Tag Archives: daddy issues

SVH #107: Jessica’s Secret Love

9 Jul

jessicas secret love Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview: 

Jessica and Lila meet some dudes on the beach when a Frisbee collides with Jessica’s head.  Lila goes off with one, named Robby, immediately, while Jessica and the other unnamed dude make googly eyes at each other.  It is love at first sight, they kiss, and before she can get his name or give him her number, he tells her they can never be together and then runs away.  Jessica is completely distraught and can’t believe her friends won’t take her seriously when she tells them she just met her soul mate.

Alice gets a letter from her dear dead friend’s daughter, Sue Gibbons.  She is planning her wedding and wants to do it in true California style.  So Alice invites Sue to stay with the Wakefields while she plans the wedding.  Sue arrives and is lovely but sad.  She tells the twins all about her dream man fiance, Jeremy, and Jessica gets excited when she realizes that they might know her mystery man, who she has found out works for a conservation group, too.

Imagine Jessica’s surprise when her mystery man turns out to be one Jeremy Randall, fiance to Sue and general creepster.  They’re both shocked when he shows up at the door, but neither one says anything.  Jeremy sits with the Wakefields and they talk about the wedding.  It’s clear that Jeremy has a different idea about the kind of wedding they should have, and Liz and Jess are surprised when Sue just goes along with what he says.  Jessica decides that she’s got to try to convince him he’s with the wrong girl, and after confiding in Elizabeth, who tells her to leave it all alone, she plots and plots.

The first thing she does is lie to Jeremy about what time they’re supposed to go ring shopping with Elizabeth.  At the mall, he picks out the ring Jessica chose and then they have a moment where the clerk thinks she’s his fiance.  Then, later, she finds out that Jeremy is taking Sue to the Carousel, and she begs every dude she’s ever dated to take her there, finally getting Bruce Patman to agree.  They go and it’s a weird encounter.  Jeremy seems jealous, which thrills Jessica. Things continue to truck along, in terms of wedding planning.  Jessica and Jeremy alternate between making eyes at each other and sniping at each other, and tensions between Sue and Jeremy seem to rise, too.  They seem to be getting married for very different reasons, although neither will admit it.

Jessica and Liz go with Sue to look at wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses and Jessica freaks out about the fact that she should be the one marrying Jeremy.  She goes so far as to “accidentally” throw Sue’s dress under the wheels of a truck, thinking it will ruin it, but Alice is able to fix it.

Ned and Alice throw an engagement party for Jeremy and Sue, and Jeremy and Jessica sneak outside to kiss.  Jessica is sure this is true love.

The B-Plot involves Elizabeth questioning her romantic life after the whole fiasco with not-a-were-wolf Luke.  Because Todd is away vacationing with his family and doesn’t actually know about Luke, Liz turns to self-help books to get in touch with her inner goddess or whatever.  She makes her friends have discussions about the books she’s reading and then drags Jessica to a seminar about the books, where they wear animal furs and pick new names for themselves.  Liz goes with “Runs with the Wind.” I go with vomit.

Oh, and Lila starts to fall for Robby, who is a talented artist and who also appears to be super poor, despite Lila thinking he is very wealthy.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Sue is staying in Steven’s room even though it is apparently summer vacation.  Whatever.
  • Sue is 18 and Jeremy is 23, and I am creeped out wholly.
  • Jeremy and Sue both work at Project Nature, and Jeremy “specializes in computer programs that track deforestation”
  • When the girls look at engagement rings, Liz picks out a pearl surrounded by diamonds, while Jessica prefers an oval sapphire in a gold band with triangular diamonds on each side.
  • The self-help books Elizabeth reads include Real Women, Bad Men and  Primal Woman, Woman of Strength 
  • Apparently the Carousel is one of Jessica’s favorite restaurants.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Even though Jessica wanted to be friendly to Sue, she couldn’t help feel a twinge of jealousy–here this girl was just a little older than Jessica, and already planning the rest of her life with her husband.” (26) [This is not a normal thought for a 16-year-old who hasn’t grown up indoctrinated by the Church.]
  • “‘I mean, finally we decided we had to get married before we got into trouble.’ Sue blushed and gave a girlish giggle.” (29) [Fucked.]
  • “‘It just goes to show you how troubled the relationships between men and women are.  If Sue were really strong within herself, maybe Jeremy wouldn’t be attracted to other women.'” (66) [WHAT]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It took me several days to sit down and read this book, despite carting it around with me.  I don’t care about this mini-series (which, by the way, claims to be a two-parter on this book’s cover, but is really like four books?), and I don’t believe for a second that Jessica would decide she wants to get married to a stranger all of a sudden.  I get that she’s the flighty, impulsive twin or whatever, but I don’t buy for a second that she would be fighting to get married this young.  I just don’t.

