Tag Archives: betting on other’s misfortune

SVH Super Edition: Falling for Lucas

4 Mar

fallingforlucas

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

It’s spring break and the twins are going on a ski trip to Colorado.  Along with them, Lila, Todd, Enid and Winston are all going (there are 16 fallinglucas2students and 2 chaperones in total).  Jessica and Lila are both committed to finding the cutest skiing outfits they can.  Todd is looking forward to some alone time with Liz, who keeps reminding them that there will be chaperones and also they will have roommates.  But Todd’s hormones must be on overdrive, because he tries to climb into Elizabeth’s bunk on the chartered bus before they even get to the resort.  Mr. Collins and Liz both freak out, and Todd shuffles back to his bunk.

Once they arrive at the ski resort, it’s clear that everyone has goals they want to meet on the trip.  Winston is not a good skiier and doesn’t want people to know; Enid is determined to hook up with a guy and buys a book to help her snag a hottie on the slopes; Lila & Jessica are in competition to find the cutest dude; and Todd is laser-focused on getting Liz alone in a hotel room.  I am already bored.

Jessica and Lila meet a super cute ski instructor named Lucas King and decide that they both want him.  They pretend to be really bad at skiing so he’ll pay attention to them.  Then they place a bet: whoever gets to kiss him first wins.  The loser has to ski down the most dangerous double black diamond run at the resort.  Jessica finagles an entire day’s worth of private lessons from him and Lila is pissed.  She demands to be let in on the lesson, and Jessica tells her what time it’s at only to cancel Lila’s wake-up call and sneak out when she’s still sleeping.  Lila gets back at her by going to a party thrown by Lucas without Jessica, and she ends up getting him to walk her back, where she kisses him under the window where Jessica is watching.  Jessica loses the bet but dumps snow on Lila’s head.

When Lucas finds out that Jessica is about to ski the hardest run, he rushes off to stop her, and Lila goes along, determined to keep Jessica from getting alone time with him.  Jessica and Lucas end up crashing into one another on the hill, and Lucas ends up with a sprained ankle while Jessica fractures hers.  She sidles up to Lucas in the lounge while Lila is skiing, and then Lila flips her lid on Jess in front of Lucas, who takes that moment to disappear.  He’s totally done with both of them.

While Lila and Jessica are fighting over the same boring dude, Enid is trying to get lucky on the slopes.  She keeps trying out advice from the book she bought, but it keeps attracting the wrong types of dudes.  WHO CARES.

Meanwhile, Todd convinces Winston to sleep elsewhere and gets Liz into his room.  They start making out, and she puts the brakes on their session only to find out his plan, complete with a “do not disturb” sign.  She’s pissed and ends up dumping a cold glass of water on his lap, which might be one of the coolest things she’s ever done.  Todd doesn’t get it, and he also doesn’t have the courtesy to tell Winston that Liz isn’t sleeping over, which pisses him off when he shows up the next morning sore from trying to sleep on a couch in the lounge.

Liz and Todd have a fight on the mountain and part ways.  There’s a storm brewing, and Liz watches as Todd skis past her into a different area.  Then there’s an avalanche and the two are separated! Liz thinks that he’s been trapped in the snow, and she runs to a nearby ski patrol station and tells them that she thinks Todd might be in danger.  The man, a dude named Dirk Roman, tells her they’ll send out a search party.

But Todd is fine, and has been brought to a cabin by an older woman named Cassandra Lee, who is very attractive, according to Todd.  He manages to reach the ski patrol station on a CB radio, but he doesn’t hear Liz and worries she might be trapped outside.  He loses contact with the patrol, and Cassandra convinces him that it’s too dark to do anything until the morning.  Todd gives her the bed and sleeps on the couch and wakes up in the middle of the night to find Cassandra kissing him.  This is seriously creepy.  He brushes her off and thinks about Liz.

Liz demands to stay the night in the patrol cabin even though it’s against the rules.  Dirk is very comforting.  He keeps bending rules for her, even allowing her to come on the rescue mission to find Todd.  They take a helicopter up to look for the cabin and finally find it.  When they clear the door and enter, Liz finds Todd in Cassandra’s embrace.  Liz storms off and when she’s back at the hotel, Dirk tries to comfort her by kissing her.  Todd walks in at that moment and is upset.  I DO NOT CARE.  It hardly matters because they make up at Winston’s second attempt at a “welcome back” party.

