Tag Archives: gossip and rumors

SVH #102: Almost Married

20 Jun

almost married

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth is still obsessing over her mother’s suspected affair with Hank Patman. She lets Jessica in on the secret, and Jessica’s response is to go and ask Alice about it, but Liz tells her not to. We wouldn’t want to wrap this plot point up too fast, now would we?

At any rate, Alice goes out of town with Hank again, and Ned is away for a legal conference, so the twins are on their own.  Because Todd’s parents are also away, he decides this is the perfect time for them to practice living together.  He says they’ll be able to be together all the time, but he will sleep on the couch or in Steven’s room, because these teens are actually neutered.  In order to get Jessica on board, they agree to do her chores and cook for her during the week Todd is there.

When Elizabeth and Todd get home, she rushes off immediately to meet with Bruce Patman without telling Todd anything.  Jessica gets home and “accidentally” spills the beans about what Liz thinks is happening with Alice and Hank, and Todd is irritated.  Meanwhile, Liz and Bruce dig through the Patman mansion attic for clues and find a gushy love letter and Alice’s engagement and wedding rings.  They also share A Moment.

Upon returning to her house, she finds that Todd is sort of annoyed, but they make up quickly and Todd tells her that they’re partners and generally sounds way, way older than 16.  This entire plot is so weird.  While Elizabeth and Todd act like they are 40, Bruce plays tennis with Pamela but is distracted with thoughts of Elizabeth, even as Pamela tells him about Project Youth facing budget cuts.

Todd and Elizabeth continue to spend time together, but nothing is really going the way they plan. When they have a date at the Videomat, a new laundromat that also rents DVDs and sells espresso, Elizabeth drinks six cups of espresso and won’t stop yammering.  Todd overfills the washing machine and ends up with suds everywhere.  The two oversleep the next day and nearly miss putting the recycling out.  To make matters worse, Elizabeth keeps zipping off with Bruce, which pisses Todd off.  Jessica keeps giving him a hard time about how much Liz and Bruce are hanging out, which only further infuriates him.

After school one day, Liz misses a ride home with Todd and goes with Bruce.  The two go up to the attic at the Wakefield house to dig around and decide to visit their parents’ college to keep digging for information.  Todd comes home to find them hanging out and begrudgingly ends up making dinner for all of them, plus Lila and Jessica.  Later, Bruce and Jessica are watching TV and Bruce sees the hotel room number for Alice, realizes that it’s the same room number as his father’s, and freaks out.

Liz and Bruce head up to the local university to investigate their parents’ shared past.  They share several Moments together, and on the way home they stop to help a stalled vehicle and realize it’s Todd.  That night, a bunch of them sneak off to the Beach Disco, and Liz spends a great deal of time dancing with Bruce.  She’s attracted to him and is clearly enjoying the rush it gives her, but she pretends to feel conflicted about it.

The twins and Todd decide to throw a pool party at their house, and Todd loses his shit when Elizabeth invites Bruce along to help run errands.  He sulks inside as they get everything ready on the patio.  Elizabeth and Bruce flirt, Todd acts like a creepy, jealous loser.

Bruce and Pamela end up breaking up at the party, because she’s the only person in this book who isn’t an idiot.  Then Bruce corners Liz in the kitchen, cries, and they end up making out.  OF COURSE Todd walks in, they fight, and he storms off.  But as he’s driving away, he has a change of heart and returns to the party.

He arrives just in the nick of time, too, because Liz is so upset that she does a bad dive off the diving board and belly flops into the pool so hard she blacks out and nearly drowns.  Todd saves her and they make up, with Liz realizing he’s the one she truly loves.

