Tag Archives: kidnapping!

SVH #125: Camp Killer

14 Aug

camp killer

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week


I’m back! And this book is just as boring as when I abandoned it MONTHS ago.  Without further ado:

Camp is winding down, but Liz decides it’s the perfect time to be super spooked out by the camp’s urban legend.  The legend goes that a long time ago, a counselor fell in love with a woodcutter (lolwut), but they were forbidden to see each other by the camp owner.  The girl ran away into the woods to be with her lumberjack, but she was never seen again.  The legend says that you can still hear the sound of wood being chopped every once in a while.  Liz actually based her super-special play on this legend, but now she’s totally creeped out and has a psychic-like feeling that Something Bad will happen.

At a bonfire one night, Joey tells the story of the camp legend but adds on a bunch of stuff about an ax murderer named Crazy Freddy that scares all the super annoying campers.  Liz makes out with Joey, Nicole is super jealous and plots a bunch of dumb stuff, and Liz worries about Jessica’s safety when she stays out super late to make out with Paul.  The two have to borrow one of Paul’s neighbor’s horses and that lands Paul in trouble with his parents, throwing a wrench in their plans to see as much of each other as possible.

A camp color war is one of the final camp events, and Liz and Nicole are pitted against each other as opposing team captains.  Nicole is still obsessed with Joey, who has the personality of cardboard toast, but she still works hard to mess things up for Liz.  She writes Todd a letter, including a picture of Liz and Joey kissing, but Maria won’t let her send it.  Nicole also sneaks out into the woods and makes woodcutting noises to freak Liz out, because she is actually insane, but whatever.  Maria begs Nicole to take it down a notch.

On the day of the color war, Jessica flakes so she can go see Paul, forcing Liz to cover all of Jessica’s activities as well as her own.  Jessica and Paul decide that pretending to be Crazy Freddy and scare everyone at camp is a really great idea and will in no way go badly or even further draw attention to the fact that she isn’t performing the basic duties of the job she was hired to do.  This doesn’t even matter, because an actual ax murderer shows up and drags Jessica off.  Tanya the camper sees this happen and tries to stop it, but the crazy guy just grabs her too and brings the two girls to a remote cabin in the woods.

When the campers start to notice that one of their own is missing, Joey runs off into the woods to rescue her.  The counselors pair off and start searching the woods.  Nicole and Liz pair up and have to work together.  They run into Paul, who tells them that Jessica is also missing.  There is a super convoluted plan where the girls will act as bait while Paul rescues Joey (now also captured?), Jessica, and Tanya.  Liz almost dies but doesn’t, and everyone gets away after a scuffle.  I literally don’t care and would gnaw my arm off if it would speed up the conclusion of this inane story.  Nicole gives Joey and Liz her blessing after a change of heart.  That’s…great?

The B-Plot involves Lila and Bo getting lost in the woods and spending a night sleeping on a dirt road.  They meet a crop duster pilot the next morning who wants to give them a lift back to camp but his boss says no.  After grumbling about how he’s so close to starting his own crop dusting business, Lila and Bo (both super rich, remember?) decide to invest in his company and he gets them back to camp.  No one knew they were missing, which sort of drives home the pointlessness of this entire book.



Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Bo performed in his high school’s production of South Pacific.
  • The color teams for the color war are blue and red.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘We’re talking about a thousand dollars, kids.  Do you have any idea how much money that is?’  The insult stung, and Lila’s temper flared. ‘Of all the nerve!’ she said, raging. ‘I’ll have you know that I’ve got a dress back at camp that cost nearly twice that.” (185)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

Why did the series feel the need to unleash another homicidal maniac?  Why would they bring in that story this far into this mini-series and have it not make any sense?  Why does everyone continue to act like total idiots, despite the ever-increasing experience they have with kidnappings, attempted murders, hostage situations and the like?  Why is everyone the worst?

I don’t really have the energy to dissect this one further.  I keep hoping one of these will be interesting, but the further we get into the series, the worse it gets.  And it was a low bar to clear to begin with.  Good grief.

