Tag Archives: stealing stealers

SVH #123: Elizabeth’s Rival

11 Mar

elixabethsrival

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

It’s summer vacation in Sweet Valley YET AGAIN, and Jessica and Elizabeth, along with Lila for some reason, are about to head off to Montana for a month long gig as junior counselors at a performing arts camp.  Liz is excited because one of her best friends from middle school, Maria Slater, is moving back to Sweet Valley and MIRACULOUSLY also joining the fun as a JC at the camp in Montana.  Jessica’s excited because she’s sure it’s her chance to finally become famous after being discovered.  She also makes a vow that it’s a summer with no boys, because she’s back to being sad about the death of Christian.  Lila hopes to only meet dudes, so the girls are at odds off the bat.

Things move along at a nice clip.  Within minutes of arriving, Liz has met Joey Mason, a super cute counselor who leads the acting workshops.  She’s attracted to him immediately.  Jessica starts to tire of Lila’s constant whining and wonders if she’ll manage to last the month listening to her complain.  When Maria shows up, Liz is overjoyed and then horrified when she realizes that Maria’s new best friend, Nicole Banes, is a total snot whom Elizabeth hates immediately.

Although Liz thinks that there must be something redeeming about Nicole since she’s Maria’s best friend, she plays like a total parody of a villain. She hides her own diary under Liz’s mattress and then accuses her of stealing it, then she steals the disk Liz has saved her script for the camp play on and passes it off as her own.  It seems that no one believes Liz, and it’s also clear that Joey is totally favoring Nicole over Liz.  It isn’t until Jessica accidentally sees evidence of Nicole taunting Liz about the play on camera (one of her campers is a little filmmaker) that she realizes what’s going on.  She shows it to the whole camp and Liz not only wins back Maria’s friendship but also the affection of Joey, who is now totally into Liz.  She tells him that she and Todd are in an open relationship, which backfires when Todd shows up at the camp.

Meanwhile, Lila falls for a guy named Bo, who comes off as a brave adventurer.  Lila tries to pretend she’s one, too, but is confused by how cowardly Bo actually seems to be.  Finally he comes clean to her: he’s actually the son of a millionaire.  They have tons in common! They kiss!

Jessica reluctantly falls for Paul, the older brother of one of her campers.  I AM SO BORED AND THERE ARE TWO MORE BOOKS IN THIS MINI-SERIES.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Robbie Goodman moved away to attend art school.  Did we know this? I literally can’t remember.
  • Jessica’s in charge of the dance classes, Liz is put on sailing duty, and Lila’s got arts and crafts covered.
  • Lila wears a periwinkle blue raw-silk romper with pearl buttons for her first day as a counselor, because of course she does.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Now that we’re both wet, come here and give me a hug!” The girls hugged for a long time, rocking side to side. (39)
  • Do I look like the kind of girl who would cheat on her boyfriend? she asked her reflection. No, she answered herself. (56) [Are you fucking kidding me?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Analysis:

I don’t know, haven’t we already done the camp thing to death already?  Lila and Jessica were counselors at Lila’s uncle’s resort that one time, and all of these people worked as JCs with overly-precocious kids in the far-superior Todd’s Story.  So yeah, I’m totally over the camp counselor thing they have going on.

What’s also distressing is that there isn’t even enough story here to sustain the 200-page book, let alone 2 more books.  It just doesn’t make any sense, and it isn’t fun.  UGH.

Also, what’s up with Nicole?  Why is she so terrible?  Why doesn’t she have any actual motivations?  How is it so completely out of the realm of possibility that anyone could hate Liz for an actual, legitimate reason?  I hate Liz and I like to think my reasons are wholly rational and air-tight.

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SVH Super Star: Todd’s Story

2 May

todds story

Estimated Elapsed Time: just over 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s summer vacation in Sweet Valley yet again, and everyone is talking about how they’re going to be day camp counselors at Secca Lake for two weeks.  Elizabeth hopes that it will help reinvigorate her relationship with Todd, which she thinks has gotten stale lately.  Todd worries that his unpaid gig as a camp counselor won’t be enough to appease his father, who has been pushing for him to take an internship at Varitronics, the company he works for.  Liz watches them butt heads at a family dinner and wonders why Todd won’t stand up to his father more.

