Tag Archives: psychopath on the loose

SVH #125: Camp Killer

14 Aug

camp killer

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

I’m back! And this book is just as boring as when I abandoned it MONTHS ago.  Without further ado:

Camp is winding down, but Liz decides it’s the perfect time to be super spooked out by the camp’s urban legend.  The legend goes that a long time ago, a counselor fell in love with a woodcutter (lolwut), but they were forbidden to see each other by the camp owner.  The girl ran away into the woods to be with her lumberjack, but she was never seen again.  The legend says that you can still hear the sound of wood being chopped every once in a while.  Liz actually based her super-special play on this legend, but now she’s totally creeped out and has a psychic-like feeling that Something Bad will happen.

At a bonfire one night, Joey tells the story of the camp legend but adds on a bunch of stuff about an ax murderer named Crazy Freddy that scares all the super annoying campers.  Liz makes out with Joey, Nicole is super jealous and plots a bunch of dumb stuff, and Liz worries about Jessica’s safety when she stays out super late to make out with Paul.  The two have to borrow one of Paul’s neighbor’s horses and that lands Paul in trouble with his parents, throwing a wrench in their plans to see as much of each other as possible.

A camp color war is one of the final camp events, and Liz and Nicole are pitted against each other as opposing team captains.  Nicole is still obsessed with Joey, who has the personality of cardboard toast, but she still works hard to mess things up for Liz.  She writes Todd a letter, including a picture of Liz and Joey kissing, but Maria won’t let her send it.  Nicole also sneaks out into the woods and makes woodcutting noises to freak Liz out, because she is actually insane, but whatever.  Maria begs Nicole to take it down a notch.

On the day of the color war, Jessica flakes so she can go see Paul, forcing Liz to cover all of Jessica’s activities as well as her own.  Jessica and Paul decide that pretending to be Crazy Freddy and scare everyone at camp is a really great idea and will in no way go badly or even further draw attention to the fact that she isn’t performing the basic duties of the job she was hired to do.  This doesn’t even matter, because an actual ax murderer shows up and drags Jessica off.  Tanya the camper sees this happen and tries to stop it, but the crazy guy just grabs her too and brings the two girls to a remote cabin in the woods.

When the campers start to notice that one of their own is missing, Joey runs off into the woods to rescue her.  The counselors pair off and start searching the woods.  Nicole and Liz pair up and have to work together.  They run into Paul, who tells them that Jessica is also missing.  There is a super convoluted plan where the girls will act as bait while Paul rescues Joey (now also captured?), Jessica, and Tanya.  Liz almost dies but doesn’t, and everyone gets away after a scuffle.  I literally don’t care and would gnaw my arm off if it would speed up the conclusion of this inane story.  Nicole gives Joey and Liz her blessing after a change of heart.  That’s…great?

The B-Plot involves Lila and Bo getting lost in the woods and spending a night sleeping on a dirt road.  They meet a crop duster pilot the next morning who wants to give them a lift back to camp but his boss says no.  After grumbling about how he’s so close to starting his own crop dusting business, Lila and Bo (both super rich, remember?) decide to invest in his company and he gets them back to camp.  No one knew they were missing, which sort of drives home the pointlessness of this entire book.

 

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Bo performed in his high school’s production of South Pacific.
  • The color teams for the color war are blue and red.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘We’re talking about a thousand dollars, kids.  Do you have any idea how much money that is?’  The insult stung, and Lila’s temper flared. ‘Of all the nerve!’ she said, raging. ‘I’ll have you know that I’ve got a dress back at camp that cost nearly twice that.” (185)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

Why did the series feel the need to unleash another homicidal maniac?  Why would they bring in that story this far into this mini-series and have it not make any sense?  Why does everyone continue to act like total idiots, despite the ever-increasing experience they have with kidnappings, attempted murders, hostage situations and the like?  Why is everyone the worst?

I don’t really have the energy to dissect this one further.  I keep hoping one of these will be interesting, but the further we get into the series, the worse it gets.  And it was a low bar to clear to begin with.  Good grief.

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SVH Magna Edition: Return of the Evil Twin

18 Feb

return twin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3  weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s Christmas time in Sweet Valley yet again, and the twins are excited about vacation.  Jessica and Elizabeth are working with some arbitrary inside twincharity group to raise funding for a new children’s wing at the Fowler Memorial Hospital, and they get the brilliant idea to host a New Year’s Eve party at the traveling carnival that will be in town over the holiday.  The owners of the carnival agree to donate all profits to the charity, which is super convenient to the plot.

