Tag Archives: olivia davidson

SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun


Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week


Jessica and Lila are spending the week of spring break in Jamaica, at Lila’s uncle Jimmo’s beach resort, Club Paradise.  Jessica won’t shut up about how excited she is, and Lila is being extra nice to her.  When they arrive, Jessica discovers that her luggage was lost in the layover.  It also becomes clear to Jess why Lila was being so nice: they’re working as camp counselors at the kiddie version of the club. She tells Lila she’ll never forgive her/never speak to her again.

Jessica gets saddled with a group of bratty five-and-six-year-olds for the week.  They bicker, do gross things, and generally don’t listen to her.  She’s infuriated to see that Lila’s group is much better behaved, and then she’s fascinated when she sees Lila talking to a super hot guy who turns out to be the windsurfing instructor named Mick Myers.

Of course they both end up going out with this guy, who is a total skeeze.  Jessica dumps her campers off on Charles, a geeky guy who is totally into her.  This pisses off Julia, another counselor who is described as “chubby” but has a lovely voice.  She decides to get even with Jessica, because Jessica told her she was too fat to attract a man.  I kind of hate Jessica, too.

At any rate, Jessica and Lila continue to both date Mick and compete with each other when it comes to their little campers and the daily talent shows.  Meanwhile, Julia also starts dating Mick, who is starting to seem like a pathological liar and also a sex addict.  He takes each girl to his “secret” lagoon to make out.

Jessica runs into Larry the hot lifeguard on the beach one day, and they flirt.  Then they run into Lila and Mick, who are clearly on a date, and Jessica is such an idiot that she thinks Mick is only pretending to like her because her uncle is his boss.  They have a stupid game of chicken in the ocean and all of them get dunked.

It isn’t long before they realize that Mick is totally playing them.  After Jessica slaps Lila and she pulls her into the ocean with her as she falls, the two have a good laugh and decide to get revenge.  They get back to their cabin to find out that Mick is literally dating every female employed at the camp.

The last night of camp, Lila and Jessica put on a magician’s show and use Mick as their audience “volunteer.”  They break his watch, cut his hair, and dye it purple, and he has to sit and take it.  They get their revenge, totally make up as friends, and have a lemonade.  All is well.

Elizabeth has plans to spend the break sweating it out in Sweet Valley.  She wants to work on an Honors English project that asks students to do a biography of an ancestor.  Conveniently, Liz has chosen to focus on her mother.  The problem is, Alice has just accepted a freelance position working with Hank Patman in his Chicago office.

Amy shows up at the Wakefield’s house to ask for help with the English assignment, which she has to do for extra credit.  She doesn’t tell Elizabeth that Jessica told her she could “borrow” her ancestor Jessamyn, the circus performer.  The two look at an old family tree of Alice’s.

She runs into Bruce at the Dairi Burger and he blows up at her about her home-wrecker of a mother. She thinks he’s cracked until she gets home to find Alice rushing off to catch a plane to Chicago with Hank Patman.  She grills her dad for information about Alice’s life before they met, but he’s sort of cheerfully vague about it all.  She starts to worry that Bruce might be right.

Instead of really working on her project, she continues to obsess about her mother’s past with Hank.  She manages to awkwardly tie it into every single old classic movie she goes to see with Enid and Olivia that week, arguing with them about the meaning of leaving a fiance for an old flame, etc.  It’s boring and pedantic.

Bruce Patman is feeling the pains of his parents splitting up.  He lashes out even more than usual and feels the sads about his family fighting.  His mother accuses Hank of cheating on her.  He decides he’s going to tell his father exactly what he thinks of their separation and how its impacting his life.  Bruce is insufferable.  Before he can do so, he overhears a conversation between Hank and Alice on the phone that leads him to believe the two are carrying on an affair.

