Tag Archives: secrets

SVH Magna Edition: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. II

24 Aug

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, as this is a recap of books #55-70

Summary/Overview:

The book starts off with Liz on a date with Todd Wilkins, who is distracted.  When she presses him for what’s going on, he tells her that his friend from Vermont, Michelle Thomas, is coming to visit him.  Liz freaks out about this, because Michelle is the girl who called Todd “cute buns” in a letter to him that one time, and she runs away from their date.  When he shows up at her house with Michelle a few days later, Liz is a raging bitch to them both and then cries to Enid about how sad she is while they eat cookie dough.  She goes to reconcile with Todd and sees him kissing Michelle.  She freaks out, runs home, and cries a lot. Then she picks up one of her journals and starts reading and reminiscing…

These are painful to recap, but not as painful as it is to read them.  Liz quickly recaps books 55-57, mentioning Olivia’s crush on their teacher from the mini-courses before getting to her real interest: herself.  She angsts over Todd moving back to Sweet Valley and her waffling over her feelings for him and her current boyfriend Jeffrey French.  When she decides to ditch Jeffrey and hook back up with Todd, we’re treated to a recap of that gloat-fest, too.  But the diary presents this as Liz actually second-guessing her decision to get back together with Todd and being shocked when Jeffrey rebuffs her attempts to reconcile.  It seems we’re supposed to believe that Liz really misses Jeffrey, which this reader doesn’t buy for a second.

We continue on with inane recaps of books 61-70, which are largely focused on other people’s problems, so I’m not sure why the team behind these books thought this was the section of books to focus on.  Readers are treated to reminders about Patty Gilbert’s problems, Jessica’s adventures in computer dating (this is still one of my favorites because it’s so balls-to-the-wall insane), Elizabeth’s adventures in surfing, a Tricia Martin doppelganger, and Wakefield Parent Drama for several painful books.  Very little insight is provided to readers that they didn’t already know.  There is one “scandalous” scene that is supposed to take place around The Parent Plot, where Jeffrey climbs up a trellis near Liz’s room (is this a thing that existed before this diary?) and they make out.  But conveniently, Todd shows up that same night for some smooches, so Liz literally shoves Jeffrey into the closet so she can make out with Todd before sending him on his way.  Jeffrey is super mad about having to listen to the smooth make out noises of Liz and her actual boyfriend, and he storms off.

But wait, there’s more.  Liz and Todd break up again, and then Sweet Valley deals with both racism (and actual hate crimes but whatever, right?) and sexism.  This might be the most pointless of the secret diary series yet, and I HATED the first round.  There’s no point to these whatsoever.

At any rate, the book ends with Liz seeing Jeffrey out on a date with some rando and Liz realizes that he never looked at her the way he’s looking at this girl, so she thinks they weren’t right for each other after all.  She realizes that she still loves Todd and that they’ve both made kissing mistakes with other people.  She calls him and they make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • I don’t have any trivia to provide this time.  The twins do love to wear blue-green items to match their eyes, though! This is a recurring theme that is starting to really grate on me.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Ooh,” Jeffrey joked. “You get me all excited when you say things like ‘male-female ratio!'” (29)
  • Sometime during the week (who cares what day it is?)” (56) [If this doesn’t sum up the way time lapses in this entire series, I don’t know what does.]
  • “Don’t punch things?” I asked. “Or don’t hold it in?” (211) [Too bad this was directed at Jeffrey and not Todd]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

“I’ve been such a hypocrite,” I whispered. I’d judged Todd for kissing Michelle in his backyard. But how many times had I kissed Jeffrey behind Todd’s back? I had no right to criticize him. And it was time to make it up to him. (325)

I’m including this quote because it’s what I’d like to focus on for this analysis.  What’s striking about this quote is not only how clunky it is, shoe-horned in at the last minute, in the literal last couple of pages of a 300+ page book, but also how hilariously tone-deaf it is when considered with the series as a whole.  Throughout these recaps, I’ve harped on and on about the fact that both twins cheat on dudes they are dating REPEATEDLY, despite the fact that Jessica is supposed to be considered the twin who can’t commit.  Liz tends to be the worst offender when it comes to this, because she’s the one who is in a “monogamous” relationship throughout the majority of the series.