And I don’t understand anything else that happens in this book, either.  Why is Sue staying with the Wakefields when she still has family?  If she has as many friends as she claims she does, why is she making Jessica and Elizabeth, two girls she has met maybe one other time in her life, her BRIDESMAIDS?  This is clearly to further the plot and nothing else, and it’s bullshit.

Don’t even get me started on Elizabeth’s weird, pseudo-feminism bullshit, either.  It’s the most fucked view of feminism and actually ends up doing more to blame the woman than anything, and it’s gross.

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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 #100: The Evil Twin

13 Jun

the evil twin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week or so

Summary/Overview:

It is Christmas AGAIN in Sweet Valley.

Jessica is sad because she’s still fighting with Elizabeth and is lonely.  She sulks through the special school assembly where Liz announces The Oracle’s plans to feature new columnists after the break, and then when she gets a special candy cane delivery during math class, she’s surprised to see the card signed “Happy Horrordays, Jessica.”

James blows Jessica off and she is sad.  Elizabeth yells at her and she is sad some more.  Then James breaks up with her over the phone even though he totally loves her and she feels even sadder.  When he calls her after Christmas and asks her to meet him at the old marina, she begs Liz and Todd for a ride, since Steven has taken the Jeep to drive Alice and Ned to the airport.  They get there in time to see James get pushed over the edge of the marina by someone.  Todd tackles who he thinks is the assailant, but it’s really Josh, who was trying to stop Margo.  Jessica faints.

Elizabeth gets a special candy cane and card, too.  Hers says something about “Decking the halls with bloody bodies.”  Todd throws the card away and tells her not to worry about it.  Elizabeth goes into her room and finds things mussed up and assumes it’s Jessica’s handiwork.  When Jessica tries to talk to Liz, she blows up at her about it.

Liz dreams about the night of the Jungle Prom and the punch she drank is featured prominently.  When she wakes up, she can’t figure out what about the dream was important.

Margo trolls the halls of Sweet Valley High, trying to gain as much information about Elizabeth as she can before she assumes her life.  She meets James at Kelly’s Bar, and he tells her he wants off the payroll.  She accuses him of falling in love with Jessica, then tells him she doesn’t need his services any more.  But then she threatens him with death if he so much as looks at Jessica again.

She sneaks into the Wakefield house as Liz and hugs Alice, who can’t help but feel weird about the encounter.  She snoops around Liz’s room, reads her diary, and is generally a creeper.  She goes out with Todd as Liz and goes to the mall with Lila as Jessica.  She continues to weave in and out of the house, pretending to be Liz when it’s convenient and causing inconsistencies in everyone’s stories.

Josh Smith is still hot on Margo’s trail, trying to find her and also trying to figure out what she’s doing in Sweet Valley.  He investigates some local unsolved mysteries, including the death of the woman Margo ran over in order to take her job at the catering company and makes connections.

He finally finds the room she’s been renting and breaks in.  There, he finds her walls are covered with stuff about the Wakefield twins.  She’s also written “I am Elizabeth” in red lipstick.

At this point, it’s probably just easier to merge the story lines.  After James is murdered on the marina dock, Todd tackles Josh to the ground.  Margo escapes and calls the police.  Todd and the twins go down to make a statement to the police about what they say.  Josh tries to warn Todd that there’s a psycho on the loose, and despite the fact that Todd is creeped out, he doesn’t seem to put together the weird events of the past several days or weeks or whatever.

Both twins continue to have nightmares and wake up screaming.  Steven tries to comfort them.  Meanwhile, Margo intercepts a phone call from Alice about the disastrous trip they’re on.  It takes for fucking ever for Ned and Alice to realize they’ve been scammed, but then they can’t get a flight back to Sweet Valley because of inclement weather.

Meanwhile, Josh escapes from jail.  Despite the radio alerts that go out about him, he’s determined to get to Margo.  She’s putting her plan into full motion, making sure that Jessica offers “Liz” the right dress she can duplicate for Lila’s New Year’s Eve party.

