Tag Archives: magna edition

SVH Magna Edition: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. II

24 Aug

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, as this is a recap of books #55-70

Summary/Overview:

The book starts off with Liz on a date with Todd Wilkins, who is distracted.  When she presses him for what’s going on, he tells her that his friend from Vermont, Michelle Thomas, is coming to visit him.  Liz freaks out about this, because Michelle is the girl who called Todd “cute buns” in a letter to him that one time, and she runs away from their date.  When he shows up at her house with Michelle a few days later, Liz is a raging bitch to them both and then cries to Enid about how sad she is while they eat cookie dough.  She goes to reconcile with Todd and sees him kissing Michelle.  She freaks out, runs home, and cries a lot. Then she picks up one of her journals and starts reading and reminiscing…

These are painful to recap, but not as painful as it is to read them.  Liz quickly recaps books 55-57, mentioning Olivia’s crush on their teacher from the mini-courses before getting to her real interest: herself.  She angsts over Todd moving back to Sweet Valley and her waffling over her feelings for him and her current boyfriend Jeffrey French.  When she decides to ditch Jeffrey and hook back up with Todd, we’re treated to a recap of that gloat-fest, too.  But the diary presents this as Liz actually second-guessing her decision to get back together with Todd and being shocked when Jeffrey rebuffs her attempts to reconcile.  It seems we’re supposed to believe that Liz really misses Jeffrey, which this reader doesn’t buy for a second.

We continue on with inane recaps of books 61-70, which are largely focused on other people’s problems, so I’m not sure why the team behind these books thought this was the section of books to focus on.  Readers are treated to reminders about Patty Gilbert’s problems, Jessica’s adventures in computer dating (this is still one of my favorites because it’s so balls-to-the-wall insane), Elizabeth’s adventures in surfing, a Tricia Martin doppelganger, and Wakefield Parent Drama for several painful books.  Very little insight is provided to readers that they didn’t already know.  There is one “scandalous” scene that is supposed to take place around The Parent Plot, where Jeffrey climbs up a trellis near Liz’s room (is this a thing that existed before this diary?) and they make out.  But conveniently, Todd shows up that same night for some smooches, so Liz literally shoves Jeffrey into the closet so she can make out with Todd before sending him on his way.  Jeffrey is super mad about having to listen to the smooth make out noises of Liz and her actual boyfriend, and he storms off.

But wait, there’s more.  Liz and Todd break up again, and then Sweet Valley deals with both racism (and actual hate crimes but whatever, right?) and sexism.  This might be the most pointless of the secret diary series yet, and I HATED the first round.  There’s no point to these whatsoever.

At any rate, the book ends with Liz seeing Jeffrey out on a date with some rando and Liz realizes that he never looked at her the way he’s looking at this girl, so she thinks they weren’t right for each other after all.  She realizes that she still loves Todd and that they’ve both made kissing mistakes with other people.  She calls him and they make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • I don’t have any trivia to provide this time.  The twins do love to wear blue-green items to match their eyes, though! This is a recurring theme that is starting to really grate on me.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Ooh,” Jeffrey joked. “You get me all excited when you say things like ‘male-female ratio!'” (29)
  • Sometime during the week (who cares what day it is?)” (56) [If this doesn’t sum up the way time lapses in this entire series, I don’t know what does.]
  • “Don’t punch things?” I asked. “Or don’t hold it in?” (211) [Too bad this was directed at Jeffrey and not Todd]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

“I’ve been such a hypocrite,” I whispered. I’d judged Todd for kissing Michelle in his backyard. But how many times had I kissed Jeffrey behind Todd’s back? I had no right to criticize him. And it was time to make it up to him. (325)

I’m including this quote because it’s what I’d like to focus on for this analysis.  What’s striking about this quote is not only how clunky it is, shoe-horned in at the last minute, in the literal last couple of pages of a 300+ page book, but also how hilariously tone-deaf it is when considered with the series as a whole.  Throughout these recaps, I’ve harped on and on about the fact that both twins cheat on dudes they are dating REPEATEDLY, despite the fact that Jessica is supposed to be considered the twin who can’t commit.  Liz tends to be the worst offender when it comes to this, because she’s the one who is in a “monogamous” relationship throughout the majority of the series.

But this is supposed to be a huge revelation for Liz at the end of this book, after doing a great deal of self-reflection while reading through old journal entries.  It never ceases to astound me how quickly she flies off the handle about Todd’s behavior when she literally cheats on him any time she goes out of town (or he goes out of town).  It is weird to suddenly have this be the standard for which she can forgive him his trespasses.

