Tag Archives: elizabeth the sleuth

SVH #128: Kiss of a Killer

16 Apr

“It does seem unlikely that a town the size of Sweet Valley would have two deranged killers,” Winston chimed in.

svh128kissofakiller.jpg

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

We begin with Elizabeth coming to from her fainting spell in the previous book to discover that Katrina is still dead and that everything is still terrible. She takes a moment to appreciate being in Todd’s arms before attempting to perform CPR on Katrina, but Jonathan comes downstairs with Jessica and pronounces her really really dead. The cops arrive and bust the party, because not only is there a dead person in the house, but everyone is out after curfew.

Todd drives Elizabeth home and it seems like they might get back together until he sees Joey’s car in the Wakefield driveway, so Todd storms off again. Elizabeth and Joey make out and Elizabeth wonders if her heart’s in it. She’s surprised to find that Jessica didn’t come home and tries to wait up for her, but Jessica spends the night with Jonathan, who literally turns into a raven in front of her and transports her to the beach (?) before sucking on her neck and giving her an orgasm (?) and then transporting her to her own bed before the morning. She is unable to listen to reason when Elizabeth tries to tell her again that Jonathan is bad news.

Ned and Alice ground both twins for going to the party, and tell Jessica she has to stay away from Jonathan’s house. She FLIPS OUT and throws an actual tantrum, begging them to let Jonathan come over for dinner the following night so that they can see how wonderful he is. Ma and Pa Wakefield relent, and remind the girls they’re still grounded, but somehow Jessica gets Ned’s credit card and is allowed to go shopping for new clothes for the dinner. Y’all, I cannot.

Jonathan manages to charm both Ma and Pa Wakefield at the dinner and no one notices that he’s not eating. Elizabeth tries to grill him, but it doesn’t really work. Jessica and Jonathan make out in the den after dinner until Ned cock blocks them and sends Jonathan home right before he was about to tell her that he’s a vampire. This is what passes as suspense in the book.

A funeral is held for Katrina Sutton, although she lived in San Fransisco and was just visiting Sweet Valley. Everyone goes to the reception afterward except for Enid, who sits at Katrina’s grave and cries about how sad her own life is. Jonathan sneaks up behind her and attacks her, and then when she’s almost dead has a change of heart and rushes her to the hospital. Enid winds up in a coma, and Elizabeth stays at her bedside, absolutely sick over it. Enid wakes for a moment only to utter the word “Jonathan,” which Elizabeth takes as admission of his guilt. She rushes off to solve the mystery.

This involves convincing Maria to break into Jonathan’s house with her, and then discovering a hidden room that is full of vampire books. Elizabeth steals a bunch of them and brings them home and decides Jonathan must be a vampire. While Maria isn’t convinced, the two spend some time on the school computer doing research and discover a rash of murders in Northern California in the late 1930s and a mysterious guy named John Cayne. Elizabeth needs no further convincing.

Meanwhile, Jessica sneaks out to see Jonathan, and Liz tattles on her. Ned and Alice call the police, and the police find Jonathan and Jessica in a cave by the water, where they’ve found evidence of the killer. Jessica still hasn’t pieced any of the puzzle together and cries about being found by the police before being taken home and seriously grounded (for real this time?). It doesn’t really work though because Jessica still sneaks out to see Jonathan and then decides to run away to be with him. She shows up at his house and begs him to take him with her so they can be together forever.

At the same time, Maria shows up at the Wakefield house and tells Liz that she believes her now. She shows her a bunch of research she pulled off of the internet, and the two meet up with the rest of the gang and after like two minutes have them convinced that Jonathan is a vampire. The group decides to burn his house down and kill him, and Elizabeth is horrified. Then Enid’s mother calls with news that Enid has woken up and named Jonathan as her savior. Elizabeth calls Joey to help her stop the mob, and he breaks up with her, but luckily Todd is hanging around right behind her, and the two rush to the beach to try to stop them from killing Jonathan.