Mrs. Wakefield surprises everyone by showing up early and acting super pissed off about the fact that the girls have thrown a party with no alcohol or drugs.  She then tells Liz that the Beckwiths (JESUS CHRIST THESE PEOPLE MOVED AWAY AGES AGO) called her to let her know that Todd’s car had been parked in the driveway all week (this is basic sneaking around 101, idiots). She yells at Liz, but then Liz goes ballistic on her, telling her she and Bruce know everything about the affair.  Alice sits them all down and tells the tragic story of her and Hank.  Liz and Bruce decide that now that they know Hank and Alice aren’t having an affair, they’ll work on getting Hank and Marie Patman back together.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Fun Fact: When I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t let me read this one based on the title alone. Oh, mom.
  • The ghost writer spells Barry’s last name as “Rourke” in this one, but it has always been “Rork,” hasn’t it?
  • Jamie Peters has a song called “Lawless Love”

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘People say it’s a man’s world,’ Mr. Wakefield commented…’but let me tell you, girls, sometimes it’s not so easy being male…for example, having to wear a suit and tie on a scorcher like this. Talk about oppression!'” (6-7). Die in a fire, Ned.
  • “‘OK, not twenty-four hours,’ Todd amended with a grin. ‘I’ll sleep on the couch or in Steven’s room, of course.'” (17)
  • “Jessica hurried to defend Elizabeth’s honor. ‘Of course they’re not sleeping together. This is Elizabeth we’re talking about! She’s relegated Todd to the downstairs couch–they’re the king and queen of self-control, believe me.'” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s really only one thing that bothers me about this book a lot.

That is how completely weird and improbable the entire plot is with regard to Todd “moving in” with Elizabeth for a week and not expecting to have sex or at least fool around hardcore.  I’ve written before about how weird it is that every teen seems to lack a sex drive (I’m not counting incidences of sexual assault as those are about violence) completely.  Despite the fact that the teenagers in these books kiss a lot, no one ever has sex, and when they think someone else has, they FREAK OUT ABOUT IT (see: Pamela Robertson’s weird, inaccurate reputation).

So for Todd to move in and sleep on the couch rings false in many ways.  The teens in these novels aren’t at all religious.  There is no overarching idea that Christianity or God is governing their lives.  Their decisions to “wait” seem to have more to do with the intended audience age of the readers.  So then why even write a story like this one?

Todd wants to move in to practice living together, but they only engage in the hardest aspects of living together: doing chores, squabbling, etc.  There’s no benefit to this arrangement, and OH YEAH THEY ARE SIXTEEN AND WOULD BE WAY MORE INTERESTED IN THE PHYSICALITY.  So I call bullshit.

 

 

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SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Lila are spending the week of spring break in Jamaica, at Lila’s uncle Jimmo’s beach resort, Club Paradise.  Jessica won’t shut up about how excited she is, and Lila is being extra nice to her.  When they arrive, Jessica discovers that her luggage was lost in the layover.  It also becomes clear to Jess why Lila was being so nice: they’re working as camp counselors at the kiddie version of the club. She tells Lila she’ll never forgive her/never speak to her again.

Jessica gets saddled with a group of bratty five-and-six-year-olds for the week.  They bicker, do gross things, and generally don’t listen to her.  She’s infuriated to see that Lila’s group is much better behaved, and then she’s fascinated when she sees Lila talking to a super hot guy who turns out to be the windsurfing instructor named Mick Myers.

Of course they both end up going out with this guy, who is a total skeeze.  Jessica dumps her campers off on Charles, a geeky guy who is totally into her.  This pisses off Julia, another counselor who is described as “chubby” but has a lovely voice.  She decides to get even with Jessica, because Jessica told her she was too fat to attract a man.  I kind of hate Jessica, too.

At any rate, Jessica and Lila continue to both date Mick and compete with each other when it comes to their little campers and the daily talent shows.  Meanwhile, Julia also starts dating Mick, who is starting to seem like a pathological liar and also a sex addict.  He takes each girl to his “secret” lagoon to make out.

Jessica runs into Larry the hot lifeguard on the beach one day, and they flirt.  Then they run into Lila and Mick, who are clearly on a date, and Jessica is such an idiot that she thinks Mick is only pretending to like her because her uncle is his boss.  They have a stupid game of chicken in the ocean and all of them get dunked.

