Tag Archives: elizabeth saves the day

SVH #91: In Love With a Prince

19 May

inloveiwthaprince

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Apparently Elizabeth and Prince Arthur Castillo of Santa Dora have been pen pals since they were in sixth grade, and now he’s coming back to Sweet Valley to visit.  Everyone is super, duper stoked about the prince arriving, as long as they’re female.  The dudes are not stoked.  Todd is convinced Arthur has designs on Liz (he does), and the other boys, including Sam, are extremely jealous about how much attention the girls are giving his impending arrival.  The only female who is not excited is Dana Larson, who thinks royalty is stupid and, like, America and stuff.

Somehow, Jessica convinces Dana to come along to the airport when they go to greet Prince Arthur in hopes of convincing her to have The Droids play at her party for him.  Dana admits to herself that he’s super good-looking but still thinks he must be a snob.  She’s withdrawn and judgmental at the lunch party Liz hosts for him that afternoon.  Then she acts like a total snot in English class when they discuss Hamlet, saying that royals always trod upon people who work for a living.

Because Dana runs her mouth off about this, Mr. Collins proposes the two have a debate about the need and/or place for royal families in the 20th century.  Dana thinks she’ll crush it but doesn’t seem to do any sort of research whatsoever about Santa Dora, modern political structures, or anything else.  She gets up and rambles about America and how they fought for freedom, and then Prince Arthur gets up and gives a really thoughtful (seriously thoughtful given the series we’re in) rebuttal about how Santa Dora is different, etc.  He wins, obviously, and Dana is mortified.  She also realizes she has a crush on Arthur.

Jessica throws a party for Arthur and tries to get him to dance with her all night.  But he’s pretty booked up with other obligations, and keeps apologizing for the fact that he can’t spare a dance.  Sam is REALLY displeased with the way Jessica acts, but Jessica doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the fact that she is actively pursuing another dude in front of her boyfriend.  This is exacerbated by the fact that Jessica overheard Elizabeth talking about Arthur telling her he has a crush on a spunky girl. Arthur is talking about Dana, but Jessica is a sociopath and assumes he means her, until Arthur asks her to ask Dana to dance.  That’s pretty clear

After Dana and Arthur dance together, they become inseparable.  Over the course of a week, they go out, make out, and end up falling in love.  So when he proposes marriage to her, she doesn’t think it’s the craziest thing she’s ever heard.  In fact, she tells him she’ll seriously think about it, and give him an answer at Lila’s big party in a week.  He tells her that they could have a long engagement, like that makes this entire thing less crazy.

Meanwhile, Lila has been trying to get close to Arthur his entire visit, to no avail.  She flirts with one of his bodyguards and gets some information about a “secret mission” the prince is on while visiting the United States.  She does some research at the library and finds out that he has to pick a fiance by the time he turns 17 or his parents will arrange his marriage.  Betting that Dana doesn’t know this part of the story, she leaks it to the Sweet Valley News, who then ask Dana about it.

Dana is furious for whatever reason and breaks up with Arthur.  He’s heartbroken, and though he attends Lila’s party, he brushes off her attempts to get close to him, which makes Jessica nearly glow with glee.  Dana sulks a lot and feels sorry for herself until Elizabeth comes and tells her that Arthur’s feelings for her were very real and that he’s leaving town.  Realizing what an idiot she is, Dana rushes to meet him before he leaves.  The two cry and embrace and promise to remain friends, but she still can’t marry him.  He tells her he will fight with his parents about the antiquated rule.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila is getting counseling for her near-rape at Project Youth
  • Liz throws Arthur a lunch party and the menu includes: veggies and dip, fresh fruit, croissants and seafood salad, and cookies.’
  • Lynne Henry wrote a song for Arthur and it’s called “Rule My Heart”
  • Literary references: Mr. Collins’s English class is reading Hamlet
  • Arthur’s parents’ names are Armand and Stephanie.  How…weird?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Dana did. ‘It’s always been that way with royalty,’ she declared. ‘It was worse back then, because royalty was more common, but it’s the same thing today. Royal families use, abuse, and sponge off the people who actually work for a living.'” (34)
  • “‘I’ve danced with him twice,’ Lila informed Jessica huffily, getting to her feet. ‘And we split a hamburger.'” (56)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I have so many questions about this one, actually.  As one of the books I remember LOVING as a child, it sure didn’t hold up to my adult scrutiny.  So, first of all:

Why is Arthur in Sweet Valley for 3 weeks?

