Tag Archives: near death by drowning (real)

SVH #102: Almost Married

20 Jun

almost married

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth is still obsessing over her mother’s suspected affair with Hank Patman. She lets Jessica in on the secret, and Jessica’s response is to go and ask Alice about it, but Liz tells her not to. We wouldn’t want to wrap this plot point up too fast, now would we?

At any rate, Alice goes out of town with Hank again, and Ned is away for a legal conference, so the twins are on their own.  Because Todd’s parents are also away, he decides this is the perfect time for them to practice living together.  He says they’ll be able to be together all the time, but he will sleep on the couch or in Steven’s room, because these teens are actually neutered.  In order to get Jessica on board, they agree to do her chores and cook for her during the week Todd is there.

When Elizabeth and Todd get home, she rushes off immediately to meet with Bruce Patman without telling Todd anything.  Jessica gets home and “accidentally” spills the beans about what Liz thinks is happening with Alice and Hank, and Todd is irritated.  Meanwhile, Liz and Bruce dig through the Patman mansion attic for clues and find a gushy love letter and Alice’s engagement and wedding rings.  They also share A Moment.

Upon returning to her house, she finds that Todd is sort of annoyed, but they make up quickly and Todd tells her that they’re partners and generally sounds way, way older than 16.  This entire plot is so weird.  While Elizabeth and Todd act like they are 40, Bruce plays tennis with Pamela but is distracted with thoughts of Elizabeth, even as Pamela tells him about Project Youth facing budget cuts.

Todd and Elizabeth continue to spend time together, but nothing is really going the way they plan. When they have a date at the Videomat, a new laundromat that also rents DVDs and sells espresso, Elizabeth drinks six cups of espresso and won’t stop yammering.  Todd overfills the washing machine and ends up with suds everywhere.  The two oversleep the next day and nearly miss putting the recycling out.  To make matters worse, Elizabeth keeps zipping off with Bruce, which pisses Todd off.  Jessica keeps giving him a hard time about how much Liz and Bruce are hanging out, which only further infuriates him.

After school one day, Liz misses a ride home with Todd and goes with Bruce.  The two go up to the attic at the Wakefield house to dig around and decide to visit their parents’ college to keep digging for information.  Todd comes home to find them hanging out and begrudgingly ends up making dinner for all of them, plus Lila and Jessica.  Later, Bruce and Jessica are watching TV and Bruce sees the hotel room number for Alice, realizes that it’s the same room number as his father’s, and freaks out.

Liz and Bruce head up to the local university to investigate their parents’ shared past.  They share several Moments together, and on the way home they stop to help a stalled vehicle and realize it’s Todd.  That night, a bunch of them sneak off to the Beach Disco, and Liz spends a great deal of time dancing with Bruce.  She’s attracted to him and is clearly enjoying the rush it gives her, but she pretends to feel conflicted about it.

The twins and Todd decide to throw a pool party at their house, and Todd loses his shit when Elizabeth invites Bruce along to help run errands.  He sulks inside as they get everything ready on the patio.  Elizabeth and Bruce flirt, Todd acts like a creepy, jealous loser.

Bruce and Pamela end up breaking up at the party, because she’s the only person in this book who isn’t an idiot.  Then Bruce corners Liz in the kitchen, cries, and they end up making out.  OF COURSE Todd walks in, they fight, and he storms off.  But as he’s driving away, he has a change of heart and returns to the party.

He arrives just in the nick of time, too, because Liz is so upset that she does a bad dive off the diving board and belly flops into the pool so hard she blacks out and nearly drowns.  Todd saves her and they make up, with Liz realizing he’s the one she truly loves.

