Tag Archives: extreme jealousy

SVH #126: Tall, Dark, and Deadly

8 Apr

talldarkdeadly

Jessica raised her eyebrows. “It’s garbage. How do you expect it to smell?”
“There’s so much of it,” Lila whined.

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks, in the loosest sense.

Summary/Overview:

One night at the Dairi Burger, Jessica loses one of her new earrings and decides the best place to search for it is in the dumpsters out back.  She drags Lila along, but she doesn’t find the earring. Instead, she finds a live kitten, which she decides to adopt and name Jasmine, and then, more horrifyingly, she finds a dead body.  The body, belonging to a teenage boy from Big Mesa, appears to have been drained of all its blood. The police are called, everyone is shocked, and Jessica, ever the sociopath, plots on how to turn her discovery into fifteen minutes of fame.

Everyone at school is abuzz over the news of the body, and there’s a special assembly called to discuss it with students.  At the same time, Chrome Dome Cooper announces that there’s a new transfer student, a dark-haired, gorgeous senior named Jonathan Cain. Jessica, like most of the female student body, is immediately transfixed by him.  Elizabeth is not, having seen him act like a total jerk in the hallway earlier. But she’s in the minority, as Enid also decides that he’s her soulmate. It isn’t long before nearly all of the girls in school are dressing in black and wearing dramatic makeup in an attempt to catch Jonathan’s attention, but he remains an enigma.

Even though he never seems to interact with any of the other students, Jonathan becomes the topic of conversation at school. Apparently he’s super good at advanced chemistry, knows more about European cultures than the teacher, can sink baskets from across the gym, and drives a motorcycle. All of the girls–and then, hilariously, most of the dudes–at school begin to dress in all black and wear dramatic makeup in an attempt to get his attention. Enid loses her mind completely and has her hair chemically straightened and dyed black, and completely changes her makeup look.

Despite all this, Jonathan ignores everyone. Jessica is not deterred and continually tries to win his affection, attempting a bunch of different stunts like draining her car battery and passing him flirty notes in French class. He doesn’t take any of her bait, which just makes her want him even more. She buys a bright red minidress and hops onto his motorcycle at the mall, and he takes her for a ride before dropping her off and telling her to never do that again. Then he totally returns her missing diamond earring by dropping it off on her bedroom windowsill, but Jessica doesn’t see him do it.

When Jasmine, the new kitten, escapes one night, Jessica finds her up another tree, and Jonathan is nearby. He tells her to listen to her kitten, who is freaking out, and avoid predators. Jessica doesn’t get his heavy-handed meaning, because she’s an idiot. Instead she thinks about kissing him.

Both Enid and Jessica seem to be particularly obsessed with Jonathan, and when Enid tells Jessica that she followed him home one day, Jessica manages to get the address out of her. Jessica tricks Elizabeth into thinking that she’s home, steals the Jeep, and heads out to Forrest Lane, where Jonathan lives. The house is a crumbling mansion, creepy as fuck, and just before she loses her nerve, Jonathan answers the door, and then they kiss. Then he threatens her life. Romantic.

The B-Plot, as it is, involves Liz still struggling with her waning feelings for Todd while pining for Joey, the boy she dated while she was a camp counselor. While she’s not sure she’s ready to throw in the towel with Todd, she is worried to learn that Joey is transferring to UCLA, and he won’t stop writing her letters and doing weird things like putting a canoe paddle in her locker (what the actual fuck, Joey?).

Because Maria Slater was at Camp Echo Mountain with Elizabeth and saw the entire thing with Joey unfold, Elizabeth confides in her. This bothers Enid, who seems to be undergoing another psychotic break. She lashes out at Elizabeth and is super bitchy to Maria, and then cries about how no one understands her. She loves Jonathan, and she needs to be near him.

