Tag Archives: ken matthews

SVH #114: V for Victory

29 Aug

v for victory

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week?

Summary/Overview:

The SVH cheerleaders have won the state championships and are on their way to regionals, but Jessica and Heather are still bickering over every stupid thing imaginable.  Liz is, for some reason, still cheerleading, even though Jess let it slip that she and Ken used to to totally hook up.  When the cheerleaders mistake Liz for Jess and lift her up to celebrate her, Jessica runs off and cries and is super mad at Liz.

Liz tries to tell Jess that she and Ken are over and their feelings for one another are resolved, but Jessica is convinced she’s a boyfriend stealing bitch.  Todd is also not interested in hearing what Liz has to say and breaks up with her.  By the time the girls are on the bus (they decorated it) to Yosemite for nationals, Todd realizes he still loves Liz.  After he and Ken have a huge fight in the hall at Sweet Valley, they decide to road trip to Yosemite to win them back.  Great! Not at all boring!

There’s a cheerleading camp with cabins, because of course.  The SVH squad is rooming with a group from Alabama, so there’s lots of Southern twang stuff that’s totally hilarious.  THEN Heather’s old squad from when she lived in Reno shows up, and Heather gets kind of twitchy.  She finds a newspaper clipping about how she was kicked off her old squad, and there’s a special note from Marissa James, who is the captain of the Reno squad.  Heather messes up all the routines the next day, but WHY?!

Because the cheerleading camp is girls-only, the boys (Ken, Todd, and Winston, for some reason) can’t get in.  Instead of admitting defeat, they decide to dress up as girls.  This will end well.

Jessica calls Heather out on her crap, and Heather argues with her before telling her about how she cheated on a math test and got booted from the squad.  The girls tell the rest of the squad, who decide that Marissa is the worst person ever.  The next morning, the squad finds that they can’t leave their cabin because Marissa has locked the door from the outside (what?) and blocked all the windows.  When the girls don’t show up for the contest, the boys (dressed as girls) come and rescue them.  Everyone laughs about their terrible cross-dressing attempt.  Okay.  Jess and Liz make up because the sight of boys dressed as girls makes them laugh so hard they can’t stay mad at each other.

Before they’re set to perform, they decide to prank the dudes and call them up to do a routine.  They can just do that in the middle of a competition?  At any rate, the dudes suck, but they also start sliding all over the floor.  The girls realize the stage has been tampered with.  The Reno squad admits to sabotage and are disqualified.  The SVH cheerleaders perform and take second place.  Everyone makes up with everyone else. Thank FUCK this mini-series is over.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Despite the super sparkly uniforms on the cover (terrible artwork, though), I’m not sure the uniforms ever look like that.
  • Lila makes a reference to the Bobbsey twins, which was about the most exciting thing in this book.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Something’s up here, Elizabeth thought, her reporter’s nose sensing trouble.” (25)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Although it’s a common refrain on this blog lately, I carried this book around for like two weeks before finally getting down to it.  It’s weird, because I love the movie Bring it On, but reading about the SVH cheerleaders and their struggles to reach nationals is so completely boring I can’t even believe I finally made it through.  I don’t understand any of the characters or their motivations in this book.

Like, why did Heather think that she had to conceal the reason she got kicked off the squad to the point where she intentionally sabotaged her own team?  Why are Liz and Jess the worst?  Why is Todd so boring?  Why couldn’t the boys wait three days for the girls to return to Sweet Valley?  NO ONE CARES.

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SVH #112: Jessica Quits the Squad

13 Aug

jessica quits

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is trying to get over that whole unpleasant episode with Jeremy, the money-grubbing sociopath and has thrown herself fully into the cheerleading world once again.  This doesn’t go as smoothly as she’d like when new girl Heather Mallone shows up and starts stealing the spotlight from her.  Heather was a big deal cheerleader at her old school and walks her way onto the team with very little effort.  Despite Jessica’s best attempts to get the better of her, Heather keeps laying on the sickly sweet act and messing up Jessica’s plans to rule the school.

