Tag Archives: regina morrow

SVH: Jessica’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

18 Jul

jessica's secret diary

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A because this book recaps books 32-40.


Jessica is at a party at the Patman beach house when her boyfriend, Jack (whoever the fuck this is) tells her that he’s secretly been in love with her sister, Elizabeth.  Understandably distraught, Jessica runs home crying and decides to run away.  As she’s packing, she stumbles across a secret diary that no one knows she keeps and begins to revisit her own sordid past.  Oh, good.  More recapping.

We’re first treated to a recap of #32, in which Jessica dyes her hair black and tries to go faux-European.  She also thinks about how cute she thinks Jeffrey French is.  Then we get a recap of heroic Jessica’s impulse decision to bring home a lab puppy who becomes Prince Albert.  Bizarrely, we get info-dumped about #34, even though it’s totally not about Jessica at all.  Same thing with the book about Aaron Dallas’s anger issues (repressed homosexuality?  RIGHT?) and his girlfriend Heather’s baby voice.  UGH GOD WHY DO THEY HAVE TO DO THE BOOKS CHRONOLOGICALLY WITHOUT SKIPPING ANY.

Then Jessica reads about how she tried to break up Steve and Cara.  That was sweet.  Remember when Jessica thought Alice was pregnant again? Because she likes pistachio ice cream and shit?  Me neither, but it happened.  Jessica reminisces about how she and Steven schemed to keep Elizabeth from going away to boarding school and then actually admits to being pretty into Jeffrey, thinking at one point that she’d send Liz to Switzerland so she could steal Jeffrey away from her.  What a nice sister.  There’s an adorable and not at all tedious recap of the time she and Lila posted personal ads and got set up with the same dude. FINALLY we hit #40, where Jessica reminisces about poor Regina and how she died from that cocaine thing with her heart.  It’s here that she admits that she once went on a date with him, posing as Liz, and when they made out, Jeffrey figured it out but then made out with her some more.  Um, creepy?

Back in the present moment, Jessica cries about her and Jack, her and Jeffrey, Elizabeth too, she guesses, and then for Regina.  She unpacks her clothes and decides to stay.  I’m ready to self-immolate to get away from this book, so let’s call it a day.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • In the present day part of the novel, Ma and Pa Wakefield are out of town in Los Angeles
  • Jessica and “Jack” have been dating for one whole month

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But for most of the years I’ve known you, Jessica, you fall madly in love about twice a month.  How am I supposed to know when you really mean it?” (4)
  • “Jeffrey pulled me roughly toward him again and kissed me even more passionately.  I responded with a moan, feeling as if my heart would explode with a million tiny, twinkling stars of light.” (307)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

So what’s weird about this one is not the present-tense voice, which still bothers me but feels like a more natural fit than the one inflicted on Elizabeth in the previous diary book, but that once again I’m unsure what the lesson is to be learned in this.  As per usual, the message is muddled.

Part of the problem is that so many of the books being recapped in this one weren’t about Jessica at all.  This is only going to get worse with subsequent volumes of the diaries (ugh I can’t believe there are two more for EACH TWIN), but it still makes the lack of plot pretty glaring here.  Also, boring.  Like, really really boring.

The biggest issue here though is that I think the reader is supposed to realize (alongside Jessica) that the girls love each other and value one another so deeply that they can’t be apart.  But everything that happens in these books only goes to further illustrate what an asshole Jessica is.  So, I guess I don’t get it?

SVH: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

16 Jul

elizabeth's secret diary

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, as this is a recap of books 23-31


Liz and Todd are making out in his room instead of studying.  There’s a lot of weird almost-sex talk about how they never let themselves be alone in each other’s rooms, and then Todd takes a phone call from Ken Matthews and Liz snoops around Todd’s desk, finding a letter from a girl he knew in Vermont.  She calls him cute-buns and sends him lots of love and kisses, and Liz FREAKS OUT.  That night, she ends up in the arms of Jeffrey French, and they make out.  Confused, Liz goes home crying and opens one of her old journals.  Cue flashbacks!

