Tag Archives: charity event

SVH #120: In Love with the Enemy

25 Feb

inloveenemy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 days

Summary/Overview:

SVH is playing Palisades High in an important football game.  The Palisades team plays unfairly according to SVH, but they still win, leaving Ken Matthews feeling particularly unhappy about the outcome.  There’s tension between the football players on the opposing teams, which is too bad, because Liz and Enid have made friends with Marla Daniels and Caitlin Alexander, both Palisades High students, and the foursome plan to hold a joint dance for the schools.

Jessica, Amy, and Lila are at the beach one day and watch a surf contest happening. At the end of the contest, it’s announced that another competition will be held in a month, and the winner gets an interview on RockTV and a trip to Hawaii.  Jessica decides to enter, despite the fact that she doesn’t currently surf.  This is met with derision from not only Lila and Amy, but also from the surf contest’s champion Rosie, who tells Jessica that cheerleaders can’t surf and she’ll never make it.  This only fuels Jessica’s desire to win even more.  She bets Lila that she’ll win, or she’ll wear a wet suit to school, and Lila takes the bet, swearing she’ll wear pink sunscreen on her nose if Jessica does indeed take the trophy.

Elizabeth and Enid continue making plans for a charity dance with the girls from Palisades despite the fact that tensions between the guys at both schools continue to ramp up.  They decide on a masked dance to help encourage co-mingling, and Elizabeth is stunned when Bruce and Todd have violent reactions to the idea of the dance.  Things continue to escalate after both groups of dudes play pranks on the others, and they decide to “have it out” at the dance.  Liz decides that the only course of action is to call the dance off completely.  But then Jessica tells them that the guys are going to meet at the warehouse where the dance is being held regardless of the status of the dance, and the girls think their presence might help calm tensions.

Meanwhile, Jessica starts taking surfing lessons from a mysterious surfer dude named Christian Gorman.  The two meet nearly every morning before school to surf the waves and reveal secrets to one another.  They kiss a bunch, and Jessica feels more distant from Ken than ever before.  It doesn’t help that he’s become obsessed with getting even with Palisades.

The Oracle’s attempt to run a feature on Palisades to highlight their good qualities backfires and only serves to ramp up feelings of hostility.  The night of the dance, the two groups of dudes meet and start a fight.  Jessica runs outside to tell Ken and Todd that Liz is calling the police, and she sees Christian beating the bloody hell out of Ken.  And…scene.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Ocean Bay is the most popular beach in Sweet Valley
  • The Palisades High School newspaper is called the Pentagon.
  • The Droids dress up as the Flintstones for the dance

Memorable Quotes:

  • “This whole world is a boys’ club. Girls need to stick together.  Otherwise, we just spend all our time hating each other and ourselves and competing for boys’ attention.” Jessica took a breath.  The words had come out in a rush. (57)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It feels redundant to point out how dumb and unnatural the rivalry between Palisades and SVH is in this book.  There are a couple of sporting events where bad feelings are bred, and all of a sudden, both schools have dangerous gangs of dudes wearing black jeans and black leather jackets and totally living up the Sharks vs. Jets thing without any of the fancy dancing.  It feels very obvious and very forced, and none of it works on any level.

Another clunker of a plot point is the SHOCKING reveal that Christian is a Palisades High student, which is obvious from the book’s title alone but also makes no sense within the confines of what Jessica and Christian have been doing.  They’ve been meeting every day, have professed their love for one another, and yet never bothered to mention that they go to newly-rivaled schools?  I don’t buy it.

This whole book is dumb, dumb, dumb.  I don’t have high hopes for the two books that follow in this little mini-series.  Talk about stretching out a topic already worn thin.

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SVH Magna Edition: Return of the Evil Twin

18 Feb

return twin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3  weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s Christmas time in Sweet Valley yet again, and the twins are excited about vacation.  Jessica and Elizabeth are working with some arbitrary inside twincharity group to raise funding for a new children’s wing at the Fowler Memorial Hospital, and they get the brilliant idea to host a New Year’s Eve party at the traveling carnival that will be in town over the holiday.  The owners of the carnival agree to donate all profits to the charity, which is super convenient to the plot.

To celebrate the start of the holiday, the entire gang throws a caroling party.  The group meets at Secca Lake for a bonfire before heading out to sing carols to the unsuspecting Sweet Valley citizens, but Jessica and Todd are both very late, and Elizabeth worries about them.  On his way to the lake, Todd’s car spins out after he sees something move across the road and he slams into a guardrail, fading into unconsciousness.  Jessica sees his car on the road as she approaches and jumps out, saving him just in time, as his car goes over the side of the cliff and blows up.  This is obviously big news, and Todd’s gratefulness for Jessica’s heroics lead him to start to have romantic feelings for her.  This is probably exacerbated by Liz’s completely irrational feelings of jealousy over Jessica saving her boyfriend’s life.  It doesn’t help that everyone wants to ask Jess about it, and the paper even runs their picture on the front page, calling Todd her boyfriend instead of Liz’s.