When the gang goes to the day camp training, Todd is shocked to see Kevin Holmes, a boy he crossed paths with in Vermont.  Back in Vermont, Todd stopped Kevin in the midst of mugging and old man in an alley and sent him to jail (it’s referred to as “prison” several times, but this was within the last year, so is it really?).  At the trial, Kevin’s dad tried to bribe Todd, and then after his sentencing, Kevin swore to Todd he’d get his revenge.  Todd wonders if Kevin is also the person who has been calling him and hanging up without saying anything.

Instead of telling Liz or Jessica or, I don’t know, the camp director, Todd decides to keep it to himself, especially after Kevin pretends to not know Todd.  He worries about Kevin not having changed at all and having sinister motives, but everyone else seems to really like him, including Todd’s parents, who keep inviting him over for dinner.  Turns out Kevin’s interested in an internship at Varitronics, and Todd’s dad is over the moon about it.  While Kevin charms everyone else, he keeps making weird threats to Todd about not letting it slip about his past.  Todd is completely distracted by this, and his refusal to confide in Liz drives a wedge further between them.

Meanwhile, camp starts and Todd continues to obsess about Kevin.  Kevin starts flirting or dating Jessica, and Todd worries about how this brings him closer to Liz.  No one can understand why Todd is so cold to Kevin, and there are several moments when Todd completely loses his cool around him, including an unfortunate moment after Kevin beat Todd to a drowning child.  Todd snaps that not everything is a competition, but it seems like no one else thought that was an appropriate thing to say.  By this point, Liz has told Todd she thinks they need a breather, and they are broken up (again).  Todd is miserable.

Kevin lies about a bunch of stuff, and while people seem to sort of catch the lies, they let them go, which is weird.  Also, things start disappearing around the camp, like Liz’s lavaliere necklace and Cara’s keys.  Todd continues to withdraw into himself, further alienating himself from his friends.

Then Kevin starts telling people that Todd had a reputation back in Vermont as kind of a bully.  He tells people that he roughed up some basketball players, punched a teammate, and there were rumors that he maybe sexually assaulted a girl.  Because Todd’s friends are literally the dumbest, most gullible people on the planet, they believe Kevin’s story, even though they have known Todd for sixteen years.

Somehow, Kevin gets Liz to agree to a date with him, which pisses Jessica off to no end.  Liz goes on the date and is struck by how awful Kevin is when he’s by himself.  Obsessed with the sound of his own voice and with how much he hates Todd, Liz realizes that he isn’t as cool as she first thought.  After the date, she goes home to worry about stuff, and Kevin goes out to mug one of the other camp counselors at Secca Lake.

Todd witnesses the mugging, which is just one in a string of recent muggings in the otherwise crime-free Sweet Valley.  The next day, he tells Winston and Aaron about his suspicions and what really happened in Vermont, and he feels better.  He decides to go to the police the following day.  Only, he doesn’t get to do that, because Kevin has framed Todd for the muggings, I guess?  They seem to think the fact that his pen shows up on the beach means he’s guilty?  Despite the fact that this is where everyone has been working for the past two weeks?  Whatever, I don’t care.  Todd gets arrested.

At the final BBQ party for the camp, Kevin asks Liz to go for a walk.  She agrees for some reason, and the two take a hike alone.  At the same time, Jessica finds Liz’s lavaliere in Kevin’s car and realizes that he’s been the stealing stealer all along!  She runs to tell her friends.