SVH #110: Death Threat

6 Aug

death threat

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 incredibly long days


After Jeremy shows up to tell the twins that Sue is missing, they go and search for her at the Project Nature cabin.  But as the twins search, Jeremy goes up to an attic where Sue is hiding.  He’s kind of a dick to her, but it becomes clear that they’re staging her kidnapping as a way to extort the money she’s owed from her mother’s inheritance.  This makes absolutely no sense.  None, whatsoever.

The next day, the entire Wakefield family debriefs about Sue.  While talking, they get a ransom call asking for a half a million dollars–the exact amount of Sue’s inheritance.  They’re told not to go to the police, so Mr. Wakefield calls his friend Sam Diamond, who is a special detective or something to come help out.  The twins stay home from school, which makes all their friends wonder where they are and what’s going on.  SUBTLE.

Jeremy ties Sue up in the attic of the cabin because he gets pissed when she tries to warm herself by the fire.  He tells her to remember to call at 5pm to arrange the drop-off.  She wonders if her mother was right about Jeremy and feels sad. Meanwhile, Sam Diamond shows up at the Wakefield house and turns out to be a super hot lady.  Jessica and Liz debate feminism or something, which feels both misguided and out of place.  Liz tries,  once again, to tell Jessica that there’s something wrong with Jeremy.  Jessica won’t listen.

The kidnapper calls with a recorded voice (?) and tells the Wakefields because they involved a detective, the ransom has been raised by $100,000.  The drop will be made the following evening, and he wants the twins to do it.  After this, Lila calls and begs Jessica to tell her what’s happening.  Jessica tells her but covers the receiver with her hand so her voice is muffled.  The result is, as you’d guess, that Lila thinks the entire Wakefield family has been kidnapped.  She calls Todd, who immediately hatches a plan with her and Robby to save the day.  YOU ARE ALL THE WORST.

The night of the drop, Liz and Jess head off with Sam to drop off the money that Ned pulled from the bank.  Jessica films from across the street while Liz drops off the bag.  Sue is returned to the twins, and the kidnapper (who is Jeremy, by the way, who left as soon as the twins did, though he was tackled by Todd and Lila and Robby but WHO CARES) gets the money and runs.

Once back at the house, Mrs. Wakefield serves everyone cake.  It is so, so weird that they wouldn’t go to the police and have Sue inspected for signs of assault, etc.  Sue says she didn’t get a look at the kidnapper.  Mr. Wakefield reveals that the money was counterfeit and her fortune is safe.  Sam pops the recorded video into the VCR and asks for help identifying the kidnapper.  No one can recognize him, until Jessica realizes the kidnapper is wearing the ring on his pinky that she gave Jeremy just hours before.  DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently Bruce won the costume contest at the Halloween party by dressing as a Porshe.  Oh…kay?
  • Sam “I’m totally a lady” Diamond wears a “winter-white” Chanel suit

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Ned, we’ve got to do something right away,’ urged Alice. ‘Sue is like a daughter to me.’ Jessica groaned inwardly at her mother’s words.  First Sue had tried to steal her fiance, and now she was stealing her mother” (35). WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
  • “‘Detectives are always men,’ explained Jessica.” (79)
  • “She watched with distaste as Todd began slithering across the lawn like a snake, padding along on his hands and elbows.” (122)
  • “Mrs. Wakefield gasped.  ‘But that’s torture!’ she exclaimed, slicing another piece of cake and putting it on her plate.” (187)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

Sigh.  I’ve been sitting with this book in my purse for like over a week.  That’s how much I didn’t want to read and recap it.  Once I got started, it flew by, but only because the plot is LITERALLY SO DUMB that it doesn’t require any actual attention.  In fact, the less thinking, the better.

Everyone is dumb.  But I still can’t get past how weird this entire plot is, and how quickly it has derailed from where it started.  Like, wouldn’t it just have been enough for Jeremy to be creeper who scams on underage girls and cheats on his fiance?  No?  We need to add a faked blood disease, a faked suicide, an inheritance with weird strings attached, and then a TERRIBLE ATTEMPT at FAKING A KIDNAPPING?  Really?  That’s what these books needed?

