Tag Archives: elizabeth the doormat

SVH #98: The Wedding

6 Jun


Estimated Elapsed Time: 5-6 weeks


Lila throws a party to show off her estranged mother to all her friends but then has a meltdown in the bathroom when she realizes that Grace still doesn’t plan to stay in Sweet Valley.  She thinks mean thoughts about her mother’s boyfriend, a man named Pierre who exhibits the worst stereotypes about French people.  But she isn’t the only one who thinks he’s sort of a letch, because all her friends make comments about it.

When Amy calls her the next day to tell her why she left the party in such a hurry, Lila is stunned.  It seems that Pierre came onto Amy, and then he groped her chest.  That’s sexual assault, asshole.  Lila assures Amy that it’s not her fault and tells her she’ll deal with the situation.  But then she decides to not tell her mother what he’s done, figuring she can find another way to get rid of him. Um, what?

Lila and Pierre spend a day together, and it’s like straight out of The Parent Trap.  She takes him to a notoriously terrible diner for breakfast, makes him go surfing, carry her shopping bags, and play her in a rousing game of tennis.  Then she gets him drunk on scotch at lunch so that he passes out when they get home.  She locks him in a closet and goes to dinner without him.  There, George proposes to Grace, who accepts.  They barely even notice a drunken Pierre make a scene at the front of the restaurant.  Lila tells Pierre to get lost or she’ll tell Grace what he did to Amy.

She and Grace start planning the wedding of the century, and then they have the wedding at the Fowler estate.  Everyone is very happy.

Jessica is still super miserable about Sam’s death and thinks about how she’s only dating Todd (also miserable) to make Elizabeth feel pain.  She knows she doesn’t love him (and won’t ever) and that he doesn’t love her.  When Todd breaks up with her one night, she realizes she’s all alone. She visits Sam’s gravestone and cries a lot, then decides to start living her life.  She’ll start by planning a charity dirt bike rally in his name.

At the Sam Woodruff Memorial Dirt Bike Rally, Jessica gives a rousing and moving speech about drunk driving before starting the race.  A latecoming entry who goes by the name “Black Lightning” wins the race by a hair, and when Jessica hands him the trophy, she falls head over heels for him.  It’s James, who Margo has paid to get information on the Wakefields.  The two begin dating, and Jessica doesn’t think it’s weird at all that he’s obsessed with taking her picture and asking tons of personal questions.

Elizabeth is slowing getting back into the swing of her life.  She and Enid study at the library and then go to the Dairi Burger.  Elizabeth is feeling pretty good until she runs into Sam’s best friend, who basically tells her that she’s a shitty person to be moving on so quick.  Elizabeth continues to feel grateful she’s free and rebuffs attempts by Todd to reconcile.  Although she dances with him at the Fowler wedding, she excuses herself quickly.

Margo is in Sweet Valley and staying in an old woman’s guest house.  She looks up the Wakefields in the phone book and calls the number only to hang up.  She spies on the family as they leave for work and school one day and discovers that she will have a brother when she joins the family.  She meets James at Kelly’s bar and offers to pay him money to spy on the Wakefields.  She also applies for a job as a caterer for the Fowler’s wedding, but it requires her to bump off someone already on the list.  So she runs over the woman with her car and then ditches it in the woods.  She works the wedding reception and creeps on everyone.

Meanwhile, Josh is still hot on her trail.  He follows leads from Los Angeles to San Diego and then makes a connection that Margo is in Sweet Valley after a train conductor tells him she was reading the Sweet Valley News.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Fowler mansion has an original Picasso hanging in the living room
  • The Lone Fighter, a movie starring a foreign hunk named Jean-Paul Bertrand, is all the rage
  • The Wave Cafe has live music every Sunday. This is apparently a popular hangout we’ve never heard of before.
  • Sam’s middle name was Benjamin.
  • This is the first book where Steven goes to SVU instead of “a nearby university”

Memorable Quotes:


