accidentally” throw Sue’s dress under the wheels of a truck, thinking it will ruin it, but Alice is able to fix it.

Ned and Alice throw an engagement party for Jeremy and Sue, and Jeremy and Jessica sneak outside to kiss.  Jessica is sure this is true love.

The B-Plot involves Elizabeth questioning her romantic life after the whole fiasco with not-a-were-wolf Luke.  Because Todd is away vacationing with his family and doesn’t actually know about Luke, Liz turns to self-help books to get in touch with her inner goddess or whatever.  She makes her friends have discussions about the books she’s reading and then drags Jessica to a seminar about the books, where they wear animal furs and pick new names for themselves.  Liz goes with “Runs with the Wind.” I go with vomit.

Oh, and Lila starts to fall for Robby, who is a talented artist and who also appears to be super poor, despite Lila thinking he is very wealthy.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Sue is staying in Steven’s room even though it is apparently summer vacation.  Whatever.
  • Sue is 18 and Jeremy is 23, and I am creeped out wholly.
  • Jeremy and Sue both work at Project Nature, and Jeremy “specializes in computer programs that track deforestation”
  • When the girls look at engagement rings, Liz picks out a pearl surrounded by diamonds, while Jessica prefers an oval sapphire in a gold band with triangular diamonds on each side.
  • The self-help books Elizabeth reads include Real Women, Bad Men and  Primal Woman, Woman of Strength 
  • Apparently the Carousel is one of Jessica’s favorite restaurants.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Even though Jessica wanted to be friendly to Sue, she couldn’t help feel a twinge of jealousy–here this girl was just a little older than Jessica, and already planning the rest of her life with her husband.” (26) [This is not a normal thought for a 16-year-old who hasn’t grown up indoctrinated by the Church.]
  • “‘I mean, finally we decided we had to get married before we got into trouble.’ Sue blushed and gave a girlish giggle.” (29) [Fucked.]
  • “‘It just goes to show you how troubled the relationships between men and women are.  If Sue were really strong within herself, maybe Jeremy wouldn’t be attracted to other women.'” (66) [WHAT]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It took me several days to sit down and read this book, despite carting it around with me.  I don’t care about this mini-series (which, by the way, claims to be a two-parter on this book’s cover, but is really like four books?), and I don’t believe for a second that Jessica would decide she wants to get married to a stranger all of a sudden.  I get that she’s the flighty, impulsive twin or whatever, but I don’t buy for a second that she would be fighting to get married this young.  I just don’t.

And I don’t understand anything else that happens in this book, either.  Why is Sue staying with the Wakefields when she still has family?  If she has as many friends as she claims she does, why is she making Jessica and Elizabeth, two girls she has met maybe one other time in her life, her BRIDESMAIDS?  This is clearly to further the plot and nothing else, and it’s bullshit.

Don’t even get me started on Elizabeth’s weird, pseudo-feminism bullshit, either.  It’s the most fucked view of feminism and actually ends up doing more to blame the woman than anything, and it’s gross.

SVH Magna Edition: A Night to Remember

28 May

anighttoremember

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

At a Sweet Valley High-sponsored (?) beach party one night, the students are raided by a band of crazed Big Mesa High teenagers.  They toss around their food, spray them with shaving cream, and pick up some of the girls for funsies.  Everyone is super, super pissed about this and swear they will get their revenge.  Liz and Todd hope that everyone will lose interest in their quest for vengeance.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Elizabeth come up with the idea of having SVH host a jungle-themed prom.  While they disagree about whether or not the attendees should wear formal wear (Liz) or Tarzan-and-Jane outfits (Jess), they do agree that it will be the Best Night Ever.  They can’t wait to tell everyone at school about it, and once they do, the gang starts planning the affair.  Elizabeth manages to find a local environmental group to help sponsor the prom, and then they throw in a huge bonus: an all-expenses paid trip to Brazil for the prom queen.  She’ll also be a new spokesperson for the group.

Both Jessica and Elizabeth are interested in becoming the Jungle Prom Queen, albeit for very different reasons.  Everyone thinks Elizabeth is a shoe-in because she’s working so hard on the planning for the dance.  When the prom committee chooses formal-wear over the more casual jungle-look, Jessica’s PISSED even though she missed the planning meeting.  She gets her revenge when she has Caroline Pierce write an article for The Oracle that credits Jessica with all the planning ideas.  The two end up fighting about the fact that they both want to be prom queen and snipe at each other.  I’m bored, and we’re only a third of the way through the book.