Jessica decides to make Heather perform a series of tests to prove her worthiness or something.  She suggests having Heather sit at the chess club table at lunch two days in a row.  Then she has to wear a totally embarrassing outfit.  Jessica has her sing the national anthem in front of a class.  I don’t get how any of these things are that embarrassing, but whatever.  All of these “tests” backfire in Jessica’s face, as Heather manages to pull each one off with panache and grace.  She ends up on the cheerleading squad.

Robin Wilson announces that her dad has accepted a job transfer to Denver, Colorado.  Jessica is worried this means that Heather will make a play for the co-captain spot.  At the going-away party, she announces Heather’s ascension to co-captain.  When Jessica catches Heather flirting with Ken, she “accidentally” bumps into her, sending her straight into the pool.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth OBSESSES over the fact that Ken Matthews and Jess have started dating and are now the school’s “it” couple.  She keeps angsting over the fact that she and Ken hooked up a couple of times while Todd lived in Vermont, even though this totally didn’t happen except for in her Secret Diary.  I still declare those books anathema, so it’s hard for me to get behind this.  She goes to see Mr. Collins and asks for advice for “her friend.”  He tells her she needs to tell her “friend” that until she and this guy resolve their feelings for one another, there will be jealousy and hurt in the air.  Liz takes this to mean she should hide her feelings inside.  Okay.

At the party at Amy’s, Liz is so jealous when she sees Jessica and Ken dancing together that she suggests they all switch partners.  Then she can’t talk to Ken, gets upset, and runs away.  When Jessica asks Ken about it, he gets weirdly defensive.  In fact, both he and Liz are super weird to Jess about the other, but she still doesn’t put it together.  Liz keeps telling Jess that “anything could happen” which is a weird way to warn her off of Ken.

Heather takes over as co-captain and starts pissing Jess off immediately by changing the time practice starts and not telling her and then condescending to every suggestion Jess makes for their cheers.  When she starts harshly criticizing the other cheerleaders’ dance moves, Jessica gleefully thinks it won’t be long before everyone hates her.  But then she finds out that Heather invited a bunch of girls and guys (including Ken) over for a “dinner party” and didn’t invite her.  When Jessica asks Lila about it, Lila says it’s because Heather thinks Jessica doesn’t like her and really wants to be friends.

Then Heather kicks Sandy Bacon and Maria Santelli off the squad on a day when Jessica is home sick.  When Jessica confronts her about it, she pulls out a rule book and references an obscure loophole that lets her make that kind of decision without Jessica present.  Jessica declares war on Heather.  But before she can really do anything, she realizes that Heather has completely brainwashed the entire squad, as well as having put them on a crazy restrictive diet and exercise plan.  She feels frustrated.  The night of a big game, Jessica watches in horror as the team performs a cheer she doesn’t know.  Furious and humiliated, she yells at Heather, quits the squad, and runs off the field.

Ken tries to cheer her up, but she’s seen pictures of Ken and Liz together and has doubts about his feelings for her.  When she gets home that night, choosing to skip the pool party at Lila’s, she digs up Liz’s diary and confirms her suspicions: Liz and Ken had an “affair” back when Todd was gone.  Jessica cries.  And…scene!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Heather Malone drives a white Mazda Miata and has a vanity license plate that says “Cheerleader”
  • At Amy’s goodbye party for Robin, everyone drinks “exotic nonalcoholic drinks”
  • Typo alert: “”always were waterproof mascara to pool parties.” AWESOME. It’s not even the right homophone.
  • Whitman (High?) is another of SVH’s rival schools for sports events