  • “‘Yeah,’ Lila said skeptically. ‘The other driver wasn’t to blame for Elizabeth’s drinking and driving.'” (7)
  • Pierre will regret ever meeting Lila Fowler. Lila chuckled demonically. If he survives what I have in store for him!” (84)
  • “If the trial had taught her one lesson, it was that she’d have to start looking out for herself.” (96) [Um, what trial was she a part of? That was her takeaway?!]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Apart from being a little disturbed by how weirdly nonchalant Lila was about Amy’s sexual assault–which, by the way, was horrifying–there’s not a ton to snark on here, in terms of how crazy things are for a Sweet Valley book.  I do think the George-and-Grace-get-engaged thing is a little compressed, timeline wise, but whatever.  It’s not like these idiots have ever exercised restraint before.

And I still find it odd that Margo thinks her life will be perfect once she’s in Elizabeth’s place.  Like, I don’t understand any of her thoughts about this.  I understand that she’s a crazy person and therefore not rational, but the ghost writers have made her so mercurial and unpredictable I don’t understand for a second how anyone would believe that she could pull it off for more than a few minutes.*

Can’t wait to see what happens next!

*I mean, don’t get me wrong: I know we aren’t supposed to, because this is Sweet Valley.  But still.

SVH #97: The Verdict

4 Jun


Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Elizabeth goes on trial for manslaughter.  She feels lonely and alone, because Jessica won’t talk to her, Todd is cheating on her with Jessica, and her mother has turned into a zombie 50s housewife.  When she gets on the witness stand, she can’t really give testimony because she can’t remember.  This is seriously the most boring trial ever.  At one point, Liz takes the bus to the ocean and contemplates suicide.  On the last day of the trial, Ned calls a surprise witness–a man named Gilbert–who was drunk driving the night of the accident and swerved into the path of the Jeep. He sideswiped the vehicle and caused the accident.  With this news, the judge rules Elizabeth guilty of drunk driving but not of vehicular manslaughter.  The Wakefields (sans Jessica) rejoice.

Jessica continues to go out with Todd, including to the beach disco the night before the start of the trial.  They slow dance and make out.  She worries constantly about losing him to Liz and is generally a crazy person, doing everything she can into manipulating him to stay with her.  She intercepts a letter Todd wrote to Elizabeth and hides it from her sister, lying to Todd about how Liz read it and ripped it up when he asks about it.  Despite the fact that Todd is clearly miserable and the fact that Jessica is exhibiting signs of a psychotic break, the two continue to see each other.

Lila watches her parents reminisce about when they were young and in love and wonders if they could ever be a real unit again.  When she asks her mom if she’s thought about moving back to Sweet Valley, Grace tells Lila about why she left.  She tells her that she threatened to take Lila and leave George because he was a workaholic.  George told Grace that if she tried, he’d sue her for full custody and prove she was an unfit mother.  And then he did just that.  So Grace fled to Paris.  Jesus.

Bruce is still refusing to speak to Pamela, who has transferred to SVH.  He continues to be really cruel to her in public, and doesn’t seem to care that she keeps crying.  This story is so fucking boring.  When Amy and Lila see Pamela volunteering at Project Youth, they decide to give her a chance and become fast friends.  Then Amy tells Bruce how wrong everyone was about Pamela, and he finally finds her (and rescues her from some dude trying to take her out) and they embrace.

Steven is enjoying living with his new female roommate, Billie Winkler.  She’s a great cook and decorator and is very empathetic.  The two share some creepy, totally not-normal-roommate-behavior moments before Steven goes home for the trial.  When a classmate mentions that he heard Steven’s mom is really losing it, Steven gets super pissed, wondering who could be spreading rumors about the family and then comes to the totally logical conclusion that it must have been Billie.  He goes off on her and she tells him she’ll move out.  When Steven finally realizes that it was Jessica who was talking about how unhinged Alice has become, he takes a while to work up the nerve to apologize to Billie.

