Tag Archives: sam woodruff

SVH Magna Edition: A Night to Remember

28 May

anighttoremember

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

At a Sweet Valley High-sponsored (?) beach party one night, the students are raided by a band of crazed Big Mesa High teenagers.  They toss around their food, spray them with shaving cream, and pick up some of the girls for funsies.  Everyone is super, super pissed about this and swear they will get their revenge.  Liz and Todd hope that everyone will lose interest in their quest for vengeance.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Elizabeth come up with the idea of having SVH host a jungle-themed prom.  While they disagree about whether or not the attendees should wear formal wear (Liz) or Tarzan-and-Jane outfits (Jess), they do agree that it will be the Best Night Ever.  They can’t wait to tell everyone at school about it, and once they do, the gang starts planning the affair.  Elizabeth manages to find a local environmental group to help sponsor the prom, and then they throw in a huge bonus: an all-expenses paid trip to Brazil for the prom queen.  She’ll also be a new spokesperson for the group.

Both Jessica and Elizabeth are interested in becoming the Jungle Prom Queen, albeit for very different reasons.  Everyone thinks Elizabeth is a shoe-in because she’s working so hard on the planning for the dance.  When the prom committee chooses formal-wear over the more casual jungle-look, Jessica’s PISSED even though she missed the planning meeting.  She gets her revenge when she has Caroline Pierce write an article for The Oracle that credits Jessica with all the planning ideas.  The two end up fighting about the fact that they both want to be prom queen and snipe at each other.  I’m bored, and we’re only a third of the way through the book.

The twins continue to butt heads over plans for the prom, which is fast-approaching.  When it comes time to decide whether or not SVH should invite students from Big Mesa to the prom (like, as dates, I guess), the vote is split, further dividing the twins.  Then Penny tells them that Sweet Sixteen magazine wants to do an interview and photo spread on the organizers of the dance, and the twins are super excited.  But Jessica is so late that Liz and the magazine people leave to do the magazine spread without her.  Jessica is not pleased, and the two have a huge fight that ends with each of them refusing to speak to the other one.

The night of the dance, the girls get ready alone and then go to the dance with Sam and Todd.  When Todd is crowned prom king, Jessica worries that Elizabeth will end up the queen by default.  Some kids from Big Mesa have crashed the dance, and one of them hits on Jessica.  He’s drunk, and Jessica asks for some of his vodka (or whatever clear liquid is in his flask).  She pours it into Elizabeth’s unguarded cup.  But Liz shares that drink with Sam, and suddenly they are both super, SUPER wasted.  Like, crazy wasted, dancing all over the place, slurring their words, having deep and meaningful conversations with their friends.

No one thinks that Liz is wasted because she would never do something like that.  Then she decides that she doesn’t want to be prom queen and withdraws her name.  Perfect timing, because a few minutes later, Jessica is crowned queen.  In the midst of the applause, Jessica loses sight of Sam and Liz, and before she can do anything to stop them from leaving, the two do.  She tries to run after them, but they speed off into the night.

AT BASICALLY THE SAME TIME, a riot erupts at the dance between Big Mesa students and SVH students.  Everyone runs around, and Bruce and some other dudes end up fighting on the football field.  Jessica manages to grab Todd and tell him that she thinks Liz and Sam are in trouble, and they drive off to find them.  But they’re too late! There’s been a terrible accident, and it looks like Sam and Liz are dead! CLIFFHANGER.

Other character arcs in this book: Lila is really struggling with the aftermath of her near-rape.  She’s still in counseling at Project Youth with a counselor named Nathan who tells her that she’s overreacting to situations on dates and that not every dude is a scumbag.  She’s also desperate for a mother and spends much of the book sad about the fact that her father leaves her alone a lot.  As she spends more time in counseling, she starts to formulate a crush on Nathan.  During the riot at the dance, Nathan pulls her to safety in a classroom and she freaks out, thinking he’s going to try to rape her.  The police come rushing in and arrest Nathan, I guess.

