Tag Archives: catfishing

SVH #103: Operation Love Match

23 Jun

operation love match

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Liz and Jess are still committed to helping Bruce get his parents back together.  They have several meetings where literally nothing is accomplished.  Jessica is late a lot and is obsessed with astrological signs.  She thinks Mercury is in retrograde, which means she’s extra-clumsy.  This should apply to Liz, too, since they are the same sign, but it doesn’t because it’s a bullshit plot point.  At any rate, their first plan is to send a love letter from “Hank” to Marie, but Jessica forgets to put a stamp on it, tries to mail it and gets her hand stuck in the box when she tries to retrieve it.  At that exact moment, a cop car AND her new crush Michael Hampton drive by.  Michael helps her get her hand out but she tells him her name is Elizabeth because she’s embarrassed.  She gets arrested by the cop but Mr. Wakefield gets her out with a warning.

The girls are grounded because of the stupid pool party they threw the week before.  Elizabeth is extra-punished because she did that whole living-experiment with Todd.  They’re allowed to go to their after-school extra-curriculars but nowhere else, which doesn’t stop them from going to the Dairi Burger after school with Bruce to continue plotting Operation Love Match, as Jessica has started to refer to it.

Their second attempt at a Patman parent reunion is to get up early, sneak over to the house of the lawyers Bruce’s parents have hired, and super-glue their cars so they will be late for a meeting with Hank and Marie.  Then Jessica and Bruce go to the office and attempt to sneak in the Patman’s wedding album so they can look at it while they wait.  Nothing about this makes any sense.  Of course, the second part doesn’t go well: Jessica accidentally flashes Bruce and Michael with her wrong days-of-the-week underwear in the school parking lot, and then she gets stuck between floors in the elevator on the way to the office.

Marie and Hank actually almost reconnect while waiting for their lawyers, but when they leave to go have breakfast, Hank pulls out a scarf with the word “Alice” written all over it.  He and Bruce have the same Burberry coat, and they clearly mixed them up, as Jessica had worn the scarf during their recon earlier in the day.  This is dumb.  Marie gets upset and runs off.

The third plan involves sending a ton of goldenrods to Marie, who ends up in the hospital with a severe allergic reaction.  Again, Hank tries to reconcile with her, and again, she sends him away. While Marie is in the hospital, Jessica gets Liz to tape Alice talking about all the reasons she broke it off with Hank in an attempt to send the tape anonymously to Marie.  Instead of that tape, she sends the test tape which has her basically telling Lila that she’s interfering in the Patman’s lives.

The final attempt to reconcile Marie and Hank is a disaster as well.  The twins and Bruce get together a bunch of photos and stuff to show to Bruce’s parents in their screening room, but before they can set it up, Jessica gets her toe stuck in the faucet in the tub, Liz tries to help her only to find that the bathroom doors are swollen shut, and Bruce gets a flat tire.  By the time they arrive at the Patman mansion, Hank and Marie have made up on their own.

The B-Plot, I guess, is all about Jessica’s attempts to woo Michael Hampton.  Lila is also interested in him, so it becomes a competition.  The problem is, every time Jessica runs into him, she does something embarrassing.  So after the incident at the mailbox, she starts pretending she’s Elizabeth every time something stupid happens.  When she acts as “Jessica,” she babbles on and is an even bigger freak than she realizes.  Michael decides he has much more in common with the klutzy Elizabeth and sends her flowers and a TERRIBLE poem.  Elizabeth realizes he’s really interested in Jessica and has him drive her home so she can gently push him that direction.  When he drops her off, Jessica comes outside, falls down, and pretends to be Elizabeth again.  Michael is apparently not an idiot and figures it out, deciding that it’s Jessica he loves after all.  When the two go out, it’s a disaster, and Jessica decides she’s not into him at all.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The twins’ astrological sign is Gemini, because of course.
  • Lila is a Leo.
  • Liz saved up for a new laptop and gave Jessica her old “word processor.”
  • According to this book, Jessica isn’t president of PBA anymore.  When did that happen?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘How could she get stuck in her locker?’ marveled Todd, shaking his head in wonder. ‘It’s just not possible. It’s literally impossible to do.'” (47)
  • “‘A job interview!’ Lila said, horrified, raising her hands to her cheeks.” (79)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a lot to say about this one, actually.  I still find it completely impossible to believe that these self-involved teens would be remotely interested in Bruce’s parents reconciliation, but whatever.  I’m all for playing matchmaker, but this doesn’t seem like a case the average 16-year-old would be interested in.

Also, Jessica’s klutziness?  Complete lunacy.  There’s a part where she trips over her feet and does a full somersault into the grass.  Are you JOKING?