I don’t know.  I’m thinking about this too much.  Liz is the worst because she’s self-righteous AND boring AND oblivious about how boring she is.  At least Jessica is practically sociopathic in her denial about her behavior.

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SVH Magna Edition: Jessica’s Secret Diary, Vol. II

21 Aug

Jessica Secret Diary 2

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, because this covers books #42-56

Summary/Overview: 

Lila and Jessica are hanging out in Jessica’s room one day, totally minding their own business, when they overhear a fight between Liz and Todd nearby.  Todd and Liz break up (so, must be a day that ends in “y”) because he’s irate that she went to a movie with Jeffrey.

That night, Jessica gets home from a party and answers the phone to find Todd wondering if Liz and Jeffrey had gone to the party together.  Jessica tells him that they didn’t.  This is riveting stuff. He asks if he can come over and talk.  Jessica rushes to put on a sexy nightgown (what 16-year-old doesn’t own at least one of these?) and meets him at her bedroom window.  He tells her he wants to get back together with her.  What’s interesting (perhaps the only interesting thing to note here) is that Todd isn’t talking about that one time they hooked up after Sam’s death, nor is he talking about how they dated back at the start of the series, when Jessica falsely accused him of attempted rape.  He’s talking about…some other time, I guess?  Jessica is unsure if this is a good idea, and decides to consult the diaries she keeps that no one knows about.  Why not just use a Magic 8 Ball, bitch?

We are treated to an absolutely fascinating and not at all tedious rundown of some previous books, all from Jessica’s point of view:

While Sandra and Michael are thinking about eloping at 16 because their parents just don’t understand, Jessica plans a surprise party for Lila and gets a friendly letter from Todd in the mail, even though they are not friends, are often openly hostile about one another, and didn’t hang out before he moved away.  Jessica uses the letter as an excuse to tease Liz about Todd, which seems mean.

Enid might be grappling with generational issues in her family, but who cares? Jessica helps Liz make a documentary about Sweet Valley for an arbitrary contest and Jessica writes back to Todd for whatever reason.  Then, when Steven and Cara are sort of starting something up if only Steven can get over dead Tricia Martin, Jessica hears back from Todd.  This is seriously so boring.  Thank god for email, amirite?  Then Jessica reminds us that the Wakefields have a cousin who could basically be their sister, and she’s kind of effed up over some family drama.

We continue to be treated to recaps of books that really have nothing to do with Jessica and especially have nothing to do with her secret non-relationship with Todd.  Jessica reminds us about how smart Robin Wilson is (she got into Sarah Lawrence a whole year early despite that not being how it works at all).  Then Jessica gossips about Julie Porter and Bruce Patman, and while doing so, provides the readers with a bizarre alternate-history version of when she dated him.  She claims it was one date, but that’s not really how this reader remembers it.  It hardly matters, because who cares?  Jessica and Todd are still writing to each other, which is weird.

When Jessica falls for A.J., she writes to Todd for advice, which also makes no sense.  As she works to keep A.J. happy, she and Todd start to get a little bit more personal in their letters to each other.  The mere idea that Jessica would stick with a tedious activity like long-hand letter-writing for this long is completely unfathomable to me, but there you have it.  As her diary entries progress, Jessica continues to insist she’s into A.J. but gets all atwitter when she gets another letter from Todd.

The sequence of books chosen for this diary make no sense because they are extremely focused on other people’s problems, just like the second volume of Liz’s diary, but the book continues to plug on, as if the readers really want to rehash the stories of C and D-list characters (Ronnie’s gambling issues, totally-not-a-rapist-yet John Pfeifer and his jealousy over Jennifer Mitchell, Kristin Thompson and tennis).  Jessica recounts cheating on A.J. with some dude and subsequently breaking up with him.  Oh, and there’s also the basketball book with Shelley Novak.  BORING.  While Jessica recounts all of these people’s various melodramas, things with Todd start to escalate.  He asks if he can come visit her in secret, and actually buys a plane ticket and does just that.  The two make out at Secca Lake, which is supposed to be romantic (Jessica also thinks about Todd sneaking into her room and doing “intensely romantic things” with him, which is almost lukewarm in its attempt at steamy sex writing).  The two recognize that what they’re doing could really hurt Liz (I don’t know why that seems to matter considering what will happen in the future, but ok).

