Tag Archives: engagement (secret)

SVH #109: Double-Crossed

25 Jul


Estimated Elapsed Time:  8 weeks, for whatever reason.


The day after the wedding, Jessica has escaped to live at Lila’s until the hubbub dies down.  Elizabeth calls to warn Jess that her parents want to ship her off to boarding school in Washington state, but Jess isn’t worried.  She meets Jeremy and he proposes to her using the sapphire ring she loved way back when.  He tells her to keep their engagement a secret until at least after he returns from a trip out of the country.  Jessica agrees, albeit reluctantly.

Back at the Wakefield house, Elizabeth tries to console Sue, who is acting heartbroken.  Sue tells her that her dead mother never liked Jeremy, and now she knows why.  Sue says her mother cut her out of the will, and that as a result, Sue has lost out on a TON of money that is news to literally everyone.  Except, then it turns out that Sue’s mother’s will had “stipulations” and now that Sue didn’t marry Jeremy, she gets the inheritance after all.  In a series of paragraphs that make absolutely no sense, we learn (through Elizabeth’s eavesdropping), that: Sue gets the money if Sue stays away from Jeremy for at least two months.  If not, Alice gets the money (WTF) to do with what she sees fit.

Jessica drives Jeremy to the airport for his trip to Costa Rica, but he won’t let her stay until his plane lifts off. He also can’t give her the full address of where he’s staying.  Probably because he’s not, you know, actually going to Costa Rica, but whatever.  Jessica cries about how much she’ll miss him.  Meanwhile, Sue attempts suicide by taking a bunch of pills and having her stomach pumped.

It takes nearly two weeks, but Jessica lets it slip to Lila that she’s engaged, and within seconds, the entire school knows.  When Liz finds out, she cries a lot about how Jessica is going to leave her forever.  Jessica says she won’t.  Then she tells Liz she’s moving back home even though Sue is still living there.  Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield tell Jessica they want her to stay away from Jeremy for about 6 months, and she tells them that will be hard to do since they’re engaged.  Obviously Ma and Pa Wakefield freak out, but Jess remains calm.

Later, Liz tells Jess about the money situation, and Jess can’t believe when Liz suggests that Jeremy might be a gold digger.  She continues to hold fast to the idea that it is True Love between her and Jeremy, despite the fact that she can never get ahold of him and he seems to only call in the middle of the night.  Jeremy promises he’ll be back in time for the Project Nature Halloween party, which Jessica promptly invites the entire school to.

We get snippets of Sue talking on the phone to someone and generally acting like she doesn’t have a care in the world.  She admits that her suicide attempt was faked. Okay.  She also admits to Liz that she was lying about having the same rare blood disease that her mother had.  OKAY.

When Principal Cooper announces a new initiative that places girls in single-sex math classes, Liz FREAKS OUT because it’s the most sexist thing she’s ever heard of, despite the fact that there’s research that supports that girls in co-ed classes fall behind their male peers by like 3rd grade or something. But then she starts taking the math class and is amazed that the research backs up the results: all the girls are doing way better in math, after like a day or something.

Project Nature throws a Halloween party and Jeremy is finally back in town for it.  He’s distracted, though, and Jessica starts to worry.  She goes outside to find him and discovers that he and Sue are totally making out.  She breaks up with him and storms out.

The B-Plot involves Lila secretly enrolling Robby in a business class at the university so he can become rich or something.  He gets mad and they break up.  He comes to apologize and tells her he actually started taking the class, plus a life drawing class. When Lila realizes that means he’s looking at naked women, they break up again.  Then they get back together.

Also, Todd grows a mustache and Liz is super, super turned off by it.  They fight, they break up, he shaves, they get back together.

The book ends with Jeremy showing up at the Wakefields’ looking “ashen” to announce that Sue has disappeared.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Both Todd and Winston get their hair cut at a place called Rigoberto’s
  • Sue’s mother’s family invented a kind of frozen dinner and that’s why they’re Oprah-rich.
  • Sue’s psychiatrist prescribes tranquilizers for Sue’s “difficult time.” Jesus Christ!
  • Todd apparently has a part-time job? Doing what?
  • Ned had a soul patch when he was younger.
  • Apparently they’re back in school, despite there being no fanfare about this happening.  The timeline is FUCKED.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “It was going to absolutely kill her to keep this to herself until Jeremy returned.  But she had promised him. And for the first time in her life, it seemed very important that she keep a promise.” (42)
  • “‘We’re not just family, Liz. We’re twin. We’re two halves of the same person,’ Jessica said sincerely. ‘We always have to be together. I couldn’t be happy without you.'” (73)
  • “‘That sounds like a lot of fun,’ Amy said, her face brightening.  ‘We can start spreading the word. It’ll be the first party anyone’s had so far this year.'” (130) THAT IS A LIE.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The first thing I noticed about this one was that the tone was different than previous books and that the characters speak differently.  My guess: we have a new group of ghost writers, but who knows, really?

