Tag Archives: cara walker

SVH: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

16 Jul

elizabeth's secret diary

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, as this is a recap of books 23-31

Summary/Overview:

Liz and Todd are making out in his room instead of studying.  There’s a lot of weird almost-sex talk about how they never let themselves be alone in each other’s rooms, and then Todd takes a phone call from Ken Matthews and Liz snoops around Todd’s desk, finding a letter from a girl he knew in Vermont.  She calls him cute-buns and sends him lots of love and kisses, and Liz FREAKS OUT.  That night, she ends up in the arms of Jeffrey French, and they make out.  Confused, Liz goes home crying and opens one of her old journals.  Cue flashbacks!

We’re dumped into #28, when Liz finds out that Todd is moving with his family to Vermont.  After he leaves and they agree to do a long-distance thing, Liz starts hanging out and making out with Nicholas Morrow.  If this is supposed to be scandalous, it’s not.  When Todd comes to visit, the two make up and he climbs a ladder into her bedroom.

After that, we’re treated to a retread of #29, where Steven mopes about his dead fucking girlfriend and his new feelings for Cara.  Liz also chases a Todd lookalike around Sweet Valley (DOPPELGANGER ALERT).  I can’t be bothered to care about any of this.  After that excitement, Liz boasts about helping poor Emily Mayer cope with a blended family and then negotiate a hostage situation (when it’s written out like this, is it more or less ridiculous? I can’t tell anymore).  Also, Liz’s writing is SO GOOD that people steal it, like Ken Matthews did that one time but he totally learned his lesson and they’re cool now.

For whatever fucking reason, we are treated to a very long recap of Lynne Henry’s makeover transformation, and then Liz and Ken start hanging out a lot because now she’s “single” and she and Todd chat on the phone about people he’s dating in Vermont.  Oh, and she reconnects with Amy Sutton but thinks she’s a snob.  WHEN WILL THIS END.  By the time the book gets around to recapping #31, where she and Jessica fight over which of their friends gets to date Jeffrey (like this is a reward?), Liz and Ken aren’t really seeing each other any more, and then Liz decides that she loves Jeffrey.

In the present, Liz stays up all night reading her journal and realizes that her life has been exciting and amazing.  Todd drives over to the Wakefield house and they make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz has an awful lot of poetry written in her diaries, and they’re all terrible.  Check it: “Rainy Sunday/Foggy Monday/Closely creeping fears,/Can’t take much more of this./Drive east, drive fast/until at last/desert rainbows dry my tears/like a kiss.”

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She’s my sister and I adore her, but sometimes she can be so…shallow. Forgive me, Diary, but it’s true.” (27)
  • “‘Congratulations,’ I whispered. ‘You’ve just become the first man to successfully scale Mount Wakefield!'” (53) [This is sexual, right?]
  • “I glanced at Amy out of the corner of my eye. Could she really be as heartless as she sounded?” (236)
  • “I’m only sixteen, and already my life has been so full!” (322) [Wait, this is the takeaway?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s weird that this book is written in first-person.  I had completely forgotten about that, though I guess it makes sense, since the reader is supposed to be in Liz’s diary.  But it’s jarring to read this first-person perspective of Liz that doesn’t sound at all how she should sound, in my opinion.

Also, this book is so fucking boring.  It’s like watching a clips-heavy episode of a comedy from the 90s.  There’s no real reason to show all these things readers have already experienced, and by adding in details that I refuse to accept as cannon at this point, the book is doing itself no favors.  There’s no reason–except to sell more books and make more money–to recap the books in a huge volume like this.  It makes no sense.

Which brings me to the thing that I find most disturbing about this book.  At the beginning, Liz is upset because Todd saw some other girl while he was in Vermont, which WE ALREADY KNEW, and then wonders if he’s loved other people besides her.  So she turns to her diary, which documents every covert hookup with basically every dude in Sweet Valley (no shame here, just pointing out the facts), some of which she had genuine feelings for.  At the end of the book, though, she realizes that her life has been full and exciting, and she feels better about everything?  What?  Wasn’t the point that she was doing some soul-searching about her feelings for Todd?

Also, isn’t the message here: your experiences with boys define you?  Am I wrong?

