Tag Archives: elizabeth falls in love

SVH #123: Elizabeth’s Rival

11 Mar


Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week


It’s summer vacation in Sweet Valley YET AGAIN, and Jessica and Elizabeth, along with Lila for some reason, are about to head off to Montana for a month long gig as junior counselors at a performing arts camp.  Liz is excited because one of her best friends from middle school, Maria Slater, is moving back to Sweet Valley and MIRACULOUSLY also joining the fun as a JC at the camp in Montana.  Jessica’s excited because she’s sure it’s her chance to finally become famous after being discovered.  She also makes a vow that it’s a summer with no boys, because she’s back to being sad about the death of Christian.  Lila hopes to only meet dudes, so the girls are at odds off the bat.

Things move along at a nice clip.  Within minutes of arriving, Liz has met Joey Mason, a super cute counselor who leads the acting workshops.  She’s attracted to him immediately.  Jessica starts to tire of Lila’s constant whining and wonders if she’ll manage to last the month listening to her complain.  When Maria shows up, Liz is overjoyed and then horrified when she realizes that Maria’s new best friend, Nicole Banes, is a total snot whom Elizabeth hates immediately.

Although Liz thinks that there must be something redeeming about Nicole since she’s Maria’s best friend, she plays like a total parody of a villain. She hides her own diary under Liz’s mattress and then accuses her of stealing it, then she steals the disk Liz has saved her script for the camp play on and passes it off as her own.  It seems that no one believes Liz, and it’s also clear that Joey is totally favoring Nicole over Liz.  It isn’t until Jessica accidentally sees evidence of Nicole taunting Liz about the play on camera (one of her campers is a little filmmaker) that she realizes what’s going on.  She shows it to the whole camp and Liz not only wins back Maria’s friendship but also the affection of Joey, who is now totally into Liz.  She tells him that she and Todd are in an open relationship, which backfires when Todd shows up at the camp.

Meanwhile, Lila falls for a guy named Bo, who comes off as a brave adventurer.  Lila tries to pretend she’s one, too, but is confused by how cowardly Bo actually seems to be.  Finally he comes clean to her: he’s actually the son of a millionaire.  They have tons in common! They kiss!

Jessica reluctantly falls for Paul, the older brother of one of her campers.  I AM SO BORED AND THERE ARE TWO MORE BOOKS IN THIS MINI-SERIES.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Robbie Goodman moved away to attend art school.  Did we know this? I literally can’t remember.
  • Jessica’s in charge of the dance classes, Liz is put on sailing duty, and Lila’s got arts and crafts covered.
  • Lila wears a periwinkle blue raw-silk romper with pearl buttons for her first day as a counselor, because of course she does.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Now that we’re both wet, come here and give me a hug!” The girls hugged for a long time, rocking side to side. (39)
  • Do I look like the kind of girl who would cheat on her boyfriend? she asked her reflection. No, she answered herself. (56) [Are you fucking kidding me?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Analysis:

I don’t know, haven’t we already done the camp thing to death already?  Lila and Jessica were counselors at Lila’s uncle’s resort that one time, and all of these people worked as JCs with overly-precocious kids in the far-superior Todd’s Story.  So yeah, I’m totally over the camp counselor thing they have going on.

What’s also distressing is that there isn’t even enough story here to sustain the 200-page book, let alone 2 more books.  It just doesn’t make any sense, and it isn’t fun.  UGH.

Also, what’s up with Nicole?  Why is she so terrible?  Why doesn’t she have any actual motivations?  How is it so completely out of the realm of possibility that anyone could hate Liz for an actual, legitimate reason?  I hate Liz and I like to think my reasons are wholly rational and air-tight.


Sweet Valley Confidential: A Critical Analysis

7 Apr

Today, in a Very Special Blog Post, we’re going to talk about the epic, eagerly-anticipated Sweet Valley Confidential, the new novel by Francine Pascal that catches up with Jessica, Elizabeth, and the rest of the gang from Sweet Valley.  There are a lot of great, detailed recaps out there about this book already, so I’m going to keep my actual recap brief and focus on my response to the story itself.  Here we go, Gentle Readers.


