Tag Archives: elizabeth acts like jessica

SVH: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

16 Jul

elizabeth's secret diary

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, as this is a recap of books 23-31

Summary/Overview:

Liz and Todd are making out in his room instead of studying.  There’s a lot of weird almost-sex talk about how they never let themselves be alone in each other’s rooms, and then Todd takes a phone call from Ken Matthews and Liz snoops around Todd’s desk, finding a letter from a girl he knew in Vermont.  She calls him cute-buns and sends him lots of love and kisses, and Liz FREAKS OUT.  That night, she ends up in the arms of Jeffrey French, and they make out.  Confused, Liz goes home crying and opens one of her old journals.  Cue flashbacks!

We’re dumped into #28, when Liz finds out that Todd is moving with his family to Vermont.  After he leaves and they agree to do a long-distance thing, Liz starts hanging out and making out with Nicholas Morrow.  If this is supposed to be scandalous, it’s not.  When Todd comes to visit, the two make up and he climbs a ladder into her bedroom.

After that, we’re treated to a retread of #29, where Steven mopes about his dead fucking girlfriend and his new feelings for Cara.  Liz also chases a Todd lookalike around Sweet Valley (DOPPELGANGER ALERT).  I can’t be bothered to care about any of this.  After that excitement, Liz boasts about helping poor Emily Mayer cope with a blended family and then negotiate a hostage situation (when it’s written out like this, is it more or less ridiculous? I can’t tell anymore).  Also, Liz’s writing is SO GOOD that people steal it, like Ken Matthews did that one time but he totally learned his lesson and they’re cool now.

For whatever fucking reason, we are treated to a very long recap of Lynne Henry’s makeover transformation, and then Liz and Ken start hanging out a lot because now she’s “single” and she and Todd chat on the phone about people he’s dating in Vermont.  Oh, and she reconnects with Amy Sutton but thinks she’s a snob.  WHEN WILL THIS END.  By the time the book gets around to recapping #31, where she and Jessica fight over which of their friends gets to date Jeffrey (like this is a reward?), Liz and Ken aren’t really seeing each other any more, and then Liz decides that she loves Jeffrey.

In the present, Liz stays up all night reading her journal and realizes that her life has been exciting and amazing.  Todd drives over to the Wakefield house and they make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz has an awful lot of poetry written in her diaries, and they’re all terrible.  Check it: “Rainy Sunday/Foggy Monday/Closely creeping fears,/Can’t take much more of this./Drive east, drive fast/until at last/desert rainbows dry my tears/like a kiss.”

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She’s my sister and I adore her, but sometimes she can be so…shallow. Forgive me, Diary, but it’s true.” (27)
  • “‘Congratulations,’ I whispered. ‘You’ve just become the first man to successfully scale Mount Wakefield!'” (53) [This is sexual, right?]
  • “I glanced at Amy out of the corner of my eye. Could she really be as heartless as she sounded?” (236)
  • “I’m only sixteen, and already my life has been so full!” (322) [Wait, this is the takeaway?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s weird that this book is written in first-person.  I had completely forgotten about that, though I guess it makes sense, since the reader is supposed to be in Liz’s diary.  But it’s jarring to read this first-person perspective of Liz that doesn’t sound at all how she should sound, in my opinion.

Also, this book is so fucking boring.  It’s like watching a clips-heavy episode of a comedy from the 90s.  There’s no real reason to show all these things readers have already experienced, and by adding in details that I refuse to accept as cannon at this point, the book is doing itself no favors.  There’s no reason–except to sell more books and make more money–to recap the books in a huge volume like this.  It makes no sense.

Which brings me to the thing that I find most disturbing about this book.  At the beginning, Liz is upset because Todd saw some other girl while he was in Vermont, which WE ALREADY KNEW, and then wonders if he’s loved other people besides her.  So she turns to her diary, which documents every covert hookup with basically every dude in Sweet Valley (no shame here, just pointing out the facts), some of which she had genuine feelings for.  At the end of the book, though, she realizes that her life has been full and exciting, and she feels better about everything?  What?  Wasn’t the point that she was doing some soul-searching about her feelings for Todd?