Things continue to go badly for Liz, who has started dreaming about Margo again, even though she’s totally dead, right?  Also, Todd and Jess are totally into telling their story about the harrowing experience near Secca Lake, and Liz and Ken both feel shunted aside.  Jessica and Liz argue a lot.  Jessica starts having nightmares about Margo.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, Georgia, a moody girl named Nora Chapelle has just lost her father.  Because her mother died years ago, this makes her an orphan.  This is especially true when her evil stepmother offers her $5o,ooo to disappear from her life.  She also lets the bomb drop that Nora had an identical twin sister who was so evil that they gave her up for adoption.  Nora takes off to New York to track her sister’s whereabouts and it isn’t long before she manages to trace Margo’s life from there to Ohio to Sweet Valley.  Despite providing the readers a solid recap of the first evil twin saga, this book also adds information about the ambulance carrying Margo’s body never reaching the hospital, and that it ended up in a river (Margo’s body wasn’t found).  Convinced it’s all the Wakefield twins’ fault, Nora hops a plane to L.A. to get revenge for her sister.  She books a room at the Sweet Valley Inn and starts spying on the Wakefields.

One night, she goes to visit the gravestone that a local teen shelter erected in Margo’s honor.  This makes no sense whatsoever, but neither does what comes next: Margo appears in the cemetary, and the girls realize that the other still exists.  Nora takes Margo back to her hotel room and cringes a lot because Margo is messy and Nora is pathologically clean.  Margo convinces Nora that the Wakefield twins’ lives are rightfully there, and it’s time to claim their dues.

Jessica and Liz make up, but then Margo and Nora mess with their heads one night at the most spectacularly attended screening of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Liz and Enid go, and Ken and Jessica go, but Nora, posing as Elizabeth, goes with Todd and makes out with him.  Liz and Enid see it and assume it’s Jessica, and Liz FREAKS OUT and screams at Jessica and Todd (separately, and later, instead of confronting them at the theater, which makes way more sense).  The twins stop speaking and go to the New Year’s Eve carnival at odds with one another yet again.

Meanwhile, Nora and Margo fight over who has to be Elizabeth once they take over for real. Margo tells Nora that she should be, since she’s so neat, but Nora also wants to be Jessica.  If this isn’t the most perfect encapsulation of the Liz/Jess dynamic, I don’t know what is.  At the carnival, Liz sulks and Jessica goes into the house of mirrors for a good spook.  After the carnival, Jessica goes home to sleep and Liz stays to clean up.  Nora realizes that Margo has left her to do her own spying and decides to go and kill Jessica before Margo can so that she can take over the twin’s life.  She sneaks into the Wakefield house, stabs the sleeping form of Jessica, and is nearly out the window when Liz walks in and sees it all happen.  Liz collapses onto Jessica and blacks out.  Nora takes off but is seen escaping by Alice and Ned on their way home from party.

The doctors can’t save Jessica, and it’s a few days later when they have a memorial service for Jessica at SVH.  Despite telling the detectives that she knows it was Margo, no one believes her.  When she’s standing in the auditorium, she suddenly realizes that Jessica is still alive and needs her help.  No one believes her about this, either.   She furiously works out the clues Jessica has sent her in dreams.  When the police come to question her again, she steals one of their guns and goes back to the school.

Nora is convinced she has to kill Margo so that she can take over the only remaining Wakefield twin’s life.  She becomes convinced that Margo’s hiding in the basement at SVH and goes there to kill her.  But it’s Jessica! Elizabeth arrives and points the gun at both girls, then makes a decision about which is which.  Nora spills the beans about how she’s not Margo, realizes that she killed her own sister and seems sad about it (even though she was prepared to do that again right here), and then cries.  The police come and arrest her, and all is well again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Outfit alert: Jessica “borrows” Liz’s candy-striped sweater, white pants, and Christmas tree ornament earrings for the caroling party.
  • Liz and Ken go to see The Shining
  • According to Margo, she’s able to hold her breath for up to 3 minutes underwater

Memorable Quotes:

  • “I have a librarian friend–a former paramour of mine.” (75) [this just made me laugh because i’m a librarian]
  • “Elizabeth is such a prude, she makes me want to throw up.” (182)
  • “Do you know that in all this time Todd has never even managed to get Elizabeth out of her clothes? It’s positively sick!” (210)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s something deeply unsettling to this reader about the idea of a father giving away one of his daughters to an adoption agency/foster care because of clear psychotic tendencies.  The family clearly has money, and it is astounding to me that they wouldn’t even consider psychiatric help before throwing in the towel on a toddler.  I’m choosing to ignore the idea that the Wakefield twins have not one but two doppelgangers, though.  I just can’t handle it.