If he’s doing a tour around the world, why on EARTH would he stay in Sweet Valley for 3 weeks at the start?  I know he was planning on pursuing Liz before she was like, “Todd is my special friend,” but wouldn’t he sort of think that either way,  a 3 week stay was sort of ambititious?  Doesn’t he have other places to go? And if he does, since it is a “world tour,” does he have girls who are like, contingency plans?  I don’t get it.

Why is he going on a world tour to find a woman to marry?

Isn’t that weird?  He expects to find someone to marry, at 16, in America? If it’s okay to have a super-long engagement, why is the rule there in the first place? If he’s going to college and is allowed to basically go wherever he wants, how does this engagement thing signify that he’s ready to take over the throne?

Also, Dana is the WORST.

 

Super Thriller #5: Murder on the Line

12 May

murder on the line

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth are working as interns at the Valley News for what appears to be the second time, because they are driving the Jeep and the back of the book mentions the word “again” as if this is the second time, but it’s really, really hard to tell.  At any rate, it is their second week on the job, Jessica is already bored, and Elizabeth is totally kissing the ass of the newest hire, Bill Anderson.  Because of construction going on near the newspaper’s building (construction being done to create the tallest building in downtown Sweet Valley, courtesy of George Fowler), the paper’s phone lines are a total mess.  People keep intercepting other calls, and this is probably the thing that Jessica finds most interesting about her days at the paper.  She eavesdrops on a ton of calls until she hears a man identifying as “Greenback” threaten to kill someone else.  When she tells Liz about it, Liz brushes it off.  Jessica leaves work early to meet Lila at the beach, and the two are sunbathing when someone screams because a body has just washed up on shore.  Totally out of character, Jessica actually faints.

The next day, Jessica goes straight to the police.  She talks to a Detective Jason, who wants her to keep listening in on the phone and report back to him everything she hears.  She also finally, finally makes contact with Mr. Gorgeous, a young guy who works the next building over whose attentions she’s been trying to attract for days.  He introduces himself as Ben Donovan, and he tells her he’s an accountant.  Her interest in him dwindles as he tells her he’s also really into reading and classical music.

When Bill Anderson tells the twins that Rose, the receptionist quit, he assigns Jessica the job of manning the switchboard.  She can’t listen in on the phones while she does this job, but she figures out a way to call her own extension and listen that way.  It isn’t long before she overhears another call by Greenback, and this time, she records his conversation with a Dictaphone.  She plans to show it to Detective Jason later.  But as the conversations continue, she hears Greenback mention a friend in the police station, and undercover cop, and makes a comment about how a “spy” can’t be listening in at the office.  Jessica is worried, but not enough.

Meanwhile, Seth Miller and Elizabeth Wakefield are trying to solve the murder of Tracy Fox, the girl who washed up dead on the beach.  She was found with cocaine on her, and that’s why she ran away from home, according to her mother.  Liz and Seth go all over the place trying to figure out who knew her and why someone wanted to shut her up permanently.  But this is complicated by the fact that Jessica becomes convinced that Seth is Greenback–because he seems to be flush with cash and because the Telex in his office makes a similar noise to something she heard in the background of one of Greenback’s phone calls.

Elizabeth brushes off Jessica’s theory until she remembers that she actually saw Tracy Fox at the Western building shortly before she died.  When they check the visitor’s log, they find out that Tracy was there to see Seth! HOW CONVENIENT!  Elizabeth still isn’t convinced that Seth is Greenback OR a drug dealer, so she asks Jessica to give her some to figure it out.  Jessica agrees to wait until the following Monday.

