Tag Archives: maria santelli

SVH Super Thriller #10: A Killer on Board

9 Feb

killerboard

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1-2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

To celebrate the capture of John Marin and the fact that all the Wakefields are unfortunately still alive and kicking, Ned decides to take Alice and the girls (but not you, Steven) on a family vacation to Catalina Island.  The girls get Maria Santelli to cover their waitressing shifts for a week, because that’s how this shit works, and they head off towards a beach vacation at a fancy resort.  All of them are still quite tense about what has just happened with Marin, but they all try hard to put the past behind them.

Meanwhile, Marin is in prison for about five seconds before he convinces a young prison guard named LeighAnn LaShay that he’s in love with her.  He fakes sick, takes her hostage, kills another guard, and kidnaps LaShay in her own car, finally disposing of the car in the desert.  He leaves LeighAnn bound and gagged in her car.  Then he manages to make it back to Sweet Valley, convinces an associate named Griffin Pierce at Ned’s office that he’s with the phone company, and hacks into Ned’s voicemail to determine where the family is staying.  Once on the island, he sweet talks his way into a suite despite the hotel being booked solid and then gleans information about what rooms the Wakefields are staying in.

In a bizarrely quick plot point, Ned manages to figure out that Marin might not be where he’s supposed to be.  A quick call into the Sweet Valley Police tells him what he feared: Marin’s escaped and on the hunt.  He tells the detective not to bother calling the Coast Guard, because Marin is already on the island.  He knows because Marin’s using LaShay as an alias. Dun dun DUN.

Jessica and Liz enjoy a day of horseback riding with a guide-led group.  They grow tired of walking their horses and convince the guide to let them go off on their own.  Of course they get lost, and then they end up trapped next to a cliff.  Jessica’s horse starts to go over and panic just as John Marin meets up with them on his own horse.  Liz tries to distract him while Jessica gets her footing, and Jessica manages to leap into the air onto Liz’s horse.  They run off, Marin in hot pursuit.  It rains and they continue to pound away, finally getting free of his sights.  They run into Ned, who has been searching for them, and return to the hotel for a tearful reunion with Alice.

Instead of sitting and waiting with the police, Ned insists that he get his family off the island immediately.  The hotel acquiesces and gets him a boat from a local woman.  He sails his family towards the California shore, but Marin is already onto him and steals a motor boat after knocking the owner unconscious.  He approaches the boat and makes it look as though his craft is in danger.  Ned takes a raft to investigate while Alice calls “the coastguard” which is really just Marin.  Then he jumps off the boat and heads for the Wakefields while Ned is still trying to help whoever is on the motorboat.  Is this book over yet? Jesus.

Marin climbs on board and knocks Alice unconscious before tying up the three of them.  He pours gasoline all over the boat while taunting him, then lights a match.  The boat goes up in flames, and it seems all is lost, but Ned has managed to get the motorboat working and jumps onboard in the nick of time.  He wrestles with Marin before helping the women get free, and then orders them off the boat onto a waiting dinghy.  He goes back for Marin, and the twins and Alice row away from the boat before it explodes.  Ned arrives emptyhanded, saying that Marin is dead.  The group rows towards shore.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The hotel Ned has booked the family at is called Hotel Orizaba
  • The horse Jessica rides is named Black Beauty, and Liz’s horse is named Fred.
  • John Marin makes a Doublemint Gum commerical joke, which is HILARIOUS because Brittany and Cynthia Daniel, who played the twins in the SVH TV series, were in one of those very same commercials.  SEE? HILARIOUS.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But really, Liz, we’re perfectly safe now. The odds of running into another super-sexy guy who’s also a serial killer are practically nonexistent.  There just aren’t that many murderers out there, and we already found one this summer. So, statistically, there’s no danger anymore.” (18)
  • “Do you rehearse your lame comments ahead of time,” Elizabeth asked, “or do you improvise on the spot?” (114)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Where to even start?  Let’s start with the “maximum security” prison Marin breaks out of, and the fact that they had one 23-year-old girl on guard duty.  Then let’s deal with the fact that Marin was able to basically walk out of the prison with her as a hostage.  No one stopped them.  It makes no sense.  NONE OF IT DOES.

