Tag Archives: bizarre representation of foreign destination

SVH: Jessica’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

18 Jul

jessica's secret diary

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A because this book recaps books 32-40.

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is at a party at the Patman beach house when her boyfriend, Jack (whoever the fuck this is) tells her that he’s secretly been in love with her sister, Elizabeth.  Understandably distraught, Jessica runs home crying and decides to run away.  As she’s packing, she stumbles across a secret diary that no one knows she keeps and begins to revisit her own sordid past.  Oh, good.  More recapping.

We’re first treated to a recap of #32, in which Jessica dyes her hair black and tries to go faux-European.  She also thinks about how cute she thinks Jeffrey French is.  Then we get a recap of heroic Jessica’s impulse decision to bring home a lab puppy who becomes Prince Albert.  Bizarrely, we get info-dumped about #34, even though it’s totally not about Jessica at all.  Same thing with the book about Aaron Dallas’s anger issues (repressed homosexuality?  RIGHT?) and his girlfriend Heather’s baby voice.  UGH GOD WHY DO THEY HAVE TO DO THE BOOKS CHRONOLOGICALLY WITHOUT SKIPPING ANY.

Then Jessica reads about how she tried to break up Steve and Cara.  That was sweet.  Remember when Jessica thought Alice was pregnant again? Because she likes pistachio ice cream and shit?  Me neither, but it happened.  Jessica reminisces about how she and Steven schemed to keep Elizabeth from going away to boarding school and then actually admits to being pretty into Jeffrey, thinking at one point that she’d send Liz to Switzerland so she could steal Jeffrey away from her.  What a nice sister.  There’s an adorable and not at all tedious recap of the time she and Lila posted personal ads and got set up with the same dude. FINALLY we hit #40, where Jessica reminisces about poor Regina and how she died from that cocaine thing with her heart.  It’s here that she admits that she once went on a date with him, posing as Liz, and when they made out, Jeffrey figured it out but then made out with her some more.  Um, creepy?

Back in the present moment, Jessica cries about her and Jack, her and Jeffrey, Elizabeth too, she guesses, and then for Regina.  She unpacks her clothes and decides to stay.  I’m ready to self-immolate to get away from this book, so let’s call it a day.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • In the present day part of the novel, Ma and Pa Wakefield are out of town in Los Angeles
  • Jessica and “Jack” have been dating for one whole month

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But for most of the years I’ve known you, Jessica, you fall madly in love about twice a month.  How am I supposed to know when you really mean it?” (4)
  • “Jeffrey pulled me roughly toward him again and kissed me even more passionately.  I responded with a moan, feeling as if my heart would explode with a million tiny, twinkling stars of light.” (307)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

So what’s weird about this one is not the present-tense voice, which still bothers me but feels like a more natural fit than the one inflicted on Elizabeth in the previous diary book, but that once again I’m unsure what the lesson is to be learned in this.  As per usual, the message is muddled.

Part of the problem is that so many of the books being recapped in this one weren’t about Jessica at all.  This is only going to get worse with subsequent volumes of the diaries (ugh I can’t believe there are two more for EACH TWIN), but it still makes the lack of plot pretty glaring here.  Also, boring.  Like, really really boring.

The biggest issue here though is that I think the reader is supposed to realize (alongside Jessica) that the girls love each other and value one another so deeply that they can’t be apart.  But everything that happens in these books only goes to further illustrate what an asshole Jessica is.  So, I guess I don’t get it?

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

2 Jul

bewarewolfmanEstimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

The nanny of the Pembrokes turns up dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

…sigh.

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

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

SVH #105: A Date with a Werewolf

27 Jun

adatewithawerewolf

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Turns out that it isn’t Jessica’s body in Jessica’s bed, but the body of Joy, another blonde girl who was spending the weekend at the manor.  Elizabeth is overcome with relief, because Jessica and Joy switched rooms midway through the night.  The entire house is up in arms about the murder, and after being interviewed by the local constable, everyone sort of goes about their business.  The next day, Liz and Luke head back to London while Jessica rides back with Robert later.  Liz and Luke talk about the murders and figure out a way to bring down the Pembroke paper cover-up.  Liz lets it slip that the missing princess–whom the paper is now offering a 1 million pound reward–is Lina.  Way to go, Liz.  That didn’t take long AT ALL.  Luke assures her he won’t tell, but does remind her that as long as the paper can use her as a cover-up, people will die.  Uh, okay.

