Tag Archives: politics are a dirty game

SVH #91: In Love With a Prince

19 May

inloveiwthaprince

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Apparently Elizabeth and Prince Arthur Castillo of Santa Dora have been pen pals since they were in sixth grade, and now he’s coming back to Sweet Valley to visit.  Everyone is super, duper stoked about the prince arriving, as long as they’re female.  The dudes are not stoked.  Todd is convinced Arthur has designs on Liz (he does), and the other boys, including Sam, are extremely jealous about how much attention the girls are giving his impending arrival.  The only female who is not excited is Dana Larson, who thinks royalty is stupid and, like, America and stuff.

Somehow, Jessica convinces Dana to come along to the airport when they go to greet Prince Arthur in hopes of convincing her to have The Droids play at her party for him.  Dana admits to herself that he’s super good-looking but still thinks he must be a snob.  She’s withdrawn and judgmental at the lunch party Liz hosts for him that afternoon.  Then she acts like a total snot in English class when they discuss Hamlet, saying that royals always trod upon people who work for a living.

Because Dana runs her mouth off about this, Mr. Collins proposes the two have a debate about the need and/or place for royal families in the 20th century.  Dana thinks she’ll crush it but doesn’t seem to do any sort of research whatsoever about Santa Dora, modern political structures, or anything else.  She gets up and rambles about America and how they fought for freedom, and then Prince Arthur gets up and gives a really thoughtful (seriously thoughtful given the series we’re in) rebuttal about how Santa Dora is different, etc.  He wins, obviously, and Dana is mortified.  She also realizes she has a crush on Arthur.

Jessica throws a party for Arthur and tries to get him to dance with her all night.  But he’s pretty booked up with other obligations, and keeps apologizing for the fact that he can’t spare a dance.  Sam is REALLY displeased with the way Jessica acts, but Jessica doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the fact that she is actively pursuing another dude in front of her boyfriend.  This is exacerbated by the fact that Jessica overheard Elizabeth talking about Arthur telling her he has a crush on a spunky girl. Arthur is talking about Dana, but Jessica is a sociopath and assumes he means her, until Arthur asks her to ask Dana to dance.  That’s pretty clear

After Dana and Arthur dance together, they become inseparable.  Over the course of a week, they go out, make out, and end up falling in love.  So when he proposes marriage to her, she doesn’t think it’s the craziest thing she’s ever heard.  In fact, she tells him she’ll seriously think about it, and give him an answer at Lila’s big party in a week.  He tells her that they could have a long engagement, like that makes this entire thing less crazy.

Meanwhile, Lila has been trying to get close to Arthur his entire visit, to no avail.  She flirts with one of his bodyguards and gets some information about a “secret mission” the prince is on while visiting the United States.  She does some research at the library and finds out that he has to pick a fiance by the time he turns 17 or his parents will arrange his marriage.  Betting that Dana doesn’t know this part of the story, she leaks it to the Sweet Valley News, who then ask Dana about it.

Dana is furious for whatever reason and breaks up with Arthur.  He’s heartbroken, and though he attends Lila’s party, he brushes off her attempts to get close to him, which makes Jessica nearly glow with glee.  Dana sulks a lot and feels sorry for herself until Elizabeth comes and tells her that Arthur’s feelings for her were very real and that he’s leaving town.  Realizing what an idiot she is, Dana rushes to meet him before he leaves.  The two cry and embrace and promise to remain friends, but she still can’t marry him.  He tells her he will fight with his parents about the antiquated rule.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila is getting counseling for her near-rape at Project Youth
  • Liz throws Arthur a lunch party and the menu includes: veggies and dip, fresh fruit, croissants and seafood salad, and cookies.’
  • Lynne Henry wrote a song for Arthur and it’s called “Rule My Heart”
  • Literary references: Mr. Collins’s English class is reading Hamlet
  • Arthur’s parents’ names are Armand and Stephanie.  How…weird?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Dana did. ‘It’s always been that way with royalty,’ she declared. ‘It was worse back then, because royalty was more common, but it’s the same thing today. Royal families use, abuse, and sponge off the people who actually work for a living.'” (34)
  • “‘I’ve danced with him twice,’ Lila informed Jessica huffily, getting to her feet. ‘And we split a hamburger.'” (56)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I have so many questions about this one, actually.  As one of the books I remember LOVING as a child, it sure didn’t hold up to my adult scrutiny.  So, first of all:

Why is Arthur in Sweet Valley for 3 weeks?