My favorite part of this book is when Elizabeth steals a gun from the police and faces literally no repercussions.

SVH #98: The Wedding

6 Jun

thewedding

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5-6 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Lila throws a party to show off her estranged mother to all her friends but then has a meltdown in the bathroom when she realizes that Grace still doesn’t plan to stay in Sweet Valley.  She thinks mean thoughts about her mother’s boyfriend, a man named Pierre who exhibits the worst stereotypes about French people.  But she isn’t the only one who thinks he’s sort of a letch, because all her friends make comments about it.

When Amy calls her the next day to tell her why she left the party in such a hurry, Lila is stunned.  It seems that Pierre came onto Amy, and then he groped her chest.  That’s sexual assault, asshole.  Lila assures Amy that it’s not her fault and tells her she’ll deal with the situation.  But then she decides to not tell her mother what he’s done, figuring she can find another way to get rid of him. Um, what?

Lila and Pierre spend a day together, and it’s like straight out of The Parent Trap.  She takes him to a notoriously terrible diner for breakfast, makes him go surfing, carry her shopping bags, and play her in a rousing game of tennis.  Then she gets him drunk on scotch at lunch so that he passes out when they get home.  She locks him in a closet and goes to dinner without him.  There, George proposes to Grace, who accepts.  They barely even notice a drunken Pierre make a scene at the front of the restaurant.  Lila tells Pierre to get lost or she’ll tell Grace what he did to Amy.

She and Grace start planning the wedding of the century, and then they have the wedding at the Fowler estate.  Everyone is very happy.

Jessica is still super miserable about Sam’s death and thinks about how she’s only dating Todd (also miserable) to make Elizabeth feel pain.  She knows she doesn’t love him (and won’t ever) and that he doesn’t love her.  When Todd breaks up with her one night, she realizes she’s all alone. She visits Sam’s gravestone and cries a lot, then decides to start living her life.  She’ll start by planning a charity dirt bike rally in his name.

At the Sam Woodruff Memorial Dirt Bike Rally, Jessica gives a rousing and moving speech about drunk driving before starting the race.  A latecoming entry who goes by the name “Black Lightning” wins the race by a hair, and when Jessica hands him the trophy, she falls head over heels for him.  It’s James, who Margo has paid to get information on the Wakefields.  The two begin dating, and Jessica doesn’t think it’s weird at all that he’s obsessed with taking her picture and asking tons of personal questions.

Elizabeth is slowing getting back into the swing of her life.  She and Enid study at the library and then go to the Dairi Burger.  Elizabeth is feeling pretty good until she runs into Sam’s best friend, who basically tells her that she’s a shitty person to be moving on so quick.  Elizabeth continues to feel grateful she’s free and rebuffs attempts by Todd to reconcile.  Although she dances with him at the Fowler wedding, she excuses herself quickly.

Margo is in Sweet Valley and staying in an old woman’s guest house.  She looks up the Wakefields in the phone book and calls the number only to hang up.  She spies on the family as they leave for work and school one day and discovers that she will have a brother when she joins the family.  She meets James at Kelly’s bar and offers to pay him money to spy on the Wakefields.  She also applies for a job as a caterer for the Fowler’s wedding, but it requires her to bump off someone already on the list.  So she runs over the woman with her car and then ditches it in the woods.  She works the wedding reception and creeps on everyone.

Meanwhile, Josh is still hot on her trail.  He follows leads from Los Angeles to San Diego and then makes a connection that Margo is in Sweet Valley after a train conductor tells him she was reading the Sweet Valley News.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Fowler mansion has an original Picasso hanging in the living room
  • The Lone Fighter, a movie starring a foreign hunk named Jean-Paul Bertrand, is all the rage
  • The Wave Cafe has live music every Sunday. This is apparently a popular hangout we’ve never heard of before.
  • Sam’s middle name was Benjamin.
  • This is the first book where Steven goes to SVU instead of “a nearby university”

Memorable Quotes:

 

  • “‘Yeah,’ Lila said skeptically. ‘The other driver wasn’t to blame for Elizabeth’s drinking and driving.'” (7)
  • Pierre will regret ever meeting Lila Fowler. Lila chuckled demonically. If he survives what I have in store for him!” (84)
  • “If the trial had taught her one lesson, it was that she’d have to start looking out for herself.” (96) [Um, what trial was she a part of? That was her takeaway?!]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Apart from being a little disturbed by how weirdly nonchalant Lila was about Amy’s sexual assault–which, by the way, was horrifying–there’s not a ton to snark on here, in terms of how crazy things are for a Sweet Valley book.  I do think the George-and-Grace-get-engaged thing is a little compressed, timeline wise, but whatever.  It’s not like these idiots have ever exercised restraint before.