Mrs. Wakefield surprises everyone by showing up early and acting super pissed off about the fact that the girls have thrown a party with no alcohol or drugs.  She then tells Liz that the Beckwiths (JESUS CHRIST THESE PEOPLE MOVED AWAY AGES AGO) called her to let her know that Todd’s car had been parked in the driveway all week (this is basic sneaking around 101, idiots). She yells at Liz, but then Liz goes ballistic on her, telling her she and Bruce know everything about the affair.  Alice sits them all down and tells the tragic story of her and Hank.  Liz and Bruce decide that now that they know Hank and Alice aren’t having an affair, they’ll work on getting Hank and Marie Patman back together.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Fun Fact: When I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t let me read this one based on the title alone. Oh, mom.
  • The ghost writer spells Barry’s last name as “Rourke” in this one, but it has always been “Rork,” hasn’t it?
  • Jamie Peters has a song called “Lawless Love”

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘People say it’s a man’s world,’ Mr. Wakefield commented…’but let me tell you, girls, sometimes it’s not so easy being male…for example, having to wear a suit and tie on a scorcher like this. Talk about oppression!'” (6-7). Die in a fire, Ned.
  • “‘OK, not twenty-four hours,’ Todd amended with a grin. ‘I’ll sleep on the couch or in Steven’s room, of course.'” (17)
  • “Jessica hurried to defend Elizabeth’s honor. ‘Of course they’re not sleeping together. This is Elizabeth we’re talking about! She’s relegated Todd to the downstairs couch–they’re the king and queen of self-control, believe me.'” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s really only one thing that bothers me about this book a lot.

That is how completely weird and improbable the entire plot is with regard to Todd “moving in” with Elizabeth for a week and not expecting to have sex or at least fool around hardcore.  I’ve written before about how weird it is that every teen seems to lack a sex drive (I’m not counting incidences of sexual assault as those are about violence) completely.  Despite the fact that the teenagers in these books kiss a lot, no one ever has sex, and when they think someone else has, they FREAK OUT ABOUT IT (see: Pamela Robertson’s weird, inaccurate reputation).

So for Todd to move in and sleep on the couch rings false in many ways.  The teens in these novels aren’t at all religious.  There is no overarching idea that Christianity or God is governing their lives.  Their decisions to “wait” seem to have more to do with the intended audience age of the readers.  So then why even write a story like this one?

Todd wants to move in to practice living together, but they only engage in the hardest aspects of living together: doing chores, squabbling, etc.  There’s no benefit to this arrangement, and OH YEAH THEY ARE SIXTEEN AND WOULD BE WAY MORE INTERESTED IN THE PHYSICALITY.  So I call bullshit.

 

 

SVH Super Star: Todd’s Story

2 May

todds story

Estimated Elapsed Time: just over 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s summer vacation in Sweet Valley yet again, and everyone is talking about how they’re going to be day camp counselors at Secca Lake for two weeks.  Elizabeth hopes that it will help reinvigorate her relationship with Todd, which she thinks has gotten stale lately.  Todd worries that his unpaid gig as a camp counselor won’t be enough to appease his father, who has been pushing for him to take an internship at Varitronics, the company he works for.  Liz watches them butt heads at a family dinner and wonders why Todd won’t stand up to his father more.

When the gang goes to the day camp training, Todd is shocked to see Kevin Holmes, a boy he crossed paths with in Vermont.  Back in Vermont, Todd stopped Kevin in the midst of mugging and old man in an alley and sent him to jail (it’s referred to as “prison” several times, but this was within the last year, so is it really?).  At the trial, Kevin’s dad tried to bribe Todd, and then after his sentencing, Kevin swore to Todd he’d get his revenge.  Todd wonders if Kevin is also the person who has been calling him and hanging up without saying anything.

Instead of telling Liz or Jessica or, I don’t know, the camp director, Todd decides to keep it to himself, especially after Kevin pretends to not know Todd.  He worries about Kevin not having changed at all and having sinister motives, but everyone else seems to really like him, including Todd’s parents, who keep inviting him over for dinner.  Turns out Kevin’s interested in an internship at Varitronics, and Todd’s dad is over the moon about it.  While Kevin charms everyone else, he keeps making weird threats to Todd about not letting it slip about his past.  Todd is completely distracted by this, and his refusal to confide in Liz drives a wedge further between them.