Liz continues to have nightmares about the night of the Jungle Prom until she finally pieces together the fact that Jessica spiked her punch.  Feeling more betrayed than ever, she cries a bunch.

At the party, everyone looks great and is having a good time.  Margo manages to get Todd alone and makes out with him, but he realizes it isn’t Liz and finally the pieces come together for him.  But Margo knocks him unconscious and runs to find Liz.  She convinces Liz to meet her in the pool house.  When Liz gets there, Margo corners her with a knife.

But Jessica knows Liz  is in danger when she sees her head outside into the rain.  She struggles to get there in time, and then throws herself in front of Margo so she can’t hurt Elizabeth.  There’s a struggle, and then Josh comes in after tussling with Steven (who has rushed to the party because why not) and pushes Margo through a window.  Margo falls to a bloody death.  The twins are saved–and finally reunited.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Josh is staying at the Dunes Motel
  • When Margo applied for the catering job, she apparently used the name Margaret Wake. Weird.
  • Lila has a signature flavor of ice cream at Casey’s: Million Dollar Mocha.
  • Despite the fact that the Beckwiths no longer live on Calico Drive because Annie Whitman moved into their house, Alice tells the kids she left their hotel information with them.  JESUS GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Margo was demonic, but her madness had a method to it.” (31) [Blogger’s note: THIS IS NEWS TO ME]
  • “Was murderous violence Margo’s answer to everything? Was no crime too heinous?” (67)
  • “‘Having somebody murdered really puts a damper on things,’ Lila observed.” (215)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  The book is bonkers and BEYOND the realms of even the slightest possibilities.  I think the thing that bothers me most about this one is how dumb everyone is for so long.  The biggest problem here is that there are multiple times where someone mentions an outing or conversation to Jessica or Elizabeth that they have no recollection of, and yet somehow choose to conveniently ignore it.  If someone was like, “It was fun trying on dresses at the mall with you the other day,” and I had no memory of the event, I would be LEGITIMATELY WORRIED.

Whatever, at least this mini-series is over.

SVH #99: Beware the Baby-Sitter

11 Jun

bewarethebabysitter

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is still dating James, who continues to spy on her and report back to Margo, who is calling herself Mandy.  She and James spend nearly all their free time together, and she nearly confides her guilt over Sam’s death to him several times.  James starts to feel guilty about feeding Margo every detail about Jessica.  When Margo instructs him to give Jessica a scarf as a gift in hopes she’ll wear it to the costume party, he obliges.

The night of the party, Jessica and Elizabeth get ready in stony silence.  They see each other in full costume and realize that they both decided to go as Cinderella with their respective Prince Charmings.  Jessica’s dress is only a shade lighter than Elizabeth’s and she chose to wear some pearl earrings Sam gave her.  They go to the party separately.

Elizabeth is determined to get on with her life, even if it means Todd is no longer in the picture.  She feels a bit of hope when Jessica offers her a ride home one day after school.  The two talk, a little.  Things look up for them until Liz discovers the letter Todd wrote her crumpled in a pile on Jessica’s floor. She screams at Jess and then promptly goes to make up with Todd.

Margo creates yet another persona for herself.  This time, she goes by the name Marla Field and applies to be a helper in a day care center.  Margo hates kids, so I don’t understand why she keeps putting herself in situations where she has to be around them, but whatever. She forges her reference letters and lies when the manager tells her she’s going to call them to confirm.  She gets hired on the spot, because everyone in this book is an idiot.  At any rate, she pumps the little kids for information about the Wakefields, and because the Wakefields are like, the most amazing family in the history of the world, these kids are full of trivia about them.  IT’S SO WEIRD.

Margo goes to the dance dressed as Jessica and creeps on Todd when Elizabeth leaves him to get punch.  He thinks she’s Jessica but dances with her anyway.  Then she pretends to be Jessica when she talks to Lila and some other people from SVH.  When she notices that Josh Smith has followed her all the way to Sweet Valley, she runs away.  He ends up tackling Jessica in the garden, and then realizes that there are two other girls who look exactly like Margo.

The next day, Margo decides it’s time to put the final part of her plan in motion.  She sends a letter to Ned Wakefield from a “law firm” up the coast interested in hiring him as a consultant.  The idea is she’ll get the Wakefield parents away for a couple days so she can kill one of the twins and take her place.  Um, okay.