SVH Super Star: Todd’s Story

2 May

todds story

Estimated Elapsed Time: just over 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s summer vacation in Sweet Valley yet again, and everyone is talking about how they’re going to be day camp counselors at Secca Lake for two weeks.  Elizabeth hopes that it will help reinvigorate her relationship with Todd, which she thinks has gotten stale lately.  Todd worries that his unpaid gig as a camp counselor won’t be enough to appease his father, who has been pushing for him to take an internship at Varitronics, the company he works for.  Liz watches them butt heads at a family dinner and wonders why Todd won’t stand up to his father more.

When the gang goes to the day camp training, Todd is shocked to see Kevin Holmes, a boy he crossed paths with in Vermont.  Back in Vermont, Todd stopped Kevin in the midst of mugging and old man in an alley and sent him to jail (it’s referred to as “prison” several times, but this was within the last year, so is it really?).  At the trial, Kevin’s dad tried to bribe Todd, and then after his sentencing, Kevin swore to Todd he’d get his revenge.  Todd wonders if Kevin is also the person who has been calling him and hanging up without saying anything.

Instead of telling Liz or Jessica or, I don’t know, the camp director, Todd decides to keep it to himself, especially after Kevin pretends to not know Todd.  He worries about Kevin not having changed at all and having sinister motives, but everyone else seems to really like him, including Todd’s parents, who keep inviting him over for dinner.  Turns out Kevin’s interested in an internship at Varitronics, and Todd’s dad is over the moon about it.  While Kevin charms everyone else, he keeps making weird threats to Todd about not letting it slip about his past.  Todd is completely distracted by this, and his refusal to confide in Liz drives a wedge further between them.

Meanwhile, camp starts and Todd continues to obsess about Kevin.  Kevin starts flirting or dating Jessica, and Todd worries about how this brings him closer to Liz.  No one can understand why Todd is so cold to Kevin, and there are several moments when Todd completely loses his cool around him, including an unfortunate moment after Kevin beat Todd to a drowning child.  Todd snaps that not everything is a competition, but it seems like no one else thought that was an appropriate thing to say.  By this point, Liz has told Todd she thinks they need a breather, and they are broken up (again).  Todd is miserable.

Kevin lies about a bunch of stuff, and while people seem to sort of catch the lies, they let them go, which is weird.  Also, things start disappearing around the camp, like Liz’s lavaliere necklace and Cara’s keys.  Todd continues to withdraw into himself, further alienating himself from his friends.

Then Kevin starts telling people that Todd had a reputation back in Vermont as kind of a bully.  He tells people that he roughed up some basketball players, punched a teammate, and there were rumors that he maybe sexually assaulted a girl.  Because Todd’s friends are literally the dumbest, most gullible people on the planet, they believe Kevin’s story, even though they have known Todd for sixteen years.

Somehow, Kevin gets Liz to agree to a date with him, which pisses Jessica off to no end.  Liz goes on the date and is struck by how awful Kevin is when he’s by himself.  Obsessed with the sound of his own voice and with how much he hates Todd, Liz realizes that he isn’t as cool as she first thought.  After the date, she goes home to worry about stuff, and Kevin goes out to mug one of the other camp counselors at Secca Lake.

Todd witnesses the mugging, which is just one in a string of recent muggings in the otherwise crime-free Sweet Valley.  The next day, he tells Winston and Aaron about his suspicions and what really happened in Vermont, and he feels better.  He decides to go to the police the following day.  Only, he doesn’t get to do that, because Kevin has framed Todd for the muggings, I guess?  They seem to think the fact that his pen shows up on the beach means he’s guilty?  Despite the fact that this is where everyone has been working for the past two weeks?  Whatever, I don’t care.  Todd gets arrested.

At the final BBQ party for the camp, Kevin asks Liz to go for a walk.  She agrees for some reason, and the two take a hike alone.  At the same time, Jessica finds Liz’s lavaliere in Kevin’s car and realizes that he’s been the stealing stealer all along!  She runs to tell her friends.

