Tag Archives: hospital visit

SVH Magna Edition: Return of the Evil Twin

18 Feb

return twin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3  weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s Christmas time in Sweet Valley yet again, and the twins are excited about vacation.  Jessica and Elizabeth are working with some arbitrary inside twincharity group to raise funding for a new children’s wing at the Fowler Memorial Hospital, and they get the brilliant idea to host a New Year’s Eve party at the traveling carnival that will be in town over the holiday.  The owners of the carnival agree to donate all profits to the charity, which is super convenient to the plot.

To celebrate the start of the holiday, the entire gang throws a caroling party.  The group meets at Secca Lake for a bonfire before heading out to sing carols to the unsuspecting Sweet Valley citizens, but Jessica and Todd are both very late, and Elizabeth worries about them.  On his way to the lake, Todd’s car spins out after he sees something move across the road and he slams into a guardrail, fading into unconsciousness.  Jessica sees his car on the road as she approaches and jumps out, saving him just in time, as his car goes over the side of the cliff and blows up.  This is obviously big news, and Todd’s gratefulness for Jessica’s heroics lead him to start to have romantic feelings for her.  This is probably exacerbated by Liz’s completely irrational feelings of jealousy over Jessica saving her boyfriend’s life.  It doesn’t help that everyone wants to ask Jess about it, and the paper even runs their picture on the front page, calling Todd her boyfriend instead of Liz’s.

Things continue to go badly for Liz, who has started dreaming about Margo again, even though she’s totally dead, right?  Also, Todd and Jess are totally into telling their story about the harrowing experience near Secca Lake, and Liz and Ken both feel shunted aside.  Jessica and Liz argue a lot.  Jessica starts having nightmares about Margo.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, Georgia, a moody girl named Nora Chapelle has just lost her father.  Because her mother died years ago, this makes her an orphan.  This is especially true when her evil stepmother offers her $5o,ooo to disappear from her life.  She also lets the bomb drop that Nora had an identical twin sister who was so evil that they gave her up for adoption.  Nora takes off to New York to track her sister’s whereabouts and it isn’t long before she manages to trace Margo’s life from there to Ohio to Sweet Valley.  Despite providing the readers a solid recap of the first evil twin saga, this book also adds information about the ambulance carrying Margo’s body never reaching the hospital, and that it ended up in a river (Margo’s body wasn’t found).  Convinced it’s all the Wakefield twins’ fault, Nora hops a plane to L.A. to get revenge for her sister.  She books a room at the Sweet Valley Inn and starts spying on the Wakefields.

One night, she goes to visit the gravestone that a local teen shelter erected in Margo’s honor.  This makes no sense whatsoever, but neither does what comes next: Margo appears in the cemetary, and the girls realize that the other still exists.  Nora takes Margo back to her hotel room and cringes a lot because Margo is messy and Nora is pathologically clean.  Margo convinces Nora that the Wakefield twins’ lives are rightfully there, and it’s time to claim their dues.

Jessica and Liz make up, but then Margo and Nora mess with their heads one night at the most spectacularly attended screening of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Liz and Enid go, and Ken and Jessica go, but Nora, posing as Elizabeth, goes with Todd and makes out with him.  Liz and Enid see it and assume it’s Jessica, and Liz FREAKS OUT and screams at Jessica and Todd (separately, and later, instead of confronting them at the theater, which makes way more sense).  The twins stop speaking and go to the New Year’s Eve carnival at odds with one another yet again.

Meanwhile, Nora and Margo fight over who has to be Elizabeth once they take over for real. Margo tells Nora that she should be, since she’s so neat, but Nora also wants to be Jessica.  If this isn’t the most perfect encapsulation of the Liz/Jess dynamic, I don’t know what is.  At the carnival, Liz sulks and Jessica goes into the house of mirrors for a good spook.  After the carnival, Jessica goes home to sleep and Liz stays to clean up.  Nora realizes that Margo has left her to do her own spying and decides to go and kill Jessica before Margo can so that she can take over the twin’s life.  She sneaks into the Wakefield house, stabs the sleeping form of Jessica, and is nearly out the window when Liz walks in and sees it all happen.  Liz collapses onto Jessica and blacks out.  Nora takes off but is seen escaping by Alice and Ned on their way home from party.