Elizabeth is living in New York and working for an online magazine that’s a sort of Zagat-guide for off-Broadway plays.  She’s been living in NYC for eight months, since she discovered that Jessica and Todd were having an affair.  Broken-hearted and really, really pissed off, Liz doesn’t seem to have made many friends or done much with her life since moving across the country.  When her mother calls her and asks her to come home for her grandmother’s 80th birthday party, Liz decides to go and bring a handsome bartender named Liam to try to distract Jessica.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Todd are engaged and living together.  They’ve been trying to deal with the fallout from the big reveal, but it isn’t going well.  Nearly everyone is angry with them, and most people just want them around so they can get gossip about what’s happening.  Jessica wonders if Liz will ever forgive her, and she angsts about whether or not she should give up Todd in order to win Liz back.

Liz shows up with Liam for the birthday party, and it’s pretty awkward.  Liam ends up being quite taken with Jessica, which pisses Elizabeth off, even though it was pretty much her plan.  Todd gets jealous about how much attention Liam is paying Jessica.  Elizabeth and Jessica snipe at each other, and everyone argues.

Liz goes back to New York, but not before she’s a total bitch to Liam.  Jessica and Todd fight, and when Todd falls asleep, Jessica leaves him.

Liz sleeps with Will Connolly, the playwright whose show she’s covering.  This is, apparently, the action Liz needed to get over Todd, because when she gets home and finds Jessica sitting at her door, she allows her in and the two make up.  Todd goes to New York to get Jessica.

Liz attends Jessica and Todd’s wedding, which is back on.  Before the wedding Bruce Patman tells Liz he’s moving to New York because he’s in love with someone who lives there.  She gets sad until he tells her it’s her, and then they have perfect sex.  Everyone lives happily ever after.

(Totally QUALIFIED) Critical Analysis:

For most of my life, I have been a fan of the world of Sweet Valley.  When I was little, I’d check Sweet Valley High novels out of the library and hide them under my bed because my mom thought they were too mature for my eight-year-old eyes and brain.  My sister and I watched the TV show (and loved it for all its terrible camp).  When I started collecting SVH novels 3-4 years ago, my interest in the books was more ironic than before, but still a genuine interest.  These are characters that I’ve grown up with and have come to know (and hate) extremely well.  This blog has been a testament to how much I love/hate the series, and it’s also been a record of how excited I was for this book.

I often make the argument that when you’re too excited for something, it can’t possibly live up to the hype.  Some would argue that this might be what happened here, but I’m not so sure about that.  Like many of you, I read the first chapter when it was released online some months ago.  I participated in the discussion that went on about how terrible it seemed, and I knew that this book as a whole was not going to be winning any literary prizes.  But I can safely say, Gentle Readers, that after reading the whole book, I feel…disheartened.  Maybe even a little cheated.

This was not the Sweet Valley that we grew up with.

So much of the story and the characters felt wrong, like they didn’t quite fit into the Sweet Valley universe.  The entire time I was reading the story, I couldn’t shake the feeling of mild disgust, and there were times where I got physically upset.  This is, of course, indicative of a problem within myself, Readers.  I’m aware that I allowed myself to get worked up about the inconsistencies and blatant errors in the book.

There were some aspects of the story that rang mostly true: the twins’ parents are still fairly mild-mannered (which made Alice Wakefield’s outburst at the birthday party all the more hilarious), Sweet Valley is still pretty white-washed, and the twins are still gorgeous.  Bruce still drives a flashy car (shaped like a penis), and though Todd utters nary a “Gee,” he’s still a total tool.

However, the blatant mistakes rankled me.  Ricky Capaldo is the boy who saved Annie Whitman, not Charlie Markus (she hooks up with Charlie on the summer bike trip).  Regina Morrow did not die in the car crash over Christmas vacation, and her case of Multiple Sclerosis was actually misdiagnosed Mononucleosis.  Aaron Dallas was one of the best-looking boys at SVH, and now he’s just okay-looking?  Mr. Collins was so shaken with Suzanne Devlin’s accusations about him that he quit teaching?  When did that shit happen?  Was it retroactive?