In the nature, Kevin tells Liz that he used to have a brother named Brent and that he accidentally killed him in a car crash.  He tells Liz this, and then he tries to kill Liz, because that’s the only way he can think to hurt Todd.  Luckily, Todd is out of jail and rushes into the scene in time to save Liz.  Kevin gets arrested, Liz and Todd are back together, and all is right with the world.  I guess.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book takes place in the summer, but it is after Todd has moved back from Vermont.  It is also after Cara Walker has moved to England, and yet she is here and still dating Steven.  Sam Woodruf is nowhere to be found, despite the fact that he and Jessica have been dating for a while now.  HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT.
  • Almost 100 six-to-ten-year-olds enrolled in the summer camp.  Talk about a nightmare.
  • Kevin drives a black Mazda

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Kevin nodded. ‘My dad thinks everybody should be required to read The Wall Street Journal with their breakfast.'” (83)
  • “Maybe there was nothing behind them.  Maybe Kevin Holmes didn’t have a soul.” (97)
  • “‘No, he’s not lying,’ Aaron agreed. ‘He’d have no reason to lie.'” (134) Are you a fucking idiot, Aaron?
  • “No, Kevin must be innocent, Todd decided. A person simply couldn’t be one thing on the outside and something entirely different on the inside.” (151) WHAT THE HOLY FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Here’s the thing about this completely ridiculous book: I remember liking this best of all the Super Stars.  That’s not surprising, really.  It has the most interesting premise: working as camp counselors during summer break, dealing with a mysterious new person who displays signs of being an actual psychopath, etc.  But reading this book now, I’m struck by how completely fucking stupid everyone is in the book.

Talk about plot points! Everything that happens here is meant to further the plot and not the characters.  Todd doesn’t tell anyone that he knows Kevin from before, ostensibly because he’s scared if he does, Kevin will retaliate.  Okay, fine, but shouldn’t the camp director have run a basic background check on anyone being left alone with children for any period of time?  Is that not a lawsuit waiting to happen?  If Kevin had served any jail time, which we are led to believe, he would have had a record.

Moving on: Todd continues to not tell anyone despite his suspicions.  He puts off going to the police for days, despite his having witnessed one of the muggings.  All of this is way, way too convenient for the plot we end up with.  I can’t help but think that the ghostwriter of this one thought that the readers were really, really dumb, because we aren’t allowed to think anything about anything here.

Also, the completely ridiculous rationalizations of everyone throughout the novel make no sense whatsoever.  Why would everyone believe Kevin over Todd?  Why does Todd continue to doubt Kevin’s motivations and behavior, despite the fact that he has continually threatened him throughout the course of the book?  Do these people have selective amnesia?  Am I the crazy one?

 

SVH #83: Steven’s Bride

21 Apr

steven's brideCan you say “Child Bride”?

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Cara Walker is acting weird at the Wakefield’s impromptu barbeque-pool party.  When Steven presses her about it later, she admits that the trip to London she just took with her mom was more permanent than originally thought: she and her mother are moving there in three weeks! Steven is devastated, because all the girls he loves leave him.  Miserable, he sulks around about Cara’s impending departure until Jessica is struck with a brilliant idea while watching Love Story: Steve and Cara should get married!  This will end well.  Instead of telling Jessica she’s an insane person, Steven agrees and rushes over to Cara’s apartment to propose.

Cara thinks about it for like five seconds before saying yes, telling herself that it will solve all her problems: she won’t have to leave Sweet Valley, and she can throw loud parties whenever she wants once they have an apartment of their own.  Um, okay.  The two vow to keep it a secret until after they get married (a few days before Cara is set to leave with her mom), and they ask Jessica to keep the secret, too.  But Jessica is physically incapable of doing so, because she keeps dropping heavy hints at school and home about Steven and Cara’s plans.  Even though Steven has told everyone that Cara is going on a ski trip with some of his college friends the weekend before she leaves, people start to get suspicious.

Elizabeth figures it out when the jewelry store calls the house to let Steven know the engraved rings he ordered are ready.  Elizabeth even wonders why Steven would give the store the phone number for the house instead of his dorm, but simply pointing that out doesn’t make it any less IDIOTIC.  When she confronts Jessica about it, Jess comes clean.  When she confronts Steven about it, he sort of brushes her off and is like, “this is happening!”