Also, isn’t the message here: your experiences with boys define you?  Am I wrong?

SVH #66: Who’s to Blame?

28 Feb

who's to blame

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

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triva/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

SVH #63: The New Elizabeth

19 Feb

the new elizabethEstimated Elapsed Time: 1 month

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth is tired of being the boring, predictable twin, so she decides to take up a new, exciting hobby.  After deciding that hang gliding and scuba diving are both too expensive, she sees a flyer for surfing lessons at a nearby beach, and she goes for it.  There, she meets Sean Blake, who tells her that he’ll teach her how to surf and help her win a surfing competition at Moon Beach in only a month!  The two get to work, and Elizabeth turns out to be a natural on a board.

But as they spend lots of time surfing together, Liz deals with mounting pressure to tell people in her life what she’s been up to.  Everyone in her normal life thinks she’s working on an extra credit project studying marine biology, and Todd is especially annoyed by how preoccupied she is.  When he sees her come home with Sean one day, he blows up at her.

It doesn’t help that Sean seems really, really into Elizabeth.  She repeatedly brushes off his attempts to hang out after surf lessons, and she can see how much it bothers his sort-of girlfriend Laurie McNeil.  After a near-death brush with a riptide, Elizabeth is ready to compete in the competition.  At the last minute, she throws the competition by pretending to lose her balance and wiping out on her turn, making sure that Laurie, who has secretly trained and entered the competition, will win.  This secures Laurie’s place in Sean’s heart, I guess?  It’s never fully explored.

The B-plot involves Jessica getting even with Caroline Pearce for spreading stories about Jessica’s brief foray into the world of computer dating as Magenta Galaxy and Daniella Fromage.  Caroline is working at a new store called Unique Boutique, and Jessica goes in with Lila and Amy and basically makes Caroline’s life a living hell.  This is so stupid that it’s hard to care, but Caroline gets even by taking Jessica’s clothes out of the dressing room while she’s in her underwear and then quitting on the spot, leaving Jessica stranded.  Whatever.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book is Liz-centric, which means it’s light on the fun facts.  Liz is the worst.
  • In an attempt at continuity, there’s a joke made about Anacapa Island, where Jessica got shipwrecked that one time.
  • The local museum has an exhibit about the history of communication.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘But imagine a world full of Elizabeth Wakefields,’ Lila said.  ‘Could you imagine a duller, more predictable place? I think I’d go crazy.'” (2)
  • “‘Todd called at three-thirty, four-thirty, and five-thirty,” Mrs. Wakefield announced when Elizabeth walked into the kitchen…’My guess is that Todd misses you,’ she added.” (45)  [blogger’s note: My guess is that Todd is a creepy, controlling asshole. But hey, “potato,” “vodka.”]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The problem with this book is that it serves as a sort of companion novel to The New Jessica, wherein Jessica underwent a crisis of conscience and tried to become someone new.  The difference there was that Jessica dyed her hair and tried to be “vaguely European,” and the result was sort of hilarious and at least a little interesting.

That isn’t the case here, because Liz doesn’t actually try to alter her personality so much as take up a new hobby, which isn’t really her problem.  She has plenty of interests and hobbies (see also: journaling, writing serious news articles, reading, clutching her pearls), she just sucks as a person.  Taking up surfing doesn’t fundamentally alter how fucking boring she is.

Actually, what stuck out to me in this reading of the novel was how uncomfortable I was with the dynamic between Sean and Liz.  It’s clear from the beginning that Sean is super into Elizabeth, but she continues to avoid the issue, choosing to spend time with him and let him sort of come onto her without ever really dealing with the issue until she feels like she absolutely has to.  This feels weird to me, and it might be situational for the time period, honestly.  Something like this occurring in a YA novel now wouldn’t be stood for, I think.  Readers would be angry at how passive Liz is, despite her disinterest in Sean.

Also, he sort of has a girlfriend and essentially drops her until she proves she can surf.  It’s gross.

Next up: BORING Steven Wakefield being haunted by another Tricia Martin doppelganger.

