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SVH #112: Jessica Quits the Squad

13 Aug

jessica quits

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is trying to get over that whole unpleasant episode with Jeremy, the money-grubbing sociopath and has thrown herself fully into the cheerleading world once again.  This doesn’t go as smoothly as she’d like when new girl Heather Mallone shows up and starts stealing the spotlight from her.  Heather was a big deal cheerleader at her old school and walks her way onto the team with very little effort.  Despite Jessica’s best attempts to get the better of her, Heather keeps laying on the sickly sweet act and messing up Jessica’s plans to rule the school.

Jessica decides to make Heather perform a series of tests to prove her worthiness or something.  She suggests having Heather sit at the chess club table at lunch two days in a row.  Then she has to wear a totally embarrassing outfit.  Jessica has her sing the national anthem in front of a class.  I don’t get how any of these things are that embarrassing, but whatever.  All of these “tests” backfire in Jessica’s face, as Heather manages to pull each one off with panache and grace.  She ends up on the cheerleading squad.

Robin Wilson announces that her dad has accepted a job transfer to Denver, Colorado.  Jessica is worried this means that Heather will make a play for the co-captain spot.  At the going-away party, she announces Heather’s ascension to co-captain.  When Jessica catches Heather flirting with Ken, she “accidentally” bumps into her, sending her straight into the pool.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth OBSESSES over the fact that Ken Matthews and Jess have started dating and are now the school’s “it” couple.  She keeps angsting over the fact that she and Ken hooked up a couple of times while Todd lived in Vermont, even though this totally didn’t happen except for in her Secret Diary.  I still declare those books anathema, so it’s hard for me to get behind this.  She goes to see Mr. Collins and asks for advice for “her friend.”  He tells her she needs to tell her “friend” that until she and this guy resolve their feelings for one another, there will be jealousy and hurt in the air.  Liz takes this to mean she should hide her feelings inside.  Okay.

At the party at Amy’s, Liz is so jealous when she sees Jessica and Ken dancing together that she suggests they all switch partners.  Then she can’t talk to Ken, gets upset, and runs away.  When Jessica asks Ken about it, he gets weirdly defensive.  In fact, both he and Liz are super weird to Jess about the other, but she still doesn’t put it together.  Liz keeps telling Jess that “anything could happen” which is a weird way to warn her off of Ken.

Heather takes over as co-captain and starts pissing Jess off immediately by changing the time practice starts and not telling her and then condescending to every suggestion Jess makes for their cheers.  When she starts harshly criticizing the other cheerleaders’ dance moves, Jessica gleefully thinks it won’t be long before everyone hates her.  But then she finds out that Heather invited a bunch of girls and guys (including Ken) over for a “dinner party” and didn’t invite her.  When Jessica asks Lila about it, Lila says it’s because Heather thinks Jessica doesn’t like her and really wants to be friends.

Then Heather kicks Sandy Bacon and Maria Santelli off the squad on a day when Jessica is home sick.  When Jessica confronts her about it, she pulls out a rule book and references an obscure loophole that lets her make that kind of decision without Jessica present.  Jessica declares war on Heather.  But before she can really do anything, she realizes that Heather has completely brainwashed the entire squad, as well as having put them on a crazy restrictive diet and exercise plan.  She feels frustrated.  The night of a big game, Jessica watches in horror as the team performs a cheer she doesn’t know.  Furious and humiliated, she yells at Heather, quits the squad, and runs off the field.

