Tag Archives: elizabeth clutches her pearls

SVH Magna Edition: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. II

24 Aug

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, as this is a recap of books #55-70

Summary/Overview:

The book starts off with Liz on a date with Todd Wilkins, who is distracted.  When she presses him for what’s going on, he tells her that his friend from Vermont, Michelle Thomas, is coming to visit him.  Liz freaks out about this, because Michelle is the girl who called Todd “cute buns” in a letter to him that one time, and she runs away from their date.  When he shows up at her house with Michelle a few days later, Liz is a raging bitch to them both and then cries to Enid about how sad she is while they eat cookie dough.  She goes to reconcile with Todd and sees him kissing Michelle.  She freaks out, runs home, and cries a lot. Then she picks up one of her journals and starts reading and reminiscing…

These are painful to recap, but not as painful as it is to read them.  Liz quickly recaps books 55-57, mentioning Olivia’s crush on their teacher from the mini-courses before getting to her real interest: herself.  She angsts over Todd moving back to Sweet Valley and her waffling over her feelings for him and her current boyfriend Jeffrey French.  When she decides to ditch Jeffrey and hook back up with Todd, we’re treated to a recap of that gloat-fest, too.  But the diary presents this as Liz actually second-guessing her decision to get back together with Todd and being shocked when Jeffrey rebuffs her attempts to reconcile.  It seems we’re supposed to believe that Liz really misses Jeffrey, which this reader doesn’t buy for a second.

We continue on with inane recaps of books 61-70, which are largely focused on other people’s problems, so I’m not sure why the team behind these books thought this was the section of books to focus on.  Readers are treated to reminders about Patty Gilbert’s problems, Jessica’s adventures in computer dating (this is still one of my favorites because it’s so balls-to-the-wall insane), Elizabeth’s adventures in surfing, a Tricia Martin doppelganger, and Wakefield Parent Drama for several painful books.  Very little insight is provided to readers that they didn’t already know.  There is one “scandalous” scene that is supposed to take place around The Parent Plot, where Jeffrey climbs up a trellis near Liz’s room (is this a thing that existed before this diary?) and they make out.  But conveniently, Todd shows up that same night for some smooches, so Liz literally shoves Jeffrey into the closet so she can make out with Todd before sending him on his way.  Jeffrey is super mad about having to listen to the smooth make out noises of Liz and her actual boyfriend, and he storms off.

But wait, there’s more.  Liz and Todd break up again, and then Sweet Valley deals with both racism (and actual hate crimes but whatever, right?) and sexism.  This might be the most pointless of the secret diary series yet, and I HATED the first round.  There’s no point to these whatsoever.

At any rate, the book ends with Liz seeing Jeffrey out on a date with some rando and Liz realizes that he never looked at her the way he’s looking at this girl, so she thinks they weren’t right for each other after all.  She realizes that she still loves Todd and that they’ve both made kissing mistakes with other people.  She calls him and they make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • I don’t have any trivia to provide this time.  The twins do love to wear blue-green items to match their eyes, though! This is a recurring theme that is starting to really grate on me.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Ooh,” Jeffrey joked. “You get me all excited when you say things like ‘male-female ratio!'” (29)
  • Sometime during the week (who cares what day it is?)” (56) [If this doesn’t sum up the way time lapses in this entire series, I don’t know what does.]
  • “Don’t punch things?” I asked. “Or don’t hold it in?” (211) [Too bad this was directed at Jeffrey and not Todd]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

“I’ve been such a hypocrite,” I whispered. I’d judged Todd for kissing Michelle in his backyard. But how many times had I kissed Jeffrey behind Todd’s back? I had no right to criticize him. And it was time to make it up to him. (325)

I’m including this quote because it’s what I’d like to focus on for this analysis.  What’s striking about this quote is not only how clunky it is, shoe-horned in at the last minute, in the literal last couple of pages of a 300+ page book, but also how hilariously tone-deaf it is when considered with the series as a whole.  Throughout these recaps, I’ve harped on and on about the fact that both twins cheat on dudes they are dating REPEATEDLY, despite the fact that Jessica is supposed to be considered the twin who can’t commit.  Liz tends to be the worst offender when it comes to this, because she’s the one who is in a “monogamous” relationship throughout the majority of the series.