If he’s doing a tour around the world, why on EARTH would he stay in Sweet Valley for 3 weeks at the start?  I know he was planning on pursuing Liz before she was like, “Todd is my special friend,” but wouldn’t he sort of think that either way,  a 3 week stay was sort of ambititious?  Doesn’t he have other places to go? And if he does, since it is a “world tour,” does he have girls who are like, contingency plans?  I don’t get it.

Why is he going on a world tour to find a woman to marry?

Isn’t that weird?  He expects to find someone to marry, at 16, in America? If it’s okay to have a super-long engagement, why is the rule there in the first place? If he’s going to college and is allowed to basically go wherever he wants, how does this engagement thing signify that he’s ready to take over the throne?

Also, Dana is the WORST.

 

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SVH #87: My Best Friend’s Boyfriend

5 May

mybestfriendsboyfriend

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Denise Hadley is beautiful and popular and charismatic.  Her best friend, Ginny Belasca, feels like the dull, undesirable friend, forever in her shadow.  When Denise urges Ginny to volunteer at Project Youth, manning the teen line, Ginny is reluctant but finds that she’s actually sort of great at it.  It doesn’t take long before she takes a call from a teen named Mike, and the two hit it off.  He continues to call the teen line with his family problems (his mom is marrying a new guy and there are familial adjustments), and the two start to form a relationship.  When he presses her for a meeting, she finally relents, but then she begs Denise to go for her, just this once.  Denise agrees, telling herself she’ll explain to Mike how shy Ginny is and arrange a secret meeting for them.

When they meet, however, Denise is totally taken with how attractive Mike is.  Even though she has a boyfriend, she’s flustered and giggly around Mike, and she doesn’t tell him that she’s not Ginny.  In fact, she agrees to go out with him again later that week.  She tells Ginny that she’s really into Mike, and Ginny asks her what she’s going to do about her boyfriend, Jay. Denise hedges on this for a while and then breaks up with him.  Ginny angsts about the fact that she likes Mike but doesn’t ever tell Denise this.

Denise actually brings Ginny along on their next date, which is super creepy.  The girls tell Mike that Ginny’s name is Denise.  This will end well.  Throughout the course of the date, both girls reflect on how well the real Ginny gets along with Mike and how uncomfortable the real Denise is with him.  They have nothing in common, and it’s clear that Mike sees it.  But he still doesn’t say no when Denise asks him out again.

Mike continues to call the teen line and talks to Ginny.  At one point, she pretends to be someone else to avoid talking to him as Ginny, and he tells her all about how he’s actually into someone else now.  She assumes he means someone other than her, because Ginny kind of sucks.  At any rate, she cries a lot about it and worries how Denise will take it when she inevitably gets dumped.

It turns out, she takes it surprisingly well.  As she and Mike are leaving the Box Tree Cafe, Liz says hi to her and calls her by her real name.  This spurs a confession to Mike, who isn’t mad at all.  In fact, he goes along with Denise’s idea to set him up with the real Ginny.  He calls the teen line again, talks to Ginny-as-someone-else, and then, when she runs out into the hallway, he’s waiting to ask her out.  Great! Oh, and Denise gets back together with Jay, because a pretty girl in Sweet Valley can’t be single.