Bruce Patman becomes obsessed with getting revenge on Big Mesa and also sort of dates Andrea Slade but only when she’s not totally available to him.  He doesn’t want a girl who’s always available to him, and he tells her this.  She acts like a wounded puppy dog about the whole thing.  Bruce can’t seem to connect to people and is carrying a lot of anger, and the book deduces it’s because he’s not over Regina Morrow. Um, okay.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Big Mesa’s school paper is called The Bull’s Eye.
  • Apparently Jessica’s favorite dinner is Chinese chicken stir-fry, Elizabeth likes cold rice salad, and Ned LOVES peach cobbler.
  • The reggae band featured in this book is called Island Sunsplash
  • Nathan the counselor’s dog’s name is J.D.
  • According to Lois, who is doing a report, SVH serves the healthiest institutional food in Southern California.  Random.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She glanced at a nearby table where Enid and Hugh were sitting with two other couples.  That was another thing she felt like challenging her sister about.  How could Elizabeth be best friends with someone who not only was a total drip, but also dated a guy from Big Mesa?” (49)
  • “Hadn’t she decided to assert herself, to be an Elizabeth Wakefield who nurtured all sides of her personality, even the part that dared to be self-centered and ambitious?” (68)
  • “‘But it shouldn’t be a popularity contest,’ Elizabeth argued. ‘I deserve the prize. I’ve earned it. Wasn’t the prom my idea in the first place?'” (191)
  • “‘But I’m telling you something, Liz. It’s not going to work,’ Jessica warned. ‘Sooner or later, everyone at Sweet Valley High will wise up to your act. They’ll figure you out. So, go ahead,’ she challenged. ‘Lie and cheat and sneak around all you want to. We’ll see who comes out on top!'” (234)
  • “A wicked smile spread slowly across Jessica’s face. What an idiot–she can’t even tell it’s spiked! It was really a hoot, Jessica decided: Elizabeth Wakefield, the most upstanding, self-righteous person at Sweet Valley High, breaking the cardinal rule against drinking!” (301)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is probably one of the most famous (or infamous) SVH books that exists.  Everyone remembers the Jungle Prom and the apparently magical vodka that ends up killing Sam Woodruff (seriously, why couldn’t it have been Liz?).  And really, there are a lot of things about this one that are dumb (mostly relating to the twins’ stupid feud about who gets to be the fucking prom queen), but the thing that is beyond weird is how alcohol is treated in this one.  So let’s break it down.

Jessica asks a random drunk dude for some of the booze in his flask.  He’s already super wasted, so he’s probably had a fair amount of the liquid in there.  While he does empty the rest of his flask into her cup, there can’t really be that much left.  But then it gets split between two people, and they’re both completely blitzed.  Also, Elizabeth’s behavior is super erratic for a drunk person.  The book goes into detail about how they’re swinging each other around and dancing faster than any of the other party goers, and…we’re supposed to believe it’s just alcohol that’s doing this?  At most, 3-4 shots split between two people?  WHAT?

Whatever.  It makes no sense.  Perhaps there was some coke in that vodka.

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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 #90: Don’t Go Home With John

14 May

dontgohomewithjohn

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Lila has been seeing more of John Pfeifer around since he broke up with his girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell, and she’s surprised how interested she is in him.  He’s much more serious and intense than the dudes she’s used to dating, but she can’t help but be flattered when he pays attention to her.  They finally go out on a date, and it goes really well, until they go up to Miller’s Point and he won’t stop fooling around when she asks him to.  Things get a little rough, and she finally gets away from him by grabbing his keys, jabbing him in the neck with them, and then throwing them over the edge of the cliff.

Completely traumatized by the assault and near-rape, Lila blows off Jessica when she calls to find out how the date went.  She completely withdraws into herself, vacillating between thinking she should seek help from someplace like Project Youth to thinking everyone will blame her for what happened because she’s known as a flirt.  Jessica notices how drawn and pale Lila looks, and she’s seriously worried, but no matter how much she prods Lila, she can’t get her to tell her what’s wrong.

Lila throws her costume ball the following weekend (after thinking about cancelling it and making a point to uninvite John from attending), and it’s going along fine.  Lila is even having a good time until John shows up with some random sophomore in tow.  When she sees him, she completely loses her shit and screams at him in front of everyone about how he tried to rape her.  He denies it and leaves with his date, but the damage has been done in that the rumors are flowing.

The following week at school, Lila is plagued by rumors doubting her story.  It doesn’t help that John is completely weird and keeps following her around, standing in her way in the cafeteria and generally making a mockery of her pain.  Jessica asks John’s ex-girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell if she can help at all and encourage John to seek help, and she basically tells Jessica that since he never tried to rape her, she doesn’t think he needs counseling.  Okay.