Winston Egbert’s parents are out of town for a long weekend and he has lots of plans for the new found freedom.  But then a neighbor drops off her baby with some weird story about an emergency after a coup in another country, and she promises she’ll be back for Daisy the next day.  Of course, she doesn’t come back when she says she will, and Winston struggles with what to do with Daisy.  Maria helps him, and then she invites her friends over to help with the baby.  Amy and Winston bet each other that they can put a diaper on Daisy better than anyone.  Winston brings the baby to school in a duffel bag because he’s an idiot and hasn’t asked for help yet or called Child Protective Services.  He takes Daisy to the costume party and no one thinks this is weird.

Winston goes to the Little Darlings daycare center for some advice.  He talks to Margo, who goes off on a weird tangent about how babies sometimes get abandoned by bad parents, then offers to babysit for him.  She actually goes so far as to show up at his house and offers to take Daisy to child protective services.  He says no to that but agrees to let her babysit, despite the fact that he never told her his address and doesn’t know her name.

Margo proceeds to attempt to smother the baby before Elizabeth shows up.  When she sees Elizabeth, she flees.  The day after the party, Winston decides it’s time to surrender the baby and brings her to the daycare.  He leaves her with Margo, still not having gotten her name, and goes home to find Daisy’s parents waiting in the driveway. They rush back to the daycare center and rescue Daisy from certain death.  WHATEVER.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Costumes at Olivia’s party: Enid as Amelia Earhart, Amy as a nun (she lost the bet to Winston), Steven and Billie as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Olivia and Harry as Leonardo DaVinci and Mona Lisa, Robin Wilson as a mime, and Annie Whitman as a gypsy.
  • When James goes to meet Margo/Mandy at Kelly’s for a status report, the novel repeatedly refers to her as “Margo” even though James refers to her as “Mandy” and it is weird as hell.
  • Margo’s drink of choice is Wild Turkey

Memorable Quotes:

  • James realized his heart was pounding. This girl is beginning to seem more and more flipped out. He shook his head in disgust.” (25)
  • “Elizabeth decided that Jessica must be feeling guilty about having dated Todd a few times since the night of the accident.” (41)
  • “‘I admit it,’ Winston said. ‘I’m hysterial. I’m manic. I’m having hyper-conniption fits. My little red choo-choo has gone chugging around the bend. I’m a basket case. I’m–” (140)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Setting aside the fact that this entire plot is completely STUPID, can we talk about the fact that the inclusion of poor baby Daisy and poor Winston Egbert makes absolutely no sense? All this plot does is further convolute the narrative and give the characters of Sweet Valley further opportunities to prove how clueless, oblivious, and idiotic they are.  There is no way that a total stranger would leave her kid with a 16-year-old so she can fly to Central America to deliver birth certificate papers to her trapped husband during a governmental coup.  There just isn’t.  ON TOP OF THAT, the readers are supposed to believe that she thinks she can make this round-trip in a day.  She leaves Daisy with enough milk for like five minutes.  UGH.  That baby should be taken away, because this woman is THE LITERAL WORST.

But furthermore, what doesn’t make sense is that Winston would leave the baby not once but twice with Margo, despite the fact that he finds her creepy and unsettling (this is mentioned several times).  If you’re going to go to the trouble to surrender the baby to CPS, why not just go to CPS? Oh, because we need more drama and suspense in this novel?  Oh, okay.  DUMB.

Finally, what does Margo have to possibly gain by killing the baby at this point?  I know she got the job under a fake name and wearing a wig, but the center is in Sweet Valley.  Like, can you control your homicidal tendencies even a little bit?  You want to stay in this town.  You will get caught if you keep this shit up.  Jesus.

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 #92: She’s Not What She Seems

21 May

shesnotwhatsheseems

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 weeks, tops

Summary/Overview:

Sweet Valley High’s theater is putting on a production of Macbeth, and Jessica is determined to play the lead (kind of?) of Lady Macbeth.  She sacrifices time with friends and with Sam to prepare for the auditions, and she totally knocks each round out of the park.  Even Lila, who is a very good actress as well, doesn’t stand a chance in the shadow of Jessica.  It helps that the shy, quiet new girl Paula Perrine has been helping Jessica get ready.  She helps her run lines and feeds her ego to a creepy, bizarre degree.  Jessica nabs the lead, obviously, and her opposite is Bill Chase.  Lila gets cast as one of the witches.  After Jessica encourages her to do so, Paula tries out for the role of Lady Macbeth’s gentlewoman and gets it.