But this is supposed to be a huge revelation for Liz at the end of this book, after doing a great deal of self-reflection while reading through old journal entries.  It never ceases to astound me how quickly she flies off the handle about Todd’s behavior when she literally cheats on him any time she goes out of town (or he goes out of town).  It is weird to suddenly have this be the standard for which she can forgive him his trespasses.

I don’t know.  I’m thinking about this too much.  Liz is the worst because she’s self-righteous AND boring AND oblivious about how boring she is.  At least Jessica is practically sociopathic in her denial about her behavior.

SVH Magna Edition: Jessica’s Secret Diary, Vol. II

21 Aug

Jessica Secret Diary 2

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, because this covers books #42-56

Summary/Overview: 

Lila and Jessica are hanging out in Jessica’s room one day, totally minding their own business, when they overhear a fight between Liz and Todd nearby.  Todd and Liz break up (so, must be a day that ends in “y”) because he’s irate that she went to a movie with Jeffrey.

That night, Jessica gets home from a party and answers the phone to find Todd wondering if Liz and Jeffrey had gone to the party together.  Jessica tells him that they didn’t.  This is riveting stuff. He asks if he can come over and talk.  Jessica rushes to put on a sexy nightgown (what 16-year-old doesn’t own at least one of these?) and meets him at her bedroom window.  He tells her he wants to get back together with her.  What’s interesting (perhaps the only interesting thing to note here) is that Todd isn’t talking about that one time they hooked up after Sam’s death, nor is he talking about how they dated back at the start of the series, when Jessica falsely accused him of attempted rape.  He’s talking about…some other time, I guess?  Jessica is unsure if this is a good idea, and decides to consult the diaries she keeps that no one knows about.  Why not just use a Magic 8 Ball, bitch?

We are treated to an absolutely fascinating and not at all tedious rundown of some previous books, all from Jessica’s point of view:

While Sandra and Michael are thinking about eloping at 16 because their parents just don’t understand, Jessica plans a surprise party for Lila and gets a friendly letter from Todd in the mail, even though they are not friends, are often openly hostile about one another, and didn’t hang out before he moved away.  Jessica uses the letter as an excuse to tease Liz about Todd, which seems mean.

Enid might be grappling with generational issues in her family, but who cares? Jessica helps Liz make a documentary about Sweet Valley for an arbitrary contest and Jessica writes back to Todd for whatever reason.  Then, when Steven and Cara are sort of starting something up if only Steven can get over dead Tricia Martin, Jessica hears back from Todd.  This is seriously so boring.  Thank god for email, amirite?  Then Jessica reminds us that the Wakefields have a cousin who could basically be their sister, and she’s kind of effed up over some family drama.

We continue to be treated to recaps of books that really have nothing to do with Jessica and especially have nothing to do with her secret non-relationship with Todd.  Jessica reminds us about how smart Robin Wilson is (she got into Sarah Lawrence a whole year early despite that not being how it works at all).  Then Jessica gossips about Julie Porter and Bruce Patman, and while doing so, provides the readers with a bizarre alternate-history version of when she dated him.  She claims it was one date, but that’s not really how this reader remembers it.  It hardly matters, because who cares?  Jessica and Todd are still writing to each other, which is weird.

When Jessica falls for A.J., she writes to Todd for advice, which also makes no sense.  As she works to keep A.J. happy, she and Todd start to get a little bit more personal in their letters to each other.  The mere idea that Jessica would stick with a tedious activity like long-hand letter-writing for this long is completely unfathomable to me, but there you have it.  As her diary entries progress, Jessica continues to insist she’s into A.J. but gets all atwitter when she gets another letter from Todd.

The sequence of books chosen for this diary make no sense because they are extremely focused on other people’s problems, just like the second volume of Liz’s diary, but the book continues to plug on, as if the readers really want to rehash the stories of C and D-list characters (Ronnie’s gambling issues, totally-not-a-rapist-yet John Pfeifer and his jealousy over Jennifer Mitchell, Kristin Thompson and tennis).  Jessica recounts cheating on A.J. with some dude and subsequently breaking up with him.  Oh, and there’s also the basketball book with Shelley Novak.  BORING.  While Jessica recounts all of these people’s various melodramas, things with Todd start to escalate.  He asks if he can come visit her in secret, and actually buys a plane ticket and does just that.  The two make out at Secca Lake, which is supposed to be romantic (Jessica also thinks about Todd sneaking into her room and doing “intensely romantic things” with him, which is almost lukewarm in its attempt at steamy sex writing).  The two recognize that what they’re doing could really hurt Liz (I don’t know why that seems to matter considering what will happen in the future, but ok).