The final recap we’re treated to is the equally bizarre Lost at Sea, where Jessica gets stranded on a deserted island with Winston Egbert after their field trip boat capsizes or whatever.  Her big revelation here is that she briefly considered kissing Winston before they were rescued.  The hormones, they rage.

At the end of the book, Jessica comes to the realization that she and Todd aren’t meant to be.  She thinks he’s better suited to Liz, and that’s that. What a fucking waste of time.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica’s sexy silk nightgown was a gift from her cousin Kelly, who totally still exists.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Observation of the day: Mr. Collins is a god. (49) BARF.
  • I have a special feeling for Todd, I thought, fingering the cardboard cover of the notebook, and I always will.  But it’s nothing like the feeling he shares with Elizabeth. (326)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I fundamentally understand the rationale behind these books (everyone loves a good secret diary, people love the voyeurism, the regular rabid readers of SVH would have gobbled these up just because they were new, etc), but I don’t understand why they did them the way they did.  Instead of picking what seems like an almost arbitrary sequence of books, why didn’t they choose to jump around in the series and pick the ones where the twins had a lot of romantic drama happening? It would have been way more interesting to read if the focus of these diary entries wasn’t so unbalanced.

As it stands, it reads like a weird first-person recap of stories that weren’t very interesting the first time around and now seem awkwardly shoved into a story they don’t belong to. I don’t get it, and I don’t enjoy reading it.  I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would.

SVH: Jessica’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

18 Jul

jessica's secret diary

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A because this book recaps books 32-40.

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is at a party at the Patman beach house when her boyfriend, Jack (whoever the fuck this is) tells her that he’s secretly been in love with her sister, Elizabeth.  Understandably distraught, Jessica runs home crying and decides to run away.  As she’s packing, she stumbles across a secret diary that no one knows she keeps and begins to revisit her own sordid past.  Oh, good.  More recapping.

We’re first treated to a recap of #32, in which Jessica dyes her hair black and tries to go faux-European.  She also thinks about how cute she thinks Jeffrey French is.  Then we get a recap of heroic Jessica’s impulse decision to bring home a lab puppy who becomes Prince Albert.  Bizarrely, we get info-dumped about #34, even though it’s totally not about Jessica at all.  Same thing with the book about Aaron Dallas’s anger issues (repressed homosexuality?  RIGHT?) and his girlfriend Heather’s baby voice.  UGH GOD WHY DO THEY HAVE TO DO THE BOOKS CHRONOLOGICALLY WITHOUT SKIPPING ANY.

Then Jessica reads about how she tried to break up Steve and Cara.  That was sweet.  Remember when Jessica thought Alice was pregnant again? Because she likes pistachio ice cream and shit?  Me neither, but it happened.  Jessica reminisces about how she and Steven schemed to keep Elizabeth from going away to boarding school and then actually admits to being pretty into Jeffrey, thinking at one point that she’d send Liz to Switzerland so she could steal Jeffrey away from her.  What a nice sister.  There’s an adorable and not at all tedious recap of the time she and Lila posted personal ads and got set up with the same dude. FINALLY we hit #40, where Jessica reminisces about poor Regina and how she died from that cocaine thing with her heart.  It’s here that she admits that she once went on a date with him, posing as Liz, and when they made out, Jeffrey figured it out but then made out with her some more.  Um, creepy?

Back in the present moment, Jessica cries about her and Jack, her and Jeffrey, Elizabeth too, she guesses, and then for Regina.  She unpacks her clothes and decides to stay.  I’m ready to self-immolate to get away from this book, so let’s call it a day.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • In the present day part of the novel, Ma and Pa Wakefield are out of town in Los Angeles
  • Jessica and “Jack” have been dating for one whole month

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But for most of the years I’ve known you, Jessica, you fall madly in love about twice a month.  How am I supposed to know when you really mean it?” (4)
  • “Jeffrey pulled me roughly toward him again and kissed me even more passionately.  I responded with a moan, feeling as if my heart would explode with a million tiny, twinkling stars of light.” (307)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

So what’s weird about this one is not the present-tense voice, which still bothers me but feels like a more natural fit than the one inflicted on Elizabeth in the previous diary book, but that once again I’m unsure what the lesson is to be learned in this.  As per usual, the message is muddled.