To celebrate the start of the holiday, the entire gang throws a caroling party.  The group meets at Secca Lake for a bonfire before heading out to sing carols to the unsuspecting Sweet Valley citizens, but Jessica and Todd are both very late, and Elizabeth worries about them.  On his way to the lake, Todd’s car spins out after he sees something move across the road and he slams into a guardrail, fading into unconsciousness.  Jessica sees his car on the road as she approaches and jumps out, saving him just in time, as his car goes over the side of the cliff and blows up.  This is obviously big news, and Todd’s gratefulness for Jessica’s heroics lead him to start to have romantic feelings for her.  This is probably exacerbated by Liz’s completely irrational feelings of jealousy over Jessica saving her boyfriend’s life.  It doesn’t help that everyone wants to ask Jess about it, and the paper even runs their picture on the front page, calling Todd her boyfriend instead of Liz’s.

Things continue to go badly for Liz, who has started dreaming about Margo again, even though she’s totally dead, right?  Also, Todd and Jess are totally into telling their story about the harrowing experience near Secca Lake, and Liz and Ken both feel shunted aside.  Jessica and Liz argue a lot.  Jessica starts having nightmares about Margo.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, Georgia, a moody girl named Nora Chapelle has just lost her father.  Because her mother died years ago, this makes her an orphan.  This is especially true when her evil stepmother offers her $5o,ooo to disappear from her life.  She also lets the bomb drop that Nora had an identical twin sister who was so evil that they gave her up for adoption.  Nora takes off to New York to track her sister’s whereabouts and it isn’t long before she manages to trace Margo’s life from there to Ohio to Sweet Valley.  Despite providing the readers a solid recap of the first evil twin saga, this book also adds information about the ambulance carrying Margo’s body never reaching the hospital, and that it ended up in a river (Margo’s body wasn’t found).  Convinced it’s all the Wakefield twins’ fault, Nora hops a plane to L.A. to get revenge for her sister.  She books a room at the Sweet Valley Inn and starts spying on the Wakefields.

One night, she goes to visit the gravestone that a local teen shelter erected in Margo’s honor.  This makes no sense whatsoever, but neither does what comes next: Margo appears in the cemetary, and the girls realize that the other still exists.  Nora takes Margo back to her hotel room and cringes a lot because Margo is messy and Nora is pathologically clean.  Margo convinces Nora that the Wakefield twins’ lives are rightfully there, and it’s time to claim their dues.

Jessica and Liz make up, but then Margo and Nora mess with their heads one night at the most spectacularly attended screening of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Liz and Enid go, and Ken and Jessica go, but Nora, posing as Elizabeth, goes with Todd and makes out with him.  Liz and Enid see it and assume it’s Jessica, and Liz FREAKS OUT and screams at Jessica and Todd (separately, and later, instead of confronting them at the theater, which makes way more sense).  The twins stop speaking and go to the New Year’s Eve carnival at odds with one another yet again.

Meanwhile, Nora and Margo fight over who has to be Elizabeth once they take over for real. Margo tells Nora that she should be, since she’s so neat, but Nora also wants to be Jessica.  If this isn’t the most perfect encapsulation of the Liz/Jess dynamic, I don’t know what is.  At the carnival, Liz sulks and Jessica goes into the house of mirrors for a good spook.  After the carnival, Jessica goes home to sleep and Liz stays to clean up.  Nora realizes that Margo has left her to do her own spying and decides to go and kill Jessica before Margo can so that she can take over the twin’s life.  She sneaks into the Wakefield house, stabs the sleeping form of Jessica, and is nearly out the window when Liz walks in and sees it all happen.  Liz collapses onto Jessica and blacks out.  Nora takes off but is seen escaping by Alice and Ned on their way home from party.

The doctors can’t save Jessica, and it’s a few days later when they have a memorial service for Jessica at SVH.  Despite telling the detectives that she knows it was Margo, no one believes her.  When she’s standing in the auditorium, she suddenly realizes that Jessica is still alive and needs her help.  No one believes her about this, either.   She furiously works out the clues Jessica has sent her in dreams.  When the police come to question her again, she steals one of their guns and goes back to the school.