In the nature, Kevin tells Liz that he used to have a brother named Brent and that he accidentally killed him in a car crash.  He tells Liz this, and then he tries to kill Liz, because that’s the only way he can think to hurt Todd.  Luckily, Todd is out of jail and rushes into the scene in time to save Liz.  Kevin gets arrested, Liz and Todd are back together, and all is right with the world.  I guess.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book takes place in the summer, but it is after Todd has moved back from Vermont.  It is also after Cara Walker has moved to England, and yet she is here and still dating Steven.  Sam Woodruf is nowhere to be found, despite the fact that he and Jessica have been dating for a while now.  HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT.
  • Almost 100 six-to-ten-year-olds enrolled in the summer camp.  Talk about a nightmare.
  • Kevin drives a black Mazda

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Kevin nodded. ‘My dad thinks everybody should be required to read The Wall Street Journal with their breakfast.'” (83)
  • “Maybe there was nothing behind them.  Maybe Kevin Holmes didn’t have a soul.” (97)
  • “‘No, he’s not lying,’ Aaron agreed. ‘He’d have no reason to lie.'” (134) Are you a fucking idiot, Aaron?
  • “No, Kevin must be innocent, Todd decided. A person simply couldn’t be one thing on the outside and something entirely different on the inside.” (151) WHAT THE HOLY FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Here’s the thing about this completely ridiculous book: I remember liking this best of all the Super Stars.  That’s not surprising, really.  It has the most interesting premise: working as camp counselors during summer break, dealing with a mysterious new person who displays signs of being an actual psychopath, etc.  But reading this book now, I’m struck by how completely fucking stupid everyone is in the book.

Talk about plot points! Everything that happens here is meant to further the plot and not the characters.  Todd doesn’t tell anyone that he knows Kevin from before, ostensibly because he’s scared if he does, Kevin will retaliate.  Okay, fine, but shouldn’t the camp director have run a basic background check on anyone being left alone with children for any period of time?  Is that not a lawsuit waiting to happen?  If Kevin had served any jail time, which we are led to believe, he would have had a record.

Moving on: Todd continues to not tell anyone despite his suspicions.  He puts off going to the police for days, despite his having witnessed one of the muggings.  All of this is way, way too convenient for the plot we end up with.  I can’t help but think that the ghostwriter of this one thought that the readers were really, really dumb, because we aren’t allowed to think anything about anything here.

Also, the completely ridiculous rationalizations of everyone throughout the novel make no sense whatsoever.  Why would everyone believe Kevin over Todd?  Why does Todd continue to doubt Kevin’s motivations and behavior, despite the fact that he has continually threatened him throughout the course of the book?  Do these people have selective amnesia?  Am I the crazy one?

 

SVH #84: The Stolen Diary

23 Apr

stolendiary

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Todd tells Liz he’s afraid they’re getting too serious or maybe too comfortable with each other and thinks they should take a break.  Liz is stunned but agrees to it.  She’s in total denial about the fact that he’s clearly interested in another girl named Peggy Abbot, but when everyone starts talking about them and Liz sees them flirting out and about, she realizes it must be true.

So she proceeds to agonize about it for 100 pages.  She writes in her journal, ignores Enid’s problems, and is generally the saddest sack around.  When Kris Lynch, a senior at SVH, asks her to the dance, she turns him down and then reconsiders when she realizes it might be a way to attract Todd’s attention.  This will end well.

It’s clear that Kris is super into Liz, but she’s not interested in him at all.  She feels bad about how excited he was for the dance and agrees to a second date.  It isn’t long before people are referring to him as her boyfriend, even though they have never kissed.  Liz knows she needs to tell Kris she’s not interested, and she decides that the perfect place to do that is at Maria Santelli’s party.  Because nothing says “gentle letdown” like a crowded party, right?

Of course, it’s too noisy at the party, and when Liz tries to pull Kris into a quiet room to break it off, they run into Todd and Peggy, who look like they’re about to make out.  Liz runs out the room and ends up making out with Kris on a stairwell before pushing him away and asking to go home.  He goes totally  nuts on her in the car when she tells him she’s not interested.  After yelling and screaming at her, he pulls over when she asks, but then grabs at her as she gets out of the car.  This is scarily close to sexual assault, but that’s never mentioned.  Liz drops her bag in his car and struggles to put everything back.

