Tag Archives: divorce/separation

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?

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SVH #102: Almost Married

20 Jun

almost married

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth is still obsessing over her mother’s suspected affair with Hank Patman. She lets Jessica in on the secret, and Jessica’s response is to go and ask Alice about it, but Liz tells her not to. We wouldn’t want to wrap this plot point up too fast, now would we?

At any rate, Alice goes out of town with Hank again, and Ned is away for a legal conference, so the twins are on their own.  Because Todd’s parents are also away, he decides this is the perfect time for them to practice living together.  He says they’ll be able to be together all the time, but he will sleep on the couch or in Steven’s room, because these teens are actually neutered.  In order to get Jessica on board, they agree to do her chores and cook for her during the week Todd is there.

When Elizabeth and Todd get home, she rushes off immediately to meet with Bruce Patman without telling Todd anything.  Jessica gets home and “accidentally” spills the beans about what Liz thinks is happening with Alice and Hank, and Todd is irritated.  Meanwhile, Liz and Bruce dig through the Patman mansion attic for clues and find a gushy love letter and Alice’s engagement and wedding rings.  They also share A Moment.

Upon returning to her house, she finds that Todd is sort of annoyed, but they make up quickly and Todd tells her that they’re partners and generally sounds way, way older than 16.  This entire plot is so weird.  While Elizabeth and Todd act like they are 40, Bruce plays tennis with Pamela but is distracted with thoughts of Elizabeth, even as Pamela tells him about Project Youth facing budget cuts.

Todd and Elizabeth continue to spend time together, but nothing is really going the way they plan. When they have a date at the Videomat, a new laundromat that also rents DVDs and sells espresso, Elizabeth drinks six cups of espresso and won’t stop yammering.  Todd overfills the washing machine and ends up with suds everywhere.  The two oversleep the next day and nearly miss putting the recycling out.  To make matters worse, Elizabeth keeps zipping off with Bruce, which pisses Todd off.  Jessica keeps giving him a hard time about how much Liz and Bruce are hanging out, which only further infuriates him.

After school one day, Liz misses a ride home with Todd and goes with Bruce.  The two go up to the attic at the Wakefield house to dig around and decide to visit their parents’ college to keep digging for information.  Todd comes home to find them hanging out and begrudgingly ends up making dinner for all of them, plus Lila and Jessica.  Later, Bruce and Jessica are watching TV and Bruce sees the hotel room number for Alice, realizes that it’s the same room number as his father’s, and freaks out.

Liz and Bruce head up to the local university to investigate their parents’ shared past.  They share several Moments together, and on the way home they stop to help a stalled vehicle and realize it’s Todd.  That night, a bunch of them sneak off to the Beach Disco, and Liz spends a great deal of time dancing with Bruce.  She’s attracted to him and is clearly enjoying the rush it gives her, but she pretends to feel conflicted about it.

The twins and Todd decide to throw a pool party at their house, and Todd loses his shit when Elizabeth invites Bruce along to help run errands.  He sulks inside as they get everything ready on the patio.  Elizabeth and Bruce flirt, Todd acts like a creepy, jealous loser.

Bruce and Pamela end up breaking up at the party, because she’s the only person in this book who isn’t an idiot.  Then Bruce corners Liz in the kitchen, cries, and they end up making out.  OF COURSE Todd walks in, they fight, and he storms off.  But as he’s driving away, he has a change of heart and returns to the party.

He arrives just in the nick of time, too, because Liz is so upset that she does a bad dive off the diving board and belly flops into the pool so hard she blacks out and nearly drowns.  Todd saves her and they make up, with Liz realizing he’s the one she truly loves.