Bruce and Liz meet several times to discuss their parents affair, which they are sure Alice and Hank are having.  Bruce seems to be working on a plan to split them up before serious damage is done, but he doesn’t bother to share it with anyone.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • It seems like everyone is going away for spring break: Barry Rork to Palm Springs, Pamela Robertson to the Grand Canyon, Ken Matthews to Monterey, Todd to Yosemite.
  • Lila still plays the marimba and listens to Jamie Peters’ music.
  • The old movies Liz, Olivia, and Enid see include My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, Philadelphia Story, and Casablanca.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Bruce grabbed the lunch tray and hurled it away. He heard it clatter against a tree trunk and imagined that it was the sound of his whole world shattering into pieces.” (7)
  • “They turned to gape as Lila walked by with her nose in the air. In a straight line behind her, six obedient kindergartners waddled like baby geese, singing in unison, ‘Row, row, row your yacht…'” (51)
  • “‘Do you like my picture, Jessica?’ Suzy asked. ‘It’s a picture of you screaming at us.'” (81)
  • “Elizabeth had amnesia and her defenses were down. Bruce had tried to take advantage of her–what guy wouldn’t?” (165) [IS THIS REAL LIFE?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps what’s oddest here is not that Jessica and Lila compete over the same dude, which has happened before, but the fact that Mick seems interested in anything with a vagina.  He literally dates something like six girls at once, and he’s also supposed to be the club’s full-time windsurfing instructor.  How does he manage to do this?  How can all the girls think that he’s only interested in them when he’s literally seen with other people in every scene?  There is virtually nothing about him that would indicate he oozes charm (except for the fact that we are told this).  Ugh.  Gross.

The other thing that really bothered me about this one is how fucking judgmental and antiquated Elizabeth is in her thinking about her mother.  She holds fast to this bizarre, sexist idea that a woman should only be in love once–and that she should marry that man.  Setting aside the fact that this is heteronormative drivel, it’s also so tone-deaf considering the fact that Elizabeth has been in love at least 3-4 times herself, and she is only 16 years old.   Is she damaged in some way?  Isn’t it possible that Alice was in love with Hank at one time, and then fundamentally changed and fell in love with Ned?

Also, could it be LESS of Elizabeth’s business?

SVH #96: The Arrest

2 Jun

the arrest

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1-2 weeks


Elizabeth is still maintaining that she can’t remember anything from the night of the Jungle Prom when she crashed a car and killed Sam.  The police question her with Ned present, but she isn’t able to give them any new information.  They keep her in jail overnight, and everyone FREAKS OUT about this.  When she returns to school, she feels like a social pariah.  Enid is the only person who will talk to her, but when she sees a newspaper in Enid’s bag with an article about her arrest, she assumes that Enid meant for her to see it and runs away.

Ned hires the best lawyer around for “cases like these,” but the guy is a total dick.  After meeting with Liz and Ned, Ned fires the lawyer and says he’ll defend her himself.

Jessica is still really sad about Sam, but psychotically thinks that if Elizabeth gets punished for his death, she will feel better.  She decides that no matter what happens with Elizabeth’s court case, she’s going to get her own revenge and runs crying to Todd, who decides he has to cheer her up and offers to take her to a movie.  Afterwards, Jessica begs him to take her for a walk on the beach, where Todd holds her while she cries.  The two continue to spend time together, arousing suspicion from all their friends.

Lila is so excited about reuniting with her long-lost mother that it seems all her problems have temporarily disappeared.  She obsesses over wearing the perfect clothes and obtaining the perfect look to meet her mother, which drives her friends crazy.  When her dad and Lila go to Los Angeles to pick up Grace, Lila is taken by her beauty and disgusted by her “lover,” a wiry Frenchman named Pierre.  Lila gets upset that her mother ditches their coffee gabfest to attend to Pierre’s needs and cries some more.

Margo is still going by Michelle in Ohio and generally being a crazy person.  She locks Georgie in the closet while she files her nails and then kicks him in the head a bunch.  Um, okay.  Then she has a nightmare and realizes it’s time to move on to California, where her “real” family awaits.  She takes Georgie for a picnic, drowns him, steals his mother’s jewelry, and hops a Greyhound to California.  At a bus station somewhere, she sees an old lady with a newspaper.  There’s a picture of Elizabeth on the front, and Margo realizes she looks just like her.  She presumably kills the old lady, takes the paper and some money, and continues west.