Part of the problem is that so many of the books being recapped in this one weren’t about Jessica at all.  This is only going to get worse with subsequent volumes of the diaries (ugh I can’t believe there are two more for EACH TWIN), but it still makes the lack of plot pretty glaring here.  Also, boring.  Like, really really boring.

The biggest issue here though is that I think the reader is supposed to realize (alongside Jessica) that the girls love each other and value one another so deeply that they can’t be apart.  But everything that happens in these books only goes to further illustrate what an asshole Jessica is.  So, I guess I don’t get it?

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 #100: The Evil Twin

13 Jun

the evil twin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week or so

Summary/Overview:

It is Christmas AGAIN in Sweet Valley.

Jessica is sad because she’s still fighting with Elizabeth and is lonely.  She sulks through the special school assembly where Liz announces The Oracle’s plans to feature new columnists after the break, and then when she gets a special candy cane delivery during math class, she’s surprised to see the card signed “Happy Horrordays, Jessica.”

James blows Jessica off and she is sad.  Elizabeth yells at her and she is sad some more.  Then James breaks up with her over the phone even though he totally loves her and she feels even sadder.  When he calls her after Christmas and asks her to meet him at the old marina, she begs Liz and Todd for a ride, since Steven has taken the Jeep to drive Alice and Ned to the airport.  They get there in time to see James get pushed over the edge of the marina by someone.  Todd tackles who he thinks is the assailant, but it’s really Josh, who was trying to stop Margo.  Jessica faints.

Elizabeth gets a special candy cane and card, too.  Hers says something about “Decking the halls with bloody bodies.”  Todd throws the card away and tells her not to worry about it.  Elizabeth goes into her room and finds things mussed up and assumes it’s Jessica’s handiwork.  When Jessica tries to talk to Liz, she blows up at her about it.

Liz dreams about the night of the Jungle Prom and the punch she drank is featured prominently.  When she wakes up, she can’t figure out what about the dream was important.

Margo trolls the halls of Sweet Valley High, trying to gain as much information about Elizabeth as she can before she assumes her life.  She meets James at Kelly’s Bar, and he tells her he wants off the payroll.  She accuses him of falling in love with Jessica, then tells him she doesn’t need his services any more.  But then she threatens him with death if he so much as looks at Jessica again.

She sneaks into the Wakefield house as Liz and hugs Alice, who can’t help but feel weird about the encounter.  She snoops around Liz’s room, reads her diary, and is generally a creeper.  She goes out with Todd as Liz and goes to the mall with Lila as Jessica.  She continues to weave in and out of the house, pretending to be Liz when it’s convenient and causing inconsistencies in everyone’s stories.

Josh Smith is still hot on Margo’s trail, trying to find her and also trying to figure out what she’s doing in Sweet Valley.  He investigates some local unsolved mysteries, including the death of the woman Margo ran over in order to take her job at the catering company and makes connections.

He finally finds the room she’s been renting and breaks in.  There, he finds her walls are covered with stuff about the Wakefield twins.  She’s also written “I am Elizabeth” in red lipstick.

At this point, it’s probably just easier to merge the story lines.  After James is murdered on the marina dock, Todd tackles Josh to the ground.  Margo escapes and calls the police.  Todd and the twins go down to make a statement to the police about what they say.  Josh tries to warn Todd that there’s a psycho on the loose, and despite the fact that Todd is creeped out, he doesn’t seem to put together the weird events of the past several days or weeks or whatever.

Both twins continue to have nightmares and wake up screaming.  Steven tries to comfort them.  Meanwhile, Margo intercepts a phone call from Alice about the disastrous trip they’re on.  It takes for fucking ever for Ned and Alice to realize they’ve been scammed, but then they can’t get a flight back to Sweet Valley because of inclement weather.

Meanwhile, Josh escapes from jail.  Despite the radio alerts that go out about him, he’s determined to get to Margo.  She’s putting her plan into full motion, making sure that Jessica offers “Liz” the right dress she can duplicate for Lila’s New Year’s Eve party.

Liz continues to have nightmares about the night of the Jungle Prom until she finally pieces together the fact that Jessica spiked her punch.  Feeling more betrayed than ever, she cries a bunch.

At the party, everyone looks great and is having a good time.  Margo manages to get Todd alone and makes out with him, but he realizes it isn’t Liz and finally the pieces come together for him.  But Margo knocks him unconscious and runs to find Liz.  She convinces Liz to meet her in the pool house.  When Liz gets there, Margo corners her with a knife.