We’re dumped into #28, when Liz finds out that Todd is moving with his family to Vermont.  After he leaves and they agree to do a long-distance thing, Liz starts hanging out and making out with Nicholas Morrow.  If this is supposed to be scandalous, it’s not.  When Todd comes to visit, the two make up and he climbs a ladder into her bedroom.

After that, we’re treated to a retread of #29, where Steven mopes about his dead fucking girlfriend and his new feelings for Cara.  Liz also chases a Todd lookalike around Sweet Valley (DOPPELGANGER ALERT).  I can’t be bothered to care about any of this.  After that excitement, Liz boasts about helping poor Emily Mayer cope with a blended family and then negotiate a hostage situation (when it’s written out like this, is it more or less ridiculous? I can’t tell anymore).  Also, Liz’s writing is SO GOOD that people steal it, like Ken Matthews did that one time but he totally learned his lesson and they’re cool now.

For whatever fucking reason, we are treated to a very long recap of Lynne Henry’s makeover transformation, and then Liz and Ken start hanging out a lot because now she’s “single” and she and Todd chat on the phone about people he’s dating in Vermont.  Oh, and she reconnects with Amy Sutton but thinks she’s a snob.  WHEN WILL THIS END.  By the time the book gets around to recapping #31, where she and Jessica fight over which of their friends gets to date Jeffrey (like this is a reward?), Liz and Ken aren’t really seeing each other any more, and then Liz decides that she loves Jeffrey.

In the present, Liz stays up all night reading her journal and realizes that her life has been exciting and amazing.  Todd drives over to the Wakefield house and they make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz has an awful lot of poetry written in her diaries, and they’re all terrible.  Check it: “Rainy Sunday/Foggy Monday/Closely creeping fears,/Can’t take much more of this./Drive east, drive fast/until at last/desert rainbows dry my tears/like a kiss.”

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She’s my sister and I adore her, but sometimes she can be so…shallow. Forgive me, Diary, but it’s true.” (27)
  • “‘Congratulations,’ I whispered. ‘You’ve just become the first man to successfully scale Mount Wakefield!'” (53) [This is sexual, right?]
  • “I glanced at Amy out of the corner of my eye. Could she really be as heartless as she sounded?” (236)
  • “I’m only sixteen, and already my life has been so full!” (322) [Wait, this is the takeaway?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s weird that this book is written in first-person.  I had completely forgotten about that, though I guess it makes sense, since the reader is supposed to be in Liz’s diary.  But it’s jarring to read this first-person perspective of Liz that doesn’t sound at all how she should sound, in my opinion.

Also, this book is so fucking boring.  It’s like watching a clips-heavy episode of a comedy from the 90s.  There’s no real reason to show all these things readers have already experienced, and by adding in details that I refuse to accept as cannon at this point, the book is doing itself no favors.  There’s no reason–except to sell more books and make more money–to recap the books in a huge volume like this.  It makes no sense.

Which brings me to the thing that I find most disturbing about this book.  At the beginning, Liz is upset because Todd saw some other girl while he was in Vermont, which WE ALREADY KNEW, and then wonders if he’s loved other people besides her.  So she turns to her diary, which documents every covert hookup with basically every dude in Sweet Valley (no shame here, just pointing out the facts), some of which she had genuine feelings for.  At the end of the book, though, she realizes that her life has been full and exciting, and she feels better about everything?  What?  Wasn’t the point that she was doing some soul-searching about her feelings for Todd?

Also, isn’t the message here: your experiences with boys define you?  Am I wrong?

SVH #73: Regina’s Legacy

21 Mar


Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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

SVH #41: Outcast

14 Oct

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week


The kids are still reeling from Regina Morrow’s tragic death at Molly Hecht’s party.  In order to channel that sorrow into something tangible, everyone decides to hate on Molly Hecht.  She’s feeling completely isolated at home and at school.  No one will talk to her: not her friends, not her former best friend Justin Belson, not even Elizabeth Wakefield, who brushes Molly off after she pleads for help.  Even her parents are pissed at her and basically blame her for Regina’s death.

Elizabeth doesn’t feel like she can talk to Molly, but then she realizes that maybe Molly really needs help, so she tries to recruit Justin, who all but hangs up on her the first time she asks.  She corners him at school and offers to help with his essay on Hamlet if he’ll help her with Molly, but he’s still extremely reluctant.  It takes a few more tries, but she finally convinces him to help her.