Enid hooks up with Lucas at the party and everyone goggles at it.  Enid feels like the punchline even when she gets the guy.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica’s new ski outfit is purple spandex pants with a color-blocked pink and purple parka.
  • Enid is rooming with Liz; Todd is rooming with Winston, Lila is rooming with Jessica, and Olivia is rooming with Caroline Pearce.
  • Winston wears a shoe size 13. FYI.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “No, it wasn’t. Not exactly,” Elizabeth said, trying to be fair to her sister. “I don’t think that’s how she meant it. She made romance and love sound like one big, fun game.  The object is to have a great time. And to see who wins–the guy or the girl.” (27) [This is fucked.]
  • “You didn’t even ask me what I wanted last night! You just assumed that I would want whatever you wanted. Well, I didn’t! And right now I don’t want to talk.” (98)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are two major issues with this book, and they both deal with sex.  The first is obviously Todd’s desire to take things further with Elizabeth without actually talking about it, which is problematic in and of itself.  But it’s also totally tone-deaf.  This is a couple that discusses everything, and we are to believe that they haven’t talked about whether or not they’re ready to have sex?  I find it unrealistic that the furthest Liz and Todd have gone is making out, especially because neither is religious (I’m sure I’ve written about this before), but I find it even more ridiculous that he wouldn’t know how to talk about it with the Queen of Over-Analyzing.  It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s utterly ridiculous.

The second issue has to do with the portrayal of Cassandra, and her overt advances towards Todd.  It’s okay, if a little creepy, that she hits on him, but it’s another thing entirely to start making out with him while he’s asleep.  That is sexual assault, lady, on the way to rape town.  She sort of apologizes later for hitting on him, claiming she thought he was a “big boy,” but that doesn’t excuse making sexual advances while the other person was unconscious.  It is totally bonkers to me that this was included in the book as a thing that is not a big deal at all.  BONKERS.

SVH #114: V for Victory

29 Aug

v for victory

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week?

Summary/Overview:

The SVH cheerleaders have won the state championships and are on their way to regionals, but Jessica and Heather are still bickering over every stupid thing imaginable.  Liz is, for some reason, still cheerleading, even though Jess let it slip that she and Ken used to to totally hook up.  When the cheerleaders mistake Liz for Jess and lift her up to celebrate her, Jessica runs off and cries and is super mad at Liz.

Liz tries to tell Jess that she and Ken are over and their feelings for one another are resolved, but Jessica is convinced she’s a boyfriend stealing bitch.  Todd is also not interested in hearing what Liz has to say and breaks up with her.  By the time the girls are on the bus (they decorated it) to Yosemite for nationals, Todd realizes he still loves Liz.  After he and Ken have a huge fight in the hall at Sweet Valley, they decide to road trip to Yosemite to win them back.  Great! Not at all boring!

There’s a cheerleading camp with cabins, because of course.  The SVH squad is rooming with a group from Alabama, so there’s lots of Southern twang stuff that’s totally hilarious.  THEN Heather’s old squad from when she lived in Reno shows up, and Heather gets kind of twitchy.  She finds a newspaper clipping about how she was kicked off her old squad, and there’s a special note from Marissa James, who is the captain of the Reno squad.  Heather messes up all the routines the next day, but WHY?!

Because the cheerleading camp is girls-only, the boys (Ken, Todd, and Winston, for some reason) can’t get in.  Instead of admitting defeat, they decide to dress up as girls.  This will end well.

Jessica calls Heather out on her crap, and Heather argues with her before telling her about how she cheated on a math test and got booted from the squad.  The girls tell the rest of the squad, who decide that Marissa is the worst person ever.  The next morning, the squad finds that they can’t leave their cabin because Marissa has locked the door from the outside (what?) and blocked all the windows.  When the girls don’t show up for the contest, the boys (dressed as girls) come and rescue them.  Everyone laughs about their terrible cross-dressing attempt.  Okay.  Jess and Liz make up because the sight of boys dressed as girls makes them laugh so hard they can’t stay mad at each other.