I still don’t understand why Sue and Jeremy didn’t stay apart for the 60 days needed for her to get her inheritance.  This makes no sense.  WHY.



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


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 #82: Kidnapped by the Cult!

18 Apr


Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks


Jessica believes her life is super unfair because her parents grounded her after she lied about failing a bunch of tests in math class.  She feels alienated from her friends, who are having parties and sleepovers without her, and disconnected from Sam, who seems more interested in his motorbike racing than in shopping with her.  When she finally is released from her grounding, she goes to the mall, where she meets Ted, who tells her about the Good Friends and invites her to have dinner with them.  When Jessica goes to have dinner at the place where all the Good Friends live, she’s freaked out by the neighborhood and then sort of taken in with how earnest and nice all the people in the house are.  When she meets Adam Marvel, the leader of the Good Friends, she’s smitten, because he’s gorgeous.

At any rate, Jessica starts spending all her time with the Good Friends, helping around the house, participating in book group discussions, and canvassing houses and asking people for money at the mall.  She undergoes a complete physical transformation, wearing conservative clothing, and doing all her homework on time.  While her family notices this, they don’t seem bothered by it at all.  Sam is, though, because she keeps blowing him off and lying to him about where she is.

It isn’t until Ned conveniently mentions that a new cult has come to town called the Good Friends that Liz starts to worry.  Ned says that his law firm has been approached by some charities who worry this cult is using their names to collect donations that are then being used for the cult’s own selfish purposes.  When Elizabeth asks Jessica if she’s heard of the cult, she’s shocked at how defensive Jessica is about the whole thing.

Then Liz gets Sam to insist Jessica go out with him one night, and she infiltrates the cult in Jessica’s stead.  She’s amazed as she watches these “clear glass marbles” parrot everything Adam says.  When some of the members come in to report that Brian, one of the teens, has gone missing, Elizabeth sees how angry Adam is.  Turns out that Brian’s parent kidnapped him away from the cult to deprogram him.  Ned tells Elizabeth and Jessica that he’ll testify against the Good Friends once he’s healthy again.  Um, okay.

Jessica tells Adam this, and the two decide to kidnap Brian back.  Then things escalate, and Adam convinces Jessica to leave town with him and the rest of the Good Friends.  But Liz, Sam and Todd stage an intervention as Adam is rounding them up into a van.  Sam runs into the house and finds Susan, a member of the cult, unconscious, bound and gagged.  Guess she was a reporter and Adam found her out.  The police show up, Adam is arrested, and Jessica goes home with Elizabeth. Yay?

The B-Plot is all about a new bowling team that’s been started at Sweet Valley High.  Liz and Todd join the team, and it isn’t long before Liz has caught the eye of the team’s coach, Justin Silver.  He begins to basically beg her to go out with him, and while she politely declines, he eventually wears her down to the point where she feels obligated to go out once with him.  She finally gets him to stop after that, but not before making Todd a little jealous.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently the SVH cheerleaders only hold practice on Tuesday afternoons?
  • There’s a new bowling team starting up at school
  • Apparently Jessica doesn’t like popcorn? But she’s eaten it in a bunch of books when she watches TV at home. Weird. Also, I hate myself for knowing this.
  • She also hates tofu and muesli, both of which she eats in this book.
  • The local bowling alley is called The Fast Lane

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila was telling Cara where the best dress shops were in London, and Amy was trying to talk with an English accent.” (7)
  • “There was a cafe beside the artificial waterfall at the mall that had always made Jessica think of Paris.” (15)
  • “‘This is ridiculous,’ she said out loud. ‘I’m not going to find people who understand me here. I’m going to find people who shop in thrift stores.'” (28)
  • “‘People don’t just disappear in shopping malls,’ Adam said evenly.” (117) [Blogger’s note: actually, they do. Hasn’t Adam ever read The Face on the Milk Carton?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

I mean, there are tons of things that strain credulity in this one.  First of all, Jessica strikes me as someone who would be the least likely to fit the criteria for a good cult member.  Second of all, her ridiculous transformation from popular, confident teen to one who is obsessed with service never rings true.  This is not a series that prides itself of subtlety, but even by SVH standards, this is ridiculous.