Buzz the drug dealer contacts Molly and asks her to meet him at Kelly’s.  She goes and lets him get her drunk and high before making out with him.  He tells her that he’s the only one who understands her, but in order for them to be together, they’ll have to run away because the cops are looking for him.  She says she has some money in an account, and the two make plans to go to Mexico.

Elizabeth follows Molly to the bank during lunch and figures out what’s going on.  She tells Justin, and the two of them worry about Molly for a while before finally heading over to her house to confront her.  When they get there, they see her getting into her mom’s car.  They follow her to Kelly’s where she gets into Buzz’s car.  Justin has Liz get out to call the police while he chases them down.  Buzz gets out of the car and tries to attack Justin with a knife, but he beats him off with a stick and a punch in the face.  The police come, Molly cries, and everyone’s okay.  Molly decides to become a better person.

The B-Plot involves Jessica wanting to do something in memory of Regina.  She recruits the rest of the Pi Beta Alphas into helping her create a scholarship fund for SVH students who have overcome adversity of some sort.  It is a success, thanks largely to Ned Wakefield, whose law firm will handle the financial aspects of it.  Jessica feels good about herself but still mostly hates Molly Hecht.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Get out of here!’ he screamed, raising a hand as if to hit her.  ‘Get out of here and leave us alone!  You killed my sister!  You killed her!'” (50)
  • “No thanks.  I’ve been your scapegoat long enough, Elizabeth, so you can take your talking and shove it.” (113)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book begins right after the last one, when people are just leaving Regina’s memorial service.
  • Sweet Valley High has a language lab.  This strikes me as extravagant.
  • Mrs. Wakefield picks up Chinese food for dinner, and everyone goes crazy for it, seemingly forgetting that Ned Wakefield is allergic.
  • Molly Hecht has $2,314.83 in her savings account.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

People tend to react irrationally when something bad happens.  When tragedy strikes, a natural impulse is to look for something or someone to blame.  In this case, it’s Molly Hecht, who hosted the infamous party where Regina died.  But people’s automatic shunning of Molly seems so forced and so over-the-top that it’s difficult to believe.  Her parents, in particular, struck me as a weak plot point:

“No, Molly.  You’re staying in Sweet Valley, and you’re going to go to school every single day.  You’re going to face those kids and take it, and you’re not staying home sick or or dropping out or moving away.  You’re going to stay and take what’s coming to you,” her father says to her after she tries to explain her feelings.

This scene comes quickly after a scene at the Wakefields’ house, where Ned and Alice sit all three kids down for a family meeting and talk about drugs.  Both parents urge their children to always feel as if they can approach them about anything, and the family shares some wholesome moments.  But Molly’s family situation is much different: her parents are divorced, her dad lives in San Francisco, they don’t seem to like her, etc. etc.  Perhaps this is why she got into drugs, but that is never explained or even talked about.

I guess it doesn’t matter why the trashy girls do drugs.  It only matters when it’s someone who’s heroic and beautiful like Regina.

Lesson learned.

SVH #40: On the Edge

11 Oct

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Bruce Patman and Amy Sutton are totally hooking up, and pretty much everyone at Sweet Valley knows it except Bruce’s girlfriend, Regina Morrow.  Elizabeth worries over whether or not to say something to Regina, but Jessica convinces her that it might only make things worse.  The twins throw a barbeque, and Bruce and Amy hook up behind a tree.  Elizabeth tries to distract Regina while Jeffrey intercedes, but Regina’s not completely stupid and sees what’s going on.  She freaks out and yells at Elizabeth, Bruce, and Amy.  She storms out and goes home.

Both Bruce and Elizabeth try to talk to her in the days that follow, but Regina shuts them down.  She starts hanging out with pseud-bad boy Justin Belson, who’s on academic probation because of cutting class.  He’s friends with a lot of the shadier kids at SVH, including some druggies.  People try to warn Regina about Justin and his friends, but she’s not very receptive and thinks that she knows him better, he’s complicated and misunderstood, etc.