The B-Plot focuses on Liz wanting to write an article about sexual harassment for the school paper.  When she brings the idea forward, Mr. Collins gets super weird about it, but finally says he’ll read her draft and go from there.  But he tells Mr. Cooper about it before Liz has written a word, and he promptly shuts it down. Furious about the censorship, Liz decides to write it anyway, approaching it from an angle of being censored.  She shows it to Mr. Collins, who changes his mind, brings it to Cooper, but it’s still a no-go.  So Liz and the rest of the crack staff at the Oracle decide to distribute it as an “underground” newsletter.  They end up having another confrontation with Cooper, but because Liz is such a good writer, everything ends up just fine.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Shoehorned literary reference: Elizabeth’s English class is reading A Tale of Two Cities
  • In addition to Casey’s, there’s an ice cream place called the Lucky Duck where the waiters wear duck costumes.  Sign me up.
  • Pop culture references: Lady Macbeth and Frankenstein’s monster

Memorable Quotes: 

  • “You’re special, Ginny.  You’re a beautiful person. I know you must be so pretty.” (47)
  • “‘So what?’ Penny demanded hotly. ‘Newspapers aren’t about making people feel good.  Newspapers are about information that’s important.'” (71)
  • “Denise shrugged. She could understand the pressure that people put on attractive girls.  Being pretty was a very difficult responsibility.” (94) Okay, Denise is officially the worst. 

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are two things that struck me upon reading this one, a title which I had never read before.  The first is that although we are supposed to like Denise, she comes off as kind of the worst.  Like, throughout the entire novel.  She makes a weirdly disparaging remark about homeless people in Sweet Valley and how they’re bringing the town down, she thinks that completely obnoxious thing about pretty girls I quoted up above, and, oh yeah, she goes out with the guy her best friend is into when she’s still dating another dude.  Now, an argument could be made that Ginny is a total wet blanket incapable of actually standing up for herself, and that’s true–Ginny is also pretty terrible–but there isn’t anything cool or okay with what Denise does.  This is a totally sick, unbalanced friendship between the girls.  Gross.

But the thing that stood out to me during this reading most prominently was the issue of sexual harassment.  The book talks a lot about “sexual harassment,” but from what I can tell, they’re really talking about sexual assault and rape.  It’s weird, because the book touches on aspects of rape culture–society telling girls to stay quiet and not cause a scene, the entire idea of power dynamics as they relate to sexual assault–but the book is incredibly reticent to use the correct terminology.  Only when they refer to a rape crisis center is the word ever used.

This is probably largely due to when the book was written and published–these things are never so dated as when you see them try to tackle an issue deemed taboo–but it’s also probably in part because they didn’t want to rankle parents.  So in purporting to tackle the issue of censorship and rape culture, the book is actually censoring itself?  Maybe a little?

Also, at one point, Chrome Dome makes reference to issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault being a “family matter.”  I actually did a double take, because WHAT IN THE WHAT?

SVH #73: Regina’s Legacy

21 Mar

reginalegacy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Apparently the fact that Elizabeth decided she could only focus on one hobby at a time about two books ago is lost on her now, because she’s joined the new club that’s all the rage at Sweet Valley High: the photography club! Good timing, too, because as soon as she joins, poor dead Regina Morrow’s mom stops by with a gift for Elizabeth: Regina’s fancy camera.  Elizabeth wastes no time learning how to use it, and starts snapping photos left and right.

Some are for the secret photo mural the photography club decides to make for the school, and some are for her own benefit.  One day at the beach, she takes a picture of three men who look suspicious, and one of them sees her and starts running after her, trying to take her camera! Luckily, Prince Albert barks at the man, and Liz escapes to her car just in time.  She develops the photos and still feels weird about what she saw, even though she can’t put her finger on why that is.

Things get weirder when a cute young guy tails Jessica and Lila when they’re cruising around in the Fiat.  His name is Chad, and he asks Jess about the picture she took on the beach, and it doesn’t take long for Jess to realize he means Liz.  She plays along, promises to show him the photo, which she says is in the darkroom at school (it isn’t), and gives him her phone number.

Liz and Todd see a news broadcast about a congressman turning tail about prosecuting a drug ring, and Liz is sure the man is the one she photographed.  But how could it be the same man she saw on the beach in California if he’s in Washington?  Todd thinks she’s overreacting, but Liz is sure something weird is up with the photo she took.  Whatever, I’m bored.