The second thing has to do with how dumb the legal provisions are in Sue’s mother’s will.  It doesn’t make sense for the funds to go to Alice, a woman she doesn’t seem to have had much contact with in the past twenty years or so.  It makes even LESS sense for the will to stipulate that Sue can inherit the fortune if she stays away from Jeremy for 60 days.  Like, what the hell?  Why that period of time?  WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?

Also, they’re back in school again but are still sixteen and still juniors.  I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does.  Like, a lot.

SVH #93: Stepsisters

23 May


Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks


Annie Whitman’s mom has been spending a lot of time in New York as part of her work as a fashion model (strictly catalog work, Annie is quick to tell her friends), and when she comes back from her latest month-long trip (leaving Annie alone, I guess?), she tells her that she’s been seeing a man in New York–a photographer named Walter Thomas, and the two of them are getting married! Walter has a daughter about Annie’s age named Cheryl, and the two of them will be moving to Sweet Valley.  Oh, and they’re black.  Annie is stunned but works hard to not be prejudiced about the fact that her new family will look different from her.  Whatever, I hate this book already.

In the span of like a day of this news, Annie’s mom buys the house next door to the Wakefield twins, and within the week, the new family is moving in, Walter and Cheryl already in tow.  The twins are excited about the new neighbors and are totally cool about Cheryl.  They help the girls unpack and notice that things between Annie and Cheryl are already tense, despite the fact that it’s clear Annie is trying as hard as she can to make Cheryl comfortable.  The problem is, Annie’s so concerned with not being a racist that she ends up being super, super racist, obsessing over color and inviting a bunch of students of color to the party she throws in Cheryl’s honor even though she’s not good friends with them.  She also doesn’t tell anyone that Cheryl is black before they meet her, making the situation even weirder.

Annie keeps trying to include Cheryl in her life, but everything keeps going wrong.  She encourages her to join Pi Beta Alpha and go to football games, even though neither is Cheryl’s scene. The two continue to resent one another but neither one is willing to admit it out loud.  At a pool party at Suzanne Hanlon’s house, Cheryl makes a little speech thanking the PBAs for considering her for membership, but then declines to even pledge.  She also accuses Annie of trying to make her fit in by turning her white.

Eventually, the two figure out a way to talk to one another, but it takes a trip to the hospital to do so.  Annie’s mother had appendicitis–but she’s fine now.  The girls decide to allow them to be themselves or something, and all is well with the world.  Cheryl also starts flirting pretty seriously with Steven Wakefield.

Oh, and Annie and Tony Esteban get back together.  YAWN.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Cheryl’s friends spend their summers at Blue Water, a place for musicians
  • Cheryl is a lacto-ovo-vegetarian
  • Rhomboid is a new up-and-coming band.  The name is literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
  • Annie throws a party for Cheryl at their house the DAY AFTER they move in.  Jesus, that’s fast.
  • Apparently Annie is quite the cook?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Annie thought carefully about the question. She was friends with Patsy Gilbert and Andy Jenkins, who were black, and Rosa Jameson and Manuel Lopez, who were Hispanic, and she could honestly say that she didn’t think about their skin colors or ethnic backgrounds any more than she did about, say, Jessica and Elizabeth’s English and Swedish background.” (13) [Blogger’s note: Are you fucking kidding me?]
  • “‘You actually have sororities in high school here?’ Cheryl asked, sounding surprised. ‘Sweet Valley sounds like something out of a 1950’s beach-party movie–football, cheerleaders, sororities, surfing. I suppose you have a burger joint, too?'” (75)
  • “‘And there’s something else I wanted to ask you about,’ Cheryl went on, looking a little troubled. ‘What gives with all these black, Asian, and Hispanic kids here? I don’t think I’ve seen this many people of color since I got to Sweet Valley, and certainly not in place.'” (86)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Guys, this book is fucked.  Like, seriously, seriously fucked.  It’s hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure that the underlying message of the book is that skin color doesn’t matter and that people who worry about whether or not it does are doing the real anti-racist work, but the message is so, so wrong and so convoluted it’s hard to tell.  Annie’s obsession (and seriously, she is OBSESSED) with the fact that Cheryl is black is so hard to read, because I think we’re supposed to identify with Annie?  We’re supposed to think that because she’s worrying about it, it means she’s not racist?  When the reality is that she comes off as more racist than anyone else, even Suzanne Hanlon, who is clearly a racist little twat?