From there, she starts hanging out with the gang more.  After a makeover from Jessica, she really comes out of her shell, flirting with the assistant director and generally grabbing the attention of Jessica’s friends.  Jessica starts to feel uneasy about it, but both she and Liz (and everyone else) bought her sob story about her dead mother and abusive, alcoholic father, so they mostly feel sorry for her.

As the days go by, Jessica becomes increasingly paranoid about Paula and her motivations.  She frames situations so Jessica blows up at her because Paula didn’t do something she promised and makes herself look like total victim while Jessica looks like an asshole.  This isn’t hard, as Jessica is an asshole, but Paula is also a master manipulator.  She also starts cutting out Jessica from activities with the friend group.  Then, when Jennifer Mitchell gets mono and has to drop out as Jessica’s understudy, Paula steps up and doesn’t actually tell Jessica.  She’s also taken to wearing much better clothes and makeup at school, but still dresses way down when she and Jessica rehearse privately.

Things come to a head the night of the play’s opening, when Paula calls Jessica during a thunderstorm, crying about her alcoholic father and asking if Jessica can come get her from Cold Springs.  Jessica obliges, and it doesn’t take her long to realize she’s being played in a major way.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth figures out that Paula has been lying about her parents the entire time just before the play starts, with Paula set to go on in Jessica’s absence.

At Lila’s cast party that night, Jessica confronts Paula in front of everyone, and all her friends applaud after Paula leaves, still pretty smug about her performance.  The next day, at the Wakefield’s pool party, Paula shows up, still smug and positively delusional, and when she doesn’t receive the warm welcome she expects, she turns to leave, falling into the pool.  She storms off.  The world makes sense again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Plot convenience: Steven is taking a Shakespeare class at college and is full of factoids about the play
  • Jessica likes strawberry milkshakes from Casey’s
  • School let out early because of the play’s opening night performance. What an institution of learning!
  • Luke Perry gets a mention.  Yikes.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I don’t want to discourage you, Annie,’ said Jessica, ‘but you ought to be more realistic. You don’t have a chance at playing Lady Macbeth. Not with me trying out.'” (10)
  • “‘Oh yes,’ said Paula, almost in a whisper. ‘Everyone knows who all of you are.'” (32) [Blogger’s note: How is this not the creepiest thing they’ve ever seen?]
  • “It’s pouring outside, Prince Albert. That’s got to be bad luck on opening night. It never rains in Sweet Valley; it must be the Macbeth curse.” (121)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of things about this one that I actually really like.  For one, I was once in Macbeth, and so the play is near and dear to my heart.  But I also remember really liking this one as a kid, probably because it featured acting (my favorite thing) and crazy single white female shenanigans (another great thing).  As an adult, I actually still found this one pretty compelling, if not a little ridiculous.  There are several things that don’t work for me here:

Paula is a total creeper from page one, and I have a hard time that people wouldn’t get the heebie-jeebies from her.  She lays it on so thick that it’s impossible not to feel like something is off about her, and while the Sweet Valley kids have proven themselves to be the dumbest, densest teens around time and time again, it still feels like a little much.

Part of this has to do with the exchange Jessica has with Sam on page 104:

“Jessica, I don’t know what’s wrong with you lately…But you seem to go off the deep end whenever Paula’s involved…It’s not like you to be so paranoid.”

“Sam,” Jessica said, trying to stay calm, “I am not paranoid. But Paula is trying to sabotage me somehow. You’ve got to believe me!”

The thing is, if Sam knows her as well as we’re supposed to believe, he would know it’s not like her to be so crazy paranoid about Paula.  It’s weird to me that she’d be able to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes like that.  Eh, whatever.  Sweet Valley, am I right?

The other thing that stood out to me was that when Jessica gets the call from Paula saying she needs rescuing, there’s a clap of thunder on Jessica and on Paula’s end.  If she’s in Silver Springs, you idiot, you would not hear the same clap of thunder miles and miles away.  Whatever. I’m probably overthinking it.

SVH Super Star: Todd’s Story

2 May

todds story

Estimated Elapsed Time: just over 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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