Tag Archives: project youth

SVH #102: Almost Married

20 Jun

almost married

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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

 

 

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SVH #99: Beware the Baby-Sitter

11 Jun

bewarethebabysitter

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is still dating James, who continues to spy on her and report back to Margo, who is calling herself Mandy.  She and James spend nearly all their free time together, and she nearly confides her guilt over Sam’s death to him several times.  James starts to feel guilty about feeding Margo every detail about Jessica.  When Margo instructs him to give Jessica a scarf as a gift in hopes she’ll wear it to the costume party, he obliges.

The night of the party, Jessica and Elizabeth get ready in stony silence.  They see each other in full costume and realize that they both decided to go as Cinderella with their respective Prince Charmings.  Jessica’s dress is only a shade lighter than Elizabeth’s and she chose to wear some pearl earrings Sam gave her.  They go to the party separately.

Elizabeth is determined to get on with her life, even if it means Todd is no longer in the picture.  She feels a bit of hope when Jessica offers her a ride home one day after school.  The two talk, a little.  Things look up for them until Liz discovers the letter Todd wrote her crumpled in a pile on Jessica’s floor. She screams at Jess and then promptly goes to make up with Todd.

Margo creates yet another persona for herself.  This time, she goes by the name Marla Field and applies to be a helper in a day care center.  Margo hates kids, so I don’t understand why she keeps putting herself in situations where she has to be around them, but whatever. She forges her reference letters and lies when the manager tells her she’s going to call them to confirm.  She gets hired on the spot, because everyone in this book is an idiot.  At any rate, she pumps the little kids for information about the Wakefields, and because the Wakefields are like, the most amazing family in the history of the world, these kids are full of trivia about them.  IT’S SO WEIRD.

Margo goes to the dance dressed as Jessica and creeps on Todd when Elizabeth leaves him to get punch.  He thinks she’s Jessica but dances with her anyway.  Then she pretends to be Jessica when she talks to Lila and some other people from SVH.  When she notices that Josh Smith has followed her all the way to Sweet Valley, she runs away.  He ends up tackling Jessica in the garden, and then realizes that there are two other girls who look exactly like Margo.

The next day, Margo decides it’s time to put the final part of her plan in motion.  She sends a letter to Ned Wakefield from a “law firm” up the coast interested in hiring him as a consultant.  The idea is she’ll get the Wakefield parents away for a couple days so she can kill one of the twins and take her place.  Um, okay.

Winston Egbert’s parents are out of town for a long weekend and he has lots of plans for the new found freedom.  But then a neighbor drops off her baby with some weird story about an emergency after a coup in another country, and she promises she’ll be back for Daisy the next day.  Of course, she doesn’t come back when she says she will, and Winston struggles with what to do with Daisy.  Maria helps him, and then she invites her friends over to help with the baby.  Amy and Winston bet each other that they can put a diaper on Daisy better than anyone.  Winston brings the baby to school in a duffel bag because he’s an idiot and hasn’t asked for help yet or called Child Protective Services.  He takes Daisy to the costume party and no one thinks this is weird.

Winston goes to the Little Darlings daycare center for some advice.  He talks to Margo, who goes off on a weird tangent about how babies sometimes get abandoned by bad parents, then offers to babysit for him.  She actually goes so far as to show up at his house and offers to take Daisy to child protective services.  He says no to that but agrees to let her babysit, despite the fact that he never told her his address and doesn’t know her name.

