Tag Archives: famous person in sweet valley

SVH #92: She’s Not What She Seems

21 May

shesnotwhatsheseems

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 weeks, tops

Summary/Overview:

Sweet Valley High’s theater is putting on a production of Macbeth, and Jessica is determined to play the lead (kind of?) of Lady Macbeth.  She sacrifices time with friends and with Sam to prepare for the auditions, and she totally knocks each round out of the park.  Even Lila, who is a very good actress as well, doesn’t stand a chance in the shadow of Jessica.  It helps that the shy, quiet new girl Paula Perrine has been helping Jessica get ready.  She helps her run lines and feeds her ego to a creepy, bizarre degree.  Jessica nabs the lead, obviously, and her opposite is Bill Chase.  Lila gets cast as one of the witches.  After Jessica encourages her to do so, Paula tries out for the role of Lady Macbeth’s gentlewoman and gets it.

From there, she starts hanging out with the gang more.  After a makeover from Jessica, she really comes out of her shell, flirting with the assistant director and generally grabbing the attention of Jessica’s friends.  Jessica starts to feel uneasy about it, but both she and Liz (and everyone else) bought her sob story about her dead mother and abusive, alcoholic father, so they mostly feel sorry for her.

As the days go by, Jessica becomes increasingly paranoid about Paula and her motivations.  She frames situations so Jessica blows up at her because Paula didn’t do something she promised and makes herself look like total victim while Jessica looks like an asshole.  This isn’t hard, as Jessica is an asshole, but Paula is also a master manipulator.  She also starts cutting out Jessica from activities with the friend group.  Then, when Jennifer Mitchell gets mono and has to drop out as Jessica’s understudy, Paula steps up and doesn’t actually tell Jessica.  She’s also taken to wearing much better clothes and makeup at school, but still dresses way down when she and Jessica rehearse privately.

Things come to a head the night of the play’s opening, when Paula calls Jessica during a thunderstorm, crying about her alcoholic father and asking if Jessica can come get her from Cold Springs.  Jessica obliges, and it doesn’t take her long to realize she’s being played in a major way.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth figures out that Paula has been lying about her parents the entire time just before the play starts, with Paula set to go on in Jessica’s absence.

At Lila’s cast party that night, Jessica confronts Paula in front of everyone, and all her friends applaud after Paula leaves, still pretty smug about her performance.  The next day, at the Wakefield’s pool party, Paula shows up, still smug and positively delusional, and when she doesn’t receive the warm welcome she expects, she turns to leave, falling into the pool.  She storms off.  The world makes sense again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Plot convenience: Steven is taking a Shakespeare class at college and is full of factoids about the play
  • Jessica likes strawberry milkshakes from Casey’s
  • School let out early because of the play’s opening night performance. What an institution of learning!
  • Luke Perry gets a mention.  Yikes.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I don’t want to discourage you, Annie,’ said Jessica, ‘but you ought to be more realistic. You don’t have a chance at playing Lady Macbeth. Not with me trying out.'” (10)
  • “‘Oh yes,’ said Paula, almost in a whisper. ‘Everyone knows who all of you are.'” (32) [Blogger’s note: How is this not the creepiest thing they’ve ever seen?]
  • “It’s pouring outside, Prince Albert. That’s got to be bad luck on opening night. It never rains in Sweet Valley; it must be the Macbeth curse.” (121)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of things about this one that I actually really like.  For one, I was once in Macbeth, and so the play is near and dear to my heart.  But I also remember really liking this one as a kid, probably because it featured acting (my favorite thing) and crazy single white female shenanigans (another great thing).  As an adult, I actually still found this one pretty compelling, if not a little ridiculous.  There are several things that don’t work for me here:

Paula is a total creeper from page one, and I have a hard time that people wouldn’t get the heebie-jeebies from her.  She lays it on so thick that it’s impossible not to feel like something is off about her, and while the Sweet Valley kids have proven themselves to be the dumbest, densest teens around time and time again, it still feels like a little much.

Part of this has to do with the exchange Jessica has with Sam on page 104:

“Jessica, I don’t know what’s wrong with you lately…But you seem to go off the deep end whenever Paula’s involved…It’s not like you to be so paranoid.”

“Sam,” Jessica said, trying to stay calm, “I am not paranoid. But Paula is trying to sabotage me somehow. You’ve got to believe me!”

The thing is, if Sam knows her as well as we’re supposed to believe, he would know it’s not like her to be so crazy paranoid about Paula.  It’s weird to me that she’d be able to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes like that.  Eh, whatever.  Sweet Valley, am I right?