Nora is convinced she has to kill Margo so that she can take over the only remaining Wakefield twin’s life.  She becomes convinced that Margo’s hiding in the basement at SVH and goes there to kill her.  But it’s Jessica! Elizabeth arrives and points the gun at both girls, then makes a decision about which is which.  Nora spills the beans about how she’s not Margo, realizes that she killed her own sister and seems sad about it (even though she was prepared to do that again right here), and then cries.  The police come and arrest her, and all is well again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Outfit alert: Jessica “borrows” Liz’s candy-striped sweater, white pants, and Christmas tree ornament earrings for the caroling party.
  • Liz and Ken go to see The Shining
  • According to Margo, she’s able to hold her breath for up to 3 minutes underwater

Memorable Quotes:

  • “I have a librarian friend–a former paramour of mine.” (75) [this just made me laugh because i’m a librarian]
  • “Elizabeth is such a prude, she makes me want to throw up.” (182)
  • “Do you know that in all this time Todd has never even managed to get Elizabeth out of her clothes? It’s positively sick!” (210)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s something deeply unsettling to this reader about the idea of a father giving away one of his daughters to an adoption agency/foster care because of clear psychotic tendencies.  The family clearly has money, and it is astounding to me that they wouldn’t even consider psychiatric help before throwing in the towel on a toddler.  I’m choosing to ignore the idea that the Wakefield twins have not one but two doppelgangers, though.  I just can’t handle it.

My favorite part of this book is when Elizabeth steals a gun from the police and faces literally no repercussions.

SVH Super Thriller #10: A Killer on Board

9 Feb

killerboard

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1-2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

To celebrate the capture of John Marin and the fact that all the Wakefields are unfortunately still alive and kicking, Ned decides to take Alice and the girls (but not you, Steven) on a family vacation to Catalina Island.  The girls get Maria Santelli to cover their waitressing shifts for a week, because that’s how this shit works, and they head off towards a beach vacation at a fancy resort.  All of them are still quite tense about what has just happened with Marin, but they all try hard to put the past behind them.

Meanwhile, Marin is in prison for about five seconds before he convinces a young prison guard named LeighAnn LaShay that he’s in love with her.  He fakes sick, takes her hostage, kills another guard, and kidnaps LaShay in her own car, finally disposing of the car in the desert.  He leaves LeighAnn bound and gagged in her car.  Then he manages to make it back to Sweet Valley, convinces an associate named Griffin Pierce at Ned’s office that he’s with the phone company, and hacks into Ned’s voicemail to determine where the family is staying.  Once on the island, he sweet talks his way into a suite despite the hotel being booked solid and then gleans information about what rooms the Wakefields are staying in.

In a bizarrely quick plot point, Ned manages to figure out that Marin might not be where he’s supposed to be.  A quick call into the Sweet Valley Police tells him what he feared: Marin’s escaped and on the hunt.  He tells the detective not to bother calling the Coast Guard, because Marin is already on the island.  He knows because Marin’s using LaShay as an alias. Dun dun DUN.

Jessica and Liz enjoy a day of horseback riding with a guide-led group.  They grow tired of walking their horses and convince the guide to let them go off on their own.  Of course they get lost, and then they end up trapped next to a cliff.  Jessica’s horse starts to go over and panic just as John Marin meets up with them on his own horse.  Liz tries to distract him while Jessica gets her footing, and Jessica manages to leap into the air onto Liz’s horse.  They run off, Marin in hot pursuit.  It rains and they continue to pound away, finally getting free of his sights.  They run into Ned, who has been searching for them, and return to the hotel for a tearful reunion with Alice.

Instead of sitting and waiting with the police, Ned insists that he get his family off the island immediately.  The hotel acquiesces and gets him a boat from a local woman.  He sails his family towards the California shore, but Marin is already onto him and steals a motor boat after knocking the owner unconscious.  He approaches the boat and makes it look as though his craft is in danger.  Ned takes a raft to investigate while Alice calls “the coastguard” which is really just Marin.  Then he jumps off the boat and heads for the Wakefields while Ned is still trying to help whoever is on the motorboat.  Is this book over yet? Jesus.

Marin climbs on board and knocks Alice unconscious before tying up the three of them.  He pours gasoline all over the boat while taunting him, then lights a match.  The boat goes up in flames, and it seems all is lost, but Ned has managed to get the motorboat working and jumps onboard in the nick of time.  He wrestles with Marin before helping the women get free, and then orders them off the boat onto a waiting dinghy.  He goes back for Marin, and the twins and Alice row away from the boat before it explodes.  Ned arrives emptyhanded, saying that Marin is dead.  The group rows towards shore.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The hotel Ned has booked the family at is called Hotel Orizaba
  • The horse Jessica rides is named Black Beauty, and Liz’s horse is named Fred.
  • John Marin makes a Doublemint Gum commerical joke, which is HILARIOUS because Brittany and Cynthia Daniel, who played the twins in the SVH TV series, were in one of those very same commercials.  SEE? HILARIOUS.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But really, Liz, we’re perfectly safe now. The odds of running into another super-sexy guy who’s also a serial killer are practically nonexistent.  There just aren’t that many murderers out there, and we already found one this summer. So, statistically, there’s no danger anymore.” (18)
  • “Do you rehearse your lame comments ahead of time,” Elizabeth asked, “or do you improvise on the spot?” (114)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Where to even start?  Let’s start with the “maximum security” prison Marin breaks out of, and the fact that they had one 23-year-old girl on guard duty.  Then let’s deal with the fact that Marin was able to basically walk out of the prison with her as a hostage.  No one stopped them.  It makes no sense.  NONE OF IT DOES.