Ken tries to cheer her up, but she’s seen pictures of Ken and Liz together and has doubts about his feelings for her.  When she gets home that night, choosing to skip the pool party at Lila’s, she digs up Liz’s diary and confirms her suspicions: Liz and Ken had an “affair” back when Todd was gone.  Jessica cries.  And…scene!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Heather Malone drives a white Mazda Miata and has a vanity license plate that says “Cheerleader”
  • At Amy’s goodbye party for Robin, everyone drinks “exotic nonalcoholic drinks”
  • Typo alert: “”always were waterproof mascara to pool parties.” AWESOME. It’s not even the right homophone.
  • Whitman (High?) is another of SVH’s rival schools for sports events

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Hi, Jessica,’ Heather said, smiling that same syrupy smile as she extender her hand to Jessica. ‘What an adorable little blouse you’re wearing. It’s so, uh…retro.'” (21)
  • “Heather opened her mouth, and out came the sounds of a professional singer.  All of the students sat perfectly quiet and still as Heather filled the room with her beautiful voice.  She did a funky version of the national anthem, and some students were even clapping their hands and snapping their fingers.” (55)
  • “It was totally out of character for Elizabeth to lie to her sister like that, but she couldn’t help it.” (90)
  • “‘You’re right,’ Lila said, pausing in the middle of applying mascara.  ‘You look like Joan Crawford. Wipe it off and try mine.  It’s less harsh.'” (142)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

There are a few things that struck me about this book.  One was the callous way the ghost writer would refer to a couple of fairly serious things that happened in previous books. The first of these was Annie Whitman’s attempted suicide.  Jessica thinks back on it and sort of brushes it off again.  It’s weird and jarring.  This is compounded by the fact that after Heather unveils her new diet and exercise regime for the squad, Jessica thinks about Robin Wilson’s “bout” of anorexia.  She thinks about how Robin got so thin she had to be fed intravenously in the hospital.  Uh, that is not a “bout” of anorexia.

The other thing that struck me about this one: why in god’s name isn’t there a coach for the cheerleading team?  They wouldn’t put two high school juniors in charge of the entire team.  From my limited experience with high school sports, I know there were captains for cheerleading squads, but they were just sort of like, senior members.  They weren’t in charge of all of the choreography and the meets and such.  Whatever, this is making my brain hurt.

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SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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 #92: She’s Not What She Seems

21 May

shesnotwhatsheseems

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 weeks, tops

Summary/Overview:

Sweet Valley High’s theater is putting on a production of Macbeth, and Jessica is determined to play the lead (kind of?) of Lady Macbeth.  She sacrifices time with friends and with Sam to prepare for the auditions, and she totally knocks each round out of the park.  Even Lila, who is a very good actress as well, doesn’t stand a chance in the shadow of Jessica.  It helps that the shy, quiet new girl Paula Perrine has been helping Jessica get ready.  She helps her run lines and feeds her ego to a creepy, bizarre degree.  Jessica nabs the lead, obviously, and her opposite is Bill Chase.  Lila gets cast as one of the witches.  After Jessica encourages her to do so, Paula tries out for the role of Lady Macbeth’s gentlewoman and gets it.

From there, she starts hanging out with the gang more.  After a makeover from Jessica, she really comes out of her shell, flirting with the assistant director and generally grabbing the attention of Jessica’s friends.  Jessica starts to feel uneasy about it, but both she and Liz (and everyone else) bought her sob story about her dead mother and abusive, alcoholic father, so they mostly feel sorry for her.

As the days go by, Jessica becomes increasingly paranoid about Paula and her motivations.  She frames situations so Jessica blows up at her because Paula didn’t do something she promised and makes herself look like total victim while Jessica looks like an asshole.  This isn’t hard, as Jessica is an asshole, but Paula is also a master manipulator.  She also starts cutting out Jessica from activities with the friend group.  Then, when Jennifer Mitchell gets mono and has to drop out as Jessica’s understudy, Paula steps up and doesn’t actually tell Jessica.  She’s also taken to wearing much better clothes and makeup at school, but still dresses way down when she and Jessica rehearse privately.

Things come to a head the night of the play’s opening, when Paula calls Jessica during a thunderstorm, crying about her alcoholic father and asking if Jessica can come get her from Cold Springs.  Jessica obliges, and it doesn’t take her long to realize she’s being played in a major way.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth figures out that Paula has been lying about her parents the entire time just before the play starts, with Paula set to go on in Jessica’s absence.

