Tag Archives: lynne henry

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?

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SVH #28: Alone in the Crowd

9 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Lynne Henry is Sweet Valley High’s biggest outcast.  She doesn’t talk to anyone and walks through the halls like a zombie.  Her life pretty much blows, even though she’s got a good mom who’s trying to reach out to her and a comfortable home.  The only time she feels any pleasure is when she’s playing her guitar and composing songs, so when The Droids announce a star-search contest for a great new song, she feels compelled to submit one.  She writes it as she thinks about lead guitarist Guy Chesney, and she cries.

Lynne’s self-esteem is so shot that she submits the song anonymously.  When it comes time for the band to listen to the song, everyone agrees that it’s the best they’ve heard.  Lynne has some serious talent, but she still doesn’t want to come forward as the author.  When Liz accidentally discovers that Lynne wrote the song when she hears her singing during a guitar lesson, she feels torn about what to do.  Apparently, Guy has fallen in love with the singer of the song.

Through some contrived plotting and the repetition of the name Linda Ronstadt, Guy figures out that Lynne is the author and creates a flyer with a police sketch of the “mystery” songwriter.  While he’s busy doing this, Lynne’s mom helps her with a makeover that turns her from a “zero” into a total hottie.  Guy distributes the flyer around the school and everyone congratulates Lynne, who realizes then that Guy is totes in love with her.  They make out.

The B-Plot involves Jessica organizing a fundraiser for new cheerleader uniforms.  She comes up with the idea that they’ll have a rocking chair relay, which I thought meant they would figure out how to race around in rocking chairs but actually means that the cheerleaders will take turns rocking in a chair for hours at a time.  THAT IS LAME.  To counteract the lameness of the event, she also decides there will be a dance in the gym during the relay.  It is a rocking success (oh I see what you did there) and the cheerleaders get their new uniforms.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • I can’t help but feel that this book was written very quickly, as there are numerous glaring typos and the character of Enid seems more like a Jessica than an Elizabeth.
  • Lynne teaches music classes at a place called the Music Center.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Most girls I know think music is OK as long as it stays in the background.” (20)  [ed. note: Really, Guy?  You play in a band, and this is really what you believe?]
  • “‘A mysterious oil magnate was proposing marriage to me on his jet,’ Lila told her. ‘He had a diamond ring the size of a hard-boiled egg in his hands.'” (130)

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

In the interest of full disclosure, I struggle through many of the books that focus on tertiary characters instead of the Wakefield twins.  As a child, I only really loved (and re-read) the ones that were all about Elizabeth and Jessica.  It’s hard for me, even now, to read these titles about characters who pop out of the woodwork only to disappear again, and try to care.  But I will say that Lynne’s obvious depression is alarming, especially because the word “depression” is never mentioned.

Throughout the book, the reader is inundated with examples of Lynne’s depression.  She’s an insomniac who has trouble getting up in the morning, she wears clothing that helps her become invisible and hides her body.  She takes no care with her appearance.  Multiple times throughout the story, she looks in the mirror and tells herself she’s “too ugly to be human” and a “total zero.”  It’s disturbing, heartbreaking, and uncomfortable.

All of this, of course, is solved in true Sweet Valley fashion: 1.) she gets a makeover–loses the glasses, puts some makeup on and some clothes that fit, and she’s pretty; and 2.) a boy notices her and suddenly she has self-worth.  At one point, Elizabeth sees her laughing and talking to Guy and thinks, “she’s almost actually pretty” which is so condescending that it makes me want to punch Elizabeth in the uterus.  But Lynne’s psychological issues cannot be solved by these things, and it makes me wonder what kind of message it sends to young readers.