Meanwhile, camp starts and Todd continues to obsess about Kevin.  Kevin starts flirting or dating Jessica, and Todd worries about how this brings him closer to Liz.  No one can understand why Todd is so cold to Kevin, and there are several moments when Todd completely loses his cool around him, including an unfortunate moment after Kevin beat Todd to a drowning child.  Todd snaps that not everything is a competition, but it seems like no one else thought that was an appropriate thing to say.  By this point, Liz has told Todd she thinks they need a breather, and they are broken up (again).  Todd is miserable.

Kevin lies about a bunch of stuff, and while people seem to sort of catch the lies, they let them go, which is weird.  Also, things start disappearing around the camp, like Liz’s lavaliere necklace and Cara’s keys.  Todd continues to withdraw into himself, further alienating himself from his friends.

Then Kevin starts telling people that Todd had a reputation back in Vermont as kind of a bully.  He tells people that he roughed up some basketball players, punched a teammate, and there were rumors that he maybe sexually assaulted a girl.  Because Todd’s friends are literally the dumbest, most gullible people on the planet, they believe Kevin’s story, even though they have known Todd for sixteen years.

Somehow, Kevin gets Liz to agree to a date with him, which pisses Jessica off to no end.  Liz goes on the date and is struck by how awful Kevin is when he’s by himself.  Obsessed with the sound of his own voice and with how much he hates Todd, Liz realizes that he isn’t as cool as she first thought.  After the date, she goes home to worry about stuff, and Kevin goes out to mug one of the other camp counselors at Secca Lake.

Todd witnesses the mugging, which is just one in a string of recent muggings in the otherwise crime-free Sweet Valley.  The next day, he tells Winston and Aaron about his suspicions and what really happened in Vermont, and he feels better.  He decides to go to the police the following day.  Only, he doesn’t get to do that, because Kevin has framed Todd for the muggings, I guess?  They seem to think the fact that his pen shows up on the beach means he’s guilty?  Despite the fact that this is where everyone has been working for the past two weeks?  Whatever, I don’t care.  Todd gets arrested.

At the final BBQ party for the camp, Kevin asks Liz to go for a walk.  She agrees for some reason, and the two take a hike alone.  At the same time, Jessica finds Liz’s lavaliere in Kevin’s car and realizes that he’s been the stealing stealer all along!  She runs to tell her friends.

In the nature, Kevin tells Liz that he used to have a brother named Brent and that he accidentally killed him in a car crash.  He tells Liz this, and then he tries to kill Liz, because that’s the only way he can think to hurt Todd.  Luckily, Todd is out of jail and rushes into the scene in time to save Liz.  Kevin gets arrested, Liz and Todd are back together, and all is right with the world.  I guess.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book takes place in the summer, but it is after Todd has moved back from Vermont.  It is also after Cara Walker has moved to England, and yet she is here and still dating Steven.  Sam Woodruf is nowhere to be found, despite the fact that he and Jessica have been dating for a while now.  HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT.
  • Almost 100 six-to-ten-year-olds enrolled in the summer camp.  Talk about a nightmare.
  • Kevin drives a black Mazda

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Kevin nodded. ‘My dad thinks everybody should be required to read The Wall Street Journal with their breakfast.'” (83)
  • “Maybe there was nothing behind them.  Maybe Kevin Holmes didn’t have a soul.” (97)
  • “‘No, he’s not lying,’ Aaron agreed. ‘He’d have no reason to lie.'” (134) Are you a fucking idiot, Aaron?
  • “No, Kevin must be innocent, Todd decided. A person simply couldn’t be one thing on the outside and something entirely different on the inside.” (151) WHAT THE HOLY FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Here’s the thing about this completely ridiculous book: I remember liking this best of all the Super Stars.  That’s not surprising, really.  It has the most interesting premise: working as camp counselors during summer break, dealing with a mysterious new person who displays signs of being an actual psychopath, etc.  But reading this book now, I’m struck by how completely fucking stupid everyone is in the book.

