Tag Archives: Mr. Collins: a little inappropriate

SVH #117: Jessica the Genius

11 Feb

jessicagenius

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s SAT season at SVH, and everyone (except Jessica, maybe) is all worked up about getting the scores they want or need to get into the colleges of their choice.  Liz has it in her head that she needs a perfect 1600, while Todd’s feeling the pressure from scouting colleges to score a 1200.  That seems unlikely, “Gee whiz” Boy, but whatever.  Everyone continues obsessing over the test after they’ve taken it at Lila’s Post-SAT Bash that night.  Jessica is the only one who is truly unconcerned with the outcome.

Four weeks later, the envelope arrive.  Jessica opens hers, realizes she’s scored incredibly well, and immediately worries that people will think she’s a geek or a nerd if they find out.  Liz opens hers and has a complete meltdown because her scores are so low and Jessica’s are so high.  Jessica continues to seem nonchalant about all of it and goes shopping with Lila, still trying to keep her scores a secret.  She goes out with Ken that night and he prattles on about his modest scores, and then tells her it’s okay she’s not smart because she’s so beautiful.  Jessica tries to tell him her scores were high, but he laughs it off.

The next morning at school, there’s a banner celebrating the school’s two highest SAT scores: Jessica and Winston.  The secret is out, and Chrome Dome holds an assembly to congratulate the two.  Elizabeth is despondent, and tries to seek solace in Todd, but he’s so pleased with his offer(?) from University of Michigan that he doesn’t even hear her.  Meanwhile, Jessica starts to get fed up with everyone’s surprise that she could be so pretty and so “smart,” so she starts actually trying in some of her classes.  All of this comes to a screeching halt when Chrome Dome calls her to his office and tells her the school board is concerned she cheated and has asked her to sit the test again.  Jessica is understandably enraged about this.

Liz tries to quit the Oracle because she thinks she’s too stupid to live (she’s right) and Mr. Collins talks her out of it, saying she’s the best writer he’s seen in 12 years of teaching (he’s wrong).  He tells her that her scores are only part of her entire academic record and won’t matter that much to colleges.  When she tries to get reassurance from Todd, he brushes her off because he’s obsessed with the interest he’s getting from schools all over the country.  Liz cries a lot, then becomes crazy angry when Enid tells her the rumor is that Jessica cheated.  She blows up at Jess and the two say awful things to one another.  Heather boots Jess from the cheerleading squad, because she’s a caricature of a human being.

At home, Ma and Pa Wakefield have talked to Chrome Dome and insist Jessica take the test again, even though they believe her.  Ned offers the girls an incentive of a few days off school to tour SVU as a reward.  Then he gently advises Liz to try taking the test again, and she agrees.  The girls go out with their respective dudes, and things do not go well at Miller’s Point.  Ken tells Jess it’s okay to tell him the truth about cheating, and she jumps out of his car.  Todd goes on and on about his prospects, and Liz boots him from the car.  Then she and Jess go get ice cream and apologize to one another.

This time, the twins totally reverse their approaches to the test.  Jessica studies like a madwoman, even going so far as to enlist the help of Winston one night.  She decides to stay up cramming the night before the exam, while Liz goes shopping, tanning, and to the movies.  Unsurprisingly, the two basically switch scores when they’re released weeks later.  Chrome Dome tells Jessica she’s suspended from school until further notice, despite Ned’s objections.  Despondent, Liz decides that a grave injustice has been executed and decides to right it by holding a trial at the school.  She will act as Jessica’s defense attorney.

At the big game against Palisades High, Todd is on fire until he isn’t.  He gets injured and loses out on some college scouts.  We are supposed to care, but it doesn’t seem as though anyone else at SVH does, either.  Liz finally goes to visit him and his sad broken leg.  They make up.  Ken and Jessica also make up.

The trial is held at SVH.  The student population is split 50-50 on Jessica’s innocence or guilt.  Liz defends Jessica beautifully, and Chrome Dome flounders a lot.  The jury returns a verdict of not guilty and Jessica is reinstated in school along with her original SAT scores.  All is well.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lots of outfit descriptions in this one, but my favorite is Dana’s: a green tunic with a black leather belt, purple tights, and black high-heeled boots.
  • Enid scored 670 verbal and 650 math. Jessica scored 760 verbal and 750 math. Liz got 490 verbal and 480 math.
  • According to Lila, her father went to Yale.  Did we know this already?
  • According to Ken, SVU requires students to score over 500 in each category to gain acceptance.
  • Mr. Collins is having his class read the play Inherit the Wind, about the infamous Scopes trial.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Todd placed his hands comfortably behind his head. “I’ve had a lot more successes in general than Winston.” (46)
  • Maybe she shouldn’t even be reading books–maybe she should be in the garage, learning to weld. (62) [You’re the fucking worst, Liz.]
  • “Maybe I was even a little jealous. It’s hard to have a girlfriend who’s so intelligent.” (143)
  • “I could start writing that now. It’s my opinion that people shouldn’t be judged unfairly by surface appearances,” Elizabeth declared. (166)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Firstly, can we talk about Liz’s insane desire or determination to get a perfect score on the SAT?  Does she realize how rare that is?  Liz is supposed to be the “smart” twin, right?  Does she really think that one test is going to determine her entire future?  I understand that wanting a good score on the SAT is important for getting into a good college or qualifying for NHS (right?), but to put the pressure on herself that she would get a perfect score?  That means answering every single question CORRECTLY.  Because if I recall, the SAT actually penalizes students for incorrect answers more harshly than if they left the question blank.  CALM DOWN, LIZ.

