Tag Archives: someone DIES

SVH #128: Kiss of a Killer

16 Apr

“It does seem unlikely that a town the size of Sweet Valley would have two deranged killers,” Winston chimed in.

svh128kissofakiller.jpg

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

We begin with Elizabeth coming to from her fainting spell in the previous book to discover that Katrina is still dead and that everything is still terrible. She takes a moment to appreciate being in Todd’s arms before attempting to perform CPR on Katrina, but Jonathan comes downstairs with Jessica and pronounces her really really dead. The cops arrive and bust the party, because not only is there a dead person in the house, but everyone is out after curfew.

Todd drives Elizabeth home and it seems like they might get back together until he sees Joey’s car in the Wakefield driveway, so Todd storms off again. Elizabeth and Joey make out and Elizabeth wonders if her heart’s in it. She’s surprised to find that Jessica didn’t come home and tries to wait up for her, but Jessica spends the night with Jonathan, who literally turns into a raven in front of her and transports her to the beach (?) before sucking on her neck and giving her an orgasm (?) and then transporting her to her own bed before the morning. She is unable to listen to reason when Elizabeth tries to tell her again that Jonathan is bad news.

Ned and Alice ground both twins for going to the party, and tell Jessica she has to stay away from Jonathan’s house. She FLIPS OUT and throws an actual tantrum, begging them to let Jonathan come over for dinner the following night so that they can see how wonderful he is. Ma and Pa Wakefield relent, and remind the girls they’re still grounded, but somehow Jessica gets Ned’s credit card and is allowed to go shopping for new clothes for the dinner. Y’all, I cannot.

Jonathan manages to charm both Ma and Pa Wakefield at the dinner and no one notices that he’s not eating. Elizabeth tries to grill him, but it doesn’t really work. Jessica and Jonathan make out in the den after dinner until Ned cock blocks them and sends Jonathan home right before he was about to tell her that he’s a vampire. This is what passes as suspense in the book.

A funeral is held for Katrina Sutton, although she lived in San Fransisco and was just visiting Sweet Valley. Everyone goes to the reception afterward except for Enid, who sits at Katrina’s grave and cries about how sad her own life is. Jonathan sneaks up behind her and attacks her, and then when she’s almost dead has a change of heart and rushes her to the hospital. Enid winds up in a coma, and Elizabeth stays at her bedside, absolutely sick over it. Enid wakes for a moment only to utter the word “Jonathan,” which Elizabeth takes as admission of his guilt. She rushes off to solve the mystery.

This involves convincing Maria to break into Jonathan’s house with her, and then discovering a hidden room that is full of vampire books. Elizabeth steals a bunch of them and brings them home and decides Jonathan must be a vampire. While Maria isn’t convinced, the two spend some time on the school computer doing research and discover a rash of murders in Northern California in the late 1930s and a mysterious guy named John Cayne. Elizabeth needs no further convincing.

Meanwhile, Jessica sneaks out to see Jonathan, and Liz tattles on her. Ned and Alice call the police, and the police find Jonathan and Jessica in a cave by the water, where they’ve found evidence of the killer. Jessica still hasn’t pieced any of the puzzle together and cries about being found by the police before being taken home and seriously grounded (for real this time?). It doesn’t really work though because Jessica still sneaks out to see Jonathan and then decides to run away to be with him. She shows up at his house and begs him to take him with her so they can be together forever.

At the same time, Maria shows up at the Wakefield house and tells Liz that she believes her now. She shows her a bunch of research she pulled off of the internet, and the two meet up with the rest of the gang and after like two minutes have them convinced that Jonathan is a vampire. The group decides to burn his house down and kill him, and Elizabeth is horrified. Then Enid’s mother calls with news that Enid has woken up and named Jonathan as her savior. Elizabeth calls Joey to help her stop the mob, and he breaks up with her, but luckily Todd is hanging around right behind her, and the two rush to the beach to try to stop them from killing Jonathan.