The next day at school, Liz can’t find her journal but is distracted when Kris comes by with a white rose for her as a peace offering.  Then the rumors about what happened between them start up.  Kris is claiming they had a “wild night” at Miller’s Point.  Todd approaches Liz and tells her he was wrong, and they get back together.  But then Kris tells him he knows all about the kinds of fights Todd and Liz have had, and Todd blows off their reunion dinner.  Kris does the same thing to Enid, who then gets super pissed at Liz.

Jessica figures out that there’s no way Liz would have told Kris all this stuff about the people she loves, and when she confronts him about it, she isn’t even ruffled when he pulls out details about her.  It just fuels her desire to get to the bottom of whatever has happened.  So she figures out that he must have swiped Liz’s diary–and once again, she confronts him and blackmails him into telling the truth.  Then she makes Todd and Enid meet with Kris, who comes clean with them.  All is well in the world.

The B-Plot is Enid trying to decide if she wants to get back together with Hugh Grayson.  I guess things didn’t work out with Jeffrey?  There are a few missed connections, a case of jumping to conclusions, and finally a last-minute reconciliation.  I guess, good for them?  Whatever, I hate Enid.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Kris picks Liz up for the dance in a pink Cadillac
  • Kris normally drives a custom bright green Volkswagen Beetle
  • The twins are into green: Jess wears a bright green sundress, Liz wears a seafoam green dress

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica groaned dramatically. ‘I can’t believe we share the same genes,’ she said. ‘What I know about boys would fill a book, but what you know wouldn’t fill a postcard.'” (6)
  • “It was nice to know that she was pretty and popular, but it would be even nicer to know that the boy she thought was special felt the same way about her.” (55)
  • “‘It’s amazing, isn’t it?’ asked Jessica as Elizabeth disappeared back up the stairs. ‘You wouldn’t think someone like Elizabeth had anything to put in a journal. “Dear Diary, Today I went to school. I got another A. I wrote another articles for The Oracle. I went home and did my homework.”‘” (93)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a few things that really bothered me about this one, the first of which is how desperate Enid and Elizabeth both are.  A common theme in these books is that the girls are defined by their relationships with boys, and that’s really heavily played up here.  Enid keeps joking about joining a convent because she can’t make it work with Hugh, and I guess I don’t really understand how this is at all relative to other teens.  Girl, you are sixteen years old, and you are thirsty as hell.  Give it a rest.

Liz, too, is guilty of this, thinking only of how to get Todd back and how lost she feels without him.  She uses Kris throughout the book in order to make Todd jealous or get his attention, and even though she tries to explain herself the night of Maria’s party, it’s not completely surprising that Kris doesn’t handle it well.  I mean, Liz has been using him, and he’s right about that part, at least.

The part that is surprising is how much Kris FREAKS OUT about it.  They’ve had two dates, and he seems to think they are destined for marriage.  He gets a little rough with her, too, which I didn’t like.  There’s no mention of this again, and I fear that normalizes it.  Then, when he spreads all the rumors about Liz, his crazy gets amped up.  But when Jessica confronts him about it, he’s painted as sympathetic again.  These characters are not complicated enough for this sort of thing to work.  Kris is either a sociopath or he’s not.  He can’t be both.  Ugh.

SVH #79: The Long-Lost Brother

7 Apr

longlostbrother

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Sara Eastman, a girl we have never heard of before, has a twin brother who got into some trouble back when they all lived in Connecticut.  Now he’s in reform school, Sara and her mom live in Sweet Valley, and she has been lying to everyone about her brother.  She’s told everyone that he’s brilliant but decided to stay back east with their father.  Trouble is, he’s done with reform school and wants to move to Sweet Valley.  Sara is devastated, because she has her whole life set up in Sweet Valley, and it doesn’t involve a delinquent brother.