Lila is miserable until a sophomore named Susan Wyman comes to see her at her house and tells her that the same thing happened to her with John just before he went out with Lila.  Like Lila, she was able to get away when another couple showed up at Miller’s Point.  The two devise a plan to get John to go to the Dairi Burger where they can confront him together.  They do, and after his friends hear Susan’s story, too, everyone turns on John.  Vindication, I guess?

The B-Plot involves Jessica worrying about “losing control” when she makes out with Sam.  They never say sex but instead dance around it, and Jessica decides they need to cool things down before one of them lets things get out of hand.  She makes them date in public so they won’t be tempted until Sam finally sits her down and is like, “I love you and this is crazy.  I’m just as responsible as you are in this situation, blah blah blah.”  Whatever.  Then they make out a bunch.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • After Lila throws John’s keys over the edge of Miller’s Point, he calls her a “little witch.”  If ever there was a time for actual profanity…
  • Lila wears a black Lycra dress with a crushed velvet jacket and pearls for her date with John.
  • Jessica and Sam go as Princess Leia and Han Solo to Lila’s costume ball.  Lila goes as Peter Pan, Enid & Hugh are the body and receiver of a telephone (okay), Elizabeth and Todd are the sun and the moon.  What the hell, guys.
  • The ghostwriter refers to a sitcom as a “situation comedy” at one point, which is…weird?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila had heard of boys acting like this, but she had thought that was only in books and movies.  She had never thought that any boy she knew would behave like, this.  That any boy she went to school with, and talked to, and saw every day–and liked–could scare her so much.” (47)
  • “Just a few days ago Lila had been one of the most attractive girls in Southern California, but now she would have been lucky to come in as a runner-up in a Miss Organic-Egg beauty contest.” (78) LOL WHAT?
  • “‘I mean, I know Lila’s telling the truth, Jessica, but I still have a hard time believing that my friend John did something like that. It’s like Dr. Pfeifer and Mr. Hyde. Anyway, there’s no way of proving what really did go on, is there?'” (112) LIZ IS THE GODDAMN WORST.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is a hard one to snark on, because given the subject matter and the series, it’s done fairly well.  Especially when you consider the fact that it was written in the early 90s.  There are still a couple of things worth mentioning, though.

In the book and in some recaps, incredulity is expressed that a person like John could ever do this to someone.  There’s a lot of, “John is a nice guy, and it doesn’t make sense for him to suddenly do this.”  And while the character development is sudden (which is not unusual for this series–consider Suzanne Devlin, etc.), I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for something like this to happen.  In fact, one could argue that having a character like John–who’s been mild-mannered for the most part, and a “good guy”–helps bring nuance to the issue.  Rapists are not all mustache-twirling devils.  They are people who appear otherwise normal, except for the fact that OH YEAH THEY ARE RAPISTS.

The other thing that really, really bothered me about this one was Liz.  It’s already well-established that she’s the fucking worst, but there’s something about her treatment of this issue that really stuck in my craw.  There’s the quote I linked to above, but there are other moments in the book, where Liz says things like, “I’d like Lila to know I support her, even though I’ve had to be polite to John,” where I just sort of rolled my eyes.  There’s so much self-righteousness there.  I don’t know.  My feelings are complicated about a stupid, poorly-written character, but they’re still my feelings.

SVH #88: Love Letters for Sale

7 May

lovelettersforsale

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Seriously, this book is the worst.

After Lila and Amy complain about having to write letters to relatives, Jessica gets an idea for her latest money-making scheme: a letter writing business in which people can pay her to write letters for them!  She enlists the help of Liz, who wants money to buy Todd a gift, and the two get to work setting up a post office box (so it’s anonymous) and flyers for their business.  They plan to charge $5 per letter.  Despite the fact that this is literally the dumbest thing they’ve ever done because it requires people to write letters about what they want their written letters to say, the business takes off, and the two are soon very busy with their letter-writing business.  Liz writes all the letters while Jessica supervises and handles the “books,” whatever that means.

Because they’re so busy, Liz starts ignoring Todd a lot.  This pisses him off, and he starts spending time with Shelley Novak, who is pissed at her boyfriend Jim because he’s so obsessed with photography.  Shelley gets all moon-eyed about how Todd is the perfect dude and even tells Liz this at one point.  The whole thing is creepy and weird, but whatever.  As Liz spends more time doing the letter writing business and less time doing Todd, Todd grows increasingly frustrated.