While Elizabeth talks to Seth about his possible involvement (he mentions that he never met with Tracy but did receive a phone call from a scared-sounding girl), Jessica confides her suspicions in Bill, who tells her they’ll meet back at the office that night and go to the police together.  Jessica doesn’t think this is weird at all and agrees to it.  Liz and Seth meet at the Box Tree Cafe while Jessica goes ALONE to meet with Bill.  Liz and Seth piece together that Bill has moved all over, and every place he’s lived has had a drug-related death.  When they call the police to send help for Jessica, Detective Jason blows them off, so of course they race to save her.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets up with Bill, who is totally high on cocaine (she sees it on his desk) and chases her up onto the roof, where he tells her to jump off the roof with the conveniently-planted coke he wants to place on her.  He’s going to make her death look like a drug-fueled suicide and then frame Seth for the murder.  Wait, what?

LUCKILY Ben Donovan is the real undercover cop, and he arrives on the scene with Elizabeth and Seth.  He manages to save Jessica as Bill dives at her, sending Bill off the roof to his death.  Whatever, this is ridiculous.  Anyway, everything works out okay.  Detective Jason is “detained” for questioning, Ben asks Jessica out, and the twins are treated as heroes.  And we are treated to more didactic rambling about how drugs are bad.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Adam Maitland is still? living with the Wakefields
  • Todd is vacationing elsewhere with his family
  • I had to Google what a Telex is, and it’s basically like a fax machine?  I think?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Not metallic silver,’ Jessica murmured. ‘No matter how you’re shaped, it’s bound to make you look like a station wagon!'” (19)
  • “A violent murder had taken place, right there in the Sweet Valley area.  This kind of story was rare.” (59)
  • “‘If I had my way, you’d be shark bait by now, Jessica Wakefield,’ he rasped. ‘From now on, you’d better keep your mouth, eyes, and ears shut, or I’ll shut ’em for you.'” (116)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m not sure why the timeline of this one bothers me so much.  I mean, it’s not like a completely wonky timeline is so out of the norm for this series.  Maybe it’s the flagrant disregard for continuity?  Like, the publishers didn’t care enough to give the readers a story that makes sense within the bounds of physics?  How do the twins have the Jeep in this one?  How are they still 16 even though it appears to be the summer following junior year?  Why is Todd around but not Sam?  Why is Adam Maitland making an appearance after disappearing for like, 25 books?  WHY?

Also, how dumb are the twins in this one?  The jumping to conclusions, and the complete logic fails make me crazy.  All of it is so contrived and so obviously a way to move the plot pieces around I can hardly stand it.  I’m thinking about this too much.  I should go lie down.

SVH #87: My Best Friend’s Boyfriend

5 May

mybestfriendsboyfriend

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Denise Hadley is beautiful and popular and charismatic.  Her best friend, Ginny Belasca, feels like the dull, undesirable friend, forever in her shadow.  When Denise urges Ginny to volunteer at Project Youth, manning the teen line, Ginny is reluctant but finds that she’s actually sort of great at it.  It doesn’t take long before she takes a call from a teen named Mike, and the two hit it off.  He continues to call the teen line with his family problems (his mom is marrying a new guy and there are familial adjustments), and the two start to form a relationship.  When he presses her for a meeting, she finally relents, but then she begs Denise to go for her, just this once.  Denise agrees, telling herself she’ll explain to Mike how shy Ginny is and arrange a secret meeting for them.

When they meet, however, Denise is totally taken with how attractive Mike is.  Even though she has a boyfriend, she’s flustered and giggly around Mike, and she doesn’t tell him that she’s not Ginny.  In fact, she agrees to go out with him again later that week.  She tells Ginny that she’s really into Mike, and Ginny asks her what she’s going to do about her boyfriend, Jay. Denise hedges on this for a while and then breaks up with him.  Ginny angsts about the fact that she likes Mike but doesn’t ever tell Denise this.

Denise actually brings Ginny along on their next date, which is super creepy.  The girls tell Mike that Ginny’s name is Denise.  This will end well.  Throughout the course of the date, both girls reflect on how well the real Ginny gets along with Mike and how uncomfortable the real Denise is with him.  They have nothing in common, and it’s clear that Mike sees it.  But he still doesn’t say no when Denise asks him out again.

Mike continues to call the teen line and talks to Ginny.  At one point, she pretends to be someone else to avoid talking to him as Ginny, and he tells her all about how he’s actually into someone else now.  She assumes he means someone other than her, because Ginny kind of sucks.  At any rate, she cries a lot about it and worries how Denise will take it when she inevitably gets dumped.