But this is supposed to be a huge revelation for Liz at the end of this book, after doing a great deal of self-reflection while reading through old journal entries.  It never ceases to astound me how quickly she flies off the handle about Todd’s behavior when she literally cheats on him any time she goes out of town (or he goes out of town).  It is weird to suddenly have this be the standard for which she can forgive him his trespasses.

I don’t know.  I’m thinking about this too much.  Liz is the worst because she’s self-righteous AND boring AND oblivious about how boring she is.  At least Jessica is practically sociopathic in her denial about her behavior.

SVH Super Edition: Falling for Lucas

4 Mar

fallingforlucas

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

It’s spring break and the twins are going on a ski trip to Colorado.  Along with them, Lila, Todd, Enid and Winston are all going (there are 16 fallinglucas2students and 2 chaperones in total).  Jessica and Lila are both committed to finding the cutest skiing outfits they can.  Todd is looking forward to some alone time with Liz, who keeps reminding them that there will be chaperones and also they will have roommates.  But Todd’s hormones must be on overdrive, because he tries to climb into Elizabeth’s bunk on the chartered bus before they even get to the resort.  Mr. Collins and Liz both freak out, and Todd shuffles back to his bunk.

Once they arrive at the ski resort, it’s clear that everyone has goals they want to meet on the trip.  Winston is not a good skiier and doesn’t want people to know; Enid is determined to hook up with a guy and buys a book to help her snag a hottie on the slopes; Lila & Jessica are in competition to find the cutest dude; and Todd is laser-focused on getting Liz alone in a hotel room.  I am already bored.

Jessica and Lila meet a super cute ski instructor named Lucas King and decide that they both want him.  They pretend to be really bad at skiing so he’ll pay attention to them.  Then they place a bet: whoever gets to kiss him first wins.  The loser has to ski down the most dangerous double black diamond run at the resort.  Jessica finagles an entire day’s worth of private lessons from him and Lila is pissed.  She demands to be let in on the lesson, and Jessica tells her what time it’s at only to cancel Lila’s wake-up call and sneak out when she’s still sleeping.  Lila gets back at her by going to a party thrown by Lucas without Jessica, and she ends up getting him to walk her back, where she kisses him under the window where Jessica is watching.  Jessica loses the bet but dumps snow on Lila’s head.

When Lucas finds out that Jessica is about to ski the hardest run, he rushes off to stop her, and Lila goes along, determined to keep Jessica from getting alone time with him.  Jessica and Lucas end up crashing into one another on the hill, and Lucas ends up with a sprained ankle while Jessica fractures hers.  She sidles up to Lucas in the lounge while Lila is skiing, and then Lila flips her lid on Jess in front of Lucas, who takes that moment to disappear.  He’s totally done with both of them.

While Lila and Jessica are fighting over the same boring dude, Enid is trying to get lucky on the slopes.  She keeps trying out advice from the book she bought, but it keeps attracting the wrong types of dudes.  WHO CARES.

Meanwhile, Todd convinces Winston to sleep elsewhere and gets Liz into his room.  They start making out, and she puts the brakes on their session only to find out his plan, complete with a “do not disturb” sign.  She’s pissed and ends up dumping a cold glass of water on his lap, which might be one of the coolest things she’s ever done.  Todd doesn’t get it, and he also doesn’t have the courtesy to tell Winston that Liz isn’t sleeping over, which pisses him off when he shows up the next morning sore from trying to sleep on a couch in the lounge.