Here’s where things get extra convoluted and incredibly boring at the same time: Shelley writes to the twins to write a letter to her crush.  Jessica figures it out and instead of throwing the letter away, changes the details, thinking Liz will tell the girl in question to not pursue another girl’s dude.  Instead, she thinks that anyone as nice-sounding as the boy in question should be deserving of a doting girlfriend, and writes a great love letter.

An incredibly long story short, Shelley sends Todd the letter, Todd decides he wants a girl who appreciates him and sends the letter writing business a request to write a letter to his girlfriend breaking things off and another one to Shelley saying game on.  Jess tries to intercept the letters by not sending them and then when they get sent by pretending to be Liz and begging the mail man not to deliver the letters.  This book is literally the worst.  Of course Liz gets Todd’s letter,  freaks out, starts stuffing her face with food (this is a thing that actually happens in the book), and is generally a total mess.  Jessica asks Sam what to do, and he tells her to come clean about what’s happened.

Meanwhile, Todd and Shelley go out and don’t have that great of a time.  They both realize that they were mostly  upset about their significant others ignoring them and decide figuring out who is behind the letters will solve everything.  At this point, I’m convinced that the ghost writer has forgotten the plot and thinks that the letters are being constructed by Jess and Liz, instead of them parroting out what they were told to write.  Todd lurks at the post office until he sees Jessica go to pick up the mail and confronts her.

He writes one last letter to the business and tells Liz how great she is.  She buys him a letter jacket, they make up.  Then Todd buys her a matching jacket and I throw up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The coach of the girl’s basketball team is called Coach Tilman
  • Shelley Novak recently won a $5,000 scholarship for her basketball playing skills.  Did we already know this?
  • There’s a deli called Howard’s that has Todd and Liz’s favorite cheesecake.  Jesus these two are boring.
  • Apparently Annie Whitman and Tony Esteban are “on the outs”
  • Sick of hershey bar brown, Jessica repaints her room purple.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘He wants us to be rude,’ Elizabeth had gasped when she read the letter. ‘Look at the language he uses.'” (36)
  • “Any girl who would ignore someone as great as this guy obviously was–tender and caring, a real sweetheart–deserved to be shaken up a bit.  This guy sounds a lot like Todd, she thought. And anyone who wouldn’t appreciate a guy like Todd, Elizabeth decided, deserves the single life.” (87)
  • “‘Well?’ Elizabeth demanded. ‘Why do you want to go out with someone else?’ ‘I didn’t want to, but you gave me no choice,’ Todd replied defensively.'” (123) WHAT?!

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

…what, really is there to say?  The central premise of the business is actually kind of cool in theory.  But instead of having people call in and dictate what they want said in their letters, which makes so, so much more sense, the twins have people WRITE LETTERS TO BE WRITTEN AGAIN BY SOMEONE ELSE.  As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the client has the option of then RE-WRITING the letter they get so it’s in their own handwriting.  WHY? WHY? WHY?

Talk about middleman bloat.  Or whatever the phrase is that I’m looking for.

Furthermore, what about Liz’s response in this book is at all rational?  She wants to show her boyfriend she cares, so she spends more time away from him?  She doesn’t call Todd out on his completely ridiculous statement that she didn’t give him a choice but to go out with someone else? What?

SVH #85: Soap Star

25 Apr

soap star

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica sees an ad for an audition for her favorite soap, The Young and the Beautiful.  Casting agents are looking for identical twin girls who have that “California” look, so of course she and Liz are perfect for the gig, which is a week-long engagement on the show.  When she begs Liz to audition, though, she’s frustrated by Liz’s lack of interest and apparent disdain at the entire concept of a soap opera.  Despite her cajoling about how it could fund a brand-new Jeep or a “word processor” for Liz, she won’t budge.

After a party at Amy’s, Lila and Jessica come up with a way to get Liz to audition in LA without her knowing.  They send out a formal letter from a fake research company doing a study on identical twins.  When the girls go for the research study, it takes Liz a while to realize they’re sitting in the lobby of a casting call for the soap.  She freaks out and yells at Jessica in front of everyone, including the casting agent.  This woman decides the twins are perfect for the role and offers it to Jessica on the spot.  Um, okay.  When Jessica meets up with Liz at the car to tell her the good news, she can’t believe Liz won’t get excited about it.