But Jessica knows Liz  is in danger when she sees her head outside into the rain.  She struggles to get there in time, and then throws herself in front of Margo so she can’t hurt Elizabeth.  There’s a struggle, and then Josh comes in after tussling with Steven (who has rushed to the party because why not) and pushes Margo through a window.  Margo falls to a bloody death.  The twins are saved–and finally reunited.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Josh is staying at the Dunes Motel
  • When Margo applied for the catering job, she apparently used the name Margaret Wake. Weird.
  • Lila has a signature flavor of ice cream at Casey’s: Million Dollar Mocha.
  • Despite the fact that the Beckwiths no longer live on Calico Drive because Annie Whitman moved into their house, Alice tells the kids she left their hotel information with them.  JESUS GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Margo was demonic, but her madness had a method to it.” (31) [Blogger’s note: THIS IS NEWS TO ME]
  • “Was murderous violence Margo’s answer to everything? Was no crime too heinous?” (67)
  • “‘Having somebody murdered really puts a damper on things,’ Lila observed.” (215)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  The book is bonkers and BEYOND the realms of even the slightest possibilities.  I think the thing that bothers me most about this one is how dumb everyone is for so long.  The biggest problem here is that there are multiple times where someone mentions an outing or conversation to Jessica or Elizabeth that they have no recollection of, and yet somehow choose to conveniently ignore it.  If someone was like, “It was fun trying on dresses at the mall with you the other day,” and I had no memory of the event, I would be LEGITIMATELY WORRIED.

Whatever, at least this mini-series is over.

SVH Sweet Valley Saga #2: The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story

28 Apr

wakefieldlegacy

As if the maternal family tree of the Wakefield twins wasn’t wacky (read: awful) enough, readers are treated to the paternal family tree in this one.  Blech.

Summary/Overview:

Theodore Wakefield, 1866

Theodore is the second son tothe Earl of (you guessed it) Wakefield, England.  When his older brother dies in a terrible horse accident, his father insists that Theodore take over his roles and marry his brother’s fiance.  Theodore refuses, and leaves home to board a ship to America. Onboard, he meets Alice Larsen, after he saves her from a near death by drowning.  The two are separated when they reach land, and Theodore joins up with a circus.

There, he meets a young half-Indian woman (this is seriously how she’s described the moment she appears on the page) named Dancing Wind.  Dancing Wind is something like 16, and Theodore is definitely in his mid-to-late 30s, so this is all kinds of super creepy.  The book glosses right over, that, though!  One night at the circus, Theodore meets a young blond girl named Jessamyn who is the spitting image of his long-lost love, Alice Larsen! He is distracted with thoughts of her all through the show.  Distraught, Dancing Wind attempts a dangerous move during her routine and falls from the air.  The net breaks, injuring her badly.  Theodore realizes he loves her, and they end up married in Nebraska.

Four years later, Dancing Wind gives birth to twins: Sarah and James, and then DIES.  Theodore continues to raise the twins by himself, eventually transporting them to California.

James and Sarah Wakefield, 1905

Now settled in Vista California and rich off the wine business Theodore started, James and Sarah are 16 and inhabit many of the same characteristics SVH readers are comfortable reading about when it comes to twins.  Sarah falls for one of her father’s employees, a boy in her class named Edward Brooke.  When she brings him to the Manor (this is what they call their estate, y’all) to formally introduce him to Theodore, though, she’s shocked when her father is kind of a douche to him.  He tells her that Edward isn’t good enough (read: rich enough) and she’d be better off with some dude named George.  Sarah decides to keep seeing Edward anyway.

When an influenza epidemic runs through the country, James dies.  Now that Sarah is all Theodore has left, she feels guilty about the fact that she’s been lying to him.  Doesn’t matter: Theodore reads her journal while she’s at school, discovers her secret, and tells her she can stop seeing Edward or she can leave.  So she leaves, and she and Edward escape to San Francisco.  OF COURSE THEY ARRIVE ON THE DAY OF AN EARTHQUAKE.  Trapped in their hotel room, the two perform their own marriage ceremony, declare it “legal enough,” and consummate the “marriage.”

After they are rescued, Edward goes back into the hotel to help save others, and, of course, dies.  Sarah returns home to her father, but their happy reunion is sullied when she realizes she’s pregnant.  Her father sends her away for the duration of the pregnancy.  After she gives birth to a healthy boy named Edward (Teddy), her father tells her he will return for her–and only her.  Sarah refuses and decides to live on her own with Teddy.  Afraid of causing a scandal or upsetting her son, she decides not to tell him he was conceived out of wedlock and pretends to be his aunt.  This will end well.