Regina and Justin go to a wild party at Molly Hecht’s house.  Everyone who’s there is excited about the possibility of a drug dealer named Buzz showing up.  Even though Nicholas Morrow, Elizabeth, and Bruce all warned Regina that the party was bad news, she goes anyway, despite being completely uncomfortable with the situation.  At the party, people are drinking beer and smoking the marijuana.  Regina coughs because the air is thick with smoke, and Molly Hecht and Jan Brown make fun of her.  Buzz shows up and everyone crowds around him to look at his little baggie of cocaine.

Elizabeth has been angsting over what to do about Regina being at this party.  I don’t know how it’s her business, but apparently it is, because she calls Nicholas, who thanks her and races out to his car to go to the party.  He gets pulled over for speeding, and when he can’t produce his driver’s license, the police take him to the station.  I don’t know about you guys, but here in the U.S., drivers have 24 hours to produce their license.  He finally gets the police to listen to him about the party, and they head out towards Molly Hecht’s house.

Justin can tell that Regina’s uncomfortable and promises that they’ll leave soon, but he’s worried that Buzz is trying to get Molly hooked on heroin, and so he wants to be there–to stop her, I guess?  Regina sits at the table with the cocaine and watches it get cut into lines.  She’s teased for being naive, and then she decides that it looks harmless, so she does two lines of it.  Her heart starts beating super fast and it’s clear that something’s wrong.  Justin tries to get someone to call an ambulance but Buzz is like, “ARE YOU CRAZY THERE ARE DRUGS HERE!” and Regina’s gotten pale and weak.  The cops and Nicholas burst in and Regina’s rushed to the hospital.

Bruce and Liz are called to the hospital and wait with the Morrows.  The doctors come out and tell them that Regina suffered a heart attack due to the cocaine and she’s dead.  Everyone cries.  A memorial service is held a week later, and everyone cries some more.

The almost nonexistent B-Plot involves Amy and Bruce in their attempts to gather information about drugs in Sweet Valley for a school project.  They meet up with Amy’s cousin Mimi, who tells them all about Buzz, the drug dealer who will be at Molly’s party.  Apparently he’s the biggest pusher at Sweet Valley College and the police have been trying to catch him for a while.  This seems mostly like exposition to further the plot along.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Regina knew her parents would die if they knew where she was.  As it was, they hadn’t been thrilled when Justin had shown up wearing  a leather jacket.  Even with his chiseled features, he looked slightly tough–a little older than guys she knew at school and definitely more streetwise.” (59-60) [Blogger’s note: Her parents have a problem with a leather jacket but not an attempted date rapist?]
  • “According to Justin, authority, no matter what kind, was bad.  If someone told you not to do something, chances were you should go ahead and do it–if only to show them how stupid rules were in the first place.” (90)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Amy Sutton’s cousin Mimi, who is helping provide information for the project she’s doing with Bruce, is only 19 but is apparently a junior in college.
  • Justin Belson’s life is messed up because his dad was murdered during a robbery at the liquor store he owned.
  • The ghostwriter spells Secca Lake wrong, and then, only a page later, claims that Bruce’s vanity license plates on his car read Bruce 1.  This is a falsity and very close to blasphemy, as we know that his license plate reads 1Bruce1.
  • Molly Hecht’s party starts really early.  Like, 7pm early.  I wasn’t invited to a lot of parties in high school, but I do know that a 7pm start time would make Molly’s party the place to not be.
  • Nicholas reads “Dirge without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay at Regina’s memorial service.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

“We don’t know exactly what happened yet,’ the internist said wearily.  ‘All we can say for sure right now is that Regina took a lethal amount of cocaine tonight and experienced an extremely rare reaction–rapid acceleration of the heartbeat, which brought on sudden cardiac failure.  It’s possible that a heart murmur she’s had since birth may have contributed to this…” (131)

It’s hard to snark on a novel that is actually pretty sad.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to, but it’s harder to do when the premise isn’t so flat-out ridiculous.  That being said, there are a few things worth mentioning in this analysis.

