Tag Archives: ken matthews

SVH #121: The High School War

27 Feb

high school war

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

SVH #120: In Love with the Enemy

25 Feb

inloveenemy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 days

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

SVH 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.

SVH #119: Jessica’s Older Guy

16 Feb

jessica's older guy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 days

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Liz are smack-dab in the middle of their college-immersion week at SVU.  Jessica is still trying to juggle dating Zach without him finding out that she’s really in high school AND without sorority girl Magda finding out that she’s dating the dude Magda is into.  She’s also still trying to cover for Liz with the sorority, because it’s important to her that they both make a good impression for when they rush in two years.  Jessica also starts to feel serious guilt over lying to Zach about her age, but tries to suppress it, because that’s what she does best.To convince Magda that she’s not dating Zach and stay on her good side, Jessica visits the sorority and lies about Liz, saying that she’s an out-of-control flirt.  The girls buy her story and she’s back in solid with the Thetas or Zetas or whatever the fucking sorority is named.  Then she decides that she will stay at SVU, too.  Because this story makes so much fucking sense.

Meanwhile, Liz has convinced herself that she’s ready to start college like tomorrow and has already told Todd she wants a long-distance relationship.  Her first day at the news internship doesn’t go very well, because her boss is a total lech and she does menial tasks like fetching coffee and making copies.  Then she further embarrasses herself that evening when she opines about capitalism with a bunch of Ian’s Marxist friends, and she’s mortified about how much she doesn’t know.

Todd is understandably not cool with this new revelation, and he angsts about it a lot to Ken, who is unaware that Jessica is totally dating someone else while on a week-long vacation.  Todd drives around and moons over Elizabeth.  It’s been like three days, dude. Chill the fuck out.  He meets with Ken, who is distraught over the news that Jessica has decided not to come back, too, as well as Lila and Enid, and the three brainstorm ways to get the twins back.  They briefly discuss kidnapping and deprogramming, which feels extreme, and finally settle on a bit of reverse-psychology.

It starts to work immediately, because everyone in these books are complete and total idiots.  Enid calls Liz and makes her miss SVH gossip.  Steven and Billie make a huge, healthy breakfast with “tofu salad” to teach the twins about brain food after pulling an all-nighter.  Alice tells them she’s happy to have a break from being a parent.  Whatever, this is the most obvious thing ever.  The culminating event will be a surprise party at Steven and Billie’s on Saturday night with all their SVH friends.  The teens even prepare a slideshow.

Jessica manages to convince Liz to pose as her on the night of the Zeta fraternity dance so she can go with Zach without Magda being the wiser.  Liz reluctantly agrees, and the girls wear dresses that the other would normally wear.  It works, and Jessica is having a great time with Zach while Liz deals with the blind date she’s been set up with via Magda.  Then Magda tells her she just found out that Zach is actually in high school, which Liz finds hilarious.  Todd and Ken crash the party, mistake each twin for the other, and get mad.  Liz and Todd make up immediately but once Ken realizes that Jessica’s been cheating on him, he storms away.  Jessica finds out that Zach is in high school and they both yell and then laugh at the irony.

Back at the apartment, the twins are surprised by the whole gang, minus Ken.  They realize they’re totally being reverse psychology toyed with, but they allow their friends to reminisce all the same.  Everything is well again, and the twins decide to stick with high school.  Jessica catches up with Ken and tells him that it took her cheating on him with Zach to realize she really loves him.  They make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, SVU is 2 hours from Sweet Valley.  Which…what?
  • Outfit alert! Jessica wears a salmon-colored babydoll dress on her picnic with Zach.
  • SVU’s football team is called the Vanguards

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But I feel sorry for you–Elizabeth sounds just awful,” Magda said. (55)
  • “I think the value of capitalism is freedom,” Elizabeth put in, stirring her cappuccino thoughtfully. (72) [AND HERE IS WHERE I LINK TO AYN RAND’S SWEET VALLEY HIGH]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

LOL forever at Liz deciding she’s just going to stay at SVU.  Like that’s how it works.  I actually can’t even snark on this because it’s so dumb.

What are the odds that the totally inappropriate dude Jessica has been seeing is also in high school and is also lying about attending college at SVU?  Pretty slim, right?

Something that really bothered me in this book is how Jessica continues to cheat on Ken but the second she sees him again she realizes that she really loves him.  I realize that in order to keep the books about the twins interesting, the ghost writer has to feature stories about them meeting new dudes and falling in love (see: how boring Todd and Liz are all the time because they’re so static), but then have Jessica be single.  There’s no reason for her to chronically cheat on her steady boyfriend like this only to “learn her lesson” and go back to him because he’s her true love.  Like, it sends such a weird message and it really chafes me.