Nicholas Morrow is lamenting the fact that he’s single even though he’s like, a total catch.  He wonders what’s wrong with him and then proceeds to list off a shit-ton of his excellent qualities.  Um, maybe the problem is that you’re a raging narcissist?  Then he gets a letter telling him he’s been chosen as one of the male contestants on the new dating show Hunks, and he realizes Olivia signed him up for it.  His first date is a girl named Jakki, who wears a lot of black clothing purple eye shadow, and blue lipstick.  She also has a butterfly tattooed on her face.  Date #2 is named Susan and is a “demure” looking chick in a floral dress with minimal makeup but giggles too much.  Date #3 is Ann and she seems juuuuust right, if only she didn’t look so embarrassed.

His first date with Jakki is a disaster, as she picks him up on her motorcycle and takes him to a biker bar called Club Mud.  His second date, with Susan, is super weird. Because she chooses to wear flip flops, they can’t get seated anywhere except for a burger joint, and she laughs the whole time and acts like a child.  I’m convinced there is a mental delay here, but that never crosses Nicholas’s mind.  His third date, with Ann, actually seems to be going pretty well, because he likes her, but he keeps screwing up: he’s late to pick her up, he forgets his wallet, his car gets a flat tire, and he pukes on her when they go to an amusement park.  When it comes time to revisit the dates on the Hunks show, the first two girls eviscerate him, but Ann has lovely things to say.  They kiss in front of the live studio audience.

Steven is worked up into a tizzy about his sister’s arrest and the deteriorating state of his family.  He’s also dealing with a new off-campus apartment and a need for a new roommate.  He sees an ad for someone named Billie Winkler who needs a place, and he calls and leaves a message for Billie to come see the place.  Imagine his surprise when Billie turns out to be a GIRL!

Bruce is still obsessing about Pamela and whether or not the rumors about her are true.  She calls him and begs to hear her out, so they agree to meet so she can explain her side of the story.  They meet at the Box Tree Cafe, but the two are heckled by some dickbags from Big Mesa, and Bruce storms out before Pamela can say anything.  She cries alone in her room.  It’s not her fault that she wouldn’t put out for some dude at Big Mesa who then spread lies about her!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, it’s the start of the spring term at Steven’s university. I’m not even sure how that works within the timeline, but whatever.
  • The ghostwriter calls Maria Santelli “Maria Santini” in this one.  CUTE.
  • Lila is going through a “Continental” phase which includes eating croissants?
  • Lila and Amy go to a nail salon called Turn of the Nail.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Even though Jessica had played that silly joke on Elizabeth and Sam, the accident obviously had nothing to do with Jessica.  It was all Elizabeth’s fault.” (25)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Everything about this whole manslaughter trial thing is so weird.  First of all, the timeline for Elizabeth’s case is so compressed that it’s mind-boggling.  Also, it is so weird that she maintains she couldn’t be drunk because she never drinks.  The police tested her blood-alcohol level and it came back way higher than the legal limit! Obviously you had alcohol in your system, Elizabeth! Use your tiny brain! People spike drinks! Why is no one suggesting this as a way to fight the charges against her?  I don’t understand.  It isn’t mentioned once as a possibility.

Margo continues to be the creepiest, weirdest psychopath ever.  She’s clearly a schizophrenic, but she’s so badly characterized it’s embarrassing.  Like, the ghost writer couldn’t be bothered to do the most rudimentary research about the disorder?

SVH #95: The Morning After

30 May

the morning after

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks


With the start of these new mini-series books, the narration tends to jump between people more than in previous books.  Therefore, my recaps are going to look a little different.

Liz is having recurring nightmares about a girl who looks exactly like her and Jessica trying to kill her.  This girl has dark hair.  She’s also completely miserable about having killed Sam.  Totally alienated at school, the only person who will talk to her is Enid.  She can’t figure out why Todd is avoiding her, and she can’t figure out what happened the night of the dance.  She’s not sure if she was drunk at the prom, which is weird, because wouldn’t the police test her blood alcohol level?

It’s a couple of weeks before the police show up at the Wakefield house and interrogate Elizabeth in front of her whole family.  Jessica sits idly by while they ask Elizabeth about the alcohol she drank at the dance, and then they tell Elizabeth that she’s under arrest for involuntary manslaughter.  They lead her out but then tell Ned he can drive her to the police station.  These police are the worst.