The final recap we’re treated to is the equally bizarre Lost at Sea, where Jessica gets stranded on a deserted island with Winston Egbert after their field trip boat capsizes or whatever.  Her big revelation here is that she briefly considered kissing Winston before they were rescued.  The hormones, they rage.

At the end of the book, Jessica comes to the realization that she and Todd aren’t meant to be.  She thinks he’s better suited to Liz, and that’s that. What a fucking waste of time.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica’s sexy silk nightgown was a gift from her cousin Kelly, who totally still exists.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Observation of the day: Mr. Collins is a god. (49) BARF.
  • I have a special feeling for Todd, I thought, fingering the cardboard cover of the notebook, and I always will.  But it’s nothing like the feeling he shares with Elizabeth. (326)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I fundamentally understand the rationale behind these books (everyone loves a good secret diary, people love the voyeurism, the regular rabid readers of SVH would have gobbled these up just because they were new, etc), but I don’t understand why they did them the way they did.  Instead of picking what seems like an almost arbitrary sequence of books, why didn’t they choose to jump around in the series and pick the ones where the twins had a lot of romantic drama happening? It would have been way more interesting to read if the focus of these diary entries wasn’t so unbalanced.

As it stands, it reads like a weird first-person recap of stories that weren’t very interesting the first time around and now seem awkwardly shoved into a story they don’t belong to. I don’t get it, and I don’t enjoy reading it.  I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would.

SVH #121: The High School War

27 Feb

high school war

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica actually faints at the sight of the fight happening at the warehouse.  The police show up and the two groups of guys scatter, but not before Ken sees Christian say something to Jessica.  He’s sure it was something lewd, even though it was just Christian begging her to meet him at the beach the following morning.  Jessica meets Christian and they agree that they can never see each other again.  That’ll last.

At school, Principal Cooper announces a new task force to help promote peace between the warring schools, and tells students that they aren’t allowed to wear their official school colors.  Liz, of course, is on board with it right away.  She butts heads with Todd over what’s happening and can’t believe how pig-headed he’s being about the entire thing.  She worries about whether or not their relationship will survive this fight, because her friends at Palisades are being dumped by their boyfriends over the war.

Jessica finally confesses to Liz that she’s been practicing surfing but begs her not to tell anyone.  Jessica and Christian manage to avoid each other for a couple of days but end up making out at the beach one morning before school.  Liz is worried when Jessica is late and enlists the help of Ken to go make sure she didn’t drown or something.  Liz manages to reach Jessica before Ken and sees her macking on Christian.  Christian runs away, and Jessica promises to fill Liz in soon.

The girls have a crisis meeting with Marla and Courtney from Palisades and worry over what’s happening to their men.  Maria lets it slip that the boys aren’t just having a GNO (guy’s night out) but are planning to crash the Palisades football game and slash some tires.  The girls are understandably upset but don’t think that they can do anything about it.  Because a phone call to the police wouldn’t help? The SVH dudes do indeed slash some tires.  Winston nearly gets caught by a Palisades guy but escapes.

Liz corners Jessica at school and asks about the guy she’s seeing at the beach.  Jessica cries a bunch and tells her she can’t tell her who he is for everyone’s safety, and Elizabeth accepts this with worry.  Of course, Ken is right outside the room the twins are talking in and overhears Jessica admit to seeing another guy.  He’s…upset, but instead of confronting Jessica, he acts like a total neutered creeper.

Todd throws a party to help dissipate the bad feelings.  Elizabeth stupidly invites Marla and Courtney and everyone is super rude to them.  She leaves the party with the girls and then fights with Todd on the phone the next morning, before finally agreeing to go out with him the following night.  She watches Jessica get ready for a date she’s pretty sure isn’t with Ken, and she’s right, because Ken is creeping outside their house and follows Jessica’s car.  He engages in some light stalking and continues to follow her after she gets in Christian’s car.  Then he sees them kissing at the restaurant, and Jessica sees him seeing her.  He runs away.