SVH #117: Jessica the Genius

11 Feb

jessicagenius

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

 

SVH #116: Nightmare in Death Valley

4 Feb

nightmare

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 days

Summary/Overview:

The teens are still in the desert and they’re running out of food.  They camp overnight in the cave where the third treasure was supposed to be, and they argue over their quickly dwindling food supplies.  Heather’s ankle is still messed up from her fall while climbing, so the next morning, the group decides to leave Jessica and Heather behind and continue on, sending help when they reach the Oasis (which is still, weirdly, like 25 miles away).  It isn’t long after the remaining four set off that they argue about which fork in the trail to take.  Liz and Ken think it’s too dangerous to take the low ground, because there have been storms in the area and a flash flood could be imminent, while Todd and Bruce think it’s stupid to climb to higher ground because they don’t have enough water or food to fuel extra exertion.  The four split off into twos, which seems like a supremely bad idea.  Todd worries that Liz will cheat on him with Ken, which is a nice break from worrying if Liz will cheat on him with Bruce.

Heather and Jessica are still camping near the cave.  The two bicker and worry about what will become of them, and they’re awoken in the night by the sound of crunching gravel. The escaped convicts are rummaging through Jessica’s bag, and Heather screams, alerting the men to their awoken state.  They end up bound with ropes and held hostage while the convicts rummage through their things.  One of the men, who Jessica starts calling “Jack,” seems gentler than the other two, offering the girls water and beef jerky.  The convicts decide that sending up a flare is a good way to get the rest of the gang back, so they do that.

Meanwhile, Todd and Bruce fight and separate.  Bruce is at the top of a hill when he hears a scream and realizes that Liz is about to fall (?).  He saves her but loses his bag of gold to a bald eagle at the same time (I am not making this up).  Then Todd comes back and he and Liz make up.  They see the flare go up and decide to go back to the camp.  Ken follows behind the other three, in case it is a trap.

Which, of course, it is! The five are held hostage for a bit until Ken sneaks up and tries to steal one of the convict’s guns.  It doesn’t work, and the entire group gets bound up with rope.  BUT THEN it starts to thunder and rain! Liz convinces the men that they have to move to lower ground to avoid lightning strikes.  The men decide to leave, even though Jack expresses regret at leaving the teens alone.  The teens break free thanks to Bruce’s hunting knife and start to move to safer ground, but then they realize Jack is drowning in the river! They save him, and then he helps get Heather to higher ground (flash floods? this terrain is so confusing) by carrying her up the side of a cliff.  The group welcome him as one of their own magnanimously.

But it isn’t long before they meet up with the other two convicts, who most certainly did not drown in the flash flood.  “Moe” grabs Elizabeth and holds a knife to her throat.  Jack tries to rescue her and ends up getting shot, falling DEAD to the ground.  Moe hears a plane and goes outside of the cave they’re in to investigate, leaving the other dude to kill the teens.  Instead of killing them, he listens to Jessica’s pleas and fires the rounds into the roof of the cave, causing a cave-in.  The teens are trapped and running out of air.

After another near-brush with randomly rising water, the teens follow a tunnel towards another area.  By accident, Ken bangs a wall, and it falls away.  They manage to climb through the rock and find that they secretly discovered a shortcut to the Oasis! They are saved!

Oh, and the gold they found is really fool’s gold.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ken wears a sailor’s cap to keep the sun off his head, and Liz wears an “Indian-print bandanna.”
  • Ken and Liz see Orion’s belt in the sky, which must mean it’s winter (?)
  • Jack has a tin of brownies his lady made him, and they have walnuts in them, which makes them GARBAGE.
  • According to Jack, Moe was in for murdering a bunch of people with guns and also explosions, which would certainly put him on death row and not gen pop, but WHATEVER GHOSTWRITER

Memorable Quotes:

  • “We’re moving at the rate of an inch an hour.  It will be March of the year 2000 before we get back to the Oasis.” (37)
  • “Elizabeth, I need to say something…But you’ve made your point. So right now I wish you’d stuff a sock in it.” (52)
  • “Now it was up to her: Jessica Wakefield, sexy seductress of Sweet Valley High, was about to swing into action.” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Like, where do we even begin?  All of it is so preposterous that I feel overwhelmed by choice when it comes to mocking.

It makes no sense that the group would continue to split up after leaving Heather and Jessica in the middle of nowhere.  I mean, I know they are teens and therefore impulsive, but this is why they would have a guide.  WHATEVER.  Furthermore, there are a lot of discrepancies in how much distance the group has traveled and why they keep crossing paths with the convicts.  It makes no sense and many of these moments felt like ways to push the plot forward (but made no actual logical sense).

The convicts are dumb, even Jack, who is supposed to be the most humane of the trio.  When Jessica asks him what he did to land himself in prison, he says he was talked into holding up a liquor store.  Okay, buddy.  You aren’t a murderer but you definitely made some questionable choices.  But he’s the least bad of the bunch! He has a woman waiting for him! He wants to run away to Mexico!

I guess the thing that sticks out the most in this book is how many natural disasters they face.  Cave-ins, flash floods, near-lightning strikes, and so much more.  The cave-in thing actually made me laugh because they talk about nearly running out of air and then follow a huge tunnel for a while, which would mean they had way more air than the ghostwriter thought.  I don’t know.  None of it makes sense.  I HATE IT.

