Tag Archives: someone overreacts

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.

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 #117: Jessica the Genius

11 Feb

jessicagenius

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s SAT season at SVH, and everyone (except Jessica, maybe) is all worked up about getting the scores they want or need to get into the colleges of their choice.  Liz has it in her head that she needs a perfect 1600, while Todd’s feeling the pressure from scouting colleges to score a 1200.  That seems unlikely, “Gee whiz” Boy, but whatever.  Everyone continues obsessing over the test after they’ve taken it at Lila’s Post-SAT Bash that night.  Jessica is the only one who is truly unconcerned with the outcome.

Four weeks later, the envelope arrive.  Jessica opens hers, realizes she’s scored incredibly well, and immediately worries that people will think she’s a geek or a nerd if they find out.  Liz opens hers and has a complete meltdown because her scores are so low and Jessica’s are so high.  Jessica continues to seem nonchalant about all of it and goes shopping with Lila, still trying to keep her scores a secret.  She goes out with Ken that night and he prattles on about his modest scores, and then tells her it’s okay she’s not smart because she’s so beautiful.  Jessica tries to tell him her scores were high, but he laughs it off.

The next morning at school, there’s a banner celebrating the school’s two highest SAT scores: Jessica and Winston.  The secret is out, and Chrome Dome holds an assembly to congratulate the two.  Elizabeth is despondent, and tries to seek solace in Todd, but he’s so pleased with his offer(?) from University of Michigan that he doesn’t even hear her.  Meanwhile, Jessica starts to get fed up with everyone’s surprise that she could be so pretty and so “smart,” so she starts actually trying in some of her classes.  All of this comes to a screeching halt when Chrome Dome calls her to his office and tells her the school board is concerned she cheated and has asked her to sit the test again.  Jessica is understandably enraged about this.

Liz tries to quit the Oracle because she thinks she’s too stupid to live (she’s right) and Mr. Collins talks her out of it, saying she’s the best writer he’s seen in 12 years of teaching (he’s wrong).  He tells her that her scores are only part of her entire academic record and won’t matter that much to colleges.  When she tries to get reassurance from Todd, he brushes her off because he’s obsessed with the interest he’s getting from schools all over the country.  Liz cries a lot, then becomes crazy angry when Enid tells her the rumor is that Jessica cheated.  She blows up at Jess and the two say awful things to one another.  Heather boots Jess from the cheerleading squad, because she’s a caricature of a human being.

At home, Ma and Pa Wakefield have talked to Chrome Dome and insist Jessica take the test again, even though they believe her.  Ned offers the girls an incentive of a few days off school to tour SVU as a reward.  Then he gently advises Liz to try taking the test again, and she agrees.  The girls go out with their respective dudes, and things do not go well at Miller’s Point.  Ken tells Jess it’s okay to tell him the truth about cheating, and she jumps out of his car.  Todd goes on and on about his prospects, and Liz boots him from the car.  Then she and Jess go get ice cream and apologize to one another.

This time, the twins totally reverse their approaches to the test.  Jessica studies like a madwoman, even going so far as to enlist the help of Winston one night.  She decides to stay up cramming the night before the exam, while Liz goes shopping, tanning, and to the movies.  Unsurprisingly, the two basically switch scores when they’re released weeks later.  Chrome Dome tells Jessica she’s suspended from school until further notice, despite Ned’s objections.  Despondent, Liz decides that a grave injustice has been executed and decides to right it by holding a trial at the school.  She will act as Jessica’s defense attorney.

At the big game against Palisades High, Todd is on fire until he isn’t.  He gets injured and loses out on some college scouts.  We are supposed to care, but it doesn’t seem as though anyone else at SVH does, either.  Liz finally goes to visit him and his sad broken leg.  They make up.  Ken and Jessica also make up.