It turns out, she takes it surprisingly well.  As she and Mike are leaving the Box Tree Cafe, Liz says hi to her and calls her by her real name.  This spurs a confession to Mike, who isn’t mad at all.  In fact, he goes along with Denise’s idea to set him up with the real Ginny.  He calls the teen line again, talks to Ginny-as-someone-else, and then, when she runs out into the hallway, he’s waiting to ask her out.  Great! Oh, and Denise gets back together with Jay, because a pretty girl in Sweet Valley can’t be single.

The B-Plot focuses on Liz wanting to write an article about sexual harassment for the school paper.  When she brings the idea forward, Mr. Collins gets super weird about it, but finally says he’ll read her draft and go from there.  But he tells Mr. Cooper about it before Liz has written a word, and he promptly shuts it down. Furious about the censorship, Liz decides to write it anyway, approaching it from an angle of being censored.  She shows it to Mr. Collins, who changes his mind, brings it to Cooper, but it’s still a no-go.  So Liz and the rest of the crack staff at the Oracle decide to distribute it as an “underground” newsletter.  They end up having another confrontation with Cooper, but because Liz is such a good writer, everything ends up just fine.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Shoehorned literary reference: Elizabeth’s English class is reading A Tale of Two Cities
  • In addition to Casey’s, there’s an ice cream place called the Lucky Duck where the waiters wear duck costumes.  Sign me up.
  • Pop culture references: Lady Macbeth and Frankenstein’s monster

Memorable Quotes: 

  • “You’re special, Ginny.  You’re a beautiful person. I know you must be so pretty.” (47)
  • “‘So what?’ Penny demanded hotly. ‘Newspapers aren’t about making people feel good.  Newspapers are about information that’s important.'” (71)
  • “Denise shrugged. She could understand the pressure that people put on attractive girls.  Being pretty was a very difficult responsibility.” (94) Okay, Denise is officially the worst. 

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are two things that struck me upon reading this one, a title which I had never read before.  The first is that although we are supposed to like Denise, she comes off as kind of the worst.  Like, throughout the entire novel.  She makes a weirdly disparaging remark about homeless people in Sweet Valley and how they’re bringing the town down, she thinks that completely obnoxious thing about pretty girls I quoted up above, and, oh yeah, she goes out with the guy her best friend is into when she’s still dating another dude.  Now, an argument could be made that Ginny is a total wet blanket incapable of actually standing up for herself, and that’s true–Ginny is also pretty terrible–but there isn’t anything cool or okay with what Denise does.  This is a totally sick, unbalanced friendship between the girls.  Gross.

But the thing that stood out to me during this reading most prominently was the issue of sexual harassment.  The book talks a lot about “sexual harassment,” but from what I can tell, they’re really talking about sexual assault and rape.  It’s weird, because the book touches on aspects of rape culture–society telling girls to stay quiet and not cause a scene, the entire idea of power dynamics as they relate to sexual assault–but the book is incredibly reticent to use the correct terminology.  Only when they refer to a rape crisis center is the word ever used.

This is probably largely due to when the book was written and published–these things are never so dated as when you see them try to tackle an issue deemed taboo–but it’s also probably in part because they didn’t want to rankle parents.  So in purporting to tackle the issue of censorship and rape culture, the book is actually censoring itself?  Maybe a little?

Also, at one point, Chrome Dome makes reference to issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault being a “family matter.”  I actually did a double take, because WHAT IN THE WHAT?

SVH #76: Miss Teen Sweet Valley

28 Mar

miss teen sweet valley

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

The Sweet Valley Chamber of Commerce is hosting a beauty pageant for girls ages 15-18 as part of a fundraiser for a new community pool.  Just go with it.  It’s going to be hosted in the Sweet Valley High auditorium, and Jessica is stoked to participate, because she knows she’ll win.  Elizabeth is horrified at the concept of the pageant because she believes they’re sexist, outdated, and bring women back.  So she decides to stage a protest in hopes of changing the minds of Sweet Valley officials.  Jessica is horrified that Elizabeth would do this, so the two girls end up fighting a lot and not speaking to one another for most of the book.