They intercept Jonathan and Jessica right before he’s going to change her into a vampire (?) and Jonathan realizes how much love surrounds Jessica and leaves her with his ring (but then the ring disappears from around her finger a bit later, so I guess he wanted it back after all). He flies away just as the mob shows up. So he escapes, I guess. Todd and Elizabeth make out. Jessica cries. Enid wakes up and feels a strange sense of loss. All is normal in Sweet Valley again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently there’s a place called Season’s Gourmet Shop where residents of Sweet Valley can get fancy food groceries. Did we know this?
  • Jessica’s new outfit for the dinner with Jonathan consists of a lilac silk dress, a silver chain belt, “dressy” leather sandals, and mauve lipstick.
  • She also buys a new outfit for Katrina’s funeral: gray and black striped dress with a black satin vest.
  • The school has a psychologist named Ms. McLean

Memorable Quotes:

  • Some party! Enid raged to herself. Katrina Sutton dropped dead,and Jessica stole Jonathan away from me. The night was a total bust.” (9)
  • “‘I understand what you mean,’ Lila said. ‘Right now it doesn’t matter that the girl has no fashion sense or style whatsoever. I feel sorry for her anyway.'” (83)
  • “He gazed pensively at the fire. ‘I grew up in a tiny coastal village in Prussia.’ Jessica frowned. ‘You mean Russia?'” (123) [I AM DEAD]
  • “She knew from past experience that computers were very useful when it came to confirming suspicions about a person.” (143)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Y’all, I don’t know. I feel like this recap was extra-long, but I also couldn’t figure out what to cut without the story making even less sense than it already does. There was a lot of plot in this one, which makes me wonder why they didn’t put some of it in the previous book where nothing at all happened. At the same time, this plot didn’t make a lick of sense. Like, none.

My favorite thing about this book was the weird references to computers and internet searching. It’s so dated, but you can tell that the ghostwriter was trying to explain the wonders of the world wide web to an audience who probably had more experience with computers than they did. How quaint.

When I was prepping this post, I read somewhere that the series was in danger of being cancelled around the time this book was published (I don’t have a source. I’m a bad librarian, I know). That tidbit of gossip helps illustrate why they might have thought suddenly introducing supernatural elements into the series was a good idea, though it still doesn’t make sense given the history of the series. I never thought I’d say this, but it makes me miss poor Luke, who just thought he was a werewolf.

I’m a rambling, incoherent mess, just like this book. All is well.

Advertisements

SVH #127: Dance of Death

12 Apr

“I could use your mother for a few other things as well,” Jonathan replied. “Like disciplining you.”

svh127danceofdeath

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Jonathan are right where we left them: making out in his creepy, crumbling mansion. He’s drinking red wine (or blood, it’s unclear), and he makes some more vaguely threatening comments about how much danger Jessica is in when she’s near him. He gives her a half-hearted tour of the house, and she notices that there’s a painting of a young man bearing a very similar resemblance to Jonathan, only the painting looks very old. They banter a bit, make out a bunch, and then when Jonathan tells her they can’t do what they’re doing, Jessica has a little temper tantrum and runs out the door in tears.

Enid is hiding in the shadows, having watched them make out. She’s insanely jealous of Jessica and doesn’t understand why Jonathan doesn’t love her. Then she lets herself into Jonathan’s house, and he’s totally cool with it because they start making out and then he feeds on her while she has an orgasm? She’s surprised to find herself in her own bed the next morning with no memory of how she got there.

Jessica finds out that Enid has a “hickey” that was given to her by Jonathan, and she freaks the fuck out. She threatens Enid, who sort of sneers at her, and then yells at Jonathan about how she knows he has feelings for her and demands him to deny it. He can’t, and while she’s satisfied by this, she’s also royally pissed.

She calls him up a week later, and he tells her it’s a bad time because he’s sick. So she makes him soup and shows up at his house to find Enid there, looking glassy-eyed and smug. Jess literally throws the thermos of soup at Jonathan and runs away crying. Things go from bad to worse when she finds Jasmine the kitten dead and drained of blood in the back yard. The twins tell their parents Jasmine was hit by a car and bury her.