Liz poses as Jessica to go interview Mrs. Pembroke and ends up offending her terribly.  Jessica finds out about the interview through Robert, and though she’s PISSED at Liz, she goes along with the story and tries to mend fences at dinner.  It doesn’t work, and she stays super mad at Liz, who continues to do things like pretend to be Jessica so she can solve these murders.  She also goes out with Rene, who tells her there are absolutely no such things as werewolves.  She believes him until she watches a horror movie with Luke and decides that there are totally such things as werewolves.

Liz poses as Jessica and goes back out to the Pembroke country estate to interview Robert Senior under the guise of his wife’s missing coat.  While she’s there, another person is murdered–this time it’s the (pretty, plump) cook, Maria.  Elizabeth snoops around the house and discovers a secret room in the library, filled with werewolf paraphernalia.  She also discovers that Lord Pembroke was in love with a woman named Annabelle years before.  While in the library, Robert Senior comes in with the police chief and they discuss the fact that Lord Pembroke is withholding evidence about the murders.  When the chief leaves, Lord Pembroke talks out loud about how he’s sure his son is innocent.  Then he warns Robert to go into hiding until the thing blows over.

Liz thinks Jessica is in danger, so she tries to get back to London.  Jessica has gone shopping to drown her sorrows about being abandoned by Robert in the middle of their day together, and on her way back to HIS, she gets attacked (?) by something in the subway.  Now she believes in werewolves, because the thing growled at her and seemed hairy.  She brings this news to Liz and Luke and Lucy and Tony, the newspaper people, and they discuss it for a really long time.  Jessica is resolute in her belief that it is not Robert.

Meanwhile, Lina (Princess Eliana) falls in love with David, a poor boy also staying at HIS.  The two hit it off, and then he puts two and two together when he sees a paper of the princess in the paper.  She runs away but then decides the way she can show him she really cares is by allowing him to turn her in and collect the reward.  That way, he can open a free clinic and go to medical school.  At a press conference at the newspaper, she makes a statement, coming out of hiding.  She and David are still totally in love.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Elizabeth’s nightgown is flannel and Jessica’s is pink satin.  Why are they both wearing nightgowns?
  • The book repeatedly refers to the Pembroke’s country cook as “plump, pretty” and it’s annoying.
  • We’re definitely being force-fed the detective stuff: Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie are mentioned

Memorable Quotes:

  •  “Face it, Lina,” she concluded, “coincidences like that only happen to people like Jessica and Elizabeth.  They obviously lead charmed lives–unlike normal, everyday blokes like you and me.” (9)
  • “Elizabeth wrote a line in her notebook: ‘Keep an eye on the elder Pembroke.'” (14)
  • “‘I don’t know why Elizabeth is such a wimp all of a sudden,’ Jessica continued, ‘but I don’t scare so easily. You poets are too weird. I’m just glad I’m dating a normal guy.'” (109)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

A couple of things: first of all, why on earth would everyone want to stay at Pembroke Manor after that horrible murder occurred?  Like, the constable just told people not to leave England.  They totally could have gone back to London–wouldn’t that be the natural response?  This is super weird to me, but not as weird as how nonchalant Jessica is about the entire thing.  At one point, she actually says that Joy would have wanted them to go on enjoying England.  Um, okay.  Crazy pants.

The other thing is that the book makes it so clear that there is not an actual werewolf roaming the streets, it’s not even funny.  Jessica gets chased by something, falls down and doesn’t look up to see what is standing over her?  Seriously?  UGH.  THIS MINI-SERIES NEEDS TO END.