At Lila’s cast party that night, Jessica confronts Paula in front of everyone, and all her friends applaud after Paula leaves, still pretty smug about her performance.  The next day, at the Wakefield’s pool party, Paula shows up, still smug and positively delusional, and when she doesn’t receive the warm welcome she expects, she turns to leave, falling into the pool.  She storms off.  The world makes sense again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Plot convenience: Steven is taking a Shakespeare class at college and is full of factoids about the play
  • Jessica likes strawberry milkshakes from Casey’s
  • School let out early because of the play’s opening night performance. What an institution of learning!
  • Luke Perry gets a mention.  Yikes.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I don’t want to discourage you, Annie,’ said Jessica, ‘but you ought to be more realistic. You don’t have a chance at playing Lady Macbeth. Not with me trying out.'” (10)
  • “‘Oh yes,’ said Paula, almost in a whisper. ‘Everyone knows who all of you are.'” (32) [Blogger’s note: How is this not the creepiest thing they’ve ever seen?]
  • “It’s pouring outside, Prince Albert. That’s got to be bad luck on opening night. It never rains in Sweet Valley; it must be the Macbeth curse.” (121)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of things about this one that I actually really like.  For one, I was once in Macbeth, and so the play is near and dear to my heart.  But I also remember really liking this one as a kid, probably because it featured acting (my favorite thing) and crazy single white female shenanigans (another great thing).  As an adult, I actually still found this one pretty compelling, if not a little ridiculous.  There are several things that don’t work for me here:

Paula is a total creeper from page one, and I have a hard time that people wouldn’t get the heebie-jeebies from her.  She lays it on so thick that it’s impossible not to feel like something is off about her, and while the Sweet Valley kids have proven themselves to be the dumbest, densest teens around time and time again, it still feels like a little much.

Part of this has to do with the exchange Jessica has with Sam on page 104:

“Jessica, I don’t know what’s wrong with you lately…But you seem to go off the deep end whenever Paula’s involved…It’s not like you to be so paranoid.”

“Sam,” Jessica said, trying to stay calm, “I am not paranoid. But Paula is trying to sabotage me somehow. You’ve got to believe me!”

The thing is, if Sam knows her as well as we’re supposed to believe, he would know it’s not like her to be so crazy paranoid about Paula.  It’s weird to me that she’d be able to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes like that.  Eh, whatever.  Sweet Valley, am I right?

The other thing that stood out to me was that when Jessica gets the call from Paula saying she needs rescuing, there’s a clap of thunder on Jessica and on Paula’s end.  If she’s in Silver Springs, you idiot, you would not hear the same clap of thunder miles and miles away.  Whatever. I’m probably overthinking it.

SVH #13: Kidnapped!

24 Mar

Estimated Time Elapsed: 1 week

Summary/Overview

Jessica is getting ready for the huge party being held at Regina Morrow’s mansion.  The Morrows are new in town and are richer than like, anyone.  Jessica is wearing a super-revealing dress in hopes of catching Nicholas Morrow’s eye.  Even though she’s never met him and knows nothing about him except for the fact that he’s rich, she’s convinced they’re meant to be.  She reiterates this fact to Cara in the car on their way to the party after leaving the house without waiting for Elizabeth to return from candy-striping/tutoring Max Dellon/saving the world.

Which I guess is supposed to serve as a way to build tension, because a good deal of time passes at the party before anyone starts worrying about where Elizabeth is.  Jessica meets Regina, whom we learn is deaf bu treads lips and seems to speak without any impediment.  Jessica flirts with Nicholas and lies to Todd about Liz to keep him off her back.  When he discovers the lie, he pushes Jessica into the pool (at which point, I am ashamed to say, I actually squealed with glee).  The two of them realixe something is wrong when Jessica phones home and Ma and Pa Wakefield haven’t seen Liz, either.