Talk about plot points! Everything that happens here is meant to further the plot and not the characters.  Todd doesn’t tell anyone that he knows Kevin from before, ostensibly because he’s scared if he does, Kevin will retaliate.  Okay, fine, but shouldn’t the camp director have run a basic background check on anyone being left alone with children for any period of time?  Is that not a lawsuit waiting to happen?  If Kevin had served any jail time, which we are led to believe, he would have had a record.

Moving on: Todd continues to not tell anyone despite his suspicions.  He puts off going to the police for days, despite his having witnessed one of the muggings.  All of this is way, way too convenient for the plot we end up with.  I can’t help but think that the ghostwriter of this one thought that the readers were really, really dumb, because we aren’t allowed to think anything about anything here.

Also, the completely ridiculous rationalizations of everyone throughout the novel make no sense whatsoever.  Why would everyone believe Kevin over Todd?  Why does Todd continue to doubt Kevin’s motivations and behavior, despite the fact that he has continually threatened him throughout the course of the book?  Do these people have selective amnesia?  Am I the crazy one?

 

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.

SVH Super Edition: Spring Break

8 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth are going to Cannes, France on their spring break as part of an exchange trip that the SVH French Club set up.  In return, their French host family is sending a daughter to live with the Wakefields.  The twins are excited to spend their break on the French Riviera with Avery Glize, a private nurse, and her handsome son Rene.  While Avery is a sweet and gracious hostess (if a bit absent), Rene is rude, acerbic, and borderline abusive towards the twins.  It’s clear that he hates them on sight, and it comes out that Rene’s father was an American who left his young family.  As a result, Rene hates all Americans on sight, which is about as irrational as one can get.

The twins set out to have a good trip despite Rene’s rudeness, and it isn’t long before Jessica meets a very rich but plain and shy boy named Marc Marchellier.  She lets him take her to a very exclusive beach club.  Elizabeth finds a puppy that has gotten lost, and when she returns it to its owner, she meets a countess whose grandson, Jean-Claude de Willenwich, is fabulously good-looking and charming.  The two of them go off cavorting around Cannes.  Naturally, when Jessica finds out that Elizabeth is hanging around with a super rich, gorgeous guy, she’s totally jealous.

When Elizabeth runs late for a date with Jean-Claude because of an errand she ran for Avery, Jessica takes full advantage of the situation and pretends to be Elizabeth when Jean-Claude shows up.  The two of them hit it off, even though he thinks her name is Jessica, and she decides that she’s fallen in love with him.  The two of them spend several days together.  Elizabeth tries and fails to befriend Rene, who is so obstinate and mean that it’s almost painful to read.

When Jessica (pretending to be Elizabeth) and Jean-Claude get caught in a storm in his tiny sailboat, Elizabeth begs Rene to take her to the pier to see if they can find the two of them.  Rene is surprised that Elizabeth doesn’t care about Jessica’s deceitfulness, and agrees to take Liz on his moped (motorcycle danger again!), even though he hasn’t been in or near the water since the tragic drowning death of his best friend some time before.  The two of them can see the sailboat and watch as it capsizes.  Elizabeth jumps in to rescue Jessica, who fell and hit her head, and Rene dives in to help her, too.  They save the day!

After this exciting brush with death, Jessica comes clean to Jean-Claude about who she is, but he still loves her.  Elizabeth and Rene end up as friends with the possibility of something more, and the twins look forward to the rest of their vacation.

The B-Plot involves Rene’s younger sister, Ferney, who has gone to stay with the Wakefield family while the twins are in France.  Everyone is surprised with Ferney is the SPITTING IMAGE OF TRICIA MARTIN (and I do mean they are identical).  Steven Wakefield seems to take this as a sign that he is meant to be with Ferney even though he’s been dating Cara and seems to be in love with her.  He takes Ferney around Sweet Valley, and even though he speaks no French and she speaks no English, he believes she’s Tricia reincarnated or something.  Everyone around him is totally freaked out by his behavior, and Cara is naturally heartbroken, but no one can talk sense into Steven.  He finally invites his friend David down to visit, because David is a French major.  With David translating for them, Steven discovers that Ferney is not like Tricia at all, and is, in fact, kind of a ditz.  He realizes the error of his ways and he and Cara make up (while I die a little inside).