And I still find it odd that Margo thinks her life will be perfect once she’s in Elizabeth’s place.  Like, I don’t understand any of her thoughts about this.  I understand that she’s a crazy person and therefore not rational, but the ghost writers have made her so mercurial and unpredictable I don’t understand for a second how anyone would believe that she could pull it off for more than a few minutes.*

Can’t wait to see what happens next!

*I mean, don’t get me wrong: I know we aren’t supposed to, because this is Sweet Valley.  But still.

SVH Magna Edition: A Night to Remember

28 May

anighttoremember

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

At a Sweet Valley High-sponsored (?) beach party one night, the students are raided by a band of crazed Big Mesa High teenagers.  They toss around their food, spray them with shaving cream, and pick up some of the girls for funsies.  Everyone is super, super pissed about this and swear they will get their revenge.  Liz and Todd hope that everyone will lose interest in their quest for vengeance.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Elizabeth come up with the idea of having SVH host a jungle-themed prom.  While they disagree about whether or not the attendees should wear formal wear (Liz) or Tarzan-and-Jane outfits (Jess), they do agree that it will be the Best Night Ever.  They can’t wait to tell everyone at school about it, and once they do, the gang starts planning the affair.  Elizabeth manages to find a local environmental group to help sponsor the prom, and then they throw in a huge bonus: an all-expenses paid trip to Brazil for the prom queen.  She’ll also be a new spokesperson for the group.

Both Jessica and Elizabeth are interested in becoming the Jungle Prom Queen, albeit for very different reasons.  Everyone thinks Elizabeth is a shoe-in because she’s working so hard on the planning for the dance.  When the prom committee chooses formal-wear over the more casual jungle-look, Jessica’s PISSED even though she missed the planning meeting.  She gets her revenge when she has Caroline Pierce write an article for The Oracle that credits Jessica with all the planning ideas.  The two end up fighting about the fact that they both want to be prom queen and snipe at each other.  I’m bored, and we’re only a third of the way through the book.

The twins continue to butt heads over plans for the prom, which is fast-approaching.  When it comes time to decide whether or not SVH should invite students from Big Mesa to the prom (like, as dates, I guess), the vote is split, further dividing the twins.  Then Penny tells them that Sweet Sixteen magazine wants to do an interview and photo spread on the organizers of the dance, and the twins are super excited.  But Jessica is so late that Liz and the magazine people leave to do the magazine spread without her.  Jessica is not pleased, and the two have a huge fight that ends with each of them refusing to speak to the other one.

The night of the dance, the girls get ready alone and then go to the dance with Sam and Todd.  When Todd is crowned prom king, Jessica worries that Elizabeth will end up the queen by default.  Some kids from Big Mesa have crashed the dance, and one of them hits on Jessica.  He’s drunk, and Jessica asks for some of his vodka (or whatever clear liquid is in his flask).  She pours it into Elizabeth’s unguarded cup.  But Liz shares that drink with Sam, and suddenly they are both super, SUPER wasted.  Like, crazy wasted, dancing all over the place, slurring their words, having deep and meaningful conversations with their friends.

No one thinks that Liz is wasted because she would never do something like that.  Then she decides that she doesn’t want to be prom queen and withdraws her name.  Perfect timing, because a few minutes later, Jessica is crowned queen.  In the midst of the applause, Jessica loses sight of Sam and Liz, and before she can do anything to stop them from leaving, the two do.  She tries to run after them, but they speed off into the night.

AT BASICALLY THE SAME TIME, a riot erupts at the dance between Big Mesa students and SVH students.  Everyone runs around, and Bruce and some other dudes end up fighting on the football field.  Jessica manages to grab Todd and tell him that she thinks Liz and Sam are in trouble, and they drive off to find them.  But they’re too late! There’s been a terrible accident, and it looks like Sam and Liz are dead! CLIFFHANGER.

Other character arcs in this book: Lila is really struggling with the aftermath of her near-rape.  She’s still in counseling at Project Youth with a counselor named Nathan who tells her that she’s overreacting to situations on dates and that not every dude is a scumbag.  She’s also desperate for a mother and spends much of the book sad about the fact that her father leaves her alone a lot.  As she spends more time in counseling, she starts to formulate a crush on Nathan.  During the riot at the dance, Nathan pulls her to safety in a classroom and she freaks out, thinking he’s going to try to rape her.  The police come rushing in and arrest Nathan, I guess.