Elizabeth and Maria Slater seem to be the only two people who have not fallen under his spell, though it’s unclear why they are immune to whatever magic is happening. When Jonathan appears at The Oracle office after school one day and warns Elizabeth that if she loves her sister, she’ll keep Jessica away from him, her feelings about the danger everyone is in are solidified. When another body is discovered near Secca Lake, Elizabeth becomes convinced that it’s Jessica and calls Todd in a panic. As he tries to get to her house, Elizabeth opens the door to find Joey on the steps. They embrace, and of course Todd sees them. DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica and Elizabeth’s grandma sent them each a pair of diamond stud earrings, and Jessica regales her friend group with the anecdote that her grandmother was the first girl in her town to get her ears pierced at age 12.
  • Jessica considers the color purple to be a “power color”
  • Lila wears a designer called Pierre Jove
  • Mr. Fellows is teaching his students about Spanish settlers in the Americas.
  • When Maria was a child actress, she starred in a movie called The Visitor, and commercials for Crystal Drops, Feathersoft, and was something called The Macaroni Princess.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Experience had taught [Elizabeth] to listen to her gut feelings; more often than not, they were right.” (38) [Ed. note: This is 100% inaccurate but ok]
  • “‘French is one of the few classes offered at SVH that’s worth attending,’ Lila declared. ‘Bo says that French novels are the most lushly romantic in the world, but unless you read them in the original language, you miss most of the subtle richness of the text.'” (62)
  • “Her face was different, too. Her eyebrows had been plucked into thin, glamorous arcs.” (107)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

So after a super, super long hiatus, I’m back at it. The truth is that I’ve been thinking about trying to finish the series for a long time, and then I looked at how many I have left and was all, “That’s IT?!” as if it’s completely accomplishable. But these books are so, so bad.

I jumped back in with almost no refresher on what’s happening in the series. The book spends the first few minutes having Jessica’s friends razz her about her breakup with Ken, telling her that when she cheated on him it made him into an asshole. Jessica almost cries because it was such a painful breakup, but I’m left confused because she’s dated like at least half a dozen dudes since they broke up, including Poor Dead Christian.

It’s obvious that the series has completely dispensed with trying to make sense in terms of a timeline, which is maddening but weirdly understandable? The book refers to their time at Camp Echo Mountain as being during the previous summer, but they’re a.) still sixteen, b.) still juniors in high school, and c.) on their fourth or fifth summer vacation? I DO NOT GET IT AND I DO NOT KNOW WHY IT BOTHERS ME SO MUCH.

Apart from that, the most bizarre parts of this story revolve around Jonathan’s magical charisma that seems to make everyone want to be like him or near him, despite the fact that he doesn’t ever interact with anyone. Jessica has to literally jump onto his bike while he’s on it to get him to interact with her, and we never see him talk to anyone else, apart from when he vaguely threatens Elizabeth.

Yet everyone wants to be like him. I suppose we’re supposed to believe that there’s a supernatural element at play, but the writing is so bad and the plot and character development so flimsy that it completely relies on a suspension of disbelief that’s staggering. Nothing about this greasy, brooding, goth douche canoe indicates that he’s charismatic or even interesting, and yet everyone is losing their goddamn minds over him.

The other weird thing is that readers are suddenly treated to Jonathan’s thoughts three-quarters of the way through the book. This shift in character perspective is lazy writing, but it’s also jarring and doesn’t make sense. It’s clear that he’s conflicted about hurting people, and there’s a lot of angst about ignoring his “needs,” but if this is true, then why would he choose to start attending class at a local high school? What fucking sense does that make?

I guess we’ll find out in the next installment. I know I can’t wait.

 

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SVH #123: Elizabeth’s Rival

11 Mar

elixabethsrival

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Analysis:

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

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

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

SVH Super Edition: Falling for Lucas

4 Mar

fallingforlucas

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

It’s spring break and the twins are going on a ski trip to Colorado.  Along with them, Lila, Todd, Enid and Winston are all going (there are 16 fallinglucas2students and 2 chaperones in total).  Jessica and Lila are both committed to finding the cutest skiing outfits they can.  Todd is looking forward to some alone time with Liz, who keeps reminding them that there will be chaperones and also they will have roommates.  But Todd’s hormones must be on overdrive, because he tries to climb into Elizabeth’s bunk on the chartered bus before they even get to the resort.  Mr. Collins and Liz both freak out, and Todd shuffles back to his bunk.