It isn’t long before they realize that Mick is totally playing them.  After Jessica slaps Lila and she pulls her into the ocean with her as she falls, the two have a good laugh and decide to get revenge.  They get back to their cabin to find out that Mick is literally dating every female employed at the camp.

The last night of camp, Lila and Jessica put on a magician’s show and use Mick as their audience “volunteer.”  They break his watch, cut his hair, and dye it purple, and he has to sit and take it.  They get their revenge, totally make up as friends, and have a lemonade.  All is well.

Elizabeth has plans to spend the break sweating it out in Sweet Valley.  She wants to work on an Honors English project that asks students to do a biography of an ancestor.  Conveniently, Liz has chosen to focus on her mother.  The problem is, Alice has just accepted a freelance position working with Hank Patman in his Chicago office.

Amy shows up at the Wakefield’s house to ask for help with the English assignment, which she has to do for extra credit.  She doesn’t tell Elizabeth that Jessica told her she could “borrow” her ancestor Jessamyn, the circus performer.  The two look at an old family tree of Alice’s.

She runs into Bruce at the Dairi Burger and he blows up at her about her home-wrecker of a mother. She thinks he’s cracked until she gets home to find Alice rushing off to catch a plane to Chicago with Hank Patman.  She grills her dad for information about Alice’s life before they met, but he’s sort of cheerfully vague about it all.  She starts to worry that Bruce might be right.

Instead of really working on her project, she continues to obsess about her mother’s past with Hank.  She manages to awkwardly tie it into every single old classic movie she goes to see with Enid and Olivia that week, arguing with them about the meaning of leaving a fiance for an old flame, etc.  It’s boring and pedantic.

Bruce Patman is feeling the pains of his parents splitting up.  He lashes out even more than usual and feels the sads about his family fighting.  His mother accuses Hank of cheating on her.  He decides he’s going to tell his father exactly what he thinks of their separation and how its impacting his life.  Bruce is insufferable.  Before he can do so, he overhears a conversation between Hank and Alice on the phone that leads him to believe the two are carrying on an affair.

Bruce and Liz meet several times to discuss their parents affair, which they are sure Alice and Hank are having.  Bruce seems to be working on a plan to split them up before serious damage is done, but he doesn’t bother to share it with anyone.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • It seems like everyone is going away for spring break: Barry Rork to Palm Springs, Pamela Robertson to the Grand Canyon, Ken Matthews to Monterey, Todd to Yosemite.
  • Lila still plays the marimba and listens to Jamie Peters’ music.
  • The old movies Liz, Olivia, and Enid see include My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, Philadelphia Story, and Casablanca.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Bruce grabbed the lunch tray and hurled it away. He heard it clatter against a tree trunk and imagined that it was the sound of his whole world shattering into pieces.” (7)
  • “They turned to gape as Lila walked by with her nose in the air. In a straight line behind her, six obedient kindergartners waddled like baby geese, singing in unison, ‘Row, row, row your yacht…'” (51)
  • “‘Do you like my picture, Jessica?’ Suzy asked. ‘It’s a picture of you screaming at us.'” (81)
  • “Elizabeth had amnesia and her defenses were down. Bruce had tried to take advantage of her–what guy wouldn’t?” (165) [IS THIS REAL LIFE?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps what’s oddest here is not that Jessica and Lila compete over the same dude, which has happened before, but the fact that Mick seems interested in anything with a vagina.  He literally dates something like six girls at once, and he’s also supposed to be the club’s full-time windsurfing instructor.  How does he manage to do this?  How can all the girls think that he’s only interested in them when he’s literally seen with other people in every scene?  There is virtually nothing about him that would indicate he oozes charm (except for the fact that we are told this).  Ugh.  Gross.