There were so many moments when I laughed out loud because I was completely incredulous about what was being said or done in the book.  Take this quote, for instance:

‘I’m sure you have less to worry about than you think,’ Elizabeth suggested. ‘Maybe you should talk to Patty or Tracy Gilbert, or maybe Andy Jenkins. I know Andy did have that trouble with Charlie Cashman, but aside from that I don’t think he or any of the other black kids have had much reason to feel uncomfortable at Sweet Valley High.’ (40)

She’s talking about that time that Andy Jenkins was jumped by five guys, punched in the stomach by his best friend, and was hospitalized.  You know, “that trouble” where Andy was the victim of racialized violence.  But apart from that, students of color at Sweet Valley don’t worry about racism in their high school or their town!

Except for when Rosa Jameson lied about her ethnic heritage because she was afraid that students wouldn’t accept her.  And when Sandy Bacon dealt with comments about the fact that her boyfriend, Manuel Lopez, was Hispanic and she was white.  Except for those incidents.

Also, how completely fucked is it that Liz is speaking on behalf of students of color to begin with?  YOU ARE THE PROBLEM, LIZ.

Ugh, I just can’t.


SVH Sweet Valley Saga #2: The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story

28 Apr


As if the maternal family tree of the Wakefield twins wasn’t wacky (read: awful) enough, readers are treated to the paternal family tree in this one.  Blech.


Theodore Wakefield, 1866

Theodore is the second son tothe Earl of (you guessed it) Wakefield, England.  When his older brother dies in a terrible horse accident, his father insists that Theodore take over his roles and marry his brother’s fiance.  Theodore refuses, and leaves home to board a ship to America. Onboard, he meets Alice Larsen, after he saves her from a near death by drowning.  The two are separated when they reach land, and Theodore joins up with a circus.

There, he meets a young half-Indian woman (this is seriously how she’s described the moment she appears on the page) named Dancing Wind.  Dancing Wind is something like 16, and Theodore is definitely in his mid-to-late 30s, so this is all kinds of super creepy.  The book glosses right over, that, though!  One night at the circus, Theodore meets a young blond girl named Jessamyn who is the spitting image of his long-lost love, Alice Larsen! He is distracted with thoughts of her all through the show.  Distraught, Dancing Wind attempts a dangerous move during her routine and falls from the air.  The net breaks, injuring her badly.  Theodore realizes he loves her, and they end up married in Nebraska.

Four years later, Dancing Wind gives birth to twins: Sarah and James, and then DIES.  Theodore continues to raise the twins by himself, eventually transporting them to California.

James and Sarah Wakefield, 1905

Now settled in Vista California and rich off the wine business Theodore started, James and Sarah are 16 and inhabit many of the same characteristics SVH readers are comfortable reading about when it comes to twins.  Sarah falls for one of her father’s employees, a boy in her class named Edward Brooke.  When she brings him to the Manor (this is what they call their estate, y’all) to formally introduce him to Theodore, though, she’s shocked when her father is kind of a douche to him.  He tells her that Edward isn’t good enough (read: rich enough) and she’d be better off with some dude named George.  Sarah decides to keep seeing Edward anyway.

When an influenza epidemic runs through the country, James dies.  Now that Sarah is all Theodore has left, she feels guilty about the fact that she’s been lying to him.  Doesn’t matter: Theodore reads her journal while she’s at school, discovers her secret, and tells her she can stop seeing Edward or she can leave.  So she leaves, and she and Edward escape to San Francisco.  OF COURSE THEY ARRIVE ON THE DAY OF AN EARTHQUAKE.  Trapped in their hotel room, the two perform their own marriage ceremony, declare it “legal enough,” and consummate the “marriage.”

After they are rescued, Edward goes back into the hotel to help save others, and, of course, dies.  Sarah returns home to her father, but their happy reunion is sullied when she realizes she’s pregnant.  Her father sends her away for the duration of the pregnancy.  After she gives birth to a healthy boy named Edward (Teddy), her father tells her he will return for her–and only her.  Sarah refuses and decides to live on her own with Teddy.  Afraid of causing a scandal or upsetting her son, she decides not to tell him he was conceived out of wedlock and pretends to be his aunt.  This will end well.

Ted, 1924

Ted is working as a waiter in a jazz club and tells his “aunt” that he doesn’t want to go to college.  She disagrees, and the two fight about it.  When she gets a letter with news that her father has died, Ted is confused, because he’s always been told his grandfather died years ago.  This is when the whole story comes tumbling out.

Confused, Ted ends up fleeing his house for college in Ohio.  He does well at school, and on a break one year, he goes home with his friend Harry Watson.  There, he meets Harry’s twin sisters, Samantha and Amanda.  This section is literally a retelling of what we already heard in the first saga.  Since it bored me then, I’m skipping it now.

After that whole fiasco, Ted travels west to discover his family’s roots.  He tracks down his grandmother’s tribe and it is there he meets the super blond Julia Marks, a reporter working a story about government corruption relating to the tribe.  The two fall in love despite the fact that he’s been burned before and is a bastard, and it isn’t long before they’re married and living in Washington.  They have a son together, named Robert.