Once they arrive at the ski resort, it’s clear that everyone has goals they want to meet on the trip.  Winston is not a good skiier and doesn’t want people to know; Enid is determined to hook up with a guy and buys a book to help her snag a hottie on the slopes; Lila & Jessica are in competition to find the cutest dude; and Todd is laser-focused on getting Liz alone in a hotel room.  I am already bored.

Jessica and Lila meet a super cute ski instructor named Lucas King and decide that they both want him.  They pretend to be really bad at skiing so he’ll pay attention to them.  Then they place a bet: whoever gets to kiss him first wins.  The loser has to ski down the most dangerous double black diamond run at the resort.  Jessica finagles an entire day’s worth of private lessons from him and Lila is pissed.  She demands to be let in on the lesson, and Jessica tells her what time it’s at only to cancel Lila’s wake-up call and sneak out when she’s still sleeping.  Lila gets back at her by going to a party thrown by Lucas without Jessica, and she ends up getting him to walk her back, where she kisses him under the window where Jessica is watching.  Jessica loses the bet but dumps snow on Lila’s head.

When Lucas finds out that Jessica is about to ski the hardest run, he rushes off to stop her, and Lila goes along, determined to keep Jessica from getting alone time with him.  Jessica and Lucas end up crashing into one another on the hill, and Lucas ends up with a sprained ankle while Jessica fractures hers.  She sidles up to Lucas in the lounge while Lila is skiing, and then Lila flips her lid on Jess in front of Lucas, who takes that moment to disappear.  He’s totally done with both of them.

While Lila and Jessica are fighting over the same boring dude, Enid is trying to get lucky on the slopes.  She keeps trying out advice from the book she bought, but it keeps attracting the wrong types of dudes.  WHO CARES.

Meanwhile, Todd convinces Winston to sleep elsewhere and gets Liz into his room.  They start making out, and she puts the brakes on their session only to find out his plan, complete with a “do not disturb” sign.  She’s pissed and ends up dumping a cold glass of water on his lap, which might be one of the coolest things she’s ever done.  Todd doesn’t get it, and he also doesn’t have the courtesy to tell Winston that Liz isn’t sleeping over, which pisses him off when he shows up the next morning sore from trying to sleep on a couch in the lounge.

Liz and Todd have a fight on the mountain and part ways.  There’s a storm brewing, and Liz watches as Todd skis past her into a different area.  Then there’s an avalanche and the two are separated! Liz thinks that he’s been trapped in the snow, and she runs to a nearby ski patrol station and tells them that she thinks Todd might be in danger.  The man, a dude named Dirk Roman, tells her they’ll send out a search party.

But Todd is fine, and has been brought to a cabin by an older woman named Cassandra Lee, who is very attractive, according to Todd.  He manages to reach the ski patrol station on a CB radio, but he doesn’t hear Liz and worries she might be trapped outside.  He loses contact with the patrol, and Cassandra convinces him that it’s too dark to do anything until the morning.  Todd gives her the bed and sleeps on the couch and wakes up in the middle of the night to find Cassandra kissing him.  This is seriously creepy.  He brushes her off and thinks about Liz.

Liz demands to stay the night in the patrol cabin even though it’s against the rules.  Dirk is very comforting.  He keeps bending rules for her, even allowing her to come on the rescue mission to find Todd.  They take a helicopter up to look for the cabin and finally find it.  When they clear the door and enter, Liz finds Todd in Cassandra’s embrace.  Liz storms off and when she’s back at the hotel, Dirk tries to comfort her by kissing her.  Todd walks in at that moment and is upset.  I DO NOT CARE.  It hardly matters because they make up at Winston’s second attempt at a “welcome back” party.

