Tag Archives: penny ayala

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 #70: Ms. Quarterback

10 Mar

ms. quarterback

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks


Sweet Valley High has a couple of big football games against Big Mesa and Palisades High coming up, but their new-ish quarterback Scott Trost is in danger of being suspended from the team because his grades are bad.  Scott took over after Ken Matthews went temporarily blind that one time, but now it looks like Ken might be ready to take over the team again.  The school is holding try-outs, and it looks like Ken has some competition in the form of new-girl Claire Middleton, who is totally serious about football.

Everyone is shocked and intrigued by the fact that Claire wants to play on the football team.  When Liz interviews her for The Oracle, she’s surprised to find out that Claire isn’t dazzled by her friendly persona.  Claire gives her the bare minimum of information about herself, and Liz actually has the audacity to get frustrated with her because of this.

Other people aren’t faring much better with Claire, either.  When Jessica tries to talk to her in hopes of getting her to join Pi Beta Alpha, Claire makes an insensitive comment about cheerleaders that pisses Jessica off so much she decides to get the other cheerleaders to help her sort of haze Claire during try-outs.

On the other hand, Terri Adams becomes increasingly worried about the idea of Claire on the team.  She worries about this almost as much as she worries about Ken not being ready to play football again.  Apparently he still has moments where his eyes “black out” and he can’t see anything.  He won’t listen to her worries though, and continually makes comments about how awesome Claire is, sending Terri into fits of near-psychosis.  In her sad little mind, she believes Ken is going to leave her for Claire.

So naturally, she helps the cheerleaders “teach” Claire a lesson by telling them about a picture signed by “Ted” in Claire’s locker.  The girls work it into a cheer that they perform at try-outs, and Claire FREAKS OUT and walks off the field.  Ted is Claire’s dead brother.  I know.  Yikes.

At any rate, Ken gets first-string and Claire is put in as second-string quarterback.  The day of the big game, Ken fumbles a pass and benches himself, leaving Claire to save the day and win the game.  Whatever, I’m bored.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Terri has a little brother.  Seriously, this book is scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of anything being remotely interesting.
  • At one point, Amy says that all she’s been able to think about is the comment Claire made about cheerleading.  Homegirl needs to get a life.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Claire shrugged but didn’t even bother to look at Jessica.  ‘Suit yourself. I think you’d do yourselves and everyone else a lot more good if you played a sport instead of jumping around and screaming.'” (44)
  • “That’s when it hit her: she was intensely jealous of Claire.” (70)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book sucks.  I don’t even hate it enough to have a multitude of thoughts on it.  I will say that I thought Terri acted like a complete PSYCHO throughout this whole book and I had to go back to #60, That Fatal Night, to see if I felt the same way about her.  Turns out there is such a thing as consistent character writing in the world of Sweet Valley, because she was just as much of a doormat then as she is now.

Whatever.  This book blows.

SVH #69: Friend Against Friend

7 Mar


Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Andy Jenkins is totally one of the gang at Sweet Valley even though the first time we’d ever heard of him was offhandedly in the last book.  He’s also one of the only black students at SVH, but he’s a super good student, especially when it comes to science.  That’s why he’s won a special scholarship to spend the summer studying marine biology at the Monterey Bay Acquarium.  He’s thrilled about this, and so is his friend, Neil Freemount, and his girlfriend, Tracy Gilbert (who the book wants you to know is also black).

Not everyone is super thrilled about Andy’s existence, though.  One day after school, Andy opens his locker and finds all sorts of garbage stuffed in there, as well as a note that says “Go back to Africa where you belong.”  Charlie Cashman is likely the dude behind this stupid, racist prank, because he hassles Andy in the parking lot of the Dairi Burger a few days later, and then Tracy discovers that all four of her tires have been slashed in the parking lot, too.  Neil witnesses all of this but is nervous about pointing fingers, yet he’s also confused as to why Andy doesn’t seem to want to report it.

Secretly, Neil is feeling conflicted about the whole thing.  Charlie Cashman’s father and Neil’s dad both work at Patman Canning, and they both make fairly overtly racist comments about their black supervisor, Willis.  Neil hopes that his dad is just saying these things because of Mr. Cashman, but deep down, he doesn’t believe that to be true.  Things worsen on this front when Mr. Cashman is fired, and Neil’s dad says a bunch more racist things.

What’s more alarming to Neil is that Andy doesn’t seem to want his help.  At one point, Neil tries to suggest that Andy think of what Martin Luther King, Jr. would do in the situation, and Andy (rightfully) loses his shit at him.  The two part ways, and there’s genuine tension on both ends.  Neil feels like Andy is being racist towards whites; they can’t all be bad, right?  This angers him, and he starts to resent how Andy shuts him out.