They intercept Jonathan and Jessica right before he’s going to change her into a vampire (?) and Jonathan realizes how much love surrounds Jessica and leaves her with his ring (but then the ring disappears from around her finger a bit later, so I guess he wanted it back after all). He flies away just as the mob shows up. So he escapes, I guess. Todd and Elizabeth make out. Jessica cries. Enid wakes up and feels a strange sense of loss. All is normal in Sweet Valley again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently there’s a place called Season’s Gourmet Shop where residents of Sweet Valley can get fancy food groceries. Did we know this?
  • Jessica’s new outfit for the dinner with Jonathan consists of a lilac silk dress, a silver chain belt, “dressy” leather sandals, and mauve lipstick.
  • She also buys a new outfit for Katrina’s funeral: gray and black striped dress with a black satin vest.
  • The school has a psychologist named Ms. McLean

Memorable Quotes:

  • Some party! Enid raged to herself. Katrina Sutton dropped dead,and Jessica stole Jonathan away from me. The night was a total bust.” (9)
  • “‘I understand what you mean,’ Lila said. ‘Right now it doesn’t matter that the girl has no fashion sense or style whatsoever. I feel sorry for her anyway.'” (83)
  • “He gazed pensively at the fire. ‘I grew up in a tiny coastal village in Prussia.’ Jessica frowned. ‘You mean Russia?'” (123) [I AM DEAD]
  • “She knew from past experience that computers were very useful when it came to confirming suspicions about a person.” (143)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Y’all, I don’t know. I feel like this recap was extra-long, but I also couldn’t figure out what to cut without the story making even less sense than it already does. There was a lot of plot in this one, which makes me wonder why they didn’t put some of it in the previous book where nothing at all happened. At the same time, this plot didn’t make a lick of sense. Like, none.

My favorite thing about this book was the weird references to computers and internet searching. It’s so dated, but you can tell that the ghostwriter was trying to explain the wonders of the world wide web to an audience who probably had more experience with computers than they did. How quaint.

When I was prepping this post, I read somewhere that the series was in danger of being cancelled around the time this book was published (I don’t have a source. I’m a bad librarian, I know). That tidbit of gossip helps illustrate why they might have thought suddenly introducing supernatural elements into the series was a good idea, though it still doesn’t make sense given the history of the series. I never thought I’d say this, but it makes me miss poor Luke, who just thought he was a werewolf.

I’m a rambling, incoherent mess, just like this book. All is well.

SVH #127: Dance of Death

12 Apr

“I could use your mother for a few other things as well,” Jonathan replied. “Like disciplining you.”

svh127danceofdeath

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Jonathan are right where we left them: making out in his creepy, crumbling mansion. He’s drinking red wine (or blood, it’s unclear), and he makes some more vaguely threatening comments about how much danger Jessica is in when she’s near him. He gives her a half-hearted tour of the house, and she notices that there’s a painting of a young man bearing a very similar resemblance to Jonathan, only the painting looks very old. They banter a bit, make out a bunch, and then when Jonathan tells her they can’t do what they’re doing, Jessica has a little temper tantrum and runs out the door in tears.

Enid is hiding in the shadows, having watched them make out. She’s insanely jealous of Jessica and doesn’t understand why Jonathan doesn’t love her. Then she lets herself into Jonathan’s house, and he’s totally cool with it because they start making out and then he feeds on her while she has an orgasm? She’s surprised to find herself in her own bed the next morning with no memory of how she got there.

Jessica finds out that Enid has a “hickey” that was given to her by Jonathan, and she freaks the fuck out. She threatens Enid, who sort of sneers at her, and then yells at Jonathan about how she knows he has feelings for her and demands him to deny it. He can’t, and while she’s satisfied by this, she’s also royally pissed.

She calls him up a week later, and he tells her it’s a bad time because he’s sick. So she makes him soup and shows up at his house to find Enid there, looking glassy-eyed and smug. Jess literally throws the thermos of soup at Jonathan and runs away crying. Things go from bad to worse when she finds Jasmine the kitten dead and drained of blood in the back yard. The twins tell their parents Jasmine was hit by a car and bury her.

Bruce and Todd convince Jonathan to have a party at his house, despite the fact that Jonathan seems very unenthusiastic about it, and despite the fact that the town has enacted a citywide curfew requiring everyone to be home by 10 o’clock. Everyone goes and is dressed to the nines. Todd dances with Amy’s cousin Katrina, and Elizabeth cries about it. Enid cries about Jonathan ignoring her. Jessica sneaks upstairs to a black bedroom and waits for Jonathan, and then the power goes out. Jonathan finds her, and they kiss and he tells her he wants to be with her forever.