But probably my biggest beef with this book is the completely insane response of Ned Wakefield to take his family on a boat in the middle of the night in the midst of a storm instead of waiting it out at the hotel, surrounding by other people.  Why wouldn’t he wait with the police for Marin to return to the hotel?  Why did he think it was safer to travel alone in the water in the dark? HOW?  HOW IS THIS SAFER?

TERRIBLE.

SVH Super Thriller #9: A Stranger in the House

6 Feb

stranger

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

For some bizarre reason, it is summer vacation AGAIN.  Steven is home and working at Ned’s law office, and the twins stranger 2have both gotten jobs at the Marina Cafe as waitresses.  Jessica thinks it’s going to be all hot guys and big tips, but Liz is, predictably, much more practical about the entire endeavor.  When Jessica points out that Liz is in a rut, she actually agrees and wonders if she can shake things up.  Their first day of waitressing entails a lot of running around and getting mixed up by the restaurant’s manager.  Liz leaves with Todd for a date and Jessica ends up meeting  handsome young man named Scott Maderlake who tells her he’s a scout for a television series.  The two flirt and make plans for a date.

Meanwhile, Ned Wakefield is obsessing over news that convicted murderer John Marin is being release 15 years early from prison.  Ten years prior, Ned put him away while working as an assistant district attorney.  Before Marin was locked up, he swore he’d get his revenge on Ned by coming at him through his family.  Worried about the safety of his children, Ned leaps at the chance to send Steven down to San Diego for a month to work on a case, and frets over Liz and Jess’s safety.

When Ned receives a threatening card from someone who signs it “JM,” he is sure it’s from Marin.  But the police basically tell him that they can’t do anything unless Marin violates parole, which he does about five minutes later, as he gave his PO a fake address.  But now no one can figure out where Marin went, so they have to look for him.  In a panic, Ned calls in a favor to a PI friend and arranges to have someone follow Jess and Liz during the day, for their “protection.” He doesn’t tell the girls–or even Alice–this, of course.  This will end well.

Of course, Marin is already in Sweet Valley, has already broken into the Wakefield home, and has gathered intel on the twins and their lives.  He’s also set up a phone tap on the house phone, because of course he has.  So he’s one step ahead of Ned (or, like, seven, but whatever).  Ned continues to receive threatening mail from him, including an envelope with Jessica’s lavalier necklace.

Liz locks eyes with a mysterious cute boy at the Dairi Burger one night and thinks he might be her soulmate because he’s writing in a notebook.  When he shows up at the cafe the next day, she finds out from Jane that he’s living on a boat and is a writer.  Liz practically swoons.  When she finally gets a chance to talk to him a few days later, she finds out that his name is Ben Morgan.  They take a walk along the docks.

In fact, both twins continue to see their new dudes (who is totally the same person but whatever) in secret, not even telling each other about their newfound love.  When Ned asks tensely if either girl has met anyone new or unusual lately, they both lie, and it’s clear that they are both lying.  Ned doesn’t tell the girls about the necklace and though he worries about it and Jim the PI tells him it’s important to know which twin it came from, he continues to sit on it.

The police call Ned with good news: they’ve arrested who they think John Marin is.  But then the twins are attacked while closing the cafe one night, and when they ID the man they think did it, it’s the dude the police had already arrested.  It becomes clear that Marin set this guy up to take the fall.  Although both twins know about John Marin and their father’s past now, Elizabeth still sneaks out to meet Ben for a midnight sail.  Ned is distracted by the fact that Marin has killed Jim, his PI.  The police also find the body of the security detail that was hired to watch over Jess and Liz.  What a murdering spree!

Once Jessica figures out that Liz isn’t with Todd like she said (because he calls the house), she and Ned and the police rush to the beach disco to interrogate Jane about who Liz has been seeing in secret.  They go to find the boat and end up sending out the coast guard (and riding along, because why not) to meet the boat.  John tries to kill Elizabeth with a knife but she stomps on his foot and runs towards the back of the boat while he heads towards the dinghy to make an escape.  She nearly drowns, but Jessica saves her.

