Tag Archives: cheerleading

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.

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SVH #113: The Pom-Pom Wars

20 Aug

the pom pom wars

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Ken are still hot and heavy, despite the fact that it bugs Elizabeth and Jessica totally knows that she and Ken had an affair when Todd wasn’t living in Sweet Valley.  Ken convinces Jessica that the best way to get even with the evil Heather Mallone is to start her own cheerleading squad, so of course Jessica’s first thought is to recruit Elizabeth?  Elizabeth is horrified at this prospect.  But then Jessica blackmails Elizabeth into joining, telling her if she doesn’t, she’ll tell Todd about Ken and Liz’s “steamy” affair.  Liz joins and ends up liking it.

Meanwhile, the real (?) SVH cheerleading squad makes the regionals.  Jessica is determined for them to also make regionals, but there’s a weird rule that says only one squad per school is eligible.  Even when Jess’s squad pulls a flashmob-esque dance routine in front of the regionals judge at his house, she’s still rebuffed.  It looks like Heather will win.  OR WILL SHE? Because Jessica goes to see Principal Cooper and begs him to have an all-school vote about which cheerleading team should be the official one.  THIS IS SUCH BORING BULLSHIT.

The cheer-off vote ends up in a tie, and Mr. Jenkins, who is there for some reason, tells them they can all go to regionals if they just merge squads.  Both Jessica and Heather flat out refuse.  But the other cheerleaders tell each of them the other has stepped down (confused yet?) and then keep practicing.  But Jessica and Heather can’t stop fighting with one another.  Finally, Amy and Liz tell the two to suck it up and cheer.  The squad wins regionals, but not without some more squabbling.  Ken mistakes Liz for Jessica AGAIN and Heather overhears him tell her “good luck.”

The night after regionals, Liz dresses up like Jess and goes to see Ken, because she still can’t figure out her feelings for him.  When they start to make out, she realizes it’s Todd she wants and Ken realizes he’s making out with Liz.  The two have a real talk about their feelings and then agree to go see Todd and Jessica and come clean.  But Jessica has talked to Heather, who lets it slip that Ken was totally macking on Liz, and Jess has gone to see Todd with Liz’s diary in tow.  Neither Todd nor Jessica wants to speak to Ken and Liz.

AND SCENE.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Ken and Terri broke up “not long” before Jess and Ken started seeing each other. Huh.
  • Mr. Jenkins, cheerleading judge, drives a red Honda Civic
  • Chrome Dome’s secretary is named Rosemary

Memorable Quotes:

  • “He flashed a smile at her. ‘All that heavy breathing burns a lot of calories.'” (31)
  • “She paused in front the of the mirror hanging over the table in the entryway. She high-fived herself, smiling at her own reflection.” (47) [AMAZING]
  • “What drew me to Jessica at first was the fact that she was your identical twin sister. I could almost pretend she was you.” (186)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t even have anything to say.  Like, the stakes are so low here and I so fully don’t care that I can’t even find things to snark on.  Everyone is terrible.  I don’t buy the fact that Liz is angsting over her feelings for Ken because I still don’t believe they ever hooked up.  I’m super creeped out by how much the twins switch boyfriends, but it doesn’t shock me anymore because everyone is terrible and I hate this mini-series.

UGH.

SVH #112: Jessica Quits the Squad

13 Aug

jessica quits

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is trying to get over that whole unpleasant episode with Jeremy, the money-grubbing sociopath and has thrown herself fully into the cheerleading world once again.  This doesn’t go as smoothly as she’d like when new girl Heather Mallone shows up and starts stealing the spotlight from her.  Heather was a big deal cheerleader at her old school and walks her way onto the team with very little effort.  Despite Jessica’s best attempts to get the better of her, Heather keeps laying on the sickly sweet act and messing up Jessica’s plans to rule the school.

Jessica decides to make Heather perform a series of tests to prove her worthiness or something.  She suggests having Heather sit at the chess club table at lunch two days in a row.  Then she has to wear a totally embarrassing outfit.  Jessica has her sing the national anthem in front of a class.  I don’t get how any of these things are that embarrassing, but whatever.  All of these “tests” backfire in Jessica’s face, as Heather manages to pull each one off with panache and grace.  She ends up on the cheerleading squad.

