Tag Archives: casual misogyny

SVH #121: The High School War

27 Feb

high school war

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica actually faints at the sight of the fight happening at the warehouse.  The police show up and the two groups of guys scatter, but not before Ken sees Christian say something to Jessica.  He’s sure it was something lewd, even though it was just Christian begging her to meet him at the beach the following morning.  Jessica meets Christian and they agree that they can never see each other again.  That’ll last.

At school, Principal Cooper announces a new task force to help promote peace between the warring schools, and tells students that they aren’t allowed to wear their official school colors.  Liz, of course, is on board with it right away.  She butts heads with Todd over what’s happening and can’t believe how pig-headed he’s being about the entire thing.  She worries about whether or not their relationship will survive this fight, because her friends at Palisades are being dumped by their boyfriends over the war.

Jessica finally confesses to Liz that she’s been practicing surfing but begs her not to tell anyone.  Jessica and Christian manage to avoid each other for a couple of days but end up making out at the beach one morning before school.  Liz is worried when Jessica is late and enlists the help of Ken to go make sure she didn’t drown or something.  Liz manages to reach Jessica before Ken and sees her macking on Christian.  Christian runs away, and Jessica promises to fill Liz in soon.

The girls have a crisis meeting with Marla and Courtney from Palisades and worry over what’s happening to their men.  Maria lets it slip that the boys aren’t just having a GNO (guy’s night out) but are planning to crash the Palisades football game and slash some tires.  The girls are understandably upset but don’t think that they can do anything about it.  Because a phone call to the police wouldn’t help? The SVH dudes do indeed slash some tires.  Winston nearly gets caught by a Palisades guy but escapes.

Liz corners Jessica at school and asks about the guy she’s seeing at the beach.  Jessica cries a bunch and tells her she can’t tell her who he is for everyone’s safety, and Elizabeth accepts this with worry.  Of course, Ken is right outside the room the twins are talking in and overhears Jessica admit to seeing another guy.  He’s…upset, but instead of confronting Jessica, he acts like a total neutered creeper.

Todd throws a party to help dissipate the bad feelings.  Elizabeth stupidly invites Marla and Courtney and everyone is super rude to them.  She leaves the party with the girls and then fights with Todd on the phone the next morning, before finally agreeing to go out with him the following night.  She watches Jessica get ready for a date she’s pretty sure isn’t with Ken, and she’s right, because Ken is creeping outside their house and follows Jessica’s car.  He engages in some light stalking and continues to follow her after she gets in Christian’s car.  Then he sees them kissing at the restaurant, and Jessica sees him seeing her.  He runs away.

Winston goes to meet up with the GNO group at an abandoned warehouse but ends up getting jumped by the Palisades dudes who set him up.  They beat the crap out of him and it takes a long time for his friends to put the pieces together, but Maria finally does, and then they rush the warehouse to help him.  The dudes start fighting the Palisades guys while the girls literally stand there and scream.  Elizabeth calls the cops, and they come and arrest Todd.  He is furious that Liz called the police.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • There’s a mention of Olivia still being with Rod, but they broke up ages ago.  WAY TO FACT CHECK, GHOST WRITER.
  • The Palisades High principal is named Mrs. Chang
  • Mr. Collins is making his students read Crime & Punishment
  • Christian drives a powder blue VW van and keeps an inflatable mattress in the back.
  • Weirdly, this book assigns an address to Todd’s house: 1010 Country Club Drive. Why, though?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Testosterone,” Lila Fowler drawled, brushing imaginary lint off her chair before sitting down.  “The root of all evil.” (33)
  • She did what he asked–she tried to see his point of view.  But it still didn’t make any sense.” (114) [this whole book, summed up in one line]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of weird things happening in this book, and it’s hard to sort through them all.  One thing that struck me again and again was the use of the word “thug,” by Elizabeth and others to describe the actions of the boys on both sides of the turf war.  The term “gang” is also used, which is obviously laughable.  But there’s something deeply disturbing about the use of the word “thug” because of how it’s used as a code word today for people’s racism.  That’s not totally what’s happening here–basically everyone in the world of these books are white–but it still feels unsettling to read this in 2015 and associate it with what’s happening now.  Also, the idea that these boys would get so worked up over what amounts to a lost football game is the dumbest thing possible.