Enid hooks up with Lucas at the party and everyone goggles at it.  Enid feels like the punchline even when she gets the guy.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica’s new ski outfit is purple spandex pants with a color-blocked pink and purple parka.
  • Enid is rooming with Liz; Todd is rooming with Winston, Lila is rooming with Jessica, and Olivia is rooming with Caroline Pearce.
  • Winston wears a shoe size 13. FYI.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “No, it wasn’t. Not exactly,” Elizabeth said, trying to be fair to her sister. “I don’t think that’s how she meant it. She made romance and love sound like one big, fun game.  The object is to have a great time. And to see who wins–the guy or the girl.” (27) [This is fucked.]
  • “You didn’t even ask me what I wanted last night! You just assumed that I would want whatever you wanted. Well, I didn’t! And right now I don’t want to talk.” (98)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are two major issues with this book, and they both deal with sex.  The first is obviously Todd’s desire to take things further with Elizabeth without actually talking about it, which is problematic in and of itself.  But it’s also totally tone-deaf.  This is a couple that discusses everything, and we are to believe that they haven’t talked about whether or not they’re ready to have sex?  I find it unrealistic that the furthest Liz and Todd have gone is making out, especially because neither is religious (I’m sure I’ve written about this before), but I find it even more ridiculous that he wouldn’t know how to talk about it with the Queen of Over-Analyzing.  It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s utterly ridiculous.

The second issue has to do with the portrayal of Cassandra, and her overt advances towards Todd.  It’s okay, if a little creepy, that she hits on him, but it’s another thing entirely to start making out with him while he’s asleep.  That is sexual assault, lady, on the way to rape town.  She sort of apologizes later for hitting on him, claiming she thought he was a “big boy,” but that doesn’t excuse making sexual advances while the other person was unconscious.  It is totally bonkers to me that this was included in the book as a thing that is not a big deal at all.  BONKERS.

SVH #122: A Kiss Before Dying

2 Mar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth watches a bunch of dudes get arrested in the aftermath of the fight against Palisades, including Bruce Patman.  Todd has already been carted away.  Bizarrely, Liz feels guilt at having called the cops even though it’s pretty clear someone could have died if she hadn’t intervened.  She, Enid, and Maria take Winston Egbert to the hospital, and it turns out he’s got a broken nose amongst his other injuries.  Jessica has run off with Christian, and they make out and cry about how no one understands their love.

At school the next week, Todd is out of jail but won’t speak to Elizabeth, Ken is furious with Jessica and basically tells her she’s garbage, and the boys are pissed at the Wakefield twins because they’re Palisades sympathizers.  Liz has had enough and tells the dudes that none of the females at SVH will have anything to do with them until they call off this stupid war.  Bruce thinks she’s bluffing, but then all the girls agree.  I guess we’re in a warped version of Lysistrata now? (This actually gets mentioned by Liz in a super didactic moment later, but when I wrote this, I hadn’t gotten that far in the book.)

Liz and Enid meet with Caitlin and Marla at Palisades and convince them that the no-dude-contact is the way to go.  They agree, and then surfer girl Rosie Shaw comes up.  Despite Caitlin and Marla telling Liz point-blank that she can’t be trusted and Liz’s own feelings that she’s a bad seed, Rosie tells Liz that the two of them can come up with a plan to save their schools from the war.  This will end well.  She keeps pushing Liz to find out where the SVH guys are meeting.  Liz finally finds out from Todd and Rosie tells her to meet at this divey diner so they can go meet both groups of guys and convince them that the other side wants peace.  Liz thinks this is the best plan ever.

Liz and Enid show up and the diner and it takes them a very long time to realize that Rosie isn’t showing.  Enid reads some articles from the Palisades paper about SVH and Liz realizes that Rosie made up their shared interests from the articles.  She calls Jessica to warn her that Rosie’s up to no good and that she knows about her and Christian.  Then she realizes that it’s probably too late and Palisades is already on their way to beat down the SVH boys at Bruce’s house.

Indeed they are, as Rosie taunts Todd and the others before the Palisades dudes come out wearing warpaint on their faces and brandishing weapons like brass knuckles.  There’s a standoff, and Christian arrives to try to keep the peace, but at the exact moment that Liz, Jess, and Enid arrive, a terrible fight breaks out.  Christian tries to protect Ken from a particularly brutal blow and ends up getting knocked down, cracks his head on concrete, and falls into the deep end of the pool.  Jessica dives into save him and tries CPR, but when the ambulance arrives, it doesn’t look good.

At the hospital, a doctor comes out and tells the teens that Christian has died.  Everyone feels terrible and Todd announces that the war is over.