Margo arrives in Los Angeles and promptly runs into Josh, the brother of Georgie, who she killed.  He confronts her in a diner, but she escapes and boards a train to San Diego instead of Sweet Valley as a way to throw police off the scent.  When she finally arrives in Sweet Valley, she buys a blond wig and thinks about how she’ll soon take over Elizabeth’s life.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The district attorney prosecuting Elizabeth’s case is named Hempstead Dilworth, and that is legitimately the most amazing thing this series has ever done.
  • Liz’s license has been “indefinitely” suspended because of the accident and the trial.
  • According to Grace, she was 19 when she met George, and he was 27.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Wakefield Manslaughter Trial Starts Tomorrow,’ she read. Lila shivered. ‘Manslaughter trial–they make it sound like she’s a serial killer or something!'” (20) [Blogger’s note: you’re an idiot.]
  • What’s she doing here, anyway? he wondered as he sauntered down the hall, hoping everyone could see that Pamela Robertson meant absolutely nothing to him. Has she slept with all the guys in Big Mesa? Did she switch schools so she could make some new conquests?” (26)
  • “Couldn’t he see that Jessica was the one he was meant to be with? Hadn’t they secretly been drawn to each other from the very beginning? We would have been going steady ages ago, if Liz hadn’t stolen him away from me, Jessica reflected.” (64)
  • “‘That’s what families are for,’ Steven declared, his own eyes damp. ‘When everything else is falling apart, your family will always be there for you. We would never have let you face something like this on your own.'” (169)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  Okay, first of all, let’s talk about the fact that this new mini-series format makes each story line absolutely interminable.  These stories have no substance and are severely underplotted, but go on FOREVER.  There was no reason to have Bruce and Pamela stretch their will-they-won’t-they stuff over three books.  The trial of Elizabeth Wakefield didn’t need three books, either, especially because the trial itself was over in a week.  JEEZY CHREEZY.  Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Jessica needs serious psychological help. I don’t feel qualified to go any further, but seriously.

Not going to lie: I will never understand the rational for the trial plot-twist readers are treated to in this one.  So Elizabeth isn’t guilty for the death of Sam even though she was intoxicated because the eyewitness testimony of someone who was also drunk says “she was driving just fine”? Like, this is seriously all it takes?  It’s such a bizarre plot twist (the first and perhaps most ominous of those to come) and such a way of providing an out so Elizabeth isn’t a murderer.


SVH #62: Who’s Who?

18 Feb

whoswhoEstimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks


Jessica discovers a new computer dating service at the Valley Mall while shopping with Elizabeth, and she decides to fill out two different forms with two different names to attract different dudes.  Thus, Magenta Galaxy, rocker chick is born.  Her sophisticated alter ego, Daniella Fromage, is also created.  It isn’t long before Jessica’s new personalities are set up with dudes who match their interests: Pierre for Daniella and Brett for Magenta.

Deciding she needs to be able to play both parts accurately, Jessica enlists the help of snobby Suzanne Hanlon to teach her about culture and art, and she asks Dana Larson to help school her in the art of rock.  She borrows a ton of clothes from both girls to complete her transformations.

Despite Elizabeth’s warnings that this is a Bad Idea, Jessica goes out with both boys and seems to find them both super attractive, even though they’re totally boring and don’t seem to really know what they’re talking about.  She manages to juggle dating them both for about a week before she inadvertently double-books herself on a Saturday night.  She enlists Elizabeth to dress up with her and swap places every fifteen minutes at the same restaurant.

The problem is, Liz sees through both boys and grows tired of playing along.  She tells them both that she thinks they’re fakes, and storms out of the restaurant.  Jessica is pretty pissed, and then Liz feels bad, because Liz is a doormat.  She conspires to get both dudes to show up at the house the following day without telling Jessica.

The two boys come over at the same time, and while they both come clean about who they actually are (basically they are what the other was pretending to be, if that makes sense), Dana and Suzanne stop by to pick up their things.  The four of them ride off into the sunset, and all is well again.