Winston goes to meet up with the GNO group at an abandoned warehouse but ends up getting jumped by the Palisades dudes who set him up.  They beat the crap out of him and it takes a long time for his friends to put the pieces together, but Maria finally does, and then they rush the warehouse to help him.  The dudes start fighting the Palisades guys while the girls literally stand there and scream.  Elizabeth calls the cops, and they come and arrest Todd.  He is furious that Liz called the police.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • There’s a mention of Olivia still being with Rod, but they broke up ages ago.  WAY TO FACT CHECK, GHOST WRITER.
  • The Palisades High principal is named Mrs. Chang
  • Mr. Collins is making his students read Crime & Punishment
  • Christian drives a powder blue VW van and keeps an inflatable mattress in the back.
  • Weirdly, this book assigns an address to Todd’s house: 1010 Country Club Drive. Why, though?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Testosterone,” Lila Fowler drawled, brushing imaginary lint off her chair before sitting down.  “The root of all evil.” (33)
  • She did what he asked–she tried to see his point of view.  But it still didn’t make any sense.” (114) [this whole book, summed up in one line]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of weird things happening in this book, and it’s hard to sort through them all.  One thing that struck me again and again was the use of the word “thug,” by Elizabeth and others to describe the actions of the boys on both sides of the turf war.  The term “gang” is also used, which is obviously laughable.  But there’s something deeply disturbing about the use of the word “thug” because of how it’s used as a code word today for people’s racism.  That’s not totally what’s happening here–basically everyone in the world of these books are white–but it still feels unsettling to read this in 2015 and associate it with what’s happening now.  Also, the idea that these boys would get so worked up over what amounts to a lost football game is the dumbest thing possible.

The other thing that made me feel uneasy throughout the book is Jessica’s inability to consider the fact that she has the agency to break up with Ken.  She’s clearly not into him at all anymore, which is fine, but she continues to string him along while recognizing that he makes her feel cold inside.  It’s a transparent way to ramp up the melodrama when he follows her on her date with Christian and sees them kissing, and it’s something that doesn’t payoff the way it’s supposed to because anyone reading this is screaming at her to just get it over with already.

One more book in this mini-series.  Will someone die? Will I even care?

SVH #108: Left at the Altar

11 Jul

left at the altar

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jeremy and Jessica continue to see each other behind Sue’s back, despite the fact that he’s still completely engaged to Sue and going forward with the wedding.  They sneak off to Miller’s Point and make out, and Jeremy tells her he’s going to break it off with Sue and tell her he just wants to be friends.  Jessica believes him for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, Sue tells Liz that she was diagnosed with the same rare blood disease that killed her mother and she only has a few years to live. She tells Liz that she wants to set Jeremy free so he doesn’t have to bear the burden of her illness.  I thought Sue’s mother died of cancer, but whatever.  Liz thinks Jessica will have to give up Jeremy now, because everyone is an idiot.

When Sue tells Jeremy that she’s calling the whole thing off, he refuses and then rededicates himself to her.  He tells Jessica they can’t keep seeing each other, but then she corners him in an elevator and they make out.  Todd finally arrives back in Sweet Valley and before Liz can tell him about her affair with Luke, he tells her that he met someone when he was staying at his grandmothers but he realized Liz is the girl for him.  She FREAKS THE FUCK OUT and breaks up with him, telling him she only thought of him in London.  What is this book?

When Sue and Jeremy go on a nature hike to clean up trash, Jessica volunteers to go with, so Liz does too.  The twins end up separated from the couple and when Jessica realizes it’s a 6-mile trek, she pretends to twist her ankle so Jeremy has to carry her to the car.  That night, they have a barbeque on the beach and Jeremy and Jessica sneak off to make out before Enid and Liz interrupt them.

The night before the wedding, the twins and their friends throw a bridal shower for Sue before deciding to crash the bachelor party Robby is throwing.  Sue goes home to bed and the teens hit up the party, which turns out to be a stuffy dinner.  Liz and Todd make up after Steven gives some good advice, and she finally comes clean about Luke not-a-real-werewolf.  All is well.