The doctors can’t save Jessica, and it’s a few days later when they have a memorial service for Jessica at SVH.  Despite telling the detectives that she knows it was Margo, no one believes her.  When she’s standing in the auditorium, she suddenly realizes that Jessica is still alive and needs her help.  No one believes her about this, either.   She furiously works out the clues Jessica has sent her in dreams.  When the police come to question her again, she steals one of their guns and goes back to the school.

Nora is convinced she has to kill Margo so that she can take over the only remaining Wakefield twin’s life.  She becomes convinced that Margo’s hiding in the basement at SVH and goes there to kill her.  But it’s Jessica! Elizabeth arrives and points the gun at both girls, then makes a decision about which is which.  Nora spills the beans about how she’s not Margo, realizes that she killed her own sister and seems sad about it (even though she was prepared to do that again right here), and then cries.  The police come and arrest her, and all is well again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Outfit alert: Jessica “borrows” Liz’s candy-striped sweater, white pants, and Christmas tree ornament earrings for the caroling party.
  • Liz and Ken go to see The Shining
  • According to Margo, she’s able to hold her breath for up to 3 minutes underwater

Memorable Quotes:

  • “I have a librarian friend–a former paramour of mine.” (75) [this just made me laugh because i’m a librarian]
  • “Elizabeth is such a prude, she makes me want to throw up.” (182)
  • “Do you know that in all this time Todd has never even managed to get Elizabeth out of her clothes? It’s positively sick!” (210)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s something deeply unsettling to this reader about the idea of a father giving away one of his daughters to an adoption agency/foster care because of clear psychotic tendencies.  The family clearly has money, and it is astounding to me that they wouldn’t even consider psychiatric help before throwing in the towel on a toddler.  I’m choosing to ignore the idea that the Wakefield twins have not one but two doppelgangers, though.  I just can’t handle it.

My favorite part of this book is when Elizabeth steals a gun from the police and faces literally no repercussions.

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

2 Jul

bewarewolfmanEstimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

The nanny of the Pembrokes turns up dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

…sigh.

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

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

SVH #93: Stepsisters

23 May

stepsisters

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh, I just can’t.

 

SVH #80: The Girl They Both Loved

9 Apr

girl theyloved

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Michael Harris and April Dawson are dating.  This is the same Michael who had a secret engagement to Maria Santelli that one time.  Apparently he’s still kind of a dingbat, because he is OBSESSED with dirt bike racing.  It comes before everything else, including April’s interests and his ailing grandmother in Texas.  But his parents don’t see it that way, and off to Texas he goes to visit his gma.

In the meantime, April runs into Michael’s former-best-friend-turned-rival Artie Western, and the two hit it off.  They end up racing together in a relay, and they win!  April tries to get Artie to tell her what happened between him and Michael, but he brushes her off, saying it was a misunderstanding best left in the past.

When Michael gets back into town, it takes exactly five seconds for two different people to congratulate him for patching things up with Artie.  He freaks out on April and says some of the most ridiculous, emotionally manipulative shit imaginable.  April goes home pissed, and rightfully so.  He calls to apologize, and she accepts it, and then acquiesces to his request that she not see Artie any more.

But April totally can’t help it that he sits next to her at the movies again, when Michael is stuck at home babysitting his little sister.  The two go out after, and Artie finally tells her the story of why he and Michael don’t talk any more: they both had a crush on a girl who used to come watch the motorbike races, and they challenged one another to a race around Secca Lake.  Artie lost control of his bike and swerved in front of Michael, forcing him to drop his bike.  Mike thought it was on purpose, and that was it.  Wait, that was it? Seriously?

Of course Michael is waiting on April’s porch when she gets home with Artie in tow, and the boy scream at each other until April’s dad threatens to call the police.  Then they challenge each other to another race around Secca Lake.  This time, Michael swerves in front of Artie’s bike, and Artie ends up in the hospital.  It’s never clear if Michael did it on purpose, but April seems pretty pissed at him.

Eventually, the three make up, and April and Michael continue seeing each other even though Michael is a total d-bag.