Things continue to escalate: Charlie purposely trips Andy in the hall and makes some stupid comments.  The two boys fight, and Mr. Collins breaks it up.  He pulls Neil aside and asks if Charlie started it because Andy is black, and Neil sort of shrugs his way out of the situation.  He feels increasing resentment about his perceived persecution by Andy.

The culmination of these increasingly violent acts comes when Neil and Penny see a movie and are leaving the theater one night.  They see Andy’s father’s car being attacked by Charlie and his gang, and then, when Penny goes to call the police, Neil watches in horror as they pull Andy out of the car and start beating him.  Neil runs over to save the unconscious Andy, but instead ends up hitting him, just once, after being pressured by the group to do so.  He immediately flees the scene and then lies to protect himself.

When Neil finally comes clean, it’s because Charlie Cashman has basically blackmailed or threatened him to lie about it, and he can’t live with the guilt any more.  He comes clean in the cafeteria one day, after Andy has apologized for being angry, and everyone is appalled that Neil could ever do such a thing.  It’s clear that his friendship with Andy is over, and it looks like his relationship with Penny, too.

Andy is walking home from school and is being trailed by Charlie and his gang.  While he doesn’t see them, Neil does, and he runs over to stand with Andy, despite the fact that Andy clearly hates him.  Presented with Neil and Andy, Charlie and his gang back down.

The B-Plot is nearly non-existent but basically serves to further the plot about the racist shit happening at SVH and set up the plot for the next book about a female quarterback.  Liz asks students what they’d like to change about their school and is SHOCKED when they have serious answers for her about racism, sexism, and other stuff that’s hard to think about.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Things to change at SVH: Olivia wants 3-day school weeks; Penny wants to outlaw Pi Beta Alpha, Manuel wants a non-white perspective of history; Jade Wu wants pizza ovens (?); Dana wants less focus on boys’ sports; and someone wants girls to be able to try out for the football team.
  • Mr. Archer is the marine biology teacher at SVH, Miss Jacobi is the sociology teacher.
  • Neil and Charlie listen to the Rolling Stones in his car

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Privately, Elizabeth had thought of it as just a fun thing to do.  More soft drink machines, shorter classes, better food in the cafeteria: those were the responses she had expected.  But maybe there was more dissatisfaction at Sweet Valley High than she thought.” (7)
  • “It was almost as if Andy held a grudge against every single student at Sweet Valley High because of Charlie’s bigotry. It was true that many of them hadn’t ever faced real hardships or discrimination, but that didn’t make them terrible people.” (40)
  • “‘Everyone is completely shocked,’ Penny continued.  ‘I just can’t believe something like that could happen here. I thought it only happened in big cities, like New York or L.A., but I guess I was naive.'” (84) HAS EVERYONE LOST THEIR DAMN MIND?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This was a hard book to recap, and it’s actually a hard one to write a critical analysis of, too.  It’s like so many other books that are published about hard stuff like racism and racialized violence and white guilt: well-meaning, completely misguided, and about as subtle as an anvil.  There’s also the fact that this book was written in 1990, which means that the lens we view it through now is fairly different.

Some thoughts, in bullet points because why not?

  • This is a classic case of a story about racism being told through the eyes of a white person.  What’s interesting here is that unlike many of the other books in the series, we never spend a minute inside Andy’s head, despite the fact that we are inside both Neil and Elizabeth’s heads at several points, as well as Penny’s.  So, we spend a lot of time being taught about racism but never actually hear from anyone experiencing it.
  • There’s a scene in which the sociology teacher tries a social experiment on her class, treating those with light-colored eyes as second-class citizens in an attempt to teach them about discrimination.  Again: well-meaning, but totally fucked up.  All these white kids get to go back to being the dominant majority as soon as the class is over.  Are we, as readers, supposed to feel bad for Jessica because she’s uncomfortable for a class period?  How can this possibly compare to a lifetime of living it?
  • Throughout the book, there are several mentions of feeling guilt over being privileged.  This is white guilt, and it’s very real–but it’s never named or explored.  And why would it be?  This is Sweet Valley.
  • When Andy apologizes to Neil for being angry, my jaw actually dropped.  It takes a lot to shock me when it comes to these books, but it was one of those moments that was so misplaced and so incredibly wrong (and I’m speaking of being unintentionally wrong, because it’s clear that both the reader and Neil are supposed to see  this as the right thing for Andy to do) that it defies logic.  Andy should be angry.  He has every right to be.  And to have him apologize for it?  Sends. The. Wrong. Message.