The other thing that made me feel uneasy throughout the book is Jessica’s inability to consider the fact that she has the agency to break up with Ken.  She’s clearly not into him at all anymore, which is fine, but she continues to string him along while recognizing that he makes her feel cold inside.  It’s a transparent way to ramp up the melodrama when he follows her on her date with Christian and sees them kissing, and it’s something that doesn’t payoff the way it’s supposed to because anyone reading this is screaming at her to just get it over with already.

One more book in this mini-series.  Will someone die? Will I even care?

SVH #118: College Weekend

13 Feb

college weekend

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth have been granted a week off of school to go visit Sweet Valley University to get a taste of “college life.”  The twins will be staying with Steven and Billie, and both are excited for very different reasons.  Even before they arrive, Jessica has planned to throw a party in Steven’s apartment that very night and has invited a bunch of frat boys.  When they arrive, they find out that Steven and Billie have reservations to stay at a bed and breakfast that weekend, leaving the twins alone.  Jessica thinks this is perfect and decides to go ahead with the party, without telling Steven or Billie about it, and despite the fact that Steven mentions they’ve already gotten noise complaint warnings from their grouchy landlord.

But of course the party spins out of control and the place gets totally trashed.  Liz tries to control it but lets Jessica and everyone else walk all over her, including the dudes who bring a keg of beer to the event.  Liz clutches her pearls about this a lot, and she tries to get Jessica to help her kick everyone out, but Jessica is preoccupied by Zach Marsden, a new cute boy she’s met.  She tells Zach she’s a junior-transfer from Princeton and then has the gall to say that even though Liz and her look identical, she’s really Elizabeth’s older sister.  The two make plans to go out again soon.  The police show up and threaten to card everyone, which finally makes the party disperse.  Too tired to clean the place up, the girls decide to do it in the morning.

Only Steven and Billie show up in the middle of the night because the bed and breakfast they were staying it was a rundown house with a gross attic bedroom.  Steven goes ballistic, and they all clean the place up.  He threatens to call Ma and Pa Wakefield, but Jessica blackmails him into staying quiet because he did leave them alone, after all.

The next day, Jessica meets up with Zach after feigning a headache, and Liz tags along with Steven and Billie to study and get some more campus life experiences.  Jessica is super into Zach, but she is doing mental gymnastics to keep her lies about being in college going.  She continues to dig herself into a hole, especially after they run into a guy who went to SVH and definitely knows her.  When they attend a philosophy lecture together, they run into Billie, but Jessica is able to lead her into agreeing with her story.  Zach has made a bunch of irritating comments about the maturity of high schoolers and about “dumb” women, and Jessica is convinced he won’t like her if he finds out the truth.

Meanwhile, Liz attends a journalism seminar with Ian, a smart guy she met at the party.  The professor is journalism-famous and is also kind of a pompous windbag, and she and Liz get into it immediately over the merits of print versus TV journalism.  The professor challenges the class to write a thousand-word essay on a topic of their choice and invites Liz to participate. She stays up all night writing the essay, and when they arrive at class the next evening, the professor announces that Liz’s essay has won.  The woman tells her she’ll be published in a magazine and has won an internship with the college’s newspaper.  She also tells Liz that she should get her GED stat and enroll in college immediately.

Jessica attends a rush party for Theta house, the most prestigious sorority on campus.  It’s also the sorority that Alice was president of when she was a senior at SVU.  Jessica gets along with everyone until Maga, the sorority’s treasurer, tells her that she has her eye set on Zach!  Jessica feels like she’s in the middle of a dilemma based on how much she likes Zach and the fact that she’s lying to him, has a boyfriend already, and knows that a sorority sister (potential, anyway) wants him to herself.  Whatever, I hardly care.