Jessica is devastated following the loss of Sam.  She refuses to speak to Elizabeth and cries a lot.  Instead of going to the memorial service Sam’s dirtbike friends are throwing, she goes to the cemetery where she cries a lot and blames herself for the accident.  Meanwhile, Todd starts hanging around her, because he’s clearly worried about her.  She continues to be withdrawn around her friends.

Bruce can’t stop thinking about the girl who helped him the night of the Big Mesa/Sweet Valley rumble.  Her name is Pamela Robertson, and she goes to Big Mesa.  He finds out that she plays tennis there, so he stalks her practices until he can talk to her.  Despite a bunch of people dropping hints that Pamela is known as a slut, he’s super interested in her and asks her out.  At the end of the first date, they both admit that they’re falling in love.  When Bruce gets ready to see her again, Roger tells him that he’s heard some not great things about Pamela.  He brushes this off until Amy confirms the rumors at lunch one day.  As a result, he’s a total dick to Pamela on their next date, but then feels bad about it and goes over to her house the next morning to apologize.  But when he gets there, he sees that she’s getting out of a car and kisses another boy! He’s furious.

Lila is still dealing with serious post-traumatic shock from when John Pfeifer tried to rape her.  In the aftermath of accusing Nathan the counselor of the same thing, she has a meeting with Principal Cooper, Nathan, and her father.  It’s there she comes to the realization that Nathan didn’t try to hurt her, and she apologizes and cries a bunch.  Her father’s unsure how to deal with her, and after realizing how screwed up she is, he tells her he’s sending for her mother, Grace, in Paris.  Lila breaks down in tears, thanking him.

Olivia is still taking classes at that art school where she met James in her super special book.  James isn’t in the picture any more, having accepted a scholarship to paint in Paris, but Olivia is still at it, thinking about how lonely she is.  But she’s also a super talented artist, because one of her paintings was in a student art show and now there’s a buyer interested in it.  This buy is contingent on Olivia giving a speech at some art conference.  She tells all this to Nicholas Morrow over coffee, and then they both lament the state of their love lives.  The two decide to set each other up on dates.  Olivia gets the brilliant idea to submit Nicholas as a possible contestant on a new show called Hunks.

When Olivia shows up to give the art speech, though, she finds herself at a random mansion where a boy from her art class is waiting for her.  He tells her he made the whole thing up, and instead of running for the hills from this crazy person who clearly wants to murder her and wear her like a dress, Olivia is intrigued by this Harry Minton person.

Margo: Is a new character, a foster girl living in Long Island who decides to listen to the voice in her head and embark on a westward journey.  In order to do so, she kills her five-year-old foster sister by pouring kerosene all over the kitchen and then telling her to use a metal knife to get her toast out of the toaster.  She leaves after watching the house burn with Nina inside it.  Then she decides to call herself Michelle and buys a one-way ticket to Cleveland.  She gets a job as a babysitter for a family with a little boy named Georgie.  She starts stealing from Georgie’s mother, and the voice tells her she has to go to California.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Margo’s been in 10 different foster homes by the age of 16.
  • Bruce repeatedly refers to Pamela Robertson as “Cinderella,” and it is never not creepy.
  • The English classes are reading Moby Dick.
  • Pamela’s favorite old movie is Philadelphia Story

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica suddenly looked up. ‘Can’t you people talk about anything important?’ she cried.” (40)
  • “‘Well, for one thing,’ she explained, ‘Elizabeth Wakefield, of all people, was acting possessed.'” (70)
  • “What I know about teenage boys would curl your hair, lady, Margo bragged silently.” (162)
  • “‘I don’t think it’s wise for my daughter to answer questions like this without an attorney present,’ Ned Wakefield said.” (200)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are so many things about this book that make absolutely no sense.  But two things stood out to me about this one: the handling of Lila’s accusations about Nathan and the handling of the investigation into Sam’s death.