Mrs. Wakefield surprises everyone by showing up early and acting super pissed off about the fact that the girls have thrown a party with no alcohol or drugs.  She then tells Liz that the Beckwiths (JESUS CHRIST THESE PEOPLE MOVED AWAY AGES AGO) called her to let her know that Todd’s car had been parked in the driveway all week (this is basic sneaking around 101, idiots). She yells at Liz, but then Liz goes ballistic on her, telling her she and Bruce know everything about the affair.  Alice sits them all down and tells the tragic story of her and Hank.  Liz and Bruce decide that now that they know Hank and Alice aren’t having an affair, they’ll work on getting Hank and Marie Patman back together.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Fun Fact: When I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t let me read this one based on the title alone. Oh, mom.
  • The ghost writer spells Barry’s last name as “Rourke” in this one, but it has always been “Rork,” hasn’t it?
  • Jamie Peters has a song called “Lawless Love”

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘People say it’s a man’s world,’ Mr. Wakefield commented…’but let me tell you, girls, sometimes it’s not so easy being male…for example, having to wear a suit and tie on a scorcher like this. Talk about oppression!'” (6-7). Die in a fire, Ned.
  • “‘OK, not twenty-four hours,’ Todd amended with a grin. ‘I’ll sleep on the couch or in Steven’s room, of course.'” (17)
  • “Jessica hurried to defend Elizabeth’s honor. ‘Of course they’re not sleeping together. This is Elizabeth we’re talking about! She’s relegated Todd to the downstairs couch–they’re the king and queen of self-control, believe me.'” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s really only one thing that bothers me about this book a lot.

That is how completely weird and improbable the entire plot is with regard to Todd “moving in” with Elizabeth for a week and not expecting to have sex or at least fool around hardcore.  I’ve written before about how weird it is that every teen seems to lack a sex drive (I’m not counting incidences of sexual assault as those are about violence) completely.  Despite the fact that the teenagers in these books kiss a lot, no one ever has sex, and when they think someone else has, they FREAK OUT ABOUT IT (see: Pamela Robertson’s weird, inaccurate reputation).

So for Todd to move in and sleep on the couch rings false in many ways.  The teens in these novels aren’t at all religious.  There is no overarching idea that Christianity or God is governing their lives.  Their decisions to “wait” seem to have more to do with the intended audience age of the readers.  So then why even write a story like this one?

Todd wants to move in to practice living together, but they only engage in the hardest aspects of living together: doing chores, squabbling, etc.  There’s no benefit to this arrangement, and OH YEAH THEY ARE SIXTEEN AND WOULD BE WAY MORE INTERESTED IN THE PHYSICALITY.  So I call bullshit.

 

 

SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Lila are spending the week of spring break in Jamaica, at Lila’s uncle Jimmo’s beach resort, Club Paradise.  Jessica won’t shut up about how excited she is, and Lila is being extra nice to her.  When they arrive, Jessica discovers that her luggage was lost in the layover.  It also becomes clear to Jess why Lila was being so nice: they’re working as camp counselors at the kiddie version of the club. She tells Lila she’ll never forgive her/never speak to her again.

Jessica gets saddled with a group of bratty five-and-six-year-olds for the week.  They bicker, do gross things, and generally don’t listen to her.  She’s infuriated to see that Lila’s group is much better behaved, and then she’s fascinated when she sees Lila talking to a super hot guy who turns out to be the windsurfing instructor named Mick Myers.

Of course they both end up going out with this guy, who is a total skeeze.  Jessica dumps her campers off on Charles, a geeky guy who is totally into her.  This pisses off Julia, another counselor who is described as “chubby” but has a lovely voice.  She decides to get even with Jessica, because Jessica told her she was too fat to attract a man.  I kind of hate Jessica, too.

At any rate, Jessica and Lila continue to both date Mick and compete with each other when it comes to their little campers and the daily talent shows.  Meanwhile, Julia also starts dating Mick, who is starting to seem like a pathological liar and also a sex addict.  He takes each girl to his “secret” lagoon to make out.

Jessica runs into Larry the hot lifeguard on the beach one day, and they flirt.  Then they run into Lila and Mick, who are clearly on a date, and Jessica is such an idiot that she thinks Mick is only pretending to like her because her uncle is his boss.  They have a stupid game of chicken in the ocean and all of them get dunked.

It isn’t long before they realize that Mick is totally playing them.  After Jessica slaps Lila and she pulls her into the ocean with her as she falls, the two have a good laugh and decide to get revenge.  They get back to their cabin to find out that Mick is literally dating every female employed at the camp.

The last night of camp, Lila and Jessica put on a magician’s show and use Mick as their audience “volunteer.”  They break his watch, cut his hair, and dye it purple, and he has to sit and take it.  They get their revenge, totally make up as friends, and have a lemonade.  All is well.