Ted, 1924

Ted is working as a waiter in a jazz club and tells his “aunt” that he doesn’t want to go to college.  She disagrees, and the two fight about it.  When she gets a letter with news that her father has died, Ted is confused, because he’s always been told his grandfather died years ago.  This is when the whole story comes tumbling out.

Confused, Ted ends up fleeing his house for college in Ohio.  He does well at school, and on a break one year, he goes home with his friend Harry Watson.  There, he meets Harry’s twin sisters, Samantha and Amanda.  This section is literally a retelling of what we already heard in the first saga.  Since it bored me then, I’m skipping it now.

After that whole fiasco, Ted travels west to discover his family’s roots.  He tracks down his grandmother’s tribe and it is there he meets the super blond Julia Marks, a reporter working a story about government corruption relating to the tribe.  The two fall in love despite the fact that he’s been burned before and is a bastard, and it isn’t long before they’re married and living in Washington.  They have a son together, named Robert.

Julia dies in the Hindenburg explosion (I’m not joking).

Robert, 1943

Robert joins the military at 16 after lying about his age.  He ends up working in communications and communicates with a POW who goes by the code name of Pacific Star.  They communicate for months before finally liberating the camp and meeting.  Pacific Star is Hannah Weiss, and the two end up married and settling in Sweet Valley, California.

Hannah gives birth to Ned.  I can’t be bothered to care.

Ned, late 1960s (way to fudge the numbers, SVH ghostwriter)

Ned and his cousin Rachel are total hippies, working to set the Man straight and fight the good fight.  At college, Rachel introduces Ned to her friend Becky, who seems like she sucks, but he sort of falls for her after she starts calling herself Rainbow.  The two date, and then Rachel finds out that Becky’s using Ned for help studying (?) so she can become a lawyer.  Whatever.  Her true colors finally come out after an arrest at a protest, and Ned breaks off their relationship.

His senior year, he rescues a blond woman who ends up being Alice Roberts.  Even though the two have a connection, Alice is set to marry a Patman.  Heartbroken, Ned mopes around until Alice shows up at his door, still wearing the wedding dress she was supposed to marry another man in.  Okie dokie.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Someone did a little research and actually got the date of the Great San Francisco Earthquake (4/18/1906) right.  Kudos.
  • Theodore’s father is either named George or Theodore, depending on whether or not you consult the family tree or the book’s first chapter.  OKAY.
  • There are some pretty big gaps in continuity here: Ned once told Steven that he named him after his friend who died in a car crash in college, but that doesn’t work here.  Also, at one point, Grandma Wakefield mentioned that Ned had a half-brother from her husband’s first marriage, but maybe she suffered a stroke? Because that doesn’t happen here at all.

Memorable Quotes:

  •  “When Dancing Wind approached him, she was surprised to see that he was in the grips of a very powerful emotion.” (47)
  • “‘I don’t get it,’ Ned went on. ‘You’d think the more well-off people are, the more generous they’d be.'” (290) ARE YOU A FUCKING IDIOT?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’ve been carrying this book around with me for something like two weeks, and I really only managed to skim it.  I don’t know why these Sagas are so hard for me.  I remember loving The Fowlers of Sweet Valley, so I guess we’ll see when I get to that one.  But these super long books about the lame Wakefields of the past?  I’d like to take a hard pass on them.

That being said, isn’t it weird that people die in every single one of these stories in horrifically tragic and yet oddly famous historical disasters?  Isn’t that super weird?  Like, we needed people to die in both the San Francisco earthquake AND the Hindenburg disaster?  Doesn’t that seem a bit much?

The only other thing I have to say about this one is how weird it is that Theodore would be so weird about Sarah’s pregnancy and desire to keep the child.  After being sent away by his own father, do we really believe that’s something he would do?  It seems incredibly out of character for him to banish the only family he has left after losing his other two relatives in tragic accidents (this isn’t even counting the time he lost his brother in a terrible horse accident, either).

Oh, the melodrama.

SVH Sweet Valley Saga #1: The Wakefields of Sweet Valley

2 Apr

wsv

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 generations…

Summary/Overview:

Summarizing this book is kind of a nightmare, but I’ll see what I can do.