The B-plot is almost nonexistent but basically involves Liz worrying that she’s too boring (spoiler alert: she is) and getting a perm and buying a dress for the Valentine’s Day dance.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz is reading A Tale of Two Cities and “can’t put it down.”
  • Some of the clothes in this book are totally priceless, including a reference to a paratrooper outfit, a strapless minidress with a necklace made of Scrabble tiles spelling out “HARD ROCK”, and a blue-green shimmery dress.
  • Tune Town is apparently the best place in Sweet Valley to buy vintage records
  • Le Chou Farci is the fanciest, priciest restaurant around.  According to my dubious Google search, that is French for “pork-stuffed cabbage roll.” FANCY!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “With a firm nod, Elizabeth took out her journal, turned to the first blank page, and wrote in capital letters: DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. Then she snapped her journal shut.  From now on, Elizabeth Wakefield was not going to look before she leaped.” (35)
  • “The subtitles didn’t help, either, because the plot of the movie was so strange.  As far as Jessica could tell, all the characters believed they were in purgatory, though to her it just looked like a doctor’s waiting room. Every once in a while a nurse would call someone’s name, and that person would look shocked and begin talking morosely about his childhood.” (75)

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

As a child, this was one of my favorite books in the series.  I loved the concept of the two alter-egos, and desperately wanted a blue streak in my hair, just like Magenta Galaxy.  The names were so cool to my 10-year-old self.

Reading this now, I actually find this one to be the least offensive in recent memory.  Despite the fact that Jessica is a complete SOCIOPATH, no one gets hurt here, and her actions, while largely selfish, aren’t destructive like they normally are.  Elizabeth goes along with it until it gets too ridiculous, and I actually think she acted fairly rationally (until the end, at least).

The things that struck me about this one, though, were twofold.  The first had to do with the dating service itself.  The store advertises itself as catering to teens specifically, but doesn’t that just seem like a lawsuit waiting to happen?  I mean, wouldn’t you have to be 18 to sign up for this dating service?

The second part is how much of the phone-call shenanigans could be avoided with the onset of cell phones.  Jessica eventually has to give both boys Lila’s number so that her mom won’t answer the phone and tell them they have the wrong house for Magenta and Daniella.  But if she had a cell phone?  Well, basically the whole plot wouldn’t happen.

Up next: The New Elizabeth.  SNOOZEFEST!

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 Super Edition: Winter Carnival

22 Sep

Estimated Time Elapsed: 2 weeks


It is, apparently, winter in Sweet Valley again.  Everyone at SVH is all atwitter about the upcoming winter carnival extravaganza being held at Mont Blanc, a ski resort.  The weekend-long festival will include a mock-winter Olympics, ice-skating, skiing, ping-pong tournaments, and lots of wholesome, hot-chocolate-drinking winter fun.

There’s a bunch of other shit going on, too, because the reader is bombarded with information in the first few chapters.  Jessica and Amy Sutton beat out Elizabeth and Enid for a trivia competition, Elizabeth got a runner-up prize in an essay-writing contest, and Jessica’s cheerleading squad has been nominated for the all-state competition.

Much of this is causing problems in Elizabeth’s and Jessica’s relationship.  Elizabeth feels like Jessica sort of cheated her way into the trivia contest, and she’s tired of Jessica not picking up her slack when it comes to household chores.  She internalizes all of this, though, and sulks about how she’s always pegged as the conservative twin.

Todd is coming to town for an awards banquet and also for the carnival, and he asks Liz to attend the awards dinner with him.  She says yes, but doesn’t tell Jeffrey, and when she finds out it’s on the same night as the opening party for the carnival, it causes problems.  Jeffrey gets mad that Liz has been sort of sneaky, and he tells her that he’ll wait for her at Las Palmas Canyon at 6, and if she doesn’t show he’ll assume the relationship is over, which is pretty much the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a while.  Jessica and Amy win the trivia contest and lose track of time, leaving Liz without a car and thus missing the meet up with Jeffrey.  Liz is, understandably, pretty pissed off.