There were also weird inconsistencies within the book itself.  Near the beginning, Jessica mentions that Jeffrey French is married, but he’s clearly single at her wedding.  When we’re given an update on the (now-apparently-dead) Suzanne Devlin, the phrase “six years” is used to describe her return trip, but I’m pretty sure Francine Pascal meant “six months”.  Also, the flashbacks were confusing (and really, really boring), but I’m pretty sure there were some serious problems with the timeline readers were given.

Of course, all of these things are part of the Sweet Valley Universe.  Inconsistencies and errors are the way the books work, and it’s partially why we love them.  The inability of the ghost writers or the editors to keep the story straight (while thousands of readers do so, gleefully) is part of the books’ charm.  And yet.

The character decay that occurred in this book was unbelievable. Winston Egbert is now a total douche bag alone in his McMansion?  Bruce Patman underwent a complete character change overnight as the result of his parents’ tragic death?  His bestie is Elizabeth Wakefield?  Steven Wakefield is gay (that one almost works for me), and his life partner ends up being Aaron Dallas?  What the actual fuck?

It didn’t work for me, Gentle Readers.  I can’t help but feel like the Internet could have (and probably has, somewhere) come up with a better update on the characters.  I kind of want to declare the book anathema.

Also?  The writing was terrible.  Like, really, really bad.  Full of purple prose and weird word choices.  It hurt to read it.

What did you think, Readers?  Am I totally off-base?  Did I get some of it right?  Did you enjoy it at all?

Super Thriller #2: On the Run

14 Nov

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks?


The twins are still working at the Sweet Valley News as summer interns.  In addition to a new, annoying intern named Darcy, the whole office is obsessed with a murder trial taking place on the East Coast.  The defendant, Frank DeLucca, has been accused of a whole bunch of shit, but nothing’s sticking because witnesses keep dying and everyone’s afraid to come forward.  The office talks about the inherent goodness of people for a while, and I try not to throw up.  Anyway, at the eleventh hour, a doctor comes forward with new information about the case, and after he gives testimony, he goes into the witness protection program.

Something like a week later, Liz gets coffee and meets a barista named Eric Hankman.  Eric and his father just moved to Sweet Valley from Ohio, and the two immediately click.  She gets jealous when Darcy admits that she likes him, but she decides that Eric is too smart to like a flighty floozy like Darcy.  Liz and Eric go out, and she gets confused about her feelings for him.  The fact that Eric seems to be kind of moody and hiding something doesn’t help.  Darcy keeps trying to flirt with Eric, and steals a poem from his notebook.  She gets Jessica to pretend to be Liz so she can get more of his poems.  I am bored.

There was a murder in Ohio around the time that Eric left, and since Darcy is also from Ohio, she starts to think that he might be the murderer.  Instead of going to the police, Jess and Darcy decide to keep spying on him.  This will end well.

There’s some sort of event wherein a child starts choking in a public place and Eric’s dad, who is a businessman, performs a tracheotomy on the kid, saving his life.  Someone recognizes Mr. Hankman as the doctor who testified against DeLucca, and he, Eric, and Liz run back to the Hankman house.  Liz tries to convince Mr. Hankman, aka Dr. Ryan, that he and Eric can stay in Sweet Valley because no one would ever harm them, but he doesn’t buy it.  He and Eric begin frantically packing.

While Liz and Michael (Eric) say goodbye, some gangsters with guns come into the house.  They order Liz and Michael upstairs while they talk to Dr. Ryan.  Liz and Michael press the alarm in the house that is apparently connected to other people’s houses, too.  When the alarm isn’t deactivated, a neighbor calls Dr. Ryan for the password, and he pretends it’s a wrong number.  There’s evil afoot.  The good neighbors of Sweet Valley burst into the house and tackle the goons with guns just as the police arrive.  Everyone is safe!  Eric and his dad still have to leave Sweet Valley, though.