A few weeks later, Jessica is visited by Christian’s mother, who gifts her with his prized surfboard.  Jessica uses it to compete in the surfing competition that I had forgotten about and wins, dedicating the trophy to Christian’s memory.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Rosie is Danish, and this gets talked about for a long time, which is weird.
  • Elizabeth claims her favorite poet is Christina Rossetti

Memorable Quotes:

  • Elizabeth had known Bruce since childhood. He did have a hot temper and a reckless side, but it shocked her to see him treated like a dangerous criminal. (2) [LOL OK LIZ]
  • “One thing this whole rivalry mess has shown me is that people don’t always act the way you’d expect. Who would have ever thought Todd could be so violent?” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What can even be said about this tonally-bizarre book, or the two that preceded it?  If it’s trying to make a commentary on the state of gang warfare, it fails at every level.  Nothing about the formation of the two schools’ gangs makes any sense, and even though one could argue that gangs don’t make sense to begin with, it still doesn’t make sense in this situation.  Gangs evolve for a variety of socioeconomic reasons, none of which are at play here.  The two groups hate each other over a football game.  Even West Side Story had more going on in terms of conflict.

And while it’s sad that Christian died, it’s not like it was a shock, what with the cover, the title, and the way he and Jessica kept talking about their “forever” love.  I don’t know.  This entire thing has left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and in a different way than usual.  Something about all of this is just gross.

Also, LOL forever at Liz’s ideas about what “dangerous” criminals look like and also her complete inability to look at Todd’s history of PUNCHING PEOPLE OUT and relate that to how violent he’s become in these books. Jesus, Liz.  Get it together.

SVH #121: The High School War

27 Feb

high school war

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica actually faints at the sight of the fight happening at the warehouse.  The police show up and the two groups of guys scatter, but not before Ken sees Christian say something to Jessica.  He’s sure it was something lewd, even though it was just Christian begging her to meet him at the beach the following morning.  Jessica meets Christian and they agree that they can never see each other again.  That’ll last.

At school, Principal Cooper announces a new task force to help promote peace between the warring schools, and tells students that they aren’t allowed to wear their official school colors.  Liz, of course, is on board with it right away.  She butts heads with Todd over what’s happening and can’t believe how pig-headed he’s being about the entire thing.  She worries about whether or not their relationship will survive this fight, because her friends at Palisades are being dumped by their boyfriends over the war.

Jessica finally confesses to Liz that she’s been practicing surfing but begs her not to tell anyone.  Jessica and Christian manage to avoid each other for a couple of days but end up making out at the beach one morning before school.  Liz is worried when Jessica is late and enlists the help of Ken to go make sure she didn’t drown or something.  Liz manages to reach Jessica before Ken and sees her macking on Christian.  Christian runs away, and Jessica promises to fill Liz in soon.

The girls have a crisis meeting with Marla and Courtney from Palisades and worry over what’s happening to their men.  Maria lets it slip that the boys aren’t just having a GNO (guy’s night out) but are planning to crash the Palisades football game and slash some tires.  The girls are understandably upset but don’t think that they can do anything about it.  Because a phone call to the police wouldn’t help? The SVH dudes do indeed slash some tires.  Winston nearly gets caught by a Palisades guy but escapes.

Liz corners Jessica at school and asks about the guy she’s seeing at the beach.  Jessica cries a bunch and tells her she can’t tell her who he is for everyone’s safety, and Elizabeth accepts this with worry.  Of course, Ken is right outside the room the twins are talking in and overhears Jessica admit to seeing another guy.  He’s…upset, but instead of confronting Jessica, he acts like a total neutered creeper.

Todd throws a party to help dissipate the bad feelings.  Elizabeth stupidly invites Marla and Courtney and everyone is super rude to them.  She leaves the party with the girls and then fights with Todd on the phone the next morning, before finally agreeing to go out with him the following night.  She watches Jessica get ready for a date she’s pretty sure isn’t with Ken, and she’s right, because Ken is creeping outside their house and follows Jessica’s car.  He engages in some light stalking and continues to follow her after she gets in Christian’s car.  Then he sees them kissing at the restaurant, and Jessica sees him seeing her.  He runs away.

