Tag Archives: spring break

SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

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SVH Super Edition: Spring Fever

4 Oct

[Blogger’s Note: This book was one of my favorites when I was younger, and when I started collecting the books a few years ago, it was one of the first ones I reread.  I was so excited about it that I took it to class with me.  I was reading it during a break, trying to hide it from view, when the guy that I was crushing on walked up to me and asked what I was reading.  I was totally trapped, and I had to show it to him.  Mortified, I tried to quickly explain that it was ironic.  He laughed, but it was still really embarrassing.  SEE WHAT I ENDURE FOR YOU, SWEET VALLEY?]

Estimated Time Elapsed: Roughly 2 weeks (an 11-day trip to Walkersville, Kansas)

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth are traveling all the way to Walkersville, Kansas to stay with their great-aunt and uncle Herman and Shirley Walker for their spring break.  By my count, this is something like their third spring break in their junior year alone.  The twins are super excited to spend time in a real life small-town, because apparently Sweet Valley is a busting metropolis.  Alice Wakefield spends some time reflecting about the time she spent there as a young girl, and then she worries over the kinds of clothes that Jessica is bringing, because they’re a little risque for a town like Walkersville.

Once the twins arrive, they gush over how wonderful the town is.  Everything is quaint and perfect; there’s a main street and a five-and-dime (owned by their great-uncle) with a REAL SODA FOUNTAIN INSIDE.  Holy moley!  Everything about the town seems perfect with the one exception of Annie Sue Sawyer, a local girl who gives the twins a pretty cold reception.  Jessica is indignant about this, which is weird, because she’s the queen of icy greetings.  Apparently Annie Sue hasn’t taken kindly to two beautiful blondes from California showing up and potentially moving in on her boyfriend.  Despite their attempts to kill her with kindness, Annie Sue stays mean, setting them up for a bunch of embarrassing things, including a day of hijinx on her family’s farm.

A carnival comes to town, and the twins FREAK OUT about going.  Even though they want to go alone, their aunt and uncle are aghast at such an idea and insist on going with them.  Jessica is mortified but makes up for it by wearing her white jumpsuit with rhinestones on it.  The carnival itself isn’t much to write home about, but it isn’t long before Jessica and Liz meet Alex Parker, the guy in charge of horses at the carnival.  It turns out that Alex has an identical twin named Brad who is just like Elizabeth.  Jessica makes plans to meet Alex after the carnival closes up that night, but these plans are vetoed by Herman and Shirley, who go apoplectic at the idea of Jessica going out with a carny after ten o’clock.  So Jess fakes being sleepy and sneaks out to see him.

The twins alternate seeing Brad and Alex, but Elizabeth starts to get worried about her feelings for Brad and her feelings for Jeffrey.  She also wonders why Alex and Brad are never in the same place in the same time.  But Jessica has fallen head over heels for Alex and is continuing her late night rendezvous with him, causing her aunt and uncle to worry about her health.  What normal sixteen year old girl goes to bed at nine every night? [Blogger’s note: Um, this one did.] Elizabeth and Jessica assure them that’s she’s catching up on lost sleep from how busy she is in her real life.

Of course, Annie Sue sees Jessica and Alex together and concocts a weak blackmail scheme.  She gets a bunch of Jessica’s clothes and accessories in exchange for not spilling the beans about Jessica’s new love.  Elizabeth figures out that Alex and Brad are the same person due to a hand injury that ends up on both of them, but Alex begs Liz not to tell Jessica because he’s really fallen for her.  She agrees, but she’s pissed about it.