The community is stunned by her disappearance.  Jessica blames herself and somehow turns the situation into being about her.  Todd gets angry and threatens people.  Mrs. Wakefield makes breakfast.  Mr. Collins looks haunted.  We all have our ways of dealing with grief, I guess.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is tied to a wooden chair in Crazy Carl the Orderly’s shack.  He loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her, but he wants them to be together forever.  He feeds her frozen pancakes and fast food and tells her about how happy they’ll be together when he takes her to some cabin in the woods.  Liz cries a lot and thinks about happier times when she and Jessica would have pillow fights for hours.  Her attempts to escape are fruitless, and she wonders if she’ll ever be saved.

But saved she is, after Todd, Jessica, and Max go to the hospital and question staff.  Carl mistakes Jessica for Liz and freaks out, and Liz is rescued.  The twins are reunited and throw a party to celebrate.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Look, it’s not my fault my stupid brother can’t see how good you’d be for him. Maybe after Tricia dies, you two could start over again.'” (17)
  • “Roger Collins was still holding the phone after Todd hung up.  He hoped Elizabeth was okay.  He shook his head as he replaced the receiver.  Sometimes being a teacher at Sweet Valley High felt like a twenty-four-hour-a-day job.” (56)
  • “Then she lowered her right arm against the seat of her chair, and with the fingernail of her thumb she gashed out a notch. ‘Day one,’ she said grimly, wondering if there would ever be an end to this horror.” (96)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Steven has his own (tiny) bathroom attached to his room.
  • Max Dellon needs help with English class and struggles to read Othello on his own.
  • The Morrow Mansion is compared to something out of Xanadu.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Setting aside Jessica’s complete psychosis when it comes to Nicholas Morrow, the only real issue to focus on in this book is Elizabeth’s kidnapping.  To be fair, Elizabeth fares pretty well for herself, given how powerless she is in the situation.  She tries to escape but the house is boarded up, so she works hard to make sure she can keep Carl calm.  Which is fine, except that it doesn’t seem Carl is actually dangerous, just crazy.  He doesn’t seem to harbor any sexual desire for Elizabeth (a sign that tells us this is a book written for 12-year-olds) and he is often referred to as seeming child-like, which also reinforces the idea that he isn’t really dangerous.  I suppose this was a way to keep readers engaged but not terrified.

The real problem, however, are the long passages where Elizabeth is alone in the shack and the reader is treated to long inner-monologues where Elizabeth reminisces about her friends and family.  Not only does the reader come to realize that Elizabeth is boring–really, really boring–but her best memories are contrived.  The story about Jessica and the pillow fight seemed like something schemed up by a writer trying desperately to get into the mind of a teenage girl and failing, miserably.  Oh well.

The moral of the story?  If you’re kidnapped, wait for your twin sister to trick your kidnapper into thinking you escaped and giving himself away.

SVH #1: Double Love

25 Feb

Estimated Total Elapsed Time: My conservative estimate is 3 weeks to 1 month.

The Overview:

The twins are perfect.  They have classic, all-American good looks (I think that means they’re white), and perfect bodies.  They’re tanned and toned without any real effort, and they lead very privileged upper-middle class lives.  When the book opens, it’s the morning of a very big day.  The twins will be inducted into Pi Beta Alpha, the school’s most exclusive sorority during lunch.  Jessica wheedles her way into borrowing Elizabeth’s new tuxedo shirt, bow tie, and matching pants in what is the first of many outfit descriptions.

It seems also that both girls have their eyes on the same boy.  Todd Wilkins is the school’s basketball star and is quite the dreamboat, although he exhibits very little personality or character throughout the book.  Jessica uses a series of manipulations and lies throughout the book to keep Todd away from Elizabeth and in her clutches.  She’s determined to get him to ask her to the Pi Epsilon Sweetheart dance, and she goes out of her way to make sure he does, even though it means lying and stepping all over her doormat of a sister.

Liz spends the majority of the book crying about how she’s completely forgettable.  She also cries about the fact that Todd likes her sister and not her.  When Jessica goes out with wild-boy Rick Andover and gets escorted home by the police, a case of mistaken identity (not the last in the series, and not even the last case of it IN THIS BOOK) makes Liz look like the guilty party and sends the school’s gossipmongers into overdrive.