Jessica tries to fix things by telling Todd that Liz really wants to go to the carnival party.  Todd tells Liz she shouldn’t feel obligated to go to the dinner, and she gets bummed because she figures he doesn’t want to hang out with her.  When Jess realizes that she’s not really helping, she forges a note from Liz to Jeffrey asking him to meet her at the lodge.  The problem is, she doesn’t have time to tell Liz because she and Amy miss the bus taking them to Mont Blanc.  They arrive just in time for Jess to pose as Liz, which would work if one of their classmates hadn’t told Liz what they saw.  Liz assumes that Jessica is moving in on Jeffrey (hey, there’s precedent), and she gets ready to go home.

Jessica tries to call Liz at home and explain, but Liz hangs up on her.  She’s pissed, goes to take a nap, and awakes when the police call her and tell her that Jessica has been in a car accident and is in the E.R.  Todd shows up, sensing the need for his trustworthiness, and takes her to the hospital.  Jessica is dead.  The next two weeks are, as one would expect, pretty awful.  When Enid has a small get-together at her house, Todd and Jeffrey fight over Liz, kind of.  Liz hears someone call her name (it sounds just like Jessica, or maybe herself…), and Liz wakes up?  What?

It was all a dream!  Everyone makes up and everyone goes back up to the lodge for the carnival.  Everyone has a lovely time in their privileged little world, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “And I’m going to take you home, where you have strict instructions to languish in a bubble bath and keep that soapy smell of yours.” (36)
  • “‘I’ve decided Daddy needs to watch his weight,’ she had confided…Mr. Wakefield was in excellent shape, and in fact, he could still beat Steven at tennis.  But Jessica had been adamant.  She’d been reading about the dangers of high-cholesterol levels in middle-aged men, and she was determined that the Wakefields should start eating salads at least two nights a week.” (39)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book sucked.  How’s that for some trivia?
  • Amy and Jessica have to go to the library to find out what the longest river in Africa is.  Seriously.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a lot to say about this one.  There’s so much build up to the winter carnival and then so little time actually spent at the ski lodge that one feels more than a little cheated.  Everyone acts so stupid in the book that it’s hard to choose a side.  Elizabeth is self-righteous, Jessica is a sociopath, and Todd and Jeffrey act as plot points (and not very good ones, either).  The fact that Elizabeth and Jeffrey are supposed to have such a strong, solid relationship is undermined by the fact that the two of them seem to break up in EVERY book because of stupid misunderstandings and weird ultimatums.


SVH #29: Bitter Rivals

10 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks


Elizabeth is super excited about the return of her elementary school best friend, Amy Sutton.  Amy’s family is moving back to Sweet Valley from Connecticut (practically another country) as a result of a job transfer for her mom, Dyan Sutton.  Elizabeth seems to be under the delusion that Amy is the same girl she was in sixth grade, and as a result, they will be able to pick up their friendship where they left off.  Enid isn’t so sure about this, and has reservations about how she will fit in with Elizabeth’s old best friend.

When Amy arrives, Elizabeth is stunned by how beautiful she is.  She immediately blows off her plans to meet Enid at the beach in favor of a sleepover with Amy, and then is surprised and a little jealous when she sees how famously Jessica and Amy get along.  What Elizabeth doesn’t seem to realize is that Amy is very different from her–she’s much more like Jessica now, preferring to talk about boys, clothes, and herself.  She’s also a total flake, blowing off plans with Elizabeth completely or showing up hours late with ridiculous excuses.  Liz is hurt and confused but continues to accept Amy’s behavior because Liz is, above all things, a very good doormat.

What’s worse is that Enid and Amy don’t seem to hit it off.  Liz tries to introduce them at a brunch, but there’s no spark.  Enid and Liz have been planning a trip to visit Enid’s aunt in Lake Tahoe, and they invite Amy, but the plan keeps getting put off.  Enid is hurt by Liz’s focus on Amy, but she resists saying anything because she doesn’t want to upset her.  Meanwhile, Amy tries out and gets on the SVH cheerleading squad and has plans to pledge Pi Beta Alpha.