Before they’re set to perform, they decide to prank the dudes and call them up to do a routine.  They can just do that in the middle of a competition?  At any rate, the dudes suck, but they also start sliding all over the floor.  The girls realize the stage has been tampered with.  The Reno squad admits to sabotage and are disqualified.  The SVH cheerleaders perform and take second place.  Everyone makes up with everyone else. Thank FUCK this mini-series is over.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Despite the super sparkly uniforms on the cover (terrible artwork, though), I’m not sure the uniforms ever look like that.
  • Lila makes a reference to the Bobbsey twins, which was about the most exciting thing in this book.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Something’s up here, Elizabeth thought, her reporter’s nose sensing trouble.” (25)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Although it’s a common refrain on this blog lately, I carried this book around for like two weeks before finally getting down to it.  It’s weird, because I love the movie Bring it On, but reading about the SVH cheerleaders and their struggles to reach nationals is so completely boring I can’t even believe I finally made it through.  I don’t understand any of the characters or their motivations in this book.

Like, why did Heather think that she had to conceal the reason she got kicked off the squad to the point where she intentionally sabotaged her own team?  Why are Liz and Jess the worst?  Why is Todd so boring?  Why couldn’t the boys wait three days for the girls to return to Sweet Valley?  NO ONE CARES.

SVH #86: Jessica Against Bruce

30 Apr

jessicaagainstbruce

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Bruce Patman declares that life at SVH is boring and then he starts a secret club that everyone seems to know about called Club X.  He says it’s only for real men, which really pisses off Jessica.  She hounds him repeatedly in public until he agrees to let her try out for it.  Her initiation dare involves driving her Jeep down a hill at night with her lights off, and after she accomplishes this, she’s given a black leather jacket, her sign that she’s in the club.  The other members are Tad Johnson and Ronnie Edwards, so I have no idea why she’d want to be in this club, apart from the fact that Bruce says a bunch of vile, sexist shit at school.

At any rate, Jessica and the rest of Club X continue to cause havoc at school.  They glue lockers shut, pull the fire alarm, etc.  Jessica notices that the wheel of pranks they use to decide who has to complete a dare seems to land on her a lot, but she chalks this up to probability, at least at first.  When Bruce looks surprised when it lands on someone else’s name, Jessica starts to get really suspicious.  She hotwires Bruce’s car and drives away in it, which is kind of cool, I guess.

Bruce dares her to walk across some rail road tracks, telling her that the train won’t come because he knows the schedule.  But of course it does, and Jessica barely makes it over the tracks before the train goes roaring by  It’s dangerous, and Jessica realizes she wants out of the club.  But not before she gets revenge, because it’s Jessica Wakefield.

At the next meeting, Jessica creates a diversion to get the rest of the guys out of the room so she can examine the wheel.  Turns out there’s a magnet under her name, which Jessica promptly switches out with Bruce’s name.  That’ll show him. As predicted, the wheel lands on Bruce’s name, and she dares him to broadcast a radio station during a school assembly.  He gets caught, the club gets disbanded.  Jessica gets grounded but still manages to convince Liz to pull a twin switch so she can go see Sam.

The B-Plot involves the International Federation of Teachers coming to visit Sweet Valley High.  Liz and a couple of other goody-two-shoes get put in charge of showing the teachers around.  Of course, this coincides with the height of Club X’s pranks, which doesn’t make SVH look very good.  Liz is mad at Jessica for ruining it all, but it seems pretty low-stakes to me.  Also, vaguely racist/ethnocentric in how the teachers are portrayed from other countries.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Sam is apparently in Colorado for close to a month for a special college-immersion program.  But, in the middle of the school year?  Really?
  • Shoehorned literary reference: Elizabeth’s English class is reading Silas Marner.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘You are the biggest sexist pig in this school, Bruce Patman,’ Rosa said. ‘No, scratch that.  The biggest sexist pig in California.'” (15) And Elizabeth Wakefield’s future husband, natch!
  • “She didn’t feel as if she were being manipulated by Bruce. But was she?” (110)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a lot of strong feelings about this one, for various reasons.  It might be that I’m slightly burned out on the Sweet Valley books, which was bound to happen. It might also be that this one just felt sort of boring to me.  I don’t care about a secret club, we knew that it would never last more than one book, and the stakes were supposed to be high, but come on–Jessica wasn’t going to get seriously hurt.