Meanwhile, someone breaks into the darkroom at SVH and ransacks the place, destroying a bunch of equipment.  Todd and Elizabeth were just about to use it, too! They decide to go use the equipment at the local news station to blow up the photograph, because Liz has a feeling about a shirt one of the men is wearing.  Finally, they discern that the shirt is from a restaurant called Rick’s Place.

Chad asks Jessica out and takes her bowling.  Then he drives her to Big Mesa for dinnner…to Rick’s place.  Todd and Liz see Jessica there, and they panic when they see Chad grab her wrist and pull her out of the restaurant.  They chase after them in their car, but Todd gets pulled over before they can catch up.  Liz tells the policeman where she thinks they’re going (SVH), and everyone races to the school.  Todd tackles Chad, he gets arrested, and the whole story comes tumbling out.  And it is even dumber than you can imagine.

The man in the picture is Rich or Ron Hunter (I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check).  They’re identical twins and were both involved in the biggest drug ring in America that the government was unaware of.  One of them had a change of heart about it and turned informant, and the bad guys put his brother in for him in congress so that they wouldn’t be prosecuted.  Yes, this whole thing is a big bag of stupid.  They would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those pesky teens!

The B-Plot involves Shelley Novak getting jealous of how much time her boyfriend Jim Roberts spends on the photography club project.  He won’t tell her what he’s working on, which pisses her off further.  They fight, and then Jim puts a photo of Shelley at the center of the mural to prove his love for her.  They make up. I barf.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The book refers to Nicholas Morrow being a recent Sweet Valley High graduate, but that’s not true, because Nicholas moved with his family after he was already done with high school.  Sigh.
  • The camera Liz is given by Skye Morrow is a Nikon.
  • Jessica wears a silk blouse and a mini-skirt on her date with Chad.  Liz wears a pink dress and pearls to a casual dinner with Todd’s parents.  Whatever.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘That nerd Allen Walters,’ continued Jessica. ‘He snuck into cheerleading practice today and was zooming in at us from all over the place! I thought he was only interested in math and chemistry. You photography-club types are just a bunc of Peeping Toms. It gives me the creeps!'” (27)
  • “‘I’ll tell you one thing,’ Jessica said, shaking her head. ‘That’s the last time I go out with a total stranger just because he’s cute, and it’s also the last time I let somebody think I’m you! Talk about a double whammy!'” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess the first thing worth mentioning is how much I didn’t care about the mystery at the center of Liz’s photograph.  I literally just finished the book and already can’t be bothered to remember which brother was in which role or why it mattered.  The details surrounding the drug ring, the kidnapping, and the twin switch are so hilariously vague that it’s clear no one expected readers to care much about it, either.

There’s this awkward moment near the end of the book where Liz feels like Regina’s spirit helped her put an end to the drug ring because Regina died of a drug overdose, and she congratulates herself on how many lives have been saved.  I feel like Liz has no idea how drug rings work.  But whatever.  This part is dumb, and kind of boring.

Something that struck me while reading this book: all of Liz and Todd’s research would have been done so differently now.  First of all, Liz’s camera would likely have been a digital one, which means she could have enhanced the photos on a computer instead of painstakingly by hand.  Second of all, all of their research about “Rick’s Place” and the congressman could have been put to rest with a simple Google search.  Isn’t technology weird?

Next up: More of Robin Wilson’s eating disorder! I’m super, super nervous about this one.

SVH #67: The Parent Plot

3 Mar

parentplot

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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

SVH #66: Who’s to Blame?

28 Feb

who's to blame

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

Summary/Overview:

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 #65: Trouble at Home

24 Feb

troubleathome

Estimated Elapsed Time: About a month?