The twins continue to butt heads over plans for the prom, which is fast-approaching.  When it comes time to decide whether or not SVH should invite students from Big Mesa to the prom (like, as dates, I guess), the vote is split, further dividing the twins.  Then Penny tells them that Sweet Sixteen magazine wants to do an interview and photo spread on the organizers of the dance, and the twins are super excited.  But Jessica is so late that Liz and the magazine people leave to do the magazine spread without her.  Jessica is not pleased, and the two have a huge fight that ends with each of them refusing to speak to the other one.

The night of the dance, the girls get ready alone and then go to the dance with Sam and Todd.  When Todd is crowned prom king, Jessica worries that Elizabeth will end up the queen by default.  Some kids from Big Mesa have crashed the dance, and one of them hits on Jessica.  He’s drunk, and Jessica asks for some of his vodka (or whatever clear liquid is in his flask).  She pours it into Elizabeth’s unguarded cup.  But Liz shares that drink with Sam, and suddenly they are both super, SUPER wasted.  Like, crazy wasted, dancing all over the place, slurring their words, having deep and meaningful conversations with their friends.

No one thinks that Liz is wasted because she would never do something like that.  Then she decides that she doesn’t want to be prom queen and withdraws her name.  Perfect timing, because a few minutes later, Jessica is crowned queen.  In the midst of the applause, Jessica loses sight of Sam and Liz, and before she can do anything to stop them from leaving, the two do.  She tries to run after them, but they speed off into the night.

AT BASICALLY THE SAME TIME, a riot erupts at the dance between Big Mesa students and SVH students.  Everyone runs around, and Bruce and some other dudes end up fighting on the football field.  Jessica manages to grab Todd and tell him that she thinks Liz and Sam are in trouble, and they drive off to find them.  But they’re too late! There’s been a terrible accident, and it looks like Sam and Liz are dead! CLIFFHANGER.

Other character arcs in this book: Lila is really struggling with the aftermath of her near-rape.  She’s still in counseling at Project Youth with a counselor named Nathan who tells her that she’s overreacting to situations on dates and that not every dude is a scumbag.  She’s also desperate for a mother and spends much of the book sad about the fact that her father leaves her alone a lot.  As she spends more time in counseling, she starts to formulate a crush on Nathan.  During the riot at the dance, Nathan pulls her to safety in a classroom and she freaks out, thinking he’s going to try to rape her.  The police come rushing in and arrest Nathan, I guess.

Bruce Patman becomes obsessed with getting revenge on Big Mesa and also sort of dates Andrea Slade but only when she’s not totally available to him.  He doesn’t want a girl who’s always available to him, and he tells her this.  She acts like a wounded puppy dog about the whole thing.  Bruce can’t seem to connect to people and is carrying a lot of anger, and the book deduces it’s because he’s not over Regina Morrow. Um, okay.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Big Mesa’s school paper is called The Bull’s Eye.
  • Apparently Jessica’s favorite dinner is Chinese chicken stir-fry, Elizabeth likes cold rice salad, and Ned LOVES peach cobbler.
  • The reggae band featured in this book is called Island Sunsplash
  • Nathan the counselor’s dog’s name is J.D.
  • According to Lois, who is doing a report, SVH serves the healthiest institutional food in Southern California.  Random.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She glanced at a nearby table where Enid and Hugh were sitting with two other couples.  That was another thing she felt like challenging her sister about.  How could Elizabeth be best friends with someone who not only was a total drip, but also dated a guy from Big Mesa?” (49)
  • “Hadn’t she decided to assert herself, to be an Elizabeth Wakefield who nurtured all sides of her personality, even the part that dared to be self-centered and ambitious?” (68)
  • “‘But it shouldn’t be a popularity contest,’ Elizabeth argued. ‘I deserve the prize. I’ve earned it. Wasn’t the prom my idea in the first place?'” (191)
  • “‘But I’m telling you something, Liz. It’s not going to work,’ Jessica warned. ‘Sooner or later, everyone at Sweet Valley High will wise up to your act. They’ll figure you out. So, go ahead,’ she challenged. ‘Lie and cheat and sneak around all you want to. We’ll see who comes out on top!'” (234)
  • “A wicked smile spread slowly across Jessica’s face. What an idiot–she can’t even tell it’s spiked! It was really a hoot, Jessica decided: Elizabeth Wakefield, the most upstanding, self-righteous person at Sweet Valley High, breaking the cardinal rule against drinking!” (301)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is probably one of the most famous (or infamous) SVH books that exists.  Everyone remembers the Jungle Prom and the apparently magical vodka that ends up killing Sam Woodruff (seriously, why couldn’t it have been Liz?).  And really, there are a lot of things about this one that are dumb (mostly relating to the twins’ stupid feud about who gets to be the fucking prom queen), but the thing that is beyond weird is how alcohol is treated in this one.  So let’s break it down.