While Jessica throws herself into the events the cast goes to, including a luncheon where she hangs all over star Brandon Hunter’s every last word, Elizabeth continues to refuse to do the show.  Jessica panics until she realizes that Liz will be incapable of saying no to an opportunity to write about the show, so Jess sends in some of Liz’s articles to the Los Angeles Times and gets her a limited-run of articles to write for the paper about her experiences on the show.  Liz is mad but also so full of her own self-importance she agrees to do the show in the name of journalism.

The show goes off pretty well for the twins throughout the course of their week-long guest stint.  Brandon Hunter ends up being a terrible actor prone to tantrums when things don’t go his way on set, but Jessica is so enamored with him that she doesn’t see it until she finally overhears him talking about how he’s using her to rocket to stardom.  Then she finally sees the light, but it’s kind of too late, as Sam has accused her of being an insufferable twat with regards to th whole celebrity thing.  Sam is right.

Liz and Jess decide to get even with Brandon on the last day on set.  They deliberately confuse him so he flubs most of his scenes.  When he pitches a fit about how the taping came out, the girls have to record the final scene of the show live.  Instead of sticking to the script and ending up in his character’s arms at the end, Jessica throws a glass of water in his face and declares her love for “Sam,” which, okay?  They get away with this, too, because they’re the Wakefield twins.  Jessica is even offered a permanent role on the show, but she turns it down.

Then there’s a surprise party and Sam and Jessica reconcile.  The world makes sense again.

The B-Plot is essentially one of the longest, weirdest, most didactic ads for Jeep Wrangler I’ve ever read in commercial fiction.  Elizabeth, Todd, and Mr. Wakefield go to the dealership to get the girls a new car.  After talking about all the features of the car, they finally settle on a new/used car (owned by a rental company previously) for the girls.  Yay?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica reads Hollywood Digest
  • Lila has a “designer” lunch bag, whatever that means.
  • Blech Outfit Alert: Liz wears a pair of peach chinos with a matching oversize shirt, complete with an applique flower on the pocket.
  • Jessica wants a black Jeep with purple sparkly trim, and Elizabeth favors a royal blue one with silver trim.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Well, I just don’t understand why anyone would want to waste their time watching brainless girls with their equally brainless boyfriends act their way through sickeningly sweet and completely unbelievable plots!” (10)
  • “Have you ever heard the dialogue the women characters on the soaps are given? They never use their brains! They misunderstand everything that everyone tells them, and they jump to absurd conclusions about the very people that they should know they can trust.  It makes me sick to watch them.” (82) [Blogger’s note: Is this supposed to be ironic?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book is bonkers.

The basic premise is sort of unbelievable, but whatever, I guess.  Wouldn’t the show’s producers want to cast girls who were at least 18 so they could work around child labor laws?  There’s never any mention of the fact that the twins would only be able to work a little each day, and they would have needed a tutor on set.  It doesn’t matter that it was only for a week–there would have been some discussion of this.  But instead we’re to believe the girls were able to go to LA in the morning, rehearse and film their show, and then make it back in time for afternoon classes at Sweet Valley High?  This makes no sense.

And Ned and Alice are totally cool with the girls missing this much school?  They’re cool with no supervision on set?  Seriously?

 

SVH #82: Kidnapped by the Cult!

18 Apr

kidnappedbythecult

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica believes her life is super unfair because her parents grounded her after she lied about failing a bunch of tests in math class.  She feels alienated from her friends, who are having parties and sleepovers without her, and disconnected from Sam, who seems more interested in his motorbike racing than in shopping with her.  When she finally is released from her grounding, she goes to the mall, where she meets Ted, who tells her about the Good Friends and invites her to have dinner with them.  When Jessica goes to have dinner at the place where all the Good Friends live, she’s freaked out by the neighborhood and then sort of taken in with how earnest and nice all the people in the house are.  When she meets Adam Marvel, the leader of the Good Friends, she’s smitten, because he’s gorgeous.

At any rate, Jessica starts spending all her time with the Good Friends, helping around the house, participating in book group discussions, and canvassing houses and asking people for money at the mall.  She undergoes a complete physical transformation, wearing conservative clothing, and doing all her homework on time.  While her family notices this, they don’t seem bothered by it at all.  Sam is, though, because she keeps blowing him off and lying to him about where she is.