But her most egregious behavior comes in the form of her accusations towards Jessica about cheating.  She can’t conceptualize the idea that Jessica might outperform her on something she cares so much about, so once the rumors start, Liz believes them immediately, even though there’s no proof whatsoever.  When show blows up at Jessica, I actually cringed because Liz is so far out of line.  I understand the jealousy that can come from intense competition over something like arbitrary test scores, but Liz’s behavior here is so over-the-top that it’s impossible to feel badly for her.  She’s the fucking WORST, you guys.  The snobbiest, most pseudo-intellectual, self-righteous worst.

What is also weird is that there’s no mention of taking the SATs over again until halfway through the book.  Even Mr. Collins doesn’t mention it, which feels completely bizarre, given that he works in education and all.   Also, colleges don’t automatically get your scores unless you want them to.  So this insane panic over colleges knowing immediately is super, super weird.

 

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 #39: Secret Admirer

9 Oct

Estimated Time Elapsed: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Lynn Henry comes up with a great feature for the Oracle: personal ads that the students can submit and respond to.  Penny Ayala, Oracle editor, puts her in charge of organizing it, and Lynne devises a system where students are assigned a number so that it remains mostly confidential.  Elizabeth and Enid convince Penny, who seems to be terminally single, to submit a personal ad.  She comes up with a surprisingly funny ad, and it isn’t long before she gets a response from “Jamie.”  The two correspond for a while and eventually plan a meet-up at the mall.

Penny doesn’t know that Kirk Anderson and his friends have been writing the letters to her as a joke.  Neil Freemount has been penning them, only he’s actually developed feelings for her and feels really bad about the joke.  When Penny’s stood up at the mall, he writes her one more letter and asks her to meet him at the Dairi Burger.  He runs into Kirk there, but he stands up to him and Kirk backs off.  Neil confesses everything to Penny, who is hurt at first but accepts his apology.  The two totally hit it off.

Liz figures out what Kirk’s been up to and decides to get even by setting him up with her “cousin” Erica Hall (a supermodel).  He’s supposed to meet her at the big Forties Fling Dance, but he’s obviously stood up and apparently humiliated.

The B-Plot involves Jessica and Lila also placing personal ads and betting each other that they’ll have the hottest date.  Jessica goes on a date with Paolo, a college boy who is fluent in Italian but is fat.  Jessica is disgusted by him and moves on to a guy named John Karger, who seems to be really interested in her motivations for placing a personal ad.  Jessica thinks he’s just interested in her though, and she and Lila set up a meeting with their dates at a beach concert the afternoon of the dance to declare the winner…only they’ve both been going out with John, who has been conducting a sociological experiment.  The girls laugh and go to the dance.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “The funny thing was, she could always see Jessica’s manipulations coming, but she never held them against her twin; that was just the way Jessica was.” (7) [Blogger’s note: Really, Liz?  REALLY?]
  • “She frowned as a little voice inside her told her that she’d just played a mean trick on a polite, friendly, and interesting boy.  But she ignored the voice.  After all, she couldn’t help it if she simply couldn’t stand to be around fat people.” (79)
  • “‘Besides,’ Jessica added, ‘my date is in college.  He would never go to some juvenile high school dance.'” (121)  [Blogger’s note: Hahahahaha]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Enid’s new boyfriend Hugh Grayson met her at a bookstore, and he goes to Big Mesa.
  • Kirk Anderson drives a white Trans Am.  This is the second jerk in the series who drives a Trans Am.  Are they telling us something?
  • There are a ton of updates about relationships started in other books: Sally Larson and Mark Riley are still together, as are Jean West and Tom McKay, Lynne Henry and Guy Chesney, and Mr. Collins and Ms. Dalton.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s not a lot to say about this mostly harmless book.  While it is hard to believe that personal ads in a high school paper would be okayed by the administration, it’s even more unlikely that people in college would respond to the ads.  It’s actually–it’s kind of illegal, in a lot of ways.  Most high schools try to keep kids in high school from dating kids in college.  It usually leads to sketchy situations.

Of course, Jessica is especially reprehensible in this book.  The entire thing with Paolo is so disgusting that I got physically ill when reading it.  The fact that the ghost writer breezes right past it with a little “a nagging voice” thing is really alarming.  I know I ask this question a lot, but seriously, what kind of message does this send to readers?