Jessica asks a random drunk dude for some of the booze in his flask.  He’s already super wasted, so he’s probably had a fair amount of the liquid in there.  While he does empty the rest of his flask into her cup, there can’t really be that much left.  But then it gets split between two people, and they’re both completely blitzed.  Also, Elizabeth’s behavior is super erratic for a drunk person.  The book goes into detail about how they’re swinging each other around and dancing faster than any of the other party goers, and…we’re supposed to believe it’s just alcohol that’s doing this?  At most, 3-4 shots split between two people?  WHAT?

Whatever.  It makes no sense.  Perhaps there was some coke in that vodka.

SVH #79: The Long-Lost Brother

7 Apr

longlostbrother

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Sara Eastman, a girl we have never heard of before, has a twin brother who got into some trouble back when they all lived in Connecticut.  Now he’s in reform school, Sara and her mom live in Sweet Valley, and she has been lying to everyone about her brother.  She’s told everyone that he’s brilliant but decided to stay back east with their father.  Trouble is, he’s done with reform school and wants to move to Sweet Valley.  Sara is devastated, because she has her whole life set up in Sweet Valley, and it doesn’t involve a delinquent brother.

Oh well, because he moves back and immediately causes problems for Sara in that he’s not thrilled with the lies she’s told about him.  Elizabeth meets him at an A.A. meeting (she’s doing investigative journalism or something), and it doesn’t take long for her to put two-and-two together after she interviews him for the paper.  Tim seems to have genuinely changed, but Sara won’t accept it.

When Crunch McAllister’s van is stolen outside of the Dairi Burger, Tim is the prime suspect, but only because he stole a car when he was high on drugs back in CT? I’m not sure, but whatever.  He’s questioned, he’s released, and the gossip mill at SVH goes into overdrive.  It gets worse after Tim and Crunch get into a fight in the school parking lot.  Now that Tim’s secret past is out, Sara’s douchebag boyfriend drops her like a hot potato and her best friend Amanda Hayes gets mad at her for not being honest about her brother.  Sara is so alone!

It takes several talks with both of her parents, a nosy Elizabeth, Barry at Project Youth, and even several fights with Tim himself before Sara comes around on the whole thing.  Actually, it isn’t until Tim leaves Sara a note saying he’s hopping a plane back east that she finally freaks out enough and begs him to stay.  They reconcile.  Whatever, I’m bored.

The B-Plot involves Elizabeth’s very serious and very didactic investigation into a local battered women’s shelter and her experience attending A.A. and Alateen meetings to gain journalistic credibility.  Oh, and Jessica’s super tired of attending events as Miss Teen Sweet Valley, so Liz goes in her place to hand out cheese cubes at the mall.  I am not joking.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Amanda and Sara both “excel” in modern dance and take classes with Mr. Krezenski
  • Cherry pie is Tim’s favorite dessert. How all-American of him.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Only recently, Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield had made a point of repeating their law regarding the twins’ use of the small red car. If either of them was careless behind the wheel, she would have to hand over the keys and walk until further notice.” (5)
  • What things? she thought miserably. Just a lawbreaking brother who’ll probably have his picture hanging in the post office by the time he’s twenty. And it won’t be because he’s President.” (20)
  • “Elizabeth wasn’t put off.  Like any reporter worth her number-two pencils, she had good instincts about people, and she knew Tim Eastborne was basically a good person.” (73) WTF?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s hard to care about these books because it’s so clear that we’ve reached a creative lull in the series.  It’s like Bantam thought there weren’t enough secondary characters to handle all the afterschool special plots, so they just kept dumping more characters into the plot.  Apart from the fact that these story lines are so heavy-handed, it’s also hard to connect as a reader to these characters whose appearances are fleeting at best.  I don’t give a shit about Sara’s perceived problems because I don’t ever have to think about her again.