Julia dies in the Hindenburg explosion (I’m not joking).

Robert, 1943

Robert joins the military at 16 after lying about his age.  He ends up working in communications and communicates with a POW who goes by the code name of Pacific Star.  They communicate for months before finally liberating the camp and meeting.  Pacific Star is Hannah Weiss, and the two end up married and settling in Sweet Valley, California.

Hannah gives birth to Ned.  I can’t be bothered to care.

Ned, late 1960s (way to fudge the numbers, SVH ghostwriter)

Ned and his cousin Rachel are total hippies, working to set the Man straight and fight the good fight.  At college, Rachel introduces Ned to her friend Becky, who seems like she sucks, but he sort of falls for her after she starts calling herself Rainbow.  The two date, and then Rachel finds out that Becky’s using Ned for help studying (?) so she can become a lawyer.  Whatever.  Her true colors finally come out after an arrest at a protest, and Ned breaks off their relationship.

His senior year, he rescues a blond woman who ends up being Alice Roberts.  Even though the two have a connection, Alice is set to marry a Patman.  Heartbroken, Ned mopes around until Alice shows up at his door, still wearing the wedding dress she was supposed to marry another man in.  Okie dokie.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Someone did a little research and actually got the date of the Great San Francisco Earthquake (4/18/1906) right.  Kudos.
  • Theodore’s father is either named George or Theodore, depending on whether or not you consult the family tree or the book’s first chapter.  OKAY.
  • There are some pretty big gaps in continuity here: Ned once told Steven that he named him after his friend who died in a car crash in college, but that doesn’t work here.  Also, at one point, Grandma Wakefield mentioned that Ned had a half-brother from her husband’s first marriage, but maybe she suffered a stroke? Because that doesn’t happen here at all.

Memorable Quotes:

  •  “When Dancing Wind approached him, she was surprised to see that he was in the grips of a very powerful emotion.” (47)
  • “‘I don’t get it,’ Ned went on. ‘You’d think the more well-off people are, the more generous they’d be.'” (290) ARE YOU A FUCKING IDIOT?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’ve been carrying this book around with me for something like two weeks, and I really only managed to skim it.  I don’t know why these Sagas are so hard for me.  I remember loving The Fowlers of Sweet Valley, so I guess we’ll see when I get to that one.  But these super long books about the lame Wakefields of the past?  I’d like to take a hard pass on them.

That being said, isn’t it weird that people die in every single one of these stories in horrifically tragic and yet oddly famous historical disasters?  Isn’t that super weird?  Like, we needed people to die in both the San Francisco earthquake AND the Hindenburg disaster?  Doesn’t that seem a bit much?

The only other thing I have to say about this one is how weird it is that Theodore would be so weird about Sarah’s pregnancy and desire to keep the child.  After being sent away by his own father, do we really believe that’s something he would do?  It seems incredibly out of character for him to banish the only family he has left after losing his other two relatives in tragic accidents (this isn’t even counting the time he lost his brother in a terrible horse accident, either).

Oh, the melodrama.

SVH #83: Steven’s Bride

21 Apr

steven's brideCan you say “Child Bride”?

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks


Cara Walker is acting weird at the Wakefield’s impromptu barbeque-pool party.  When Steven presses her about it later, she admits that the trip to London she just took with her mom was more permanent than originally thought: she and her mother are moving there in three weeks! Steven is devastated, because all the girls he loves leave him.  Miserable, he sulks around about Cara’s impending departure until Jessica is struck with a brilliant idea while watching Love Story: Steve and Cara should get married!  This will end well.  Instead of telling Jessica she’s an insane person, Steven agrees and rushes over to Cara’s apartment to propose.

Cara thinks about it for like five seconds before saying yes, telling herself that it will solve all her problems: she won’t have to leave Sweet Valley, and she can throw loud parties whenever she wants once they have an apartment of their own.  Um, okay.  The two vow to keep it a secret until after they get married (a few days before Cara is set to leave with her mom), and they ask Jessica to keep the secret, too.  But Jessica is physically incapable of doing so, because she keeps dropping heavy hints at school and home about Steven and Cara’s plans.  Even though Steven has told everyone that Cara is going on a ski trip with some of his college friends the weekend before she leaves, people start to get suspicious.

Elizabeth figures it out when the jewelry store calls the house to let Steven know the engraved rings he ordered are ready.  Elizabeth even wonders why Steven would give the store the phone number for the house instead of his dorm, but simply pointing that out doesn’t make it any less IDIOTIC.  When she confronts Jessica about it, Jess comes clean.  When she confronts Steven about it, he sort of brushes her off and is like, “this is happening!”