Bruce and Todd convince Jonathan to have a party at his house, despite the fact that Jonathan seems very unenthusiastic about it, and despite the fact that the town has enacted a citywide curfew requiring everyone to be home by 10 o’clock. Everyone goes and is dressed to the nines. Todd dances with Amy’s cousin Katrina, and Elizabeth cries about it. Enid cries about Jonathan ignoring her. Jessica sneaks upstairs to a black bedroom and waits for Jonathan, and then the power goes out. Jonathan finds her, and they kiss and he tells her he wants to be with her forever.

MEANWHILE, Elizabeth tries to explain to Todd why she was embracing Joey when he showed up, but he storms off. So Elizabeth convinces Joey to go with her to investigate the dead body at Secca Lake. The police officer lets her through to see the body when she explains that she’s Jessica Wakefield’s sister, but luckily the body isn’t her twin’s. What a relief! Which is a thing that Elizabeth actually says. I guess that the dead girl doesn’t count when it’s not your sister.

She continues to wring her hands about whether she wants Joey or Todd, but she can’t make up her mind. Todd is full out ignoring her, and some of Joey’s comments and behaviors are beginning to grate on her. Maria Slater encourages her to make a pro/con list, and she still isn’t sure. Then she decides to go out with Joey, and realizes she’s totally not into it. He gets pissed when she neglects to tell him about the upcoming party and bails, mid-date.

At the party at Jonathan’s house, she convinces Todd to help her try to find the fuse box to turn the power back on. He resists at first, but then follows her to the creepy basement, and after a bunch of testing of switches, they figure out how to get the power back on. They hear groans of disappointment upstairs, and then silence. Liz knows that something is wrong, and when she rushes upstairs, she finds that there’s a dead body in the middle of the floor. It’s Katrina.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Joey drives a Land Rover
  • Pop culture references include Bride of Frankenstein, Florence Nightingale, a Greta Garbo movie, and Sabrina (Hepburn & Bogart, natch)
  • Mr. Jaworski’s classes are studying the Civil Rights movement
  • Enid wears a black cotton miniskirt, a cropped leather jacket,and a silver skull-and-crossbones pendant

Memorable Quotes:

  • I wish I’d never met either Wakefield, Enid thought angrily. They’re both totally self-centered.” (21)
  • “Jonathan closed his warm lips around the side of her throat. Enid moaned as she felt a sharp sting. The sensation was exquisite: intense pain and a searing pleasure mixed into one.” (59)
  • “‘Troubled, yes. Artist, no,’ Elizabeth responded. ‘I don’t know why i think I can be a writer. I can barely get out a coherent sentence.'” (107)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps the biggest issue with this book, and this mini-series as a whole, is that the mechanics of the vampire are…confusing. He seems to be drinking blood without ever actually puncturing his victims. At one point, one of the wounds is described as a “bluish mark” on the neck, and that doesn’t seem right? Like, if it’s just bruising, the blood couldn’t leave the body. So what exactly is happening?

At any rate, the character development is so poorly done and the writing is so unclear that it’s hard to know what exactly is going on. It’s clear that we’re supposed to believe that Jonathan has some sort of influence over everyone, but it’s hard to tell if it is something like mind control, general supernatural magic, or something else. It’s also unclear why it doesn’t seem to have an effect on Elizabeth (or Maria). Do they eat more garlic than other people? Does garlic even work on this kind of vampire?

I’m tired of the insta-love shit. The best moment of this entire book was when Jessica threw the thermos of soup at Jonathan, and that was like a five-second interaction. The rest of this was pretty interminable.

This is the most bloodless vampire tale ever.

SVH #126: Tall, Dark, and Deadly

8 Apr

talldarkdeadly

Jessica raised her eyebrows. “It’s garbage. How do you expect it to smell?”
“There’s so much of it,” Lila whined.