SVH #87: My Best Friend’s Boyfriend

5 May

mybestfriendsboyfriend

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Denise Hadley is beautiful and popular and charismatic.  Her best friend, Ginny Belasca, feels like the dull, undesirable friend, forever in her shadow.  When Denise urges Ginny to volunteer at Project Youth, manning the teen line, Ginny is reluctant but finds that she’s actually sort of great at it.  It doesn’t take long before she takes a call from a teen named Mike, and the two hit it off.  He continues to call the teen line with his family problems (his mom is marrying a new guy and there are familial adjustments), and the two start to form a relationship.  When he presses her for a meeting, she finally relents, but then she begs Denise to go for her, just this once.  Denise agrees, telling herself she’ll explain to Mike how shy Ginny is and arrange a secret meeting for them.

When they meet, however, Denise is totally taken with how attractive Mike is.  Even though she has a boyfriend, she’s flustered and giggly around Mike, and she doesn’t tell him that she’s not Ginny.  In fact, she agrees to go out with him again later that week.  She tells Ginny that she’s really into Mike, and Ginny asks her what she’s going to do about her boyfriend, Jay. Denise hedges on this for a while and then breaks up with him.  Ginny angsts about the fact that she likes Mike but doesn’t ever tell Denise this.

Denise actually brings Ginny along on their next date, which is super creepy.  The girls tell Mike that Ginny’s name is Denise.  This will end well.  Throughout the course of the date, both girls reflect on how well the real Ginny gets along with Mike and how uncomfortable the real Denise is with him.  They have nothing in common, and it’s clear that Mike sees it.  But he still doesn’t say no when Denise asks him out again.

Mike continues to call the teen line and talks to Ginny.  At one point, she pretends to be someone else to avoid talking to him as Ginny, and he tells her all about how he’s actually into someone else now.  She assumes he means someone other than her, because Ginny kind of sucks.  At any rate, she cries a lot about it and worries how Denise will take it when she inevitably gets dumped.

It turns out, she takes it surprisingly well.  As she and Mike are leaving the Box Tree Cafe, Liz says hi to her and calls her by her real name.  This spurs a confession to Mike, who isn’t mad at all.  In fact, he goes along with Denise’s idea to set him up with the real Ginny.  He calls the teen line again, talks to Ginny-as-someone-else, and then, when she runs out into the hallway, he’s waiting to ask her out.  Great! Oh, and Denise gets back together with Jay, because a pretty girl in Sweet Valley can’t be single.

The B-Plot focuses on Liz wanting to write an article about sexual harassment for the school paper.  When she brings the idea forward, Mr. Collins gets super weird about it, but finally says he’ll read her draft and go from there.  But he tells Mr. Cooper about it before Liz has written a word, and he promptly shuts it down. Furious about the censorship, Liz decides to write it anyway, approaching it from an angle of being censored.  She shows it to Mr. Collins, who changes his mind, brings it to Cooper, but it’s still a no-go.  So Liz and the rest of the crack staff at the Oracle decide to distribute it as an “underground” newsletter.  They end up having another confrontation with Cooper, but because Liz is such a good writer, everything ends up just fine.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Shoehorned literary reference: Elizabeth’s English class is reading A Tale of Two Cities
  • In addition to Casey’s, there’s an ice cream place called the Lucky Duck where the waiters wear duck costumes.  Sign me up.
  • Pop culture references: Lady Macbeth and Frankenstein’s monster

Memorable Quotes: 

  • “You’re special, Ginny.  You’re a beautiful person. I know you must be so pretty.” (47)
  • “‘So what?’ Penny demanded hotly. ‘Newspapers aren’t about making people feel good.  Newspapers are about information that’s important.'” (71)
  • “Denise shrugged. She could understand the pressure that people put on attractive girls.  Being pretty was a very difficult responsibility.” (94) Okay, Denise is officially the worst. 

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are two things that struck me upon reading this one, a title which I had never read before.  The first is that although we are supposed to like Denise, she comes off as kind of the worst.  Like, throughout the entire novel.  She makes a weirdly disparaging remark about homeless people in Sweet Valley and how they’re bringing the town down, she thinks that completely obnoxious thing about pretty girls I quoted up above, and, oh yeah, she goes out with the guy her best friend is into when she’s still dating another dude.  Now, an argument could be made that Ginny is a total wet blanket incapable of actually standing up for herself, and that’s true–Ginny is also pretty terrible–but there isn’t anything cool or okay with what Denise does.  This is a totally sick, unbalanced friendship between the girls.  Gross.