But probably my biggest beef with this book is the completely insane response of Ned Wakefield to take his family on a boat in the middle of the night in the midst of a storm instead of waiting it out at the hotel, surrounding by other people.  Why wouldn’t he wait with the police for Marin to return to the hotel?  Why did he think it was safer to travel alone in the water in the dark? HOW?  HOW IS THIS SAFER?

TERRIBLE.

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SVH #112: Jessica Quits the Squad

13 Aug

jessica quits

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

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

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

SVH #99: Beware the Baby-Sitter

11 Jun

bewarethebabysitter

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is still dating James, who continues to spy on her and report back to Margo, who is calling herself Mandy.  She and James spend nearly all their free time together, and she nearly confides her guilt over Sam’s death to him several times.  James starts to feel guilty about feeding Margo every detail about Jessica.  When Margo instructs him to give Jessica a scarf as a gift in hopes she’ll wear it to the costume party, he obliges.

The night of the party, Jessica and Elizabeth get ready in stony silence.  They see each other in full costume and realize that they both decided to go as Cinderella with their respective Prince Charmings.  Jessica’s dress is only a shade lighter than Elizabeth’s and she chose to wear some pearl earrings Sam gave her.  They go to the party separately.

Elizabeth is determined to get on with her life, even if it means Todd is no longer in the picture.  She feels a bit of hope when Jessica offers her a ride home one day after school.  The two talk, a little.  Things look up for them until Liz discovers the letter Todd wrote her crumpled in a pile on Jessica’s floor. She screams at Jess and then promptly goes to make up with Todd.

Margo creates yet another persona for herself.  This time, she goes by the name Marla Field and applies to be a helper in a day care center.  Margo hates kids, so I don’t understand why she keeps putting herself in situations where she has to be around them, but whatever. She forges her reference letters and lies when the manager tells her she’s going to call them to confirm.  She gets hired on the spot, because everyone in this book is an idiot.  At any rate, she pumps the little kids for information about the Wakefields, and because the Wakefields are like, the most amazing family in the history of the world, these kids are full of trivia about them.  IT’S SO WEIRD.

Margo goes to the dance dressed as Jessica and creeps on Todd when Elizabeth leaves him to get punch.  He thinks she’s Jessica but dances with her anyway.  Then she pretends to be Jessica when she talks to Lila and some other people from SVH.  When she notices that Josh Smith has followed her all the way to Sweet Valley, she runs away.  He ends up tackling Jessica in the garden, and then realizes that there are two other girls who look exactly like Margo.

The next day, Margo decides it’s time to put the final part of her plan in motion.  She sends a letter to Ned Wakefield from a “law firm” up the coast interested in hiring him as a consultant.  The idea is she’ll get the Wakefield parents away for a couple days so she can kill one of the twins and take her place.  Um, okay.

Winston Egbert’s parents are out of town for a long weekend and he has lots of plans for the new found freedom.  But then a neighbor drops off her baby with some weird story about an emergency after a coup in another country, and she promises she’ll be back for Daisy the next day.  Of course, she doesn’t come back when she says she will, and Winston struggles with what to do with Daisy.  Maria helps him, and then she invites her friends over to help with the baby.  Amy and Winston bet each other that they can put a diaper on Daisy better than anyone.  Winston brings the baby to school in a duffel bag because he’s an idiot and hasn’t asked for help yet or called Child Protective Services.  He takes Daisy to the costume party and no one thinks this is weird.

Winston goes to the Little Darlings daycare center for some advice.  He talks to Margo, who goes off on a weird tangent about how babies sometimes get abandoned by bad parents, then offers to babysit for him.  She actually goes so far as to show up at his house and offers to take Daisy to child protective services.  He says no to that but agrees to let her babysit, despite the fact that he never told her his address and doesn’t know her name.