Liz and Todd have a fight on the mountain and part ways.  There’s a storm brewing, and Liz watches as Todd skis past her into a different area.  Then there’s an avalanche and the two are separated! Liz thinks that he’s been trapped in the snow, and she runs to a nearby ski patrol station and tells them that she thinks Todd might be in danger.  The man, a dude named Dirk Roman, tells her they’ll send out a search party.

But Todd is fine, and has been brought to a cabin by an older woman named Cassandra Lee, who is very attractive, according to Todd.  He manages to reach the ski patrol station on a CB radio, but he doesn’t hear Liz and worries she might be trapped outside.  He loses contact with the patrol, and Cassandra convinces him that it’s too dark to do anything until the morning.  Todd gives her the bed and sleeps on the couch and wakes up in the middle of the night to find Cassandra kissing him.  This is seriously creepy.  He brushes her off and thinks about Liz.

Liz demands to stay the night in the patrol cabin even though it’s against the rules.  Dirk is very comforting.  He keeps bending rules for her, even allowing her to come on the rescue mission to find Todd.  They take a helicopter up to look for the cabin and finally find it.  When they clear the door and enter, Liz finds Todd in Cassandra’s embrace.  Liz storms off and when she’s back at the hotel, Dirk tries to comfort her by kissing her.  Todd walks in at that moment and is upset.  I DO NOT CARE.  It hardly matters because they make up at Winston’s second attempt at a “welcome back” party.

Enid hooks up with Lucas at the party and everyone goggles at it.  Enid feels like the punchline even when she gets the guy.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica’s new ski outfit is purple spandex pants with a color-blocked pink and purple parka.
  • Enid is rooming with Liz; Todd is rooming with Winston, Lila is rooming with Jessica, and Olivia is rooming with Caroline Pearce.
  • Winston wears a shoe size 13. FYI.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “No, it wasn’t. Not exactly,” Elizabeth said, trying to be fair to her sister. “I don’t think that’s how she meant it. She made romance and love sound like one big, fun game.  The object is to have a great time. And to see who wins–the guy or the girl.” (27) [This is fucked.]
  • “You didn’t even ask me what I wanted last night! You just assumed that I would want whatever you wanted. Well, I didn’t! And right now I don’t want to talk.” (98)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are two major issues with this book, and they both deal with sex.  The first is obviously Todd’s desire to take things further with Elizabeth without actually talking about it, which is problematic in and of itself.  But it’s also totally tone-deaf.  This is a couple that discusses everything, and we are to believe that they haven’t talked about whether or not they’re ready to have sex?  I find it unrealistic that the furthest Liz and Todd have gone is making out, especially because neither is religious (I’m sure I’ve written about this before), but I find it even more ridiculous that he wouldn’t know how to talk about it with the Queen of Over-Analyzing.  It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s utterly ridiculous.

The second issue has to do with the portrayal of Cassandra, and her overt advances towards Todd.  It’s okay, if a little creepy, that she hits on him, but it’s another thing entirely to start making out with him while he’s asleep.  That is sexual assault, lady, on the way to rape town.  She sort of apologizes later for hitting on him, claiming she thought he was a “big boy,” but that doesn’t excuse making sexual advances while the other person was unconscious.  It is totally bonkers to me that this was included in the book as a thing that is not a big deal at all.  BONKERS.

SVH #122: A Kiss Before Dying

2 Mar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth watches a bunch of dudes get arrested in the aftermath of the fight against Palisades, including Bruce Patman.  Todd has already been carted away.  Bizarrely, Liz feels guilt at having called the cops even though it’s pretty clear someone could have died if she hadn’t intervened.  She, Enid, and Maria take Winston Egbert to the hospital, and it turns out he’s got a broken nose amongst his other injuries.  Jessica has run off with Christian, and they make out and cry about how no one understands their love.