Lila throws a huge costume party in honor of her visiting cousin Christopher Hunter, and everyone is in attendance.  When Christopher shows a lot of interest in Enid–he was her sailing instructor at camp a few years ago–Amy is furious, because she had planned to get her hooks into him.  She goes off on Enid at the party, saying really awful things to her, and Enid feels awful.  Then she tells Elizabeth that she doesn’t want to share her with Enid, and Elizabeth feels torn.  Enid gets mad at Liz, too, and then Elizabeth seems to have no friends.

Enid and Elizabeth make up, though, and Liz realizes that Amy is a different person now.  She seems to accept the fact that they aren’t going to be close anymore, and resigns herself to the fact that Jessica has gained a friend where she has lost one.

The B-Plot involves a new advice column run by Jessica and Cara Walker.  Calling themselves Miss Lovelorn, the two offer up advice in response to letters they recieve from the study body.  It isn’t long before Jessica abuses this position, faking letters from two classmates to break up cutie Jay McGuire and his girlfriend Denise Hadley in order to hook up with Jay herself.  This works for a brief period of time, until the two write actual letters about how miserable they are and, because Jessica forgot to turn in a copy, Liz prints them, effectively getting Jay and Dense back together.  Jessica is pretty pissed about this, but she rebounds quickly.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Amy smiled. ‘I have to be careful,’ she told them. ‘I really hate myself if I weigh a single ounce over one-hundred and ten pounds.'” (40)
  • “Jessica was thunderstruck. ‘Why?’ she shrieked.  ‘Liz, this is going to be the best party to hit Sweet Valley in months!'” (60)
  • “Lighted candles floated in glass bubbles in the large swimming pool, so the water seemd to glow like a sheet of moonlight.  The rich scent of flowers laced the air.  A long table covered with a snowy white tablecloth was heaped at one end with brownies, cookies, and cakes of every variety.  Sodas and cold drinks were at the other end.  On a raised dais, the Number One were setting up their instruments.” (108) [ed. note: I want to party with Lila.]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • At brunch at the Pancake House, Amy orders a grapefruit and black coffee while Enid and Liz have pancakes, orange juice, and tea.
  • The costumes at Lila’s party range from Cleopatra (Jessica) to skiers (Enid and Liz) to a ballerina (Amy) to Princess Di (Lila) to Raggedy Ann and Andy (Steve and Cara)

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Everyone in this book is so completely stupid that it’s maddening.  Liz is blind to Amy’s obvious faults; Enid worries over being honest with Liz; Jessica seems to think it’s normal to break up complete strangers so she can make out with one of them at Miller’s Point; and Lila goes on and on about how hot her cousin is without realizing how creepy it sounds.  It’s enough to drive a girl crazy.

The issue of Amy is hard for me to write about, because I just honestly don’t care that much.  She’s like Jessica without the sense of humor or spark.  She’s manipulative and selfish and totally boring.  She sucks.  The fact that she was ever cool is debatable, and the fact that it took Elizabeth something like 120 pages to figure it out really bugs me.

As a final thought, I’d like to mention the scene in which Liz confides in her mom about her problems.  Sure, it happens near the end of the book, and sure, it’s a bit too tidy, but it’s a rare moment of actual parenting in which Alice actually gives decent advice:

Mrs. Wakefield looked thoughtful.  “Elizabeth,” she said slowly, “what you’re describing is a very manipulative young lady.  Do you think it’s possible that Enid has been trying to keep her distance because she’s afraid of hurting your feelings?”

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth demanded.

“What I mean,” Mrs. Wakefield said, “is that Enid may have sized Amy up much more quickly than you.  After all, she wasn’t lugging around the same emotional baggage you were.  She didn’t have all the good memories of Amy that you did, and she didn’t have the feel pressure to make things work out.” (126-127)

Is it perfect advice?  No, because it should have been obvious to someone who is supposedly introspective and reflective and keeps a journal, for chrissakes.  But whatever.  It’s something.