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Hi, Jessica,’ Heather said, smiling that same syrupy smile as she extender her hand to Jessica. ‘What an adorable little blouse you’re wearing. It’s so, uh…retro.'” (21)
  • “Heather opened her mouth, and out came the sounds of a professional singer.  All of the students sat perfectly quiet and still as Heather filled the room with her beautiful voice.  She did a funky version of the national anthem, and some students were even clapping their hands and snapping their fingers.” (55)
  • “It was totally out of character for Elizabeth to lie to her sister like that, but she couldn’t help it.” (90)
  • “‘You’re right,’ Lila said, pausing in the middle of applying mascara.  ‘You look like Joan Crawford. Wipe it off and try mine.  It’s less harsh.'” (142)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

There are a few things that struck me about this book.  One was the callous way the ghost writer would refer to a couple of fairly serious things that happened in previous books. The first of these was Annie Whitman’s attempted suicide.  Jessica thinks back on it and sort of brushes it off again.  It’s weird and jarring.  This is compounded by the fact that after Heather unveils her new diet and exercise regime for the squad, Jessica thinks about Robin Wilson’s “bout” of anorexia.  She thinks about how Robin got so thin she had to be fed intravenously in the hospital.  Uh, that is not a “bout” of anorexia.

The other thing that struck me about this one: why in god’s name isn’t there a coach for the cheerleading team?  They wouldn’t put two high school juniors in charge of the entire team.  From my limited experience with high school sports, I know there were captains for cheerleading squads, but they were just sort of like, senior members.  They weren’t in charge of all of the choreography and the meets and such.  Whatever, this is making my brain hurt.

SVH: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

16 Jul

elizabeth's secret diary

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, as this is a recap of books 23-31

Summary/Overview:

Liz and Todd are making out in his room instead of studying.  There’s a lot of weird almost-sex talk about how they never let themselves be alone in each other’s rooms, and then Todd takes a phone call from Ken Matthews and Liz snoops around Todd’s desk, finding a letter from a girl he knew in Vermont.  She calls him cute-buns and sends him lots of love and kisses, and Liz FREAKS OUT.  That night, she ends up in the arms of Jeffrey French, and they make out.  Confused, Liz goes home crying and opens one of her old journals.  Cue flashbacks!

We’re dumped into #28, when Liz finds out that Todd is moving with his family to Vermont.  After he leaves and they agree to do a long-distance thing, Liz starts hanging out and making out with Nicholas Morrow.  If this is supposed to be scandalous, it’s not.  When Todd comes to visit, the two make up and he climbs a ladder into her bedroom.

After that, we’re treated to a retread of #29, where Steven mopes about his dead fucking girlfriend and his new feelings for Cara.  Liz also chases a Todd lookalike around Sweet Valley (DOPPELGANGER ALERT).  I can’t be bothered to care about any of this.  After that excitement, Liz boasts about helping poor Emily Mayer cope with a blended family and then negotiate a hostage situation (when it’s written out like this, is it more or less ridiculous? I can’t tell anymore).  Also, Liz’s writing is SO GOOD that people steal it, like Ken Matthews did that one time but he totally learned his lesson and they’re cool now.

For whatever fucking reason, we are treated to a very long recap of Lynne Henry’s makeover transformation, and then Liz and Ken start hanging out a lot because now she’s “single” and she and Todd chat on the phone about people he’s dating in Vermont.  Oh, and she reconnects with Amy Sutton but thinks she’s a snob.  WHEN WILL THIS END.  By the time the book gets around to recapping #31, where she and Jessica fight over which of their friends gets to date Jeffrey (like this is a reward?), Liz and Ken aren’t really seeing each other any more, and then Liz decides that she loves Jeffrey.

In the present, Liz stays up all night reading her journal and realizes that her life has been exciting and amazing.  Todd drives over to the Wakefield house and they make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz has an awful lot of poetry written in her diaries, and they’re all terrible.  Check it: “Rainy Sunday/Foggy Monday/Closely creeping fears,/Can’t take much more of this./Drive east, drive fast/until at last/desert rainbows dry my tears/like a kiss.”