Winston goes to meet up with the GNO group at an abandoned warehouse but ends up getting jumped by the Palisades dudes who set him up.  They beat the crap out of him and it takes a long time for his friends to put the pieces together, but Maria finally does, and then they rush the warehouse to help him.  The dudes start fighting the Palisades guys while the girls literally stand there and scream.  Elizabeth calls the cops, and they come and arrest Todd.  He is furious that Liz called the police.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • There’s a mention of Olivia still being with Rod, but they broke up ages ago.  WAY TO FACT CHECK, GHOST WRITER.
  • The Palisades High principal is named Mrs. Chang
  • Mr. Collins is making his students read Crime & Punishment
  • Christian drives a powder blue VW van and keeps an inflatable mattress in the back.
  • Weirdly, this book assigns an address to Todd’s house: 1010 Country Club Drive. Why, though?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Testosterone,” Lila Fowler drawled, brushing imaginary lint off her chair before sitting down.  “The root of all evil.” (33)
  • She did what he asked–she tried to see his point of view.  But it still didn’t make any sense.” (114) [this whole book, summed up in one line]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of weird things happening in this book, and it’s hard to sort through them all.  One thing that struck me again and again was the use of the word “thug,” by Elizabeth and others to describe the actions of the boys on both sides of the turf war.  The term “gang” is also used, which is obviously laughable.  But there’s something deeply disturbing about the use of the word “thug” because of how it’s used as a code word today for people’s racism.  That’s not totally what’s happening here–basically everyone in the world of these books are white–but it still feels unsettling to read this in 2015 and associate it with what’s happening now.  Also, the idea that these boys would get so worked up over what amounts to a lost football game is the dumbest thing possible.

The other thing that made me feel uneasy throughout the book is Jessica’s inability to consider the fact that she has the agency to break up with Ken.  She’s clearly not into him at all anymore, which is fine, but she continues to string him along while recognizing that he makes her feel cold inside.  It’s a transparent way to ramp up the melodrama when he follows her on her date with Christian and sees them kissing, and it’s something that doesn’t payoff the way it’s supposed to because anyone reading this is screaming at her to just get it over with already.

One more book in this mini-series.  Will someone die? Will I even care?

SVH #120: In Love with the Enemy

25 Feb

inloveenemy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 days

Summary/Overview:

SVH is playing Palisades High in an important football game.  The Palisades team plays unfairly according to SVH, but they still win, leaving Ken Matthews feeling particularly unhappy about the outcome.  There’s tension between the football players on the opposing teams, which is too bad, because Liz and Enid have made friends with Marla Daniels and Caitlin Alexander, both Palisades High students, and the foursome plan to hold a joint dance for the schools.

Jessica, Amy, and Lila are at the beach one day and watch a surf contest happening. At the end of the contest, it’s announced that another competition will be held in a month, and the winner gets an interview on RockTV and a trip to Hawaii.  Jessica decides to enter, despite the fact that she doesn’t currently surf.  This is met with derision from not only Lila and Amy, but also from the surf contest’s champion Rosie, who tells Jessica that cheerleaders can’t surf and she’ll never make it.  This only fuels Jessica’s desire to win even more.  She bets Lila that she’ll win, or she’ll wear a wet suit to school, and Lila takes the bet, swearing she’ll wear pink sunscreen on her nose if Jessica does indeed take the trophy.

Elizabeth and Enid continue making plans for a charity dance with the girls from Palisades despite the fact that tensions between the guys at both schools continue to ramp up.  They decide on a masked dance to help encourage co-mingling, and Elizabeth is stunned when Bruce and Todd have violent reactions to the idea of the dance.  Things continue to escalate after both groups of dudes play pranks on the others, and they decide to “have it out” at the dance.  Liz decides that the only course of action is to call the dance off completely.  But then Jessica tells them that the guys are going to meet at the warehouse where the dance is being held regardless of the status of the dance, and the girls think their presence might help calm tensions.