SVH #38: Leaving Home

8 Oct

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth has become obsessed with the idea of going to boarding school in Switzerland, so when Regina Morrow shows her a brochure about the Interlochen school, she knows it’s like totally fate (like Shannon pointed out in her review, the Interlochen school is in Michigan, but whatevs, Sweet Valley).  The school is internationally renowned and has a strong focus on literature and writing.  There’s also a scholarship that would pay for Elizabeth’s entire senior year to be spent abroad learning and studying there.  In order to qualify for the Margaret Sterne Memorial Scholarship, Elizabeth has to undergo a pretty rigorous process: along with her application, she must submit writing samples, some faculty recommendations, and have two interviews, one with a family member of the scholarship’s namesake, and one with an alumnus of the school.  If she passes all these steps, then she’ll have the opportunity to spend her entire summer and her last year of high school learning with the elite.

Obviously this idea doesn’t go over well with anyone in Elizabeth’s life.  Jessica is devastated at the idea of spending a year apart from Liz.  Jeffrey’s sad, Enid’s upset, Steven’s confused, and Ma and Pa Wakefield are a bit worried, too.  But Elizabeth has her mind set on it and won’t listen to anyone’s concerns, although no one seems to be able to offer anything constructive to the argument, choosing instead to be flummoxed on why anyone would ever want to leave Sweet Valley.  Liz becomes obsessed with winning the scholarship and focuses all of her energy on presenting her life and family in the best possible light for the interviews.

Jeffrey and Enid decide that they haven’t been supportive enough and funnel their efforts into creating the most amazing going-away scrapbook ever.  They spend all their free time together working on the book, and Liz begins to suspect that Jeffrey has already replaced her with her best friend.  Jessica and Steven decide that the best course of action is to sabotage Liz’s interviews and go out of their way to seem totally crazy.  Steven drops hints during the family interview that their family is a mess, and Jessica actually pretends to be Liz at school and hits on the interviewer.

When Elizabeth finds out what they’ve done, she’s rightfully pissed.  She’s screaming at them when the interviewer shows up at the house to offer her the scholarship.  He tells her that Steven and Jessica confessed to what they did and he was impressed with her moral character, blah blah blah.  Jeffrey and Enid show up with the scrapbook and Elizabeth realizes why they’ve been spending all their time together.  She looks at all the pictures of her wonderful life in Sweet Valley and turns down the opportunity to study abroad.  Everyone’s happy.

The B-Plot involves Winston accidentally switching coats with an old man at a convenience store and then winning $25,000 in the lottery with that man’s ticket.  He worries over what to do for a while before finally bringing it to the man (who is quite poor) and admitting what happened.  Everyone thinks Winston did an admirable thing, except Lila, who’s incredulous that Winston didn’t keep some of the money.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica looked glum.  ‘I thought twins were supposed to be close,’ she complained.  ‘Haven’t you always said how important it is for us to spend time together, Liz?  I’d like to know how much time we’re going to get to spend together when you’re off wearing lederhosen and yodeling and chasing goats.'” (8)
  • “‘Dad!’ Elizabeth shrieked. ‘He’ll think we have a broken family or something.'” (90)
  • “And then they’ll decide she’s even better than she is, despite her weird background.  Then they’ll give her twice as much money and send her away for twice as long.” (107) [Blogger’s note: They’re going to send her away for two senior years?  Really?]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Wakefield family meets Steven in San Farando, a town about 25 miles north of Sweet Valley that is apparently the halfway point between home and Steve’s “state university.”  I wish the ghost writers would make up their minds about where Steven goes to college.
  • Jeffrey’s birthday is July 12, in case you were dying to know.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess my biggest beef with this story is not how completely clueless Elizabeth seems to be about how upset she’s making everyone in the novel, but how Steven and Jessica (though less so) rationalize their behavior.

Both Steven and Jessica think it’s okay to completely sabotage Elizabeth’s chances at the scholarship because they don’t want her to leave.  Even though their attempts are pretty transparent and there’s not a chance that they’ll get away with the entire scheme without people catching on, it’s the sense of righteousness in their actions that bothers me the most.  The idea that their love for Elizabeth has become so misguided that they are willing to ruin her chances at a truly amazing educational experience is really alarming.