Margo proceeds to attempt to smother the baby before Elizabeth shows up.  When she sees Elizabeth, she flees.  The day after the party, Winston decides it’s time to surrender the baby and brings her to the daycare.  He leaves her with Margo, still not having gotten her name, and goes home to find Daisy’s parents waiting in the driveway. They rush back to the daycare center and rescue Daisy from certain death.  WHATEVER.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Costumes at Olivia’s party: Enid as Amelia Earhart, Amy as a nun (she lost the bet to Winston), Steven and Billie as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Olivia and Harry as Leonardo DaVinci and Mona Lisa, Robin Wilson as a mime, and Annie Whitman as a gypsy.
  • When James goes to meet Margo/Mandy at Kelly’s for a status report, the novel repeatedly refers to her as “Margo” even though James refers to her as “Mandy” and it is weird as hell.
  • Margo’s drink of choice is Wild Turkey

Memorable Quotes:

  • James realized his heart was pounding. This girl is beginning to seem more and more flipped out. He shook his head in disgust.” (25)
  • “Elizabeth decided that Jessica must be feeling guilty about having dated Todd a few times since the night of the accident.” (41)
  • “‘I admit it,’ Winston said. ‘I’m hysterial. I’m manic. I’m having hyper-conniption fits. My little red choo-choo has gone chugging around the bend. I’m a basket case. I’m–” (140)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Setting aside the fact that this entire plot is completely STUPID, can we talk about the fact that the inclusion of poor baby Daisy and poor Winston Egbert makes absolutely no sense? All this plot does is further convolute the narrative and give the characters of Sweet Valley further opportunities to prove how clueless, oblivious, and idiotic they are.  There is no way that a total stranger would leave her kid with a 16-year-old so she can fly to Central America to deliver birth certificate papers to her trapped husband during a governmental coup.  There just isn’t.  ON TOP OF THAT, the readers are supposed to believe that she thinks she can make this round-trip in a day.  She leaves Daisy with enough milk for like five minutes.  UGH.  That baby should be taken away, because this woman is THE LITERAL WORST.

But furthermore, what doesn’t make sense is that Winston would leave the baby not once but twice with Margo, despite the fact that he finds her creepy and unsettling (this is mentioned several times).  If you’re going to go to the trouble to surrender the baby to CPS, why not just go to CPS? Oh, because we need more drama and suspense in this novel?  Oh, okay.  DUMB.

Finally, what does Margo have to possibly gain by killing the baby at this point?  I know she got the job under a fake name and wearing a wig, but the center is in Sweet Valley.  Like, can you control your homicidal tendencies even a little bit?  You want to stay in this town.  You will get caught if you keep this shit up.  Jesus.

SVH #97: The Verdict

4 Jun

theverdict

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth goes on trial for manslaughter.  She feels lonely and alone, because Jessica won’t talk to her, Todd is cheating on her with Jessica, and her mother has turned into a zombie 50s housewife.  When she gets on the witness stand, she can’t really give testimony because she can’t remember.  This is seriously the most boring trial ever.  At one point, Liz takes the bus to the ocean and contemplates suicide.  On the last day of the trial, Ned calls a surprise witness–a man named Gilbert–who was drunk driving the night of the accident and swerved into the path of the Jeep. He sideswiped the vehicle and caused the accident.  With this news, the judge rules Elizabeth guilty of drunk driving but not of vehicular manslaughter.  The Wakefields (sans Jessica) rejoice.

Jessica continues to go out with Todd, including to the beach disco the night before the start of the trial.  They slow dance and make out.  She worries constantly about losing him to Liz and is generally a crazy person, doing everything she can into manipulating him to stay with her.  She intercepts a letter Todd wrote to Elizabeth and hides it from her sister, lying to Todd about how Liz read it and ripped it up when he asks about it.  Despite the fact that Todd is clearly miserable and the fact that Jessica is exhibiting signs of a psychotic break, the two continue to see each other.

Lila watches her parents reminisce about when they were young and in love and wonders if they could ever be a real unit again.  When she asks her mom if she’s thought about moving back to Sweet Valley, Grace tells Lila about why she left.  She tells her that she threatened to take Lila and leave George because he was a workaholic.  George told Grace that if she tried, he’d sue her for full custody and prove she was an unfit mother.  And then he did just that.  So Grace fled to Paris.  Jesus.