At home, the police show up and tell the twins they found bloody remnants of Marin’s jacket and that he’s believed to have been eaten by sharks.  Because that’s the most logical explanation for his disappearance.  The twins rest easy for approximately five minutes before Marin shows up, having hidden in the basement and drugging Prince Albert.  Marin hits Ned with a piece of wood and goes upstairs to kill the twins.  Before he can, Ned storms in and throws him against a wall.  Then Marin jumps out a window. I’m not sure why.

The police arrest Marin and all is well with the world.  OR IS IT?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Marina Cafe makes their waitresses wear turquoise polo shirts and khaki shorts. Glamorous!
  • Ned has “progressive views on rehabilitation”
  • Jane has just graduated college but at one point she sees Todd and says, “If I were ten years younger…” So, you’d be into him when you were 12? WHAT?
  • “Ben’s” boat is named Emily Dickinson

Memorable Quotes:

  • “After ten years in prison, there isn’t much I don’t know about picking a lock.” (37) [Wait, what?!]
  • “Calm down, Ned. Your daughters are attractive girls. They might not have realized that this was different from the kind of surveillance they must be used to from men.” (174)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

My first issue with the book is the entire concept of John Marin.  First of all, he committed a horrific crime, was convicted of it, and was up for parole in 10 years.  He murdered two people brutally, which under California law would have made him eligible to be tried under a Capital offense, unless I’m mistaken (I’m no lawyer like Ned, but I think this is right).  So he wouldn’t be up for parole.  But even if he hadn’t been tried under that, he still wouldn’t have been eligible for parole after 10 years.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Not even for a pretty white dude in prison.

But then there’s the complete ridiculousness of Ned Wakefield.  He tells no one in his family that he’s worried about John Marin, even after John Marin has started to break into the house.  This is not the reaction of a human being who loves his family.  This is the reaction of a person who has lost his grip on reality, or someone who secretly wants his family dead (can’t blame him there).  It makes no sense.

My favorite part of this book was when the police show up with scraps of the windbreaker Marin was wearing on the boat and they tell the Wakefields that there’s blood on the clothes and it’s being tested for a DNA match, but it’s only a “formality” because they’re sure Marin is dead. I actually laughed out loud, because this is legitimately the dumbest thing I have heard, maybe ever.

SVH #116: Nightmare in Death Valley

4 Feb

nightmare

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 days

Summary/Overview:

The teens are still in the desert and they’re running out of food.  They camp overnight in the cave where the third treasure was supposed to be, and they argue over their quickly dwindling food supplies.  Heather’s ankle is still messed up from her fall while climbing, so the next morning, the group decides to leave Jessica and Heather behind and continue on, sending help when they reach the Oasis (which is still, weirdly, like 25 miles away).  It isn’t long after the remaining four set off that they argue about which fork in the trail to take.  Liz and Ken think it’s too dangerous to take the low ground, because there have been storms in the area and a flash flood could be imminent, while Todd and Bruce think it’s stupid to climb to higher ground because they don’t have enough water or food to fuel extra exertion.  The four split off into twos, which seems like a supremely bad idea.  Todd worries that Liz will cheat on him with Ken, which is a nice break from worrying if Liz will cheat on him with Bruce.

Heather and Jessica are still camping near the cave.  The two bicker and worry about what will become of them, and they’re awoken in the night by the sound of crunching gravel. The escaped convicts are rummaging through Jessica’s bag, and Heather screams, alerting the men to their awoken state.  They end up bound with ropes and held hostage while the convicts rummage through their things.  One of the men, who Jessica starts calling “Jack,” seems gentler than the other two, offering the girls water and beef jerky.  The convicts decide that sending up a flare is a good way to get the rest of the gang back, so they do that.

Meanwhile, Todd and Bruce fight and separate.  Bruce is at the top of a hill when he hears a scream and realizes that Liz is about to fall (?).  He saves her but loses his bag of gold to a bald eagle at the same time (I am not making this up).  Then Todd comes back and he and Liz make up.  They see the flare go up and decide to go back to the camp.  Ken follows behind the other three, in case it is a trap.

Which, of course, it is! The five are held hostage for a bit until Ken sneaks up and tries to steal one of the convict’s guns.  It doesn’t work, and the entire group gets bound up with rope.  BUT THEN it starts to thunder and rain! Liz convinces the men that they have to move to lower ground to avoid lightning strikes.  The men decide to leave, even though Jack expresses regret at leaving the teens alone.  The teens break free thanks to Bruce’s hunting knife and start to move to safer ground, but then they realize Jack is drowning in the river! They save him, and then he helps get Heather to higher ground (flash floods? this terrain is so confusing) by carrying her up the side of a cliff.  The group welcome him as one of their own magnanimously.