Jessica ends up telling Lila and Amy about Cara’s plans, and the girls decide to throw a secret bridal shower for her.  The bridal shower ends up being not so secret, as nearly all the cheerleaders are there.  Cara is super uncomfortable the whole time, wincing when people refer to her as the bride and positively melting down when she realizes that marriage equals sex.  This never occurred to her?  Really?  She ruminates over the fact that she doesn’t feel ready for sex, which probably means she definitely isn’t ready for marriage.  When her father calls and tells her he’s coming for a visit and has a surprise, her brain leaps to a parental reconciliation, for some reason.  She figures this would solve all her problems and she won’t have to leave Sweet Valley–or get married!

But it turns out her father’s news is that he’s marrying someone else–a woman with auburn hair named Julia–and Cara is furious at HER MOTHER for it.  She accuses her mother of blowing her chance to put the family back together and then decides to really commit to marrying Steven.  That will show her family!

Meanwhile, Steven is stressing about what married life will mean for him.  He goes apartment hunting for something in their price range (free?) and then angsts about the fact that he got into the accelerated law program at his school.  Realizing that he can’t be married and do the law program, he tells his family he didn’t get in.  But when Jessica finds the acceptance letter, she realizes that the marriage is a terrible idea after all and decides she has to drop hints to Cara and Steven to get them to change their minds.

Nothing she does seems to work, though.  Cara babysits for a family with awful children one night but is able to laugh it off, even after Jessica lays it on thick that Cara and Steven will have TONS of kids someday soon.  Then she takes Cara shopping for boring housewares stuff and tries to stress how much everything costs.  When that doesn’t work, Jessica spills the beans about the fact that Steven got into the law program and lied about it.  Cara feels bad.

The day of the wedding, Steven is feeling pretty resolved about marrying Cara, and she is filled with doubts.  They arrive at the chapel in Nevada and being the proceedings.  Steven says “I do” and Cara says “No” just as the entire Wakefield family and Cara’s mother burst in to stop the ceremony.  Steven runs out, feeling betrayed.

Lila throws Cara  a going-away party and Liz REFUSES to come because she’s butthurt that Cara would hurt Steven like that.  Apparently Liz doesn’t think that telling her parents about the wedding to stop it is the same as Cara stopping it?  I can’t figure this out at all.  Liz is the LITERAL WORST.  Cara is sad, and ends up calling Liz and asking her to meet her at the Dairi Burger.  The two girls meet, hash it out, and Liz ends up feeling so bad she tells Steven about how much Cara loves him.

Steven rushes to the airport in what is supposed to be a tense scene.  He catches Cara right before she’s about to board, and they swear their love to each other and have one last kiss.  Steven is sad, Cara is sad, but at least they parted without misunderstanding.  Or whatever.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Steve’s roommate is named Bob?
  • Despite proclaiming to hate popcorn the previous book, Jessica eats a big bowl of it in this one.
  • Jessica makes Sam watch Love Story on TV, a movie she has seen “at least three or four times.”
  • Cara’s bridal shower gifts: a VHS copy of Barefoot in the Park, lace-trimmed silk negligee, bath towels, plastic tumblers and an ice bucket, a black lace teddy

Memorable Quotes:

  • You can’t go, he repeated silently. Don’t go. Don’t leave me like Tricia did.” (13)
  • “‘You’re not really engaged if you don’t have a diamond,’ Lila said decidedly. ‘No man’s marrying me until I have a big fat rock on my finger.'” (52)
  • “Of course marriage meant sex. Everybody knew that. So why hadn’t it occurred to her?” (65)
  • “‘You can’t be sure of that,’ Jessica pointed out. ‘You know the facts of life as well as I do.  Even when you use birth control, accidents can happen.'” (106)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

As far as the novels go, this wasn’t horrific in terms of having to slog through it.  But I couldn’t seem to suspend disbelief when it came to a couple of different things: the lack of awareness of the logistics of marriage and the lack of understanding of how laws work.

Okay, first of all, let’s talk about laws.  Even in the crazy state of Nevada, both parties entering into a marriage must be at least 18 years of age or have consent from the parents.  This is never once mentioned throughout the entire book.  Cara is 16, so are we to believe she either lied about her age or forged consent from a parent?  Wouldn’t the parent actually have to be present?  Either way, this marriage wouldn’t be legal and would have no standing as such.  It’s weird to me that Steven, a dude obsessed with becoming a lawyer, wouldn’t think about this at least once.

Second of all, while the book gets props for actually saying the word “sex” more than once (twice, by my count) and talking, albeit nervously, about life after marriage, it’s completely disingenuous to me that Cara wouldn’t have thought about sex.  It’s weird that these teens never talk or think about sex in any real, authentic way.  It might be the thing that bothers me most about the series as a whole (it’s not, but I’m being hyperbolic).