Perhaps my biggest issue with this one is how ill-defined the cult actually is, though.  There’s no religious affiliation with this cult, which, fine.  Despite the fact that that’s a common trait of these organizations, I’ll let it slide.  But there isn’t anything that tells me that Adam Marvel is particularly magnetic (except for his good looks) or has a message that would really resonate with teens.  Whatever, I am definitely overthinking this.

SVH #73: Regina’s Legacy

21 Mar


Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Apparently the fact that Elizabeth decided she could only focus on one hobby at a time about two books ago is lost on her now, because she’s joined the new club that’s all the rage at Sweet Valley High: the photography club! Good timing, too, because as soon as she joins, poor dead Regina Morrow’s mom stops by with a gift for Elizabeth: Regina’s fancy camera.  Elizabeth wastes no time learning how to use it, and starts snapping photos left and right.

Some are for the secret photo mural the photography club decides to make for the school, and some are for her own benefit.  One day at the beach, she takes a picture of three men who look suspicious, and one of them sees her and starts running after her, trying to take her camera! Luckily, Prince Albert barks at the man, and Liz escapes to her car just in time.  She develops the photos and still feels weird about what she saw, even though she can’t put her finger on why that is.

Things get weirder when a cute young guy tails Jessica and Lila when they’re cruising around in the Fiat.  His name is Chad, and he asks Jess about the picture she took on the beach, and it doesn’t take long for Jess to realize he means Liz.  She plays along, promises to show him the photo, which she says is in the darkroom at school (it isn’t), and gives him her phone number.

Liz and Todd see a news broadcast about a congressman turning tail about prosecuting a drug ring, and Liz is sure the man is the one she photographed.  But how could it be the same man she saw on the beach in California if he’s in Washington?  Todd thinks she’s overreacting, but Liz is sure something weird is up with the photo she took.  Whatever, I’m bored.

Meanwhile, someone breaks into the darkroom at SVH and ransacks the place, destroying a bunch of equipment.  Todd and Elizabeth were just about to use it, too! They decide to go use the equipment at the local news station to blow up the photograph, because Liz has a feeling about a shirt one of the men is wearing.  Finally, they discern that the shirt is from a restaurant called Rick’s Place.

Chad asks Jessica out and takes her bowling.  Then he drives her to Big Mesa for dinnner…to Rick’s place.  Todd and Liz see Jessica there, and they panic when they see Chad grab her wrist and pull her out of the restaurant.  They chase after them in their car, but Todd gets pulled over before they can catch up.  Liz tells the policeman where she thinks they’re going (SVH), and everyone races to the school.  Todd tackles Chad, he gets arrested, and the whole story comes tumbling out.  And it is even dumber than you can imagine.

The man in the picture is Rich or Ron Hunter (I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check).  They’re identical twins and were both involved in the biggest drug ring in America that the government was unaware of.  One of them had a change of heart about it and turned informant, and the bad guys put his brother in for him in congress so that they wouldn’t be prosecuted.  Yes, this whole thing is a big bag of stupid.  They would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those pesky teens!

The B-Plot involves Shelley Novak getting jealous of how much time her boyfriend Jim Roberts spends on the photography club project.  He won’t tell her what he’s working on, which pisses her off further.  They fight, and then Jim puts a photo of Shelley at the center of the mural to prove his love for her.  They make up. I barf.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The book refers to Nicholas Morrow being a recent Sweet Valley High graduate, but that’s not true, because Nicholas moved with his family after he was already done with high school.  Sigh.
  • The camera Liz is given by Skye Morrow is a Nikon.
  • Jessica wears a silk blouse and a mini-skirt on her date with Chad.  Liz wears a pink dress and pearls to a casual dinner with Todd’s parents.  Whatever.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘That nerd Allen Walters,’ continued Jessica. ‘He snuck into cheerleading practice today and was zooming in at us from all over the place! I thought he was only interested in math and chemistry. You photography-club types are just a bunc of Peeping Toms. It gives me the creeps!'” (27)
  • “‘I’ll tell you one thing,’ Jessica said, shaking her head. ‘That’s the last time I go out with a total stranger just because he’s cute, and it’s also the last time I let somebody think I’m you! Talk about a double whammy!'” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess the first thing worth mentioning is how much I didn’t care about the mystery at the center of Liz’s photograph.  I literally just finished the book and already can’t be bothered to remember which brother was in which role or why it mattered.  The details surrounding the drug ring, the kidnapping, and the twin switch are so hilariously vague that it’s clear no one expected readers to care much about it, either.