But it isn’t long before they meet up with the other two convicts, who most certainly did not drown in the flash flood.  “Moe” grabs Elizabeth and holds a knife to her throat.  Jack tries to rescue her and ends up getting shot, falling DEAD to the ground.  Moe hears a plane and goes outside of the cave they’re in to investigate, leaving the other dude to kill the teens.  Instead of killing them, he listens to Jessica’s pleas and fires the rounds into the roof of the cave, causing a cave-in.  The teens are trapped and running out of air.

After another near-brush with randomly rising water, the teens follow a tunnel towards another area.  By accident, Ken bangs a wall, and it falls away.  They manage to climb through the rock and find that they secretly discovered a shortcut to the Oasis! They are saved!

Oh, and the gold they found is really fool’s gold.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ken wears a sailor’s cap to keep the sun off his head, and Liz wears an “Indian-print bandanna.”
  • Ken and Liz see Orion’s belt in the sky, which must mean it’s winter (?)
  • Jack has a tin of brownies his lady made him, and they have walnuts in them, which makes them GARBAGE.
  • According to Jack, Moe was in for murdering a bunch of people with guns and also explosions, which would certainly put him on death row and not gen pop, but WHATEVER GHOSTWRITER

Memorable Quotes:

  • “We’re moving at the rate of an inch an hour.  It will be March of the year 2000 before we get back to the Oasis.” (37)
  • “Elizabeth, I need to say something…But you’ve made your point. So right now I wish you’d stuff a sock in it.” (52)
  • “Now it was up to her: Jessica Wakefield, sexy seductress of Sweet Valley High, was about to swing into action.” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Like, where do we even begin?  All of it is so preposterous that I feel overwhelmed by choice when it comes to mocking.

It makes no sense that the group would continue to split up after leaving Heather and Jessica in the middle of nowhere.  I mean, I know they are teens and therefore impulsive, but this is why they would have a guide.  WHATEVER.  Furthermore, there are a lot of discrepancies in how much distance the group has traveled and why they keep crossing paths with the convicts.  It makes no sense and many of these moments felt like ways to push the plot forward (but made no actual logical sense).

The convicts are dumb, even Jack, who is supposed to be the most humane of the trio.  When Jessica asks him what he did to land himself in prison, he says he was talked into holding up a liquor store.  Okay, buddy.  You aren’t a murderer but you definitely made some questionable choices.  But he’s the least bad of the bunch! He has a woman waiting for him! He wants to run away to Mexico!

I guess the thing that sticks out the most in this book is how many natural disasters they face.  Cave-ins, flash floods, near-lightning strikes, and so much more.  The cave-in thing actually made me laugh because they talk about nearly running out of air and then follow a huge tunnel for a while, which would mean they had way more air than the ghostwriter thought.  I don’t know.  None of it makes sense.  I HATE IT.

SVH #115: The Treasure of Death Valley

2 Feb

treasure

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 days

Summary/Overview:

Jessica, Todd, Ken, Liz, Bruce Patman, and Heather Mallone are taking part in a four-day trip into Death Valley with the Sweet Valley Survival School (SVSS).  All six teens won an essay contest, and their reward is a trek through the desert to practice the “survival skills” they picked up over the previous weekend in a training.  They get paired up with a “buddy” for the trek, and no one is happy (except maybe Heather): Liz with Bruce, Jess with Todd, and Heather with Ken.

The group sets out on what’s roughly a 40-mile hike through the desert.  They camp the first night, still sort of sniping and bickering with each other.  Liz is absolutely insufferable with her smugness over being the navigator.  She and Todd snuggle in their sleeping bags.  Heather continues to flirt with Ken to piss Jessica off.  The next day, Ken takes over as navigator and they break for lunch near an abandoned mine shaft.  Bruce decides to explore it, and because Liz is his partner, she goes in after him to rescue him or something.  Once inside, she discovers an old pickax and a satchel with pages from a diary.  Then the shaft starts to collapse, and she barely makes it outside, where Bruce is lounging.  She yells at him and then realizes Todd and Jess went in to look for her.  Panicked, she turns back to the rubble, but Todd and Jess come out, coughing a lot.