Robin Wilson announces that her dad has accepted a job transfer to Denver, Colorado.  Jessica is worried this means that Heather will make a play for the co-captain spot.  At the going-away party, she announces Heather’s ascension to co-captain.  When Jessica catches Heather flirting with Ken, she “accidentally” bumps into her, sending her straight into the pool.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth OBSESSES over the fact that Ken Matthews and Jess have started dating and are now the school’s “it” couple.  She keeps angsting over the fact that she and Ken hooked up a couple of times while Todd lived in Vermont, even though this totally didn’t happen except for in her Secret Diary.  I still declare those books anathema, so it’s hard for me to get behind this.  She goes to see Mr. Collins and asks for advice for “her friend.”  He tells her she needs to tell her “friend” that until she and this guy resolve their feelings for one another, there will be jealousy and hurt in the air.  Liz takes this to mean she should hide her feelings inside.  Okay.

At the party at Amy’s, Liz is so jealous when she sees Jessica and Ken dancing together that she suggests they all switch partners.  Then she can’t talk to Ken, gets upset, and runs away.  When Jessica asks Ken about it, he gets weirdly defensive.  In fact, both he and Liz are super weird to Jess about the other, but she still doesn’t put it together.  Liz keeps telling Jess that “anything could happen” which is a weird way to warn her off of Ken.

Heather takes over as co-captain and starts pissing Jess off immediately by changing the time practice starts and not telling her and then condescending to every suggestion Jess makes for their cheers.  When she starts harshly criticizing the other cheerleaders’ dance moves, Jessica gleefully thinks it won’t be long before everyone hates her.  But then she finds out that Heather invited a bunch of girls and guys (including Ken) over for a “dinner party” and didn’t invite her.  When Jessica asks Lila about it, Lila says it’s because Heather thinks Jessica doesn’t like her and really wants to be friends.

Then Heather kicks Sandy Bacon and Maria Santelli off the squad on a day when Jessica is home sick.  When Jessica confronts her about it, she pulls out a rule book and references an obscure loophole that lets her make that kind of decision without Jessica present.  Jessica declares war on Heather.  But before she can really do anything, she realizes that Heather has completely brainwashed the entire squad, as well as having put them on a crazy restrictive diet and exercise plan.  She feels frustrated.  The night of a big game, Jessica watches in horror as the team performs a cheer she doesn’t know.  Furious and humiliated, she yells at Heather, quits the squad, and runs off the field.

Ken tries to cheer her up, but she’s seen pictures of Ken and Liz together and has doubts about his feelings for her.  When she gets home that night, choosing to skip the pool party at Lila’s, she digs up Liz’s diary and confirms her suspicions: Liz and Ken had an “affair” back when Todd was gone.  Jessica cries.  And…scene!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Heather Malone drives a white Mazda Miata and has a vanity license plate that says “Cheerleader”
  • At Amy’s goodbye party for Robin, everyone drinks “exotic nonalcoholic drinks”
  • Typo alert: “”always were waterproof mascara to pool parties.” AWESOME. It’s not even the right homophone.
  • Whitman (High?) is another of SVH’s rival schools for sports events

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Hi, Jessica,’ Heather said, smiling that same syrupy smile as she extender her hand to Jessica. ‘What an adorable little blouse you’re wearing. It’s so, uh…retro.'” (21)
  • “Heather opened her mouth, and out came the sounds of a professional singer.  All of the students sat perfectly quiet and still as Heather filled the room with her beautiful voice.  She did a funky version of the national anthem, and some students were even clapping their hands and snapping their fingers.” (55)
  • “It was totally out of character for Elizabeth to lie to her sister like that, but she couldn’t help it.” (90)
  • “‘You’re right,’ Lila said, pausing in the middle of applying mascara.  ‘You look like Joan Crawford. Wipe it off and try mine.  It’s less harsh.'” (142)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

There are a few things that struck me about this book.  One was the callous way the ghost writer would refer to a couple of fairly serious things that happened in previous books. The first of these was Annie Whitman’s attempted suicide.  Jessica thinks back on it and sort of brushes it off again.  It’s weird and jarring.  This is compounded by the fact that after Heather unveils her new diet and exercise regime for the squad, Jessica thinks about Robin Wilson’s “bout” of anorexia.  She thinks about how Robin got so thin she had to be fed intravenously in the hospital.  Uh, that is not a “bout” of anorexia.