At school the next week, Todd is out of jail but won’t speak to Elizabeth, Ken is furious with Jessica and basically tells her she’s garbage, and the boys are pissed at the Wakefield twins because they’re Palisades sympathizers.  Liz has had enough and tells the dudes that none of the females at SVH will have anything to do with them until they call off this stupid war.  Bruce thinks she’s bluffing, but then all the girls agree.  I guess we’re in a warped version of Lysistrata now? (This actually gets mentioned by Liz in a super didactic moment later, but when I wrote this, I hadn’t gotten that far in the book.)

Liz and Enid meet with Caitlin and Marla at Palisades and convince them that the no-dude-contact is the way to go.  They agree, and then surfer girl Rosie Shaw comes up.  Despite Caitlin and Marla telling Liz point-blank that she can’t be trusted and Liz’s own feelings that she’s a bad seed, Rosie tells Liz that the two of them can come up with a plan to save their schools from the war.  This will end well.  She keeps pushing Liz to find out where the SVH guys are meeting.  Liz finally finds out from Todd and Rosie tells her to meet at this divey diner so they can go meet both groups of guys and convince them that the other side wants peace.  Liz thinks this is the best plan ever.

Liz and Enid show up and the diner and it takes them a very long time to realize that Rosie isn’t showing.  Enid reads some articles from the Palisades paper about SVH and Liz realizes that Rosie made up their shared interests from the articles.  She calls Jessica to warn her that Rosie’s up to no good and that she knows about her and Christian.  Then she realizes that it’s probably too late and Palisades is already on their way to beat down the SVH boys at Bruce’s house.

Indeed they are, as Rosie taunts Todd and the others before the Palisades dudes come out wearing warpaint on their faces and brandishing weapons like brass knuckles.  There’s a standoff, and Christian arrives to try to keep the peace, but at the exact moment that Liz, Jess, and Enid arrive, a terrible fight breaks out.  Christian tries to protect Ken from a particularly brutal blow and ends up getting knocked down, cracks his head on concrete, and falls into the deep end of the pool.  Jessica dives into save him and tries CPR, but when the ambulance arrives, it doesn’t look good.

At the hospital, a doctor comes out and tells the teens that Christian has died.  Everyone feels terrible and Todd announces that the war is over.

A few weeks later, Jessica is visited by Christian’s mother, who gifts her with his prized surfboard.  Jessica uses it to compete in the surfing competition that I had forgotten about and wins, dedicating the trophy to Christian’s memory.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Rosie is Danish, and this gets talked about for a long time, which is weird.
  • Elizabeth claims her favorite poet is Christina Rossetti

Memorable Quotes:

  • Elizabeth had known Bruce since childhood. He did have a hot temper and a reckless side, but it shocked her to see him treated like a dangerous criminal. (2) [LOL OK LIZ]
  • “One thing this whole rivalry mess has shown me is that people don’t always act the way you’d expect. Who would have ever thought Todd could be so violent?” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What can even be said about this tonally-bizarre book, or the two that preceded it?  If it’s trying to make a commentary on the state of gang warfare, it fails at every level.  Nothing about the formation of the two schools’ gangs makes any sense, and even though one could argue that gangs don’t make sense to begin with, it still doesn’t make sense in this situation.  Gangs evolve for a variety of socioeconomic reasons, none of which are at play here.  The two groups hate each other over a football game.  Even West Side Story had more going on in terms of conflict.

And while it’s sad that Christian died, it’s not like it was a shock, what with the cover, the title, and the way he and Jessica kept talking about their “forever” love.  I don’t know.  This entire thing has left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and in a different way than usual.  Something about all of this is just gross.

Also, LOL forever at Liz’s ideas about what “dangerous” criminals look like and also her complete inability to look at Todd’s history of PUNCHING PEOPLE OUT and relate that to how violent he’s become in these books. Jesus, Liz.  Get it together.

SVH #121: The High School War

27 Feb

high school war

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica actually faints at the sight of the fight happening at the warehouse.  The police show up and the two groups of guys scatter, but not before Ken sees Christian say something to Jessica.  He’s sure it was something lewd, even though it was just Christian begging her to meet him at the beach the following morning.  Jessica meets Christian and they agree that they can never see each other again.  That’ll last.