The B-and-C-Plots: Elizabeth and Todd bet each other that they other can’t do tasks that are traditionally fairly gendered.  So, Todd has to cook, grocery shop, and sew an apron.  Liz has to change a tire, build a shelf, and change a washer on a pipe.  Okaaaaaaay.  Both end up admitting that the tasks are hard, so I’m not sure what the message here is, because it’s super weird and sexist.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets Sam Woodruff after attending a dirtbike rally, and is totally smitten.  It turns out that the two have a lot in common, and she ends up falling for him completely.  But she doesn’t want to introduce him to her parents, because they’re super anti-motorcycle after that one time Liz was in a coma after Todd crashed his motorcycle a week after getting it. But then Sam shows up at her house, charms the pants off Alice, and all is well.  I actually really like Sam, so this worked for me.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Michael drives a Trans Am and his middle name is Lloyd
  • The Plaza Theater is hosting an Alfred Hitchcock film festival
  • Elizabeth likes walnuts in her chocolate chip cookies.  She’s a MONSTER.
  • Jessica and Sam like the same kind of pizza: pepperoni with double cheese and hot pepper flakes.  That actually sounds pretty awesome.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Michael stared hard at the road ahead. ‘My grandmother would understand,’ he said shortly. ‘She wouldn’t want Artie Western to beat me, either.'” (23)
  • “‘Michale and I are equals in everything. Even in dirt bike racing.  Who is he to boss me around?'” (52)


A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m sorry, but Michael Harris is a total douche.  I don’t have a lot of investment in any of the characters featured in this ridiculous plot, but he comes off looking the absolute worst throughout the book.  There isn’t anything compelling about his feud with Artie except how self-obsessed Michael is (something that both Artie and April point out to him more than once), and it doesn’t actually seem like he undergoes any sort of personality change by the time the book is through.

Also, Artie is in the hospital for like a week after his accident, even though his injuries aren’t that serious.  Doesn’t that seem like a really long time for a broken rib and some scratches?  My dad just had heart surgery and he was out in 24 hours.  Whatever.

Last thing: how dumb is the title?  The “girl” in question isn’t April, as the cover might suggest, but some rando chick they knew back when they were friends.  She doesn’t get more than a mention in passing, and they never even bother to name her! What the fuck!?

 

SVH #77: Cheating to Win

31 Mar

cheatingtowin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Tony Esteban is a track star determined to win the upcoming All-County race, but he also has his sights set on the Olympics one day.  The drive to win isn’t entirely internal, though: he gets an immense amount of pressure from his former-football player dad, who wants nothing more than to see Tony win big.  At a track meet, Tony falls and tears a tendon in his knee.  It’s very painful, but the doctor says that he should be back to normal if he stays off his feet for a full week and doesn’t push himself too hard.  His new girlfriend, Annie Whitman, worries that he won’t be able to follow doctor’s orders.

Tony FREAKS OUT about not being able to work out like he normally does.  He manages to stay off his leg for the week, and when the doctor gives the all-clear, he starts working out immediately.  But he’s not as fast as he was before his injury, and this is unacceptable to him, despite the fact that it’s literally the day he gets the okay to start running again.  When a dude at his gym offers him some “magic vitamins,” promising him that they’ll improve his speed and make him stronger, Tony accepts without asking what’s in them.  And lo and behold, he’s stronger than ever before.  But he’s also more of a douche than he was before, if it’s possible.

Obviously a bit ‘roided out, Tony starts lashing out at Annie and his friends.  When Annie finds the pills in his locker, she sneaks one to her biochemist cousin to run some tests on.  Then she enlists the help of Liz to switch out the pills for placebos, arguing that it might all be psychological.  Meanwhile, Tony finally feels guilty enough to come clean with his coach and his dad after blowing up at troubled 13-year-old Mitch Ferguson.  Mitch has been staying with Roger Barrett Patman while suspended from school, and Mitch takes a liking to Tony.  Whatever.

Tony gets in some trouble but everyone is really pleased that he came clean.  Annie also tells him that she swapped out the pills, and because of this, he’s still able to run in the All-County race–and win! Duh.  Winners never quit.

The B-Plot involves Liz and Todd feeling like they can never get quality alone time.  After both get frustrated with the other one blowing them off or agreeing to group outings, they both hatch a plan to “kidnap” the other one and bring them to a romantic getaway.  For some reason, they plan this for the same day at the exact same location, and they think this is hilarious and not at all creepy.  Whatever.  They’re boring.  NEXT.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • For some reason, Roger Barrett Patman’s name is hyphenated in this book.
  • Tony drives a used Mazda.
  • Annie has a cousin named Beth.
  • This book is the worst.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Liz and Todd,’ he drawled. ‘I guess you’ve come for our “rescue a hoodlum” barbecue.’ He laughed. ‘Roger’s out back with the little fiend. But I warn you, don’t expect too much. You know what those people are like.'” (16)
  • It isn’t too late, a voice inside him protested.  Just walk away from this place and don’t come back.” (95)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

You can tell how much I don’t care about a book by how short my summary is.  But it’s also that this one is just so stupid–why do I care about this character who is a total douche bag BEFORE he starts taking steroids?  I won’t ever really have to read about him again, so why does it matter?