The trial is held at SVH.  The student population is split 50-50 on Jessica’s innocence or guilt.  Liz defends Jessica beautifully, and Chrome Dome flounders a lot.  The jury returns a verdict of not guilty and Jessica is reinstated in school along with her original SAT scores.  All is well.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lots of outfit descriptions in this one, but my favorite is Dana’s: a green tunic with a black leather belt, purple tights, and black high-heeled boots.
  • Enid scored 670 verbal and 650 math. Jessica scored 760 verbal and 750 math. Liz got 490 verbal and 480 math.
  • According to Lila, her father went to Yale.  Did we know this already?
  • According to Ken, SVU requires students to score over 500 in each category to gain acceptance.
  • Mr. Collins is having his class read the play Inherit the Wind, about the infamous Scopes trial.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Todd placed his hands comfortably behind his head. “I’ve had a lot more successes in general than Winston.” (46)
  • Maybe she shouldn’t even be reading books–maybe she should be in the garage, learning to weld. (62) [You’re the fucking worst, Liz.]
  • “Maybe I was even a little jealous. It’s hard to have a girlfriend who’s so intelligent.” (143)
  • “I could start writing that now. It’s my opinion that people shouldn’t be judged unfairly by surface appearances,” Elizabeth declared. (166)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Firstly, can we talk about Liz’s insane desire or determination to get a perfect score on the SAT?  Does she realize how rare that is?  Liz is supposed to be the “smart” twin, right?  Does she really think that one test is going to determine her entire future?  I understand that wanting a good score on the SAT is important for getting into a good college or qualifying for NHS (right?), but to put the pressure on herself that she would get a perfect score?  That means answering every single question CORRECTLY.  Because if I recall, the SAT actually penalizes students for incorrect answers more harshly than if they left the question blank.  CALM DOWN, LIZ.

But her most egregious behavior comes in the form of her accusations towards Jessica about cheating.  She can’t conceptualize the idea that Jessica might outperform her on something she cares so much about, so once the rumors start, Liz believes them immediately, even though there’s no proof whatsoever.  When show blows up at Jessica, I actually cringed because Liz is so far out of line.  I understand the jealousy that can come from intense competition over something like arbitrary test scores, but Liz’s behavior here is so over-the-top that it’s impossible to feel badly for her.  She’s the fucking WORST, you guys.  The snobbiest, most pseudo-intellectual, self-righteous worst.

What is also weird is that there’s no mention of taking the SATs over again until halfway through the book.  Even Mr. Collins doesn’t mention it, which feels completely bizarre, given that he works in education and all.   Also, colleges don’t automatically get your scores unless you want them to.  So this insane panic over colleges knowing immediately is super, super weird.

 

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 #113: The Pom-Pom Wars

20 Aug

the pom pom wars

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Ken are still hot and heavy, despite the fact that it bugs Elizabeth and Jessica totally knows that she and Ken had an affair when Todd wasn’t living in Sweet Valley.  Ken convinces Jessica that the best way to get even with the evil Heather Mallone is to start her own cheerleading squad, so of course Jessica’s first thought is to recruit Elizabeth?  Elizabeth is horrified at this prospect.  But then Jessica blackmails Elizabeth into joining, telling her if she doesn’t, she’ll tell Todd about Ken and Liz’s “steamy” affair.  Liz joins and ends up liking it.

Meanwhile, the real (?) SVH cheerleading squad makes the regionals.  Jessica is determined for them to also make regionals, but there’s a weird rule that says only one squad per school is eligible.  Even when Jess’s squad pulls a flashmob-esque dance routine in front of the regionals judge at his house, she’s still rebuffed.  It looks like Heather will win.  OR WILL SHE? Because Jessica goes to see Principal Cooper and begs him to have an all-school vote about which cheerleading team should be the official one.  THIS IS SUCH BORING BULLSHIT.

The cheer-off vote ends up in a tie, and Mr. Jenkins, who is there for some reason, tells them they can all go to regionals if they just merge squads.  Both Jessica and Heather flat out refuse.  But the other cheerleaders tell each of them the other has stepped down (confused yet?) and then keep practicing.  But Jessica and Heather can’t stop fighting with one another.  Finally, Amy and Liz tell the two to suck it up and cheer.  The squad wins regionals, but not without some more squabbling.  Ken mistakes Liz for Jessica AGAIN and Heather overhears him tell her “good luck.”