Firstly, let’s focus on the Lila situation, which is really sad.  If there’s something to appreciate about how truly dumb this book and the series as a whole is, is that this story gets some consistency.  Lila is really, really screwed up because of what happened to her.  She’s still dealing with it, and it’s actually not that out of the realm of possibility that she’d misinterpret what Nathan was trying to do that night.

But instead of dealing with this in a way that makes any sense (remember, the police were involved at the end of the last book), Chrome Dome Cooper calls a meeting with Lila, her father, and Nathan.  There are no police, and Cooper acts as a mediator, asking for Lila’s story while Nathan is in the room.  In what reality does a victim of sexual assault have to give testimony for the first time with the accused in the room?  It’s so fucked.  It makes no sense.  But they wrap this up quickly so we can get to the ridiculous Elizabeth story.

Which brings me to the second issue here.  Elizabeth states in the middle of the book that she can’t imagine she was drunk, which makes no sense, because she would have been treated for injuries in the hospital after the car crash and then interviewed by police.  There is NO FREAKING WAY that the police would wait weeks to question her about the accident.  So when they show up at the house and ask about her blood alcohol level, which they apparently DID test at the scene, she’s like, “I don’t know how I got drunk!”

None of this makes any sense.  It just doesn’t.  It’s this bizarre plot hole that shouldn’t be there because the book is contradicting itself over the course of like, 50 pages.  After they question her, one of the cops says that they’ve been trying to handle this investigation delicately because she’s a good student and her dad is a prominent lawyer in the community.  I’m sure that will be of great comfort to DEAD SAM WOODRUFF’S PARENTS.  Jesus Christ.

What will happen in the next book?  Will Elizabeth end up in jail forever?  I WISH.

SVH #89: Elizabeth Betrayed

9 May


Estimated Elapsed Time:  3 weeks


Penny Ayala gets picked to be a Washington correspondent for some arbitrary contest and needs someone to take over her editor duties on The Oracle in her absence.  She chooses Elizabeth, because reasons.  Everyone is stoked for Elizabeth, except for Olivia Davidson, who feels like she does a lot of work for the paper as well as her visual arts magazine Visions.  Further adding salt to the wound is her boyfriend Rod Sullivan’s CREEPY AS HELL obsession with everything Elizabeth Wakefield.  He brings her up constantly and keeps talking about her “special talent.”  It is seriously, seriously weird.

But then Elizabeth mentions that she has some poems to contribute to Olivia’s Earth-focused issue of Visions, and Olivia decides she’s happy for Elizabeth after all.  The two over a shared love of poetry and swap poems with each other.  Both are in total admiration of the other’s poetic abilities.  It’s a regular old lovefest.  If I were Enid, I would be super, super nervous.

At any rate, Liz struggles to run the paper as half the school is out with a flu that’s going around.  She ends up enlisting the help of Rod, who offers to write a piece for the paper.  Olivia is stunned that he’d want to write anything, because apparently he’s a pretty terrible writer, but whatever.  He writes a piece.  So does Jessica.  The paper goes out as scheduled.

Elizabeth is really struggling with an essay for Mr. Collins’s class about art, so she asks Rod to help her one day after school.  He comes onto her pretty strongly, but Elizabeth brushes it off and just feels vaguely uncomfortable.  She uses Rod’s ideas in her paper but doesn’t have time to write a second draft.  She’s ASTONISHED when she gets it back and Mr. Collins has failed her–and accused her of plagiarism.  It looks like all that stuff that Rod had told her was actually the work of a famous art critic.

When she confronts Rod about it, though, he’s super nonchalant.  He takes no responsibility for not citing the critic in his own ideas and basically is like, “too bad, lady.”  She’s distraught, especially because Mr. Collins kicks her (temporarily) off the staff of The Oracle.  She cries in her room a lot.

Jessica finally confronts Olivia about what  douchebag Rod is, and Olivia realizes she has to do something.  He’s not talking, so she digs up the article he wrote for the paper and realizes he lifted entire sections of famous people (like Jefferson) for his article.  She brings the evidence to Mr. Collins, who calls a meeting with Rod and Elizabeth.

Rod is completely unable to take the blame for any of it, but whatever.  It hardly matters.  Mr. Collins and Elizabeth have a heartfelt about plagiarism, and she’s reinstated on the school paper.  She and Olivia make up.