I hated this book.  I’m sorry that the recap is so terrible, gentle readers.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica looked distressed.  ‘You never like anyone interesting,’ she objected.  ‘You always like people like Jeffrey and Enid Rollins.'” (12)
  • “‘Darcy heard about this new fad diet that makes you lose twenty pounds a month.  All you do is eat grapefruit and rice,’ Jessica said.” (17)  [That sounds awesome and not remotely unhealthy.]
  • “The truth is I’m feeling very confused.  I am in love with Jeffrey.  But I also know that I’ve fallen in love with you, too.  Do you think it’s possible to be in love with two people at once?” (189)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila is apparently vacationing in Carmel with her father.
  • It’s July, which doesn’t really make sense, but whatever.
  • Eric Hankman is a Taurus.  More time is spent on his astrological sign than I’m strictly comfortable with.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Setting aside the sheer improbability of Liz and Jess meeting the people in the witness protection program after the testimony given during a trial that made national news, I’m having trouble swallowing the fact that Elizabeth finds herself in love with Eric/Michael when she’s supposedly so devoted to Jeffrey.

Part of my irritation stems from the fact that she’s always referred to as the sensible, logical twin, and there’s nothing about her hasty relationship with Eric/Michael that even hints at sense.  While I understand that we are not always in control of who we fall in love with, I find it insulting that Elizabeth looks down on Darcy’s flightiness and Jessica’s tendency to date lots of guys when she herself is guilty of being human.

At the end of the novel, Elizabeth decides she’s going to have to tell Jeffrey about Michael, but we as the reader do not get to see that conversation.  This is too bad, because there’s a lot of hilarity to be found there.  The fact that this will never be brought up again is also aggravating.  Damn these Super Thrillers and their existence outside the realm of the regular books!  Poor Jeffrey.

SVH #31: Taking Sides

20 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Jeffrey French, he of the green eyes and blond hair, is the newest boy at Sweet Valley.  He must be some kind of dreamboat, because both Lila Fowler and Enid Rollins are crushing on him.  Lila enlists the help of Jessica to ensnare him while Enid begs Liz to assist her in catching Jeffrey’s attention.  Both of the twins are ambivalent or even reluctant to help until they find out that the other is involved in the scheming, and then both girls throw themselves into it.

Lila throws a pool party and doesn’t invite Enid or Liz.  She tries to flirt with Jeffrey, who is polite but clearly not interested.  She tries to buy his affections, purchasing a very expensive camera and tripod for him, but he flat-out refuses the gifts.  She essentially forces him into attending a soccer game with her in L.A., and she monopolizes him on the dance floor at the Beach Disco, but nothing seems to be working.

Meanwhile, Liz works hard to talk Enid up to Jeffrey.  She’s almost psychotic about it, telling him how great she is, how knowledgeable she is about photography and Sweet Valley, how she’s the most awesome girl ever.  Enid and Liz scheme up a way to get Jeffrey to auction off a date with himself at the food drive auction, and Enid wins by bidding the most cans of food.  The date doesn’t go very well, though, and she realizes that they aren’t meant to be.

But Liz won’t accept that, despite the fact that it’s clear to everyone except her that she herself is into Jeffrey.  She can’t understand why she gets so flustered when he pays her a compliment, and she keeps pushing Enid on him, until he finally gets fed up and yells at her and gives her a little shake.  There’s some crying on the beach, and then she and Jeffrey dance together and it all makes sense.  They’re in love.  Of course they are.

The B-Plot involves the Wakefield’s cousin Jenny Townsend coming to visit.  Jenny is totally unglamorous because she’s only 15 and “at least 10 pounds overweight.”  She adores Jessica and follows her around, getting in the way of Jessica’s attempt to seduce Eddie Winters, who is really nice to Jenny.  Turns out he’s crushing on Jenny, and Jessica is crushed.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “The years hadn’t really changed Jenny, unfortunately, Jessica thought.  Thick glasses, unkempt hair, at least ten pounds overweight, and dressed in the most unflattering fuchsia sweats, Jenny was, as far as Jessica was concerned, a mess.” (21)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Fowlers own at least 5 cassette players.
  • The ghostwriter refers to Enid Rollins as “Enid Rollings,” bringing even more evidence to the fact that NO ONE cares about Enid.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a lot to say about this one.  For some reason, this book was always one of my favorites as a child, and rereading it now, I’m not sure why.  Elizabeth acts so unbelievably unself-aware that it’s hard to swallow.  It takes her 130 pages to realize that SHE likes Jeffrey?  She’s lucky she’s got such a doormat friend in Enid, because I’m not sure I’d be okay with my best friend going after my crush, even if I realized it would never work out between us.