Oh well, because he moves back and immediately causes problems for Sara in that he’s not thrilled with the lies she’s told about him.  Elizabeth meets him at an A.A. meeting (she’s doing investigative journalism or something), and it doesn’t take long for her to put two-and-two together after she interviews him for the paper.  Tim seems to have genuinely changed, but Sara won’t accept it.

When Crunch McAllister’s van is stolen outside of the Dairi Burger, Tim is the prime suspect, but only because he stole a car when he was high on drugs back in CT? I’m not sure, but whatever.  He’s questioned, he’s released, and the gossip mill at SVH goes into overdrive.  It gets worse after Tim and Crunch get into a fight in the school parking lot.  Now that Tim’s secret past is out, Sara’s douchebag boyfriend drops her like a hot potato and her best friend Amanda Hayes gets mad at her for not being honest about her brother.  Sara is so alone!

It takes several talks with both of her parents, a nosy Elizabeth, Barry at Project Youth, and even several fights with Tim himself before Sara comes around on the whole thing.  Actually, it isn’t until Tim leaves Sara a note saying he’s hopping a plane back east that she finally freaks out enough and begs him to stay.  They reconcile.  Whatever, I’m bored.

The B-Plot involves Elizabeth’s very serious and very didactic investigation into a local battered women’s shelter and her experience attending A.A. and Alateen meetings to gain journalistic credibility.  Oh, and Jessica’s super tired of attending events as Miss Teen Sweet Valley, so Liz goes in her place to hand out cheese cubes at the mall.  I am not joking.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Amanda and Sara both “excel” in modern dance and take classes with Mr. Krezenski
  • Cherry pie is Tim’s favorite dessert. How all-American of him.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Only recently, Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield had made a point of repeating their law regarding the twins’ use of the small red car. If either of them was careless behind the wheel, she would have to hand over the keys and walk until further notice.” (5)
  • What things? she thought miserably. Just a lawbreaking brother who’ll probably have his picture hanging in the post office by the time he’s twenty. And it won’t be because he’s President.” (20)
  • “Elizabeth wasn’t put off.  Like any reporter worth her number-two pencils, she had good instincts about people, and she knew Tim Eastborne was basically a good person.” (73) WTF?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It’s hard to care about these books because it’s so clear that we’ve reached a creative lull in the series.  It’s like Bantam thought there weren’t enough secondary characters to handle all the afterschool special plots, so they just kept dumping more characters into the plot.  Apart from the fact that these story lines are so heavy-handed, it’s also hard to connect as a reader to these characters whose appearances are fleeting at best.  I don’t give a shit about Sara’s perceived problems because I don’t ever have to think about her again.

Also, she’s got a martyr complex like you wouldn’t believe, which drives me nuts.  It’s worse than the ham-fisted, bizarre insertion of a PSA about domestic violence that Elizabeth shoves down our throats for the entire book.

SVH #52: White Lies

10 Jun

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

John Pfeifer is upset about the fact that his friend Jennifer Mitchell is dating high-school dropout and all-around douche canoe Rick Andover.  The fact that John is in love with Jennifer comes into play here as well.  Anyway, Elizabeth notices that he’s distracted and moody, and when she presses him, he tells her how worried about Jennifer he is.  He thinks she’s planning to run away to New York City with Rick, and he wants to stop her.  Liz and John follow Rick to Mellow Music one night and see him rob the store.  They call the owner, who calls the police, and Rick is arrested.

Jennifer finds out about Rick’s arrest and is pretty upset.  She refuses to believe that Rick would do anything as pedestrian as robbing a store, and she convinces herself that her father overheard a phone conversation with Rick and framed him for the robbery as a result.  She decides that she hates her father and cries a lot, and when he ends up sick in the hospital, she refuses to go see him.

John is distraught and blames himself for being the reason that Jennifer is so angry with her father.  This plot makes absolutely no sense.  He confides in Elizabeth, who urges him to come clean with Jennifer.  It takes a really long time, but he finally does, and Jennifer FREAKS THE FUCK OUT and pretty much blames him for being the reason her dad needs bypass surgery.  What?  Liz drives her to the hospital, but Jennifer’s dad is already in surgery.  There’s a lot of crying.