At school, Principal Cooper announces a new task force to help promote peace between the warring schools, and tells students that they aren’t allowed to wear their official school colors.  Liz, of course, is on board with it right away.  She butts heads with Todd over what’s happening and can’t believe how pig-headed he’s being about the entire thing.  She worries about whether or not their relationship will survive this fight, because her friends at Palisades are being dumped by their boyfriends over the war.

Jessica finally confesses to Liz that she’s been practicing surfing but begs her not to tell anyone.  Jessica and Christian manage to avoid each other for a couple of days but end up making out at the beach one morning before school.  Liz is worried when Jessica is late and enlists the help of Ken to go make sure she didn’t drown or something.  Liz manages to reach Jessica before Ken and sees her macking on Christian.  Christian runs away, and Jessica promises to fill Liz in soon.

The girls have a crisis meeting with Marla and Courtney from Palisades and worry over what’s happening to their men.  Maria lets it slip that the boys aren’t just having a GNO (guy’s night out) but are planning to crash the Palisades football game and slash some tires.  The girls are understandably upset but don’t think that they can do anything about it.  Because a phone call to the police wouldn’t help? The SVH dudes do indeed slash some tires.  Winston nearly gets caught by a Palisades guy but escapes.

Liz corners Jessica at school and asks about the guy she’s seeing at the beach.  Jessica cries a bunch and tells her she can’t tell her who he is for everyone’s safety, and Elizabeth accepts this with worry.  Of course, Ken is right outside the room the twins are talking in and overhears Jessica admit to seeing another guy.  He’s…upset, but instead of confronting Jessica, he acts like a total neutered creeper.

Todd throws a party to help dissipate the bad feelings.  Elizabeth stupidly invites Marla and Courtney and everyone is super rude to them.  She leaves the party with the girls and then fights with Todd on the phone the next morning, before finally agreeing to go out with him the following night.  She watches Jessica get ready for a date she’s pretty sure isn’t with Ken, and she’s right, because Ken is creeping outside their house and follows Jessica’s car.  He engages in some light stalking and continues to follow her after she gets in Christian’s car.  Then he sees them kissing at the restaurant, and Jessica sees him seeing her.  He runs away.

Winston goes to meet up with the GNO group at an abandoned warehouse but ends up getting jumped by the Palisades dudes who set him up.  They beat the crap out of him and it takes a long time for his friends to put the pieces together, but Maria finally does, and then they rush the warehouse to help him.  The dudes start fighting the Palisades guys while the girls literally stand there and scream.  Elizabeth calls the cops, and they come and arrest Todd.  He is furious that Liz called the police.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • There’s a mention of Olivia still being with Rod, but they broke up ages ago.  WAY TO FACT CHECK, GHOST WRITER.
  • The Palisades High principal is named Mrs. Chang
  • Mr. Collins is making his students read Crime & Punishment
  • Christian drives a powder blue VW van and keeps an inflatable mattress in the back.
  • Weirdly, this book assigns an address to Todd’s house: 1010 Country Club Drive. Why, though?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Testosterone,” Lila Fowler drawled, brushing imaginary lint off her chair before sitting down.  “The root of all evil.” (33)
  • She did what he asked–she tried to see his point of view.  But it still didn’t make any sense.” (114) [this whole book, summed up in one line]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of weird things happening in this book, and it’s hard to sort through them all.  One thing that struck me again and again was the use of the word “thug,” by Elizabeth and others to describe the actions of the boys on both sides of the turf war.  The term “gang” is also used, which is obviously laughable.  But there’s something deeply disturbing about the use of the word “thug” because of how it’s used as a code word today for people’s racism.  That’s not totally what’s happening here–basically everyone in the world of these books are white–but it still feels unsettling to read this in 2015 and associate it with what’s happening now.  Also, the idea that these boys would get so worked up over what amounts to a lost football game is the dumbest thing possible.