The night after regionals, Liz dresses up like Jess and goes to see Ken, because she still can’t figure out her feelings for him.  When they start to make out, she realizes it’s Todd she wants and Ken realizes he’s making out with Liz.  The two have a real talk about their feelings and then agree to go see Todd and Jessica and come clean.  But Jessica has talked to Heather, who lets it slip that Ken was totally macking on Liz, and Jess has gone to see Todd with Liz’s diary in tow.  Neither Todd nor Jessica wants to speak to Ken and Liz.

AND SCENE.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Ken and Terri broke up “not long” before Jess and Ken started seeing each other. Huh.
  • Mr. Jenkins, cheerleading judge, drives a red Honda Civic
  • Chrome Dome’s secretary is named Rosemary

Memorable Quotes:

  • “He flashed a smile at her. ‘All that heavy breathing burns a lot of calories.'” (31)
  • “She paused in front the of the mirror hanging over the table in the entryway. She high-fived herself, smiling at her own reflection.” (47) [AMAZING]
  • “What drew me to Jessica at first was the fact that she was your identical twin sister. I could almost pretend she was you.” (186)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t even have anything to say.  Like, the stakes are so low here and I so fully don’t care that I can’t even find things to snark on.  Everyone is terrible.  I don’t buy the fact that Liz is angsting over her feelings for Ken because I still don’t believe they ever hooked up.  I’m super creeped out by how much the twins switch boyfriends, but it doesn’t shock me anymore because everyone is terrible and I hate this mini-series.

UGH.

SVH #109: Double-Crossed

25 Jul

doublecrossed

Estimated Elapsed Time:  8 weeks, for whatever reason.

Summary/Overview:

The day after the wedding, Jessica has escaped to live at Lila’s until the hubbub dies down.  Elizabeth calls to warn Jess that her parents want to ship her off to boarding school in Washington state, but Jess isn’t worried.  She meets Jeremy and he proposes to her using the sapphire ring she loved way back when.  He tells her to keep their engagement a secret until at least after he returns from a trip out of the country.  Jessica agrees, albeit reluctantly.

Back at the Wakefield house, Elizabeth tries to console Sue, who is acting heartbroken.  Sue tells her that her dead mother never liked Jeremy, and now she knows why.  Sue says her mother cut her out of the will, and that as a result, Sue has lost out on a TON of money that is news to literally everyone.  Except, then it turns out that Sue’s mother’s will had “stipulations” and now that Sue didn’t marry Jeremy, she gets the inheritance after all.  In a series of paragraphs that make absolutely no sense, we learn (through Elizabeth’s eavesdropping), that: Sue gets the money if Sue stays away from Jeremy for at least two months.  If not, Alice gets the money (WTF) to do with what she sees fit.

Jessica drives Jeremy to the airport for his trip to Costa Rica, but he won’t let her stay until his plane lifts off. He also can’t give her the full address of where he’s staying.  Probably because he’s not, you know, actually going to Costa Rica, but whatever.  Jessica cries about how much she’ll miss him.  Meanwhile, Sue attempts suicide by taking a bunch of pills and having her stomach pumped.

It takes nearly two weeks, but Jessica lets it slip to Lila that she’s engaged, and within seconds, the entire school knows.  When Liz finds out, she cries a lot about how Jessica is going to leave her forever.  Jessica says she won’t.  Then she tells Liz she’s moving back home even though Sue is still living there.  Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield tell Jessica they want her to stay away from Jeremy for about 6 months, and she tells them that will be hard to do since they’re engaged.  Obviously Ma and Pa Wakefield freak out, but Jess remains calm.

Later, Liz tells Jess about the money situation, and Jess can’t believe when Liz suggests that Jeremy might be a gold digger.  She continues to hold fast to the idea that it is True Love between her and Jeremy, despite the fact that she can never get ahold of him and he seems to only call in the middle of the night.  Jeremy promises he’ll be back in time for the Project Nature Halloween party, which Jessica promptly invites the entire school to.

We get snippets of Sue talking on the phone to someone and generally acting like she doesn’t have a care in the world.  She admits that her suicide attempt was faked. Okay.  She also admits to Liz that she was lying about having the same rare blood disease that her mother had.  OKAY.