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She’s my sister and I adore her, but sometimes she can be so…shallow. Forgive me, Diary, but it’s true.” (27)
  • “‘Congratulations,’ I whispered. ‘You’ve just become the first man to successfully scale Mount Wakefield!'” (53) [This is sexual, right?]
  • “I glanced at Amy out of the corner of my eye. Could she really be as heartless as she sounded?” (236)
  • “I’m only sixteen, and already my life has been so full!” (322) [Wait, this is the takeaway?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s weird that this book is written in first-person.  I had completely forgotten about that, though I guess it makes sense, since the reader is supposed to be in Liz’s diary.  But it’s jarring to read this first-person perspective of Liz that doesn’t sound at all how she should sound, in my opinion.

Also, this book is so fucking boring.  It’s like watching a clips-heavy episode of a comedy from the 90s.  There’s no real reason to show all these things readers have already experienced, and by adding in details that I refuse to accept as cannon at this point, the book is doing itself no favors.  There’s no reason–except to sell more books and make more money–to recap the books in a huge volume like this.  It makes no sense.

Which brings me to the thing that I find most disturbing about this book.  At the beginning, Liz is upset because Todd saw some other girl while he was in Vermont, which WE ALREADY KNEW, and then wonders if he’s loved other people besides her.  So she turns to her diary, which documents every covert hookup with basically every dude in Sweet Valley (no shame here, just pointing out the facts), some of which she had genuine feelings for.  At the end of the book, though, she realizes that her life has been full and exciting, and she feels better about everything?  What?  Wasn’t the point that she was doing some soul-searching about her feelings for Todd?

Also, isn’t the message here: your experiences with boys define you?  Am I wrong?

SVH #70: Ms. Quarterback

10 Mar

ms. quarterback

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Sweet Valley High has a couple of big football games against Big Mesa and Palisades High coming up, but their new-ish quarterback Scott Trost is in danger of being suspended from the team because his grades are bad.  Scott took over after Ken Matthews went temporarily blind that one time, but now it looks like Ken might be ready to take over the team again.  The school is holding try-outs, and it looks like Ken has some competition in the form of new-girl Claire Middleton, who is totally serious about football.

Everyone is shocked and intrigued by the fact that Claire wants to play on the football team.  When Liz interviews her for The Oracle, she’s surprised to find out that Claire isn’t dazzled by her friendly persona.  Claire gives her the bare minimum of information about herself, and Liz actually has the audacity to get frustrated with her because of this.

Other people aren’t faring much better with Claire, either.  When Jessica tries to talk to her in hopes of getting her to join Pi Beta Alpha, Claire makes an insensitive comment about cheerleaders that pisses Jessica off so much she decides to get the other cheerleaders to help her sort of haze Claire during try-outs.

On the other hand, Terri Adams becomes increasingly worried about the idea of Claire on the team.  She worries about this almost as much as she worries about Ken not being ready to play football again.  Apparently he still has moments where his eyes “black out” and he can’t see anything.  He won’t listen to her worries though, and continually makes comments about how awesome Claire is, sending Terri into fits of near-psychosis.  In her sad little mind, she believes Ken is going to leave her for Claire.

So naturally, she helps the cheerleaders “teach” Claire a lesson by telling them about a picture signed by “Ted” in Claire’s locker.  The girls work it into a cheer that they perform at try-outs, and Claire FREAKS OUT and walks off the field.  Ted is Claire’s dead brother.  I know.  Yikes.

At any rate, Ken gets first-string and Claire is put in as second-string quarterback.  The day of the big game, Ken fumbles a pass and benches himself, leaving Claire to save the day and win the game.  Whatever, I’m bored.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Terri has a little brother.  Seriously, this book is scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of anything being remotely interesting.
  • At one point, Amy says that all she’s been able to think about is the comment Claire made about cheerleading.  Homegirl needs to get a life.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Claire shrugged but didn’t even bother to look at Jessica.  ‘Suit yourself. I think you’d do yourselves and everyone else a lot more good if you played a sport instead of jumping around and screaming.'” (44)
  • “That’s when it hit her: she was intensely jealous of Claire.” (70)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book sucks.  I don’t even hate it enough to have a multitude of thoughts on it.  I will say that I thought Terri acted like a complete PSYCHO throughout this whole book and I had to go back to #60, That Fatal Night, to see if I felt the same way about her.  Turns out there is such a thing as consistent character writing in the world of Sweet Valley, because she was just as much of a doormat then as she is now.