SVH #115: The Treasure of Death Valley

2 Feb

treasure

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 days

Summary/Overview:

Jessica, Todd, Ken, Liz, Bruce Patman, and Heather Mallone are taking part in a four-day trip into Death Valley with the Sweet Valley Survival School (SVSS).  All six teens won an essay contest, and their reward is a trek through the desert to practice the “survival skills” they picked up over the previous weekend in a training.  They get paired up with a “buddy” for the trek, and no one is happy (except maybe Heather): Liz with Bruce, Jess with Todd, and Heather with Ken.

The group sets out on what’s roughly a 40-mile hike through the desert.  They camp the first night, still sort of sniping and bickering with each other.  Liz is absolutely insufferable with her smugness over being the navigator.  She and Todd snuggle in their sleeping bags.  Heather continues to flirt with Ken to piss Jessica off.  The next day, Ken takes over as navigator and they break for lunch near an abandoned mine shaft.  Bruce decides to explore it, and because Liz is his partner, she goes in after him to rescue him or something.  Once inside, she discovers an old pickax and a satchel with pages from a diary.  Then the shaft starts to collapse, and she barely makes it outside, where Bruce is lounging.  She yells at him and then realizes Todd and Jess went in to look for her.  Panicked, she turns back to the rubble, but Todd and Jess come out, coughing a lot.

After this disaster is averted, the group worries some more about the escaped convicts from a nearby prison but gets distracted when gold nuggets fall out of the satchel Liz found.  They discover that the gold is part of the Treasure of the Scorpion, and the legend dictates that the finders leave half of the gold and follow a copy of the map to the other locations where more gold is hidden.  After some disagreement, the group decides to find the next location.

When they do, they find the gold and divvy it up, but they don’t leave some behind.  The next morning, after a cold night camping on the ground, they complain about the added weight to their packs and leave behind some canned goods. Liz is shocked that the group would give up their strictly rationed food and tries to add some back to her backpack, but it proves too heavy on the trail and she has to dump it.  The group is tired, sore, and head off on the trail towards the location that will end their hike.  But Jessica is determined to hit the last stop on the treasure map and tricks Todd into steering the group that way.  Liz blows up at everyone when she realizes what’s happened, but the group needs water, so they continue to trek in the direction of the treasure, because Liz saw a stream on the map.

The stream turns out to be a rushing river, and when the group attempts to ford the river using a method of linking arms, Heather gets scared and washed away.  It looks dire, but Ken manages to get to the other side and rescue her.  The group sets up camp to dry off, and Heather flirts with Ken mercilessly to piss Jessica off. That night, Ken and Heather sneak off and kiss.  Jessica realizes that she’s been cheated on in the morning and she’s pissed, but she’s irate when she realizes her gold has been swiped out of her bag.  She accuses Heather, but she denies it and runs off to the river to sulk.  While there, Heather overhears and then sees the escaped prisoners, and they have Jessica’s gold! When she tries to tell the group, they don’t believe her.

The group continues on to the third stop on the treasure map, but Heather falls while climbing boulders.  After spraining her ankle, the rest of the group has to help her along, slowing them down considerably.  When they reach the final cave, the group is shocked to find the bodies of six skeletons and a bag full of scorpions.  Then it starts to rain! THEY ARE DOOMED.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Heather brings a mini-TV so she can watch daytime soap Sunrise, Sunset (no relation to Fiddler on the Roof, I guess)
  • Jessica brings an air mattress to sleep on; Liz does not.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Remember, this area was mined back in the great California Gold Rush of 1849, and there are still a few mine shafts standing. It may seem really cool to explore them, but it’s extremely dangerous.  They could collapse at any moment, especially if people climb around inside them.” (18)
  • “Be serious, Liz!” Jessica scoffed.  “Who would be stupid enough to store gold in a cave?” (80)
  • “I’ll have you know, Wakefield, that I only wear pure metals,” she retorted. “Actually, my mother’s friend at Diamonds International says that all the best brides this year are getting platinum settings.  Platinum is my favorite–gold is so pedestrian.” (102)
  • Liz usually likes to discuss and dissect intense experiences, Todd thought, running them into the ground until they just about lose all their meaning. (148) [Blogger’s note: This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read in the series.]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess there are a lot of gripes about this book that just feel like plot fails in general.  First of all, the teens on this wilderness adventure had to submit essays to even be considered for the project, and then they had to undergo training.  Yet the only people who actually seem into it are Ken and Liz, so what a complete fucking waste of a trip, am I right?  Second of all, there is no EARTHLY WAY POSSIBLE that these teens would have been dropped into the wilderness without a trail guide.  I have a sister who does this kind of work with young people, and there is always a guide.  You would not drop teens into the nature with a weekend’s worth of training.  Without a radio for an emergency? COME THE FUCK ON.

WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? WHY ARE THERE NO CHAPERONES? Why would Ned and Alice or Todd’s parents or Ken’s parents allow these teens to venture out in a co-ed group unsupervised?  The twins are going on an unsupervised camping trip with their boyfriends.  WHAT THE WHAT?

Also, the escaped convicts/the gold/the treasure map: LOL OK.