Meanwhile, Jessica gets serious about the competition.  She hopes to attract the attention of Steven’s college buddy Frazer McConnell, who so far has been completely uninterested in her.  She also loves the idea of winning–and the rumors about the increasingly extravagant prizes for the winners doesn’t seem to hurt her desire, either.  People at school keep talking about the prizes, and the winning amount keeps going up–like up to $10,000, which Jessica thinks will buy her a car.  But she doesn’t consider for a second that giving away that kind of prize money would completely negate the fact that this is a charity fundraiser?  Whatever.

Liz is determined to bring the pageant to a grinding halt.  She enlists the help of her friends to sign a petition and even goes to the mall to collect signatures and hand out flyers.  The group protests in front of the Chamber of Commerce and continues to fight the good fight, much to Jessica’s dismay.

As determined as Liz is, Jessica also has a lot of drive and resolve.  She figures her biggest competition is not Amy Sutton, who is going to twirl her baton as a talent, but Maggie Simmons, a talented actress at SVH, and Sharon Jefferson, a deaf pianist.  Okay.  So Jessica decides to take some dance lessons to brush up on her skills.  With the help of a loan from her mother, she’s able to pay for lessons with Mr. Krezenski, who is actually kind of awesome throughout the book.  He’s hard on her but tells her she has enormous potential, which helps push her even further towards her goal.

Right before the night of the pageant, Liz discovers a loophole in the SVH bylaws or something.  The school can’t host an event that is for-profit (it’s not really, though) without the express permission of the school’s superintendent who has been out of the country all this time.  But before she brings this evidence to Mr. Cooper, she talks to Jessica, who tells her about how hard she’s been  working, and Liz’s resolve crumbles.  She doesn’t say anything, and the show goes on.

During Jessica’s dance number, she trips and falls, but gets back up and finishes.  She’s humiliated, though, and rushes backstage to pack her things and leave halfway through the competition.  Liz goes to try to talk her into staying, but Jessica refuses.  So Liz puts on Jess’s swimsuit and does probably the grossest twin switch the series has seen yet (but we aren’t at the Secret Diaries yet, so whatever).  Then Jessica ends up rejoining the evening in her dress, and wins the competition!  Hooray!

The book ends with Frazer McConnell finally asking Jessica out.  Like this was going to end any other way–we already have our ambiguously gay dude in Sweet Valley.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Rumor alert: the prizes for the contest allegedly include a shopping spree at Simple Splendor, a brass bed, a stereo, $1,000 cash (or maybe $5,000)
  • Actual prizes: free bowling, free video rentals, a haircut, and like $100 cash
  • Jessica’s perfect pageant dress is a pale pink chiffon number with a full skirt and stitched pearls on the bodice.
  • Cara has a cousin named Barbara, and apparently she’s pretty hot.
  • The school district’s superintendent has been away in the Soviet Union to meet with educators there.  WHY, though?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Until that day, she had known Mr. Krezenski only by reputation. Elizabeth had watched a special on public television about his career as a dancer and his dramatic, daring escape from some little country in Eastern Europe, and she had talked about practically nothing else for a week after the show.” (55)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

To be honest, this might actually be my favorite Sweet Valley High novel, which makes it harder, though not impossible, to snark on.  So here are my thoughts on this:

I see both sides of the argument here, but Elizabeth’s argument is a lot stronger.  Beauty pageants are totally sexist, totally outdated, and totally ridiculous.  But that’s just it: they’re ridiculous.  For the most part, people don’t take them seriously, which is probably why Elizabeth has so much trouble drumming up strong support for her cause: NO ONE CARES.

That being said, I think it’s super, super weird that this event attracted underage girls to parade around in their bathing suits and no one batted an eye.  That doesn’t raise red flags for anyone?  Really?

SVH #73: Regina’s Legacy

21 Mar

reginalegacy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Apparently the fact that Elizabeth decided she could only focus on one hobby at a time about two books ago is lost on her now, because she’s joined the new club that’s all the rage at Sweet Valley High: the photography club! Good timing, too, because as soon as she joins, poor dead Regina Morrow’s mom stops by with a gift for Elizabeth: Regina’s fancy camera.  Elizabeth wastes no time learning how to use it, and starts snapping photos left and right.