Bruce Patman becomes obsessed with getting revenge on Big Mesa and also sort of dates Andrea Slade but only when she’s not totally available to him.  He doesn’t want a girl who’s always available to him, and he tells her this.  She acts like a wounded puppy dog about the whole thing.  Bruce can’t seem to connect to people and is carrying a lot of anger, and the book deduces it’s because he’s not over Regina Morrow. Um, okay.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Big Mesa’s school paper is called The Bull’s Eye.
  • Apparently Jessica’s favorite dinner is Chinese chicken stir-fry, Elizabeth likes cold rice salad, and Ned LOVES peach cobbler.
  • The reggae band featured in this book is called Island Sunsplash
  • Nathan the counselor’s dog’s name is J.D.
  • According to Lois, who is doing a report, SVH serves the healthiest institutional food in Southern California.  Random.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She glanced at a nearby table where Enid and Hugh were sitting with two other couples.  That was another thing she felt like challenging her sister about.  How could Elizabeth be best friends with someone who not only was a total drip, but also dated a guy from Big Mesa?” (49)
  • “Hadn’t she decided to assert herself, to be an Elizabeth Wakefield who nurtured all sides of her personality, even the part that dared to be self-centered and ambitious?” (68)
  • “‘But it shouldn’t be a popularity contest,’ Elizabeth argued. ‘I deserve the prize. I’ve earned it. Wasn’t the prom my idea in the first place?'” (191)
  • “‘But I’m telling you something, Liz. It’s not going to work,’ Jessica warned. ‘Sooner or later, everyone at Sweet Valley High will wise up to your act. They’ll figure you out. So, go ahead,’ she challenged. ‘Lie and cheat and sneak around all you want to. We’ll see who comes out on top!'” (234)
  • “A wicked smile spread slowly across Jessica’s face. What an idiot–she can’t even tell it’s spiked! It was really a hoot, Jessica decided: Elizabeth Wakefield, the most upstanding, self-righteous person at Sweet Valley High, breaking the cardinal rule against drinking!” (301)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is probably one of the most famous (or infamous) SVH books that exists.  Everyone remembers the Jungle Prom and the apparently magical vodka that ends up killing Sam Woodruff (seriously, why couldn’t it have been Liz?).  And really, there are a lot of things about this one that are dumb (mostly relating to the twins’ stupid feud about who gets to be the fucking prom queen), but the thing that is beyond weird is how alcohol is treated in this one.  So let’s break it down.

Jessica asks a random drunk dude for some of the booze in his flask.  He’s already super wasted, so he’s probably had a fair amount of the liquid in there.  While he does empty the rest of his flask into her cup, there can’t really be that much left.  But then it gets split between two people, and they’re both completely blitzed.  Also, Elizabeth’s behavior is super erratic for a drunk person.  The book goes into detail about how they’re swinging each other around and dancing faster than any of the other party goers, and…we’re supposed to believe it’s just alcohol that’s doing this?  At most, 3-4 shots split between two people?  WHAT?

Whatever.  It makes no sense.  Perhaps there was some coke in that vodka.

SVH #76: Miss Teen Sweet Valley

28 Mar

miss teen sweet valley

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

The Sweet Valley Chamber of Commerce is hosting a beauty pageant for girls ages 15-18 as part of a fundraiser for a new community pool.  Just go with it.  It’s going to be hosted in the Sweet Valley High auditorium, and Jessica is stoked to participate, because she knows she’ll win.  Elizabeth is horrified at the concept of the pageant because she believes they’re sexist, outdated, and bring women back.  So she decides to stage a protest in hopes of changing the minds of Sweet Valley officials.  Jessica is horrified that Elizabeth would do this, so the two girls end up fighting a lot and not speaking to one another for most of the book.

Meanwhile, Jessica gets serious about the competition.  She hopes to attract the attention of Steven’s college buddy Frazer McConnell, who so far has been completely uninterested in her.  She also loves the idea of winning–and the rumors about the increasingly extravagant prizes for the winners doesn’t seem to hurt her desire, either.  People at school keep talking about the prizes, and the winning amount keeps going up–like up to $10,000, which Jessica thinks will buy her a car.  But she doesn’t consider for a second that giving away that kind of prize money would completely negate the fact that this is a charity fundraiser?  Whatever.

Liz is determined to bring the pageant to a grinding halt.  She enlists the help of her friends to sign a petition and even goes to the mall to collect signatures and hand out flyers.  The group protests in front of the Chamber of Commerce and continues to fight the good fight, much to Jessica’s dismay.

As determined as Liz is, Jessica also has a lot of drive and resolve.  She figures her biggest competition is not Amy Sutton, who is going to twirl her baton as a talent, but Maggie Simmons, a talented actress at SVH, and Sharon Jefferson, a deaf pianist.  Okay.  So Jessica decides to take some dance lessons to brush up on her skills.  With the help of a loan from her mother, she’s able to pay for lessons with Mr. Krezenski, who is actually kind of awesome throughout the book.  He’s hard on her but tells her she has enormous potential, which helps push her even further towards her goal.