When Principal Cooper announces a new initiative that places girls in single-sex math classes, Liz FREAKS OUT because it’s the most sexist thing she’s ever heard of, despite the fact that there’s research that supports that girls in co-ed classes fall behind their male peers by like 3rd grade or something. But then she starts taking the math class and is amazed that the research backs up the results: all the girls are doing way better in math, after like a day or something.

Project Nature throws a Halloween party and Jeremy is finally back in town for it.  He’s distracted, though, and Jessica starts to worry.  She goes outside to find him and discovers that he and Sue are totally making out.  She breaks up with him and storms out.

The B-Plot involves Lila secretly enrolling Robby in a business class at the university so he can become rich or something.  He gets mad and they break up.  He comes to apologize and tells her he actually started taking the class, plus a life drawing class. When Lila realizes that means he’s looking at naked women, they break up again.  Then they get back together.

Also, Todd grows a mustache and Liz is super, super turned off by it.  They fight, they break up, he shaves, they get back together.

The book ends with Jeremy showing up at the Wakefields’ looking “ashen” to announce that Sue has disappeared.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Both Todd and Winston get their hair cut at a place called Rigoberto’s
  • Sue’s mother’s family invented a kind of frozen dinner and that’s why they’re Oprah-rich.
  • Sue’s psychiatrist prescribes tranquilizers for Sue’s “difficult time.” Jesus Christ!
  • Todd apparently has a part-time job? Doing what?
  • Ned had a soul patch when he was younger.
  • Apparently they’re back in school, despite there being no fanfare about this happening.  The timeline is FUCKED.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “It was going to absolutely kill her to keep this to herself until Jeremy returned.  But she had promised him. And for the first time in her life, it seemed very important that she keep a promise.” (42)
  • “‘We’re not just family, Liz. We’re twin. We’re two halves of the same person,’ Jessica said sincerely. ‘We always have to be together. I couldn’t be happy without you.'” (73)
  • “‘That sounds like a lot of fun,’ Amy said, her face brightening.  ‘We can start spreading the word. It’ll be the first party anyone’s had so far this year.'” (130) THAT IS A LIE.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The first thing I noticed about this one was that the tone was different than previous books and that the characters speak differently.  My guess: we have a new group of ghost writers, but who knows, really?

The second thing has to do with how dumb the legal provisions are in Sue’s mother’s will.  It doesn’t make sense for the funds to go to Alice, a woman she doesn’t seem to have had much contact with in the past twenty years or so.  It makes even LESS sense for the will to stipulate that Sue can inherit the fortune if she stays away from Jeremy for 60 days.  Like, what the hell?  Why that period of time?  WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?

Also, they’re back in school again but are still sixteen and still juniors.  I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does.  Like, a lot.

SVH: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. I

16 Jul

elizabeth's secret diary

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

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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

SVH #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 #96: The Arrest

2 Jun

the arrest

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1-2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth is still maintaining that she can’t remember anything from the night of the Jungle Prom when she crashed a car and killed Sam.  The police question her with Ned present, but she isn’t able to give them any new information.  They keep her in jail overnight, and everyone FREAKS OUT about this.  When she returns to school, she feels like a social pariah.  Enid is the only person who will talk to her, but when she sees a newspaper in Enid’s bag with an article about her arrest, she assumes that Enid meant for her to see it and runs away.

Ned hires the best lawyer around for “cases like these,” but the guy is a total dick.  After meeting with Liz and Ned, Ned fires the lawyer and says he’ll defend her himself.

Jessica is still really sad about Sam, but psychotically thinks that if Elizabeth gets punished for his death, she will feel better.  She decides that no matter what happens with Elizabeth’s court case, she’s going to get her own revenge and runs crying to Todd, who decides he has to cheer her up and offers to take her to a movie.  Afterwards, Jessica begs him to take her for a walk on the beach, where Todd holds her while she cries.  The two continue to spend time together, arousing suspicion from all their friends.

Lila is so excited about reuniting with her long-lost mother that it seems all her problems have temporarily disappeared.  She obsesses over wearing the perfect clothes and obtaining the perfect look to meet her mother, which drives her friends crazy.  When her dad and Lila go to Los Angeles to pick up Grace, Lila is taken by her beauty and disgusted by her “lover,” a wiry Frenchman named Pierre.  Lila gets upset that her mother ditches their coffee gabfest to attend to Pierre’s needs and cries some more.