Margo proceeds to attempt to smother the baby before Elizabeth shows up.  When she sees Elizabeth, she flees.  The day after the party, Winston decides it’s time to surrender the baby and brings her to the daycare.  He leaves her with Margo, still not having gotten her name, and goes home to find Daisy’s parents waiting in the driveway. They rush back to the daycare center and rescue Daisy from certain death.  WHATEVER.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Costumes at Olivia’s party: Enid as Amelia Earhart, Amy as a nun (she lost the bet to Winston), Steven and Billie as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Olivia and Harry as Leonardo DaVinci and Mona Lisa, Robin Wilson as a mime, and Annie Whitman as a gypsy.
  • When James goes to meet Margo/Mandy at Kelly’s for a status report, the novel repeatedly refers to her as “Margo” even though James refers to her as “Mandy” and it is weird as hell.
  • Margo’s drink of choice is Wild Turkey

Memorable Quotes:

  • James realized his heart was pounding. This girl is beginning to seem more and more flipped out. He shook his head in disgust.” (25)
  • “Elizabeth decided that Jessica must be feeling guilty about having dated Todd a few times since the night of the accident.” (41)
  • “‘I admit it,’ Winston said. ‘I’m hysterial. I’m manic. I’m having hyper-conniption fits. My little red choo-choo has gone chugging around the bend. I’m a basket case. I’m–” (140)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Setting aside the fact that this entire plot is completely STUPID, can we talk about the fact that the inclusion of poor baby Daisy and poor Winston Egbert makes absolutely no sense? All this plot does is further convolute the narrative and give the characters of Sweet Valley further opportunities to prove how clueless, oblivious, and idiotic they are.  There is no way that a total stranger would leave her kid with a 16-year-old so she can fly to Central America to deliver birth certificate papers to her trapped husband during a governmental coup.  There just isn’t.  ON TOP OF THAT, the readers are supposed to believe that she thinks she can make this round-trip in a day.  She leaves Daisy with enough milk for like five minutes.  UGH.  That baby should be taken away, because this woman is THE LITERAL WORST.

But furthermore, what doesn’t make sense is that Winston would leave the baby not once but twice with Margo, despite the fact that he finds her creepy and unsettling (this is mentioned several times).  If you’re going to go to the trouble to surrender the baby to CPS, why not just go to CPS? Oh, because we need more drama and suspense in this novel?  Oh, okay.  DUMB.

Finally, what does Margo have to possibly gain by killing the baby at this point?  I know she got the job under a fake name and wearing a wig, but the center is in Sweet Valley.  Like, can you control your homicidal tendencies even a little bit?  You want to stay in this town.  You will get caught if you keep this shit up.  Jesus.

SVH #84: The Stolen Diary

23 Apr

stolendiary

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Todd tells Liz he’s afraid they’re getting too serious or maybe too comfortable with each other and thinks they should take a break.  Liz is stunned but agrees to it.  She’s in total denial about the fact that he’s clearly interested in another girl named Peggy Abbot, but when everyone starts talking about them and Liz sees them flirting out and about, she realizes it must be true.

So she proceeds to agonize about it for 100 pages.  She writes in her journal, ignores Enid’s problems, and is generally the saddest sack around.  When Kris Lynch, a senior at SVH, asks her to the dance, she turns him down and then reconsiders when she realizes it might be a way to attract Todd’s attention.  This will end well.

It’s clear that Kris is super into Liz, but she’s not interested in him at all.  She feels bad about how excited he was for the dance and agrees to a second date.  It isn’t long before people are referring to him as her boyfriend, even though they have never kissed.  Liz knows she needs to tell Kris she’s not interested, and she decides that the perfect place to do that is at Maria Santelli’s party.  Because nothing says “gentle letdown” like a crowded party, right?

Of course, it’s too noisy at the party, and when Liz tries to pull Kris into a quiet room to break it off, they run into Todd and Peggy, who look like they’re about to make out.  Liz runs out the room and ends up making out with Kris on a stairwell before pushing him away and asking to go home.  He goes totally  nuts on her in the car when she tells him she’s not interested.  After yelling and screaming at her, he pulls over when she asks, but then grabs at her as she gets out of the car.  This is scarily close to sexual assault, but that’s never mentioned.  Liz drops her bag in his car and struggles to put everything back.

The next day at school, Liz can’t find her journal but is distracted when Kris comes by with a white rose for her as a peace offering.  Then the rumors about what happened between them start up.  Kris is claiming they had a “wild night” at Miller’s Point.  Todd approaches Liz and tells her he was wrong, and they get back together.  But then Kris tells him he knows all about the kinds of fights Todd and Liz have had, and Todd blows off their reunion dinner.  Kris does the same thing to Enid, who then gets super pissed at Liz.