Elizabeth has plans to spend the break sweating it out in Sweet Valley.  She wants to work on an Honors English project that asks students to do a biography of an ancestor.  Conveniently, Liz has chosen to focus on her mother.  The problem is, Alice has just accepted a freelance position working with Hank Patman in his Chicago office.

Amy shows up at the Wakefield’s house to ask for help with the English assignment, which she has to do for extra credit.  She doesn’t tell Elizabeth that Jessica told her she could “borrow” her ancestor Jessamyn, the circus performer.  The two look at an old family tree of Alice’s.

She runs into Bruce at the Dairi Burger and he blows up at her about her home-wrecker of a mother. She thinks he’s cracked until she gets home to find Alice rushing off to catch a plane to Chicago with Hank Patman.  She grills her dad for information about Alice’s life before they met, but he’s sort of cheerfully vague about it all.  She starts to worry that Bruce might be right.

Instead of really working on her project, she continues to obsess about her mother’s past with Hank.  She manages to awkwardly tie it into every single old classic movie she goes to see with Enid and Olivia that week, arguing with them about the meaning of leaving a fiance for an old flame, etc.  It’s boring and pedantic.

Bruce Patman is feeling the pains of his parents splitting up.  He lashes out even more than usual and feels the sads about his family fighting.  His mother accuses Hank of cheating on her.  He decides he’s going to tell his father exactly what he thinks of their separation and how its impacting his life.  Bruce is insufferable.  Before he can do so, he overhears a conversation between Hank and Alice on the phone that leads him to believe the two are carrying on an affair.

Bruce and Liz meet several times to discuss their parents affair, which they are sure Alice and Hank are having.  Bruce seems to be working on a plan to split them up before serious damage is done, but he doesn’t bother to share it with anyone.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • It seems like everyone is going away for spring break: Barry Rork to Palm Springs, Pamela Robertson to the Grand Canyon, Ken Matthews to Monterey, Todd to Yosemite.
  • Lila still plays the marimba and listens to Jamie Peters’ music.
  • The old movies Liz, Olivia, and Enid see include My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, Philadelphia Story, and Casablanca.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Bruce grabbed the lunch tray and hurled it away. He heard it clatter against a tree trunk and imagined that it was the sound of his whole world shattering into pieces.” (7)
  • “They turned to gape as Lila walked by with her nose in the air. In a straight line behind her, six obedient kindergartners waddled like baby geese, singing in unison, ‘Row, row, row your yacht…'” (51)
  • “‘Do you like my picture, Jessica?’ Suzy asked. ‘It’s a picture of you screaming at us.'” (81)
  • “Elizabeth had amnesia and her defenses were down. Bruce had tried to take advantage of her–what guy wouldn’t?” (165) [IS THIS REAL LIFE?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps what’s oddest here is not that Jessica and Lila compete over the same dude, which has happened before, but the fact that Mick seems interested in anything with a vagina.  He literally dates something like six girls at once, and he’s also supposed to be the club’s full-time windsurfing instructor.  How does he manage to do this?  How can all the girls think that he’s only interested in them when he’s literally seen with other people in every scene?  There is virtually nothing about him that would indicate he oozes charm (except for the fact that we are told this).  Ugh.  Gross.

The other thing that really bothered me about this one is how fucking judgmental and antiquated Elizabeth is in her thinking about her mother.  She holds fast to this bizarre, sexist idea that a woman should only be in love once–and that she should marry that man.  Setting aside the fact that this is heteronormative drivel, it’s also so tone-deaf considering the fact that Elizabeth has been in love at least 3-4 times herself, and she is only 16 years old.   Is she damaged in some way?  Isn’t it possible that Alice was in love with Hank at one time, and then fundamentally changed and fell in love with Ned?

Also, could it be LESS of Elizabeth’s business?

SVH #79: The Long-Lost Brother

7 Apr

longlostbrother

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Sara Eastman, a girl we have never heard of before, has a twin brother who got into some trouble back when they all lived in Connecticut.  Now he’s in reform school, Sara and her mom live in Sweet Valley, and she has been lying to everyone about her brother.  She’s told everyone that he’s brilliant but decided to stay back east with their father.  Trouble is, he’s done with reform school and wants to move to Sweet Valley.  Sara is devastated, because she has her whole life set up in Sweet Valley, and it doesn’t involve a delinquent brother.