Also, this one is so PSA-heavy it’s a joke.  The didactic walls of text about the dangers of steroids read like the script of an episode of Saved By the Bell.  There’s so much info-dumping about steroids and the research on them it’s clear that someone was doing some reading while they were writing this book.  Blech.

And yet, no mention of testicle shrinkage, which makes sense, since every dude in Sweet Valley High appears to be castrated at birth, considering how low the sex drive of teens is around town.

SVH # 74: The Perfect Girl

24 Mar

perfectgirl

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Robin seems to have it all since she lost all that weight and became co-captain of the cheerleading squad, but lately she has been feeling extremely self-conscious about her body.  She relies on her boyfriend, George Warren, to reaffirm her self-worth and self-image.  Then he announces that he wants to take up flying again (because it went so great last time?), and is going to be taking flying lessons and won’t be around as much.  This worries Robin for a number of reasons, but the biggest one seems to be that she doesn’t know what she’ll do without him around.

As Robin obsesses about her body and her weight, she also seems to worry about not seeing George.  Things worsen for her when George starts talking about his new friend from class, a woman named Vicky who’s an oceanography major and a math whiz.  When George brings her along for what’s supposed to be a double date to the disco that turns into a three’s-a-crowd situation, Robin starts to really freak out, because Vicky is thin and gorgeous, and George will literally not shut up about her.  Robin is rude to Vicky, who seems to be genuinely nice but also says things that kind of suck, and she and George fight, driving them further apart.  When Robin weighs herself and finds that she’s gained three pounds, she decides to start seriously restricting and excessively exercising, telling herself that she will be better when she’s thinner.

This continues for days, and Robin’s eating disorder worsens to the point where she seems unable to eat nearly anything, and certainly not in public.  As she restricts, she also becomes bossier when it comes to her cheerleading duties, as the girls are planning a fundraiser to raise money for a new gym floor for the high school.  The plan is to create the largest ice cream sundae they can and sell tickets to people who want to see it and eat it.  The girls notice that Robin looks drawn and thinner, and that she’s starting snapping at people when they offer her food, but her clearly obsessive food problems are largely ignored.

She keeps dropping weight and avoiding eating around people.  When George takes her out to dinner, she orders food and then sends it away, embarrassing George and making herself feel miserable.  Things worsen for her, and when people start to express concern about her frail frame, she brushes them off.  In addition to not eating, she starts to exhibit other signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  When she finally faints at the Super Sundae even the cheerleaders have put on and is unable to be revived, she wakes up in the hospital.

Pretty much everyone comes to visit her while she’s there, including Vicky, who gives her this weird speech about how George doesn’t even see Vicky as a girl because he’s so in love with Robin and Vicky isn’t perfect because she did drugs when she was 14 because her parents were getting divorced.  The whole thing feels tonally wrong, but whatever.  George is also there and they reconcile, with Robin apologizing for being angry with him.  But she also breaks up with him, because she finally admits that she has anorexia and needs to work on getting better.  When she returns to school a week later (are we really to believe they wouldn’t put Robin in treatment?), her friends are cautiously optimistic.  And that’s sort of it.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • All the ice cream comes from Izzy’s Famous Ice Cream stores, which is weird, because don’t the teens all love Casey’s for their frozen-dairy fix?
  • Robin’s safe foods include dry salad and water.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Even though she never had to go on a diet, Elizabeth was always aware of her weight. Some girls dieted religiously, and some girls were almost obsessed with the way their bodies looked.  It was hard not to be conscious of it to some extent. Elizabeth just hoped her friends used common sense.” (17)
  • “A cold fist closed around Robin’s heart. And who was to say it couldn’t happen again? If George had been capable of cheating on Enid, didn’t that mean he was capable of cheating on Robin?” (40)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s hard to snark on this one not only because of how earnest it is, but also because it’s trying so hard to paint a fair picture of what an eating disorder looks like.  Of course, it’s a Sweet Valley High novel, it’s not even 150 pages, and the timeframe is so compressed that it makes the disease seem bizarrely short-lived.