Alice Larson, 1866

Fresh off (on) the boat from Sweden, 16-year-old Alice Larson meets handsome Theodore Wakefield and falls in love before the boat hits land.  He rescues her from near-drowning one night during a terrible gale.  The two are separated at immigration and never meet again.  Alice moves with her aunt and uncle to Minnesota, and eventually meets and marries a very nice man named George Johnson.  The two have three children: Steven, and identical twins Jessamyn and Elisabeth. Steven dies as a child of Scarlet Fever, but Jessamyn and Elisabeth are raised in Prairie Lakes, Minnesota.  Jessamyn is a wild tomboy who dreams of joining the circus, and Elisabeth is a mild-mannered good girl.  Hmm.  Alice still thinks about her true love Theodore and absolutely FREAKS OUT when Jessamyn mentions that a man called Theo W. is part of the circus.  The two never cross paths, though.

Jessamyn and Elisabeth Johnson, 1893

Sixteen years old and beautiful, the girls live a fairly nice life in Minnesota.  Both of them are crushing on Tom Wilkens (seriously?), but he chooses Elisabeth to kiss after winning a corn husking contest.  Then Jessamyn sneaks off in the middle of the night to join the circus as a bareback rider.

Elisabeth befriends Peter Blue Cloud, the man who taught Jessamyn about horses, and when his health fails, she hops a train in search of her sister, despite her parents protestations.  She finds Jessamyn, who agrees to return home the next day.  Elisabeth asks to ride Jessamyn’s horse, and gets thrown from it, promptly DYING.  Jesus Christ.

Jessamyn Johnson, 1900-1908

Now living in San Francisco and making her way as a single lady, Jessamyn brings all the boys to the yard.  She’s being courted by a man named Taylor Watson, who runs a car company.  He asks her to marry him, but she has commitment issues due to the death of her sister.  She sort of says yes, but then starts seeing Taylor’s friend and race car driver protege Bruce Farber.  She’s torn between the two men until the day of the San Francisco earthquake when Taylor rescues Bruce from a collapsing building and Jessamyn decides her loyalty has always been with him.  The two marry, move to Michigan, and she gives birth to a boy, Harry, and  two identical twin girls, Samantha and Amanda.

Samantha and Amanda Watson, 1920-1935

Coming of age during the roaring twenties, Samantha and Amanda could not be more different: Samantha wants to be a famous actress and Amanda wants to be a writer.  Hmm, again.  Amanda has a serious boyfriend named Geoffrey (seriously?) and isn’t interested when her brother Harry writes about his college roommate, Ted Wakefield (are you fucking kidding me).  But then she meets him and falls in love, despite the fact that Samantha is quite taken with him, too.  Despite her feelings for her boyfriend, she totally kisses Ted and they fall deeply in love, keeping their relationship a secret even after she breaks up with poor Geoffrey.

Much of their relationship is carried on through letters, which Samantha conveniently intercepts one day.  She FREAKS OUT and decides to sabotage the relationship in any way she can.  This includes intercepting all future letters, sabotaging her sister’s newspaper room at school so she misses Ted’s next visit, and then, when Ted still declines her advances, posing as Amanda in an attempt to frame Ted for selling illegal alcohol.  All of this is so convoluted and stupid it’s hardly worth recapping.

TL;DR: Ted gets arrested and released after Amanda finds out what’s happened and begs the police for mercy.  Ted’s already left town, claiming heartbreak that his girlfriend would set him up like that (this dude is an idiot).  Amanda’s not an idiot, I guess, because she figures out that it was all Samantha’s doing, and she gets into a huge fight with her, leading to complete silence between the two.

Samantha leaves for Hollywood and promptly gets married and pregnant by a man named Jack Lewis.  When the doctor calls to tell the Watsons that Samantha might not survive the delivery of her baby, Amanda rushes to be by her side.  She arrives just in time to meet perfect little Marjorie and then watch her sister perish.  Although she promised her dying sister that she would help raise the little girl, she doesn’t end up doing such a great job: when Jack gets a job overseas in France, Amanda declines tagging along, citing her job as a teacher at Sweet Valley High as more important.  Okay.

Marjorie Lewis, 1940-1949

Despite the fact that it’s wartime in France, Jack doesn’t send Marjorie home to Sweet Valley.  When he finally does attempt to ship her back to the states, it’s too late, as he’s been taken by the Nazis and Marjorie is taken into hiding by a family friend who is also hiding a Jewish girl named Sophy.  The two live in hiding for a year, when Sophy’s brother Jacques comes to them and asks Marjorie to send coded messages for the resistance.  She works for the resistance fighters bravely and falls in love with Jacques along the way.  Ah, romance.