MEANWHILE, Elizabeth tries to explain to Todd why she was embracing Joey when he showed up, but he storms off. So Elizabeth convinces Joey to go with her to investigate the dead body at Secca Lake. The police officer lets her through to see the body when she explains that she’s Jessica Wakefield’s sister, but luckily the body isn’t her twin’s. What a relief! Which is a thing that Elizabeth actually says. I guess that the dead girl doesn’t count when it’s not your sister.

She continues to wring her hands about whether she wants Joey or Todd, but she can’t make up her mind. Todd is full out ignoring her, and some of Joey’s comments and behaviors are beginning to grate on her. Maria Slater encourages her to make a pro/con list, and she still isn’t sure. Then she decides to go out with Joey, and realizes she’s totally not into it. He gets pissed when she neglects to tell him about the upcoming party and bails, mid-date.

At the party at Jonathan’s house, she convinces Todd to help her try to find the fuse box to turn the power back on. He resists at first, but then follows her to the creepy basement, and after a bunch of testing of switches, they figure out how to get the power back on. They hear groans of disappointment upstairs, and then silence. Liz knows that something is wrong, and when she rushes upstairs, she finds that there’s a dead body in the middle of the floor. It’s Katrina.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Joey drives a Land Rover
  • Pop culture references include Bride of Frankenstein, Florence Nightingale, a Greta Garbo movie, and Sabrina (Hepburn & Bogart, natch)
  • Mr. Jaworski’s classes are studying the Civil Rights movement
  • Enid wears a black cotton miniskirt, a cropped leather jacket,and a silver skull-and-crossbones pendant

Memorable Quotes:

  • I wish I’d never met either Wakefield, Enid thought angrily. They’re both totally self-centered.” (21)
  • “Jonathan closed his warm lips around the side of her throat. Enid moaned as she felt a sharp sting. The sensation was exquisite: intense pain and a searing pleasure mixed into one.” (59)
  • “‘Troubled, yes. Artist, no,’ Elizabeth responded. ‘I don’t know why i think I can be a writer. I can barely get out a coherent sentence.'” (107)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps the biggest issue with this book, and this mini-series as a whole, is that the mechanics of the vampire are…confusing. He seems to be drinking blood without ever actually puncturing his victims. At one point, one of the wounds is described as a “bluish mark” on the neck, and that doesn’t seem right? Like, if it’s just bruising, the blood couldn’t leave the body. So what exactly is happening?

At any rate, the character development is so poorly done and the writing is so unclear that it’s hard to know what exactly is going on. It’s clear that we’re supposed to believe that Jonathan has some sort of influence over everyone, but it’s hard to tell if it is something like mind control, general supernatural magic, or something else. It’s also unclear why it doesn’t seem to have an effect on Elizabeth (or Maria). Do they eat more garlic than other people? Does garlic even work on this kind of vampire?

I’m tired of the insta-love shit. The best moment of this entire book was when Jessica threw the thermos of soup at Jonathan, and that was like a five-second interaction. The rest of this was pretty interminable.

This is the most bloodless vampire tale ever.

SVH Super Thriller #8: Murder in Paradise

28 Jan

murderinparadise

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Alice Wakefield has randomly won an all-expense paid trip to a spa in a glamorous location.  Because Alice has no friends, she takes her daughters, as well as Lila and her mom, Grace, and Enid (her mom has to “work” and can’t make it). The spa, creatively named Paradise Spa, is full of beautiful people, with the exception of the spa’s owner, Tatiana Mueller.  While Alice has a feeling of deja vu when she meets Tatiana, she largely ignores her feelings of foreboding.

The ladies settle into life at the spa.  Jessica and Lila are horrified to find that there are no mirrors anywhere at the resort, and when they ask if they can have a mirror delivered to their room, Tatiana tells them no, because the spa focuses on inner beauty.  Except this is a beauty spa, so that makes no sense, but whatever.  It takes approximately five seconds before Jessica meets a golf instructor named Chris and falls in love with him.  She gets worried when he seems to be pretty into Liz, though.