The day of the wedding, Sue and the girls get manicures and she loses her shit when the manicurist accidentally hurts her hand.  Then she blows a ton of money on a dress that Liz thinks would be weird to wear in the rain forests or wherever the fuck Jeremy and Sue are going on their honeymoons.  Jessica moans about having to be in the wedding and watch this farce but Liz cajoles her into it.  When the minister (or “Father Bishop” or whatever) asks if there’s a reason they shouldn’t be wed, Jessica bursts out with “YES” and Jeremy admits he’s not in love with Sue.  The wedding is called off!

The B-Plot involves Lila and Robby, who are back together after a brief time apart in the previous book because Robby lied about having money when he was really a penniless artist.  Lila worries that he’s only into her because she’s rich so she spins a yarn about how she was taken in by the Fowlers and her parents were servants and she’s been forced to work for the Fowlers, etc. etc.  What century is this?  At any rate, Robby eats that shit up and asks for more.  Finally, Lila confesses that she’s rich, but Robby still loves her.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Despite the fact that in the previous book, Steven was away at school, he is back and has now been sleeping on the couch in the den so Sue can have his room.  This makes no sense to me.
  • Liz is now reading a book about women with love addictions.
  • Jeremy’s parents send the happy couple a matching pair of Koala sweaters as an engagement gift, while the Fowlers give them pink satin bedsheets.  GROSS on both accounts.
  • Liz reads a book called Women as Seen Through the Eyes of Male Society
  • Lila wears an ivory raw-silk dress to the wedding, which, isn’t that a big no-no?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I hope that you and Jeremy will continue coming to stay with us after you’re married,’ Mrs. Wakefield said. ‘That is, if you don’t mind Steven’s single bed!'” (29)
  • This should keep Jessica away from Jeremy now.  There’s no way even Jessica would continue to deceive a dying woman.” (59)
  • “‘How could you? I trusted you. I thought about you the whole time I was in London.'” (71) YOU ARE ACTUALLY INSANE.
  • “‘Jessica’s still in high school,’ Sue said. ‘Isn’t that adorable?'” (132)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analsysis:

I guess I don’t understand any of this.  Like, why is Jessica so into Jeremy?  Why is Sue?  I can’t get past the fact that none of her family nor her friends are at the ceremony.  Like, why are all the Wakefields and their friends the only people (I guess besides Robby) at the bridal shower and bachelor party?  Why is Liz so terrible?  How can this story be drawn out over so many books when there isn’t an actual plot?

BLERGH.

SVH #103: Operation Love Match

23 Jun

operation love match

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Liz and Jess are still committed to helping Bruce get his parents back together.  They have several meetings where literally nothing is accomplished.  Jessica is late a lot and is obsessed with astrological signs.  She thinks Mercury is in retrograde, which means she’s extra-clumsy.  This should apply to Liz, too, since they are the same sign, but it doesn’t because it’s a bullshit plot point.  At any rate, their first plan is to send a love letter from “Hank” to Marie, but Jessica forgets to put a stamp on it, tries to mail it and gets her hand stuck in the box when she tries to retrieve it.  At that exact moment, a cop car AND her new crush Michael Hampton drive by.  Michael helps her get her hand out but she tells him her name is Elizabeth because she’s embarrassed.  She gets arrested by the cop but Mr. Wakefield gets her out with a warning.

The girls are grounded because of the stupid pool party they threw the week before.  Elizabeth is extra-punished because she did that whole living-experiment with Todd.  They’re allowed to go to their after-school extra-curriculars but nowhere else, which doesn’t stop them from going to the Dairi Burger after school with Bruce to continue plotting Operation Love Match, as Jessica has started to refer to it.

Their second attempt at a Patman parent reunion is to get up early, sneak over to the house of the lawyers Bruce’s parents have hired, and super-glue their cars so they will be late for a meeting with Hank and Marie.  Then Jessica and Bruce go to the office and attempt to sneak in the Patman’s wedding album so they can look at it while they wait.  Nothing about this makes any sense.  Of course, the second part doesn’t go well: Jessica accidentally flashes Bruce and Michael with her wrong days-of-the-week underwear in the school parking lot, and then she gets stuck between floors in the elevator on the way to the office.

Marie and Hank actually almost reconnect while waiting for their lawyers, but when they leave to go have breakfast, Hank pulls out a scarf with the word “Alice” written all over it.  He and Bruce have the same Burberry coat, and they clearly mixed them up, as Jessica had worn the scarf during their recon earlier in the day.  This is dumb.  Marie gets upset and runs off.