There’s this awkward moment near the end of the book where Liz feels like Regina’s spirit helped her put an end to the drug ring because Regina died of a drug overdose, and she congratulates herself on how many lives have been saved.  I feel like Liz has no idea how drug rings work.  But whatever.  This part is dumb, and kind of boring.

Something that struck me while reading this book: all of Liz and Todd’s research would have been done so differently now.  First of all, Liz’s camera would likely have been a digital one, which means she could have enhanced the photos on a computer instead of painstakingly by hand.  Second of all, all of their research about “Rick’s Place” and the congressman could have been put to rest with a simple Google search.  Isn’t technology weird?

Next up: More of Robin Wilson’s eating disorder! I’m super, super nervous about this one.

SVH #54: Two-Boy Weekend

17 Jun

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks


A.J. Morgan’s grandparents are having a 50th anniversary celebration, so his family is flying down on Wednesday night and coming back Sunday afternoon.  Jessica is despondent at the idea of an entire weekend without A.J., and she essentially mopes and sulks about it before he leaves.  The only thing that keeps her from falling apart completely is  that he’s won a Samaritan essay contest that allows him to be the King of the Citizen’s Ball, making Jessica the de facto Queen.  Once he’s gone, she does some more moping.  Apparently she can’t do anything without A.J., which means missing Ken Matthews’s party.

At the beach on Friday, Jessica complains some more about how depressed she is.  Her friends are fed up with her oh-woe-is-me attitude and go to the Dairi Burger.  Jessica stays at the beach by herself, where she meets surfer cutie Christopher, who promptly asks her out.  Even though Jessica feels guilt over seeing another boy while A.J. is away, it doesn’t stop her from going out with him.

The two have a romantic dinner that night and then spend the entire next day together at the aquarium/planetarium.  They have a lovely time.  On Sunday morning, she meets Christopher at the beach and tells him she can’t see him anymore because she has a boyfriend.  Christopher is understanding, and Jessica thinks she’s dodged a bullet.

But she hasn’t.  When she meets up with A.J., she’s a total freak, acting spacey and cagey and totally guilty.  When Christopher starts calling her, begging to be friends, she doesn’t know what to do.  She pleads with him to stop, but he won’t give up.   He continues to call and stalk her.  When he shows up to look at the car that A.J. has for sale, he pretends not to know Jessica.  A.J. has to take a call right when Christopher wants to take a test drive, so Jessica is forced to go along.  Christopher drives recklessly and aims right at the side of a building until Jessica agrees to go out with him again.

Even after confiding in Elizabeth about what’s been happening, Jessica refuses to tell A.J. because she wants to be the queen of the Citizen’s Day Ball.  Elizabeth thinks this is a mistake, but doesn’t say anything.  The night of the ball, Jessica calls Christopher and pretends she’s sick.  He seems to buy it, so she goes off to the dance.  Of course, Christopher shows up, mistakes Elizabeth for Jessica, and kidnaps her.  He stuffs her into the trunk of his car and takes off.

Jessica feels like something is wrong and gets Jeffrey to help her look for them.  She runs in front of Christopher’s car.  He seems to think that she managed to get out of the trunk (I don’t get this part either) and stops the car.  Jeffrey fights with him while Jess unties Elizabeth.  They are saved!