The other thing that really bothered me about this one is how fucking judgmental and antiquated Elizabeth is in her thinking about her mother.  She holds fast to this bizarre, sexist idea that a woman should only be in love once–and that she should marry that man.  Setting aside the fact that this is heteronormative drivel, it’s also so tone-deaf considering the fact that Elizabeth has been in love at least 3-4 times herself, and she is only 16 years old.   Is she damaged in some way?  Isn’t it possible that Alice was in love with Hank at one time, and then fundamentally changed and fell in love with Ned?

Also, could it be LESS of Elizabeth’s business?

SVH #94: Are We in Love?

26 May

areweinlove

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Steven Wakefield and Cheryl Thomas have been spending a lot of time together.  They get along well and Steven has been teaching Cheryl to drive (stick).  They notice that everyone seems to think they’re dating, and they aren’t sure how they feel about it.  Everyone has an opinion about an interracial relationship, and they aren’t shy about them.  Most of these opinions are super, super racist, by the way.

One night, Steven and Cheryl go to a restaurant for a bite and they’re hassled by some skinheads.  It shakes them both up, and after they leave, they embrace on the beach and then end up kissing.  Because of this, or because they feel like they have something to prove, the two start dating.  It’s clear from the start that neither one is into the other, though.  Both agonize over how to deal with this privately, because they want to prove that people of different races can be attracted to each other.

This drags on for over 150 pages.  They continue to date, mostly to prove a point, while also dealing with casual racism and ignorance at every turn.  Jessica tries to be super supportive because she loves the idea of her brother being a trailblazer, but it just makes everyone feel even more awkward.

It isn’t until the wedding of Cheryl’s father and Annie’s mother that Cheryl finally comes clean to Steven by making her toast to her parents all about love and standing up for it or something.  The point is, she’s just not into him.  They laugh it off, embrace, and decide to just be friends.  Everyone celebrates the marriage of Walter and Mrs. Whitman! Hooray!

The B-Plot involves Jessica baking the wedding cake for the wedding.  Shenanigans ensue.  I can’t bring myself to care.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Steven takes Cheryl to the Crooked Canyon Cafe, which has Mexican food and burgers.
  • Marpa Heights is a town near Sweet Valley, though this is the first we as readers have heard of it.
  • Apparently Steven has friends, because they all go with him to the Beach Disco one night, including token black friend Martin Bell
  • Jess and Liz talk about their future weddings. Liz would want Enid, Penny, Olivia, and Jessica to be bridesmaids, and they’d wear cornflower-blue dresses.  She thinks Todd would pick his dad to be his best man (WHAT?) and Winston, Ken, and Aaron would be ushers.  WHAT IS THIS?
  • Andrea Slade and Nicholas Morrow have broken up.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Look, all I’m saying is that Steven could have any girl in Sweet Valley,’ Lila defended herself. ‘Cheryl’s fine for a friend, but I think it’s kind of odd that he’d like her that way.'” (19)
  • “She looked over at Steven, feeling something like awe. My big brother is half of the very first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High!” (20) [blogger’s note: LOL WHAT?]
  • “Why is everybody so racist?” (51)
  • “She and Steven had needed to hug, to kiss. Cheryl’s eyes stung with tears. They had come together, briefly, for the right reason. But they had stayed together for the wrong one.” (130)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is the last of the regular series books.  After this, it’s all mini-series, all the time.  I’m excited for the shake-up, but this book as the conclusion to the traditional run of the series is TERRIBLE.

The problems here are myriad, but one that sticks out is that the book seems to have taken the issues of race, racism, and identity in the last book and run with them.  What was problematic (and it was super, super problematic) in the last book is off the charts bizarre here.  While readers are supposed to recognize the blatant displays of racism on the pages here, where characters talk about race in a blatant, horrible way, there’s also a lot of weird, underlying racism intrinsic to the story.

Both Steven and Cheryl think a lot about the fact that they’ve never dated someone of the other race, and they worry that it’s because they can’t be attracted to someone of the other race.  This is a theme revisited again and again by multiple characters in the book, and it is weird and oddly tone-deaf, considering the fact that the book culminates in the wedding of Walter Thomas and Mrs. Whitman, people of different races.