Jessica ends up telling Lila and Amy about Cara’s plans, and the girls decide to throw a secret bridal shower for her.  The bridal shower ends up being not so secret, as nearly all the cheerleaders are there.  Cara is super uncomfortable the whole time, wincing when people refer to her as the bride and positively melting down when she realizes that marriage equals sex.  This never occurred to her?  Really?  She ruminates over the fact that she doesn’t feel ready for sex, which probably means she definitely isn’t ready for marriage.  When her father calls and tells her he’s coming for a visit and has a surprise, her brain leaps to a parental reconciliation, for some reason.  She figures this would solve all her problems and she won’t have to leave Sweet Valley–or get married!

But it turns out her father’s news is that he’s marrying someone else–a woman with auburn hair named Julia–and Cara is furious at HER MOTHER for it.  She accuses her mother of blowing her chance to put the family back together and then decides to really commit to marrying Steven.  That will show her family!

Meanwhile, Steven is stressing about what married life will mean for him.  He goes apartment hunting for something in their price range (free?) and then angsts about the fact that he got into the accelerated law program at his school.  Realizing that he can’t be married and do the law program, he tells his family he didn’t get in.  But when Jessica finds the acceptance letter, she realizes that the marriage is a terrible idea after all and decides she has to drop hints to Cara and Steven to get them to change their minds.

Nothing she does seems to work, though.  Cara babysits for a family with awful children one night but is able to laugh it off, even after Jessica lays it on thick that Cara and Steven will have TONS of kids someday soon.  Then she takes Cara shopping for boring housewares stuff and tries to stress how much everything costs.  When that doesn’t work, Jessica spills the beans about the fact that Steven got into the law program and lied about it.  Cara feels bad.

The day of the wedding, Steven is feeling pretty resolved about marrying Cara, and she is filled with doubts.  They arrive at the chapel in Nevada and being the proceedings.  Steven says “I do” and Cara says “No” just as the entire Wakefield family and Cara’s mother burst in to stop the ceremony.  Steven runs out, feeling betrayed.

Lila throws Cara  a going-away party and Liz REFUSES to come because she’s butthurt that Cara would hurt Steven like that.  Apparently Liz doesn’t think that telling her parents about the wedding to stop it is the same as Cara stopping it?  I can’t figure this out at all.  Liz is the LITERAL WORST.  Cara is sad, and ends up calling Liz and asking her to meet her at the Dairi Burger.  The two girls meet, hash it out, and Liz ends up feeling so bad she tells Steven about how much Cara loves him.

Steven rushes to the airport in what is supposed to be a tense scene.  He catches Cara right before she’s about to board, and they swear their love to each other and have one last kiss.  Steven is sad, Cara is sad, but at least they parted without misunderstanding.  Or whatever.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Steve’s roommate is named Bob?
  • Despite proclaiming to hate popcorn the previous book, Jessica eats a big bowl of it in this one.
  • Jessica makes Sam watch Love Story on TV, a movie she has seen “at least three or four times.”
  • Cara’s bridal shower gifts: a VHS copy of Barefoot in the Park, lace-trimmed silk negligee, bath towels, plastic tumblers and an ice bucket, a black lace teddy

Memorable Quotes:

  • You can’t go, he repeated silently. Don’t go. Don’t leave me like Tricia did.” (13)
  • “‘You’re not really engaged if you don’t have a diamond,’ Lila said decidedly. ‘No man’s marrying me until I have a big fat rock on my finger.'” (52)
  • “Of course marriage meant sex. Everybody knew that. So why hadn’t it occurred to her?” (65)
  • “‘You can’t be sure of that,’ Jessica pointed out. ‘You know the facts of life as well as I do.  Even when you use birth control, accidents can happen.'” (106)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

As far as the novels go, this wasn’t horrific in terms of having to slog through it.  But I couldn’t seem to suspend disbelief when it came to a couple of different things: the lack of awareness of the logistics of marriage and the lack of understanding of how laws work.

Okay, first of all, let’s talk about laws.  Even in the crazy state of Nevada, both parties entering into a marriage must be at least 18 years of age or have consent from the parents.  This is never once mentioned throughout the entire book.  Cara is 16, so are we to believe she either lied about her age or forged consent from a parent?  Wouldn’t the parent actually have to be present?  Either way, this marriage wouldn’t be legal and would have no standing as such.  It’s weird to me that Steven, a dude obsessed with becoming a lawyer, wouldn’t think about this at least once.