Bruce is still refusing to speak to Pamela, who has transferred to SVH.  He continues to be really cruel to her in public, and doesn’t seem to care that she keeps crying.  This story is so fucking boring.  When Amy and Lila see Pamela volunteering at Project Youth, they decide to give her a chance and become fast friends.  Then Amy tells Bruce how wrong everyone was about Pamela, and he finally finds her (and rescues her from some dude trying to take her out) and they embrace.

Steven is enjoying living with his new female roommate, Billie Winkler.  She’s a great cook and decorator and is very empathetic.  The two share some creepy, totally not-normal-roommate-behavior moments before Steven goes home for the trial.  When a classmate mentions that he heard Steven’s mom is really losing it, Steven gets super pissed, wondering who could be spreading rumors about the family and then comes to the totally logical conclusion that it must have been Billie.  He goes off on her and she tells him she’ll move out.  When Steven finally realizes that it was Jessica who was talking about how unhinged Alice has become, he takes a while to work up the nerve to apologize to Billie.

Margo arrives in Los Angeles and promptly runs into Josh, the brother of Georgie, who she killed.  He confronts her in a diner, but she escapes and boards a train to San Diego instead of Sweet Valley as a way to throw police off the scent.  When she finally arrives in Sweet Valley, she buys a blond wig and thinks about how she’ll soon take over Elizabeth’s life.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The district attorney prosecuting Elizabeth’s case is named Hempstead Dilworth, and that is legitimately the most amazing thing this series has ever done.
  • Liz’s license has been “indefinitely” suspended because of the accident and the trial.
  • According to Grace, she was 19 when she met George, and he was 27.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Wakefield Manslaughter Trial Starts Tomorrow,’ she read. Lila shivered. ‘Manslaughter trial–they make it sound like she’s a serial killer or something!'” (20) [Blogger’s note: you’re an idiot.]
  • What’s she doing here, anyway? he wondered as he sauntered down the hall, hoping everyone could see that Pamela Robertson meant absolutely nothing to him. Has she slept with all the guys in Big Mesa? Did she switch schools so she could make some new conquests?” (26)
  • “Couldn’t he see that Jessica was the one he was meant to be with? Hadn’t they secretly been drawn to each other from the very beginning? We would have been going steady ages ago, if Liz hadn’t stolen him away from me, Jessica reflected.” (64)
  • “‘That’s what families are for,’ Steven declared, his own eyes damp. ‘When everything else is falling apart, your family will always be there for you. We would never have let you face something like this on your own.'” (169)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  Okay, first of all, let’s talk about the fact that this new mini-series format makes each story line absolutely interminable.  These stories have no substance and are severely underplotted, but go on FOREVER.  There was no reason to have Bruce and Pamela stretch their will-they-won’t-they stuff over three books.  The trial of Elizabeth Wakefield didn’t need three books, either, especially because the trial itself was over in a week.  JEEZY CHREEZY.  Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Jessica needs serious psychological help. I don’t feel qualified to go any further, but seriously.

Not going to lie: I will never understand the rational for the trial plot-twist readers are treated to in this one.  So Elizabeth isn’t guilty for the death of Sam even though she was intoxicated because the eyewitness testimony of someone who was also drunk says “she was driving just fine”? Like, this is seriously all it takes?  It’s such a bizarre plot twist (the first and perhaps most ominous of those to come) and such a way of providing an out so Elizabeth isn’t a murderer.

 

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.

 

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 #79: The Long-Lost Brother

7 Apr

longlostbrother

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Sara Eastman, a girl we have never heard of before, has a twin brother who got into some trouble back when they all lived in Connecticut.  Now he’s in reform school, Sara and her mom live in Sweet Valley, and she has been lying to everyone about her brother.  She’s told everyone that he’s brilliant but decided to stay back east with their father.  Trouble is, he’s done with reform school and wants to move to Sweet Valley.  Sara is devastated, because she has her whole life set up in Sweet Valley, and it doesn’t involve a delinquent brother.