Meanwhile, Jessica starts taking surfing lessons from a mysterious surfer dude named Christian Gorman.  The two meet nearly every morning before school to surf the waves and reveal secrets to one another.  They kiss a bunch, and Jessica feels more distant from Ken than ever before.  It doesn’t help that he’s become obsessed with getting even with Palisades.

The Oracle’s attempt to run a feature on Palisades to highlight their good qualities backfires and only serves to ramp up feelings of hostility.  The night of the dance, the two groups of dudes meet and start a fight.  Jessica runs outside to tell Ken and Todd that Liz is calling the police, and she sees Christian beating the bloody hell out of Ken.  And…scene.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Ocean Bay is the most popular beach in Sweet Valley
  • The Palisades High School newspaper is called the Pentagon.
  • The Droids dress up as the Flintstones for the dance

Memorable Quotes:

  • “This whole world is a boys’ club. Girls need to stick together.  Otherwise, we just spend all our time hating each other and ourselves and competing for boys’ attention.” Jessica took a breath.  The words had come out in a rush. (57)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It feels redundant to point out how dumb and unnatural the rivalry between Palisades and SVH is in this book.  There are a couple of sporting events where bad feelings are bred, and all of a sudden, both schools have dangerous gangs of dudes wearing black jeans and black leather jackets and totally living up the Sharks vs. Jets thing without any of the fancy dancing.  It feels very obvious and very forced, and none of it works on any level.

Another clunker of a plot point is the SHOCKING reveal that Christian is a Palisades High student, which is obvious from the book’s title alone but also makes no sense within the confines of what Jessica and Christian have been doing.  They’ve been meeting every day, have professed their love for one another, and yet never bothered to mention that they go to newly-rivaled schools?  I don’t buy it.

This whole book is dumb, dumb, dumb.  I don’t have high hopes for the two books that follow in this little mini-series.  Talk about stretching out a topic already worn thin.

SVH #117: Jessica the Genius

11 Feb

jessicagenius

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s SAT season at SVH, and everyone (except Jessica, maybe) is all worked up about getting the scores they want or need to get into the colleges of their choice.  Liz has it in her head that she needs a perfect 1600, while Todd’s feeling the pressure from scouting colleges to score a 1200.  That seems unlikely, “Gee whiz” Boy, but whatever.  Everyone continues obsessing over the test after they’ve taken it at Lila’s Post-SAT Bash that night.  Jessica is the only one who is truly unconcerned with the outcome.

Four weeks later, the envelope arrive.  Jessica opens hers, realizes she’s scored incredibly well, and immediately worries that people will think she’s a geek or a nerd if they find out.  Liz opens hers and has a complete meltdown because her scores are so low and Jessica’s are so high.  Jessica continues to seem nonchalant about all of it and goes shopping with Lila, still trying to keep her scores a secret.  She goes out with Ken that night and he prattles on about his modest scores, and then tells her it’s okay she’s not smart because she’s so beautiful.  Jessica tries to tell him her scores were high, but he laughs it off.

The next morning at school, there’s a banner celebrating the school’s two highest SAT scores: Jessica and Winston.  The secret is out, and Chrome Dome holds an assembly to congratulate the two.  Elizabeth is despondent, and tries to seek solace in Todd, but he’s so pleased with his offer(?) from University of Michigan that he doesn’t even hear her.  Meanwhile, Jessica starts to get fed up with everyone’s surprise that she could be so pretty and so “smart,” so she starts actually trying in some of her classes.  All of this comes to a screeching halt when Chrome Dome calls her to his office and tells her the school board is concerned she cheated and has asked her to sit the test again.  Jessica is understandably enraged about this.

Liz tries to quit the Oracle because she thinks she’s too stupid to live (she’s right) and Mr. Collins talks her out of it, saying she’s the best writer he’s seen in 12 years of teaching (he’s wrong).  He tells her that her scores are only part of her entire academic record and won’t matter that much to colleges.  When she tries to get reassurance from Todd, he brushes her off because he’s obsessed with the interest he’s getting from schools all over the country.  Liz cries a lot, then becomes crazy angry when Enid tells her the rumor is that Jessica cheated.  She blows up at Jess and the two say awful things to one another.  Heather boots Jess from the cheerleading squad, because she’s a caricature of a human being.