Jennifer’s dad comes out of the surgery just fine, but Jennifer is still really pissed at John.  Liz goes back to the hospital and pretends that some flowers and a card are from John.  Jennifer almost throws them out, but then doesn’t.  Liz convinces Jennifer to talk to John.  The two make up, and I think we’re supposed to believe that they start dating.  This part is unclear, as there is absolutely no chemistry between the two characters.

The B-Plot: Jessica and A.J. are having some troubles making their relationship work.  Jessica wants to go to Dana’s party, but A.J. had made plans for them to have dinner at his family’s house.  She wheedles him into agreeing with her at every turn, about the most mundane, stereotypical things.  Liz shakes her head disapprovingly whenever she thinks about how different Jessica and A.J. are, but she keeps her mouth shut about it.  Jessica denies that there’s anything wrong with her relationship with A.J.  Is…is this really a plot?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Pushing herself up off the bed, Jessica sauntered over to the mirror and critically examined her face.  ‘My theory about men is that you have to make them do what you want,’ she explained.” (46)
  • “Not having an older sibling to turn to for advice and friendship had to be a lonely way to grow up, she thought, especially for an underprivileged child.” (110)  [Blogger’s Note: Man, FUCK YOU, Elizabeth!]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Elizabeth’s idea of a perfect Friday night in is reading Hemingway’s short stories while drinking a cup of cocoa.  I’m a total bibliphile, and even I want to shake her for that one.
  • Rick Andover steals a Fender Stratocaster and a bunch of money from the music store
  • The fact that Elizabeth is learning to play the recorder is mentioned in this book, a rare moment of continuity from books 46 and 47

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What I’m realizing, you guys, is that the books about tertiary characters are not very compelling for me.  I much prefer the books that focus solely on the twins themselves.  That being said, getting through these books about characters like Jennifer are made worse by the fact that we’ll never see these characters again (except for a cameo at the Dairi Burger or something).  This book is particularly awful for two reasons: Jennifer is an incredibly annoying character; and John Pfeifer’s personality will change so drastically from this book to one about 40 books from now that it’s hard to take it seriously.

Throughout much of the book, Jennifer complains about the fact that her parents treat her like a baby.  The problem is, she acts like a total diaper baby.  She snaps at her parents and bursts into tears at the slightest provocation.  She lies and refuses to see reason about Rick, about her father, and about John.  While we’re supposed to believe that her delusions about Rick come from naivete and blind infatuation, so little time or care is given to the storyline that it’s hard to care.  It’s like the ghostwriter didn’t care about it at all.  If the author doesn’t care about a plot point, how can the reader be expected to?

We’ll deal with John later.

Next up: Kristin Thompson is a star tennis player.  We’re supposed to care.

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?

SVH #4: Power Play

28 Feb

Total Elapsed Time: 3-4 months (this book plays fast and loose with time to a ridiculous degree)

The Overview:

Robin Wilson is fat, and apparently that’s the most important aspect of her person.  She thinks she and Jessica are best buds, and that Jessica will put her name up during Pi Beta Alpha’s pledging, but Jessica has no plans to do so.  Elizabeth takes pity on Robin and submits her name, pissing Jessica off.  The Pi Beta Alphas put Robin through a series of cruel and humiliating pledge challenges (running the track in front of the entire school, playing volleyball in a bikini, and asking resident asshole Bruce Patman to the Discomarathon).  Robin does all these things and performs them well, but she’s blackballed during the PBA induction ceremony.

This seems to be the final straw for Robin, who begins to run the track at school every morning and trades in her cheesecakes and double burgers for lettuce and hard-boiled eggs.  She loses a ton of weight in a very short period of time, and people start to notice how beautiful she is.  Jessica is furious that Robin now ignores her and rants at length about how ungrateful Robin is about everything she did for her.  This complete disconnect from reality is perhaps the most socipathic behavior Jessica has exhibited in a while.  Robin ends up being elected co-captain of the cheerleading squad, running against Jessica for the title of Miss Sweet Valley High, and winning.  The PBAs offer her a spot in their sorority, and she turns them down, electing instead to stay true to herself and date the quiet string bean Allen Walters, photographer for The Oracle.