And indeed he is, because he asks Liz to meet him for a rousing game of tennis.  She agrees, so long as he’ll bring a friend for her friend, Enid.  Enid has been feeling bad about how gorgeous Liz is and how she gets all the boys or whatever.  Tatiana has actually been feeding into Enid’s insecurities, but they are boring, so whatever.  Enid hits it off with Chris’s friend Alex, and the date goes well until Jessica shows up and acts all distracting.  Enid is miserable and consumed with jealousy, which is only compounded by the fact that Tatiana has started hypnotizing Enid and telling her that her mother never loved her.  WHAT?

Liz and Chris run off and make out.  Later, the group of teens is on a fun outing of frisbee golf, like teens are wont to do, and they stumble upon a super weird building in the woods without any windows.  The hotel staffers run away, and there’s clearly something weird going on.  Liz overhears Tatiana yelling at a waitress named Katya about letting guests into the woods, and when Katya ends up dead in the steam room later, Liz finds it mighty suspicious, despite Tatiana saying that Katya had a heart condition.  Liz does some more snooping and discovers that not only was Katya a runaway, but so are most of the spa’s staff.  They work at the spa for room and board and make no actual income.  Liz also thinks that they seem a tad brainwashed.

Then Alice goes missing, and Tatiana brushes it off, saying she probably just wanted some time alone.  The twins try to call home, but the phone’s dead.  Tatiana continues to act weird, and Jessica spies on her and sneaks into her office when she’s not there.  Once inside, she finds a yearbook from Sweet Valley University with Alice’s picture cut out.  DUN DUN DUN!  Eventually, Elizabeth manages to get her laptop plugged into a phone line, and after a little research, pulls up some weird stuff about the spa and plastic surgery.  While she does that, Jessica goes through Tatiana’s files and finds that all of the staff have undergone plastic surgery, and Enid is next!

The twins get an email from Ned, who tells the girls that they did know a Tatiana Mueller in college.  She was obsessed with Alice and everyone made fun of her because she was unattractive.  Liz goes to do some thinking by a waterfall and gets kidnapped by Chris, who is wearing a lab coat.  Once she’s kidnapped, Chris reveals to her that Tatiana wants to look like Alice and has trained another person to be the perfect plastic surgeon so this can be accomplished.  The plan is to kill Alice once the surgery is complete.

Right before Elizabeth dies, Lila, Jessica, and Enid come rushing in to save the day.  Enid’s brainwashing unravels as Chris spews his story, and she helps overpower Tatiana and her assistants.  The police arrive, and all is well.  Everyone goes home.  Even the surgically-altered runaways.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The shelter for runaways that Liz calls is called Manford House
  • There’s another plug for the search engine (?) INFOMAX in this book

Memorable Quotes:

  • “’I’ve gained four pounds since Hugh dumped me.’ Her green eyes glittered; a tear slid down her freckled cheek. ‘If I were prettier, if I looked more like you and Jessica, Hugh would have never gotten tired of me.’  Elizabeth continued to shake her head empathetically. Inside, though, she had to admit that there might be a tiny measure of truth to what Enid said.”

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I mean, what is there even to say?  The idea that Alice would bring her daughters, their friends, and their friend’s mothers (well, except Enid’s) to a spa for a week is sad enough.  Don’t you have any friends, Alice?  Isn’t it weird to bring the mom of one of your daughter’s friends whom you barely know?  Setting aside that, don’t you think it’s weird that you can’t remember the name Tatiana Mueller, which is fairly unusual?  Remember how she lived down the hall from you in college and was OBSESSED with you?

But then the rest of it is just silly.  Both Jessica and Elizabeth are supposed to have boyfriends at home (Ken and Todd, respectively) and within minutes of arriving at Paradise Spa, they’re macking on the same dude.  Like, what the hell?  A fling when you’re across the world is one thing, but you’re going to be home in a matter of days (provided you don’t die at the hands of a deranged, body-image-obsessed psychopath).  Cool your jets, ladies.

Then there’s the issue of Tatiana and her hare-brained scheme.  How did she really see this playing out?  She was going to kill the entire group and take over Alice’s life?  That seems unlikely.  So she just wanted to look like Alice and go on living her life?  Did she not think that people were going to start getting suspicious about how many people “disappeared” or actually died in her health spa?  Are there not regulations regarding those sorts of things?  Didn’t she have to put in purchase orders for her medical equipment?  DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE SENSE?

Also, Enid.  LOL.