Back at the ball, A.J. finishes reading his essay.  Jessica confesses to him that she isn’t ready to date just one boy, and the two break up.  A.J. still wants her to be his queen, though, and the two share a dance.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica felt like a heroine in a tragic, dramatic love story.  She lifted her chin and turned away.  It was all over.” (47)
  • “Both girls had telephones in their rooms because they got so many calls.” (72)
  • “Flirtatious boys exasperated her.” (91)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • A.J. is selling his car for $500.
  • Elizabeth’s little sister is named Kim Novak.  Isn’t…isn’t that the name of a famous actress?
  • When Elizabeth takes Kim to the bookstore, she recommends Johnny Tremain.  It’s official: Elizabeth Wakefield is the WORST.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Isn’t there an unspoken code in Sweet Valley regarding cheating?  Like, if your significant other isn’t in the same zip code as you, all’s fair?  Hasn’t that been how it’s worked in virtually every other book?  When the twins go on vacation, they cheat on their beaus.  When their boyfriends are away for the summer, they cheat on them.  We have book after book of solid evidence backing this theory up, so you can imagine how confused I was when the ghostwriter tried to play up Jessica’s guilt regarding cheating on A.J. in this book.

I’m sorry, what?

A.J. is gone for four days.  In those four days, Jessica meets a new boy, goes on several dates with him, and ends up being pretty infatuated with him, at least until he lets his freak flag fly.  This isn’t so surprising, really, given her past behavior, but what is strange is how guilty the ghostwriter makes her feel, as if this is new for Jessica.  Talk about serious character decay.

Also, can we talk for a second about how totally bland Christopher is, as far as psychopaths go?  He has no personality, and the best he can do is pull a knife on Liz and stuff her in the trunk of his convertible?  Really?  Not your best work, Sweet Valley.

SVH #26: Hostage!

2 Jun

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week


Liz is worried about the news she got from some random classmate about Regina Morrow being in town and not telling anyone, so she drives over to the Morrow mansion and rings the doorbell.  A strange woman answers the door and tells Liz that Regina’s not home, but Liz can see Regina standing in the foyer.  After Liz is essentially booted from the house, she drives home, thinking about how she can’t tell her parents (what if they won’t let her go back to the house?) but she can call the police.  They prove to be no help, though, telling her that they checked it out and the woman is an aunt and basically tell Liz to mind her own business and stop wasting the tax dollars of the citizens of Sweet Valley.

Liz remains convinced that something is wrong and confides in Jessica, who creates a scheme in which Bruce Patman poses as a grocery delivery boy.  They figure they can put something in the groceries for Regina and hide a note in it.  They put the plan in motion and sneak a letter into via a magazine.  She gets the magazine and writes back to them, dropping the letter in a compact mirror out her window.  The three of them retrieve it and find out that: a.) she’s being held hostage, b.) her parents are being held somewhere else, c.) they want a microchip her father developed, and d.) she heard the woman say something about “Money is heaven.”

Bruce calls in Nicholas Morrow, who’s been visiting a friend in San Francisco, and the teens all try to figure out what “Money is heaven” means.  Nicholas recognizes one of the kidnappers as Phil Denson, a disgruntled former employee of his father’s.  They find an address for him and drive out to the house.  Jessica flirts with a teenager mowing the lawn and sneaks a peak inside the house to discover Mr. and Mrs. Morrow tied up on the living room floor.

It takes a long time, but the teens finally figure out that “Money is heaven” means “Monday at seven.”  Regina’s hearing isn’t at 100% yet, and I guess she misunderstood what was said.  The twins deduce that the scheme to steal the microchip is taking place on Monday at seven.  They plan to be in both places at that time and put into motion Operation Save The Morrows.