But also worrying is the fact that everyone keeps talking about the fact that Steven and Cheryl will be the first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High (nevermind the fact that they won’t actually appear at SVH because Steven is [allegedly] in college).

I’m sorry, but what?  Haven’t we dealt with this before?  There are at least three other coupes at SVH who are interracial.  This issue has been dealt with before.  I read this as the (presumably white) writers acknowledging their own bias in that a white person dating a black person is, in some way, a “bigger deal” than a white person dating someone who is Hispanic or Asian or whatever.  Which is totally FUCKED.

Okay, enough with the race stuff, SVH.  This is starting to really bother me.

 

SVH #90: Don’t Go Home With John

14 May

dontgohomewithjohn

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Lila has been seeing more of John Pfeifer around since he broke up with his girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell, and she’s surprised how interested she is in him.  He’s much more serious and intense than the dudes she’s used to dating, but she can’t help but be flattered when he pays attention to her.  They finally go out on a date, and it goes really well, until they go up to Miller’s Point and he won’t stop fooling around when she asks him to.  Things get a little rough, and she finally gets away from him by grabbing his keys, jabbing him in the neck with them, and then throwing them over the edge of the cliff.

Completely traumatized by the assault and near-rape, Lila blows off Jessica when she calls to find out how the date went.  She completely withdraws into herself, vacillating between thinking she should seek help from someplace like Project Youth to thinking everyone will blame her for what happened because she’s known as a flirt.  Jessica notices how drawn and pale Lila looks, and she’s seriously worried, but no matter how much she prods Lila, she can’t get her to tell her what’s wrong.

Lila throws her costume ball the following weekend (after thinking about cancelling it and making a point to uninvite John from attending), and it’s going along fine.  Lila is even having a good time until John shows up with some random sophomore in tow.  When she sees him, she completely loses her shit and screams at him in front of everyone about how he tried to rape her.  He denies it and leaves with his date, but the damage has been done in that the rumors are flowing.

The following week at school, Lila is plagued by rumors doubting her story.  It doesn’t help that John is completely weird and keeps following her around, standing in her way in the cafeteria and generally making a mockery of her pain.  Jessica asks John’s ex-girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell if she can help at all and encourage John to seek help, and she basically tells Jessica that since he never tried to rape her, she doesn’t think he needs counseling.  Okay.

Lila is miserable until a sophomore named Susan Wyman comes to see her at her house and tells her that the same thing happened to her with John just before he went out with Lila.  Like Lila, she was able to get away when another couple showed up at Miller’s Point.  The two devise a plan to get John to go to the Dairi Burger where they can confront him together.  They do, and after his friends hear Susan’s story, too, everyone turns on John.  Vindication, I guess?

The B-Plot involves Jessica worrying about “losing control” when she makes out with Sam.  They never say sex but instead dance around it, and Jessica decides they need to cool things down before one of them lets things get out of hand.  She makes them date in public so they won’t be tempted until Sam finally sits her down and is like, “I love you and this is crazy.  I’m just as responsible as you are in this situation, blah blah blah.”  Whatever.  Then they make out a bunch.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • After Lila throws John’s keys over the edge of Miller’s Point, he calls her a “little witch.”  If ever there was a time for actual profanity…
  • Lila wears a black Lycra dress with a crushed velvet jacket and pearls for her date with John.
  • Jessica and Sam go as Princess Leia and Han Solo to Lila’s costume ball.  Lila goes as Peter Pan, Enid & Hugh are the body and receiver of a telephone (okay), Elizabeth and Todd are the sun and the moon.  What the hell, guys.
  • The ghostwriter refers to a sitcom as a “situation comedy” at one point, which is…weird?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila had heard of boys acting like this, but she had thought that was only in books and movies.  She had never thought that any boy she knew would behave like, this.  That any boy she went to school with, and talked to, and saw every day–and liked–could scare her so much.” (47)
  • “Just a few days ago Lila had been one of the most attractive girls in Southern California, but now she would have been lucky to come in as a runner-up in a Miss Organic-Egg beauty contest.” (78) LOL WHAT?
  • “‘I mean, I know Lila’s telling the truth, Jessica, but I still have a hard time believing that my friend John did something like that. It’s like Dr. Pfeifer and Mr. Hyde. Anyway, there’s no way of proving what really did go on, is there?'” (112) LIZ IS THE GODDAMN WORST.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is a hard one to snark on, because given the subject matter and the series, it’s done fairly well.  Especially when you consider the fact that it was written in the early 90s.  There are still a couple of things worth mentioning, though.