The book ends with the lamest cliff-hanger ever where Liz storms into Steven and Billie’s apartment and tells them she’s starting college immediately and wants to be their roommate.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz joins in a discussion about black literature, and the titles name-dropped are The Color Purple, Invisible Man, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  • Jessica gets excited about watching late-night talk shows because Ned and Alice don’t allow it at home. What?
  • Jessica refers to her SVH sorority as Phi Beta Alpha, but it’s Pi Beta. Nice one.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “That doesn’t matter,” the girl interrupted. “I’d like to know how you feel. Do you think black men can speak for black women?” [She asks of Liz, the whitest woman in the history of ever]
  • College guys liked girls who could hold deep and meaningful conversations. (68)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a ton to say about this one, really.  I think it’s interesting to note that Steven and Billie seem to sleep in the same bedroom, despite the fact that I was convinced it was a 2-bedroom back when they did the original meet-cute story line.  There’s no mention of actual sex, but it is alluded to.  Which, par for the course with this series, right?

I also think it’s weird that the series continues to let Jessica go out with dudes that are so much older than her and there’s never any real mention of how completely inappropriate it is.  Whether or not the guy thinks she’s older than she is, she knows she’s 16 and shouldn’t be with a 21-year-old.  At one point, Billie says “you guys are adults” and I actually yelled “NO THEY ARE NOT!” because they are 16.  It makes no sense! Save the adult storylines for when they’re actually adults, guys.

Okay, enough pearl-clutching on my end.  I wonder if Liz will really start college early?!?!?

SVH #117: Jessica the Genius

11 Feb

jessicagenius

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s SAT season at SVH, and everyone (except Jessica, maybe) is all worked up about getting the scores they want or need to get into the colleges of their choice.  Liz has it in her head that she needs a perfect 1600, while Todd’s feeling the pressure from scouting colleges to score a 1200.  That seems unlikely, “Gee whiz” Boy, but whatever.  Everyone continues obsessing over the test after they’ve taken it at Lila’s Post-SAT Bash that night.  Jessica is the only one who is truly unconcerned with the outcome.

Four weeks later, the envelope arrive.  Jessica opens hers, realizes she’s scored incredibly well, and immediately worries that people will think she’s a geek or a nerd if they find out.  Liz opens hers and has a complete meltdown because her scores are so low and Jessica’s are so high.  Jessica continues to seem nonchalant about all of it and goes shopping with Lila, still trying to keep her scores a secret.  She goes out with Ken that night and he prattles on about his modest scores, and then tells her it’s okay she’s not smart because she’s so beautiful.  Jessica tries to tell him her scores were high, but he laughs it off.

The next morning at school, there’s a banner celebrating the school’s two highest SAT scores: Jessica and Winston.  The secret is out, and Chrome Dome holds an assembly to congratulate the two.  Elizabeth is despondent, and tries to seek solace in Todd, but he’s so pleased with his offer(?) from University of Michigan that he doesn’t even hear her.  Meanwhile, Jessica starts to get fed up with everyone’s surprise that she could be so pretty and so “smart,” so she starts actually trying in some of her classes.  All of this comes to a screeching halt when Chrome Dome calls her to his office and tells her the school board is concerned she cheated and has asked her to sit the test again.  Jessica is understandably enraged about this.

Liz tries to quit the Oracle because she thinks she’s too stupid to live (she’s right) and Mr. Collins talks her out of it, saying she’s the best writer he’s seen in 12 years of teaching (he’s wrong).  He tells her that her scores are only part of her entire academic record and won’t matter that much to colleges.  When she tries to get reassurance from Todd, he brushes her off because he’s obsessed with the interest he’s getting from schools all over the country.  Liz cries a lot, then becomes crazy angry when Enid tells her the rumor is that Jessica cheated.  She blows up at Jess and the two say awful things to one another.  Heather boots Jess from the cheerleading squad, because she’s a caricature of a human being.

At home, Ma and Pa Wakefield have talked to Chrome Dome and insist Jessica take the test again, even though they believe her.  Ned offers the girls an incentive of a few days off school to tour SVU as a reward.  Then he gently advises Liz to try taking the test again, and she agrees.  The girls go out with their respective dudes, and things do not go well at Miller’s Point.  Ken tells Jess it’s okay to tell him the truth about cheating, and she jumps out of his car.  Todd goes on and on about his prospects, and Liz boots him from the car.  Then she and Jess go get ice cream and apologize to one another.