It isn’t until Ned conveniently mentions that a new cult has come to town called the Good Friends that Liz starts to worry.  Ned says that his law firm has been approached by some charities who worry this cult is using their names to collect donations that are then being used for the cult’s own selfish purposes.  When Elizabeth asks Jessica if she’s heard of the cult, she’s shocked at how defensive Jessica is about the whole thing.

Then Liz gets Sam to insist Jessica go out with him one night, and she infiltrates the cult in Jessica’s stead.  She’s amazed as she watches these “clear glass marbles” parrot everything Adam says.  When some of the members come in to report that Brian, one of the teens, has gone missing, Elizabeth sees how angry Adam is.  Turns out that Brian’s parent kidnapped him away from the cult to deprogram him.  Ned tells Elizabeth and Jessica that he’ll testify against the Good Friends once he’s healthy again.  Um, okay.

Jessica tells Adam this, and the two decide to kidnap Brian back.  Then things escalate, and Adam convinces Jessica to leave town with him and the rest of the Good Friends.  But Liz, Sam and Todd stage an intervention as Adam is rounding them up into a van.  Sam runs into the house and finds Susan, a member of the cult, unconscious, bound and gagged.  Guess she was a reporter and Adam found her out.  The police show up, Adam is arrested, and Jessica goes home with Elizabeth. Yay?

The B-Plot is all about a new bowling team that’s been started at Sweet Valley High.  Liz and Todd join the team, and it isn’t long before Liz has caught the eye of the team’s coach, Justin Silver.  He begins to basically beg her to go out with him, and while she politely declines, he eventually wears her down to the point where she feels obligated to go out once with him.  She finally gets him to stop after that, but not before making Todd a little jealous.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently the SVH cheerleaders only hold practice on Tuesday afternoons?
  • There’s a new bowling team starting up at school
  • Apparently Jessica doesn’t like popcorn? But she’s eaten it in a bunch of books when she watches TV at home. Weird. Also, I hate myself for knowing this.
  • She also hates tofu and muesli, both of which she eats in this book.
  • The local bowling alley is called The Fast Lane

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila was telling Cara where the best dress shops were in London, and Amy was trying to talk with an English accent.” (7)
  • “There was a cafe beside the artificial waterfall at the mall that had always made Jessica think of Paris.” (15)
  • “‘This is ridiculous,’ she said out loud. ‘I’m not going to find people who understand me here. I’m going to find people who shop in thrift stores.'” (28)
  • “‘People don’t just disappear in shopping malls,’ Adam said evenly.” (117) [Blogger’s note: actually, they do. Hasn’t Adam ever read The Face on the Milk Carton?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

I mean, there are tons of things that strain credulity in this one.  First of all, Jessica strikes me as someone who would be the least likely to fit the criteria for a good cult member.  Second of all, her ridiculous transformation from popular, confident teen to one who is obsessed with service never rings true.  This is not a series that prides itself of subtlety, but even by SVH standards, this is ridiculous.

Perhaps my biggest issue with this one is how ill-defined the cult actually is, though.  There’s no religious affiliation with this cult, which, fine.  Despite the fact that that’s a common trait of these organizations, I’ll let it slide.  But there isn’t anything that tells me that Adam Marvel is particularly magnetic (except for his good looks) or has a message that would really resonate with teens.  Whatever, I am definitely overthinking this.

SVH #81: Rosa’s Lie

16 Apr

rosaslie

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Because Sweet Valley is a magnet for new students no matter what part of the school year it is, this week the teens are admiring newcomer Rose Jameson.  They think she’s the bee’s knees, and everyone wants a piece.  The girls decide she’d be a perfect fit for Pi Beta Alpha, and so a new pledge season is started.  Rose is thrilled that she’s fitting in with all the cool kids and decides she has to act the part as much as possible.  This means that they can’t ever know that she’s Mexican-American (she’s actually technically Mexican, because she was born and lived there until she was three or four, but whatever, this book is a lesson about being Chicana, as the book so subtly tells us).