The B-Plot involves Jessica deciding that total brutal honesty is the only way to live life.  She tells everyone exactly what she thinks, which obviously pisses off a lot of people.  Lila decides to give her a taste of her own medicine and has everyone tell Jessica the absolute truth one day, including reminding her of every dumb thing she’s ever said or done.  I guess it works?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila straightens her hair and adds plum-colored streaks to it.  It sounds awesome, but everyone hates it.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield buy a set of crystal glasses with a matching pitcher for Ned’s (?) parents.
  • Enid and Liz joke about being Lucy and Ethel from I Love Lucy because they are 100 years old

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She was paying so little attention to everything for the last day or so that she probably wouldn’t have noticed if her classes were completely empty. ‘Of course I’ve noticed,’ she fibbed. ‘I’m a journalist. I don’t miss anything.'” (20)
  • “That hairdo makes Lila look like a Transylvanian,” she admitted. “A very expensively dressed Transylvanian.” (33) WHAT?!
  • “His eyes met hers. ‘Thank you will do just fine for now,’ he said softly. ‘Especially if I get another hug when I turn in my piece.'” (53)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

You know what the weirdest part of reading this book was?  How weird Rod is throughout it, and no one ever really calls him on it.  It’s not even clear if Olivia and Rod break up at the end of this one (unless I missed it somewhere?), which seems like a gross oversight.  I mean, he was CLEARLY HITTING ON LIZ, and everyone seems okay with this?  She does tell him “We need to talk,” but it doesn’t feel very resolute in my mind.

And Olivia is such a doormat throughout the entire book!  What is that?

SVH Super Star: Olivia’s Story

11 Apr

olivia's story

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 month


Olivia Davidson is obsessed with painting, and she’s particularly focused on abstract impressionism.  She’s taking classes at the Forester School, and it’s there that she meets devoted artist James Yates.  James is the definition of the starving artist, taking classes on scholarship and living in a tiny apartment, often forgoing dinner and wearing threadbare clothes.  All in the name of art, guys.  At any rate, the two start to spend time together, and despite the fact that James is an insufferable twat, Olivia likes him and feels challenged by his devotion to art.

But she’s feeling pressure at home to conform to more “normal” standards.  Her parents are the definition of conservative, and when her aunt June and cousin Emily come to stay with her family while Emily looks at colleges out west, Olivia feels even more like she doesn’t fit in.  It seems as though her straight-laced cousin has her entire life planned, and that freaks Olivia out.  So she asks her mom to get her a part-time job at Simpson’s Department Store, where she promptly runs into the owner’s son, Robert Simpson.  He lets her redo a display and admires her art, but when she shows him her paintings, the only ones he likes are the generic landscape ones.

Olivia continues to hang out with James, but when he brushes off their plans so he can do art, she goes with Robert to a country club party after asking her to dress down a bit.  It’s as awful as you’d expect, and she feels out of place.  However, she keeps making nearly no progress with James, and when she gives him his Christmas present (a paperweight with his initial) and he tells her it’s the emptiest and most meaningless present he’s even received, she storms out.  But then when Robert gives her a planner, she understands what James means and decides to eschew corporate life for a life of art.

Oh, I suppose it helps that her mother takes her aside one day and shows her the paintings from her youth, before she gave it up for a business degree.  She has a business degree and she’s a manager at a department store?  Really?  That was her life’s dream?  By the end of the story, Olivia and James are together because they love each other and Emily is thinking about going to school in California. I don’t know.   I hated this one.

The B-Plot, if you can call it that, involves Jessica and Elizabeth getting seasonal jobs at Simpson’s Department Store.  Jessica works in the children’s section and Liz wraps gifts.  Jessica sets her sights on Robert, but he’s really only interested in Olivia.  For whatever reason.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Olivia outfit: black leotard and leggins, pink and yellow chiffon skirt, blue checked vest, and an Elvis record in her hair.
  • As if you didn’t know the timeline was fucked: it’s Christmas AGAIN, but Jessica mentions their summer internship at the paper.  FFS.
  • Emily wears a khaki-colored suit and blue espadrilles, because she’s forty

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Paintings are life,’ James answered seriously. ‘Everything else is unimportant–money, living in a fancy house, worrying about the little things.'” (19) 

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This was a total slog for me to get through.  Sometimes I struggle with the regular books featuring tertiary characters, but this one had an extra 60 pages or so, and it was AWFUL.  Olivia isn’t interesting.  I remember her being more interesting as a child, but her wishy-washy feelings on everything in this one and complete lack of self awareness or a sense of humor make this a total bore.