When she learns that Sophy has been captured, she and Jacques work out a plan to pretend to swap Marjorie for Sophy, since they believe Marjorie has more value to the soldiers as someone with insider knowledge of the resistance fighters.  At the train station, they get Sophy on the train headed to Spain with faked papers, but before the rest of them can get on the train, all hell breaks loose and Marjorie loses sight of Jacques and his friend Pierre.  It looks as though Jacques is killed in the shooting melee that ensues, but Marjorie makes it into the compartment with Sophy.

Once on board, Marjorie and Sophy cry over Jacques.  Then Marjorie tells her that she doesn’t have papers and plans to jump off the train before it gets to Spain.  INSTEAD, Sophy gives her her papers and tells her to go home, choosing instead to stay and fight for the resistance.  Um, okay.  Marjorie goes home to Sweet Valley and eventually marries a man named Charles Robertson (and her dad is totally still alive and walks her down the aisle).

Alice Robertson, 1962-1969

Alice goes off to college and finds herself while she draws pictures and deals with the advances of rich, arrogant Hank Patman.  After Hank saves the day at a sit-in protest by helicopter dropping food to the student protesters, Alice decides to finally go out with him.  See? You can wear people down until they’ll date you.

At any rate, the two date for a while, become fully enmeshed in the hippie culture, and eventually get engaged.  But I guess Alice can’t keep Hank’s eyes from straying, because they fight at a beach party after she catches him chatting up another woman.  Angry, she dives into the water and nearly drowns, only to be saved by Ned Wakefield.  She’s startled by how she feels as though she has met him before.  Whatever, they have a connection, but she is marrying Hank Patman and that is that.

When she overhears Hank talking about how Alice’s friends are a bunch of worthless hippies, she decides she can’t go through with the wedding and calls it off moments before it happens.  She looks up Ned’s address in a phone book and the rest is history.  I guess.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Pi Iota Gamma is the name of a frat at Alice’s university.  I don’t know why I think this is so funny.
  • All the identical twins in this line of women also have identical moles on their left shoulder, just like LIZ!
  • Pop culture references: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix
  • One of Amanda’s students at SVH is named Walter Egbert, and he is–you guessed it–a jokester!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessamyn looked up at her friend. His back was as straight as a boy’s, and he led Smoke Signal with a sure step.  True, the deep lines in his face made it quite impossible to imagine him as ever having been young.  But Jessamyn thought he was like a great, ancient tree that had been growing almost forever–and would always be there for her.” (45) Jesus Christ.
  • “‘Instant wealth,’ Samantha said. ‘Sounds like a plot for a motion picture.'” (142)
  • “I never thought I’d see the day when these squares joined the revolution.” (299)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This entire book is a moron.

First of all, the title doesn’t make sense, because these are Alice Robertson’s female ancestors.  None of them are named Wakefield until she marries the dude named Wakefield, no matter how close they come to it in generations before.  And speaking of that–no one else thought it was fucking stupid that ALL these women kept running into these men with the surname Wakefield who all descended from the same magnificent man?  Seriously?  What is the message here?  Past lives are real?  True love knows no time limit?  Are we really to believe that Alice and Ned’s marriage was MEANT TO BE from the time their ancestors arrived by boat?

Setting aside the historical inaccuracies and weird white-washing of historical events, this book is still dumb.  The slang terms clunkily inserted into the dialogue alone make it cringe-worthy on nearly every page, but the stories set in the 1920s and 1960s are by far the worst.

If you start to think about the timeline for Alice Robertson too much, you realize that it doesn’t make sense.  If the original SVH novels began their publishing run in 1983 when Jessica and Elizabeth were 16, then Alice had to have given birth to them in 1966-1967.  That means that by the time she meets “Ned” after her engagement to Hank, she’d already have had Steven and the twins.  Which is probably why the book fudges the numbers a little bit with Alice: her last few chapters just say “Sometime in the late 1960s.”  LIKE THEY HAD ALREADY GIVEN UP TRYING TO MAKE THE TIMEFRAME WORK.

I mean, I understand that when you have a series that runs for over a decade (seriously, think about that for a minute) and the characters remain the same age the entire time, you run into serious problems with consistency.  But it still really bothers me, much more than it should.