What they don’t plan on is Phil, who is on his way home at the same time that Bruce is untying the Morrows.  He pulls a gun on Jessica, who is flirting with the teenager, and the teenager freaks out and grabs the gun.  Bruce ushers everyone out of the house and into the waiting car.  They rescue the other half of the operation, also at gunpoint, and the police arrest the entire Denson family.  The Morrows are saved!  In celebration, they plan a party.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Apparently her father’s plant had just designed a microchip that would revolutionize the computer industry.  Mr. Morrow had spent the better part of the past five years perfecting this chip and had just manufactured a single prototype.  It had been the crowning achievement of his work in the computer industry and had taken thousands of research hours and endless expense.” (39)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • I hated this book.  I’ve got nothing for you.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

This plot lends itself to so much ridicule that it isn’t even worth really getting into.  The one major issue I have with a plot that’s so hare-brained is the fact that Liz doesn’t want to tell her parents what’s happening but will call the police.  This makes no sense.  It makes me angry.

I have to go away now.

SVH #13: Kidnapped!

24 Mar

Estimated Time Elapsed: 1 week


Jessica is getting ready for the huge party being held at Regina Morrow’s mansion.  The Morrows are new in town and are richer than like, anyone.  Jessica is wearing a super-revealing dress in hopes of catching Nicholas Morrow’s eye.  Even though she’s never met him and knows nothing about him except for the fact that he’s rich, she’s convinced they’re meant to be.  She reiterates this fact to Cara in the car on their way to the party after leaving the house without waiting for Elizabeth to return from candy-striping/tutoring Max Dellon/saving the world.

Which I guess is supposed to serve as a way to build tension, because a good deal of time passes at the party before anyone starts worrying about where Elizabeth is.  Jessica meets Regina, whom we learn is deaf bu treads lips and seems to speak without any impediment.  Jessica flirts with Nicholas and lies to Todd about Liz to keep him off her back.  When he discovers the lie, he pushes Jessica into the pool (at which point, I am ashamed to say, I actually squealed with glee).  The two of them realixe something is wrong when Jessica phones home and Ma and Pa Wakefield haven’t seen Liz, either.

The community is stunned by her disappearance.  Jessica blames herself and somehow turns the situation into being about her.  Todd gets angry and threatens people.  Mrs. Wakefield makes breakfast.  Mr. Collins looks haunted.  We all have our ways of dealing with grief, I guess.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is tied to a wooden chair in Crazy Carl the Orderly’s shack.  He loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her, but he wants them to be together forever.  He feeds her frozen pancakes and fast food and tells her about how happy they’ll be together when he takes her to some cabin in the woods.  Liz cries a lot and thinks about happier times when she and Jessica would have pillow fights for hours.  Her attempts to escape are fruitless, and she wonders if she’ll ever be saved.

But saved she is, after Todd, Jessica, and Max go to the hospital and question staff.  Carl mistakes Jessica for Liz and freaks out, and Liz is rescued.  The twins are reunited and throw a party to celebrate.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Look, it’s not my fault my stupid brother can’t see how good you’d be for him. Maybe after Tricia dies, you two could start over again.'” (17)
  • “Roger Collins was still holding the phone after Todd hung up.  He hoped Elizabeth was okay.  He shook his head as he replaced the receiver.  Sometimes being a teacher at Sweet Valley High felt like a twenty-four-hour-a-day job.” (56)
  • “Then she lowered her right arm against the seat of her chair, and with the fingernail of her thumb she gashed out a notch. ‘Day one,’ she said grimly, wondering if there would ever be an end to this horror.” (96)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Steven has his own (tiny) bathroom attached to his room.
  • Max Dellon needs help with English class and struggles to read Othello on his own.
  • The Morrow Mansion is compared to something out of Xanadu.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Setting aside Jessica’s complete psychosis when it comes to Nicholas Morrow, the only real issue to focus on in this book is Elizabeth’s kidnapping.  To be fair, Elizabeth fares pretty well for herself, given how powerless she is in the situation.  She tries to escape but the house is boarded up, so she works hard to make sure she can keep Carl calm.  Which is fine, except that it doesn’t seem Carl is actually dangerous, just crazy.  He doesn’t seem to harbor any sexual desire for Elizabeth (a sign that tells us this is a book written for 12-year-olds) and he is often referred to as seeming child-like, which also reinforces the idea that he isn’t really dangerous.  I suppose this was a way to keep readers engaged but not terrified.