Oh well, because he moves back and immediately causes problems for Sara in that he’s not thrilled with the lies she’s told about him.  Elizabeth meets him at an A.A. meeting (she’s doing investigative journalism or something), and it doesn’t take long for her to put two-and-two together after she interviews him for the paper.  Tim seems to have genuinely changed, but Sara won’t accept it.

When Crunch McAllister’s van is stolen outside of the Dairi Burger, Tim is the prime suspect, but only because he stole a car when he was high on drugs back in CT? I’m not sure, but whatever.  He’s questioned, he’s released, and the gossip mill at SVH goes into overdrive.  It gets worse after Tim and Crunch get into a fight in the school parking lot.  Now that Tim’s secret past is out, Sara’s douchebag boyfriend drops her like a hot potato and her best friend Amanda Hayes gets mad at her for not being honest about her brother.  Sara is so alone!

It takes several talks with both of her parents, a nosy Elizabeth, Barry at Project Youth, and even several fights with Tim himself before Sara comes around on the whole thing.  Actually, it isn’t until Tim leaves Sara a note saying he’s hopping a plane back east that she finally freaks out enough and begs him to stay.  They reconcile.  Whatever, I’m bored.

The B-Plot involves Elizabeth’s very serious and very didactic investigation into a local battered women’s shelter and her experience attending A.A. and Alateen meetings to gain journalistic credibility.  Oh, and Jessica’s super tired of attending events as Miss Teen Sweet Valley, so Liz goes in her place to hand out cheese cubes at the mall.  I am not joking.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Amanda and Sara both “excel” in modern dance and take classes with Mr. Krezenski
  • Cherry pie is Tim’s favorite dessert. How all-American of him.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Only recently, Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield had made a point of repeating their law regarding the twins’ use of the small red car. If either of them was careless behind the wheel, she would have to hand over the keys and walk until further notice.” (5)
  • What things? she thought miserably. Just a lawbreaking brother who’ll probably have his picture hanging in the post office by the time he’s twenty. And it won’t be because he’s President.” (20)
  • “Elizabeth wasn’t put off.  Like any reporter worth her number-two pencils, she had good instincts about people, and she knew Tim Eastborne was basically a good person.” (73) WTF?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s hard to care about these books because it’s so clear that we’ve reached a creative lull in the series.  It’s like Bantam thought there weren’t enough secondary characters to handle all the afterschool special plots, so they just kept dumping more characters into the plot.  Apart from the fact that these story lines are so heavy-handed, it’s also hard to connect as a reader to these characters whose appearances are fleeting at best.  I don’t give a shit about Sara’s perceived problems because I don’t ever have to think about her again.

Also, she’s got a martyr complex like you wouldn’t believe, which drives me nuts.  It’s worse than the ham-fisted, bizarre insertion of a PSA about domestic violence that Elizabeth shoves down our throats for the entire book.

SVH #78: The Dating Game

4 Apr

datinggame

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

There’s a big dance coming up at SVH called Love in Bloom, and I guess love is in the air, because Liz and Todd won’t stop bothering Claire Middleton about whether or not she’s interested in any boys.  Claire plays coy for a while and then mentions that she’s noticed one boy has shown interest in her while she’s sort of interested in another.  Liz is super interested in this, but Claire won’t budge on who these people are.

Meanwhile, recently reinstated quarterback Scott Trost (are we to believe that the school now has three quarterbacks?) is getting razzed by the dudes at a nearby lunch table about how he never goes out with any girls.  He says a couple of things that are sort of irritating and entitled, and Liz FREAKS OUT about what a jerk he is.  Her response is so disproportionate to what he’s said that I wonder if Liz is just predisposed to hate him, because I’m pretty sure her “good friends” Ken Matthews and Aaron Dallas have said way worse things about girls before, but whatever.  Liz and Todd butt heads about whether or not Scott is secretly a good guy or if all men are just pigs out for one thing (that “thing” here is looks, because no one in Sweet Valley has an actual sex drive, folks).