SVH #111: A Deadly Christmas

8 Aug

deadlychristmas

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica manages to rationalize away the fact that she recognizes the ring on Jeremy in the video of the kidnapper, and goes about her business of being in love with him.  They make plans to DO IT that coming Friday, and Jessica wonders what it will be like to DO IT.  Sue overhears Jessica telling Lila about it and asks Jeremy if he’s serious about just her or into Jess, too.  Jeremy assures her that it’s only Sue he’s got eyes for, but Sue realizes that that isn’t true.  She ends up telling Jessica the entire story, including how she was complicit in staging her own kidnapping, and Jessica cries and cries.  She thinks about how long it’s been since she felt like a normal teenager.

Meanwhile, Liz and Todd go back to the Project Nature cabin to do some sleuthing. They end up discovering the trapdoor to the attic and find evidence of someone being held there.  They also find batteries they think could be right for a tape recorder.  When Liz gets home, Jessica cries about how she was right and Jeremy is a creep.  She tells Liz the entire story.  Though Liz can’t believe that Dear Sweet Sue would ever do anything like that, they agree to try to reach Sam Diamond.  They don’t have her home number,  and instead of asking Ned for it, they go see the local police with the videotape of the kidnapping.  But Steven taped over it!  The detective tells them not to bother with the stupid prank any more.

Jessica cancels on Jeremy and tells him she’s sick.  Sue goes out with Jeremy instead.  But she realizes that Jeremy is a big liar when she finds a one-way ticket to Hawaii in his pocket and realizes he was planning on leaving town without her.  Stunned and hurt, she goes home, confides to Jessica and Liz, and the three hatch a plan to get Jeremy once and for all.  They enlist the help of Sam Diamond.

Jessica makes plans to meet Jeremy and tells him she wants to run away with him (with Sue’s money).  Jeremy agrees, picks her up, and takes her to a remote mountain cabin.  Unbeknownst to him, they’re being tailed by Sam, Liz, Sue, and Todd (?).  Jessica is wearing a wire.  The idea is that they’ll get Jeremy to confess and then arrest him?  This plan is dumb as shit.  At any rate, Jeremy takes Jessica to the cabin and the other car swerves off the road in the storm.  Jessica finds a piece of paper with a bank account number on it but Jeremy FREAKS OUT and comes at her.  Jessica trips, falls, hits the coffee table (this happens a lot) and gets knocked unconscious, just as the Christmas tree lights on fire or something.  Jeremy takes off, leaving Jessica to burn.

Luckily, the group of heroes arrives at the last second. Sue rushes in and saves Jessica, and Liz forgives her for everything else.  Jeremy gets apprehended by the police.  All is well.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • There’s a video club at Sweet Valley High
  • If it was Halloween a few days ago, why is the Mistletoe Madness dance like 10 days later?
  • Jessica and Lila go shopping for “teddies” at Unique Boutique
  • INFOMAX is the computer search system Liz uses to look people up.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘To belong to each other, body and soul,’ she whispered to herself, quoting Jeremy. What would it be like to be with him like that, to go all the way?” (35)
  • “Disillusioned, confused, only one thing seemed clear to Sue.  Jessica Wakefield wasn’t the only one who’d been living in a fantasy world.” (72)
  • “‘It’s Jeremy,’ Jessica cried. ‘Matt Thorn is Jeremy Randall!'” (127)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analsysis:

Probably the best part of this book is the use of the INFOMAX computer that lets Liz look up newspaper articles about people.  She thinks it’s weird that Jeremy Randall didn’t exist until six months ago but doesn’t really push that further.  Then, when they find out that he’s gone under different names before, they finally start piecing it together.  But what’s weird is that we never find out if Jeremy is his real name.  The way the sentences are structured makes it sound like his other names (Matt something, and something else I can’t be bothered to look up) are definitely fake names as well.  So, does he have a real name?

It’s like catfishing, kind of?  I’m not sure.  I just know that I’m so, so glad this mini-series is over.

 

SVH #110: Death Threat

6 Aug

death threat

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 incredibly long days

Summary/Overview:

After Jeremy shows up to tell the twins that Sue is missing, they go and search for her at the Project Nature cabin.  But as the twins search, Jeremy goes up to an attic where Sue is hiding.  He’s kind of a dick to her, but it becomes clear that they’re staging her kidnapping as a way to extort the money she’s owed from her mother’s inheritance.  This makes absolutely no sense.  None, whatsoever.