The other thing that made me feel uneasy throughout the book is Jessica’s inability to consider the fact that she has the agency to break up with Ken.  She’s clearly not into him at all anymore, which is fine, but she continues to string him along while recognizing that he makes her feel cold inside.  It’s a transparent way to ramp up the melodrama when he follows her on her date with Christian and sees them kissing, and it’s something that doesn’t payoff the way it’s supposed to because anyone reading this is screaming at her to just get it over with already.

One more book in this mini-series.  Will someone die? Will I even care?

SVH #120: In Love with the Enemy

25 Feb

inloveenemy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 days

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

SVH #118: College Weekend

13 Feb

college weekend

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth have been granted a week off of school to go visit Sweet Valley University to get a taste of “college life.”  The twins will be staying with Steven and Billie, and both are excited for very different reasons.  Even before they arrive, Jessica has planned to throw a party in Steven’s apartment that very night and has invited a bunch of frat boys.  When they arrive, they find out that Steven and Billie have reservations to stay at a bed and breakfast that weekend, leaving the twins alone.  Jessica thinks this is perfect and decides to go ahead with the party, without telling Steven or Billie about it, and despite the fact that Steven mentions they’ve already gotten noise complaint warnings from their grouchy landlord.

But of course the party spins out of control and the place gets totally trashed.  Liz tries to control it but lets Jessica and everyone else walk all over her, including the dudes who bring a keg of beer to the event.  Liz clutches her pearls about this a lot, and she tries to get Jessica to help her kick everyone out, but Jessica is preoccupied by Zach Marsden, a new cute boy she’s met.  She tells Zach she’s a junior-transfer from Princeton and then has the gall to say that even though Liz and her look identical, she’s really Elizabeth’s older sister.  The two make plans to go out again soon.  The police show up and threaten to card everyone, which finally makes the party disperse.  Too tired to clean the place up, the girls decide to do it in the morning.

Only Steven and Billie show up in the middle of the night because the bed and breakfast they were staying it was a rundown house with a gross attic bedroom.  Steven goes ballistic, and they all clean the place up.  He threatens to call Ma and Pa Wakefield, but Jessica blackmails him into staying quiet because he did leave them alone, after all.

The next day, Jessica meets up with Zach after feigning a headache, and Liz tags along with Steven and Billie to study and get some more campus life experiences.  Jessica is super into Zach, but she is doing mental gymnastics to keep her lies about being in college going.  She continues to dig herself into a hole, especially after they run into a guy who went to SVH and definitely knows her.  When they attend a philosophy lecture together, they run into Billie, but Jessica is able to lead her into agreeing with her story.  Zach has made a bunch of irritating comments about the maturity of high schoolers and about “dumb” women, and Jessica is convinced he won’t like her if he finds out the truth.

Meanwhile, Liz attends a journalism seminar with Ian, a smart guy she met at the party.  The professor is journalism-famous and is also kind of a pompous windbag, and she and Liz get into it immediately over the merits of print versus TV journalism.  The professor challenges the class to write a thousand-word essay on a topic of their choice and invites Liz to participate. She stays up all night writing the essay, and when they arrive at class the next evening, the professor announces that Liz’s essay has won.  The woman tells her she’ll be published in a magazine and has won an internship with the college’s newspaper.  She also tells Liz that she should get her GED stat and enroll in college immediately.

Jessica attends a rush party for Theta house, the most prestigious sorority on campus.  It’s also the sorority that Alice was president of when she was a senior at SVU.  Jessica gets along with everyone until Maga, the sorority’s treasurer, tells her that she has her eye set on Zach!  Jessica feels like she’s in the middle of a dilemma based on how much she likes Zach and the fact that she’s lying to him, has a boyfriend already, and knows that a sorority sister (potential, anyway) wants him to herself.  Whatever, I hardly care.