Whatever.  This book blows.

SVH #60: That Fatal Night

25 Jan

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 months

Summary/Overview:
Terri Adams has been in love with Ken Matthews forever.  This is news to pretty much everyone, because up until this book, I’m not sure that anyone even knew that Terri Adams existed.  But you guys, she’s totally a real person, because she’s friends with Kristin Thompson, Shelley Novak, and John Pfeiffer.  And sometimes Liz says hi to her, which means she’s validated as an actual human being.  Anyway, Terri’s in love with Ken.  This seems to be her only defining characteristic, aside from the fact that she’s the assistant statistician for the Gladiators (is this like an actual thing that high school students do?).  At a party thrown by Amy Sutton, Terri gets the sads when she sees Amy kiss Ken.  Terri decides to go home and asks Winston to drive her, but he and Maria took the bus.  Ken offers to drive all of them just to get away from Amy.

It’s a dark and stormy night, and after Ken drops everyone else off, he promptly gets into a terrible car accident. Todd’s driving Liz and Jessica home, and they see the wreck.  The police say a drunk driver drove him off the road.  So…it wasn’t the rain, then?  Instead of going home, they go back to the party to tell everyone the news.  Amy FREAKS OUT about it, even though she and Ken haven’t been going out long.

At school on Monday, everyone’s talking about Ken’s tragic accident.  Someone makes mention of the fact that it’s Terri’s fault, and she cries a lot.  When Jessica and Liz go visit Ken in the hospital, they’re horrified to learn that he’s been blinded.  Wait…what?  When Amy finds out that Ken is blind, she runs away and tells Jessica not to tell Ken she was there at all.  Ken ends up in rehab for about a month before deciding its time to return to school.  Things don’t go the way he hoped, though.  Apparently being the only blind kid at a seeing school is kind of rough.  Terri seems fairly supportive, though, and the two start hanging out a lot.  Ken struggles with his feelings for her because he doesn’t believe anyone would ever want to date a blind guy.  His solution to this dilemma is to be a total jerk to Terri.

Liz tells Terri to stop doing everything for Ken and to tell him how she feels.  When she tries to, she chickens out.  Ken gets mad when she won’t read him his history homework, and she runs away.  Ken realizes he’s made a mistake and tries to find her by taking the bus to North Haven Beach, where she sits, reflecting on her existence (and the existence of this terrible book).  He admits his feelings for her, and she reciprocates!  They are together at last.  Also, Ken starts to be able to see light, and it isn’t long before his sight is good as new.  It’s a MIRACLE, Y’ALL!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ken Drives a white Toyota.
  • Terri’s preferred color of lipstick is in the apricot family. UNFLATTERING.
  • According to the doctor, Ken had a “closed head injury.”  I’m pretty sure this is a made-up thing.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “For an instant Ken thought he was out of danger.  Then he saw a large tree that seemed to be speeding toward him–and everything went black.” (31)
  • “‘You can do it, Ken. Remember, attitude is everything.” (81) [Blogger’s note: I’m pretty sure this same thing is written at the chalkboard at my gym]

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Oh, jeeze.  Where to start?  The fact that this book seems to confuse the word “fatal” with something else?  NO ONE DIED, SO IT WASN’T A FATAL NIGHT.  Perhaps they meant fateful?  I’m not sure, but the fact that the book is called FATAL sets the audience up for something that NEVER happens.

Or the fact that the book seems to think that blindness can be cured by magical tears and enough hoping and wishing on a unicorn?  It seems that in the Sweet Valley Universe, both deafness and blindness can be cured!  It’s like a real-life (fake) miracle spot.  Or something.