SVH #104: Love and Death in London

25 Jun

loveanddeathinlondon

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

The twins are on summer vacation AGAIN and are heading to London to intern at a newspaper there.  You know, because it went so well for them the last time.  Upon arriving at their hostel, a place for international students that all the same seems to house quite a few Brits, the twins meet spunky Emily, an Australian, and their roommates, quiet Lina Smith and snobby Portia.  When they go to tea, they realize that Rene Glize is staying there (small world?), and he totally hits on Elizabeth.

The first day on the job at the newspaper, the girls are assigned to the society beat and are super disappointed that they don’t get to cover the exciting news, like the murder of a prominent doctor that has just occurred.  On the way to a story about a missing dog, the twins sneak onto the crime scene of the murder and see the dead body, whose throat has been ripped out.  Then they go cover the story about Poo-Poo, the missing dog, and laugh about the clumsy detective, Sergeant Bumpo, in charge of the case.  When they get back to the newspaper, Liz works on the write-up of Poo-Poo and talks to quiet, cute Luke Shepherd, who then takes her out to a pub for a sandwich and some googly-eyes.

Meanwhile, Jessica goes back out to cover a story about a missing fur coat at Lady Pembroke’s mansion.  While there, she meets Robert, the super handsome son of the estate.  They have tea, he asks her out.  She’s already in love.

The twins are startled to discover that the murder of the doctor, which should be front-page news, is buried in the back of the paper.  Then, when they discuss who the mysterious men standing over the body were, Jessica realizes that one of them was Lord Pembroke, Robert’s father.  When they find out that the Pembrokes own the London Journal, Liz is suspicious.

The girls decide to sneak out and go dancing with other tenants at the HIS.  Lina, Liz, Jess, and a bunch of other people sneak out after curfew and go dancing at Mondo, a club.  When they spot Princess Gloria, sister to missing Princess Eliana, Lina looks deathly pale and says she needs to leave.  Liz and Lina walk home and get lost on the way.  They encounter the mangled body of Poo-Poo.  It’s throat has been ripped out.

The next day at the paper, Lucy, the writer of the buried piece on the doctor, quits in a rage, accusing the paper of a cover-up.  Jessica and Elizabeth continue to work the Bumpo beat.  Liz and Luke go sightseeing, and she loses track of time and stands up Rene, whom she had accepted a date with.  He’s pissed about it.  Jessica continues to date Robert Pembroke, Jr.

Liz and Luke continue to investigate the murders and discover that there are many. They bring the information to Lucy, who confirms their suspicions: there’s a serial killer on the loose, and someone is downplaying it.  Luke is convinced it’s the work of werewolves.  He’s straight crazy, but Liz doesn’t see that.

The twins are invited to Portia’s play opening, and they’re amazed to see that she’s an incredible actress.  In fact, she’s so good that they realize she was in character the entire time she’s known them.  After the show, they have a heart-t0-heart with her where she tells them that she auditioned under a fake name so she wouldn’t be accused of nepotism (her father is a famous actor) and that she had to stay in character for her art.  Liz also discovers that Lina is the missing princess, Eliana, but promises not to say anything to anyone.

The twins and Luke head off to Robert Pembroke’s family’s estate in the country for the weekend.  While there, a butler mentions that a bunch of sheep have been murdered.  Liz doesn’t trust Robert or his family, but whatever. The first night, Liz has a nightmare about the full moon and wakes in a straight panic.  She runs to Jessica’s room and finds her dead body on the bed.  CLIFFHANGER.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Pop culture mentions: An American Werewolf in London, Lois Lane
  • Portia has a role in a play called A Common Man.
  • Robert went to Eaton

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Remember what a blast we had interning for the Sweet Valley News? And that was just our local paper, ten minutes from home.'” (2)
  • “Jessica shook her head. ‘Still…two new suitors in twenty-four hours, Liz?’ she teased. ‘I’d say that’s moving pretty fast for somebody who’s not looking for romance. Poor, poor Todd!'” (67)
  • “She’d told Todd just about everything that had happened to her since she’d arrived in London except for the episodes involving Rene and Luke. I just kind of…left them out. Is that as bad as lying? she wondered.” (122)
  • “‘It does in my opinion,’ Jessica insisted. ‘You’re barking up the wrong tree, Liz. If you want to find some crooks and killers, start looking in the lower classes.'” (140)
  • How come some people have so much, and other so little? she wondered.” (176) [YOU’RE IN ENGLAND FOR THE SUMMER, LIZ]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Funny story: growing up, my library had only the first two books in this series and I didn’t know how to ILL.  I never actually read the conclusion to the mini-series, so while I have some suspicions about what is happening, I’m not actually sure if we have a legit werewolf on our hands or someone who is just really into horror movies.  I guess time will tell, right?