However, I will leave you all with this small anecdote: one of the scenes that I remember best from my childhood reading Sweet Valley novels occurs in this book.  The scene at the beach party after the food drive, when Jeffrey shakes Elizabeth’s shoulders and tells her he’s a big boy and can handle his own romantic entanglements has remained with me for years.  I remember being simultaneously worried about something that seemed kind of violent and yet also found myself intrigued by the romantic undertones of their situation.  I was a dramatic eleven-year-old.

SVH Super Edition #4: Malibu Summer

13 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: A month in book-time; a summer total.


Jessica, Elizabeth, and Lila all get jobs as mother’s helpers for families in Malibu.  Since it was Jessica’s idea and Liz gave up an internship at the Sweet Valley News in order to tag along, she makes Jessica do all the planning.  Jessica places herself in the home of Lucy and Josh Sargent, who have a 3-month old baby named Sam and are cousins of her latest celebrity crush, Tony Sargent.  Liz lands with the considerably wealthier and colder Malcolm and Audrey Bennett, who have a sullen six-year old daughter named Taryn.  The girls start their jobs and things go fairly smoothly, although Elizabeth can’t seem to get Taryn to open up to her.

It isn’t long before Jessica falls in love with Cliff Sherman, the next-door neighbor to the Bennetts.  She spends a great deal of time trying to get Liz to switch jobs with her so that she can be near him, but Liz refuses.  When Liz babysits for Jessica one night, she meets the Sargent’s houseguest Jamie Gailbraith, a 21-year-old English major at Yale.  She and Jamie fall in love, and she has no idea that he’s really Tony Sargent, the pop start that Jessica’s obsessed with.  He’s in hiding from a crazy boyfriend of a groupie who wants to kill him.

There’s a terrible storm one night, and it’s the same night that Taryn decides to run away from home.  Liz is out with Jamie/Tony, and Jessica stops by to make sure that she’s okay.  When she discovers that Taryn is missing, she takes off with the Bennett’s housekeeper.  They find Taryn trapped on a bridge about to collapse, and Jessica saves the day when she convinces Taryn to grab onto her.  At the hospital, Taryn’s parents are told that she needs to have the “will” to live, and then they all cry and make up.

Meanwhile, Liz and Jamie are stuck at the Beach Cafe, waiting out the storm.  The crazy man, named Frankie LaSalle (because this is a Sweet Vally High novel), manages to find him through some trickery and comes at him with a knife.  The two have a scuffle until Liz knocks Frankie on the head with a vase.  Then the whole story comes out of Tony’s mouth, and Liz is shocked, saddened, and skeptical that he could ever really care for her.  She mopes around until the gang goes to see him perform, and he dedicates a new song he’s written to her.  The end.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Oh, don’t worry about that,’ Jessica said.  ‘Mr. Fowler has some big client whose son’s got a place in Malibu.  The son is married, and they have a one two-year-old and a nanny, and about three other people to take care of him.  Lila’s just supposed to play with him sometimes and read him stories at night.  It doesn’t sound too taxing.” (7)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz asks Steven to water her plants while she’s gone.   Is she 50?
  • Tony Sargent’s hit singles include “You’re On My Mind” and “Tonight Is For You, Girl”

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t know, guys.  The Wakefield parents agree to send both girls off to a strange city to stay with complete strangers for an entire summer?  The girls get these mother’s helpers jobs with virtually no experience and no background check?  I don’t completely understand the premise of the book, which makes it hard to provide an analysis of what happens.

There is a really funny typo in the book wherein Lila is talking about meeting older men in Malibu, and she says, “There are some really great-looking girls in Malibu,” and it’s clear they meant “guys” but it was hilarious all the same.

Also, Tony Sargent?  The entire premise is ridiculous at best.  He had drinks with a groupie (he’s not even old enough to drink, but whatever) and her ex-boyfriend decides that gives him license to kill him?  With a huge, glinting knife?  Really?