What kind of message does this send to SVH readers?  It’s okay to sabotage an amazing opportunity like this for someone else if you know what’s really best for them?  It doesn’t matter that what Jessica and Steven did was totally wrong and completely crossing the line, because they owned up to it and Liz was offered the scholarship anyway?  It’s okay because deep down, Liz didn’t really want to leave Sweet Valley and her siblings’ antics helped her to admit it?

Gross.  Just–gross.

SVH #7: Dear Sister

7 Mar

Total Elapsed Time: 9 weeks

The Overview

Elizabeth is still in her coma as a result of the motorcycle crash, and Jessica sits by her bedside every day, begging her to awake.  When Elizabeth does, everyone is immensely relieved.  But it isn’t long before Jessica realizes that Liz is acting differently.  She’s uninterested in things like reading and school and becomes obsessed with her looks and with flirting with every guy at Sweet Valley High.  She spurns he advances of Todd, choosing instead to focus on Ken Matthews and Bruce Patman and pretty much anything with a penis.

When the twins throw a pool party, Liz somehow gets out of helping set up and clean up, leaving Jessica to do all the work.  She cheats on a research paper, gets kicked off the staff of the Oracle, and doesn’t seem to care.  Jessica can only watch as her twin acts more and more like her, causing Jess to act more like the old Elizabeth just to pick up the slack.

Things come to a head when Liz decides to go off with Bruce Patman after dancing with him at one of Lila’s infamous “pickup parties.”  The two of them head off to another party at the country club, and Bruce gets her drunk off some wine he serves her in a paper cup (classy, party of two).  Jessica pleads with Todd to intervene, and he does, chasing them down in the parking lot, punching Bruce in the face and dragging Elizabeth off into his own car.  She’s furious with him and refuses to see reason.

Liz decides to go out with Bruce again, and doesn’t even think twice about double-booking herself that night when Bill Chase also asks her out.  She’s long gone when he shows up for their date, so Jessica pretends to be Elizabeth and goes out with Bill.  Meanwhile, Liz and Bruce have gone to his house to fool around.  When Bruce goes downstairs to get some wine, Liz trips on a rug and bangs her head on a table.  This seems to snap her back to her senses, and when Bruce returns and she has no memory of going out with him, he tries to force her into having sex with him. She runs away and into the arms of Todd, where they make up and she cries a lot.

The B-Plot involves Jean and Joan Percy, a set of 12-year-old identical twin girls whose parents are apparently friends of the Wakefields.  They come to stay with the family for a few weeks while their parents are out of town.  Because Elizabeth is being irresponsible, Jessica ends up having to care for them, shlepping them to the movies with her when she goes on a date and driving them to their flute auditions.  She’s annoyed with them until they help her out of a tight spot with her parents after getting a speeding ticket and putting a dent in the fiat’s fender.  The end.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Roger Collins wasn’t the most popular teacher at school only because he was interesting in class.  In fact, most of the girls would have loved a little after-class attention from this teacher.” (34)

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

I’m not lying when I say that this is one of my least favorite books.  I recognize the fact that this book is considered the pinnacle of what the series was at its peak, but it just doesn’t work for me.  Putting aside the ludicrous idea that Elizabeth wakes up acting like Jessica and only reverts back to her old self after hitting her head again, the book just irritates me.  Everyone complains throughout the whole book that they’ve seen negative changes in Elizabeth, but no one does anything.  Mr. Collins throws her off the paper staff, teachers notice that she’s failing her classes (and plagiarizing papers), Todd essentially gets cheated on and then dumped, and Jessica becomes the responsible twin, but no one does anything remotely proactive to figure out what’s going on.

What’s more alarming is the fact that Ma and Pa Wakefield seem to be completely oblivious to these drastic changes.  Sure, they get upset with Elizabeth when she copies her paper, and she gets grounded for a while, but they don’t actually seem to be concerned that the behavior is indicative of a bigger issue.  They recognize that Jessica is pulling more weight than usual but don’t investigate that further.  True to the other books in the series, the Wakefield parents remain conspicuously absent from the book’s plot.

I leave you with this final thought: What kind of parents invite 12-year-old twin girls to come for an extended stay when one of their own daughters is recovering from a tragic motorcycle accident in which she was in a coma for several days?