Oh well, because he moves back and immediately causes problems for Sara in that he’s not thrilled with the lies she’s told about him.  Elizabeth meets him at an A.A. meeting (she’s doing investigative journalism or something), and it doesn’t take long for her to put two-and-two together after she interviews him for the paper.  Tim seems to have genuinely changed, but Sara won’t accept it.

When Crunch McAllister’s van is stolen outside of the Dairi Burger, Tim is the prime suspect, but only because he stole a car when he was high on drugs back in CT? I’m not sure, but whatever.  He’s questioned, he’s released, and the gossip mill at SVH goes into overdrive.  It gets worse after Tim and Crunch get into a fight in the school parking lot.  Now that Tim’s secret past is out, Sara’s douchebag boyfriend drops her like a hot potato and her best friend Amanda Hayes gets mad at her for not being honest about her brother.  Sara is so alone!

It takes several talks with both of her parents, a nosy Elizabeth, Barry at Project Youth, and even several fights with Tim himself before Sara comes around on the whole thing.  Actually, it isn’t until Tim leaves Sara a note saying he’s hopping a plane back east that she finally freaks out enough and begs him to stay.  They reconcile.  Whatever, I’m bored.

The B-Plot involves Elizabeth’s very serious and very didactic investigation into a local battered women’s shelter and her experience attending A.A. and Alateen meetings to gain journalistic credibility.  Oh, and Jessica’s super tired of attending events as Miss Teen Sweet Valley, so Liz goes in her place to hand out cheese cubes at the mall.  I am not joking.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Amanda and Sara both “excel” in modern dance and take classes with Mr. Krezenski
  • Cherry pie is Tim’s favorite dessert. How all-American of him.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Only recently, Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield had made a point of repeating their law regarding the twins’ use of the small red car. If either of them was careless behind the wheel, she would have to hand over the keys and walk until further notice.” (5)
  • What things? she thought miserably. Just a lawbreaking brother who’ll probably have his picture hanging in the post office by the time he’s twenty. And it won’t be because he’s President.” (20)
  • “Elizabeth wasn’t put off.  Like any reporter worth her number-two pencils, she had good instincts about people, and she knew Tim Eastborne was basically a good person.” (73) WTF?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s hard to care about these books because it’s so clear that we’ve reached a creative lull in the series.  It’s like Bantam thought there weren’t enough secondary characters to handle all the afterschool special plots, so they just kept dumping more characters into the plot.  Apart from the fact that these story lines are so heavy-handed, it’s also hard to connect as a reader to these characters whose appearances are fleeting at best.  I don’t give a shit about Sara’s perceived problems because I don’t ever have to think about her again.

Also, she’s got a martyr complex like you wouldn’t believe, which drives me nuts.  It’s worse than the ham-fisted, bizarre insertion of a PSA about domestic violence that Elizabeth shoves down our throats for the entire book.

SVH #67: The Parent Plot

3 Mar

parentplot

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Ned and Alice are still separated, and the twins have very different ideas of what to do about that.  Both girls are working on their father’s bizarre campaign for mayor, and while doing so, they are also meddling in both their parents’ lives.  Jessica wants Ned and Alice to move on and start dating other people, and Elizabeth desperately wants them to get back together.

Elizabeth tries to set up schemes in which Ned and Alice are forced to interact.  She pretends to have a bad connection on the phone with Ned so he’ll call her back, and then has Alice answer.  Then, when that doesn’t work, she has Alice come along to the mall when she knows Ned is giving a political speech (why at the mall, though?).  That backfires, too.

Meanwhile, Jessica has decided that Ned should date his associate Amanda Mason.  But she’s engaged, which bums Jessica out.  Then she decides that Alice should date Mr. Collins, and arranges a parent-teacher conference between the two.  She’s thrilled when Mr. Collins asks Alice out to dinner at Chez Sam, but horrified when she learns that Ned is taking her and Elizabeth there that same night. OF COURSE they run into each other at the restaurant.  To their credit, Ned and Alice handle it really well, and actually the five of them have dinner together.  Then Alice and Mr. Collins go to a movie, and Ned is sad and drives the twins home.