After this disaster is averted, the group worries some more about the escaped convicts from a nearby prison but gets distracted when gold nuggets fall out of the satchel Liz found.  They discover that the gold is part of the Treasure of the Scorpion, and the legend dictates that the finders leave half of the gold and follow a copy of the map to the other locations where more gold is hidden.  After some disagreement, the group decides to find the next location.

When they do, they find the gold and divvy it up, but they don’t leave some behind.  The next morning, after a cold night camping on the ground, they complain about the added weight to their packs and leave behind some canned goods. Liz is shocked that the group would give up their strictly rationed food and tries to add some back to her backpack, but it proves too heavy on the trail and she has to dump it.  The group is tired, sore, and head off on the trail towards the location that will end their hike.  But Jessica is determined to hit the last stop on the treasure map and tricks Todd into steering the group that way.  Liz blows up at everyone when she realizes what’s happened, but the group needs water, so they continue to trek in the direction of the treasure, because Liz saw a stream on the map.

The stream turns out to be a rushing river, and when the group attempts to ford the river using a method of linking arms, Heather gets scared and washed away.  It looks dire, but Ken manages to get to the other side and rescue her.  The group sets up camp to dry off, and Heather flirts with Ken mercilessly to piss Jessica off. That night, Ken and Heather sneak off and kiss.  Jessica realizes that she’s been cheated on in the morning and she’s pissed, but she’s irate when she realizes her gold has been swiped out of her bag.  She accuses Heather, but she denies it and runs off to the river to sulk.  While there, Heather overhears and then sees the escaped prisoners, and they have Jessica’s gold! When she tries to tell the group, they don’t believe her.

The group continues on to the third stop on the treasure map, but Heather falls while climbing boulders.  After spraining her ankle, the rest of the group has to help her along, slowing them down considerably.  When they reach the final cave, the group is shocked to find the bodies of six skeletons and a bag full of scorpions.  Then it starts to rain! THEY ARE DOOMED.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Heather brings a mini-TV so she can watch daytime soap Sunrise, Sunset (no relation to Fiddler on the Roof, I guess)
  • Jessica brings an air mattress to sleep on; Liz does not.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Remember, this area was mined back in the great California Gold Rush of 1849, and there are still a few mine shafts standing. It may seem really cool to explore them, but it’s extremely dangerous.  They could collapse at any moment, especially if people climb around inside them.” (18)
  • “Be serious, Liz!” Jessica scoffed.  “Who would be stupid enough to store gold in a cave?” (80)
  • “I’ll have you know, Wakefield, that I only wear pure metals,” she retorted. “Actually, my mother’s friend at Diamonds International says that all the best brides this year are getting platinum settings.  Platinum is my favorite–gold is so pedestrian.” (102)
  • Liz usually likes to discuss and dissect intense experiences, Todd thought, running them into the ground until they just about lose all their meaning. (148) [Blogger’s note: This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read in the series.]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess there are a lot of gripes about this book that just feel like plot fails in general.  First of all, the teens on this wilderness adventure had to submit essays to even be considered for the project, and then they had to undergo training.  Yet the only people who actually seem into it are Ken and Liz, so what a complete fucking waste of a trip, am I right?  Second of all, there is no EARTHLY WAY POSSIBLE that these teens would have been dropped into the wilderness without a trail guide.  I have a sister who does this kind of work with young people, and there is always a guide.  You would not drop teens into the nature with a weekend’s worth of training.  Without a radio for an emergency? COME THE FUCK ON.

WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? WHY ARE THERE NO CHAPERONES? Why would Ned and Alice or Todd’s parents or Ken’s parents allow these teens to venture out in a co-ed group unsupervised?  The twins are going on an unsupervised camping trip with their boyfriends.  WHAT THE WHAT?

Also, the escaped convicts/the gold/the treasure map: LOL OK.

SVH Super Thriller #8: Murder in Paradise

28 Jan

murderinparadise

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Alice Wakefield has randomly won an all-expense paid trip to a spa in a glamorous location.  Because Alice has no friends, she takes her daughters, as well as Lila and her mom, Grace, and Enid (her mom has to “work” and can’t make it). The spa, creatively named Paradise Spa, is full of beautiful people, with the exception of the spa’s owner, Tatiana Mueller.  While Alice has a feeling of deja vu when she meets Tatiana, she largely ignores her feelings of foreboding.

The ladies settle into life at the spa.  Jessica and Lila are horrified to find that there are no mirrors anywhere at the resort, and when they ask if they can have a mirror delivered to their room, Tatiana tells them no, because the spa focuses on inner beauty.  Except this is a beauty spa, so that makes no sense, but whatever.  It takes approximately five seconds before Jessica meets a golf instructor named Chris and falls in love with him.  She gets worried when he seems to be pretty into Liz, though.