Some are for the secret photo mural the photography club decides to make for the school, and some are for her own benefit.  One day at the beach, she takes a picture of three men who look suspicious, and one of them sees her and starts running after her, trying to take her camera! Luckily, Prince Albert barks at the man, and Liz escapes to her car just in time.  She develops the photos and still feels weird about what she saw, even though she can’t put her finger on why that is.

Things get weirder when a cute young guy tails Jessica and Lila when they’re cruising around in the Fiat.  His name is Chad, and he asks Jess about the picture she took on the beach, and it doesn’t take long for Jess to realize he means Liz.  She plays along, promises to show him the photo, which she says is in the darkroom at school (it isn’t), and gives him her phone number.

Liz and Todd see a news broadcast about a congressman turning tail about prosecuting a drug ring, and Liz is sure the man is the one she photographed.  But how could it be the same man she saw on the beach in California if he’s in Washington?  Todd thinks she’s overreacting, but Liz is sure something weird is up with the photo she took.  Whatever, I’m bored.

Meanwhile, someone breaks into the darkroom at SVH and ransacks the place, destroying a bunch of equipment.  Todd and Elizabeth were just about to use it, too! They decide to go use the equipment at the local news station to blow up the photograph, because Liz has a feeling about a shirt one of the men is wearing.  Finally, they discern that the shirt is from a restaurant called Rick’s Place.

Chad asks Jessica out and takes her bowling.  Then he drives her to Big Mesa for dinnner…to Rick’s place.  Todd and Liz see Jessica there, and they panic when they see Chad grab her wrist and pull her out of the restaurant.  They chase after them in their car, but Todd gets pulled over before they can catch up.  Liz tells the policeman where she thinks they’re going (SVH), and everyone races to the school.  Todd tackles Chad, he gets arrested, and the whole story comes tumbling out.  And it is even dumber than you can imagine.

The man in the picture is Rich or Ron Hunter (I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check).  They’re identical twins and were both involved in the biggest drug ring in America that the government was unaware of.  One of them had a change of heart about it and turned informant, and the bad guys put his brother in for him in congress so that they wouldn’t be prosecuted.  Yes, this whole thing is a big bag of stupid.  They would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those pesky teens!

The B-Plot involves Shelley Novak getting jealous of how much time her boyfriend Jim Roberts spends on the photography club project.  He won’t tell her what he’s working on, which pisses her off further.  They fight, and then Jim puts a photo of Shelley at the center of the mural to prove his love for her.  They make up. I barf.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The book refers to Nicholas Morrow being a recent Sweet Valley High graduate, but that’s not true, because Nicholas moved with his family after he was already done with high school.  Sigh.
  • The camera Liz is given by Skye Morrow is a Nikon.
  • Jessica wears a silk blouse and a mini-skirt on her date with Chad.  Liz wears a pink dress and pearls to a casual dinner with Todd’s parents.  Whatever.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘That nerd Allen Walters,’ continued Jessica. ‘He snuck into cheerleading practice today and was zooming in at us from all over the place! I thought he was only interested in math and chemistry. You photography-club types are just a bunc of Peeping Toms. It gives me the creeps!'” (27)
  • “‘I’ll tell you one thing,’ Jessica said, shaking her head. ‘That’s the last time I go out with a total stranger just because he’s cute, and it’s also the last time I let somebody think I’m you! Talk about a double whammy!'” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess the first thing worth mentioning is how much I didn’t care about the mystery at the center of Liz’s photograph.  I literally just finished the book and already can’t be bothered to remember which brother was in which role or why it mattered.  The details surrounding the drug ring, the kidnapping, and the twin switch are so hilariously vague that it’s clear no one expected readers to care much about it, either.

There’s this awkward moment near the end of the book where Liz feels like Regina’s spirit helped her put an end to the drug ring because Regina died of a drug overdose, and she congratulates herself on how many lives have been saved.  I feel like Liz has no idea how drug rings work.  But whatever.  This part is dumb, and kind of boring.

Something that struck me while reading this book: all of Liz and Todd’s research would have been done so differently now.  First of all, Liz’s camera would likely have been a digital one, which means she could have enhanced the photos on a computer instead of painstakingly by hand.  Second of all, all of their research about “Rick’s Place” and the congressman could have been put to rest with a simple Google search.  Isn’t technology weird?