But the thing that stood out to me during this reading most prominently was the issue of sexual harassment.  The book talks a lot about “sexual harassment,” but from what I can tell, they’re really talking about sexual assault and rape.  It’s weird, because the book touches on aspects of rape culture–society telling girls to stay quiet and not cause a scene, the entire idea of power dynamics as they relate to sexual assault–but the book is incredibly reticent to use the correct terminology.  Only when they refer to a rape crisis center is the word ever used.

This is probably largely due to when the book was written and published–these things are never so dated as when you see them try to tackle an issue deemed taboo–but it’s also probably in part because they didn’t want to rankle parents.  So in purporting to tackle the issue of censorship and rape culture, the book is actually censoring itself?  Maybe a little?

Also, at one point, Chrome Dome makes reference to issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault being a “family matter.”  I actually did a double take, because WHAT IN THE WHAT?

SVH #66: Who’s to Blame?

28 Feb

who's to blame

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks. Unclear due to plot mistake.

Summary/Overview:

Ned and Alice have separated following the bizarre ultimatum Ned issued while they were horseback riding at Lake Tahoe, and Ned is moving to an apartment downtown for the time being.  The kids are very concerned that their perfect family seems to be disintegrating in front of their very eyes, but they are all handling it in different ways: Steven seems to be around more and more often but sticks close to Alice; Elizabeth is consumed with guilt over the split, believing it to be her fault, but is also appalled at how Jessica and Steven are fighting; and Jessica is her usual sociopathic self in that she figures out how to play off her parents’ estrangement by getting money out of Ned and generally being a manipulative psycho.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth continues to withdraw into her own self-absorption and guilt over the breakup of her parents’ marriage.  She seems to believe that giving the phone number of the lodge to her mother’s secretary when the family was vacationing in Lake Tahoe was the reason her parents split–the only reason.  Apparently, Liz is incapable of seeing anything in more than a black-or-white frame, and therefore she’s the guilty party here.  As a result, she pulls away from Todd and eventually breaks up with him, because she thinks love is too fragile.  Then she dates pretty much every dude on campus at SVH, which pisses off Jessica.  When Steven and Jessica basically accuse Elizabeth of being the reason their parents have split, she decides to run away.

Only she doesn’t.  Instead, Enid manages to convince her to sleep over at her house.  Liz takes the phone off the hook there so her parents can’t reach her, and she leaves them both notes saying the split is all her fault.  The Wakefields rally in the face of this terrible situation, and they decide to begin working out their problems.

Oh, and Jessica convinces Steven to help her pretend to be Elizabeth so she can convince Todd she still loves him and that he loves her while Elizabeth is standing nearby.  See?  TRUE LOVE DOES LAST FOREVER.

The B-plot continues to include Jessica’s obsession with Catfish Charlie, whom she met on the Teen Party Line.  He continues to put her off when she requests a meeting, and then finally acquiesces to her request to go rollerskating.  Only, when she meets him, he seems awkward and boring.  A couple of dates later, she finds out that the real Charlie hired his friend Brook to go in his stead because he’s worried he’s too ugly for her.  Jessica confronts Charlie over the phone an then convinces him to go to the Pi Beta Alpha costume party dance with her friend Amy so she can scope him out without facing potential embarrassment over bringing an ugly date.  This is something that she actually thinks.

This plan backfires when both Brook and Charlie end up paying attention to Amy at the dance.  Jessica swears revenge by devoting herself to her father’s mayoral campaign, which I guess we’ll be treated to in the next book?

Triva/Fun Facts:

  • The phone bill is in, and Jessica rang up $375 dollars calling the 900 number.
  • Suggested couples costumes: Bonnie and Clyde, Batman and Catwoman, King and Queen of Hearts, and…bookends?
  • Awkwardly shoe-horned literary parallel: Liz’s English class is discussing Othello
  • The Palace is a music venue in downtown Sweet Valley that I’ve never heard of until now

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica glared at him. ‘Come to think about it, you have been haning around here an awful lot,’ she went on.  ‘Don’t you have a dorm room anymore? I thought you were supposed to be so big and grown-up now.'” (15)
  • Why not? Elizabeth thought with sudden defiance. Maybe meeting–and dating–a lot of different guys would take her mind off her troubles at home.  It certainly couldn’t make things worse!” (73)
  • “Reading the menu didn’t exactly lift her spirits.  Jessica knew famous models swore by sushi, since it was nutritious and low in calories. But at the moment all she wanted was a hamburger or pizza–something American.” (93)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I feel like the biggest issue with this book is that Elizabeth seems to lack the brain cells necessary to think critically about the situation her parents are in.  As the twin who is constantly painted as the thoughtful, rational one, it doesn’t stand to reason that she would be the quickest to fly off the handle in this one.  While some of her behaviors are consistent with children who act out when their parents separate and/or get divorced, too much of her internal thought process doesn’t make sense.