Look, I understand that this is a Sweet Valley High novel, and it’s not supposed to be super great literature or provide its readers a really nuanced, in-depth look at structural racism.  It can’t have been easy to be that ghost writer writing this didactic novel about racism that’s supposed to leave its readers (especially the white ones, and maybe only the white ones) feeling good about they know racism is bad.

I need something to cleanse my brain after this one, and I somehow doubt it’s going to be SVH #70: Ms. Quarterback.

SVH #66: Who’s to Blame?

28 Feb

who's to blame

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks. Unclear due to plot mistake.


Ned and Alice have separated following the bizarre ultimatum Ned issued while they were horseback riding at Lake Tahoe, and Ned is moving to an apartment downtown for the time being.  The kids are very concerned that their perfect family seems to be disintegrating in front of their very eyes, but they are all handling it in different ways: Steven seems to be around more and more often but sticks close to Alice; Elizabeth is consumed with guilt over the split, believing it to be her fault, but is also appalled at how Jessica and Steven are fighting; and Jessica is her usual sociopathic self in that she figures out how to play off her parents’ estrangement by getting money out of Ned and generally being a manipulative psycho.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth continues to withdraw into her own self-absorption and guilt over the breakup of her parents’ marriage.  She seems to believe that giving the phone number of the lodge to her mother’s secretary when the family was vacationing in Lake Tahoe was the reason her parents split–the only reason.  Apparently, Liz is incapable of seeing anything in more than a black-or-white frame, and therefore she’s the guilty party here.  As a result, she pulls away from Todd and eventually breaks up with him, because she thinks love is too fragile.  Then she dates pretty much every dude on campus at SVH, which pisses off Jessica.  When Steven and Jessica basically accuse Elizabeth of being the reason their parents have split, she decides to run away.

Only she doesn’t.  Instead, Enid manages to convince her to sleep over at her house.  Liz takes the phone off the hook there so her parents can’t reach her, and she leaves them both notes saying the split is all her fault.  The Wakefields rally in the face of this terrible situation, and they decide to begin working out their problems.

Oh, and Jessica convinces Steven to help her pretend to be Elizabeth so she can convince Todd she still loves him and that he loves her while Elizabeth is standing nearby.  See?  TRUE LOVE DOES LAST FOREVER.

The B-plot continues to include Jessica’s obsession with Catfish Charlie, whom she met on the Teen Party Line.  He continues to put her off when she requests a meeting, and then finally acquiesces to her request to go rollerskating.  Only, when she meets him, he seems awkward and boring.  A couple of dates later, she finds out that the real Charlie hired his friend Brook to go in his stead because he’s worried he’s too ugly for her.  Jessica confronts Charlie over the phone an then convinces him to go to the Pi Beta Alpha costume party dance with her friend Amy so she can scope him out without facing potential embarrassment over bringing an ugly date.  This is something that she actually thinks.

This plan backfires when both Brook and Charlie end up paying attention to Amy at the dance.  Jessica swears revenge by devoting herself to her father’s mayoral campaign, which I guess we’ll be treated to in the next book?

Triva/Fun Facts:

  • The phone bill is in, and Jessica rang up $375 dollars calling the 900 number.
  • Suggested couples costumes: Bonnie and Clyde, Batman and Catwoman, King and Queen of Hearts, and…bookends?
  • Awkwardly shoe-horned literary parallel: Liz’s English class is discussing Othello
  • The Palace is a music venue in downtown Sweet Valley that I’ve never heard of until now

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica glared at him. ‘Come to think about it, you have been haning around here an awful lot,’ she went on.  ‘Don’t you have a dorm room anymore? I thought you were supposed to be so big and grown-up now.'” (15)
  • Why not? Elizabeth thought with sudden defiance. Maybe meeting–and dating–a lot of different guys would take her mind off her troubles at home.  It certainly couldn’t make things worse!” (73)
  • “Reading the menu didn’t exactly lift her spirits.  Jessica knew famous models swore by sushi, since it was nutritious and low in calories. But at the moment all she wanted was a hamburger or pizza–something American.” (93)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I feel like the biggest issue with this book is that Elizabeth seems to lack the brain cells necessary to think critically about the situation her parents are in.  As the twin who is constantly painted as the thoughtful, rational one, it doesn’t stand to reason that she would be the quickest to fly off the handle in this one.  While some of her behaviors are consistent with children who act out when their parents separate and/or get divorced, too much of her internal thought process doesn’t make sense.

In what reality does a work emergency phone call on a family vacation act as the sole cause of the break up of a marriage?  Especially when readers (and the Wakefield children) have been treated to pages upon pages of Ned and Alice sniping at each other?  It’s a flimsy plot point at best, and it makes the entire setup of this novel feel hollow.  Be better, SVH ghostwriter!