While I was reading this, I was uncomfortable with the unintentionally ironic message the book is sending to its readers.  Throughout this entire ordeal, the ghost writer works hard to accurately portray body dysmorphia and the addictive feelings of hunger in Robin, who, I would argue, has been struggling with anorexia and disordered eating since she lost the weight back in book 4.  And for the most part, they do a pretty good job of giving credence to Robin’s thoughts and fears, even if it reads as sort of a textbook of what anorexia looked like, at least according to early 90s diagnoses.  So, fine, the book gets credit for handling this as well as could be hoped for a series that’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

No, the problem is with Elizabeth (and to a lesser degree, the other people in the book).  Throughout this entire novel, Elizabeth worries about how obsessed girls are with their weight and their bodies.  Several times, the word “sensible” is used to describe how girls should be about food and their bodies.  This doesn’t make sense, as an eating disorder is a mental illness and the concept of “sensibility” doesn’t apply, like, at all.  But more than that, Elizabeth keeps thinking about how a person’s size shouldn’t matter, and sort of smugly assesses Lois Waller, who is apparently the only fat girl in Sweet Valley High:

Lois would never be a fashion mode, but she clearly had a great relationship with Gene, and her life was completely optimistic. So what difference did it make if she couldn’t wear size-six jeans? None at all, Elizabeth told herself confidently.  None at all.

First of all, are you fucking kidding me?  Is this a joke?  I don’t think it is.  It’s so weird for Liz to be validating Lois’s existence despite, or in spite of, her size.  There’s something so bizarrely smug about this (even for Ms. Smug Smuggerson herself) that it’s completely and totally off-putting.  But what bothers me most about it, and perhaps what is most alarming, is that this feels like subconscious stuff on the part of the writer.  Elizabeth reassures herself that you don’t have to be a size-six to be happy and have a good life.

This is meant for the reader’s benefit, I guess, because Elizabeth is a “perfect size six” and it is mentioned in every single book before the reader is even 10 pages in.  So, we get this awful mixed message that says: love your body! Size doesn’t matter (but it’s better if you’re thin!).  If size truly didn’t matter here or anywhere, it would not be mentioned in every single book.

 

 

SVH Super Star: Enid’s Story

12 Mar

enid

Estimated Elapsed Time: Roughly 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Inexplicably, it’s Christmastime in Sweet Valley once again, and Enid and Elizabeth are looking forward to a lot of time together over the holiday because Enid is single and Todd will be skiing with his family in Utah.  Enid is secretly thrilled that she’ll have Liz all to herself, but Liz is very upset about spending Christmas without Todd.  To try to cheer her up, Enid brings Liz to the Dairi Burger, where she ends up under the mistletoe with her ex, Jeffrey French.  The two share a kiss that’s supposed to be a joke but actually fires up Liz quite a bit.  That’s too bad, because it sort of looks like Jeffrey might be interested in Enid, as he invites her to go to the ice skating party with him the next day.

At first, Liz isn’t going to go to the party because she wants to mope about how she misses Todd.  But Jessica convinces her to go, and she FREAKS OUT when she sees Enid and Jeffrey skating together.  Liz believes that there’s something going on between them and Enid has been downplaying it.  Enid apologizes and Elizabeth accepts, but that doesn’t stop Enid from going to a movie with Jeffrey that night.  She’s pretty sure that he’s interested in her, too, but he keeps bringing up Liz.  When Enid stops by his house to give him his Christmas present, he wants to obsess over the fact that Elizabeth baked him cookies.  This upsets Enid, who realizes that her feelings for him are either completely one-sided, or he’s very confused about what he wants.

Wallowing in her pain, she goes out with a former friend from her wild-child days, Brian Saunders.  She ran into him at the ice-skating party, and then he called her and begged her to go out with him.  He swears he’s a changed man, and the two have a nice dinner at a Thai restaurant.  But then he wants to take her to a friend’s house, and though she’s hesitant, she agrees.  Turns out there’s a massive party happening, and Enid leaves a totally-drunk Brian and cabs it home.