Second of all, while the book gets props for actually saying the word “sex” more than once (twice, by my count) and talking, albeit nervously, about life after marriage, it’s completely disingenuous to me that Cara wouldn’t have thought about sex.  It’s weird that these teens never talk or think about sex in any real, authentic way.  It might be the thing that bothers me most about the series as a whole (it’s not, but I’m being hyperbolic).

Look, I get that not everyone is ready for sex at 16.  It’s cool that Cara isn’t ready to have sex with Steven, and I think that’s a fine message to send to readers. Whatever.  But the fact is, she’s dating a dude who is in college, and sex would be an issue for them.  They’re alone in his dorm a lot.  There would be conversations about this.  To think that the idea of sex has never occurred to Cara is completely ridiculous.

What is Sweet Valley doing to all its teens? Are they putting some sort of weird libido-crushing drug in the water?

SVH #82: Kidnapped by the Cult!

18 Apr

kidnappedbythecult

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica believes her life is super unfair because her parents grounded her after she lied about failing a bunch of tests in math class.  She feels alienated from her friends, who are having parties and sleepovers without her, and disconnected from Sam, who seems more interested in his motorbike racing than in shopping with her.  When she finally is released from her grounding, she goes to the mall, where she meets Ted, who tells her about the Good Friends and invites her to have dinner with them.  When Jessica goes to have dinner at the place where all the Good Friends live, she’s freaked out by the neighborhood and then sort of taken in with how earnest and nice all the people in the house are.  When she meets Adam Marvel, the leader of the Good Friends, she’s smitten, because he’s gorgeous.

At any rate, Jessica starts spending all her time with the Good Friends, helping around the house, participating in book group discussions, and canvassing houses and asking people for money at the mall.  She undergoes a complete physical transformation, wearing conservative clothing, and doing all her homework on time.  While her family notices this, they don’t seem bothered by it at all.  Sam is, though, because she keeps blowing him off and lying to him about where she is.

It isn’t until Ned conveniently mentions that a new cult has come to town called the Good Friends that Liz starts to worry.  Ned says that his law firm has been approached by some charities who worry this cult is using their names to collect donations that are then being used for the cult’s own selfish purposes.  When Elizabeth asks Jessica if she’s heard of the cult, she’s shocked at how defensive Jessica is about the whole thing.

Then Liz gets Sam to insist Jessica go out with him one night, and she infiltrates the cult in Jessica’s stead.  She’s amazed as she watches these “clear glass marbles” parrot everything Adam says.  When some of the members come in to report that Brian, one of the teens, has gone missing, Elizabeth sees how angry Adam is.  Turns out that Brian’s parent kidnapped him away from the cult to deprogram him.  Ned tells Elizabeth and Jessica that he’ll testify against the Good Friends once he’s healthy again.  Um, okay.

Jessica tells Adam this, and the two decide to kidnap Brian back.  Then things escalate, and Adam convinces Jessica to leave town with him and the rest of the Good Friends.  But Liz, Sam and Todd stage an intervention as Adam is rounding them up into a van.  Sam runs into the house and finds Susan, a member of the cult, unconscious, bound and gagged.  Guess she was a reporter and Adam found her out.  The police show up, Adam is arrested, and Jessica goes home with Elizabeth. Yay?

The B-Plot is all about a new bowling team that’s been started at Sweet Valley High.  Liz and Todd join the team, and it isn’t long before Liz has caught the eye of the team’s coach, Justin Silver.  He begins to basically beg her to go out with him, and while she politely declines, he eventually wears her down to the point where she feels obligated to go out once with him.  She finally gets him to stop after that, but not before making Todd a little jealous.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently the SVH cheerleaders only hold practice on Tuesday afternoons?
  • There’s a new bowling team starting up at school
  • Apparently Jessica doesn’t like popcorn? But she’s eaten it in a bunch of books when she watches TV at home. Weird. Also, I hate myself for knowing this.
  • She also hates tofu and muesli, both of which she eats in this book.
  • The local bowling alley is called The Fast Lane