Right before the night of the pageant, Liz discovers a loophole in the SVH bylaws or something.  The school can’t host an event that is for-profit (it’s not really, though) without the express permission of the school’s superintendent who has been out of the country all this time.  But before she brings this evidence to Mr. Cooper, she talks to Jessica, who tells her about how hard she’s been  working, and Liz’s resolve crumbles.  She doesn’t say anything, and the show goes on.

During Jessica’s dance number, she trips and falls, but gets back up and finishes.  She’s humiliated, though, and rushes backstage to pack her things and leave halfway through the competition.  Liz goes to try to talk her into staying, but Jessica refuses.  So Liz puts on Jess’s swimsuit and does probably the grossest twin switch the series has seen yet (but we aren’t at the Secret Diaries yet, so whatever).  Then Jessica ends up rejoining the evening in her dress, and wins the competition!  Hooray!

The book ends with Frazer McConnell finally asking Jessica out.  Like this was going to end any other way–we already have our ambiguously gay dude in Sweet Valley.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Rumor alert: the prizes for the contest allegedly include a shopping spree at Simple Splendor, a brass bed, a stereo, $1,000 cash (or maybe $5,000)
  • Actual prizes: free bowling, free video rentals, a haircut, and like $100 cash
  • Jessica’s perfect pageant dress is a pale pink chiffon number with a full skirt and stitched pearls on the bodice.
  • Cara has a cousin named Barbara, and apparently she’s pretty hot.
  • The school district’s superintendent has been away in the Soviet Union to meet with educators there.  WHY, though?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Until that day, she had known Mr. Krezenski only by reputation. Elizabeth had watched a special on public television about his career as a dancer and his dramatic, daring escape from some little country in Eastern Europe, and she had talked about practically nothing else for a week after the show.” (55)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

To be honest, this might actually be my favorite Sweet Valley High novel, which makes it harder, though not impossible, to snark on.  So here are my thoughts on this:

I see both sides of the argument here, but Elizabeth’s argument is a lot stronger.  Beauty pageants are totally sexist, totally outdated, and totally ridiculous.  But that’s just it: they’re ridiculous.  For the most part, people don’t take them seriously, which is probably why Elizabeth has so much trouble drumming up strong support for her cause: NO ONE CARES.

That being said, I think it’s super, super weird that this event attracted underage girls to parade around in their bathing suits and no one batted an eye.  That doesn’t raise red flags for anyone?  Really?

SVH # 74: The Perfect Girl

24 Mar

perfectgirl

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Robin seems to have it all since she lost all that weight and became co-captain of the cheerleading squad, but lately she has been feeling extremely self-conscious about her body.  She relies on her boyfriend, George Warren, to reaffirm her self-worth and self-image.  Then he announces that he wants to take up flying again (because it went so great last time?), and is going to be taking flying lessons and won’t be around as much.  This worries Robin for a number of reasons, but the biggest one seems to be that she doesn’t know what she’ll do without him around.

As Robin obsesses about her body and her weight, she also seems to worry about not seeing George.  Things worsen for her when George starts talking about his new friend from class, a woman named Vicky who’s an oceanography major and a math whiz.  When George brings her along for what’s supposed to be a double date to the disco that turns into a three’s-a-crowd situation, Robin starts to really freak out, because Vicky is thin and gorgeous, and George will literally not shut up about her.  Robin is rude to Vicky, who seems to be genuinely nice but also says things that kind of suck, and she and George fight, driving them further apart.  When Robin weighs herself and finds that she’s gained three pounds, she decides to start seriously restricting and excessively exercising, telling herself that she will be better when she’s thinner.

This continues for days, and Robin’s eating disorder worsens to the point where she seems unable to eat nearly anything, and certainly not in public.  As she restricts, she also becomes bossier when it comes to her cheerleading duties, as the girls are planning a fundraiser to raise money for a new gym floor for the high school.  The plan is to create the largest ice cream sundae they can and sell tickets to people who want to see it and eat it.  The girls notice that Robin looks drawn and thinner, and that she’s starting snapping at people when they offer her food, but her clearly obsessive food problems are largely ignored.

She keeps dropping weight and avoiding eating around people.  When George takes her out to dinner, she orders food and then sends it away, embarrassing George and making herself feel miserable.  Things worsen for her, and when people start to express concern about her frail frame, she brushes them off.  In addition to not eating, she starts to exhibit other signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  When she finally faints at the Super Sundae even the cheerleaders have put on and is unable to be revived, she wakes up in the hospital.