The thing that I found weirder about this one was the concept of the visiting teachers.  Everything about them was so stereotypical that it was cringe-worthy.  Their shock at how “American” students behaved felt so been there, done that?  But that might be part of the books not holding up years later.

Thoughts?

SVH #81: Rosa’s Lie

16 Apr

rosaslie

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Because Sweet Valley is a magnet for new students no matter what part of the school year it is, this week the teens are admiring newcomer Rose Jameson.  They think she’s the bee’s knees, and everyone wants a piece.  The girls decide she’d be a perfect fit for Pi Beta Alpha, and so a new pledge season is started.  Rose is thrilled that she’s fitting in with all the cool kids and decides she has to act the part as much as possible.  This means that they can’t ever know that she’s Mexican-American (she’s actually technically Mexican, because she was born and lived there until she was three or four, but whatever, this book is a lesson about being Chicana, as the book so subtly tells us).

Rose believes that if everyone knew her name was really Rosa Jimenez (her parents changed their last name when they started their garden tool business they wouldn’t get as far ahead), she wouldn’t be accepted by the white people at Sweet Valley High.  So she lets them think she’s old-money from Boston and crafts a super elaborate lie about how her family recently took a trip to England to trace their lineage and she got to hang out with Duchess Fergie and Princess Diana.  Whatever.

Once she starts lying she can’t stop.  This becomes increasingly difficult for her as she starts to complete challenges and tasks as part of the pledge process.  The girls want to come to her house, which is fine when her parents aren’t around, but then they announce that her super traditionally Mexican grandma is coming for a surprise visit, and things get sticky.  She starts cancelling plans to have people at her house until Lila announces that she must host a PBA party as her third and final challenge.  Rosa manages to get her parents and grandma out of the house and to a concert that night, but the whole thing is nearly ruined when her grandma comes back in to tell her she made them a special cake.  Rosa throws it out and tells her friends that it was her cleaning lady. Yikes.

She continues the lie but feels increasingly worse about it, especially after her grandmother tells her stories from the old country.  Then, when the Pi Betas have a picnic by Secca Lake, they see a little girl fall down a well.  The little girl only speaks Spanish and is freaking out, so Rosa finally breaks down and speaks Spanish in front of the other girls to calm her down.  Then she finally tells them that she’s Mexican, and the Pi Betas are like, “Okay, your secret is safe with us?”  Rosa gets self-righteous and is like, “NO EVERYONE MUST KNOW,” which, okay.  Fine.

At the Pledge induction dance, PBA offers Rosa membership and she turns them down for reasons that don’t make any sense.  But she promises them she’ll be friends with them all.  Whatever.

The B-Plot: Jessica keeps blowing off studying for math tests and quizzes to hang out with Sam, and as a result, she fails a bunch of them.  After intercepting a warning letter from the school about her grade, the lies continue until Alice gets a call from the school and Jessica ends up grounded, missing the dance.

Also, Phi Epsilon recruits some new brothers and Todd and Bruce butt heads about who to include.  There are some stupid pranks and I literally could not care less, which is why I didn’t recap them.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • As much as I like Lila, she’s kind of racist: at one point, she refers to Manuel Lopez as “ethnic and working-class.”  WHAT THE FUCK?
  • I guess Sweet Valley is a small town with all the amenities, because they have a Literacy Center
  • Ms. Taylor is the math teacher at SVH?
  • Elizabeth and Enid are both reading Wuthering Heights
  • According to Rosa’s grandma, there are no shopping malls in Mexico. Um, okay.

Memorable Quotes:

  • And in the back by the pool, there are a dozen fairy-tale princesses, Rose thought, and they’re going to make me a fairy-tale princess, too…” (30)
  • “Rose slowly headed back to the living room.  Her dark brown eyes were clouded with resentment. Already, Nana was causing trouble.  Just how many fun plans was she going to ruin?” (75)
  • “Lila tossed her hair.  ‘Rose is prettier,’ she declared. ‘And that’s who you are to us, after all: Rose.  We’ll keep calling you that.'” (140) WHAT THE FUCK, LILA?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I remember loving this book as a child, but now I think I must have just loved the dress that Rosa is wearing on the cover.  I would still wear the shit out of that.  I actually kind of want it.  Whatever, not the point.