Look, I get that not everyone is ready for sex at 16.  It’s cool that Cara isn’t ready to have sex with Steven, and I think that’s a fine message to send to readers. Whatever.  But the fact is, she’s dating a dude who is in college, and sex would be an issue for them.  They’re alone in his dorm a lot.  There would be conversations about this.  To think that the idea of sex has never occurred to Cara is completely ridiculous.

What is Sweet Valley doing to all its teens? Are they putting some sort of weird libido-crushing drug in the water?

Super Thriller #1: Double Jeopardy

16 Oct

Estimated Time Elapsed: 5 weeks (summer vacation)


The twins are summer interns at the Sweet Valley News. Their main duties are copying and getting coffee, but Liz hopes that by the end of the summer her boss Mr. Robb will let her do a story.  Jessica isn’t really focused on the news aspect of it until she decides that ace reporter Seth Miller is worth her attention, and then she starts fabricating stories trying to get his attention.  It does get his attention, but mostly because he’s pissed at her for making shit up and getting him into trouble.

Steven’s friend Adam Maitland is staying with the Wakefields for the summer because he’s poor but has an internship in Sweet Valley.  Jessica decides that Adam is the perfect distraction for Liz while Jeffrey’s gone (and will keep her from getting interested in the gorgeous Seth), so she really pushes Liz to hang out with him.  She also fabricates a letter from Adam to Liz that confesses his love for her.  In it, he vows to break up with his secret fiancee Laurie.  Liz finds it and worries, then tries to pretend like the letter never existed.

When Jessica works late one night at the newspaper, she witnesses a man loading a body into the trunk of a car in the parking garage.  This man gets a glimpse of Jessica before she races away in the Fiat.  Jessica goes home to an empty house and promptly freaks out, so she calls Seth, and after begging and crying for a while, she finally convinces him that she saw something.  He comes over and the two of them go back to the garage, but the white Trans Am that Jessica saw is gone.

Back at the Wakefield house, Ma and Pa Wakefield are extremely reluctant to believe Jessica’s story until the police call and say that they found the body of Laurie in the trunk of Adam Maitland’s car.  Everyone is shocked, but then they believe Jessica.  Adam is going to be tried for the murder of his fiancee unless they can find evidence that says otherwise, or whatever.

Liz is uncomfortable because she thinks the letter he wrote to her is motive, so she gives it to the police.  Jessica has to go to the station and confess about faking the note, but she doesn’t want Liz to know about that.  Seth Miller and Jessica work hard to get Adam to help them with the case, because apparently he’s given up on his life.  We’re supposed to care, but I don’t.  Adam finally tells them that Tom Winslow, the guy who Laurie’s grandfather wanted her to marry, was kind of crazy.  Maybe he killed Laurie?

Jessica and Liz have been forbidden from driving the Fiat until the police catch the guy in the white Trans Am.  The girls are told to always stick together, especially on the way to the newspaper office party.  But of course the police call and need Jessica to meet with them immediately, so Liz has to go alone.  She can’t get Steven’s car to start and the wait for a taxi is too long, so she takes the Fiat.  This will end well.

The newspaper office party is in full swing and Liz isn’t there yet.  Jessica gets introduced to a blond young man…who happens to be Tom Winslow.  She freaks but then tries to stall him from going into the parking garage where Liz could arrive at any moment.  Steven shows up at the party (seriously, these guys will let anyone in) and demands to know why the Fiat is gone.  Jessica puts two and two together and tells Steve and Seth to get the police.

At any rate, Tom enters the garage at the same time that Liz is finding a parking space.  He recognizes the car and thinks Liz is Jessica, and he tries to attack her.  She lays on the horn, Jessica comes running, and Tom is confused about there being two of them but then tries to kill them both anyway.  Jessica pulls the fire alarm, the police and guards show up, whatever I don’t even care.  They’ve caught the real killer!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “That’s okay, Liz.  It’s different for you–you want to be a features writer, not an investigative reporter.  You’re not interested in the sleuthing side of things.” (27)
  • “Nothing like this has ever happened in Sweet Valley.  I’ve been with this department for 25 years, and we’ve never had a murder here before.” (88) [ORLY Officer?  Justin Belson might have something to say about that.]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz has a Do No Disturb sign on her door.  Loser.
  • Seth Miller is 22 and apparently graduated from high school at 16, then went on to get his Master’s in journalism, and writes mystery novels in his spare time under the pen name Lester Ames.
  • Lila went to finishing camp when she was younger and likes to watch soap operas on a Watchman.  I didn’t even know this thing existed until I googled it.  Holy shit! Why didn’t I have one as a kid?
  • Los Vistas is a town about 10 miles from Sweet Valley.  Allegedly.
  • Tom Winslow is the third jerkface to drive a Trans Am.  I AM SENSING A PATTERN, PEOPLE.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book was 215 pages of crap.  There was no real motivation for the murder.  Wouldn’t Tom have wanted to go after Adam and not Laurie, the woman he loved?  What kind of crack police force can’t find a white Trans Am that’s being driven all over town?  Why does this book exist?