The first is that I’m uncomfortable with how ignorant everyone seems to be about cocaine.  Now, granted, I was born after the characters of this world (although we graduated high school around the same time in terms of publishing dates.  Haha), so I went through the DARE program in the early 90s.  I lived in a world where drug awareness and scare tactics were used from an early age.  We were warned of the dangers of ALL drugs and were told to STAY AWAY.

I’m not going to debate the effectiveness of such programs, because it’s sort of irrelevant.  At any rate, we were made aware that drugs could be dangerous.  What is surprising to me is that the teens of Sweet Valley seem to be ignorant of this.  None of the people at the party seem to think that cocaine could be dangerous.  They laugh off Regina’s questions and Buzz even says something about how he can’t believe that people are telling lies about cocaine being dangerous or addictive (I realize this is part of his business strategy, but bear with me).  At the hospital, after finding out about Regina, Bruce asks if the cocaine had been poisoned.  This leads me to believe that he can’t imagine the drug alone could hurt her.  Pssh.  Whatever.

The last thing I want to talk about is how Regina’s death is actually explained.  The doctor said that she took a “lethal” dose of cocaine and this exacerbated a potentially pre-existing condition caused by a heart murmur.  But if the dose was lethal, couldn’t that just have been it?  People can overdose on the drug.  The word “lethal” was in his description of what she took.  Doesn’t lethal mean death?  Why did they have to over-complicate her death with the discussion of a heart problem?  Moreover, how is it possible that they never caught this hypothetical heart murmur over the course of her extensive medical treatments?  I know that the treatments focused on her hearing, but you’re telling me she never had a physical?  Really?

At any rate, someone’s gonna be blamed for the loss of an innocent, and that person is gonna be Molly Hecht.

SVH #26: Hostage!

2 Jun

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week


Liz is worried about the news she got from some random classmate about Regina Morrow being in town and not telling anyone, so she drives over to the Morrow mansion and rings the doorbell.  A strange woman answers the door and tells Liz that Regina’s not home, but Liz can see Regina standing in the foyer.  After Liz is essentially booted from the house, she drives home, thinking about how she can’t tell her parents (what if they won’t let her go back to the house?) but she can call the police.  They prove to be no help, though, telling her that they checked it out and the woman is an aunt and basically tell Liz to mind her own business and stop wasting the tax dollars of the citizens of Sweet Valley.

Liz remains convinced that something is wrong and confides in Jessica, who creates a scheme in which Bruce Patman poses as a grocery delivery boy.  They figure they can put something in the groceries for Regina and hide a note in it.  They put the plan in motion and sneak a letter into via a magazine.  She gets the magazine and writes back to them, dropping the letter in a compact mirror out her window.  The three of them retrieve it and find out that: a.) she’s being held hostage, b.) her parents are being held somewhere else, c.) they want a microchip her father developed, and d.) she heard the woman say something about “Money is heaven.”

Bruce calls in Nicholas Morrow, who’s been visiting a friend in San Francisco, and the teens all try to figure out what “Money is heaven” means.  Nicholas recognizes one of the kidnappers as Phil Denson, a disgruntled former employee of his father’s.  They find an address for him and drive out to the house.  Jessica flirts with a teenager mowing the lawn and sneaks a peak inside the house to discover Mr. and Mrs. Morrow tied up on the living room floor.

It takes a long time, but the teens finally figure out that “Money is heaven” means “Monday at seven.”  Regina’s hearing isn’t at 100% yet, and I guess she misunderstood what was said.  The twins deduce that the scheme to steal the microchip is taking place on Monday at seven.  They plan to be in both places at that time and put into motion Operation Save The Morrows.

What they don’t plan on is Phil, who is on his way home at the same time that Bruce is untying the Morrows.  He pulls a gun on Jessica, who is flirting with the teenager, and the teenager freaks out and grabs the gun.  Bruce ushers everyone out of the house and into the waiting car.  They rescue the other half of the operation, also at gunpoint, and the police arrest the entire Denson family.  The Morrows are saved!  In celebration, they plan a party.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Apparently her father’s plant had just designed a microchip that would revolutionize the computer industry.  Mr. Morrow had spent the better part of the past five years perfecting this chip and had just manufactured a single prototype.  It had been the crowning achievement of his work in the computer industry and had taken thousands of research hours and endless expense.” (39)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • I hated this book.  I’ve got nothing for you.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

This plot lends itself to so much ridicule that it isn’t even worth really getting into.  The one major issue I have with a plot that’s so hare-brained is the fact that Liz doesn’t want to tell her parents what’s happening but will call the police.  This makes no sense.  It makes me angry.