Rose believes that if everyone knew her name was really Rosa Jimenez (her parents changed their last name when they started their garden tool business they wouldn’t get as far ahead), she wouldn’t be accepted by the white people at Sweet Valley High.  So she lets them think she’s old-money from Boston and crafts a super elaborate lie about how her family recently took a trip to England to trace their lineage and she got to hang out with Duchess Fergie and Princess Diana.  Whatever.

Once she starts lying she can’t stop.  This becomes increasingly difficult for her as she starts to complete challenges and tasks as part of the pledge process.  The girls want to come to her house, which is fine when her parents aren’t around, but then they announce that her super traditionally Mexican grandma is coming for a surprise visit, and things get sticky.  She starts cancelling plans to have people at her house until Lila announces that she must host a PBA party as her third and final challenge.  Rosa manages to get her parents and grandma out of the house and to a concert that night, but the whole thing is nearly ruined when her grandma comes back in to tell her she made them a special cake.  Rosa throws it out and tells her friends that it was her cleaning lady. Yikes.

She continues the lie but feels increasingly worse about it, especially after her grandmother tells her stories from the old country.  Then, when the Pi Betas have a picnic by Secca Lake, they see a little girl fall down a well.  The little girl only speaks Spanish and is freaking out, so Rosa finally breaks down and speaks Spanish in front of the other girls to calm her down.  Then she finally tells them that she’s Mexican, and the Pi Betas are like, “Okay, your secret is safe with us?”  Rosa gets self-righteous and is like, “NO EVERYONE MUST KNOW,” which, okay.  Fine.

At the Pledge induction dance, PBA offers Rosa membership and she turns them down for reasons that don’t make any sense.  But she promises them she’ll be friends with them all.  Whatever.

The B-Plot: Jessica keeps blowing off studying for math tests and quizzes to hang out with Sam, and as a result, she fails a bunch of them.  After intercepting a warning letter from the school about her grade, the lies continue until Alice gets a call from the school and Jessica ends up grounded, missing the dance.

Also, Phi Epsilon recruits some new brothers and Todd and Bruce butt heads about who to include.  There are some stupid pranks and I literally could not care less, which is why I didn’t recap them.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • As much as I like Lila, she’s kind of racist: at one point, she refers to Manuel Lopez as “ethnic and working-class.”  WHAT THE FUCK?
  • I guess Sweet Valley is a small town with all the amenities, because they have a Literacy Center
  • Ms. Taylor is the math teacher at SVH?
  • Elizabeth and Enid are both reading Wuthering Heights
  • According to Rosa’s grandma, there are no shopping malls in Mexico. Um, okay.

Memorable Quotes:

  • And in the back by the pool, there are a dozen fairy-tale princesses, Rose thought, and they’re going to make me a fairy-tale princess, too…” (30)
  • “Rose slowly headed back to the living room.  Her dark brown eyes were clouded with resentment. Already, Nana was causing trouble.  Just how many fun plans was she going to ruin?” (75)
  • “Lila tossed her hair.  ‘Rose is prettier,’ she declared. ‘And that’s who you are to us, after all: Rose.  We’ll keep calling you that.'” (140) WHAT THE FUCK, LILA?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I remember loving this book as a child, but now I think I must have just loved the dress that Rosa is wearing on the cover.  I would still wear the shit out of that.  I actually kind of want it.  Whatever, not the point.

The point is that everything about this book is so problematic that I don’t even know where to begin.  Okay, so Rosa is actually from Texas and not Boston.  Because she feels like she was lumped together with the other Mexican students at her old school and she’s passing for a white girl in Sweet Valley, she decides to go with it.  I actually legitimately understand this, because it is a real thing that happens and continues to happen in schools all over the United States.

What I don’t understand is how horrifically this was handled throughout the book.  Rosa is dealing with some major code-switching and cultural identity stuff, but the book is so ham-fisted in its portrayal of everything that this isn’t ever accurately portrayed.  Instead, Rosa comes off as an ungrateful psycho at home and as a paranoid schizophrenic at school.  There’s no nuance here, and her abrupt about-face during the whole girl-in-a-well thing (don’t even get me started on that) doesn’t make any sense.  Lots of people speak Spanish, and she could have continued to lie if she wanted to.  That part made no sense.

Also, her deciding to not join the sorority doesn’t make sense.  At least, not for the reasons given.  If she doesn’t want to join because it’s full of some racist assholes, fine, but that’s not what she says.  Ugh, whatever.  This is the worst.