The point is that everything about this book is so problematic that I don’t even know where to begin.  Okay, so Rosa is actually from Texas and not Boston.  Because she feels like she was lumped together with the other Mexican students at her old school and she’s passing for a white girl in Sweet Valley, she decides to go with it.  I actually legitimately understand this, because it is a real thing that happens and continues to happen in schools all over the United States.

What I don’t understand is how horrifically this was handled throughout the book.  Rosa is dealing with some major code-switching and cultural identity stuff, but the book is so ham-fisted in its portrayal of everything that this isn’t ever accurately portrayed.  Instead, Rosa comes off as an ungrateful psycho at home and as a paranoid schizophrenic at school.  There’s no nuance here, and her abrupt about-face during the whole girl-in-a-well thing (don’t even get me started on that) doesn’t make any sense.  Lots of people speak Spanish, and she could have continued to lie if she wanted to.  That part made no sense.

Also, her deciding to not join the sorority doesn’t make sense.  At least, not for the reasons given.  If she doesn’t want to join because it’s full of some racist assholes, fine, but that’s not what she says.  Ugh, whatever.  This is the worst.

SVH #80: The Girl They Both Loved

9 Apr

girl theyloved

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Michael Harris and April Dawson are dating.  This is the same Michael who had a secret engagement to Maria Santelli that one time.  Apparently he’s still kind of a dingbat, because he is OBSESSED with dirt bike racing.  It comes before everything else, including April’s interests and his ailing grandmother in Texas.  But his parents don’t see it that way, and off to Texas he goes to visit his gma.

In the meantime, April runs into Michael’s former-best-friend-turned-rival Artie Western, and the two hit it off.  They end up racing together in a relay, and they win!  April tries to get Artie to tell her what happened between him and Michael, but he brushes her off, saying it was a misunderstanding best left in the past.

When Michael gets back into town, it takes exactly five seconds for two different people to congratulate him for patching things up with Artie.  He freaks out on April and says some of the most ridiculous, emotionally manipulative shit imaginable.  April goes home pissed, and rightfully so.  He calls to apologize, and she accepts it, and then acquiesces to his request that she not see Artie any more.

But April totally can’t help it that he sits next to her at the movies again, when Michael is stuck at home babysitting his little sister.  The two go out after, and Artie finally tells her the story of why he and Michael don’t talk any more: they both had a crush on a girl who used to come watch the motorbike races, and they challenged one another to a race around Secca Lake.  Artie lost control of his bike and swerved in front of Michael, forcing him to drop his bike.  Mike thought it was on purpose, and that was it.  Wait, that was it? Seriously?

Of course Michael is waiting on April’s porch when she gets home with Artie in tow, and the boy scream at each other until April’s dad threatens to call the police.  Then they challenge each other to another race around Secca Lake.  This time, Michael swerves in front of Artie’s bike, and Artie ends up in the hospital.  It’s never clear if Michael did it on purpose, but April seems pretty pissed at him.

Eventually, the three make up, and April and Michael continue seeing each other even though Michael is a total d-bag.

The B-and-C-Plots: Elizabeth and Todd bet each other that they other can’t do tasks that are traditionally fairly gendered.  So, Todd has to cook, grocery shop, and sew an apron.  Liz has to change a tire, build a shelf, and change a washer on a pipe.  Okaaaaaaay.  Both end up admitting that the tasks are hard, so I’m not sure what the message here is, because it’s super weird and sexist.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets Sam Woodruff after attending a dirtbike rally, and is totally smitten.  It turns out that the two have a lot in common, and she ends up falling for him completely.  But she doesn’t want to introduce him to her parents, because they’re super anti-motorcycle after that one time Liz was in a coma after Todd crashed his motorcycle a week after getting it. But then Sam shows up at her house, charms the pants off Alice, and all is well.  I actually really like Sam, so this worked for me.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Michael drives a Trans Am and his middle name is Lloyd
  • The Plaza Theater is hosting an Alfred Hitchcock film festival
  • Elizabeth likes walnuts in her chocolate chip cookies.  She’s a MONSTER.
  • Jessica and Sam like the same kind of pizza: pepperoni with double cheese and hot pepper flakes.  That actually sounds pretty awesome.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Michael stared hard at the road ahead. ‘My grandmother would understand,’ he said shortly. ‘She wouldn’t want Artie Western to beat me, either.'” (23)
  • “‘Michale and I are equals in everything. Even in dirt bike racing.  Who is he to boss me around?'” (52)