The next day, the entire Wakefield family debriefs about Sue.  While talking, they get a ransom call asking for a half a million dollars–the exact amount of Sue’s inheritance.  They’re told not to go to the police, so Mr. Wakefield calls his friend Sam Diamond, who is a special detective or something to come help out.  The twins stay home from school, which makes all their friends wonder where they are and what’s going on.  SUBTLE.

Jeremy ties Sue up in the attic of the cabin because he gets pissed when she tries to warm herself by the fire.  He tells her to remember to call at 5pm to arrange the drop-off.  She wonders if her mother was right about Jeremy and feels sad. Meanwhile, Sam Diamond shows up at the Wakefield house and turns out to be a super hot lady.  Jessica and Liz debate feminism or something, which feels both misguided and out of place.  Liz tries,  once again, to tell Jessica that there’s something wrong with Jeremy.  Jessica won’t listen.

The kidnapper calls with a recorded voice (?) and tells the Wakefields because they involved a detective, the ransom has been raised by $100,000.  The drop will be made the following evening, and he wants the twins to do it.  After this, Lila calls and begs Jessica to tell her what’s happening.  Jessica tells her but covers the receiver with her hand so her voice is muffled.  The result is, as you’d guess, that Lila thinks the entire Wakefield family has been kidnapped.  She calls Todd, who immediately hatches a plan with her and Robby to save the day.  YOU ARE ALL THE WORST.

The night of the drop, Liz and Jess head off with Sam to drop off the money that Ned pulled from the bank.  Jessica films from across the street while Liz drops off the bag.  Sue is returned to the twins, and the kidnapper (who is Jeremy, by the way, who left as soon as the twins did, though he was tackled by Todd and Lila and Robby but WHO CARES) gets the money and runs.

Once back at the house, Mrs. Wakefield serves everyone cake.  It is so, so weird that they wouldn’t go to the police and have Sue inspected for signs of assault, etc.  Sue says she didn’t get a look at the kidnapper.  Mr. Wakefield reveals that the money was counterfeit and her fortune is safe.  Sam pops the recorded video into the VCR and asks for help identifying the kidnapper.  No one can recognize him, until Jessica realizes the kidnapper is wearing the ring on his pinky that she gave Jeremy just hours before.  DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently Bruce won the costume contest at the Halloween party by dressing as a Porshe.  Oh…kay?
  • Sam “I’m totally a lady” Diamond wears a “winter-white” Chanel suit

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Ned, we’ve got to do something right away,’ urged Alice. ‘Sue is like a daughter to me.’ Jessica groaned inwardly at her mother’s words.  First Sue had tried to steal her fiance, and now she was stealing her mother” (35). WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
  • “‘Detectives are always men,’ explained Jessica.” (79)
  • “She watched with distaste as Todd began slithering across the lawn like a snake, padding along on his hands and elbows.” (122)
  • “Mrs. Wakefield gasped.  ‘But that’s torture!’ she exclaimed, slicing another piece of cake and putting it on her plate.” (187)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

Sigh.  I’ve been sitting with this book in my purse for like over a week.  That’s how much I didn’t want to read and recap it.  Once I got started, it flew by, but only because the plot is LITERALLY SO DUMB that it doesn’t require any actual attention.  In fact, the less thinking, the better.

Everyone is dumb.  But I still can’t get past how weird this entire plot is, and how quickly it has derailed from where it started.  Like, wouldn’t it just have been enough for Jeremy to be creeper who scams on underage girls and cheats on his fiance?  No?  We need to add a faked blood disease, a faked suicide, an inheritance with weird strings attached, and then a TERRIBLE ATTEMPT at FAKING A KIDNAPPING?  Really?  That’s what these books needed?

I still don’t understand why Sue and Jeremy didn’t stay apart for the 60 days needed for her to get her inheritance.  This makes no sense.  WHY.

 

 

SVH: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

16 Jul

elizabeth's secret diary

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

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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

SVH #106/Super Thriller #6: Beware the Wolfman

2 Jul

bewarewolfmanEstimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

The twins are still not speaking because Jessica is pissed that everyone thinks her boyfriend Robert Pembroke is the werewolf on the loose.  Determined to clear his name, Jessica starts investigating the murders in earnest, going so far as to sneak into the murdered Dr. Neville’s house and snoop through his files.  She finds a file for a mysterious Annabelle S., who died some years ago.  She isn’t sure what to make of it.  At the same time, Liz enters the house and tries to search for files.  The two don’t cross paths, though.  Liz finds an address for Mildred Price, nanny to the Pembrokes.  Then the intruder/werewolf comes in looking for the same files.  Whatever, this is beyond the beyond.