The other thing that struck me about this one: why in god’s name isn’t there a coach for the cheerleading team?  They wouldn’t put two high school juniors in charge of the entire team.  From my limited experience with high school sports, I know there were captains for cheerleading squads, but they were just sort of like, senior members.  They weren’t in charge of all of the choreography and the meets and such.  Whatever, this is making my brain hurt.

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 # 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.

 

 

SVH #70: Ms. Quarterback

10 Mar

ms. quarterback

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Sweet Valley High has a couple of big football games against Big Mesa and Palisades High coming up, but their new-ish quarterback Scott Trost is in danger of being suspended from the team because his grades are bad.  Scott took over after Ken Matthews went temporarily blind that one time, but now it looks like Ken might be ready to take over the team again.  The school is holding try-outs, and it looks like Ken has some competition in the form of new-girl Claire Middleton, who is totally serious about football.

Everyone is shocked and intrigued by the fact that Claire wants to play on the football team.  When Liz interviews her for The Oracle, she’s surprised to find out that Claire isn’t dazzled by her friendly persona.  Claire gives her the bare minimum of information about herself, and Liz actually has the audacity to get frustrated with her because of this.

Other people aren’t faring much better with Claire, either.  When Jessica tries to talk to her in hopes of getting her to join Pi Beta Alpha, Claire makes an insensitive comment about cheerleaders that pisses Jessica off so much she decides to get the other cheerleaders to help her sort of haze Claire during try-outs.

On the other hand, Terri Adams becomes increasingly worried about the idea of Claire on the team.  She worries about this almost as much as she worries about Ken not being ready to play football again.  Apparently he still has moments where his eyes “black out” and he can’t see anything.  He won’t listen to her worries though, and continually makes comments about how awesome Claire is, sending Terri into fits of near-psychosis.  In her sad little mind, she believes Ken is going to leave her for Claire.

So naturally, she helps the cheerleaders “teach” Claire a lesson by telling them about a picture signed by “Ted” in Claire’s locker.  The girls work it into a cheer that they perform at try-outs, and Claire FREAKS OUT and walks off the field.  Ted is Claire’s dead brother.  I know.  Yikes.

At any rate, Ken gets first-string and Claire is put in as second-string quarterback.  The day of the big game, Ken fumbles a pass and benches himself, leaving Claire to save the day and win the game.  Whatever, I’m bored.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Terri has a little brother.  Seriously, this book is scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of anything being remotely interesting.
  • At one point, Amy says that all she’s been able to think about is the comment Claire made about cheerleading.  Homegirl needs to get a life.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Claire shrugged but didn’t even bother to look at Jessica.  ‘Suit yourself. I think you’d do yourselves and everyone else a lot more good if you played a sport instead of jumping around and screaming.'” (44)
  • “That’s when it hit her: she was intensely jealous of Claire.” (70)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book sucks.  I don’t even hate it enough to have a multitude of thoughts on it.  I will say that I thought Terri acted like a complete PSYCHO throughout this whole book and I had to go back to #60, That Fatal Night, to see if I felt the same way about her.  Turns out there is such a thing as consistent character writing in the world of Sweet Valley, because she was just as much of a doormat then as she is now.

Whatever.  This book blows.

SVH#10: Wrong Kind of Girl

21 Mar

Estimated Time Elapsed: Two weeks, I think.

The Overview:

Annie Whitman is a passionate 15-year-old.  She’s graceful and beautiful and is friendly.  She tends to fall in love with every boy she meets and lacks the critical thinking skills necessary to discern when these boys are maybe a bit on the unsavory side.  Annie’s terribly lonely; she doesn’t have any close girl friends, and her mother is dating a lecherous loser.  She wants to be liked, which is why she dates as much as she does.  But most of all, Annie wants to be on the SVH cheerleading squad.  Jessica Wakefield wants this least of all.  There are two spots on the squad to fill, and she’s absolutely determined to make sure that neither one goes to “Easy Annie” Whitman.  Elizabeth tries to change Jessica’s mind, and she helps tutor Annie in math so she could get her grades up high enough to qualify for the cheerleading squad.  This infuriates Jessica.