Also, the twins have never felt so awkwardly inserted in a story line before.  There was no need for them to be in this one, apart from any fear that it wouldn’t be a “real” SVH novel without their presence.

Finally, is this like the 8th Christmas of their junior year or what?  I’d be willing to suspend some disbelief if there was even a mention of some of the events from past Christmas stories happening concurrently, but there isn’t.  It’s like each one of these Christmas books takes place in a vacuum.  These books are so weird!

SVH #57: Teacher Crush

14 Jan

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Because the kids at Sweet Valley High don’t have enough random classes or extracurricular activities, the school is hosting two week long mini-courses.  All the students are super excited about these classes.  Liz, Enid, and Olivia Davidson end up in the painting course.  Olivia talks a lot about how lonely she is since she broke up with Roger, and Liz reflects rather smugly on how lucky she is to have a kick-ass boyfriend like Jeffrey (OH FORESHADOWING).

It doesn’t take long for Olivia to form a huge, obsessive stalker-crush on the painting class’s teacher, Stuart Bachman.  Her crush reaches insane levels very quickly: she finds out where he lives, cuts a picture of him out of a magazine, obsesses over whether or not every compliment he pays her about her art is an indication that he’s into her, too.  Enid notices Olivia’s weird behavior right away, but Elizabeth brushes it off for a really long time until Olivia misses a newspaper deadline.  The two worry about Olivia’s judgment and sanity.

Olivia continues to pursue Stuart, who seems blind to the fact that she’s so into him.  He invites her to come to his art show, and she’s sure this is the SIGN that she’s been waiting for.  She confides in Liz and Enid that she’s positive he’s going to do something romantic for her birthday.  Liz and Enid have been helping Olivia’s parents plan a surprise party, and they are skeptical that Stuart has anything on the agenda.  Their doubts are confirmed when Olivia goes to the art show and meets Stuart’s girlfriend Monica.  Olivia is crushed but gets over it when she realizes that Stuart is displaying some of Olivia’s artwork.  Everyone goes to her surprise party.  It is a success.  All is well.

The B-Plot involves Jessica and her mini-course of doom: electronics.  She chose the class thinking it would be full of cute boys, but it was full of nerds.  She and Randy Mason end up making a lie detector because she’s sick of Lila talking about her dad’s new soap-star girlfriend.  The lie detector is a huge success.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “So Far Olivia hadn’t told anyone how she felt about Stuart.  She knew it wasn’t a good idea.  After all, he was her instructor, and he was older–though not all that much older, she assured herself.  After all, her birthday was coming up–it was a week from tomorrow.” (49)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila’s dad’s new girlfriend is named Anika Hunt.
  • Lila takes a sewing class for her mini-course.
  • Olivia’s grandmother was a “serious” oil painter–whatever that means.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I mean, what is there to say about this one?  If I had majored in psych in undergrad, I could probably expound on the fact that Olivia’s crush on Stuart is indicative of daddy issues.  What’s more alarming to me is how totally creepy she is about her crush.  Driving by his apartment?  Cutting out pictures of his face?  Isn’t this the sort of thing a girl does when she’s much younger?  Okay, not the driving by his apartment part, because my friends and I totally did that in high school, but the rest of the stuff is totally bizarre.

And no matter how innocent Stuart thought Olivia was, I’m still unsettled that he’d invite her into his apartment when she showed up unannounced.  It’s not smart teaching–or living, for that matter.  A teacher should NEVER invite a student into their home.  Ever.

Next up: Todd Wilkins is moving back to Sweet Valley–and now he’s rich!