At any rate, I remember the first time I read this, I got to the last page and was like, “WAIT, WHAT?!” because Jessica can’t be dead, right?  Of course not.  But even so, it’s a pretty ballsy move on the book’s part.

So, Elizabeth is the worst, right?  Self-righteous, totally hypocritical, and bizarrely crazy when it comes to her own actions.  She’s away from Todd for like a second before she’s macking on some other dude and manages to justify it.  She might as well have said, “What happens in London stays in London! YOLO!” or something, because that’s how we’re supposed to interpret and accept her BLATANT CHEATING ON HER LONG-TERM BOYFRIEND.

Also, fuck the twins thinking that they would arrive in London for their unpaid internships and be put on the biggest murder case around.  Seriously?

SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

SVH #99: Beware the Baby-Sitter

11 Jun

bewarethebabysitter

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is still dating James, who continues to spy on her and report back to Margo, who is calling herself Mandy.  She and James spend nearly all their free time together, and she nearly confides her guilt over Sam’s death to him several times.  James starts to feel guilty about feeding Margo every detail about Jessica.  When Margo instructs him to give Jessica a scarf as a gift in hopes she’ll wear it to the costume party, he obliges.

The night of the party, Jessica and Elizabeth get ready in stony silence.  They see each other in full costume and realize that they both decided to go as Cinderella with their respective Prince Charmings.  Jessica’s dress is only a shade lighter than Elizabeth’s and she chose to wear some pearl earrings Sam gave her.  They go to the party separately.

Elizabeth is determined to get on with her life, even if it means Todd is no longer in the picture.  She feels a bit of hope when Jessica offers her a ride home one day after school.  The two talk, a little.  Things look up for them until Liz discovers the letter Todd wrote her crumpled in a pile on Jessica’s floor. She screams at Jess and then promptly goes to make up with Todd.

Margo creates yet another persona for herself.  This time, she goes by the name Marla Field and applies to be a helper in a day care center.  Margo hates kids, so I don’t understand why she keeps putting herself in situations where she has to be around them, but whatever. She forges her reference letters and lies when the manager tells her she’s going to call them to confirm.  She gets hired on the spot, because everyone in this book is an idiot.  At any rate, she pumps the little kids for information about the Wakefields, and because the Wakefields are like, the most amazing family in the history of the world, these kids are full of trivia about them.  IT’S SO WEIRD.

Margo goes to the dance dressed as Jessica and creeps on Todd when Elizabeth leaves him to get punch.  He thinks she’s Jessica but dances with her anyway.  Then she pretends to be Jessica when she talks to Lila and some other people from SVH.  When she notices that Josh Smith has followed her all the way to Sweet Valley, she runs away.  He ends up tackling Jessica in the garden, and then realizes that there are two other girls who look exactly like Margo.

The next day, Margo decides it’s time to put the final part of her plan in motion.  She sends a letter to Ned Wakefield from a “law firm” up the coast interested in hiring him as a consultant.  The idea is she’ll get the Wakefield parents away for a couple days so she can kill one of the twins and take her place.  Um, okay.

Winston Egbert’s parents are out of town for a long weekend and he has lots of plans for the new found freedom.  But then a neighbor drops off her baby with some weird story about an emergency after a coup in another country, and she promises she’ll be back for Daisy the next day.  Of course, she doesn’t come back when she says she will, and Winston struggles with what to do with Daisy.  Maria helps him, and then she invites her friends over to help with the baby.  Amy and Winston bet each other that they can put a diaper on Daisy better than anyone.  Winston brings the baby to school in a duffel bag because he’s an idiot and hasn’t asked for help yet or called Child Protective Services.  He takes Daisy to the costume party and no one thinks this is weird.