I have to go away now.

SVH#18: Head Over Heels

10 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks


Regina Morrow is totally in love with Bruce Patman, and vice-versa.  Everyone at Sweet Valley High is mystified by Bruce’s sudden transformation from douche truck to doting boyfriend, but he seems pretty sincere.  This sincerety bothers Jessica, still bitter from her own failed relationship with Bruce.  She bets Lila that the relationship will be over before the charity carnival being held at Sweet Valley High in two weeks.  The terms of the bet stipulate that the loser has to write the winner’s 15-page term paper.  This will end well.

When Regina’s parents tell her that she’s a candidate for a new treatment to restore her hearing, Regina is overjoyed until she finds out that the treatments will take a year and require her to relocate to Switzerland.  Regina can’t stand the idea of leaving Bruce for an entire year, and she refuses to listen to reason, even when her parents bring in a boy named Donald Essex, a former deaf kid who can hear thanks to the treatments.

Meanwhile, Jessica is starting to worry about the bet.  She decides to speed up the inevitable breakup by telling Regina that she heard a rumor Bruce only started dating her to gain popularity for his run as president of student council for the Sweet Valley Centennial Committee.  When Regina questions Bruce about why he didn’t tell her he’s running, he’s evasive, and Regina freaks out and breaks up with him on the spot, deciding to go ahead with the move to Switzerland.

Bruce is miserable and asks Liz if she knows why Regina would break up with him all of a sudden, and Liz spills the beans about the entire situation.  Bruce doesn’t want her to go to Switzerland but knows it’s important, so he writes her a letter professing his love and asks Liz to sneak it into Regina’s bag so she won’t see it before she leaves and change her mind.  Regina finds it on the plane and cries and feels hopeful.

The B-Plot involves the planning for the charity carnival being held at Sweet Valley High.  The carnival’s aim is to raise money for the handicapped children’s ward of Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital.  Liz is in charge of the planning, and it’s pretty stressful.  The carnival comes together at the last minute, complete with a master of ceremony, an exotic food stand, and an inspirational speech by Skye Morrow, Regina’s mother.  They raise $800 for the hospital, and all is well in Sweet Valley yet again.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Bruce Patman,’ she sputtered, throwing the bracelet on the seat between them, ‘Why don’t you just take your expensive presents and your stupid promises and get out of here?'” (91)
  • I would never have believed it in a million years, she thought.  Bruce Patman is crying.” (117)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Both Bruce and Regina seem to favor outfits that include blue and white: Bruce wears a navy blue blazer with chino pants and a navy and red-striped tie, while Regina dons a navy-blue cotton dress with tiny white flowers and white cotton jeans with a striped t-shirt.
  • It seems that both the Morrow family and the Fowler family’s fortunes are in computers, which leads this reader to wonder: Is Sweet Valley the new Silicone Valley?

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Trying to snark on the fact that there’s a cure for deafness makes my brain want to explode, so we’re going to move right past it.

However, it is worth mentioning how many times the word “handicapped” is thrown around in the novel.  The book was originally published in April of 1985, when a term like “handicapped” was still used.  It is interesting to note that even in the past few years, that term has been deemed archaic and politically incorrect.  Every time Regina’s “handicap” was mentioned or the teens talked sympathetically about the “handicapped children” at the hospital, I cringed a little bit.  It’s amazing how powerful words can be.

Finally, a tiny nitpick with Regina’s sendoff.  She takes off for Switzerland without either parent.  She is sixteen, deaf (for the foreseeable future), and heading to a foreign country to live without the support of a parent?  Mr. and Mrs. Morrow couldn’t scrape together the money for an extra plane ticket to accompany Regina and at least help her get settled?  I’m not buying it, folks.

SVH #13: Kidnapped!

24 Mar

Estimated Time Elapsed: 1 week


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.