Pretty much everyone comes to visit her while she’s there, including Vicky, who gives her this weird speech about how George doesn’t even see Vicky as a girl because he’s so in love with Robin and Vicky isn’t perfect because she did drugs when she was 14 because her parents were getting divorced.  The whole thing feels tonally wrong, but whatever.  George is also there and they reconcile, with Robin apologizing for being angry with him.  But she also breaks up with him, because she finally admits that she has anorexia and needs to work on getting better.  When she returns to school a week later (are we really to believe they wouldn’t put Robin in treatment?), her friends are cautiously optimistic.  And that’s sort of it.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • All the ice cream comes from Izzy’s Famous Ice Cream stores, which is weird, because don’t the teens all love Casey’s for their frozen-dairy fix?
  • Robin’s safe foods include dry salad and water.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Even though she never had to go on a diet, Elizabeth was always aware of her weight. Some girls dieted religiously, and some girls were almost obsessed with the way their bodies looked.  It was hard not to be conscious of it to some extent. Elizabeth just hoped her friends used common sense.” (17)
  • “A cold fist closed around Robin’s heart. And who was to say it couldn’t happen again? If George had been capable of cheating on Enid, didn’t that mean he was capable of cheating on Robin?” (40)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s hard to snark on this one not only because of how earnest it is, but also because it’s trying so hard to paint a fair picture of what an eating disorder looks like.  Of course, it’s a Sweet Valley High novel, it’s not even 150 pages, and the timeframe is so compressed that it makes the disease seem bizarrely short-lived.

While I was reading this, I was uncomfortable with the unintentionally ironic message the book is sending to its readers.  Throughout this entire ordeal, the ghost writer works hard to accurately portray body dysmorphia and the addictive feelings of hunger in Robin, who, I would argue, has been struggling with anorexia and disordered eating since she lost the weight back in book 4.  And for the most part, they do a pretty good job of giving credence to Robin’s thoughts and fears, even if it reads as sort of a textbook of what anorexia looked like, at least according to early 90s diagnoses.  So, fine, the book gets credit for handling this as well as could be hoped for a series that’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

No, the problem is with Elizabeth (and to a lesser degree, the other people in the book).  Throughout this entire novel, Elizabeth worries about how obsessed girls are with their weight and their bodies.  Several times, the word “sensible” is used to describe how girls should be about food and their bodies.  This doesn’t make sense, as an eating disorder is a mental illness and the concept of “sensibility” doesn’t apply, like, at all.  But more than that, Elizabeth keeps thinking about how a person’s size shouldn’t matter, and sort of smugly assesses Lois Waller, who is apparently the only fat girl in Sweet Valley High:

Lois would never be a fashion mode, but she clearly had a great relationship with Gene, and her life was completely optimistic. So what difference did it make if she couldn’t wear size-six jeans? None at all, Elizabeth told herself confidently.  None at all.

First of all, are you fucking kidding me?  Is this a joke?  I don’t think it is.  It’s so weird for Liz to be validating Lois’s existence despite, or in spite of, her size.  There’s something so bizarrely smug about this (even for Ms. Smug Smuggerson herself) that it’s completely and totally off-putting.  But what bothers me most about it, and perhaps what is most alarming, is that this feels like subconscious stuff on the part of the writer.  Elizabeth reassures herself that you don’t have to be a size-six to be happy and have a good life.

This is meant for the reader’s benefit, I guess, because Elizabeth is a “perfect size six” and it is mentioned in every single book before the reader is even 10 pages in.  So, we get this awful mixed message that says: love your body! Size doesn’t matter (but it’s better if you’re thin!).  If size truly didn’t matter here or anywhere, it would not be mentioned in every single book.

 

 

Super Star: Bruce’s Story

26 Feb

bruce

Estimated Elapsed Time: 6 long, grueling weeks.

Summary/Overview:

Apologies in advance for length: it’s a longer book and the story is ridiculously convoluted. 

Bruce and Roger are nervously awaiting the arrival of their grandfather, who is seventy but fairly spry.  He also still holds the family purse strings, I guess, because the entire family is on edge about this visit, which is six weeks long.  That’s not a visit so much as an internment, but okay.  At any rate, the family is throwing a 70th birthday bash for him, too.

After the party, Grandpa Patman announces that he’s going to host a contest for Roger and Bruce over the next four weeks while Mr. and Mrs. Patman are vacationing in Japan, the prize being control of the Patman empire.  OKAY THEN.  He gives each boy two thousand dollars in cash and tells them to invest it wisely.  Then he insists that both boys give up their credit cards and checkbooks for the month.  I don’t get it–is it an investment competition or a frugal-living one?  It can’t be both.  Bruce is horrified that a future he was once secure in is now up in the air and buckles down to win the thing.  Roger seems much less sure about this contest, and rightfully so, because it is LITERALLY THE DUMBEST THING EVER.

Bruce immediately buys concert tickets, gets in an expensive fender-bender, and then gambles away nearly all of his money.  He doesn’t seem to get the “investing” part of the contest.  Alternatively, Roger immediately invests $1500 dollars in some stocks for Robotech, a company that’s rising due to rumors of a takeover.  His stock soars for a while, and he feels invincible.  But then, surprise, it crashes, and he loses seven hundred dollars.