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks, in the loosest sense.

Summary/Overview:

One night at the Dairi Burger, Jessica loses one of her new earrings and decides the best place to search for it is in the dumpsters out back.  She drags Lila along, but she doesn’t find the earring. Instead, she finds a live kitten, which she decides to adopt and name Jasmine, and then, more horrifyingly, she finds a dead body.  The body, belonging to a teenage boy from Big Mesa, appears to have been drained of all its blood. The police are called, everyone is shocked, and Jessica, ever the sociopath, plots on how to turn her discovery into fifteen minutes of fame.

Everyone at school is abuzz over the news of the body, and there’s a special assembly called to discuss it with students.  At the same time, Chrome Dome Cooper announces that there’s a new transfer student, a dark-haired, gorgeous senior named Jonathan Cain. Jessica, like most of the female student body, is immediately transfixed by him.  Elizabeth is not, having seen him act like a total jerk in the hallway earlier. But she’s in the minority, as Enid also decides that he’s her soulmate. It isn’t long before nearly all of the girls in school are dressing in black and wearing dramatic makeup in an attempt to catch Jonathan’s attention, but he remains an enigma.

Even though he never seems to interact with any of the other students, Jonathan becomes the topic of conversation at school. Apparently he’s super good at advanced chemistry, knows more about European cultures than the teacher, can sink baskets from across the gym, and drives a motorcycle. All of the girls–and then, hilariously, most of the dudes–at school begin to dress in all black and wear dramatic makeup in an attempt to get his attention. Enid loses her mind completely and has her hair chemically straightened and dyed black, and completely changes her makeup look.

Despite all this, Jonathan ignores everyone. Jessica is not deterred and continually tries to win his affection, attempting a bunch of different stunts like draining her car battery and passing him flirty notes in French class. He doesn’t take any of her bait, which just makes her want him even more. She buys a bright red minidress and hops onto his motorcycle at the mall, and he takes her for a ride before dropping her off and telling her to never do that again. Then he totally returns her missing diamond earring by dropping it off on her bedroom windowsill, but Jessica doesn’t see him do it.

When Jasmine, the new kitten, escapes one night, Jessica finds her up another tree, and Jonathan is nearby. He tells her to listen to her kitten, who is freaking out, and avoid predators. Jessica doesn’t get his heavy-handed meaning, because she’s an idiot. Instead she thinks about kissing him.

Both Enid and Jessica seem to be particularly obsessed with Jonathan, and when Enid tells Jessica that she followed him home one day, Jessica manages to get the address out of her. Jessica tricks Elizabeth into thinking that she’s home, steals the Jeep, and heads out to Forrest Lane, where Jonathan lives. The house is a crumbling mansion, creepy as fuck, and just before she loses her nerve, Jonathan answers the door, and then they kiss. Then he threatens her life. Romantic.

The B-Plot, as it is, involves Liz still struggling with her waning feelings for Todd while pining for Joey, the boy she dated while she was a camp counselor. While she’s not sure she’s ready to throw in the towel with Todd, she is worried to learn that Joey is transferring to UCLA, and he won’t stop writing her letters and doing weird things like putting a canoe paddle in her locker (what the actual fuck, Joey?).

Because Maria Slater was at Camp Echo Mountain with Elizabeth and saw the entire thing with Joey unfold, Elizabeth confides in her. This bothers Enid, who seems to be undergoing another psychotic break. She lashes out at Elizabeth and is super bitchy to Maria, and then cries about how no one understands her. She loves Jonathan, and she needs to be near him.