Todd takes Jessica to the dance, Liz goes with Winston Egbert, and everyone has a pretty miserable time.  Jessica is pissed that Todd doesn’t seem into her, and so at the end of the night, she storms into Liz’s room and essentially accuses him of attempted date rape.  Liz gets mad and tells Todd off, and Todd acts all confused and butt-hurt, because he’s supposed to be mad at her for going to Kelly’s with Rick and acting like a general floozy.

The book culminates with Jessica and Liz essentially getting carjacked and kidnapped by a drunk Rick Andover.  The logistics of how this happens are so ridiculous that I’ll spare you the details.  It’s important to note that Todd saves the day by chasing down their car, punching Rick, and then kissing Elizabeth.  Elizabeth gets her revenge on Jessica by doing the old identity switcheroo on her and then reveals that “Elizabeth” is the author of the school’s gossip column, an outing that means a dunk in the school’s pool.  Jessica swears revenge, but Elizabeth doesn’t seem worried (I would be).

The B Plot involves the twins being convinced that Ned Wakefield (or big Papa Dubs, as I like to refer to him) is having an affair with a divorcee lawyer at his firm named Marianna West.  He is not.  Jessica is also convinced that Steven is dating the trashy Betsy Martin, who sleeps around and whose father is the town drunk, but really he’s dating Betsy’s angelic sister Tricia.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Why in the world are you two still playing that ridiculous game?  You wouldn’t think it was funny if you really were gross-looking,’ Jessica said, shuddering at the thought of having anything but an attractive family.” (34)
  • “‘Jess, are you sure?  I can’t believe it.  Betsy’s been doing drugs for years–she sleeps around–‘ ‘And her father gets bombed out of his mind every night,’ Jessica said wildly.” (76)

Outfits Described:

  • a tuxedo shirt with matching pants and bow tie
  • a red blouse, black pencil skirt, and black sandals
  • pressed jeans and a blue button-down
  • a white strapless dress
  • a blue dress with a handkerchief neckline and full skirt
  • an ice-blue suit

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Rick Andover orders two boilermakers when he takes Jessica out.  This was the most badass drink the ghostwriter could come up with?
  • Jessica isn’t allowed to drive the Fiat because of a fender bender that cost $200 to repair.  When adjusted for inflation, that would be the equivalent of about $470 today.
  • The twins have perfect figures, but they consumed the following food items over the course of the book: pepperoni pizza, french toast, green grapes, milk, duck a la orange, creamed asparagus, chilled parfait, bacon cheeseburger, root beer, and hamburgers.
  • Pop culture references made include: Star Wars, the Twilight Zone, Jaws, Sherlock Holmes, and a reference to Clint Eastwood.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

The book that started it all has its share of ridiculous plot points.  It’s hard to pick just one to point out for this anaylsis, to be honest.  Jessica’s intentional lying and concealing information from both Todd and Elizabeth throughout the book is reprehensible at best and downright malicious if looked at more closely.  For a girl who loves her sister so much, she sure treats Elizabeth like shit a lot.  Her false accusations about Todd attempting to date-rape her are also alarming.  I wonder if such claims would be dealt with so haphazardly in a book written for teens today.

But it is the handling of Rick Andover’s tragic character that bothers me most.  He’s described as a badass, and I suppose he is, in that he dropped out of school, drinks and smokes and speeds around in a car that’s shiny, sporty and probably shaped like a penis.  He hits on anything that moves, and apparently Jessica goes for this, because she accepts his offer of a date even though they have nothing in common and he used some cheesy pick-up line on her.  Jessica decides later that he’s the terrifying kind of trouble, and she’s right, because he kidnaps her and Elizabeth at the end of the book.  Todd punches him and saves the day, though, and that’s that.  I have to wonder why the girls didn’t press charges, why there was no police involvement, and why Ma and Pa Wakefield seem to know nothing about what happened.

The moral of the story?  Don’t date high school dropouts.  They’ll take you to a dive bar and try to make you drink a boilermaker.