In what reality does a work emergency phone call on a family vacation act as the sole cause of the break up of a marriage?  Especially when readers (and the Wakefield children) have been treated to pages upon pages of Ned and Alice sniping at each other?  It’s a flimsy plot point at best, and it makes the entire setup of this novel feel hollow.  Be better, SVH ghostwriter!

SVH #65: Trouble at Home

24 Feb

troubleathome

Estimated Elapsed Time: About a month?

Summary/Overview:

Alice Wakefield’s firm puts forth a bid to design a new wing in the Valley Mall, and it’s taking up all her time.  This means she’s not home to cook dinner or grocery shop, which makes Ned Wakefield UNBELIEVABLY angry, and it makes the kiddos pretty nervous.  It seems like Alice and Ned are fighting all the time, and Ned is clearly professional unsatisfied.  When Maria Santelli’s dad, who happens to be running for mayor, is accused of taking bribes, Ned decides to defend him.  Alice is unsure about this, but Ned pushes forth, because he is an ETHICAL LAWYER, unlike pretty much every other lawyer he knows.

Apparently Ned holds a lot of power in Sweet Valley or they don’t have much of a backlog of cases, because within days of Santelli being accused and Ned taking the case, the trial has begun.  It doesn’t go well, and Ned is weary/crabby at home, when he is home.  The twins worry about the fact that their parents seem to be so disconnected, but Liz is much more worried than Jessica.

Ned and Alice seem to be driven further apart when the judge suspends the case due to lack of evidence.  In this blogger’s professional opinion, it sounds like the case was thrown out, but the legal terms in this book are so APPALLINGLY INACCURATE that it hardly seems to matter.  Ned is crushed by this perceived loss, and this is worsened by the fact that Alice’s firm wins the bid and is designing the new mall wing.  She’s busier than ever, and Ned is super resentful of her success.

But then Mr. Santelli pulls out of the mayoral race and Henry Patman shows up with some other guy at the Wakefield house and asks Ned to run.  Ned is flattered and seems to be seriously considering taking the candidacy.  He neglects to tell his wife this, though.

The entire family takes their “annual” vacation to a remote cabin on Lake Tahoe, and Jessica, Elizabeth, and Steven hope that this will help their parents fall back in love with each other.  But that doesn’t happen, as Alice’s firm gets a hold of her at the cabin when some things go wrong and Ned blows up about it.  He gives her an ultimatum: her job or their marriage, and she literally rides away from her family on horseback. CLIFFHANGER.

The B-Plot involves Jessica becoming addicted to calling a 900-number for teens.  This teen line is advertised as a way for teens to connect with other teens, but it costs them $1/minute.  Remember when this was a thing?  At any rate, Jessica meets “Charlie” through this teen line and decides she’s in love with him, even though he keeps putting off actually meeting.  He’s totally catfishing her.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ned belongs to a legal fraternity called Psi Epsilon.
  • A new Italian restaurant called Toscas opened up in Sweet Valley.
  • Wakefield Family House Rule: No TV at mealtimes.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica felt her cheeks get hot. This guy was terrific. If he was this great to talk to on the telephone, she could just imagine how wonderful he’d be in person!” (40)
  • “‘Out in the open,’ she repeated incredulously. ‘Jess, don’t you ever feel sorry about anything you do? Can’t you admit what you did was wrong?'” (120)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book is the worst, not only because it’s so heavily focused on Ned and Alice, but because the stakes here are so low that I can’t even bring myself to care.  Ned and Alice are not going to get a divorce, guys.  They just aren’t.  You don’t spend 60 fucking books telling readers about how rock-solid a marriage is to have it come crumbling down in the span of 130 pages over some hectic work schedules.  Give me an affair or a drug problem or something!

But what is interesting to note is how fucking sexist the undertones of the novel are.  Alice is literally expected to do it all: she’s expected to work a full-time job, keep a trim figure, take care of her children, and get dinner on the table by six o’clock (Ned FREAKS OUT when she brings home Chinese food one night).  Ned gives her endless grief about how the family doesn’t come first for her all of a sudden, and it feels really hollow, because his career has come first a lot of times before this.

Probably I’m giving this too much thought.  I know I am, because I have a blog devoted to recapping Sweet Valley High novels in excruciating detail.  But it’s interesting to see what I notice this time around that my 10-year-old self completely missed.

This is kind of a two-parter, because nothing gets resolved here, plot-wise.  However, the powers that be decided to publish Bruce’s Story between novels (maybe hoping to stall for some time and find an actual plot?), so we’ll be reading that before we get to #66: Who’s to Blame?