SVH #39: Secret Admirer

9 Oct

Estimated Time Elapsed: 2 weeks


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?


SVH#19: Showdown

20 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Lila’s dating a new guy, a construction worker named Jack (no last name), and she throws a pool party at her mansion to show him off to her friends.  Jessica catches sight of him and decides he super-cute and worth pursuing relentlessly, so she flirts with him outrageously at the party, going so far as to write her phone number in a matchbook with the charred end of a match.  Classy.

Jack is pretty classy too, because he starts dating both girls–Jessica during the week and Lila on the weekends–and keeps dropping little information nuggets that make him seem like he comes from a lot of money but is trying to make it on his own.  Both girls eat this shit up and it isn’t long before Sweet Valley High is buzzing with gossip about who Jack is, ranging from a millionaire’s son to a secret prince.  During this time, Jack manages to also convince both girls that they’re the only one for him, and does a bunch of cheesy stuff like naming stars after them.  He also proposes to Lila but tells her they must keep their engagement a secret.

Elizabeth is weirded out by Jack and is worried about Jessica dating him while he’s also dating Lila, but her attempts to convey this worry to Jessica aren’t very successful.  She keeps trying to brush off her doubts about Jack, which worsen when she runs into him and he acts erratically and seems to have red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes.  When Jessica tells her that he’s breaking it off with Lila, some of her fears are quelled, but not totally.

Things come to a head one night when Jessica goes out with Jack and they run into Nicholas Morrow and a friend of his visiting from Boston.  Both boys seem to recognize Jack but can’t place him, and when Jack pulls Jessica out of the restaurant in a hurry, Nicholas focuses on where he knows him from.  The boys figure out that Jack is the same boy who was expelled from their prep school a few years back.  Apparently he had robbed a girl at knife-point (his own girlfriend), and although she chose not to press charges (WHAT?), he got really heavy into drugs and was totally dangerous.  He had never been the same since his entire family was killed in a tragic boating accident.

The boys race over to the Wakefield’s house in hopes of catching Jessica before it’s too late, but she’s not there!  Elizabeth is, and when they fill her in on the situation, she races along with them as they try to find Jessica.  Lila supplies Jack’s address when she finds out he’s been two-timing her, and the three of them go over to his apartment, bursting in as Jack holds a knife to Jessica’s throat after she discovers his drug stash in his bathroom.  They tackle Jack and Jessica is rescued.

The Wakefield family goes to the police station to file a report and press charges.  While they’re there, they hear a distress call come over the radio about a small plane over Secca Lake.  Elizabeth screams because it’s Enid and George’s plane!

The B-Plot involves a mystery photographer submitting photos to the school newspaper.  The photos are great: they’re funny, smart, and sneaky, and Liz is determined to figure out who the mystery photographer is.  She catches Tina Ayala, sister to Penny Ayala (the SVH newspaper editor out sick with “mononucleosis”), dropping pictures off late one night.  One of the pictures she has is of Robin Wilson and George Warren at the air field, locked in a passionate embrace.  Liz promises to help Tina get on the paper and begs her to keep quiet about the information about Robin and George.

She worries about what to do about Robin and George, and when she confronts them, they admit they’re in love.  George tells Liz that he was planning on telling Enid but promised her the first ride in a plane with him after he gets his pilot’s license.  This will end well.

Trivia/Pop Culture:

  • Jack tends to favor neutral clothing: khaki walking shorts, green La Coste shirt, top-siders; a brown crew-neck sweater, and wheat-tone button down shirt.
  • Jessica wears a slinky blue dress with buttons down the back that falls just below her knees with slits up both sides.  Scandalous!
  • Lila has a pale-blue princess phone, a detail that I find awesome.  She also brings a butter-and-caviar sandwich and shrimp salad to lunch at school.
  • Pop culture references include: The Twilight Zone, Never-Never Land, Fantasy Island, The Maltese Falcon, and The Police

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The entire book is so ridiculous that I have a hard time even trying to critique it in a serious manner.  The fact that both girls would be interested in dating a construction worker is laughable; the fact that we are supposed to believe that sixteen-year-old princess Lila Fowler would enter into a secret engagement with one after dating for a week is absolutely ludicrous.

The character of Jack is also pretty ridiculous.  He is never given a last name, and the fact that Jessica’s parents are okay with her going out with some older guy they know nothing about is further testament to their terrible parenting.  Jack is supposed to be a character the reader both fears and feels sympathy for, and yet it is difficult to do either because we know so little about him (aside from the fact that he likes to wear top-siders). Lazy writing and sloppy plotting alert.