The other thing that stood out to me was that when Jessica gets the call from Paula saying she needs rescuing, there’s a clap of thunder on Jessica and on Paula’s end.  If she’s in Silver Springs, you idiot, you would not hear the same clap of thunder miles and miles away.  Whatever. I’m probably overthinking it.

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SVH #91: In Love With a Prince

19 May

inloveiwthaprince

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

Why is Arthur in Sweet Valley for 3 weeks?

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

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

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

Also, Dana is the WORST.

 

SVH #85: Soap Star

25 Apr

soap star

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica sees an ad for an audition for her favorite soap, The Young and the Beautiful.  Casting agents are looking for identical twin girls who have that “California” look, so of course she and Liz are perfect for the gig, which is a week-long engagement on the show.  When she begs Liz to audition, though, she’s frustrated by Liz’s lack of interest and apparent disdain at the entire concept of a soap opera.  Despite her cajoling about how it could fund a brand-new Jeep or a “word processor” for Liz, she won’t budge.

After a party at Amy’s, Lila and Jessica come up with a way to get Liz to audition in LA without her knowing.  They send out a formal letter from a fake research company doing a study on identical twins.  When the girls go for the research study, it takes Liz a while to realize they’re sitting in the lobby of a casting call for the soap.  She freaks out and yells at Jessica in front of everyone, including the casting agent.  This woman decides the twins are perfect for the role and offers it to Jessica on the spot.  Um, okay.  When Jessica meets up with Liz at the car to tell her the good news, she can’t believe Liz won’t get excited about it.

While Jessica throws herself into the events the cast goes to, including a luncheon where she hangs all over star Brandon Hunter’s every last word, Elizabeth continues to refuse to do the show.  Jessica panics until she realizes that Liz will be incapable of saying no to an opportunity to write about the show, so Jess sends in some of Liz’s articles to the Los Angeles Times and gets her a limited-run of articles to write for the paper about her experiences on the show.  Liz is mad but also so full of her own self-importance she agrees to do the show in the name of journalism.

The show goes off pretty well for the twins throughout the course of their week-long guest stint.  Brandon Hunter ends up being a terrible actor prone to tantrums when things don’t go his way on set, but Jessica is so enamored with him that she doesn’t see it until she finally overhears him talking about how he’s using her to rocket to stardom.  Then she finally sees the light, but it’s kind of too late, as Sam has accused her of being an insufferable twat with regards to th whole celebrity thing.  Sam is right.

Liz and Jess decide to get even with Brandon on the last day on set.  They deliberately confuse him so he flubs most of his scenes.  When he pitches a fit about how the taping came out, the girls have to record the final scene of the show live.  Instead of sticking to the script and ending up in his character’s arms at the end, Jessica throws a glass of water in his face and declares her love for “Sam,” which, okay?  They get away with this, too, because they’re the Wakefield twins.  Jessica is even offered a permanent role on the show, but she turns it down.

Then there’s a surprise party and Sam and Jessica reconcile.  The world makes sense again.

The B-Plot is essentially one of the longest, weirdest, most didactic ads for Jeep Wrangler I’ve ever read in commercial fiction.  Elizabeth, Todd, and Mr. Wakefield go to the dealership to get the girls a new car.  After talking about all the features of the car, they finally settle on a new/used car (owned by a rental company previously) for the girls.  Yay?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica reads Hollywood Digest
  • Lila has a “designer” lunch bag, whatever that means.
  • Blech Outfit Alert: Liz wears a pair of peach chinos with a matching oversize shirt, complete with an applique flower on the pocket.
  • Jessica wants a black Jeep with purple sparkly trim, and Elizabeth favors a royal blue one with silver trim.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Well, I just don’t understand why anyone would want to waste their time watching brainless girls with their equally brainless boyfriends act their way through sickeningly sweet and completely unbelievable plots!” (10)
  • “Have you ever heard the dialogue the women characters on the soaps are given? They never use their brains! They misunderstand everything that everyone tells them, and they jump to absurd conclusions about the very people that they should know they can trust.  It makes me sick to watch them.” (82) [Blogger’s note: Is this supposed to be ironic?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book is bonkers.

The basic premise is sort of unbelievable, but whatever, I guess.  Wouldn’t the show’s producers want to cast girls who were at least 18 so they could work around child labor laws?  There’s never any mention of the fact that the twins would only be able to work a little each day, and they would have needed a tutor on set.  It doesn’t matter that it was only for a week–there would have been some discussion of this.  But instead we’re to believe the girls were able to go to LA in the morning, rehearse and film their show, and then make it back in time for afternoon classes at Sweet Valley High?  This makes no sense.

And Ned and Alice are totally cool with the girls missing this much school?  They’re cool with no supervision on set?  Seriously?