Margo is still going by Michelle in Ohio and generally being a crazy person.  She locks Georgie in the closet while she files her nails and then kicks him in the head a bunch.  Um, okay.  Then she has a nightmare and realizes it’s time to move on to California, where her “real” family awaits.  She takes Georgie for a picnic, drowns him, steals his mother’s jewelry, and hops a Greyhound to California.  At a bus station somewhere, she sees an old lady with a newspaper.  There’s a picture of Elizabeth on the front, and Margo realizes she looks just like her.  She presumably kills the old lady, takes the paper and some money, and continues west.

Nicholas Morrow is lamenting the fact that he’s single even though he’s like, a total catch.  He wonders what’s wrong with him and then proceeds to list off a shit-ton of his excellent qualities.  Um, maybe the problem is that you’re a raging narcissist?  Then he gets a letter telling him he’s been chosen as one of the male contestants on the new dating show Hunks, and he realizes Olivia signed him up for it.  His first date is a girl named Jakki, who wears a lot of black clothing purple eye shadow, and blue lipstick.  She also has a butterfly tattooed on her face.  Date #2 is named Susan and is a “demure” looking chick in a floral dress with minimal makeup but giggles too much.  Date #3 is Ann and she seems juuuuust right, if only she didn’t look so embarrassed.

His first date with Jakki is a disaster, as she picks him up on her motorcycle and takes him to a biker bar called Club Mud.  His second date, with Susan, is super weird. Because she chooses to wear flip flops, they can’t get seated anywhere except for a burger joint, and she laughs the whole time and acts like a child.  I’m convinced there is a mental delay here, but that never crosses Nicholas’s mind.  His third date, with Ann, actually seems to be going pretty well, because he likes her, but he keeps screwing up: he’s late to pick her up, he forgets his wallet, his car gets a flat tire, and he pukes on her when they go to an amusement park.  When it comes time to revisit the dates on the Hunks show, the first two girls eviscerate him, but Ann has lovely things to say.  They kiss in front of the live studio audience.

Steven is worked up into a tizzy about his sister’s arrest and the deteriorating state of his family.  He’s also dealing with a new off-campus apartment and a need for a new roommate.  He sees an ad for someone named Billie Winkler who needs a place, and he calls and leaves a message for Billie to come see the place.  Imagine his surprise when Billie turns out to be a GIRL!

Bruce is still obsessing about Pamela and whether or not the rumors about her are true.  She calls him and begs to hear her out, so they agree to meet so she can explain her side of the story.  They meet at the Box Tree Cafe, but the two are heckled by some dickbags from Big Mesa, and Bruce storms out before Pamela can say anything.  She cries alone in her room.  It’s not her fault that she wouldn’t put out for some dude at Big Mesa who then spread lies about her!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, it’s the start of the spring term at Steven’s university. I’m not even sure how that works within the timeline, but whatever.
  • The ghostwriter calls Maria Santelli “Maria Santini” in this one.  CUTE.
  • Lila is going through a “Continental” phase which includes eating croissants?
  • Lila and Amy go to a nail salon called Turn of the Nail.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Even though Jessica had played that silly joke on Elizabeth and Sam, the accident obviously had nothing to do with Jessica.  It was all Elizabeth’s fault.” (25)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Everything about this whole manslaughter trial thing is so weird.  First of all, the timeline for Elizabeth’s case is so compressed that it’s mind-boggling.  Also, it is so weird that she maintains she couldn’t be drunk because she never drinks.  The police tested her blood-alcohol level and it came back way higher than the legal limit! Obviously you had alcohol in your system, Elizabeth! Use your tiny brain! People spike drinks! Why is no one suggesting this as a way to fight the charges against her?  I don’t understand.  It isn’t mentioned once as a possibility.

Margo continues to be the creepiest, weirdest psychopath ever.  She’s clearly a schizophrenic, but she’s so badly characterized it’s embarrassing.  Like, the ghost writer couldn’t be bothered to do the most rudimentary research about the disorder?

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.