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila was telling Cara where the best dress shops were in London, and Amy was trying to talk with an English accent.” (7)
  • “There was a cafe beside the artificial waterfall at the mall that had always made Jessica think of Paris.” (15)
  • “‘This is ridiculous,’ she said out loud. ‘I’m not going to find people who understand me here. I’m going to find people who shop in thrift stores.'” (28)
  • “‘People don’t just disappear in shopping malls,’ Adam said evenly.” (117) [Blogger’s note: actually, they do. Hasn’t Adam ever read The Face on the Milk Carton?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

I mean, there are tons of things that strain credulity in this one.  First of all, Jessica strikes me as someone who would be the least likely to fit the criteria for a good cult member.  Second of all, her ridiculous transformation from popular, confident teen to one who is obsessed with service never rings true.  This is not a series that prides itself of subtlety, but even by SVH standards, this is ridiculous.

Perhaps my biggest issue with this one is how ill-defined the cult actually is, though.  There’s no religious affiliation with this cult, which, fine.  Despite the fact that that’s a common trait of these organizations, I’ll let it slide.  But there isn’t anything that tells me that Adam Marvel is particularly magnetic (except for his good looks) or has a message that would really resonate with teens.  Whatever, I am definitely overthinking this.

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 #44: Pretenses

26 Oct

Estimated Time Elapsed: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Steven Wakefield is coming home for a few weeks to get a bunch of allergy tests done.  He’s stressed because he’s missing so much school, but Cara is hoping that the two of them will be able to spend some quality time together.  This desire to bond with Steven is exacerbated by the fact that Jessica convinces Cara that what’s missing in her relationship with Steve is an air of mystery.  This plot is so flimsy that I’m having a hard time even writing about it, but whatever.

Cara has also decided to throw herself a belated birthday party because she and Steve were going through some problems when her actual birthday occurred, which seems like a weird way to talk about that time that Steve left her at a restaurant after freaking out about his dead girlfriend.  She’s holding it at some exclusive place and can only invite 13 people, so she leaves out Abbie Richardson, who apparently goes to Sweet Valley High and matters.  Abbie is sad, and Cara is mortified when she finds out that Abbie’s feelings were hurt.  I try to care.

Steve and Cara fight a lot, because he’s acting withdrawn and sort of snappish.  He seems distracted, and Cara worries that he might be interested in someone else.  Abbie hangs out at the Wakefield house a lot, and so she and Steve get to talking.  He finds that she’s a sympathetic ear, and Jessica gets it into her pretty little head that Abbie might be moving in on Cara’s man.  Jessica thinks she has further proof when she sees some pink stationery that Steve’s reading and then places it to Abbie after going to a stationery store at the mall.  I don’t know.

Steve’s been distracted because he’s been receiving anonymous love letters on Tricia Martin’s old stationery.  He’s understandably upset about it, and when Jessica and Elizabeth tell him that they think it’s Abbie, the three confront her.  She cries and denies it, and after a while, it’s discovered that it’s been Cara sending letters to add mystery to her relationship.  She had no idea that it was Tricia’s stationery.  They make up with each other, and with Abbie

The B-Plot involves the Oracle hosting a contest for a comedy column.  The reasoning behind this is that interest in the Oracle is waning.  Elizabeth is really upset about this.  The comedy search ends up with two main contenders: Amy Sutton’s mock-Miss Manners column and Abbie Richardson’s comic strip.  Abbie’s apparently very talented and funny, but I didn’t find any actual humor in her strips.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Abbie, a sweet-tempered brunette who had never spent much time with Jessica or any of her friends since ninth grade, suddenly seemed to be everywhere.” (4) [Breaking the fourth wall, much?]
  • “[Elizabeth] felt slightly uncomfortable talking about Abbie, although she wasn’t sure why.  Maybe it was because she didn’t really know her that well yet, and she hated to make judgments prematurely.” (29)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Steven’s college is apparently 45 minutes away.  Why this means that he can’t commute back and forth for the allergy shots, I don’t know.
  • The ghost writer had a weird preoccupation with Abbie’s small hands, mentioning their size more than a few times
  • Prince Albert is referred to repeatedly in this book as simply Prince, which set my teeth on edge