The third plan involves sending a ton of goldenrods to Marie, who ends up in the hospital with a severe allergic reaction.  Again, Hank tries to reconcile with her, and again, she sends him away. While Marie is in the hospital, Jessica gets Liz to tape Alice talking about all the reasons she broke it off with Hank in an attempt to send the tape anonymously to Marie.  Instead of that tape, she sends the test tape which has her basically telling Lila that she’s interfering in the Patman’s lives.

The final attempt to reconcile Marie and Hank is a disaster as well.  The twins and Bruce get together a bunch of photos and stuff to show to Bruce’s parents in their screening room, but before they can set it up, Jessica gets her toe stuck in the faucet in the tub, Liz tries to help her only to find that the bathroom doors are swollen shut, and Bruce gets a flat tire.  By the time they arrive at the Patman mansion, Hank and Marie have made up on their own.

The B-Plot, I guess, is all about Jessica’s attempts to woo Michael Hampton.  Lila is also interested in him, so it becomes a competition.  The problem is, every time Jessica runs into him, she does something embarrassing.  So after the incident at the mailbox, she starts pretending she’s Elizabeth every time something stupid happens.  When she acts as “Jessica,” she babbles on and is an even bigger freak than she realizes.  Michael decides he has much more in common with the klutzy Elizabeth and sends her flowers and a TERRIBLE poem.  Elizabeth realizes he’s really interested in Jessica and has him drive her home so she can gently push him that direction.  When he drops her off, Jessica comes outside, falls down, and pretends to be Elizabeth again.  Michael is apparently not an idiot and figures it out, deciding that it’s Jessica he loves after all.  When the two go out, it’s a disaster, and Jessica decides she’s not into him at all.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The twins’ astrological sign is Gemini, because of course.
  • Lila is a Leo.
  • Liz saved up for a new laptop and gave Jessica her old “word processor.”
  • According to this book, Jessica isn’t president of PBA anymore.  When did that happen?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘How could she get stuck in her locker?’ marveled Todd, shaking his head in wonder. ‘It’s just not possible. It’s literally impossible to do.'” (47)
  • “‘A job interview!’ Lila said, horrified, raising her hands to her cheeks.” (79)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a lot to say about this one, actually.  I still find it completely impossible to believe that these self-involved teens would be remotely interested in Bruce’s parents reconciliation, but whatever.  I’m all for playing matchmaker, but this doesn’t seem like a case the average 16-year-old would be interested in.

Also, Jessica’s klutziness?  Complete lunacy.  There’s a part where she trips over her feet and does a full somersault into the grass.  Are you JOKING?

SVH #102: Almost Married

20 Jun

almost married

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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

 

 

SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Lila are spending the week of spring break in Jamaica, at Lila’s uncle Jimmo’s beach resort, Club Paradise.  Jessica won’t shut up about how excited she is, and Lila is being extra nice to her.  When they arrive, Jessica discovers that her luggage was lost in the layover.  It also becomes clear to Jess why Lila was being so nice: they’re working as camp counselors at the kiddie version of the club. She tells Lila she’ll never forgive her/never speak to her again.

Jessica gets saddled with a group of bratty five-and-six-year-olds for the week.  They bicker, do gross things, and generally don’t listen to her.  She’s infuriated to see that Lila’s group is much better behaved, and then she’s fascinated when she sees Lila talking to a super hot guy who turns out to be the windsurfing instructor named Mick Myers.

Of course they both end up going out with this guy, who is a total skeeze.  Jessica dumps her campers off on Charles, a geeky guy who is totally into her.  This pisses off Julia, another counselor who is described as “chubby” but has a lovely voice.  She decides to get even with Jessica, because Jessica told her she was too fat to attract a man.  I kind of hate Jessica, too.

At any rate, Jessica and Lila continue to both date Mick and compete with each other when it comes to their little campers and the daily talent shows.  Meanwhile, Julia also starts dating Mick, who is starting to seem like a pathological liar and also a sex addict.  He takes each girl to his “secret” lagoon to make out.

Jessica runs into Larry the hot lifeguard on the beach one day, and they flirt.  Then they run into Lila and Mick, who are clearly on a date, and Jessica is such an idiot that she thinks Mick is only pretending to like her because her uncle is his boss.  They have a stupid game of chicken in the ocean and all of them get dunked.