Elizabeth and Maria Slater seem to be the only two people who have not fallen under his spell, though it’s unclear why they are immune to whatever magic is happening. When Jonathan appears at The Oracle office after school one day and warns Elizabeth that if she loves her sister, she’ll keep Jessica away from him, her feelings about the danger everyone is in are solidified. When another body is discovered near Secca Lake, Elizabeth becomes convinced that it’s Jessica and calls Todd in a panic. As he tries to get to her house, Elizabeth opens the door to find Joey on the steps. They embrace, and of course Todd sees them. DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica and Elizabeth’s grandma sent them each a pair of diamond stud earrings, and Jessica regales her friend group with the anecdote that her grandmother was the first girl in her town to get her ears pierced at age 12.
  • Jessica considers the color purple to be a “power color”
  • Lila wears a designer called Pierre Jove
  • Mr. Fellows is teaching his students about Spanish settlers in the Americas.
  • When Maria was a child actress, she starred in a movie called The Visitor, and commercials for Crystal Drops, Feathersoft, and was something called The Macaroni Princess.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Experience had taught [Elizabeth] to listen to her gut feelings; more often than not, they were right.” (38) [Ed. note: This is 100% inaccurate but ok]
  • “‘French is one of the few classes offered at SVH that’s worth attending,’ Lila declared. ‘Bo says that French novels are the most lushly romantic in the world, but unless you read them in the original language, you miss most of the subtle richness of the text.'” (62)
  • “Her face was different, too. Her eyebrows had been plucked into thin, glamorous arcs.” (107)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

So after a super, super long hiatus, I’m back at it. The truth is that I’ve been thinking about trying to finish the series for a long time, and then I looked at how many I have left and was all, “That’s IT?!” as if it’s completely accomplishable. But these books are so, so bad.

I jumped back in with almost no refresher on what’s happening in the series. The book spends the first few minutes having Jessica’s friends razz her about her breakup with Ken, telling her that when she cheated on him it made him into an asshole. Jessica almost cries because it was such a painful breakup, but I’m left confused because she’s dated like at least half a dozen dudes since they broke up, including Poor Dead Christian.

It’s obvious that the series has completely dispensed with trying to make sense in terms of a timeline, which is maddening but weirdly understandable? The book refers to their time at Camp Echo Mountain as being during the previous summer, but they’re a.) still sixteen, b.) still juniors in high school, and c.) on their fourth or fifth summer vacation? I DO NOT GET IT AND I DO NOT KNOW WHY IT BOTHERS ME SO MUCH.

Apart from that, the most bizarre parts of this story revolve around Jonathan’s magical charisma that seems to make everyone want to be like him or near him, despite the fact that he doesn’t ever interact with anyone. Jessica has to literally jump onto his bike while he’s on it to get him to interact with her, and we never see him talk to anyone else, apart from when he vaguely threatens Elizabeth.

Yet everyone wants to be like him. I suppose we’re supposed to believe that there’s a supernatural element at play, but the writing is so bad and the plot and character development so flimsy that it completely relies on a suspension of disbelief that’s staggering. Nothing about this greasy, brooding, goth douche canoe indicates that he’s charismatic or even interesting, and yet everyone is losing their goddamn minds over him.

The other weird thing is that readers are suddenly treated to Jonathan’s thoughts three-quarters of the way through the book. This shift in character perspective is lazy writing, but it’s also jarring and doesn’t make sense. It’s clear that he’s conflicted about hurting people, and there’s a lot of angst about ignoring his “needs,” but if this is true, then why would he choose to start attending class at a local high school? What fucking sense does that make?

I guess we’ll find out in the next installment. I know I can’t wait.

 

SVH #122: A Kiss Before Dying

2 Mar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth watches a bunch of dudes get arrested in the aftermath of the fight against Palisades, including Bruce Patman.  Todd has already been carted away.  Bizarrely, Liz feels guilt at having called the cops even though it’s pretty clear someone could have died if she hadn’t intervened.  She, Enid, and Maria take Winston Egbert to the hospital, and it turns out he’s got a broken nose amongst his other injuries.  Jessica has run off with Christian, and they make out and cry about how no one understands their love.