The B-Plot revolves around Lila lavishing all sorts of extravagant gifts on Jessica, claiming they are from a mysterious aunt on the other coast.  Elizabeth is suspicious of the presents, and when she sees Lila dressed strangely at the mall swipe a bracelet from the upscale boutique Lisette’s, her fears are confirmed.

Lila calls Elizabeth one afternoon in hysterics, telling her that Jessica has been arrested for stealing.  Liz rushes to the mall, where there’s a confrontation (Liz’s “sleuthing” looked a lot like “lurking”, and Jessica looks a lot like Elizabeth), some mistaken identity, and a shit ton of tears.  Lila finally confesses (not before fainting), and when her dad shows up to sort it all out, she tells him that she’s been acting out because he’s gone all the time.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Bruce Patman is the jerkiest person in thirty-seven states and Mexico,’ Jessica fumed. ‘Any anyway, what does he know?  Beauty is only skin deep, Liz.  Just remember that.  It’s what’s underneath that really counts.'” (124)
  • “…Jessica ignored her.  She was looking in her pocket mirror, trying to figure out why she’d lost.” (145)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Robin’s weight is mentioned or referenced at least 40 times throughout the course of the book.
  • George Fowler takes Liz and Lila out to dinner at the Palomar House (the poshest restaurant in SV) to thank Liz for helping with the shoplifting debacle, and they order: Shrimp scampi, baby lamb chops, asparagus tips, and chocolate souffle.
  • Pop culture references abound in this book, including the following: Jane Fonda, Elvis Pressley, Fantasy Island, Rip van Winkle, and Pinocchio.
  • Both Lila and Elizabeth refer to Jessica as “Jessie” throughout the book.  Way to go, ghostwriter.
  • Speaking of Lila: as of this book, she’s a cheerleader, which doesn’t jive with the continuity of the other books.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s a lot of plot in this book, but I want to focus on the issue of Robin’s weight.  Like I mentioned before, her weight is mentioned, hinted at, or referenced at least 40 times in this 150-page book.  I did not include the times that other girls’ slim figures were mentioned when Robin was around.  The people around Robin constantly refer to her as “tubby,” “fatso,” and the “Queen Mary” to her face.  Even the ghostwriter seems to take pleasure in Robin’s weight, devoting whole passages to describing how Robin devours several candy bars in a sitting before struggling to get out of the couch cushions and describing how she tackles a “whole cherry cheesecake” after hearing she’s a Pi Beta Alpha pledge.

Elizabeth, who is usually so fair and just, thinks about Robin’s weight several times during the book.  She seems disgusted when Robin eats the candy bars, and she doesn’t jump to her defense when Jessica goes on at length about how fat Robin is.  The amount of weight-shaming that goes on in the book is appalling.  It seems, in fact, that Robin is the exception to the rule in Sweet Valley: she is the only fat girl surrounded by a bunch of slender, perfect girls.

Robin’s “pretty face” is mentioned several times in the book, before she begins to rapidly loose the weight, but it is this quote that I found particularly disturbing: “Everybody at Sweet Valley High, even Elizabeth, seemed to forget that there was ever a fat and ugly Robin.  But Robin would never forget.” (129)  Since when does being overweight get equated with being ugly?  Why is it okay to make a pronouncement like this?  Was the world so different in 1984 that sending out the message that fat=ugly was okay and widely accepted?

In the interest of saving time, energy, and my sanity, I’m going to leave it at this.  It’s not the only time that the series pisses me off for a serious reason, but it’s one of the biggest thorns in my side.  The way the issue of weight is treated in this book is completely unacceptable.  For shame, Francine Pascal.  For shame!