On the second to last night in Walkersville, Jessica is put in charge of watching Midnight, Alex’s most wild horse.  Annie Sue’s dad is buying it for her, and so she decides that it’s time to ride Midnight.  The horse gets spooked and takes off, and Jessica jumps on another horse and saves a now-hysterical Annie Sue.  She thanks Jessica and renounces every mean thing she’s ever said to her.  She throws a party to celebrate the awesomeness of the Wakefield twins.  Herman and Shirley meet Alex and reluctantly agree to allow Jessica to go with him to the barn dance the following night.  The twins have a rip-roaring good time, and they’ll never forget all the wonderful folks they met in Kansas.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “I read a great book about a girl who fell in love with a Ferris wheel operator.  It was incredibly romantic.” (44)
  • “‘Well, it’s just that we have an unspoken rule in town about the carnival,’ Mrs. Walker continued. ‘The boys who work the carnival are known as carnies in local slang.  Generally they come from very different backgrounds than any of the boys in town.  They’re not necessarily rough or anything, but they’re certainly not the kind of boys either of you two would be interested in.  I’m sure you know what I mean,’ she concluded…” (47)
  • “‘You’re a good kid, you know that?’ Alex said huskily.” (231) [Blogger’s note: And you’re a total creep-ass, Alex.]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • While the twins are in Kansas, Lila’s going to Rome with her father.
  • Cara Walker is referred to as Cora Walker in this book.
  • Annie Sue has a younger sister whom the twins meet at her family farm, but at the end of the book, Annie Sue blames her bad behavior on being an only child and not knowing how to share.  What the hell?

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Well I mean, where do we begin?  After rereading this book, I can’t figure out why I loved it so much all those years ago.  This book sucks.  It SUCKS, you guys.  Uncle Herman and Aunt Shirley are like, caricatures of caricatures.  When they find out that Jessica wants to go out after dark to meet a boy, Shirley literally clutches at her heart and asks Herman to bring her “her pills.”  Other bloggers have also pointed this out, but it bears repeating.  Who says things like that?

I remember being totally enamored with the whole Alex-Brad thing when I was young, which makes me cringe now.  The idea that this guy would invent a twin brother so that he could date both girls and figure out which one he liked better is so awful that the feminist in me is like, screaming at my 8-year-old self.  He’s a total creeper, and there’s no other way of looking at it.  At the end of the book, after Elizabeth plays with him a bit at the dance, we’re supposed to forgive him and root for him and Jessica, but I don’t see it that way.  So he decided he likes Jess more?  Good job, asshole.  You’re still a total dick.

Finally, everyone in the town of Walkersville is a complete cliche of what Midwestern life is supposed to be like.  I mean, I guess it’s supposed to be a cliche.  I live in the Midwest and I’ve never in my life met a girl named Annie Sue.  I’ve never attended a barn dance, and I’ve never mistaken rhinestones for real diamonds.  But all of those things happen in this book.  Which is, you know, lame.

SVH #11: Too Good to be True

22 Mar


Estimated Time Elapsed:
Three weeks

Overview

Ma and Pa Wakefield have a special surprise: over the twins’ 2-week spring break, they’re going to have a visitor.  Suzanne Devlin, daughter of an ambassador that Ned was friendly with in college, will be coming to stay with them.  In exchange, one of the twins will go to New York City and stay with the Devlins.  Liz wins the trip in a coin toss, but it isn’t long before Jessica manipulates her way into taking her place.

A week later, Jessica is off to New York and Suzanne is riding home from the airport with the rest of the Wakefields.  Elizabeth is completely taken with Suzanne’s beauty and feels self-conscious about her own looks, although the ghost writer is quick to point out that Elizabeth is also stunningly beautiful.  She’s also amazed at how unbelievably sweet Suzanne is.  She cooks the family a gourmet breakfast, does the dishes, and gushes over how wonderful Sweet Valley is.  It isn’t long before everyone is under her spell.  The boys fawn at Suzy’s feet, Liz has a new best friend, and everything is perfect.

But there are some strange things happening, too.  Suzy almost drowns at the class picnic, causing Mr. Collins to act the hero and save her, even though Liz remembers that she’s a very strong swimmer.  Elizabeth’s gold lavaliere necklace goes missing.  Worst of all, Suzanne comes back from a babysitting gig at Mr. Collins’ house crying attempted rape.  Liz is horrified–how could her favorite teacher do such a thing?