Liz puts the necklace with the “A” on it in Jessica’s bag, thinking she needs it more than Liz does.  The next morning, Jessica wakes up late for work and leaves in a rush, forgetting her bag.  By the time she gets back to HIS to grab it, it’s clear someone has been in the room, searching it.

The nanny of the Pembrokes turns up dead.

The intruder/werewolf searches the twins’ room again, looking for the silver bullet but only finding the files they took (Robert’s and Annabelle’s).  He steals them back.  The twins finally start talking to each other again, trying to piece together the mystery they seem to think they’re embroiled in.

Lord Pembroke is attacked but survives and is in the hospital.  A visit tells Jessica that Robert Pembroke Sr. was in love with the woman named Annabelle, then that he has another son.  Whatever, I’m bored.  While this is going on, Liz decides to go visit Pembroke Green in the country and snoop around some more.  This time, she brings Tony from the paper to help her.  The two go to the Werewolf Room and discover hidden love letters between Annabelle and Lord Pembroke.

Meanwhile, Jessica enlists the help of Portia and her famous actor father to get back into the house to talk to Lady Pembroke.  She tells her she knows about the lord’s affair and Robert’s brother.  Lady Pembroke rants on about Annabelle and her demonic son, Lucas.  Finally, Jessica puts it all together, but by the time she rushes back into town, Liz has gone off with Luke to investigate Annabelle’s old home.

While Luke goes to find a fuse box, Liz snoops around the house in the dark.  She discovers the room of Annabelle’s son, and finds that whoever it is is a crazy person.  There are hundreds of newspaper clippings about the Pembrokes all over the walls, and then she finds a diary.  Then Luke shows up in the doorway wearing a werewolf mask and tells Liz she has to die.

LUCKILY Rene (who has been stalking Elizabeth to keep her safe), Robert (who has been disguised as a homeless man to keep Jessica safe), and Sergeant Bumpo all show up.  There’s a fumble with a gun and it goes off, killing Luke.  Jessica and Tony arrive just in time to witness the aftermath.  The twins are safe, and Luke is revealed to be a crazy person.

Then Lucy Friday and Tony get married a week later.  The end.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • At one point, Liz remembers she has a boyfriend named Todd back home. She misses him for a second and then thinks about how much she likes making out with Luke.  Weird.
  • Jessica eats a burger and fries from an “American-style fast food place” in London.  Um, McDonald’s, maybe?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Ann, not Annabelle. So much for that brilliant idea, Jessica thought, disappointed.” (104)
  • “‘Not that he isn’t weird,’ she said with her mouth full. ‘He’d make a pretty good werewolf because he knows so much about them. And he’s a loner, and serial killers are always loners.’ Still, it didn’t jive. ‘People who write poetry are too wimpy to be murderers,’ Jessica concluded.” (133)
  • “‘So much for Rene supposedly wanting so badly to be my friend,’ she grubnled to herself. ‘I can’t believe I actually wasted time feeling guilty because we weren’t seeing much of each other!” (155) YOU ARE A FUCKING SOCIOPATH, ELIZABETH.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

…sigh.

This was exhausting, and not in a good way.  I still don’t understand any of what happened.  Like, it makes no sense.  I literally have nothing to say about it.  Luke was the killer, there was nothing supernatural about the plot (except for how SUPERNATURALLY DUMB it is), and the twins survive another murderer on the loose.  Like, is this plot tired or is it tired?  Why do the books resort to this stuff?

I know that the Evil Twin plot with Margo was the start of a new direction for the series, but it still feels like such a colossally weird way to go.  The twins have always been this ideal to strive for.  Like, they aren’t supposed to be relatable because humans this perfect don’t exist, but their experiences in high school were supposed to largely stand in for high school experiences of the readers.  But this stuff?  I can’t get behind it.