At home, Ma and Pa Wakefield have talked to Chrome Dome and insist Jessica take the test again, even though they believe her.  Ned offers the girls an incentive of a few days off school to tour SVU as a reward.  Then he gently advises Liz to try taking the test again, and she agrees.  The girls go out with their respective dudes, and things do not go well at Miller’s Point.  Ken tells Jess it’s okay to tell him the truth about cheating, and she jumps out of his car.  Todd goes on and on about his prospects, and Liz boots him from the car.  Then she and Jess go get ice cream and apologize to one another.

This time, the twins totally reverse their approaches to the test.  Jessica studies like a madwoman, even going so far as to enlist the help of Winston one night.  She decides to stay up cramming the night before the exam, while Liz goes shopping, tanning, and to the movies.  Unsurprisingly, the two basically switch scores when they’re released weeks later.  Chrome Dome tells Jessica she’s suspended from school until further notice, despite Ned’s objections.  Despondent, Liz decides that a grave injustice has been executed and decides to right it by holding a trial at the school.  She will act as Jessica’s defense attorney.

At the big game against Palisades High, Todd is on fire until he isn’t.  He gets injured and loses out on some college scouts.  We are supposed to care, but it doesn’t seem as though anyone else at SVH does, either.  Liz finally goes to visit him and his sad broken leg.  They make up.  Ken and Jessica also make up.

The trial is held at SVH.  The student population is split 50-50 on Jessica’s innocence or guilt.  Liz defends Jessica beautifully, and Chrome Dome flounders a lot.  The jury returns a verdict of not guilty and Jessica is reinstated in school along with her original SAT scores.  All is well.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lots of outfit descriptions in this one, but my favorite is Dana’s: a green tunic with a black leather belt, purple tights, and black high-heeled boots.
  • Enid scored 670 verbal and 650 math. Jessica scored 760 verbal and 750 math. Liz got 490 verbal and 480 math.
  • According to Lila, her father went to Yale.  Did we know this already?
  • According to Ken, SVU requires students to score over 500 in each category to gain acceptance.
  • Mr. Collins is having his class read the play Inherit the Wind, about the infamous Scopes trial.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Todd placed his hands comfortably behind his head. “I’ve had a lot more successes in general than Winston.” (46)
  • Maybe she shouldn’t even be reading books–maybe she should be in the garage, learning to weld. (62) [You’re the fucking worst, Liz.]
  • “Maybe I was even a little jealous. It’s hard to have a girlfriend who’s so intelligent.” (143)
  • “I could start writing that now. It’s my opinion that people shouldn’t be judged unfairly by surface appearances,” Elizabeth declared. (166)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Firstly, can we talk about Liz’s insane desire or determination to get a perfect score on the SAT?  Does she realize how rare that is?  Liz is supposed to be the “smart” twin, right?  Does she really think that one test is going to determine her entire future?  I understand that wanting a good score on the SAT is important for getting into a good college or qualifying for NHS (right?), but to put the pressure on herself that she would get a perfect score?  That means answering every single question CORRECTLY.  Because if I recall, the SAT actually penalizes students for incorrect answers more harshly than if they left the question blank.  CALM DOWN, LIZ.

But her most egregious behavior comes in the form of her accusations towards Jessica about cheating.  She can’t conceptualize the idea that Jessica might outperform her on something she cares so much about, so once the rumors start, Liz believes them immediately, even though there’s no proof whatsoever.  When show blows up at Jessica, I actually cringed because Liz is so far out of line.  I understand the jealousy that can come from intense competition over something like arbitrary test scores, but Liz’s behavior here is so over-the-top that it’s impossible to feel badly for her.  She’s the fucking WORST, you guys.  The snobbiest, most pseudo-intellectual, self-righteous worst.

What is also weird is that there’s no mention of taking the SATs over again until halfway through the book.  Even Mr. Collins doesn’t mention it, which feels completely bizarre, given that he works in education and all.   Also, colleges don’t automatically get your scores unless you want them to.  So this insane panic over colleges knowing immediately is super, super weird.