The truth comes out the night of Lila’s birthday party when Liz finds her necklace in Suzanne’s suitcase.  When she confronts her at the party, Suzanne laughs evilly and tells her that no one will ever believe Liz’s version of events over her own.  But when Winston “accidentally” spills punch all over Suzanne’s dress, she freaks out in front of everyone and shows her true colors.  Everyone sees what a sociopath she actually is and her reign is over.

The B-Plot focuses on Jessica’s travels in NYC.  She spends most of her vacation with the Devlins alone in their huge apartment, which is really…strange.  Suzanne’s boyfriend Pete McCafferty takes her out a few times, and he’s a total shit to her.  They go to the Empire State Building, and to a restaurant in the WTC.  That relationship culminates with him trying to rape her for real in the Devlin’s apartment (Mr. and Mrs. Devlin walk in and kick him out).  Jessica also attends a dinner party hosted by Suzanne’s friends and gets blackout drunk on some champagne, but not before she’s humiliated and bored to tears by the snobs.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She imagined herself whirling breathlessly beneath the flashing lights of some impossibly chic Manhattan disco.  Suddenly, a hand touches her arm.  She turns.  ‘Pardon me,’ Mick Jagger says, ‘I believe this next dance is mine.
  • “Mrs. Devlin was much more elegant.  She was tall and gloriously thin, with the kind of cheekbones Jessica could achieve only by sucking her cheeks in as far as they would go…When Mrs. Devlin hugged her, Jessica’s only impression was of a cool draft of perfumed air.” (39)
  • “‘Well, I believe it,’ Cara said, passing out sodas.  ‘I’ve always thought he was the lecherous type.  I’ve caught him looking at me more than once.  Besides, he gave me a D on my last English essay.'” (106)
  • “Suzanne frowned, and for an instant she no longer seemed beautiful to Elizabeth.  Her lovely eyes narrowed into mean slits.  Hatred twisted her mouth into an ugly grimace.  Then the moment passed, and Suzanne looked her old, sweet smiling self again.” (113-114)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Lots of potentially cute outfits: a close-fitting black crepe cocktail dress with a plunging back (Jessica), an off-shoulder white satin dress with cream-colored high heeled sandals (Suzanne), and a velvet skirt with a high-necked lace victorian blouse (Elizabeth)
  • Tons of pop culture references: Barbie, East of Eden, Smothers Brothers (WHOA SHIT OLD), Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley, Paul Newman, King Kong, Bo Derek (AGAIN)
  • Apparently Winston Egbert and Mandy Farmer broke up when she moved away.  Way to drop the plot thread, ghost writer.
  • Liz is apparently quite the amateur baker: she made a lemon chiffon pie in Suzanne’s honor
  • Jessica starred in My Fair Lady the year before.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

While it is alarming that everyone in Sweet Valley fell for Suzanne’s act, it is not particularly surprising.  People in town seem to be so thick-headed in general that it should come as no shock that people buy her sweet and innocent act hook, line and sinker.  Perhaps what is worth noting, however, is that there is no explanation as to why Suzanne wins everyone over while secretly hating them.  It is true that her character revisits the town in a later book, and that some of it gets explained then, but isn’t it lazy writing to not include even the tiniest explanation as to why she acts the way she does?

But my biggest beef with the story in this book is the actions of the Devlin parents.  Why agree to have one of the Wakefield twins come to New York if they aren’t going to make time for her?  Jessica has lunch with Mrs. Devlin at the Russian Tea Room one day, but that’s pretty much the extent of it.  She spends the majority of her two weeks in the apartment alone, which is uncharacteristic of Jessica and at odds with the city she’s visiting.  Even ignoring the fact that Jessica probably wouldn’t have much interest in the museums, she’s in the shopping capital of the world.  There are tons of things to do and see, and she sits in the hotel.  What the actual fuck, ghost writer?