And indeed he is, because he asks Liz to meet him for a rousing game of tennis.  She agrees, so long as he’ll bring a friend for her friend, Enid.  Enid has been feeling bad about how gorgeous Liz is and how she gets all the boys or whatever.  Tatiana has actually been feeding into Enid’s insecurities, but they are boring, so whatever.  Enid hits it off with Chris’s friend Alex, and the date goes well until Jessica shows up and acts all distracting.  Enid is miserable and consumed with jealousy, which is only compounded by the fact that Tatiana has started hypnotizing Enid and telling her that her mother never loved her.  WHAT?

Liz and Chris run off and make out.  Later, the group of teens is on a fun outing of frisbee golf, like teens are wont to do, and they stumble upon a super weird building in the woods without any windows.  The hotel staffers run away, and there’s clearly something weird going on.  Liz overhears Tatiana yelling at a waitress named Katya about letting guests into the woods, and when Katya ends up dead in the steam room later, Liz finds it mighty suspicious, despite Tatiana saying that Katya had a heart condition.  Liz does some more snooping and discovers that not only was Katya a runaway, but so are most of the spa’s staff.  They work at the spa for room and board and make no actual income.  Liz also thinks that they seem a tad brainwashed.

Then Alice goes missing, and Tatiana brushes it off, saying she probably just wanted some time alone.  The twins try to call home, but the phone’s dead.  Tatiana continues to act weird, and Jessica spies on her and sneaks into her office when she’s not there.  Once inside, she finds a yearbook from Sweet Valley University with Alice’s picture cut out.  DUN DUN DUN!  Eventually, Elizabeth manages to get her laptop plugged into a phone line, and after a little research, pulls up some weird stuff about the spa and plastic surgery.  While she does that, Jessica goes through Tatiana’s files and finds that all of the staff have undergone plastic surgery, and Enid is next!

The twins get an email from Ned, who tells the girls that they did know a Tatiana Mueller in college.  She was obsessed with Alice and everyone made fun of her because she was unattractive.  Liz goes to do some thinking by a waterfall and gets kidnapped by Chris, who is wearing a lab coat.  Once she’s kidnapped, Chris reveals to her that Tatiana wants to look like Alice and has trained another person to be the perfect plastic surgeon so this can be accomplished.  The plan is to kill Alice once the surgery is complete.

Right before Elizabeth dies, Lila, Jessica, and Enid come rushing in to save the day.  Enid’s brainwashing unravels as Chris spews his story, and she helps overpower Tatiana and her assistants.  The police arrive, and all is well.  Everyone goes home.  Even the surgically-altered runaways.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The shelter for runaways that Liz calls is called Manford House
  • There’s another plug for the search engine (?) INFOMAX in this book

Memorable Quotes:

  • “’I’ve gained four pounds since Hugh dumped me.’ Her green eyes glittered; a tear slid down her freckled cheek. ‘If I were prettier, if I looked more like you and Jessica, Hugh would have never gotten tired of me.’  Elizabeth continued to shake her head empathetically. Inside, though, she had to admit that there might be a tiny measure of truth to what Enid said.”

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I mean, what is there even to say?  The idea that Alice would bring her daughters, their friends, and their friend’s mothers (well, except Enid’s) to a spa for a week is sad enough.  Don’t you have any friends, Alice?  Isn’t it weird to bring the mom of one of your daughter’s friends whom you barely know?  Setting aside that, don’t you think it’s weird that you can’t remember the name Tatiana Mueller, which is fairly unusual?  Remember how she lived down the hall from you in college and was OBSESSED with you?

But then the rest of it is just silly.  Both Jessica and Elizabeth are supposed to have boyfriends at home (Ken and Todd, respectively) and within minutes of arriving at Paradise Spa, they’re macking on the same dude.  Like, what the hell?  A fling when you’re across the world is one thing, but you’re going to be home in a matter of days (provided you don’t die at the hands of a deranged, body-image-obsessed psychopath).  Cool your jets, ladies.

Then there’s the issue of Tatiana and her hare-brained scheme.  How did she really see this playing out?  She was going to kill the entire group and take over Alice’s life?  That seems unlikely.  So she just wanted to look like Alice and go on living her life?  Did she not think that people were going to start getting suspicious about how many people “disappeared” or actually died in her health spa?  Are there not regulations regarding those sorts of things?  Didn’t she have to put in purchase orders for her medical equipment?  DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE SENSE?

Also, Enid.  LOL.