It isn’t long before they realize that Mick is totally playing them.  After Jessica slaps Lila and she pulls her into the ocean with her as she falls, the two have a good laugh and decide to get revenge.  They get back to their cabin to find out that Mick is literally dating every female employed at the camp.

The last night of camp, Lila and Jessica put on a magician’s show and use Mick as their audience “volunteer.”  They break his watch, cut his hair, and dye it purple, and he has to sit and take it.  They get their revenge, totally make up as friends, and have a lemonade.  All is well.

Elizabeth has plans to spend the break sweating it out in Sweet Valley.  She wants to work on an Honors English project that asks students to do a biography of an ancestor.  Conveniently, Liz has chosen to focus on her mother.  The problem is, Alice has just accepted a freelance position working with Hank Patman in his Chicago office.

Amy shows up at the Wakefield’s house to ask for help with the English assignment, which she has to do for extra credit.  She doesn’t tell Elizabeth that Jessica told her she could “borrow” her ancestor Jessamyn, the circus performer.  The two look at an old family tree of Alice’s.

She runs into Bruce at the Dairi Burger and he blows up at her about her home-wrecker of a mother. She thinks he’s cracked until she gets home to find Alice rushing off to catch a plane to Chicago with Hank Patman.  She grills her dad for information about Alice’s life before they met, but he’s sort of cheerfully vague about it all.  She starts to worry that Bruce might be right.

Instead of really working on her project, she continues to obsess about her mother’s past with Hank.  She manages to awkwardly tie it into every single old classic movie she goes to see with Enid and Olivia that week, arguing with them about the meaning of leaving a fiance for an old flame, etc.  It’s boring and pedantic.

Bruce Patman is feeling the pains of his parents splitting up.  He lashes out even more than usual and feels the sads about his family fighting.  His mother accuses Hank of cheating on her.  He decides he’s going to tell his father exactly what he thinks of their separation and how its impacting his life.  Bruce is insufferable.  Before he can do so, he overhears a conversation between Hank and Alice on the phone that leads him to believe the two are carrying on an affair.

Bruce and Liz meet several times to discuss their parents affair, which they are sure Alice and Hank are having.  Bruce seems to be working on a plan to split them up before serious damage is done, but he doesn’t bother to share it with anyone.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • It seems like everyone is going away for spring break: Barry Rork to Palm Springs, Pamela Robertson to the Grand Canyon, Ken Matthews to Monterey, Todd to Yosemite.
  • Lila still plays the marimba and listens to Jamie Peters’ music.
  • The old movies Liz, Olivia, and Enid see include My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, Philadelphia Story, and Casablanca.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Bruce grabbed the lunch tray and hurled it away. He heard it clatter against a tree trunk and imagined that it was the sound of his whole world shattering into pieces.” (7)
  • “They turned to gape as Lila walked by with her nose in the air. In a straight line behind her, six obedient kindergartners waddled like baby geese, singing in unison, ‘Row, row, row your yacht…'” (51)
  • “‘Do you like my picture, Jessica?’ Suzy asked. ‘It’s a picture of you screaming at us.'” (81)
  • “Elizabeth had amnesia and her defenses were down. Bruce had tried to take advantage of her–what guy wouldn’t?” (165) [IS THIS REAL LIFE?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps what’s oddest here is not that Jessica and Lila compete over the same dude, which has happened before, but the fact that Mick seems interested in anything with a vagina.  He literally dates something like six girls at once, and he’s also supposed to be the club’s full-time windsurfing instructor.  How does he manage to do this?  How can all the girls think that he’s only interested in them when he’s literally seen with other people in every scene?  There is virtually nothing about him that would indicate he oozes charm (except for the fact that we are told this).  Ugh.  Gross.

The other thing that really bothered me about this one is how fucking judgmental and antiquated Elizabeth is in her thinking about her mother.  She holds fast to this bizarre, sexist idea that a woman should only be in love once–and that she should marry that man.  Setting aside the fact that this is heteronormative drivel, it’s also so tone-deaf considering the fact that Elizabeth has been in love at least 3-4 times herself, and she is only 16 years old.   Is she damaged in some way?  Isn’t it possible that Alice was in love with Hank at one time, and then fundamentally changed and fell in love with Ned?

Also, could it be LESS of Elizabeth’s business?