This time, the twins totally reverse their approaches to the test.  Jessica studies like a madwoman, even going so far as to enlist the help of Winston one night.  She decides to stay up cramming the night before the exam, while Liz goes shopping, tanning, and to the movies.  Unsurprisingly, the two basically switch scores when they’re released weeks later.  Chrome Dome tells Jessica she’s suspended from school until further notice, despite Ned’s objections.  Despondent, Liz decides that a grave injustice has been executed and decides to right it by holding a trial at the school.  She will act as Jessica’s defense attorney.

At the big game against Palisades High, Todd is on fire until he isn’t.  He gets injured and loses out on some college scouts.  We are supposed to care, but it doesn’t seem as though anyone else at SVH does, either.  Liz finally goes to visit him and his sad broken leg.  They make up.  Ken and Jessica also make up.

The trial is held at SVH.  The student population is split 50-50 on Jessica’s innocence or guilt.  Liz defends Jessica beautifully, and Chrome Dome flounders a lot.  The jury returns a verdict of not guilty and Jessica is reinstated in school along with her original SAT scores.  All is well.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lots of outfit descriptions in this one, but my favorite is Dana’s: a green tunic with a black leather belt, purple tights, and black high-heeled boots.
  • Enid scored 670 verbal and 650 math. Jessica scored 760 verbal and 750 math. Liz got 490 verbal and 480 math.
  • According to Lila, her father went to Yale.  Did we know this already?
  • According to Ken, SVU requires students to score over 500 in each category to gain acceptance.
  • Mr. Collins is having his class read the play Inherit the Wind, about the infamous Scopes trial.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Todd placed his hands comfortably behind his head. “I’ve had a lot more successes in general than Winston.” (46)
  • Maybe she shouldn’t even be reading books–maybe she should be in the garage, learning to weld. (62) [You’re the fucking worst, Liz.]
  • “Maybe I was even a little jealous. It’s hard to have a girlfriend who’s so intelligent.” (143)
  • “I could start writing that now. It’s my opinion that people shouldn’t be judged unfairly by surface appearances,” Elizabeth declared. (166)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Firstly, can we talk about Liz’s insane desire or determination to get a perfect score on the SAT?  Does she realize how rare that is?  Liz is supposed to be the “smart” twin, right?  Does she really think that one test is going to determine her entire future?  I understand that wanting a good score on the SAT is important for getting into a good college or qualifying for NHS (right?), but to put the pressure on herself that she would get a perfect score?  That means answering every single question CORRECTLY.  Because if I recall, the SAT actually penalizes students for incorrect answers more harshly than if they left the question blank.  CALM DOWN, LIZ.

But her most egregious behavior comes in the form of her accusations towards Jessica about cheating.  She can’t conceptualize the idea that Jessica might outperform her on something she cares so much about, so once the rumors start, Liz believes them immediately, even though there’s no proof whatsoever.  When show blows up at Jessica, I actually cringed because Liz is so far out of line.  I understand the jealousy that can come from intense competition over something like arbitrary test scores, but Liz’s behavior here is so over-the-top that it’s impossible to feel badly for her.  She’s the fucking WORST, you guys.  The snobbiest, most pseudo-intellectual, self-righteous worst.

What is also weird is that there’s no mention of taking the SATs over again until halfway through the book.  Even Mr. Collins doesn’t mention it, which feels completely bizarre, given that he works in education and all.   Also, colleges don’t automatically get your scores unless you want them to.  So this insane panic over colleges knowing immediately is super, super weird.