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Of course he was aware that Ferney and Tricia were two different human beings, but a little bit of pretending couldn’t be so bad, he rationalized.  After all the pain he had gone through when Tricia had died, he deserved a candy-coated fantasy every once in a while, didn’t he?” (39)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently the Wakefield twins have a curfew of midnight (one that Ma and Pa Wakefield try to enforce on Jessica by saying she should be home at 11), but it doesn’t seem to ever be enforced.
  • At one point, Jessica wears velour jogging pants and a man-tailored shirt and we are supposed to believe this is fashionable.
  • Apparently Lila is also on the French trip, staying with another host family, but we don’t see or hear from her the entire book.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are so many problems with this book that it is hard to know where to begin.  There’s a lot of talk about this book being one that never actually happened–this isn’t the twin’s only (or even FIRST) spring break, and although it seems to take place between books #27 and #28, this huge trip to France is never mentioned in the regular series (well, it’s mentioned again when the twins go to London and run into Rene much later in the series, but that’s nearly a hundred books later).  Also, where did the money for such a trip come from?  Back in SVH #11 (the last spring break the twins had), the Wakefield family only had enough money to send one twin to New York, but now they can send both twins to FRANCE for 10 days?  I guess the Wakefields are financially flush and forgot to mention it.

What’s more is the absolutely appalling way that Rene treats both twins, but especially Elizabeth.  Jessica and Rene have very little interaction after the first encounter, but Liz continually tries to be nice to him.  His complete lack of regard for her and his verbal abuse cross over from general rudeness into almost sociopathic behavior, as demonstrated from the following excerpt:

“My, my, aren’t we a bit out of control today?  But then you’re not used to having people make waves, are you?  Life is supposed to be so easy for you.  You have everything you need, and you have everything you want, too.  And then some.  That’s what American girls are all about.  A closetful [sic] of clothes and nothing to wear.”

Elizabeth summoned up all her willpower in an attempt to be reasonable.  “Rene, what do you have against me?  Have I done anything to you?  Has Jessica?  Why are you treating us this way?”

“It’s not what you’ve don, it’s what you stand for.”  There was poison in Rene’s words.  “All you American girls.  You think the sun rises and sets on you alone.  That’s what they teach you.  Oh, we see your movies, get your television shows.  I know how you girls think.”

I know.  Yikes.

Finally, there’s the ridiculousness of the Steven Wakefield B-Plot.  This is technically the first book where Steven falls in “love” with a Tricia Martin doppelganger, but it won’t be the last.  The world of Sweet Valley seems to be populated with a lot of people who are nearly identical to complete strangers–the twins meet a pair of psychotic twins who look exactly like them, Steven falls for like, twenty girls who look like Tricia, Elizabeth sees a lot of boys who look just like Todd.  It’s a strange and highly unlikely phenomenon, and after a while, it starts to get old.

But even pushing the skepticism of the likelihood of a perfect stranger being identical to someone else aside, this plot hurts to read.  Steven has a history of being a total douchetruck to Cara, and the fact that she’s put up with it for as long as she has is best left for an essay on being a doormat, but his actions in this book eclipse previous behavior.  He essentially dumps Cara without even telling her, choosing to spend all his free time staring open-mouthed at Ferney.  They go out around town, and he moons over her while Cara sits at home and cries, wondering if she’ll ever see Steve again.  It was hard enough for her to try to compete with a ghost, but now she has to compete with a little French girl?  I don’t think so.

When they finally get back together at the end and Steve apologizes and tells her he sees the error of his ways, it feels like too little too late, but Cara takes him back.  And that, disturbingly enough, seems like something a sixteen-year-old girl might do.