Jessica figures out that there’s no way Liz would have told Kris all this stuff about the people she loves, and when she confronts him about it, she isn’t even ruffled when he pulls out details about her.  It just fuels her desire to get to the bottom of whatever has happened.  So she figures out that he must have swiped Liz’s diary–and once again, she confronts him and blackmails him into telling the truth.  Then she makes Todd and Enid meet with Kris, who comes clean with them.  All is well in the world.

The B-Plot is Enid trying to decide if she wants to get back together with Hugh Grayson.  I guess things didn’t work out with Jeffrey?  There are a few missed connections, a case of jumping to conclusions, and finally a last-minute reconciliation.  I guess, good for them?  Whatever, I hate Enid.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Kris picks Liz up for the dance in a pink Cadillac
  • Kris normally drives a custom bright green Volkswagen Beetle
  • The twins are into green: Jess wears a bright green sundress, Liz wears a seafoam green dress

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica groaned dramatically. ‘I can’t believe we share the same genes,’ she said. ‘What I know about boys would fill a book, but what you know wouldn’t fill a postcard.'” (6)
  • “It was nice to know that she was pretty and popular, but it would be even nicer to know that the boy she thought was special felt the same way about her.” (55)
  • “‘It’s amazing, isn’t it?’ asked Jessica as Elizabeth disappeared back up the stairs. ‘You wouldn’t think someone like Elizabeth had anything to put in a journal. “Dear Diary, Today I went to school. I got another A. I wrote another articles for The Oracle. I went home and did my homework.”‘” (93)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a few things that really bothered me about this one, the first of which is how desperate Enid and Elizabeth both are.  A common theme in these books is that the girls are defined by their relationships with boys, and that’s really heavily played up here.  Enid keeps joking about joining a convent because she can’t make it work with Hugh, and I guess I don’t really understand how this is at all relative to other teens.  Girl, you are sixteen years old, and you are thirsty as hell.  Give it a rest.

Liz, too, is guilty of this, thinking only of how to get Todd back and how lost she feels without him.  She uses Kris throughout the book in order to make Todd jealous or get his attention, and even though she tries to explain herself the night of Maria’s party, it’s not completely surprising that Kris doesn’t handle it well.  I mean, Liz has been using him, and he’s right about that part, at least.

The part that is surprising is how much Kris FREAKS OUT about it.  They’ve had two dates, and he seems to think they are destined for marriage.  He gets a little rough with her, too, which I didn’t like.  There’s no mention of this again, and I fear that normalizes it.  Then, when he spreads all the rumors about Liz, his crazy gets amped up.  But when Jessica confronts him about it, he’s painted as sympathetic again.  These characters are not complicated enough for this sort of thing to work.  Kris is either a sociopath or he’s not.  He can’t be both.  Ugh.

SVH #67: The Parent Plot

3 Mar

parentplot

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Ned and Alice are still separated, and the twins have very different ideas of what to do about that.  Both girls are working on their father’s bizarre campaign for mayor, and while doing so, they are also meddling in both their parents’ lives.  Jessica wants Ned and Alice to move on and start dating other people, and Elizabeth desperately wants them to get back together.

Elizabeth tries to set up schemes in which Ned and Alice are forced to interact.  She pretends to have a bad connection on the phone with Ned so he’ll call her back, and then has Alice answer.  Then, when that doesn’t work, she has Alice come along to the mall when she knows Ned is giving a political speech (why at the mall, though?).  That backfires, too.

Meanwhile, Jessica has decided that Ned should date his associate Amanda Mason.  But she’s engaged, which bums Jessica out.  Then she decides that Alice should date Mr. Collins, and arranges a parent-teacher conference between the two.  She’s thrilled when Mr. Collins asks Alice out to dinner at Chez Sam, but horrified when she learns that Ned is taking her and Elizabeth there that same night. OF COURSE they run into each other at the restaurant.  To their credit, Ned and Alice handle it really well, and actually the five of them have dinner together.  Then Alice and Mr. Collins go to a movie, and Ned is sad and drives the twins home.