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess I don’t have much to say about this one.  What is alarming to me is that I found the character of Abbie Richardson kind of sympathetic (though not that interesting, apparently, because I glossed over her in the recap) and not really annoying.  She’s incredibly selfless and maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but it seemed genuine.  Ugh.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the book is that the entire plot feels recycled.  How many times has Jessica inserted herself into someone’s long-term relationship and caused these sorts of problems?  Even more frustrating is the fact that this isn’t even the first time that Jessica’s inserted herself into Steve and Cara’s relationship!  Why can’t these people learn that when Jessica starts complaining about how boring monogamy is and then decides to offer relationship advice, it’s never good?  WHY?

SVH #36: Last Chance

5 Oct

Estimated Time Elapsed: Four weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Julie Porter’s sister Johanna is a total high school drop-out.  After she discovers her dead mother’s diaries, though, she realizes that her mother wanted her to go back to school more than anything, so that’s what she does.  She’s worried about how hard it’s going to be, but her crush on brainy Peter DeHaven seems to help motivate her to be at school.  Too bad Peter’s dating Amy Sutton.

Peter runs into Johanna in the chemistry lab after school one day, and after droning on and on about his successes and plans for the future, he invites her to drive out to Las Palmas with him.  Amy’s out of town, so she doesn’t know that her boyfriend is essentially asking another girl out.  Johanna’s really excited, but her sister Julie expresses concern that Peter’s not being totally up-front.  Johanna freaks out on her and goes out with Peter anyway.  The two go to a party and then make out at an overlook.

Johanna is sure that Peter is going to break up with Amy and ask her to the upcoming PTA dance, but everyone else has doubts.  When Johanna confides in Liz, she tries to be supportive.  Peter continues to string her along, going so far as to snub her in the hallway and then apologize later, telling her that his breakup with Amy needs to be gradual.  But of course, his behavior doesn’t change, and Johanna tells herself that she’s just lucky he’s showing any interest in her.

Liz tells Jessica about Peter and Johanna, and although Jessica promises not to tell, she has a spat with Amy and spills the beans.  Amy freaks out on Peter, who assures her it isn’t true, and tells Johanna via a note stuffed in her locker that he can’t see her anymore.  Johanna knows her sister would never tell on her, so she assumes it must’ve been Liz, and promptly freaks out on her and thinks that she’ll quit school again.  I don’t know what one thing has to do with the other, but they seem to be connected in Johanna’s twisted mind.

Amy throws a pre-dance party and it’s pretty lame.  Everyone is mad at everyone else.  Amy snarks on Johanna in front of Peter, Liz, and Jeffrey, and Peter doesn’t say anything.  Liz lights into him about what a shit friend he is, which seems to have an effect on Peter, because he approaches Johanna on Monday and wants to be friends.  When he tries a suggestion she had for his computer program, it works and he wants to celebrate with her, but she’s at work and doesn’t want to hear it.  She has an epiphany that she should have gone back to school for herself and not her mom, and lo and behold, the girl flourishes at SVH.  When Peter approaches her again, he’s rebuffed.

The B-Plot has to do with Jessica deciding that Steven and Cara have been going steady for too long.  She decides to insinuate herself in their relationship and try to split them up.  It works, and they both bring different dates to Amy’s party, but they’re totally miserable.  They take some time to dance and figure out Jessica’s shenanigans, get all husky about how they should trust one another, and make up.  Barf.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “The thought of gaining weight was all she needed to lose her appetite completely.  Not that Jessica–a model-slim, perfect size-six–ever had to worry about her weight.” (2) [Blogger’s note: Two pages in and I already want to throw the book across the room.  A new record!]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Johanna wears a Laura Ashley dress on her non-date with Peter to Las Palmas
  • SVH has apparently entered its second semester

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I hated this book so much I can’t really be bothered with a critical analysis.  The idea that Johanna lacks enough confidence to realize that she’s a total whiz with computers, science, and math is enough to make me want to beat my head against a wall.  Added to that fact is that she can’t seem to see that Peter DeHaven is a total douche canoe makes things so much worse.  Ugh.  I just can’t, you guys.