Winston goes to the Little Darlings daycare center for some advice.  He talks to Margo, who goes off on a weird tangent about how babies sometimes get abandoned by bad parents, then offers to babysit for him.  She actually goes so far as to show up at his house and offers to take Daisy to child protective services.  He says no to that but agrees to let her babysit, despite the fact that he never told her his address and doesn’t know her name.

Margo proceeds to attempt to smother the baby before Elizabeth shows up.  When she sees Elizabeth, she flees.  The day after the party, Winston decides it’s time to surrender the baby and brings her to the daycare.  He leaves her with Margo, still not having gotten her name, and goes home to find Daisy’s parents waiting in the driveway. They rush back to the daycare center and rescue Daisy from certain death.  WHATEVER.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Costumes at Olivia’s party: Enid as Amelia Earhart, Amy as a nun (she lost the bet to Winston), Steven and Billie as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Olivia and Harry as Leonardo DaVinci and Mona Lisa, Robin Wilson as a mime, and Annie Whitman as a gypsy.
  • When James goes to meet Margo/Mandy at Kelly’s for a status report, the novel repeatedly refers to her as “Margo” even though James refers to her as “Mandy” and it is weird as hell.
  • Margo’s drink of choice is Wild Turkey

Memorable Quotes:

  • James realized his heart was pounding. This girl is beginning to seem more and more flipped out. He shook his head in disgust.” (25)
  • “Elizabeth decided that Jessica must be feeling guilty about having dated Todd a few times since the night of the accident.” (41)
  • “‘I admit it,’ Winston said. ‘I’m hysterial. I’m manic. I’m having hyper-conniption fits. My little red choo-choo has gone chugging around the bend. I’m a basket case. I’m–” (140)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Setting aside the fact that this entire plot is completely STUPID, can we talk about the fact that the inclusion of poor baby Daisy and poor Winston Egbert makes absolutely no sense? All this plot does is further convolute the narrative and give the characters of Sweet Valley further opportunities to prove how clueless, oblivious, and idiotic they are.  There is no way that a total stranger would leave her kid with a 16-year-old so she can fly to Central America to deliver birth certificate papers to her trapped husband during a governmental coup.  There just isn’t.  ON TOP OF THAT, the readers are supposed to believe that she thinks she can make this round-trip in a day.  She leaves Daisy with enough milk for like five minutes.  UGH.  That baby should be taken away, because this woman is THE LITERAL WORST.

But furthermore, what doesn’t make sense is that Winston would leave the baby not once but twice with Margo, despite the fact that he finds her creepy and unsettling (this is mentioned several times).  If you’re going to go to the trouble to surrender the baby to CPS, why not just go to CPS? Oh, because we need more drama and suspense in this novel?  Oh, okay.  DUMB.

Finally, what does Margo have to possibly gain by killing the baby at this point?  I know she got the job under a fake name and wearing a wig, but the center is in Sweet Valley.  Like, can you control your homicidal tendencies even a little bit?  You want to stay in this town.  You will get caught if you keep this shit up.  Jesus.

SVH #91: In Love With a Prince

19 May

inloveiwthaprince

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Apparently Elizabeth and Prince Arthur Castillo of Santa Dora have been pen pals since they were in sixth grade, and now he’s coming back to Sweet Valley to visit.  Everyone is super, duper stoked about the prince arriving, as long as they’re female.  The dudes are not stoked.  Todd is convinced Arthur has designs on Liz (he does), and the other boys, including Sam, are extremely jealous about how much attention the girls are giving his impending arrival.  The only female who is not excited is Dana Larson, who thinks royalty is stupid and, like, America and stuff.

Somehow, Jessica convinces Dana to come along to the airport when they go to greet Prince Arthur in hopes of convincing her to have The Droids play at her party for him.  Dana admits to herself that he’s super good-looking but still thinks he must be a snob.  She’s withdrawn and judgmental at the lunch party Liz hosts for him that afternoon.  Then she acts like a total snot in English class when they discuss Hamlet, saying that royals always trod upon people who work for a living.