That same night, Maria and Winston are out for a drive when she asks him to swing by the campaign office (where she’s been helping out) so she can pick up a textbook she left there.  When she’s inside the office, she overhears a phone conversation between Ned’s advisor, Mr. Knapp and some real estate developer.  It makes it sound like they framed Mr. Santelli and are trying to control Ned’s political speeches in an attempt to control him once in office.  This entire plot is so convoluted it hardly matters.  Anyway, she brings this information to Liz and one of the other volunteers.

They decide the only way to prove that Mr. Knapp is involved in shady business is to break into his office.  So Liz distracts a building security guard while Maria and this other guy, whose name I’ve already forgotten, go through Knapp’s office.  Liz runs upstairs to warn them that Knapp is on his way up, and the three hide in his closet, which is perfect, because they overhear another conversation which basically confirms that Knapp is a douchebag, framed Peter Santelli, and is working to control Ned.  They also see him hide a folder, which they promptly photocopy once he leaves.

Liz brings this information to Ned, who is like, “You are dumb.  This is not admissible in court, and what Maria heard is hearsay, so that’s out, too,” which I guess means that the ghostwriter of this one watches as many legal procedurals as I do.  But, whatever. I guess he gives the evidence to a detective, and then he makes a noble speech about corruption, pulls out of the race, and Mr. Knapp is arrested at that same rally.  Mr. Santelli, name newly cleared, steps back in as candidate and wins the election! Hooray!

Oh, and Alice and Ned get back together.  The fact that I forgot to mention that except as an afterthought tells you exactly how invested I am in that “love” story.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Elizabeth knows the name of the newspaper delivery man, and it is Tom.  I find this super creepy.
  • Awkwardly shoe-horned in literary parallel: Jessica’s English class is discussing Madame Bovary
  • Ramon’s cats are named Estrella and Maximillian
  • At Chez Sam, Elizabeth orders orange chicken, Jessica gets lobster and salad, and Ned has Caesar salad with

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Elizabeth went to her desk, deep in thought. Between worrying about her parents, trying to get her father elected, and wondering who was behind the Santelli scandal, she had quite a lot on her mind these days.” (8) [blogger’s note: don’t you ever think about normal things, like boys and carbohydrates and friend drama? JESUS CHRIST, LIZ]
  • “Her whole life was reduced to one concern: her parents.” (51)
  • “‘You know, that’s very interesting,’ Ramon said. ‘I really like being single, too. I can do what I want, go where I want. I know it sounds selfish, but I like not having to check in with anyone about what I’m doing. It’s just me and my cats.'” (98)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess my biggest issue here is not how completely sociopathic Jessica is in her quest to get her parents dating other people when it’s not even clear if they’re legally separated so much as it is the specific way the political aspects of this novel are handled.  I don’t expect much nuance (or any, really) from a Sweet Valley novel, but is it too much to ask for the plot to actually make sense?

This was glossed over in the recap because I try to keep them from being overly long, but the basic idea behind Knapp’s framing Peter Santelli was that Santelli didn’t want to bend to Knapp’s every wish.  Obviously, putting money in Santelli’s account to make it look like a bribe is illegal, and I’m not refuting that.  But if there was a bank receipt for it on Knapp’s end, there had to be one on the bank’s end, too, right?  This entire paragraph is a moron.  Why was there no “evidence” to convict or exonerate Santelli a few books back?

Setting aside that, Knapp’s entire purpose is sort of murky.  He and some other guy want to develop some land right on the oceanfront, and they believe that getting Ned to speak exclusively about the economic side of Sweet Valley is the way to see that through?  None of it makes any sense (this is me suspending disbelief over the fact that this entire election seems to have been run in about two months), especially when you consider that they could have done back-door dealings with members of the city council instead of trying to put a sock puppet in the mayor’s office.  Of course, this is giving the story too much credit: it might simply be that the publisher and ghostwriter wanted to stay away from anything resembling actual politics in this book.  (Though I have a sneaking suspicion that Ned is a democrat, based on his concerns about clean water and air and the homeless population.)

Whatever.  We’re done with this entire election and the stupid Wakefield separation.  Onto other boring things!