The book ends with the lamest cliff-hanger ever where Liz storms into Steven and Billie’s apartment and tells them she’s starting college immediately and wants to be their roommate.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz joins in a discussion about black literature, and the titles name-dropped are The Color Purple, Invisible Man, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  • Jessica gets excited about watching late-night talk shows because Ned and Alice don’t allow it at home. What?
  • Jessica refers to her SVH sorority as Phi Beta Alpha, but it’s Pi Beta. Nice one.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “That doesn’t matter,” the girl interrupted. “I’d like to know how you feel. Do you think black men can speak for black women?” [She asks of Liz, the whitest woman in the history of ever]
  • College guys liked girls who could hold deep and meaningful conversations. (68)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a ton to say about this one, really.  I think it’s interesting to note that Steven and Billie seem to sleep in the same bedroom, despite the fact that I was convinced it was a 2-bedroom back when they did the original meet-cute story line.  There’s no mention of actual sex, but it is alluded to.  Which, par for the course with this series, right?

I also think it’s weird that the series continues to let Jessica go out with dudes that are so much older than her and there’s never any real mention of how completely inappropriate it is.  Whether or not the guy thinks she’s older than she is, she knows she’s 16 and shouldn’t be with a 21-year-old.  At one point, Billie says “you guys are adults” and I actually yelled “NO THEY ARE NOT!” because they are 16.  It makes no sense! Save the adult storylines for when they’re actually adults, guys.

Okay, enough pearl-clutching on my end.  I wonder if Liz will really start college early?!?!?

SVH #117: Jessica the Genius

11 Feb

jessicagenius

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s SAT season at SVH, and everyone (except Jessica, maybe) is all worked up about getting the scores they want or need to get into the colleges of their choice.  Liz has it in her head that she needs a perfect 1600, while Todd’s feeling the pressure from scouting colleges to score a 1200.  That seems unlikely, “Gee whiz” Boy, but whatever.  Everyone continues obsessing over the test after they’ve taken it at Lila’s Post-SAT Bash that night.  Jessica is the only one who is truly unconcerned with the outcome.

Four weeks later, the envelope arrive.  Jessica opens hers, realizes she’s scored incredibly well, and immediately worries that people will think she’s a geek or a nerd if they find out.  Liz opens hers and has a complete meltdown because her scores are so low and Jessica’s are so high.  Jessica continues to seem nonchalant about all of it and goes shopping with Lila, still trying to keep her scores a secret.  She goes out with Ken that night and he prattles on about his modest scores, and then tells her it’s okay she’s not smart because she’s so beautiful.  Jessica tries to tell him her scores were high, but he laughs it off.

The next morning at school, there’s a banner celebrating the school’s two highest SAT scores: Jessica and Winston.  The secret is out, and Chrome Dome holds an assembly to congratulate the two.  Elizabeth is despondent, and tries to seek solace in Todd, but he’s so pleased with his offer(?) from University of Michigan that he doesn’t even hear her.  Meanwhile, Jessica starts to get fed up with everyone’s surprise that she could be so pretty and so “smart,” so she starts actually trying in some of her classes.  All of this comes to a screeching halt when Chrome Dome calls her to his office and tells her the school board is concerned she cheated and has asked her to sit the test again.  Jessica is understandably enraged about this.

Liz tries to quit the Oracle because she thinks she’s too stupid to live (she’s right) and Mr. Collins talks her out of it, saying she’s the best writer he’s seen in 12 years of teaching (he’s wrong).  He tells her that her scores are only part of her entire academic record and won’t matter that much to colleges.  When she tries to get reassurance from Todd, he brushes her off because he’s obsessed with the interest he’s getting from schools all over the country.  Liz cries a lot, then becomes crazy angry when Enid tells her the rumor is that Jessica cheated.  She blows up at Jess and the two say awful things to one another.  Heather boots Jess from the cheerleading squad, because she’s a caricature of a human being.