 

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 #97: The Verdict

4 Jun

theverdict

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth goes on trial for manslaughter.  She feels lonely and alone, because Jessica won’t talk to her, Todd is cheating on her with Jessica, and her mother has turned into a zombie 50s housewife.  When she gets on the witness stand, she can’t really give testimony because she can’t remember.  This is seriously the most boring trial ever.  At one point, Liz takes the bus to the ocean and contemplates suicide.  On the last day of the trial, Ned calls a surprise witness–a man named Gilbert–who was drunk driving the night of the accident and swerved into the path of the Jeep. He sideswiped the vehicle and caused the accident.  With this news, the judge rules Elizabeth guilty of drunk driving but not of vehicular manslaughter.  The Wakefields (sans Jessica) rejoice.

Jessica continues to go out with Todd, including to the beach disco the night before the start of the trial.  They slow dance and make out.  She worries constantly about losing him to Liz and is generally a crazy person, doing everything she can into manipulating him to stay with her.  She intercepts a letter Todd wrote to Elizabeth and hides it from her sister, lying to Todd about how Liz read it and ripped it up when he asks about it.  Despite the fact that Todd is clearly miserable and the fact that Jessica is exhibiting signs of a psychotic break, the two continue to see each other.

Lila watches her parents reminisce about when they were young and in love and wonders if they could ever be a real unit again.  When she asks her mom if she’s thought about moving back to Sweet Valley, Grace tells Lila about why she left.  She tells her that she threatened to take Lila and leave George because he was a workaholic.  George told Grace that if she tried, he’d sue her for full custody and prove she was an unfit mother.  And then he did just that.  So Grace fled to Paris.  Jesus.

Bruce is still refusing to speak to Pamela, who has transferred to SVH.  He continues to be really cruel to her in public, and doesn’t seem to care that she keeps crying.  This story is so fucking boring.  When Amy and Lila see Pamela volunteering at Project Youth, they decide to give her a chance and become fast friends.  Then Amy tells Bruce how wrong everyone was about Pamela, and he finally finds her (and rescues her from some dude trying to take her out) and they embrace.

Steven is enjoying living with his new female roommate, Billie Winkler.  She’s a great cook and decorator and is very empathetic.  The two share some creepy, totally not-normal-roommate-behavior moments before Steven goes home for the trial.  When a classmate mentions that he heard Steven’s mom is really losing it, Steven gets super pissed, wondering who could be spreading rumors about the family and then comes to the totally logical conclusion that it must have been Billie.  He goes off on her and she tells him she’ll move out.  When Steven finally realizes that it was Jessica who was talking about how unhinged Alice has become, he takes a while to work up the nerve to apologize to Billie.

Margo arrives in Los Angeles and promptly runs into Josh, the brother of Georgie, who she killed.  He confronts her in a diner, but she escapes and boards a train to San Diego instead of Sweet Valley as a way to throw police off the scent.  When she finally arrives in Sweet Valley, she buys a blond wig and thinks about how she’ll soon take over Elizabeth’s life.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The district attorney prosecuting Elizabeth’s case is named Hempstead Dilworth, and that is legitimately the most amazing thing this series has ever done.
  • Liz’s license has been “indefinitely” suspended because of the accident and the trial.
  • According to Grace, she was 19 when she met George, and he was 27.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Wakefield Manslaughter Trial Starts Tomorrow,’ she read. Lila shivered. ‘Manslaughter trial–they make it sound like she’s a serial killer or something!'” (20) [Blogger’s note: you’re an idiot.]
  • What’s she doing here, anyway? he wondered as he sauntered down the hall, hoping everyone could see that Pamela Robertson meant absolutely nothing to him. Has she slept with all the guys in Big Mesa? Did she switch schools so she could make some new conquests?” (26)
  • “Couldn’t he see that Jessica was the one he was meant to be with? Hadn’t they secretly been drawn to each other from the very beginning? We would have been going steady ages ago, if Liz hadn’t stolen him away from me, Jessica reflected.” (64)
  • “‘That’s what families are for,’ Steven declared, his own eyes damp. ‘When everything else is falling apart, your family will always be there for you. We would never have let you face something like this on your own.'” (169)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  Okay, first of all, let’s talk about the fact that this new mini-series format makes each story line absolutely interminable.  These stories have no substance and are severely underplotted, but go on FOREVER.  There was no reason to have Bruce and Pamela stretch their will-they-won’t-they stuff over three books.  The trial of Elizabeth Wakefield didn’t need three books, either, especially because the trial itself was over in a week.  JEEZY CHREEZY.  Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Jessica needs serious psychological help. I don’t feel qualified to go any further, but seriously.