 

SVH #72: Rock Star’s Girl

19 Mar

rock star's girl

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

New girl Andrea Slade makes friends with Elizabeth and Enid right away.  She seems nice enough, and she’s apparently witty (this blogger saw no real demonstration of that), so Liz and Enid are thrilled to have a new friend.  They take her to the beach and the mall, where she meets Nicholas Morrow.  The two share an instant attraction, and start dating.  Only, Andrea is reluctant to have anyone pick her up at her house, insisting that she meet people wherever it is they’re going.  Liz and Enid think it’s because she’s embarrassed her house is small or something, but the opposite is really true: her dad is famous rock star Jamie Peters, and she’s keeping it totally under wraps.  In fact, this is so far under wraps that the reader doesn’t “find” out until more than halfway through the book, when Jessica, Cara, Lila, and Amy see Andrea with Jamie and mistake her for his live-in girlfriend. Uh, gross.

Once the secret is out, everyone at Sweet Valley starts trying to pony up to Andrea, except Liz and Enid, because they are so fucking virtuous.  Lila, Jessica, and Amy all try to become insta-friends with Andrea and are pissed off when she rebuffs their blatant fame-grabbing attempts.  They continue to adhere to their theory that she’s Jamie’s girlfriend, even after Andrea blows up at Lila and tells her it’s none of her business what her relationship is to Jamie.  Of course, Jessica runs into Nicholas Morrow and tells him that Andrea’s totally two-timing him, and he believes it–why else would she be weird about getting picked up at her own house?  So instead of meeting her for their date, he drops off a letter with the hostess that basically tells Andrea he won’t be two-timed.

Understandably, Andrea is upset and doesn’t go home.  Then Jamie Peters calls Elizabeth to see if Andrea’s at her house, and they all go out searching for her.  Nicholas Morrow helps once he realizes that Jamie is Andrea’s father, and when they find her at the marina, everyone reconciles.  At the Peters’ estate, Jamie tells Andrea that he just signed a movie contract that will keep them in Sweet Valley for years–which, has he ever seen a movie contract before?  Anyway, Jessica, Lila, and Amy are found hiding in the bushes, apologize, yadda yadda yadda.  Everything is happy and perfect.

The B-Plot focuses largely on Jessica, Lila, and Amy’s obsession with Jamie Peters.  When Lila discovers that Jamie has bought the Kittery’s Estate near her house, she starts stalking him, and it doesn’t take long for the rest of the girls to hide in the bushes near Jamie’s back yard, either.  That’s where they first see Andrea and Jamie together.  Lila’s also learning how to play the marimba because she’s decided to be a professional musician.  It’s the weirdest side-plot I’ve seen yet, I think.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila’s father bought her a new compact disc player from Japan
  • Jamie Peters’s new album is called Pride.  [Blogger’s note: Personally, I’m looking forward to the next one: Gluttony.]
  • Liz describes Andrea’s fashion as “kind of funky cotton things–very New York.” Um, what?
  • Sweet Valley sure has a lot of Italian restaurants: Nicholas takes Andrea to Oggi so she can have Angel hair pasta.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Listen to yourself, Lila,’ Amy Sutton said in her most critical voice. ‘You sound like a lovesick baby. Only teenyboppers get crushes on rock stars.'” (12)
  • “‘Yes,’ Lila said calmly. ‘Why not? Jamie Peters has a wonderful ear for authentic, interesting instruments. He’ll probably be overjoyed that there’s a marimba player living five houses away from him.'” (75)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I remember loving this book as a kid because I was a) obsessed with the concept of celebrity and b) intrigued at the idea of having a much-older boyfriend.  As an adult, however, I’m super creeped out that anyone could mistake a 16-year-old girl for an aging rock star’s live-in girlfriend.  I mean, statutory rape laws existed in the 90s, right?  This isn’t some sort of Courtney Stodden situation (and look how well that turned out for her, right?), and the fact that a lot of people’s reaction to this news is jealousy is downright disturbing.

Look, I get having crushes on celebrities that are much older than you.  I’ve been totally guilty of it, and I’m sure it was way worse as a teenager than I remember now.  But any person who believed that Andrea was Jamie’s girlfriend and found their reaction was jealousy and not abject horror at the concept needs serious help.  Whatever, May-December romances work out sometimes, blah blah blah, but this is not a case where that should be advocated.  I just can’t get over how gross the whole thing is.

Next up: Bantam decided it wasn’t done mining Regina Morrow’s tragic death for trite plot points.  So we get a camera…with a secret…in #73: Regina’s Legacy.

SVH #71: Starring Jessica!

17 Mar

starring jessica

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun Facts/Trivia:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

Up next: SVH #72: Rock Star’s Girl.