The real problem, however, are the long passages where Elizabeth is alone in the shack and the reader is treated to long inner-monologues where Elizabeth reminisces about her friends and family.  Not only does the reader come to realize that Elizabeth is boring–really, really boring–but her best memories are contrived.  The story about Jessica and the pillow fight seemed like something schemed up by a writer trying desperately to get into the mind of a teenage girl and failing, miserably.  Oh well.

The moral of the story?  If you’re kidnapped, wait for your twin sister to trick your kidnapper into thinking you escaped and giving himself away.

SVH #12: When Love Dies

23 Mar

Estimated Elapsed Time: Four weeks


Steven Wakefield’s beautiful, doll-like girlfriend Tricia Martin has been acting strangely lately.  She’s been avoiding him: breaking dates and not answering his calls.  This distresses Steven greatly, and he does an equal amount of moping and crying about it before actually getting off his ass and going to Tricia’s to confront her.  She cries and tells him they’re better off not seeing each other.  So they break up and Tricia thinks about how it’s better that he doesn’t know she’s sick.

Liz is sad for Steven but Jessica is thrilled, because the Martins are one of the trashiest families in Sweet Valley.  Jess sees the breakup as her chance to set him up with Cara Walker, who’s been nursing a crush on him for years.  Steve goes out with Cara because he keeps hearing rumors that Tricia’s dating other guys.  Steve kissies Cara but thinks of Tricia, and I’m officially creeped out.  He ends up freaking out on Cara at a much-hyped college party, and their relationship is over before it really begins.

Meanwhile, the twins have started volunteering at Fowler Memorial Hospital.  Jessica finds out that Jeremy Frank, a local celebrity and TV personality is staying at the hospital with a broken leg, and so she drags Liz into her scheme to get close to him.  There are several contrived, boring scenes in which Jessica is uncharacteristically clumsy and either injures Jeremy or embarrasses him in some way.  He enlists the help of Liz to get Jess to back off by pretending to be super into Jess, going so far as to propose to her.  The plan backfires, and he has to come clean, but he offers her a guest spot on his show.

At the same time, Liz discovers that Tricia’s sick with Leukemia, and she angsts about it for a long time before confiding in Mr. Collins, who tells her that not all secrets should be kept.  Liz finally tells Steven what’s really been going on.  He races over to Tricia’s shanty and they both cry and gush about how their love is forever, however long that may end up being, and I feel sick to my stomach.

The book ends with Elizabeth getting kidnapped (complete with chloroform) by Carl the creepy orderly who has a major case of the Norman Bates.  Will Elizabeth be saved?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Betsy’ll probably end up either pregnant or in jail in another year or so.  Maybe both.'” (5) [ed. note: God willing!]
  • “‘Jessica Wakefield, this is really the all-time dumbest idea you’ve ever had–and you’ve come up with some pretty dumb ones!'” (114)
  • “Forever, she thought.  Maybe forever wasn’t such a long time for them, but when you loved someone as much as she loved Steven, a day could be forever, even a moment.” (123)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Not a lot of outfits in this book.  Cara wears a splashy Hawaiian-print halter dress to her own party
  • Pop culture references include: Love Story, the National Enquirer, Barbara Walters, and Romeo and Juliet

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

As this is not one of my favorite books simply because Tricia Martin bores the snot out of me, I don’t find myself overly-critical of it.  Yes, the whole Tricia-has-leukemia thing is contrived and belongs in a Lurlene McDaniel novel, and yes, it’s clear that the ghost writer doesn’t actually know a thing about the disease, but that’s what we expect from the world of Sweet Valley.

The Jeremy Frank B-plot is irritating only because we’re supposed to buy the fact that Jessica would all of a sudden decide that being engaged to a perfect stranger would be a good idea.  The fact that it is alluring at all is so preposterous that it’s impossible to take it seriously.  If the reader didn’t know better, one would almost infer that Jessica is on to the scheme and is trying a bit of reverse psychology.  But that would be TOO clever.  So the reader must take it at face value.