Things go from bad to worse for her when she goes to meet her absent-father at the Recency Hotel.  They’re supposed to have lunch together, but when she gets there, he’s already at the bar, reeking of gin and drunk off his ass.  They have a horrible interaction and she runs home crying to her mother, who she promptly blames for her father’s drunkenness.  Her mother tells her that her father has a serious alcohol problem and the two sort of reconcile.

But Enid still feels bad about her dad and worse about Jeffrey.  She reluctantly goes to a Christmas Eve party with Jeffrey at her ex-boyfriend George Warren’s house, but when Jeffrey asks to take Liz aside Enid figures it’s because they’re getting back together.  They aren’t, though.  Jeffrey and Liz clarify their feelings of friendship for each other and part ways amicably.  When Jeffrey goes to find Enid, she’s dancing with Brian (why is he at this party?) and decides to leave with him to piss off Jeffrey.

The two end up drunk and stoned at Miller’s Point.  That escalated quickly.  Jessica brings her date up to the spot and sees Enid out of her mind blitzed, but instead of helping, she goes back to the party.  Meanwhile, both of Enid’s parents are worried about her.  Her dad is sober enough to go look for her, and tries Kelly’s Bar before heading up to Miller’s Point after Jessica spills the beans about what she saw to Liz.

Brian has been joyriding them around in his car even though Enid has begged for him to let her out.  He ends up crashing the car, flipping it over, and starting it on fire.  Luckily, Enid’s dad shows up and pulls her from the wreck before it combusts.  Brian and Enid’s dad are both badly burned, though.  Everyone ends up in the hospital for some reconciliation.

Lila throws a New Year’s Eve party and everyone is there.  Todd and Liz are reunited and Jeffrey and Enid kiss.  Their relationship is left completely undefined, which is good, because I’m pretty sure we will never hear of it again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica references Dorothy Hamill when she talks about her own skating skills.  Jeffrey tells Enid she’ll soon skate like Sonja Henie.  Hello, dated references.
  • Enid’s gift ideas for Jeffrey’s mom: perfume, a scarf, a fancy cake plate that spins around and sings a song (she already has one), a magazine subscription
  • Enid’s Christmas present for Liz: heart-shaped pink satin box. Elizabeth’s present for Enid: a framed picture of her and Enid.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Enid looked at Elizabeth affectionately. Elizabeth was always wonderful to be with. She was a warm and friendly girl, the one person everyone at school really liked.”  (2) [Blogger’s note: We’re on page two, and I’m already so creeped out I don’t know how I can go on.]
  • “‘That’s a great idea,’ Jeffrey said enthusiastically. ‘My mom’s always saying that feminism just means a woman gets to have two careers–one inside and one outside the home!'” (33)
  • “‘You’re grown up now, Enid. You should know that there’s nothing wrong with having a couple. Besides, I remember you used to do a little drinking yourself.'” (113)
  • Why do I even try? she wondered. What was the point of going straight and pulling myself together if this is where it gets me? At least before, I was too stoned to notice how miserable life can be.” (126)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of reasons I dreaded reading this one, and most of them have to do with the fact that Enid is pretty much the worst character to get her own Super Star book.  I mean, I might hate Bruce Patman because I think he’s a misogynistic sociopath, but at least he’s kind of interesting at the same time.  Enid doesn’t even have that going for her, which is why I refer to her as the “dripmaster.”  What’s funny, or perhaps alarming, is that it’s pretty clear that the ghost writer didn’t think Enid was very interesting, either, because almost half of this book focuses on Elizabeth’s problems.  Isn’t this supposed to be all about Enid?  Isn’t this her moment to shine?  WRONG! LIZ HAS FEELINGS.

If you are able to separate out the fact that it seems as though Enid’s feelings for Elizabeth run deeper than simply platonic friendship, this book still isn’t that interesting.  Enid finally gets a shot at romance, and it’s with Elizabeth’s leftovers! What is it about this town that encourages such incestuous relationships between its teens?  Furthermore, what “best friend” would ever think it was okay to go after her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, especially when readers know how serious it was for Liz and Jeffrey?

I get that life happens and we can’t actually help who we are attracted to.  I understand, even that if we adhere to the series’ cannon, Enid set her sights on Jeffrey first–although wasn’t that at Liz’s insane urging, because she didn’t want to admit her feelings for Jeffrey?  I’m even willing to admit that maybe these girls are more emotionally mature than I am and could accept their best friend hooking up with their ex–but based on how easily they freak out about stupid stuff, I doubt it.