A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m sorry, but Michael Harris is a total douche.  I don’t have a lot of investment in any of the characters featured in this ridiculous plot, but he comes off looking the absolute worst throughout the book.  There isn’t anything compelling about his feud with Artie except how self-obsessed Michael is (something that both Artie and April point out to him more than once), and it doesn’t actually seem like he undergoes any sort of personality change by the time the book is through.

Also, Artie is in the hospital for like a week after his accident, even though his injuries aren’t that serious.  Doesn’t that seem like a really long time for a broken rib and some scratches?  My dad just had heart surgery and he was out in 24 hours.  Whatever.

Last thing: how dumb is the title?  The “girl” in question isn’t April, as the cover might suggest, but some rando chick they knew back when they were friends.  She doesn’t get more than a mention in passing, and they never even bother to name her! What the fuck!?

 

SVH #51: Against the Odds

7 Jun

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Sweet Valley High has a huge soccer game against Big Mesa coming up.  There will be college scouts there, which is a big deal to Jeffrey, who is already thinking about where to go in two years.  Ronnie Edwards, who used to date Enid Rollins, strolls into the Dairi Burger one night throwing around money and generally bragging.  This seems to skeeve pretty much everyone out, because no one wants to talk to him.  Some shady-looking guys ask to see his car in the parking lot and then corner him by the dumpsters and try to mug him.  Jeffrey intervenes and saves Ronnie, who showers him with gratitude.  Jeffrey worries about Ronnie and what he’s gotten himself into.

Ronnie has started placing bets with a bookie, which goes well until it doesn’t.  The bookie’s name is Big Al (seriously?  That’s the best name they could come up with?) and he threatens Ronnie with violence when Ronnie is short on the cash.  He basically tells him that Sweet Valley better win the soccer game against Big Mesa by no more than one point or else.  Ronnie panics and talks to Jeffrey, who’s understandably pissed.

The night of the game, Ronnie gets kidnapped by one of Big Al’s minions.  The minion also takes Elizabeth, who seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The two of them get tied up but Ronnie escapes, knocking the minion unconscious.  The two call the police and race to the game, where Jeffrey is playing badly (I guess because he’s so upset?).  Elizabeth gets the coach to call a time-out and tells Jeffrey to play his best.  Big Al gets arrested while watching the game in the bleachers (what?).  Sweet Valley wins!

The B-Plot involves Jessica deciding to become a jewelry designer.  She has some luck convincing her friends that her earrings are really cute, and then she gets a shop at the mall to agree to carry them.  To meet the demands of the order, though, she borrows her mom’s credit card, and spends something like $900 on supplies.  The shop decides to go another direction, leaving Jessica completely stranded.  Looks like she’ll have to get an actual job.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “They looked too old to be high school students, and with their sunglasses, beard stubble, and leather jackets they seemed like the kind of guys it would be better to stay away from.” (9)
  • “‘Listen, Ronnie,’ Mr. Russo said, in a firm, angry voice.  ‘I’m going to give you a chance to stand here like a considerate human being and wait ten minutes until the test is over.  If you so much as say one more word or move one inch closer to me, I swear I will suspend you so fast your head will spin?  Understood?'” (83)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ronnie’s characterization in this book is completely at odds with what we already knew about him.  Even though he was a selfish jerk before, he’s now completely insecure and no one likes him.  It doesn’t make any sense.
  • Alice Wakefield authorizes Jessica to spend something like $400 on her credit card, but she spends over $900.  Awesome.
  • Jessica is totally wearing one of her earrings on the cover.  I actually think they look cute.
  • Big Mesa’s sports teams are called the Bull Dogs.  Did we know this already?

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m not going to lie: I don’t know very much about betting or gambling in general, and I know even less about bookies.  Most of what I know is from TV.  Didn’t Saved by the Bell have an episode with a bookie?  I remember that on Felicity, Ben got in trouble with one once.  They’re always dudes, they’re always sort of sketchy, and they always use violence to solve problems.