Because Dana runs her mouth off about this, Mr. Collins proposes the two have a debate about the need and/or place for royal families in the 20th century.  Dana thinks she’ll crush it but doesn’t seem to do any sort of research whatsoever about Santa Dora, modern political structures, or anything else.  She gets up and rambles about America and how they fought for freedom, and then Prince Arthur gets up and gives a really thoughtful (seriously thoughtful given the series we’re in) rebuttal about how Santa Dora is different, etc.  He wins, obviously, and Dana is mortified.  She also realizes she has a crush on Arthur.

Jessica throws a party for Arthur and tries to get him to dance with her all night.  But he’s pretty booked up with other obligations, and keeps apologizing for the fact that he can’t spare a dance.  Sam is REALLY displeased with the way Jessica acts, but Jessica doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the fact that she is actively pursuing another dude in front of her boyfriend.  This is exacerbated by the fact that Jessica overheard Elizabeth talking about Arthur telling her he has a crush on a spunky girl. Arthur is talking about Dana, but Jessica is a sociopath and assumes he means her, until Arthur asks her to ask Dana to dance.  That’s pretty clear

After Dana and Arthur dance together, they become inseparable.  Over the course of a week, they go out, make out, and end up falling in love.  So when he proposes marriage to her, she doesn’t think it’s the craziest thing she’s ever heard.  In fact, she tells him she’ll seriously think about it, and give him an answer at Lila’s big party in a week.  He tells her that they could have a long engagement, like that makes this entire thing less crazy.

Meanwhile, Lila has been trying to get close to Arthur his entire visit, to no avail.  She flirts with one of his bodyguards and gets some information about a “secret mission” the prince is on while visiting the United States.  She does some research at the library and finds out that he has to pick a fiance by the time he turns 17 or his parents will arrange his marriage.  Betting that Dana doesn’t know this part of the story, she leaks it to the Sweet Valley News, who then ask Dana about it.

Dana is furious for whatever reason and breaks up with Arthur.  He’s heartbroken, and though he attends Lila’s party, he brushes off her attempts to get close to him, which makes Jessica nearly glow with glee.  Dana sulks a lot and feels sorry for herself until Elizabeth comes and tells her that Arthur’s feelings for her were very real and that he’s leaving town.  Realizing what an idiot she is, Dana rushes to meet him before he leaves.  The two cry and embrace and promise to remain friends, but she still can’t marry him.  He tells her he will fight with his parents about the antiquated rule.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila is getting counseling for her near-rape at Project Youth
  • Liz throws Arthur a lunch party and the menu includes: veggies and dip, fresh fruit, croissants and seafood salad, and cookies.’
  • Lynne Henry wrote a song for Arthur and it’s called “Rule My Heart”
  • Literary references: Mr. Collins’s English class is reading Hamlet
  • Arthur’s parents’ names are Armand and Stephanie.  How…weird?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Dana did. ‘It’s always been that way with royalty,’ she declared. ‘It was worse back then, because royalty was more common, but it’s the same thing today. Royal families use, abuse, and sponge off the people who actually work for a living.'” (34)
  • “‘I’ve danced with him twice,’ Lila informed Jessica huffily, getting to her feet. ‘And we split a hamburger.'” (56)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I have so many questions about this one, actually.  As one of the books I remember LOVING as a child, it sure didn’t hold up to my adult scrutiny.  So, first of all:

Why is Arthur in Sweet Valley for 3 weeks?

If he’s doing a tour around the world, why on EARTH would he stay in Sweet Valley for 3 weeks at the start?  I know he was planning on pursuing Liz before she was like, “Todd is my special friend,” but wouldn’t he sort of think that either way,  a 3 week stay was sort of ambititious?  Doesn’t he have other places to go? And if he does, since it is a “world tour,” does he have girls who are like, contingency plans?  I don’t get it.

Why is he going on a world tour to find a woman to marry?

Isn’t that weird?  He expects to find someone to marry, at 16, in America? If it’s okay to have a super-long engagement, why is the rule there in the first place? If he’s going to college and is allowed to basically go wherever he wants, how does this engagement thing signify that he’s ready to take over the throne?

Also, Dana is the WORST.