In the book and in some recaps, incredulity is expressed that a person like John could ever do this to someone.  There’s a lot of, “John is a nice guy, and it doesn’t make sense for him to suddenly do this.”  And while the character development is sudden (which is not unusual for this series–consider Suzanne Devlin, etc.), I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for something like this to happen.  In fact, one could argue that having a character like John–who’s been mild-mannered for the most part, and a “good guy”–helps bring nuance to the issue.  Rapists are not all mustache-twirling devils.  They are people who appear otherwise normal, except for the fact that OH YEAH THEY ARE RAPISTS.

The other thing that really, really bothered me about this one was Liz.  It’s already well-established that she’s the fucking worst, but there’s something about her treatment of this issue that really stuck in my craw.  There’s the quote I linked to above, but there are other moments in the book, where Liz says things like, “I’d like Lila to know I support her, even though I’ve had to be polite to John,” where I just sort of rolled my eyes.  There’s so much self-righteousness there.  I don’t know.  My feelings are complicated about a stupid, poorly-written character, but they’re still my feelings.

SVH #84: The Stolen Diary

23 Apr

stolendiary

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Todd tells Liz he’s afraid they’re getting too serious or maybe too comfortable with each other and thinks they should take a break.  Liz is stunned but agrees to it.  She’s in total denial about the fact that he’s clearly interested in another girl named Peggy Abbot, but when everyone starts talking about them and Liz sees them flirting out and about, she realizes it must be true.

So she proceeds to agonize about it for 100 pages.  She writes in her journal, ignores Enid’s problems, and is generally the saddest sack around.  When Kris Lynch, a senior at SVH, asks her to the dance, she turns him down and then reconsiders when she realizes it might be a way to attract Todd’s attention.  This will end well.

It’s clear that Kris is super into Liz, but she’s not interested in him at all.  She feels bad about how excited he was for the dance and agrees to a second date.  It isn’t long before people are referring to him as her boyfriend, even though they have never kissed.  Liz knows she needs to tell Kris she’s not interested, and she decides that the perfect place to do that is at Maria Santelli’s party.  Because nothing says “gentle letdown” like a crowded party, right?

Of course, it’s too noisy at the party, and when Liz tries to pull Kris into a quiet room to break it off, they run into Todd and Peggy, who look like they’re about to make out.  Liz runs out the room and ends up making out with Kris on a stairwell before pushing him away and asking to go home.  He goes totally  nuts on her in the car when she tells him she’s not interested.  After yelling and screaming at her, he pulls over when she asks, but then grabs at her as she gets out of the car.  This is scarily close to sexual assault, but that’s never mentioned.  Liz drops her bag in his car and struggles to put everything back.

The next day at school, Liz can’t find her journal but is distracted when Kris comes by with a white rose for her as a peace offering.  Then the rumors about what happened between them start up.  Kris is claiming they had a “wild night” at Miller’s Point.  Todd approaches Liz and tells her he was wrong, and they get back together.  But then Kris tells him he knows all about the kinds of fights Todd and Liz have had, and Todd blows off their reunion dinner.  Kris does the same thing to Enid, who then gets super pissed at Liz.