One can only assume that the SVH Powers That Be came up with the idea of a super thriller (which is similar to a super edition, except with 50% more murder) because of the success of mystery novels like Nancy Drew.  The problem with this one is that there is no real mystery.  From the first mention of Tom Winslow, the reader knows it was him.  Isn’t the big reveal supposed to happen at the very end?  Isn’t that kind of…the point?

Also, what kind of parents would allow their sixteen year old to go out with a twenty-two year old?  Really?

SVH #34: Forbidden Love

29 Sep

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


So basically what we have here is a modern day Romeo and Juliet, or at least, that’s what the author wants us to think.  Maria Santelli and Michael Harris are dating, but the whole thing has to be kept very hush hush, because their families are feuding as a result of some business deal that went bad.  Maria and Michael date in secret and then, naturally get engaged, because what 16-year-old doesn’t want to get married like, immediately?  Elizabeth thinks they’re making a huge mistake, Jessica thinks it’s super way totally romantic, and even though it’s supposed to be this HUGE secret, the entire school seems to know about it and Maria is showing off her engagement ring at cheerleading practice.

Coincidentally (or not), the teens are all taking part in a special project for social studies (as an ACTUAL social studies teacher, I find this particular project dubious at best) that pairs them up into pretend marriages.  The duos will be given jobs and incomes and must negotiate budgets for their new households.  Jessica is with Winston, Liz is with Bruce, and Maria is with Michael.  How completely hetero-normative, SVH.  This is obviously going to end well.

Because Maria is apparently a really ambitious girl, she’s managing Winston’s campaign to be the student council representative for the PTA.  This is such an in-demand position that there’s a campaign?  One probably shouldn’t look too closely at this, as it seems to be just a plot device to further the problems in Michael and Maria’s relationship.  Once they’re engaged, Michael seems to be demanding more and more of Maria’s time.  One might even go so far as to say that he’s being controlling.  He wants her to stop helping Winston all together so that she can go shopping with him and attend every single one of his tennis matches.  Maria is conflicted about all this, because she really likes helping Winston, but Michael doesn’t like the way Winston looks at her.

It’s not just that Michael’s a control freak, though.  He’s just an all-around douche bag, as Maria finds out through the marriage project.  They don’t seem to agree on anything having to do with their relationship, and she starts to really question whether or not they should even be together, let alone dating.  They fight some more.

The climax comes at the surprise engagement party thrown for the couple at Lila Fowler’s house.  When Michael sees Maria dancing with Winston, he makes an announcement that he’s also going to run for student council PTA representative, and Maria’s going to help him.  Winston runs away, hurt.  Michael and Maria fight and break up.  Plot contrivance, plot contrivance…the Santellis and the Harrises find out about the engagement and rush to the party, demanding an explanation, and then the two fathers make up.  Maria finds Winston and explains what has happened, and they kiss.  Winston wins the student council position.  All is right in the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I can’t,’ she admitted. A sudden pang seemed to strike her. ‘You don’t think I’ll end up an old maid, do you?’ she asked. ‘So far I haven’t been very good at long-term relationships.  You’re the one who’s good at that.'” (38-39)
  • “‘Why not?’ Jessica asked gaily, cutting herself a piece of cake.  ‘I’m sure it was just a little spat,’ she added.  ‘It happens on my favorite soap opera all the time.  No engagement counts unless it’s been broken at least twice.'” (104)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Maria’s engagement ring is a small round diamond with a slender gold band.
  • Lila went heavy on the desserts at the engagement party.  Jessica and Liz both have wedding cake and then split a strawberry tart.  (This is me, totally jealous.)
  • Michael drives a trans-am, which makes him a douche truck automatically.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The entire plot is dubious at best.  The idea of two sixteen-year-old kids getting engaged for no apparent reason, even in the mid-eighties, is completely ridiculous.  There’s nary a mention of religion or sex, which are two powerful motivators for early marriage.  The two of them simply get engaged because…they love each other?  I love donuts, but you don’t see me getting engaged to one.

I also have a bone to pick with the social studies project that the kids participate in.  These types of projects seem to happen a lot in books and on TV shows, but do they ever actually happen in real life?  Even if they do, wouldn’t they be better-suited to a home economics class (I realize that these classes are now referred to as FACS–Family and Consumer Science–but give me a break, people, it is what it is) where these types of subjects are actually studied?  What self-respecting social studies teacher would agree to such a terrible project?  Also, all of the pairs were boy-girl, which like I mentioned before, is totally hetero-normative, but also unrealistic–there were gay couples in the 80s for sure, but there were also a lot of single parents.  Why wasn’t that explored in this terrible plot device.