SVH #105: A Date with a Werewolf

27 Jun

adatewithawerewolf

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Turns out that it isn’t Jessica’s body in Jessica’s bed, but the body of Joy, another blonde girl who was spending the weekend at the manor.  Elizabeth is overcome with relief, because Jessica and Joy switched rooms midway through the night.  The entire house is up in arms about the murder, and after being interviewed by the local constable, everyone sort of goes about their business.  The next day, Liz and Luke head back to London while Jessica rides back with Robert later.  Liz and Luke talk about the murders and figure out a way to bring down the Pembroke paper cover-up.  Liz lets it slip that the missing princess–whom the paper is now offering a 1 million pound reward–is Lina.  Way to go, Liz.  That didn’t take long AT ALL.  Luke assures her he won’t tell, but does remind her that as long as the paper can use her as a cover-up, people will die.  Uh, okay.

Liz poses as Jessica to go interview Mrs. Pembroke and ends up offending her terribly.  Jessica finds out about the interview through Robert, and though she’s PISSED at Liz, she goes along with the story and tries to mend fences at dinner.  It doesn’t work, and she stays super mad at Liz, who continues to do things like pretend to be Jessica so she can solve these murders.  She also goes out with Rene, who tells her there are absolutely no such things as werewolves.  She believes him until she watches a horror movie with Luke and decides that there are totally such things as werewolves.

Liz poses as Jessica and goes back out to the Pembroke country estate to interview Robert Senior under the guise of his wife’s missing coat.  While she’s there, another person is murdered–this time it’s the (pretty, plump) cook, Maria.  Elizabeth snoops around the house and discovers a secret room in the library, filled with werewolf paraphernalia.  She also discovers that Lord Pembroke was in love with a woman named Annabelle years before.  While in the library, Robert Senior comes in with the police chief and they discuss the fact that Lord Pembroke is withholding evidence about the murders.  When the chief leaves, Lord Pembroke talks out loud about how he’s sure his son is innocent.  Then he warns Robert to go into hiding until the thing blows over.

Liz thinks Jessica is in danger, so she tries to get back to London.  Jessica has gone shopping to drown her sorrows about being abandoned by Robert in the middle of their day together, and on her way back to HIS, she gets attacked (?) by something in the subway.  Now she believes in werewolves, because the thing growled at her and seemed hairy.  She brings this news to Liz and Luke and Lucy and Tony, the newspaper people, and they discuss it for a really long time.  Jessica is resolute in her belief that it is not Robert.

Meanwhile, Lina (Princess Eliana) falls in love with David, a poor boy also staying at HIS.  The two hit it off, and then he puts two and two together when he sees a paper of the princess in the paper.  She runs away but then decides the way she can show him she really cares is by allowing him to turn her in and collect the reward.  That way, he can open a free clinic and go to medical school.  At a press conference at the newspaper, she makes a statement, coming out of hiding.  She and David are still totally in love.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Elizabeth’s nightgown is flannel and Jessica’s is pink satin.  Why are they both wearing nightgowns?
  • The book repeatedly refers to the Pembroke’s country cook as “plump, pretty” and it’s annoying.
  • We’re definitely being force-fed the detective stuff: Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie are mentioned

Memorable Quotes:

  •  “Face it, Lina,” she concluded, “coincidences like that only happen to people like Jessica and Elizabeth.  They obviously lead charmed lives–unlike normal, everyday blokes like you and me.” (9)
  • “Elizabeth wrote a line in her notebook: ‘Keep an eye on the elder Pembroke.'” (14)
  • “‘I don’t know why Elizabeth is such a wimp all of a sudden,’ Jessica continued, ‘but I don’t scare so easily. You poets are too weird. I’m just glad I’m dating a normal guy.'” (109)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

A couple of things: first of all, why on earth would everyone want to stay at Pembroke Manor after that horrible murder occurred?  Like, the constable just told people not to leave England.  They totally could have gone back to London–wouldn’t that be the natural response?  This is super weird to me, but not as weird as how nonchalant Jessica is about the entire thing.  At one point, she actually says that Joy would have wanted them to go on enjoying England.  Um, okay.  Crazy pants.

The other thing is that the book makes it so clear that there is not an actual werewolf roaming the streets, it’s not even funny.  Jessica gets chased by something, falls down and doesn’t look up to see what is standing over her?  Seriously?  UGH.  THIS MINI-SERIES NEEDS TO END.

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 #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.