This book blows.  ONTO THE NEXT GREAT ADVENTURE!

SVH #27: Lovestruck

27 Jun

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Ken Matthews has a problem.  He’s failing English–hardcore, and if he doesn’t pull his grade up, he won’t be able to play in the big football game against Palisades High School as part of Sweet Valley’s Centennial celebration.  Mr. Collins makes a deal with Ken: if he does well on his short story assignment, his grade should be a passing one, and he can play.  All Ken has to do is write a short story and he’ll be a golden god again.

But it’s really hard for Ken to concentrate on the English assignment, because he’s totally in love with Suzanne Hanlon, a rich, snobby girl who’s into artsy things and can’t understand why Ken likes to spend all his time wearing shoulder pads and running around on a football field.  She dominates much of his time, dragging him to classical music concerts and weird Swedish films, and Ken procrastinates more and more on his English assignment.  Even asking Elizabeth Wakefield for help doesn’t do him much good, though she tries to illustrate the writing process by lending him one of her short stories, complete with notes and an outline and everything.  Oh, Liz, this will end badly.

The assignment is due and Ken has nothing to show for it, so he panics and turns in Liz’s story as his own.  The problem is, the story is so good that Olivia Davidson wants to publish it in the school paper as part of the special edition for the centennial celebration.  The second Liz reads the copy she knows what Ken has done, and she confronts him.  He apologizes profusely and promises to set things right but is derailed by Suzanne, who’s so excited that he’s showing promise as a cultured person and not a neanderthal.  Ken goes home and writes a short story that mimics his own life and has Liz switch out the story before the paper goes to press.

After the school goes crazy with the scandal, Ken meets with Mr. Collins, Chrome Dome Cooper, and Coach Schultz.  They agree to let Ken play because his story was very good and because he learned a valuable lesson.  Ken plays in the big game, wins it for Sweet Valley, and sees how stupidly blind he was about Suzanne, who wants to direct his life and can’t accept him for who he really is.

The B-Plot involves Jessica trying to organize the Centennial student picnic, which is to take place after the big football game.  She enlists the help of Lila, who scampers off to New York at the last minute, leaving Jessica with all the planning.  She’s overwhelmed and forgets to confirm with the caterer, which means that on the day of the picnic, there’s no food.  She solves the crisis by putting together hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (no one has a peanut allergy in Sweet Valley, I guess), and the entire operation is a rousing success.  In fact, the food switch means that she saved a ton of money, allowing the committee to donate more to the charity of the week.  Hooray!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Mrs. Wakefield dropped a towel on one of the lawn chairs and turned to the twins. ‘So, what’s on the agenda for this afternoon?  More daring rescues?  Foiling an assassination plot?  Or are you two just going to try something simple, like taking over a small country?'” (9)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Mrs. Wakefield apparently has a daily swim in the family pool.
  • Suzanne’s family owns 2 Rolls Royces.
  • Suzanne likes Mozart and Ken likes the Rolling Stones.  This is the real reason that they aren’t compatible.
  • Elizabeth agrees to man the kissing booth at the picnic.  My 2010 mindset and raging hypochondria cannot comprehend her willingness to do this.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s not a lot to say about this one, really.  In terms of plots, it’s not terribly offensive.  I mean, Ken steals Elizabeth’s story and tries to pass it off as his own, but he feels like a total shit about it the entire time, and he ends up writing a story of his own and coming clean without having to be blackmailed or anything (I realize that there was a certain amount of pressure on him since it was going to be published, but you know what I mean).  He also figures out that Suzanne is a total buzzkill and drops that shit before I wanted to tear my hair out.  She’s pretty boring and completely bossy, but I kind of figure that her personality flaws are a result of her environment more than a deep-seated drive to be evil.

It’s also nice that this book offers quite the reprieve from the twins.  The B-Plot is hardly touched upon at all, and because of this, the entire book seems to fly by.  It doesn’t just have to do with the fact that I skimmed over any page that dealt with sports of any kind, right?