At home, Ma and Pa Wakefield have talked to Chrome Dome and insist Jessica take the test again, even though they believe her.  Ned offers the girls an incentive of a few days off school to tour SVU as a reward.  Then he gently advises Liz to try taking the test again, and she agrees.  The girls go out with their respective dudes, and things do not go well at Miller’s Point.  Ken tells Jess it’s okay to tell him the truth about cheating, and she jumps out of his car.  Todd goes on and on about his prospects, and Liz boots him from the car.  Then she and Jess go get ice cream and apologize to one another.

This time, the twins totally reverse their approaches to the test.  Jessica studies like a madwoman, even going so far as to enlist the help of Winston one night.  She decides to stay up cramming the night before the exam, while Liz goes shopping, tanning, and to the movies.  Unsurprisingly, the two basically switch scores when they’re released weeks later.  Chrome Dome tells Jessica she’s suspended from school until further notice, despite Ned’s objections.  Despondent, Liz decides that a grave injustice has been executed and decides to right it by holding a trial at the school.  She will act as Jessica’s defense attorney.

At the big game against Palisades High, Todd is on fire until he isn’t.  He gets injured and loses out on some college scouts.  We are supposed to care, but it doesn’t seem as though anyone else at SVH does, either.  Liz finally goes to visit him and his sad broken leg.  They make up.  Ken and Jessica also make up.

The trial is held at SVH.  The student population is split 50-50 on Jessica’s innocence or guilt.  Liz defends Jessica beautifully, and Chrome Dome flounders a lot.  The jury returns a verdict of not guilty and Jessica is reinstated in school along with her original SAT scores.  All is well.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lots of outfit descriptions in this one, but my favorite is Dana’s: a green tunic with a black leather belt, purple tights, and black high-heeled boots.
  • Enid scored 670 verbal and 650 math. Jessica scored 760 verbal and 750 math. Liz got 490 verbal and 480 math.
  • According to Lila, her father went to Yale.  Did we know this already?
  • According to Ken, SVU requires students to score over 500 in each category to gain acceptance.
  • Mr. Collins is having his class read the play Inherit the Wind, about the infamous Scopes trial.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Todd placed his hands comfortably behind his head. “I’ve had a lot more successes in general than Winston.” (46)
  • Maybe she shouldn’t even be reading books–maybe she should be in the garage, learning to weld. (62) [You’re the fucking worst, Liz.]
  • “Maybe I was even a little jealous. It’s hard to have a girlfriend who’s so intelligent.” (143)
  • “I could start writing that now. It’s my opinion that people shouldn’t be judged unfairly by surface appearances,” Elizabeth declared. (166)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Firstly, can we talk about Liz’s insane desire or determination to get a perfect score on the SAT?  Does she realize how rare that is?  Liz is supposed to be the “smart” twin, right?  Does she really think that one test is going to determine her entire future?  I understand that wanting a good score on the SAT is important for getting into a good college or qualifying for NHS (right?), but to put the pressure on herself that she would get a perfect score?  That means answering every single question CORRECTLY.  Because if I recall, the SAT actually penalizes students for incorrect answers more harshly than if they left the question blank.  CALM DOWN, LIZ.

But her most egregious behavior comes in the form of her accusations towards Jessica about cheating.  She can’t conceptualize the idea that Jessica might outperform her on something she cares so much about, so once the rumors start, Liz believes them immediately, even though there’s no proof whatsoever.  When show blows up at Jessica, I actually cringed because Liz is so far out of line.  I understand the jealousy that can come from intense competition over something like arbitrary test scores, but Liz’s behavior here is so over-the-top that it’s impossible to feel badly for her.  She’s the fucking WORST, you guys.  The snobbiest, most pseudo-intellectual, self-righteous worst.

What is also weird is that there’s no mention of taking the SATs over again until halfway through the book.  Even Mr. Collins doesn’t mention it, which feels completely bizarre, given that he works in education and all.   Also, colleges don’t automatically get your scores unless you want them to.  So this insane panic over colleges knowing immediately is super, super weird.