Not going to lie: I will never understand the rational for the trial plot-twist readers are treated to in this one.  So Elizabeth isn’t guilty for the death of Sam even though she was intoxicated because the eyewitness testimony of someone who was also drunk says “she was driving just fine”? Like, this is seriously all it takes?  It’s such a bizarre plot twist (the first and perhaps most ominous of those to come) and such a way of providing an out so Elizabeth isn’t a murderer.

 

SVH #95: The Morning After

30 May

the morning after

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

With the start of these new mini-series books, the narration tends to jump between people more than in previous books.  Therefore, my recaps are going to look a little different.

Liz is having recurring nightmares about a girl who looks exactly like her and Jessica trying to kill her.  This girl has dark hair.  She’s also completely miserable about having killed Sam.  Totally alienated at school, the only person who will talk to her is Enid.  She can’t figure out why Todd is avoiding her, and she can’t figure out what happened the night of the dance.  She’s not sure if she was drunk at the prom, which is weird, because wouldn’t the police test her blood alcohol level?

It’s a couple of weeks before the police show up at the Wakefield house and interrogate Elizabeth in front of her whole family.  Jessica sits idly by while they ask Elizabeth about the alcohol she drank at the dance, and then they tell Elizabeth that she’s under arrest for involuntary manslaughter.  They lead her out but then tell Ned he can drive her to the police station.  These police are the worst.

Jessica is devastated following the loss of Sam.  She refuses to speak to Elizabeth and cries a lot.  Instead of going to the memorial service Sam’s dirtbike friends are throwing, she goes to the cemetery where she cries a lot and blames herself for the accident.  Meanwhile, Todd starts hanging around her, because he’s clearly worried about her.  She continues to be withdrawn around her friends.

Bruce can’t stop thinking about the girl who helped him the night of the Big Mesa/Sweet Valley rumble.  Her name is Pamela Robertson, and she goes to Big Mesa.  He finds out that she plays tennis there, so he stalks her practices until he can talk to her.  Despite a bunch of people dropping hints that Pamela is known as a slut, he’s super interested in her and asks her out.  At the end of the first date, they both admit that they’re falling in love.  When Bruce gets ready to see her again, Roger tells him that he’s heard some not great things about Pamela.  He brushes this off until Amy confirms the rumors at lunch one day.  As a result, he’s a total dick to Pamela on their next date, but then feels bad about it and goes over to her house the next morning to apologize.  But when he gets there, he sees that she’s getting out of a car and kisses another boy! He’s furious.

Lila is still dealing with serious post-traumatic shock from when John Pfeifer tried to rape her.  In the aftermath of accusing Nathan the counselor of the same thing, she has a meeting with Principal Cooper, Nathan, and her father.  It’s there she comes to the realization that Nathan didn’t try to hurt her, and she apologizes and cries a bunch.  Her father’s unsure how to deal with her, and after realizing how screwed up she is, he tells her he’s sending for her mother, Grace, in Paris.  Lila breaks down in tears, thanking him.

Olivia is still taking classes at that art school where she met James in her super special book.  James isn’t in the picture any more, having accepted a scholarship to paint in Paris, but Olivia is still at it, thinking about how lonely she is.  But she’s also a super talented artist, because one of her paintings was in a student art show and now there’s a buyer interested in it.  This buy is contingent on Olivia giving a speech at some art conference.  She tells all this to Nicholas Morrow over coffee, and then they both lament the state of their love lives.  The two decide to set each other up on dates.  Olivia gets the brilliant idea to submit Nicholas as a possible contestant on a new show called Hunks.

When Olivia shows up to give the art speech, though, she finds herself at a random mansion where a boy from her art class is waiting for her.  He tells her he made the whole thing up, and instead of running for the hills from this crazy person who clearly wants to murder her and wear her like a dress, Olivia is intrigued by this Harry Minton person.