Jessica figures out that there’s no way Liz would have told Kris all this stuff about the people she loves, and when she confronts him about it, she isn’t even ruffled when he pulls out details about her.  It just fuels her desire to get to the bottom of whatever has happened.  So she figures out that he must have swiped Liz’s diary–and once again, she confronts him and blackmails him into telling the truth.  Then she makes Todd and Enid meet with Kris, who comes clean with them.  All is well in the world.

The B-Plot is Enid trying to decide if she wants to get back together with Hugh Grayson.  I guess things didn’t work out with Jeffrey?  There are a few missed connections, a case of jumping to conclusions, and finally a last-minute reconciliation.  I guess, good for them?  Whatever, I hate Enid.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Kris picks Liz up for the dance in a pink Cadillac
  • Kris normally drives a custom bright green Volkswagen Beetle
  • The twins are into green: Jess wears a bright green sundress, Liz wears a seafoam green dress

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica groaned dramatically. ‘I can’t believe we share the same genes,’ she said. ‘What I know about boys would fill a book, but what you know wouldn’t fill a postcard.'” (6)
  • “It was nice to know that she was pretty and popular, but it would be even nicer to know that the boy she thought was special felt the same way about her.” (55)
  • “‘It’s amazing, isn’t it?’ asked Jessica as Elizabeth disappeared back up the stairs. ‘You wouldn’t think someone like Elizabeth had anything to put in a journal. “Dear Diary, Today I went to school. I got another A. I wrote another articles for The Oracle. I went home and did my homework.”‘” (93)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a few things that really bothered me about this one, the first of which is how desperate Enid and Elizabeth both are.  A common theme in these books is that the girls are defined by their relationships with boys, and that’s really heavily played up here.  Enid keeps joking about joining a convent because she can’t make it work with Hugh, and I guess I don’t really understand how this is at all relative to other teens.  Girl, you are sixteen years old, and you are thirsty as hell.  Give it a rest.

Liz, too, is guilty of this, thinking only of how to get Todd back and how lost she feels without him.  She uses Kris throughout the book in order to make Todd jealous or get his attention, and even though she tries to explain herself the night of Maria’s party, it’s not completely surprising that Kris doesn’t handle it well.  I mean, Liz has been using him, and he’s right about that part, at least.

The part that is surprising is how much Kris FREAKS OUT about it.  They’ve had two dates, and he seems to think they are destined for marriage.  He gets a little rough with her, too, which I didn’t like.  There’s no mention of this again, and I fear that normalizes it.  Then, when he spreads all the rumors about Liz, his crazy gets amped up.  But when Jessica confronts him about it, he’s painted as sympathetic again.  These characters are not complicated enough for this sort of thing to work.  Kris is either a sociopath or he’s not.  He can’t be both.  Ugh.

SVH #78: The Dating Game

4 Apr

datinggame

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

There’s a big dance coming up at SVH called Love in Bloom, and I guess love is in the air, because Liz and Todd won’t stop bothering Claire Middleton about whether or not she’s interested in any boys.  Claire plays coy for a while and then mentions that she’s noticed one boy has shown interest in her while she’s sort of interested in another.  Liz is super interested in this, but Claire won’t budge on who these people are.

Meanwhile, recently reinstated quarterback Scott Trost (are we to believe that the school now has three quarterbacks?) is getting razzed by the dudes at a nearby lunch table about how he never goes out with any girls.  He says a couple of things that are sort of irritating and entitled, and Liz FREAKS OUT about what a jerk he is.  Her response is so disproportionate to what he’s said that I wonder if Liz is just predisposed to hate him, because I’m pretty sure her “good friends” Ken Matthews and Aaron Dallas have said way worse things about girls before, but whatever.  Liz and Todd butt heads about whether or not Scott is secretly a good guy or if all men are just pigs out for one thing (that “thing” here is looks, because no one in Sweet Valley has an actual sex drive, folks).