The problem is, Annie’s really good.  She’s graceful and enthusiastic and puts the rest of the cheerleader hopefuls to shame.  Everyone is amazed by Annie’s talent, but Jessica remains firm in her belief that Annie’s reputation with guys will bring down the reputations of all the rest of the girls on the squad.  But she’s powerless to stop Annie making it through several rounds of cuts.  Finally, she convinces a few of the other girls to vote against Annie by giving them an ultimatum: it’s either her or Annie.

Which means that Annie’s out.  When she finds out she’s been cut, she freaks out.  She goes completely manic for a day and then disappears.  The cheerleading team’s manager Ricky Capaldo, who has a major crush on her, calls the Wakefield house to tell them that Annie’s being rushed to the hospital after attempting suicide.  Both twins rush to the hospital and have a bedside vigil, willing Annie to get better.  The doctor tells Jessica that Annie has no will to live, and so Jessica tells Annie that the cheerleaders mixed up and she’s on the squad.  This is, apparently, the source of Annie’s will to live, and she wakes up and all is right with the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I think I’m going to cut down on my dating,’ Annie said.  ‘I used to need a lot of attention.  You know, to make up for that empty feeling inside.  But boys aren’t always the answer.'” (62) [ed. note: That’s right, Annie.  Sometimes a giant bag of Skittles are the answer.  Or a huge donut with sprinkles.]
  • “‘When people try to take their own lives, they often don’t want to be brought back.  When you catch them in time, as is this case, they have a second chance.  But they have to want that chance, you see…Mrs. Whitman, I have no idea why your daughter did this to herself, but she seems to have no will to live.'” (120)

Trivia and Fun Facts

  • Annie’s mom had her at 16, a fact that Elizabeth clutches her pearls over.  She also looks down at the fact that Mrs. Whitman seems to drink during the day and dates a skeezeball.
  • According to this book, Lila and Cara were both on the cheerleading squad but were kicked off due to a prank.  Lila has no interest in going back, but Cara does.
  • Pop culture references in this book are scarce but include: Tarzan, Flashdance, and Pat Benatar.
  • There’s an awful lot of foreshadowing about Tricia and tragedy that might befall her.  There’s also the set-up for the next book involving Suzanne Devlin and the trip to New York.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

There are so many things wrong with this book I don’t even know where to begin, but perhaps the biggest issue apart from Annie’s attempted suicide (which is alarming, unsettling, and unbelievably mishandled) is how harshly everyone judges Annie’s proclivities for serial dating.

I’ve been keeping track of who dates who from book 1, both on the site and on a sheet of paper (the dating web graphic organizer is getting more and more complicated), and so I know how many guys Jessica has dated.  Readers have seen her flirt mercilessly with these boys, often leading them on, promising things that she never intends to do.  Rest assured that this reader is not attempting to shame Jessica for being, essentially, a cock tease, but it is important to note that she often puts herself in situations where boys have one expectation and she has another.  The fact that Jessica is allowed to serial date but Annie is not is confusing.

Whether or not Annie is sexually active is left frustratingly ambiguous.  One gets the idea that perhaps she is sexually active, but it is never confirmed.  Boys tend to exaggerate when sharing details with their friends, and there’s never any indication that the things they are saying about her are true.  In fact, much of what Annie says when confiding in Elizabeth leads the reader to believe that Annie is quite innocent not only in how she views the world but in her experience with boys.  Yet she is branded the harlot of SVH because she dates a lot of boys?

What kind of message does this send to readers of the book?  Is Jessica’s behavior considered acceptable because the reader knows she will never go all the way and in fact acts indignant when a boy suggests she should?  Annie’s behavior is considered unacceptable because there is the question of the unknown with her.  At the end of the day, we don’t know what she does with boys, but we’re led to believe that although both girls are serial daters, one of them is good while one of them is morally reprehensible.