Margo: Is a new character, a foster girl living in Long Island who decides to listen to the voice in her head and embark on a westward journey.  In order to do so, she kills her five-year-old foster sister by pouring kerosene all over the kitchen and then telling her to use a metal knife to get her toast out of the toaster.  She leaves after watching the house burn with Nina inside it.  Then she decides to call herself Michelle and buys a one-way ticket to Cleveland.  She gets a job as a babysitter for a family with a little boy named Georgie.  She starts stealing from Georgie’s mother, and the voice tells her she has to go to California.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Margo’s been in 10 different foster homes by the age of 16.
  • Bruce repeatedly refers to Pamela Robertson as “Cinderella,” and it is never not creepy.
  • The English classes are reading Moby Dick.
  • Pamela’s favorite old movie is Philadelphia Story

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica suddenly looked up. ‘Can’t you people talk about anything important?’ she cried.” (40)
  • “‘Well, for one thing,’ she explained, ‘Elizabeth Wakefield, of all people, was acting possessed.'” (70)
  • “What I know about teenage boys would curl your hair, lady, Margo bragged silently.” (162)
  • “‘I don’t think it’s wise for my daughter to answer questions like this without an attorney present,’ Ned Wakefield said.” (200)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are so many things about this book that make absolutely no sense.  But two things stood out to me about this one: the handling of Lila’s accusations about Nathan and the handling of the investigation into Sam’s death.

Firstly, let’s focus on the Lila situation, which is really sad.  If there’s something to appreciate about how truly dumb this book and the series as a whole is, is that this story gets some consistency.  Lila is really, really screwed up because of what happened to her.  She’s still dealing with it, and it’s actually not that out of the realm of possibility that she’d misinterpret what Nathan was trying to do that night.

But instead of dealing with this in a way that makes any sense (remember, the police were involved at the end of the last book), Chrome Dome Cooper calls a meeting with Lila, her father, and Nathan.  There are no police, and Cooper acts as a mediator, asking for Lila’s story while Nathan is in the room.  In what reality does a victim of sexual assault have to give testimony for the first time with the accused in the room?  It’s so fucked.  It makes no sense.  But they wrap this up quickly so we can get to the ridiculous Elizabeth story.

Which brings me to the second issue here.  Elizabeth states in the middle of the book that she can’t imagine she was drunk, which makes no sense, because she would have been treated for injuries in the hospital after the car crash and then interviewed by police.  There is NO FREAKING WAY that the police would wait weeks to question her about the accident.  So when they show up at the house and ask about her blood alcohol level, which they apparently DID test at the scene, she’s like, “I don’t know how I got drunk!”

None of this makes any sense.  It just doesn’t.  It’s this bizarre plot hole that shouldn’t be there because the book is contradicting itself over the course of like, 50 pages.  After they question her, one of the cops says that they’ve been trying to handle this investigation delicately because she’s a good student and her dad is a prominent lawyer in the community.  I’m sure that will be of great comfort to DEAD SAM WOODRUFF’S PARENTS.  Jesus Christ.

What will happen in the next book?  Will Elizabeth end up in jail forever?  I WISH.

SVH #90: Don’t Go Home With John

14 May

dontgohomewithjohn

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Lila has been seeing more of John Pfeifer around since he broke up with his girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell, and she’s surprised how interested she is in him.  He’s much more serious and intense than the dudes she’s used to dating, but she can’t help but be flattered when he pays attention to her.  They finally go out on a date, and it goes really well, until they go up to Miller’s Point and he won’t stop fooling around when she asks him to.  Things get a little rough, and she finally gets away from him by grabbing his keys, jabbing him in the neck with them, and then throwing them over the edge of the cliff.

Completely traumatized by the assault and near-rape, Lila blows off Jessica when she calls to find out how the date went.  She completely withdraws into herself, vacillating between thinking she should seek help from someplace like Project Youth to thinking everyone will blame her for what happened because she’s known as a flirt.  Jessica notices how drawn and pale Lila looks, and she’s seriously worried, but no matter how much she prods Lila, she can’t get her to tell her what’s wrong.