Also, she’s got a martyr complex like you wouldn’t believe, which drives me nuts.  It’s worse than the ham-fisted, bizarre insertion of a PSA about domestic violence that Elizabeth shoves down our throats for the entire book.

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.

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.

SVH#5: All Night Long

2 Mar

Total Elapsed Time: About 1 week

The Overview

In order to go to a lakeside party with older college boy Scott Daniels, Jessica lies to her parents and gets Elizabeth to cover for her.  Elizabeth isn’t happy about it, and worries about Jessica hanging out with Scott, who has a bad reputation and the creepiest pedophile mustache I’ve ever seen.  But she does it, because she’s a doormat.  She needn’t have worried, though, because the party is not much fun for Jessica, as Scott turns out to be kind of a drunken lecherous douchebag, and he refuses to drive her home when she refuses to put out.  Looks like Jess is stranded at the lake cabin until the next morning.

Elizabeth ends up having to pull double duty for Jessica all day, including eating two breakfasts and taking two versions of the tour guide test they were supposed to take to get licensed to be tour guides over the upcoming summer.  Todd tells Liz that taking the test for Jessica is stupid, and she freaks out on him, which is ridiculous because he’s RIGHT.  They fight, and she’s so upset that she bombs the test when she takes it for Jessica.  Jessica freaks out on her when the results are posted and basically blames her, which is also ridiculous because it doesn’t make sense.

The teacher agrees to let Jessica retake it because she looked so sick the first time through, and Todd and Liz make up.  It’s a tidy end to a weird storyline.

The B-Plot involves the most boring surf competition ever.  Bill Chase is competing against some dude named Sonny for the win, and Liz covers it for the school paper.  Bill wins, in the most anti-climactic storytelling the series has accomplished so far.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Unfazed, Elizabeth replied dryly, ‘I’m probably the best friend you’ve got, Jess.  You just don’t know it.'” (9)
  • “I guess I knew it was doomed from the beginning.  How can I have a meaningful relationship with someone who believes in offshore drilling?” (75) [ed. note: this might be the first time that something genuinely funny was uttered in a SVH novel.]

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Elizabeth eats two hot dogs, a “generous” serving of potato salad, several rootbeers, and some marshmallows at the beach one night
  • Pop culture references made over the course of the book: Brooke Shields, Bo Derek (AGAIN), the creature from the Black Lagoon, Scarlett O’Hara, The Price is Right, and the Invisible Woman.
  • Dana Larson’s outrageous style is described in detail.  She shows up to school wearing an oversize T-shirt, a striped mini-skirt, purple tights, and black suede ankle boots.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

While the plot of this book is pretty stupid and honestly quite boring, there’s not a ton to take issue with.  I think it’s weird that the twins are suddenly taking tests to become summer tour guides for the city, because it’s a plot line that is never brought up again (and aren’t we in the middle of fall in Sweet Valley land?) and therefore ultimately goes nowhere.  Jessica continues to act like a sociopath, Elizabeth is the biggest doormat we’ve seen yet (she even makes mention of needing to get “Welcome” tattooed on her chest), and the Wakefield parents continue to be suspiciously absent (although Mama Wakefield does manage to make pancakes on a school day for the girls).

Perhaps the most frustrating plot thread in this novel is the fight between Elizabeth and Todd about Jessica.  Todd gets upset with Elizabeth when she continues to cover for Jessica, going so far as to pose as her twin and take the tour guide test for her since Jessica is still MIA.  Elizabeth freaks out on Todd because he’s spoken ill of her beloved twin, and even though I feel like a small part of her must know he’s right, she refuses to see reason.  She then is so upset about the stupid fight with him that she fails the test because of being driven to distraction.

What kind of message does this send?  Defend your actions no matter how illogical they are?  Work yourself up over a spat to the point that it detracts from your schoolwork?  When Elizabeth and Todd make up, they call a “truce” instead of actually talking about what happened.  I find this confusing.  How do you move forward in a relationship if you can’t talk about what goes wrong?  I am over-thinking this.