The character of Big Al is such a stereotype, though, that it’s hard to take him seriously.  I’m not even sure how seriously the teens in the book take him, because when Ronnie and Elizabeth get kidnapped by one of his minions, neither one seems particularly scared.  Once they’ve freed themselves, they seem to recover pretty quickly.  Ronnie gets taken in for questioning at the police station, but Elizabeth doesn’t.  She was a hostage, right?  Why wasn’t she questioned?  Are the ghostwriters really that lazy?

Next up: White Lies.  John Pfeiffer has a secret, but it’s not that he’s a rapist.  Not yet, anyway.

SVH#18: Head Over Heels

10 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Regina Morrow is totally in love with Bruce Patman, and vice-versa.  Everyone at Sweet Valley High is mystified by Bruce’s sudden transformation from douche truck to doting boyfriend, but he seems pretty sincere.  This sincerety bothers Jessica, still bitter from her own failed relationship with Bruce.  She bets Lila that the relationship will be over before the charity carnival being held at Sweet Valley High in two weeks.  The terms of the bet stipulate that the loser has to write the winner’s 15-page term paper.  This will end well.

When Regina’s parents tell her that she’s a candidate for a new treatment to restore her hearing, Regina is overjoyed until she finds out that the treatments will take a year and require her to relocate to Switzerland.  Regina can’t stand the idea of leaving Bruce for an entire year, and she refuses to listen to reason, even when her parents bring in a boy named Donald Essex, a former deaf kid who can hear thanks to the treatments.

Meanwhile, Jessica is starting to worry about the bet.  She decides to speed up the inevitable breakup by telling Regina that she heard a rumor Bruce only started dating her to gain popularity for his run as president of student council for the Sweet Valley Centennial Committee.  When Regina questions Bruce about why he didn’t tell her he’s running, he’s evasive, and Regina freaks out and breaks up with him on the spot, deciding to go ahead with the move to Switzerland.

Bruce is miserable and asks Liz if she knows why Regina would break up with him all of a sudden, and Liz spills the beans about the entire situation.  Bruce doesn’t want her to go to Switzerland but knows it’s important, so he writes her a letter professing his love and asks Liz to sneak it into Regina’s bag so she won’t see it before she leaves and change her mind.  Regina finds it on the plane and cries and feels hopeful.

The B-Plot involves the planning for the charity carnival being held at Sweet Valley High.  The carnival’s aim is to raise money for the handicapped children’s ward of Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital.  Liz is in charge of the planning, and it’s pretty stressful.  The carnival comes together at the last minute, complete with a master of ceremony, an exotic food stand, and an inspirational speech by Skye Morrow, Regina’s mother.  They raise $800 for the hospital, and all is well in Sweet Valley yet again.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Bruce Patman,’ she sputtered, throwing the bracelet on the seat between them, ‘Why don’t you just take your expensive presents and your stupid promises and get out of here?'” (91)
  • I would never have believed it in a million years, she thought.  Bruce Patman is crying.” (117)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Both Bruce and Regina seem to favor outfits that include blue and white: Bruce wears a navy blue blazer with chino pants and a navy and red-striped tie, while Regina dons a navy-blue cotton dress with tiny white flowers and white cotton jeans with a striped t-shirt.
  • It seems that both the Morrow family and the Fowler family’s fortunes are in computers, which leads this reader to wonder: Is Sweet Valley the new Silicone Valley?

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Trying to snark on the fact that there’s a cure for deafness makes my brain want to explode, so we’re going to move right past it.

However, it is worth mentioning how many times the word “handicapped” is thrown around in the novel.  The book was originally published in April of 1985, when a term like “handicapped” was still used.  It is interesting to note that even in the past few years, that term has been deemed archaic and politically incorrect.  Every time Regina’s “handicap” was mentioned or the teens talked sympathetically about the “handicapped children” at the hospital, I cringed a little bit.  It’s amazing how powerful words can be.

Finally, a tiny nitpick with Regina’s sendoff.  She takes off for Switzerland without either parent.  She is sixteen, deaf (for the foreseeable future), and heading to a foreign country to live without the support of a parent?  Mr. and Mrs. Morrow couldn’t scrape together the money for an extra plane ticket to accompany Regina and at least help her get settled?  I’m not buying it, folks.