Lila throws her costume ball the following weekend (after thinking about cancelling it and making a point to uninvite John from attending), and it’s going along fine.  Lila is even having a good time until John shows up with some random sophomore in tow.  When she sees him, she completely loses her shit and screams at him in front of everyone about how he tried to rape her.  He denies it and leaves with his date, but the damage has been done in that the rumors are flowing.

The following week at school, Lila is plagued by rumors doubting her story.  It doesn’t help that John is completely weird and keeps following her around, standing in her way in the cafeteria and generally making a mockery of her pain.  Jessica asks John’s ex-girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell if she can help at all and encourage John to seek help, and she basically tells Jessica that since he never tried to rape her, she doesn’t think he needs counseling.  Okay.

Lila is miserable until a sophomore named Susan Wyman comes to see her at her house and tells her that the same thing happened to her with John just before he went out with Lila.  Like Lila, she was able to get away when another couple showed up at Miller’s Point.  The two devise a plan to get John to go to the Dairi Burger where they can confront him together.  They do, and after his friends hear Susan’s story, too, everyone turns on John.  Vindication, I guess?

The B-Plot involves Jessica worrying about “losing control” when she makes out with Sam.  They never say sex but instead dance around it, and Jessica decides they need to cool things down before one of them lets things get out of hand.  She makes them date in public so they won’t be tempted until Sam finally sits her down and is like, “I love you and this is crazy.  I’m just as responsible as you are in this situation, blah blah blah.”  Whatever.  Then they make out a bunch.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • After Lila throws John’s keys over the edge of Miller’s Point, he calls her a “little witch.”  If ever there was a time for actual profanity…
  • Lila wears a black Lycra dress with a crushed velvet jacket and pearls for her date with John.
  • Jessica and Sam go as Princess Leia and Han Solo to Lila’s costume ball.  Lila goes as Peter Pan, Enid & Hugh are the body and receiver of a telephone (okay), Elizabeth and Todd are the sun and the moon.  What the hell, guys.
  • The ghostwriter refers to a sitcom as a “situation comedy” at one point, which is…weird?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila had heard of boys acting like this, but she had thought that was only in books and movies.  She had never thought that any boy she knew would behave like, this.  That any boy she went to school with, and talked to, and saw every day–and liked–could scare her so much.” (47)
  • “Just a few days ago Lila had been one of the most attractive girls in Southern California, but now she would have been lucky to come in as a runner-up in a Miss Organic-Egg beauty contest.” (78) LOL WHAT?
  • “‘I mean, I know Lila’s telling the truth, Jessica, but I still have a hard time believing that my friend John did something like that. It’s like Dr. Pfeifer and Mr. Hyde. Anyway, there’s no way of proving what really did go on, is there?'” (112) LIZ IS THE GODDAMN WORST.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is a hard one to snark on, because given the subject matter and the series, it’s done fairly well.  Especially when you consider the fact that it was written in the early 90s.  There are still a couple of things worth mentioning, though.

In the book and in some recaps, incredulity is expressed that a person like John could ever do this to someone.  There’s a lot of, “John is a nice guy, and it doesn’t make sense for him to suddenly do this.”  And while the character development is sudden (which is not unusual for this series–consider Suzanne Devlin, etc.), I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for something like this to happen.  In fact, one could argue that having a character like John–who’s been mild-mannered for the most part, and a “good guy”–helps bring nuance to the issue.  Rapists are not all mustache-twirling devils.  They are people who appear otherwise normal, except for the fact that OH YEAH THEY ARE RAPISTS.

The other thing that really, really bothered me about this one was Liz.  It’s already well-established that she’s the fucking worst, but there’s something about her treatment of this issue that really stuck in my craw.  There’s the quote I linked to above, but there are other moments in the book, where Liz says things like, “I’d like Lila to know I support her, even though I’ve had to be polite to John,” where I just sort of rolled my eyes.  There’s so much self-righteousness there.  I don’t know.  My feelings are complicated about a stupid, poorly-written character, but they’re still my feelings.