SVH #48: Slam Book Fever

17 Jan

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Amy Sutton decides that SVH needs some livening up, and the way to do that is through slam books, which were popular at her old school.  She convinces all the girls to buy black-and-white speckled notebooks and they go to town inventing categories and voting for classmates in each others’ books.  While Elizabeth and Enid abstain because they think the project could be mean, everyone else loves it, and it isn’t long before they start coming up with “Crystal Ball” categories that predict the future with clever titles like, “Most Likely to Have Six Kids” and “Most Likely to Earn a Million Dollars.”

Things start to go badly after Olivia Davidson and Roger Barrett Patman break up.  Her name starts appearing next to Jeffrey French’s in people’s slam books under the category of “Couple of the Future,” and it upsets Elizabeth.  To make matters worse, Jeffrey and Olivia are spending a lot of time together because they’re working on a photo essay project.  When Cara sees them parked on the side of the road looking cozy, Elizabeth freaks out.  By the time Olivia and Jeffrey can explain the situation (she had something in her eye), Liz has taken off and won’t speak to either of them.

Jessica and Olivia figure out that Lila’s been writing Jeffrey and Olivia’s names in the slam books to try to break up Jeffrey and Elizabeth.  It seems she wants to get her own claws in him, and this was her way of getting to him.  After they discover her (admittedly awesome) ploy, they get everyone to write her name under a new category they dub “Class Sneak.”  She takes it in stride, though, and remains awesome while doing so.  Liz makes up with Jeffrey and Olivia.  All is well in the world.

The B-Plot involves Jessica’s growing interest in new boy A.J. Morgan.  She finds herself completely tongue-tied whenever she’s around him, and even though she’s one of the most flirtatious girls in school, he thinks she’s really shy, which he digs.  She vows to be the girl that he thinks she is and plays up that shyness, going so far as to try to gain an interest in poetry.  Liz worries that Jessica’s going too far to impress A.J., but we’ll have to wait for the next book in order to really delve into that.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She felt a shiver inside.  If they could break up, anyone could.” (45)
  • “Elizabeth stopped laughing. ‘He doesn’t–Jessica, what does that mean?  How in the world is he supposed to like you if he doesn’t like flirtatious girls?'” (126)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica gets over ten votes for “Biggest Flirt”
  • A.J. scored 28 points in the basketball game against Riverside High.
  • Jessica asks if Emily Dickinson or John Keats are any good at the whole poetry thing

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I mean, what do I say about this one?  I remember really liking this book when I was younger.  For some reason, the idea of slam books was appealing to me, even though the moral (hazy though it might be) is that slam books can be hurtful and we should use our powers for good, not evil.  Perhaps it was because the concept of a slam book fed into my preconceived notions of what high school would be like.  Once more, Sweet Valley messed with my perception of reality.

My high school didn’t do slam books (doesn’t it seem like kind of a middle-school thing to do?), but we did have “Most Likely To…” categories that seniors voted on which were then put into the yearbook.  Categories ranged from “Best Eyes” to “Best Ride” to “Most Desirable Date,” and I think most girls I hung around with secretly wanted to win a category, but we were pretty nerdy and pretty quiet and my graduating class had something like 450 students, so…most of our dreams were squashed pretty quickly.  I did, however, win a category in the yearbook: “Most Likely to Take Over the World.”  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  (I also swept the vote in two categories in the underground newspaper: “Most Likely to Scar Their Children for Life” and “Most Likely to Commit a Hate Crime.”  I feel like I should clarify that both of these were jokes and that the votes were fabricated.  Seriously.)  At any rate, all three of my categories were a far cry from the kinds of things that Jessica and Elizabeth were considered for.

The point I’m trying to make (and am failing at) is that the concept of slam books actually applies to high school life.  We’re a culture that likes to categorize things, and so while the concept of slam books working outside of a single group of friends is dubious at best, it’s still something worth considering in terms of the larger social structure.  In today’s society, slam books would be electronic, and they would probably be tied to bullying.  But the general idea is the same: girls use it as a tool to exert power and inflict psychological pressure on their peers.  What Lila did in her attempts to steal Jeffrey (in a completely meta way, I might add) was the ultimate expression of such power.

Just something to think about.