That same night, Maria and Winston are out for a drive when she asks him to swing by the campaign office (where she’s been helping out) so she can pick up a textbook she left there.  When she’s inside the office, she overhears a phone conversation between Ned’s advisor, Mr. Knapp and some real estate developer.  It makes it sound like they framed Mr. Santelli and are trying to control Ned’s political speeches in an attempt to control him once in office.  This entire plot is so convoluted it hardly matters.  Anyway, she brings this information to Liz and one of the other volunteers.

They decide the only way to prove that Mr. Knapp is involved in shady business is to break into his office.  So Liz distracts a building security guard while Maria and this other guy, whose name I’ve already forgotten, go through Knapp’s office.  Liz runs upstairs to warn them that Knapp is on his way up, and the three hide in his closet, which is perfect, because they overhear another conversation which basically confirms that Knapp is a douchebag, framed Peter Santelli, and is working to control Ned.  They also see him hide a folder, which they promptly photocopy once he leaves.

Liz brings this information to Ned, who is like, “You are dumb.  This is not admissible in court, and what Maria heard is hearsay, so that’s out, too,” which I guess means that the ghostwriter of this one watches as many legal procedurals as I do.  But, whatever. I guess he gives the evidence to a detective, and then he makes a noble speech about corruption, pulls out of the race, and Mr. Knapp is arrested at that same rally.  Mr. Santelli, name newly cleared, steps back in as candidate and wins the election! Hooray!

Oh, and Alice and Ned get back together.  The fact that I forgot to mention that except as an afterthought tells you exactly how invested I am in that “love” story.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Elizabeth knows the name of the newspaper delivery man, and it is Tom.  I find this super creepy.
  • Awkwardly shoe-horned in literary parallel: Jessica’s English class is discussing Madame Bovary
  • Ramon’s cats are named Estrella and Maximillian
  • At Chez Sam, Elizabeth orders orange chicken, Jessica gets lobster and salad, and Ned has Caesar salad with

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Elizabeth went to her desk, deep in thought. Between worrying about her parents, trying to get her father elected, and wondering who was behind the Santelli scandal, she had quite a lot on her mind these days.” (8) [blogger’s note: don’t you ever think about normal things, like boys and carbohydrates and friend drama? JESUS CHRIST, LIZ]
  • “Her whole life was reduced to one concern: her parents.” (51)
  • “‘You know, that’s very interesting,’ Ramon said. ‘I really like being single, too. I can do what I want, go where I want. I know it sounds selfish, but I like not having to check in with anyone about what I’m doing. It’s just me and my cats.'” (98)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess my biggest issue here is not how completely sociopathic Jessica is in her quest to get her parents dating other people when it’s not even clear if they’re legally separated so much as it is the specific way the political aspects of this novel are handled.  I don’t expect much nuance (or any, really) from a Sweet Valley novel, but is it too much to ask for the plot to actually make sense?

This was glossed over in the recap because I try to keep them from being overly long, but the basic idea behind Knapp’s framing Peter Santelli was that Santelli didn’t want to bend to Knapp’s every wish.  Obviously, putting money in Santelli’s account to make it look like a bribe is illegal, and I’m not refuting that.  But if there was a bank receipt for it on Knapp’s end, there had to be one on the bank’s end, too, right?  This entire paragraph is a moron.  Why was there no “evidence” to convict or exonerate Santelli a few books back?

Setting aside that, Knapp’s entire purpose is sort of murky.  He and some other guy want to develop some land right on the oceanfront, and they believe that getting Ned to speak exclusively about the economic side of Sweet Valley is the way to see that through?  None of it makes any sense (this is me suspending disbelief over the fact that this entire election seems to have been run in about two months), especially when you consider that they could have done back-door dealings with members of the city council instead of trying to put a sock puppet in the mayor’s office.  Of course, this is giving the story too much credit: it might simply be that the publisher and ghostwriter wanted to stay away from anything resembling actual politics in this book.  (Though I have a sneaking suspicion that Ned is a democrat, based on his concerns about clean water and air and the homeless population.)

Whatever.  We’re done with this entire election and the stupid Wakefield separation.  Onto other boring things!

SVH #66: Who’s to Blame?

28 Feb

who's to blame

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

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triva/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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