SVH #34: Forbidden Love

29 Sep

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

So basically what we have here is a modern day Romeo and Juliet, or at least, that’s what the author wants us to think.  Maria Santelli and Michael Harris are dating, but the whole thing has to be kept very hush hush, because their families are feuding as a result of some business deal that went bad.  Maria and Michael date in secret and then, naturally get engaged, because what 16-year-old doesn’t want to get married like, immediately?  Elizabeth thinks they’re making a huge mistake, Jessica thinks it’s super way totally romantic, and even though it’s supposed to be this HUGE secret, the entire school seems to know about it and Maria is showing off her engagement ring at cheerleading practice.

Coincidentally (or not), the teens are all taking part in a special project for social studies (as an ACTUAL social studies teacher, I find this particular project dubious at best) that pairs them up into pretend marriages.  The duos will be given jobs and incomes and must negotiate budgets for their new households.  Jessica is with Winston, Liz is with Bruce, and Maria is with Michael.  How completely hetero-normative, SVH.  This is obviously going to end well.

Because Maria is apparently a really ambitious girl, she’s managing Winston’s campaign to be the student council representative for the PTA.  This is such an in-demand position that there’s a campaign?  One probably shouldn’t look too closely at this, as it seems to be just a plot device to further the problems in Michael and Maria’s relationship.  Once they’re engaged, Michael seems to be demanding more and more of Maria’s time.  One might even go so far as to say that he’s being controlling.  He wants her to stop helping Winston all together so that she can go shopping with him and attend every single one of his tennis matches.  Maria is conflicted about all this, because she really likes helping Winston, but Michael doesn’t like the way Winston looks at her.

It’s not just that Michael’s a control freak, though.  He’s just an all-around douche bag, as Maria finds out through the marriage project.  They don’t seem to agree on anything having to do with their relationship, and she starts to really question whether or not they should even be together, let alone dating.  They fight some more.

The climax comes at the surprise engagement party thrown for the couple at Lila Fowler’s house.  When Michael sees Maria dancing with Winston, he makes an announcement that he’s also going to run for student council PTA representative, and Maria’s going to help him.  Winston runs away, hurt.  Michael and Maria fight and break up.  Plot contrivance, plot contrivance…the Santellis and the Harrises find out about the engagement and rush to the party, demanding an explanation, and then the two fathers make up.  Maria finds Winston and explains what has happened, and they kiss.  Winston wins the student council position.  All is right in the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I can’t,’ she admitted. A sudden pang seemed to strike her. ‘You don’t think I’ll end up an old maid, do you?’ she asked. ‘So far I haven’t been very good at long-term relationships.  You’re the one who’s good at that.'” (38-39)
  • “‘Why not?’ Jessica asked gaily, cutting herself a piece of cake.  ‘I’m sure it was just a little spat,’ she added.  ‘It happens on my favorite soap opera all the time.  No engagement counts unless it’s been broken at least twice.'” (104)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Maria’s engagement ring is a small round diamond with a slender gold band.
  • Lila went heavy on the desserts at the engagement party.  Jessica and Liz both have wedding cake and then split a strawberry tart.  (This is me, totally jealous.)
  • Michael drives a trans-am, which makes him a douche truck automatically.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The entire plot is dubious at best.  The idea of two sixteen-year-old kids getting engaged for no apparent reason, even in the mid-eighties, is completely ridiculous.  There’s nary a mention of religion or sex, which are two powerful motivators for early marriage.  The two of them simply get engaged because…they love each other?  I love donuts, but you don’t see me getting engaged to one.

I also have a bone to pick with the social studies project that the kids participate in.  These types of projects seem to happen a lot in books and on TV shows, but do they ever actually happen in real life?  Even if they do, wouldn’t they be better-suited to a home economics class (I realize that these classes are now referred to as FACS–Family and Consumer Science–but give me a break, people, it is what it is) where these types of subjects are actually studied?  What self-respecting social studies teacher would agree to such a terrible project?  Also, all of the pairs were boy-girl, which like I mentioned before, is totally hetero-normative, but also unrealistic–there were gay couples in the 80s for sure, but there were also a lot of single parents.  Why wasn’t that explored in this terrible plot device.

Ugh.  I’m just glad this one is over.  It’s hard to recap the books with these ridiculous tertiary characters when I hardly even care about the main characters, let alone some sad sack who’ll probably never get mentioned again.