Summary/Overview:

Alice Wakefield’s firm puts forth a bid to design a new wing in the Valley Mall, and it’s taking up all her time.  This means she’s not home to cook dinner or grocery shop, which makes Ned Wakefield UNBELIEVABLY angry, and it makes the kiddos pretty nervous.  It seems like Alice and Ned are fighting all the time, and Ned is clearly professional unsatisfied.  When Maria Santelli’s dad, who happens to be running for mayor, is accused of taking bribes, Ned decides to defend him.  Alice is unsure about this, but Ned pushes forth, because he is an ETHICAL LAWYER, unlike pretty much every other lawyer he knows.

Apparently Ned holds a lot of power in Sweet Valley or they don’t have much of a backlog of cases, because within days of Santelli being accused and Ned taking the case, the trial has begun.  It doesn’t go well, and Ned is weary/crabby at home, when he is home.  The twins worry about the fact that their parents seem to be so disconnected, but Liz is much more worried than Jessica.

Ned and Alice seem to be driven further apart when the judge suspends the case due to lack of evidence.  In this blogger’s professional opinion, it sounds like the case was thrown out, but the legal terms in this book are so APPALLINGLY INACCURATE that it hardly seems to matter.  Ned is crushed by this perceived loss, and this is worsened by the fact that Alice’s firm wins the bid and is designing the new mall wing.  She’s busier than ever, and Ned is super resentful of her success.

But then Mr. Santelli pulls out of the mayoral race and Henry Patman shows up with some other guy at the Wakefield house and asks Ned to run.  Ned is flattered and seems to be seriously considering taking the candidacy.  He neglects to tell his wife this, though.

The entire family takes their “annual” vacation to a remote cabin on Lake Tahoe, and Jessica, Elizabeth, and Steven hope that this will help their parents fall back in love with each other.  But that doesn’t happen, as Alice’s firm gets a hold of her at the cabin when some things go wrong and Ned blows up about it.  He gives her an ultimatum: her job or their marriage, and she literally rides away from her family on horseback. CLIFFHANGER.

The B-Plot involves Jessica becoming addicted to calling a 900-number for teens.  This teen line is advertised as a way for teens to connect with other teens, but it costs them $1/minute.  Remember when this was a thing?  At any rate, Jessica meets “Charlie” through this teen line and decides she’s in love with him, even though he keeps putting off actually meeting.  He’s totally catfishing her.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ned belongs to a legal fraternity called Psi Epsilon.
  • A new Italian restaurant called Toscas opened up in Sweet Valley.
  • Wakefield Family House Rule: No TV at mealtimes.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica felt her cheeks get hot. This guy was terrific. If he was this great to talk to on the telephone, she could just imagine how wonderful he’d be in person!” (40)
  • “‘Out in the open,’ she repeated incredulously. ‘Jess, don’t you ever feel sorry about anything you do? Can’t you admit what you did was wrong?'” (120)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book is the worst, not only because it’s so heavily focused on Ned and Alice, but because the stakes here are so low that I can’t even bring myself to care.  Ned and Alice are not going to get a divorce, guys.  They just aren’t.  You don’t spend 60 fucking books telling readers about how rock-solid a marriage is to have it come crumbling down in the span of 130 pages over some hectic work schedules.  Give me an affair or a drug problem or something!

But what is interesting to note is how fucking sexist the undertones of the novel are.  Alice is literally expected to do it all: she’s expected to work a full-time job, keep a trim figure, take care of her children, and get dinner on the table by six o’clock (Ned FREAKS OUT when she brings home Chinese food one night).  Ned gives her endless grief about how the family doesn’t come first for her all of a sudden, and it feels really hollow, because his career has come first a lot of times before this.

Probably I’m giving this too much thought.  I know I am, because I have a blog devoted to recapping Sweet Valley High novels in excruciating detail.  But it’s interesting to see what I notice this time around that my 10-year-old self completely missed.

This is kind of a two-parter, because nothing gets resolved here, plot-wise.  However, the powers that be decided to publish Bruce’s Story between novels (maybe hoping to stall for some time and find an actual plot?), so we’ll be reading that before we get to #66: Who’s to Blame?