Ugh.  I’m just glad this one is over.  It’s hard to recap the books with these ridiculous tertiary characters when I hardly even care about the main characters, let alone some sad sack who’ll probably never get mentioned again.

SVH#19: Showdown

20 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Lila’s dating a new guy, a construction worker named Jack (no last name), and she throws a pool party at her mansion to show him off to her friends.  Jessica catches sight of him and decides he super-cute and worth pursuing relentlessly, so she flirts with him outrageously at the party, going so far as to write her phone number in a matchbook with the charred end of a match.  Classy.

Jack is pretty classy too, because he starts dating both girls–Jessica during the week and Lila on the weekends–and keeps dropping little information nuggets that make him seem like he comes from a lot of money but is trying to make it on his own.  Both girls eat this shit up and it isn’t long before Sweet Valley High is buzzing with gossip about who Jack is, ranging from a millionaire’s son to a secret prince.  During this time, Jack manages to also convince both girls that they’re the only one for him, and does a bunch of cheesy stuff like naming stars after them.  He also proposes to Lila but tells her they must keep their engagement a secret.

Elizabeth is weirded out by Jack and is worried about Jessica dating him while he’s also dating Lila, but her attempts to convey this worry to Jessica aren’t very successful.  She keeps trying to brush off her doubts about Jack, which worsen when she runs into him and he acts erratically and seems to have red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes.  When Jessica tells her that he’s breaking it off with Lila, some of her fears are quelled, but not totally.

Things come to a head one night when Jessica goes out with Jack and they run into Nicholas Morrow and a friend of his visiting from Boston.  Both boys seem to recognize Jack but can’t place him, and when Jack pulls Jessica out of the restaurant in a hurry, Nicholas focuses on where he knows him from.  The boys figure out that Jack is the same boy who was expelled from their prep school a few years back.  Apparently he had robbed a girl at knife-point (his own girlfriend), and although she chose not to press charges (WHAT?), he got really heavy into drugs and was totally dangerous.  He had never been the same since his entire family was killed in a tragic boating accident.

The boys race over to the Wakefield’s house in hopes of catching Jessica before it’s too late, but she’s not there!  Elizabeth is, and when they fill her in on the situation, she races along with them as they try to find Jessica.  Lila supplies Jack’s address when she finds out he’s been two-timing her, and the three of them go over to his apartment, bursting in as Jack holds a knife to Jessica’s throat after she discovers his drug stash in his bathroom.  They tackle Jack and Jessica is rescued.

The Wakefield family goes to the police station to file a report and press charges.  While they’re there, they hear a distress call come over the radio about a small plane over Secca Lake.  Elizabeth screams because it’s Enid and George’s plane!

The B-Plot involves a mystery photographer submitting photos to the school newspaper.  The photos are great: they’re funny, smart, and sneaky, and Liz is determined to figure out who the mystery photographer is.  She catches Tina Ayala, sister to Penny Ayala (the SVH newspaper editor out sick with “mononucleosis”), dropping pictures off late one night.  One of the pictures she has is of Robin Wilson and George Warren at the air field, locked in a passionate embrace.  Liz promises to help Tina get on the paper and begs her to keep quiet about the information about Robin and George.

She worries about what to do about Robin and George, and when she confronts them, they admit they’re in love.  George tells Liz that he was planning on telling Enid but promised her the first ride in a plane with him after he gets his pilot’s license.  This will end well.

Trivia/Pop Culture:

  • Jack tends to favor neutral clothing: khaki walking shorts, green La Coste shirt, top-siders; a brown crew-neck sweater, and wheat-tone button down shirt.
  • Jessica wears a slinky blue dress with buttons down the back that falls just below her knees with slits up both sides.  Scandalous!
  • Lila has a pale-blue princess phone, a detail that I find awesome.  She also brings a butter-and-caviar sandwich and shrimp salad to lunch at school.
  • Pop culture references include: The Twilight Zone, Never-Never Land, Fantasy Island, The Maltese Falcon, and The Police

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The entire book is so ridiculous that I have a hard time even trying to critique it in a serious manner.  The fact that both girls would be interested in dating a construction worker is laughable; the fact that we are supposed to believe that sixteen-year-old princess Lila Fowler would enter into a secret engagement with one after dating for a week is absolutely ludicrous.

The character of Jack is also pretty ridiculous.  He is never given a last name, and the fact that Jessica’s parents are okay with her going out with some older guy they know nothing about is further testament to their terrible parenting.  Jack is supposed to be a character the reader both fears and feels sympathy for, and yet it is difficult to do either because we know so little about him (aside from the fact that he likes to wear top-siders). Lazy writing and sloppy plotting alert.