Next up: More of Robin Wilson’s eating disorder! I’m super, super nervous about this one.

SVH #71: Starring Jessica!

17 Mar

starring jessica

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Famous talk show host Eric Parker is coming to Sweet Valley for a special episode of his show.  He’s selecting one teen from Sweet Valley High, his alma mater, to interview on his show.  Jessica is convinced this is her chance at fame and stardom, and she’s determined to get the guest spot on his show.  All interested students have to fill out an application proving how all-American and well-rounded they are.

Jessica angsts about her application, because in her mind, her only real competition is Lila Fowler.  Lila seems to be fudging the truth on her application, but perhaps her most egregious lie is that she leaves off exactly how wealthy she is.  This infuriates Jessica, who is working hard to create an application that is truthful and representative of who she is.  She decides she needs something a bit more academic for her application, so she writes a feature for The Oracle about the worst dates she’s ever had.  Penny loves it and promises to print it in the paper’s next edition.

Turns out that the applications from Sweet Valley High were so good that Eric needs more time to narrow down his choices.  He selects some students for interviews, including Jessica and Lila, whose rivalry for the spot is so intense at this point that they aren’t speaking to one another.  Lila tries to sabotage Jessica’s interview by removing the note that tells candidates the interview room has been moved, and Jessica tries to sabotage Lila for that prank by casually mentioning that Lila’s father practically owns Sweet Valley.

All this is for naught, though: Jessica ends up winning the spot on Eric Parker’s show, and Lila is the alternate choice in case Jessica can’t make it.  Jessica is elated; Lila is furious. She devises a plan–with the help of Bruce Patman, who’s pissed about Jessica referring to his kissing abilities being like a jellyfish–to keep Jessica from being at the school on time for her taping.

Lila convinces Jessica to go shopping with her for a new outfit before the taping.  They do this on the same afternoon as the interview, and Lila convinces her to drive a ways up the coast.  Once there, Lila ditches Jessica while she’s in the dressing room, and Bruce Patman calls the store and pretends to be a detective, warning the store owner of a shoplifter fitting Jessica’s description.  Jessica is detained, Lila goes back to Sweet Valley, and all is lost.

Only, when Jessica calls home, Elizabeth comes up with a plan.  Stepping in as Jessica for the interview, she nails it, allowing Jessica to have her glory and Lila to get locked in the dressing room closet.  Elizabeth saves the day!

The B-plot features Elizabeth worrying that her interests are too focused on the literary.  She decides to become a volunteer junior park ranger at Secca Lake.  She and Enid attend some classes, take a quiz, and then Liz is appointed the Chief Junior ranger.  Only she starts to feel overextended, and then finally realizes that you can be passionate about a lot of things, but being dedicated to them all is exhausting.  So she gives it up to focus on her writing.

Fun Facts/Trivia:

  • The special edition of Eric Parker’s show is called “Growing Up in America”
  • Winston refers to the time he and Jessica were shipwrecked on Outermost Island–was that what it was called?
  • Apparently the Big Sister/Little Sister program is still a thing at SVH, because Jessica puts it on her application
  • Jessica mentions that Bruce Patman kisses like a dead jellyfish in this book, but it’s mentioned as something that happened in the past in the previous book (Enid’s Story).  Continuity is hard, guys.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘So many barefoot girls who are ready to lay themselves at his feet and become his love slaves,’ Lila added with a sly smile.” (44)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There isn’t much to snark on here, really.  Apart from the awkwardly shoe-horned in lessons about the environment and the importance of conservation, this is a fairly straight-forward plot.  I do find it weird that everyone is so obsessed with Eric Parker’s talk show, because it doesn’t seem like something that would actually appeal to teens at all–from what little we know of it.

Also, the Lila-Bruce kiss thing: I didn’t mention this in my recap, but they kiss each other passionately after congratulating one another on their devious plan to sabotage Jessica goes off without a hitch.  It’s a weird moment–and it feels so disingenuous to the characters that I found it jarring.  I know it was meant to serve as a way for Lila to yell at him later about kissing like a dead jellyfish, but it still rankled me.

Up next: SVH #72: Rock Star’s Girl.

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!