Then Jean West gets a love letter from Scott Trost, and she’s unsure how to proceed.  After asking around about him at school, she feels like he might be okay, kind of?  And since she hasn’t had a date since her still-in-the-closet boyfriend Tom McKay dumped her, she’s kind of desperate.  So she ends up accepting a date with Scott when he calls and asks her out.  And she also goes shopping with Claire Middleton, who also has a date that same weekend.  While shopping, the girls realize that they’re both supposed to go out with Scott and that he sent them the same letter.  Whatever, I’m bored.  They decide that they’ll get even with him by both dating him and then dumping him publicly at school.

So they both go out with Scott, and only Jean seems to have a good time with him.  Scott is pretty nice to her and they have an interesting and fun date.  Or what we’re supposed to believe passes for such a date in Sweet Valley.  At any rate, both girls get confronted by their friends about how Scott seems to be dating both of them, so they plan their confrontation in the cafeteria and Scott plays it off coolly, telling them they can play a sort of “Dating Game” and compete for his affections.  This is so weird.  Claire goes along with whatever Jean says, so they agree to it, because Jean is actually sort of interested in Scott.

Continuing to date Scott means that Jean seems to fall harder for him.  She feels bad because she and Claire are playing him, but I don’t understand her at all because the Dating Game was his fucking idea.  By the time the contest is over, Jean is totally into him, wants to come clean to Claire and call it off, but doesn’t get a chance to do so before Scott gives a weird, mansplain-y speech in the cafeteria before declaring Jean the winner.  She’s pissed and turns him down.  He offers his hand to Claire, who basically laughs and makes out with Danny Porter, the dude she’s been interested in from the start.

Liz and Claire go to Jean’s house to stage an intervention, but they aren’t as successful as Scott, who shows up after they leave.  He tells her he’s sorry and she’s the only girl for him, and they go to the dance.  Yay?

The B-Plots include Jessica having recurring dreams about a dude on a beach and deciding she’s a professional dream-interpreter.  She advertises her business and helps friends interpret their dreams.  Then she realizes she’s been having the same dream because she read a magazine article or something?

At the same time, Liz puts out a questionnaire for The Oracle about what qualities boys and girls look for in a potential date.  She’s surprised to see the responses come in and questions her faux-feminist tendencies.  I AM SO BORED, LIZ.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Clothes by Jessica: at one point she wears a “wildly patterned skirt in greens and blues and purples, a pink top, and several bright scarves.”
  • Sandra Bacon drives a Toyota, Scott Trost drives a Corvette

Memorable Quotes:

  • “He acts as if he’s the best thing to happen to women since pantyhose.” (10) [Blogger’s note: a man wrote this, because no woman has ever thought of pantyhose in a positive light.  Jesus!]
  • “‘I don’t know why you just can’t face the truth, Todd,’ she replied. ‘Boys are shallower than girls, and that’s all their is to it.  They’re much more interested in looks than in brains or personality.'” (57)
  • “It’s just that I don’t know what people who don’t go out do on Saturday nights.  Are there special shows on television for them, or something like that?” (142)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I feel like I already covered this in my recap (this happens sometimes when I hate a book so much I can’t help but add my own comments in the summary), but nothing about this book makes any fucking sense.  Why would Scott send the same letter to two different girls who are on friendly terms with one another?  In what reality was he not going to get caught?  What was his end game?  Why are we never given any insight into what’s going on in his head?

Furthermore, what kind of idiot is Jean West?  Why does she feel bad about what she and Claire are doing to Scott when it doesn’t seem like they aren’t actually doing anything?  They don’t actually appear to have a plan of attack for once the game is over.  Are they going to yell at him again in the cafeteria?  Did she believe it worked so well the first time that this time it will really stick?  In what reality would Scott not laugh it off and be like, “Bitches be crazy”?

Ugh, I just can’t with this book.  When Jessica’s weird, dream-fueled subplot is more interesting than anything else happening in the book, you know you’re in trouble.

 

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.