At school the next week, Todd is out of jail but won’t speak to Elizabeth, Ken is furious with Jessica and basically tells her she’s garbage, and the boys are pissed at the Wakefield twins because they’re Palisades sympathizers.  Liz has had enough and tells the dudes that none of the females at SVH will have anything to do with them until they call off this stupid war.  Bruce thinks she’s bluffing, but then all the girls agree.  I guess we’re in a warped version of Lysistrata now? (This actually gets mentioned by Liz in a super didactic moment later, but when I wrote this, I hadn’t gotten that far in the book.)

Liz and Enid meet with Caitlin and Marla at Palisades and convince them that the no-dude-contact is the way to go.  They agree, and then surfer girl Rosie Shaw comes up.  Despite Caitlin and Marla telling Liz point-blank that she can’t be trusted and Liz’s own feelings that she’s a bad seed, Rosie tells Liz that the two of them can come up with a plan to save their schools from the war.  This will end well.  She keeps pushing Liz to find out where the SVH guys are meeting.  Liz finally finds out from Todd and Rosie tells her to meet at this divey diner so they can go meet both groups of guys and convince them that the other side wants peace.  Liz thinks this is the best plan ever.

Liz and Enid show up and the diner and it takes them a very long time to realize that Rosie isn’t showing.  Enid reads some articles from the Palisades paper about SVH and Liz realizes that Rosie made up their shared interests from the articles.  She calls Jessica to warn her that Rosie’s up to no good and that she knows about her and Christian.  Then she realizes that it’s probably too late and Palisades is already on their way to beat down the SVH boys at Bruce’s house.

Indeed they are, as Rosie taunts Todd and the others before the Palisades dudes come out wearing warpaint on their faces and brandishing weapons like brass knuckles.  There’s a standoff, and Christian arrives to try to keep the peace, but at the exact moment that Liz, Jess, and Enid arrive, a terrible fight breaks out.  Christian tries to protect Ken from a particularly brutal blow and ends up getting knocked down, cracks his head on concrete, and falls into the deep end of the pool.  Jessica dives into save him and tries CPR, but when the ambulance arrives, it doesn’t look good.

At the hospital, a doctor comes out and tells the teens that Christian has died.  Everyone feels terrible and Todd announces that the war is over.

A few weeks later, Jessica is visited by Christian’s mother, who gifts her with his prized surfboard.  Jessica uses it to compete in the surfing competition that I had forgotten about and wins, dedicating the trophy to Christian’s memory.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Rosie is Danish, and this gets talked about for a long time, which is weird.
  • Elizabeth claims her favorite poet is Christina Rossetti

Memorable Quotes:

  • Elizabeth had known Bruce since childhood. He did have a hot temper and a reckless side, but it shocked her to see him treated like a dangerous criminal. (2) [LOL OK LIZ]
  • “One thing this whole rivalry mess has shown me is that people don’t always act the way you’d expect. Who would have ever thought Todd could be so violent?” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What can even be said about this tonally-bizarre book, or the two that preceded it?  If it’s trying to make a commentary on the state of gang warfare, it fails at every level.  Nothing about the formation of the two schools’ gangs makes any sense, and even though one could argue that gangs don’t make sense to begin with, it still doesn’t make sense in this situation.  Gangs evolve for a variety of socioeconomic reasons, none of which are at play here.  The two groups hate each other over a football game.  Even West Side Story had more going on in terms of conflict.

And while it’s sad that Christian died, it’s not like it was a shock, what with the cover, the title, and the way he and Jessica kept talking about their “forever” love.  I don’t know.  This entire thing has left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and in a different way than usual.  Something about all of this is just gross.

Also, LOL forever at Liz’s ideas about what “dangerous” criminals look like and also her complete inability to look at Todd’s history of PUNCHING PEOPLE OUT and relate that to how violent he’s become in these books. Jesus, Liz.  Get it together.

SVH Super Thriller #9: A Stranger in the House

6 Feb

stranger

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

SVH #116: Nightmare in Death Valley

4 Feb

nightmare

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 days

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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

SVH Super Thriller #8: Murder in Paradise

28 Jan

murderinparadise

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

Also, Enid.  LOL.