Meanwhile, Bruce is pursuing fellow hot senior Tracy Atkins, whose flattered but unsure she and Bruce have anything in common.  She prefers to spend her time sewing clothes and taking care of her little brother, who has a muscular disorder and goes to the Nicholson school, a special place for kids with disabilities.

BUT WAIT: the school is in dire financial straits and needs to raise $10,000 dollars or it faces closure.  She’s working with some other kids at Sweet Valley to raise money for the school.  Enter Harbor Days, a two-Saturday-long event that’s sort of like a carnival for vendors to sell food and goods and keep part of the profits while donating the rest to the school.  Bruce asks to help, in hopes of both impressing Tracy and also earning back the money he’s wasted.  Tracy suggests he write “The Bruce Patman Guide to Dating” and sell that [blogger’s note: I officially hope these two end up together because they are both INSANE].

Anyway, Bruce sabotages Roger’s first attempt at the Harbor Days sale by switching out his paint for water-soluble stuff and staging a water balloon fight near the painted hats so the colors run.  His dating guide sells like hot cakes, though, and he plans to secretly pocket all the money.  Roger totally knows it was Bruce and is super pissed, but whatever.  He plans to sell enlarged photos of people at the second day of the festival, and he swears his friend Lisa not to tell anyone.

Lisa, of course, tells Tracy, who tells Bruce.  But then Tracy gets suspicious of Bruce and follows him home, where she sees him about to tamper with the photo paper.  She’s mad, so she cries?  And runs away?  At any rate, she warns Roger, who confronts Bruce, who tells him that he thought about doing it but didn’t actually do it.  Whatever, I’m bored.

The second day of Harbor Days goes well, and Bruce sells homemade ice cream based on a recipe of Tracy’s grandma, even though the two are no longer on speaking terms.  Roger sells his photos.  The event raises just over three grand, which is way short of their projected fundraising efforts.  Everyone is sad, but then they get an anonymous donation and the school is saved! Hooray!

Grandpa Patman throws ANOTHER party to welcome back Mr. and Mrs. Patman and also to announce the winner of his STUPID contest.  When he goes to open both envelopes, though, he finds them empty, and he is LIVID.  Then Bruce and Roger tell their story about how they learned a valuable lesson on competition and family and gave all their money to the SAVE charity.  Whatever, they could have just donated that four grand at the start and saved me 200 pages.

Everyone wins!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Patman’s maids (one of?) is named Miranda.
  • Grandfather Patman’s two mottos: “Get rich and work hard.” What a charmer!
  • Grandfather Patman’s party has a Latin-American band (I’m not sure what that means) and Latin-American-themed food. Why?  WHY?
  • Tracy’s brother has some sort of “genetic muscular disorder” that is never named but referred to as such several times. WEIRD.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Filled with contentment, Bruce settled back in his chair.  For just a minute, he was reminded that there was nothing better in the whole world than being Bruce Patman. Here he was, still in high school, and he could have anything he wanted.” (14)
  • “He couldn’t believe his ears.  Didn’t Tracy realize this was a dream of an invitation? From the modest look of the Atkinses’ home, she couldn’t be used to being offered fifty-dollar concert tickets.” (78)
  • “Put that in the Bruce Patman Guide to Dating, Bruce thought. Staying friends with a girl you used to date is definitely cool.” (208) YOU WILL NEVER SEE THIS GIRL AGAIN

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I had never read this one, because the only person who interests me less than Bruce Patman when it comes to a Super Star book all about them is Enid (I’m dreading that one, let me tell you).  After having read this one, I feel fairly confident in saying this: Bruce Patman is a total sociopath.

Setting aside the fact that this novel’s central premise–a financial competition between two seventeen-year-olds to see who will inherit the family business YEARS FROM NOW–is so skull-crushingly STUPID that I can’t believe I read the entire thing, let alone recapped it in detail, you’re still left with the fact that everyone in the world of Sweet Valley is completely off their rockers.

Grandpa Patman is nuts.  Mr. and Mrs. Patman are either clueless or cruel.  Bruce literally displays most of the criteria of someone with antisocial personality disorder (sociopathy).  Roger is a doormat.  All of these people blow, and yet this book goes on at length about them, and we are supposed to remain engaged.

Blech.

Spoilers for Sweet Valley Confidential: One thing that I couldn’t stop thinking about the entire way through this book was that Bruce ends up with Elizabeth.  There are so many things about the SVC book that make me angry (most of them have to do with how little respect Pascal seems to have for the fans), but this is one of the things I can’t let go of.  Bruce is the literal worst, and no amount of “growing up” would erase what a terrible fucking human being he is.

Whatever.  We’re on to SVH #66: Who’s to Blame?