Then Jean West gets a love letter from Scott Trost, and she’s unsure how to proceed.  After asking around about him at school, she feels like he might be okay, kind of?  And since she hasn’t had a date since her still-in-the-closet boyfriend Tom McKay dumped her, she’s kind of desperate.  So she ends up accepting a date with Scott when he calls and asks her out.  And she also goes shopping with Claire Middleton, who also has a date that same weekend.  While shopping, the girls realize that they’re both supposed to go out with Scott and that he sent them the same letter.  Whatever, I’m bored.  They decide that they’ll get even with him by both dating him and then dumping him publicly at school.

So they both go out with Scott, and only Jean seems to have a good time with him.  Scott is pretty nice to her and they have an interesting and fun date.  Or what we’re supposed to believe passes for such a date in Sweet Valley.  At any rate, both girls get confronted by their friends about how Scott seems to be dating both of them, so they plan their confrontation in the cafeteria and Scott plays it off coolly, telling them they can play a sort of “Dating Game” and compete for his affections.  This is so weird.  Claire goes along with whatever Jean says, so they agree to it, because Jean is actually sort of interested in Scott.

Continuing to date Scott means that Jean seems to fall harder for him.  She feels bad because she and Claire are playing him, but I don’t understand her at all because the Dating Game was his fucking idea.  By the time the contest is over, Jean is totally into him, wants to come clean to Claire and call it off, but doesn’t get a chance to do so before Scott gives a weird, mansplain-y speech in the cafeteria before declaring Jean the winner.  She’s pissed and turns him down.  He offers his hand to Claire, who basically laughs and makes out with Danny Porter, the dude she’s been interested in from the start.

Liz and Claire go to Jean’s house to stage an intervention, but they aren’t as successful as Scott, who shows up after they leave.  He tells her he’s sorry and she’s the only girl for him, and they go to the dance.  Yay?

The B-Plots include Jessica having recurring dreams about a dude on a beach and deciding she’s a professional dream-interpreter.  She advertises her business and helps friends interpret their dreams.  Then she realizes she’s been having the same dream because she read a magazine article or something?

At the same time, Liz puts out a questionnaire for The Oracle about what qualities boys and girls look for in a potential date.  She’s surprised to see the responses come in and questions her faux-feminist tendencies.  I AM SO BORED, LIZ.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Clothes by Jessica: at one point she wears a “wildly patterned skirt in greens and blues and purples, a pink top, and several bright scarves.”
  • Sandra Bacon drives a Toyota, Scott Trost drives a Corvette

Memorable Quotes:

  • “He acts as if he’s the best thing to happen to women since pantyhose.” (10) [Blogger’s note: a man wrote this, because no woman has ever thought of pantyhose in a positive light.  Jesus!]
  • “‘I don’t know why you just can’t face the truth, Todd,’ she replied. ‘Boys are shallower than girls, and that’s all their is to it.  They’re much more interested in looks than in brains or personality.'” (57)
  • “It’s just that I don’t know what people who don’t go out do on Saturday nights.  Are there special shows on television for them, or something like that?” (142)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I feel like I already covered this in my recap (this happens sometimes when I hate a book so much I can’t help but add my own comments in the summary), but nothing about this book makes any fucking sense.  Why would Scott send the same letter to two different girls who are on friendly terms with one another?  In what reality was he not going to get caught?  What was his end game?  Why are we never given any insight into what’s going on in his head?

Furthermore, what kind of idiot is Jean West?  Why does she feel bad about what she and Claire are doing to Scott when it doesn’t seem like they aren’t actually doing anything?  They don’t actually appear to have a plan of attack for once the game is over.  Are they going to yell at him again in the cafeteria?  Did she believe it worked so well the first time that this time it will really stick?  In what reality would Scott not laugh it off and be like, “Bitches be crazy”?

Ugh, I just can’t with this book.  When Jessica’s weird, dream-fueled subplot is more interesting than anything else happening in the book, you know you’re in trouble.