Tag Archives: steven wakefield

SVH #119: Jessica’s Older Guy

16 Feb

jessica's older guy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 days

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Liz are smack-dab in the middle of their college-immersion week at SVU.  Jessica is still trying to juggle dating Zach without him finding out that she’s really in high school AND without sorority girl Magda finding out that she’s dating the dude Magda is into.  She’s also still trying to cover for Liz with the sorority, because it’s important to her that they both make a good impression for when they rush in two years.  Jessica also starts to feel serious guilt over lying to Zach about her age, but tries to suppress it, because that’s what she does best.To convince Magda that she’s not dating Zach and stay on her good side, Jessica visits the sorority and lies about Liz, saying that she’s an out-of-control flirt.  The girls buy her story and she’s back in solid with the Thetas or Zetas or whatever the fucking sorority is named.  Then she decides that she will stay at SVU, too.  Because this story makes so much fucking sense.

Meanwhile, Liz has convinced herself that she’s ready to start college like tomorrow and has already told Todd she wants a long-distance relationship.  Her first day at the news internship doesn’t go very well, because her boss is a total lech and she does menial tasks like fetching coffee and making copies.  Then she further embarrasses herself that evening when she opines about capitalism with a bunch of Ian’s Marxist friends, and she’s mortified about how much she doesn’t know.

Todd is understandably not cool with this new revelation, and he angsts about it a lot to Ken, who is unaware that Jessica is totally dating someone else while on a week-long vacation.  Todd drives around and moons over Elizabeth.  It’s been like three days, dude. Chill the fuck out.  He meets with Ken, who is distraught over the news that Jessica has decided not to come back, too, as well as Lila and Enid, and the three brainstorm ways to get the twins back.  They briefly discuss kidnapping and deprogramming, which feels extreme, and finally settle on a bit of reverse-psychology.

It starts to work immediately, because everyone in these books are complete and total idiots.  Enid calls Liz and makes her miss SVH gossip.  Steven and Billie make a huge, healthy breakfast with “tofu salad” to teach the twins about brain food after pulling an all-nighter.  Alice tells them she’s happy to have a break from being a parent.  Whatever, this is the most obvious thing ever.  The culminating event will be a surprise party at Steven and Billie’s on Saturday night with all their SVH friends.  The teens even prepare a slideshow.

Jessica manages to convince Liz to pose as her on the night of the Zeta fraternity dance so she can go with Zach without Magda being the wiser.  Liz reluctantly agrees, and the girls wear dresses that the other would normally wear.  It works, and Jessica is having a great time with Zach while Liz deals with the blind date she’s been set up with via Magda.  Then Magda tells her she just found out that Zach is actually in high school, which Liz finds hilarious.  Todd and Ken crash the party, mistake each twin for the other, and get mad.  Liz and Todd make up immediately but once Ken realizes that Jessica’s been cheating on him, he storms away.  Jessica finds out that Zach is in high school and they both yell and then laugh at the irony.

Back at the apartment, the twins are surprised by the whole gang, minus Ken.  They realize they’re totally being reverse psychology toyed with, but they allow their friends to reminisce all the same.  Everything is well again, and the twins decide to stick with high school.  Jessica catches up with Ken and tells him that it took her cheating on him with Zach to realize she really loves him.  They make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, SVU is 2 hours from Sweet Valley.  Which…what?
  • Outfit alert! Jessica wears a salmon-colored babydoll dress on her picnic with Zach.
  • SVU’s football team is called the Vanguards

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But I feel sorry for you–Elizabeth sounds just awful,” Magda said. (55)
  • “I think the value of capitalism is freedom,” Elizabeth put in, stirring her cappuccino thoughtfully. (72) [AND HERE IS WHERE I LINK TO AYN RAND’S SWEET VALLEY HIGH]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

LOL forever at Liz deciding she’s just going to stay at SVU.  Like that’s how it works.  I actually can’t even snark on this because it’s so dumb.

What are the odds that the totally inappropriate dude Jessica has been seeing is also in high school and is also lying about attending college at SVU?  Pretty slim, right?

Something that really bothered me in this book is how Jessica continues to cheat on Ken but the second she sees him again she realizes that she really loves him.  I realize that in order to keep the books about the twins interesting, the ghost writer has to feature stories about them meeting new dudes and falling in love (see: how boring Todd and Liz are all the time because they’re so static), but then have Jessica be single.  There’s no reason for her to chronically cheat on her steady boyfriend like this only to “learn her lesson” and go back to him because he’s her true love.  Like, it sends such a weird message and it really chafes me.

SVH #118: College Weekend

13 Feb

college weekend

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth have been granted a week off of school to go visit Sweet Valley University to get a taste of “college life.”  The twins will be staying with Steven and Billie, and both are excited for very different reasons.  Even before they arrive, Jessica has planned to throw a party in Steven’s apartment that very night and has invited a bunch of frat boys.  When they arrive, they find out that Steven and Billie have reservations to stay at a bed and breakfast that weekend, leaving the twins alone.  Jessica thinks this is perfect and decides to go ahead with the party, without telling Steven or Billie about it, and despite the fact that Steven mentions they’ve already gotten noise complaint warnings from their grouchy landlord.

But of course the party spins out of control and the place gets totally trashed.  Liz tries to control it but lets Jessica and everyone else walk all over her, including the dudes who bring a keg of beer to the event.  Liz clutches her pearls about this a lot, and she tries to get Jessica to help her kick everyone out, but Jessica is preoccupied by Zach Marsden, a new cute boy she’s met.  She tells Zach she’s a junior-transfer from Princeton and then has the gall to say that even though Liz and her look identical, she’s really Elizabeth’s older sister.  The two make plans to go out again soon.  The police show up and threaten to card everyone, which finally makes the party disperse.  Too tired to clean the place up, the girls decide to do it in the morning.

Only Steven and Billie show up in the middle of the night because the bed and breakfast they were staying it was a rundown house with a gross attic bedroom.  Steven goes ballistic, and they all clean the place up.  He threatens to call Ma and Pa Wakefield, but Jessica blackmails him into staying quiet because he did leave them alone, after all.

The next day, Jessica meets up with Zach after feigning a headache, and Liz tags along with Steven and Billie to study and get some more campus life experiences.  Jessica is super into Zach, but she is doing mental gymnastics to keep her lies about being in college going.  She continues to dig herself into a hole, especially after they run into a guy who went to SVH and definitely knows her.  When they attend a philosophy lecture together, they run into Billie, but Jessica is able to lead her into agreeing with her story.  Zach has made a bunch of irritating comments about the maturity of high schoolers and about “dumb” women, and Jessica is convinced he won’t like her if he finds out the truth.

Meanwhile, Liz attends a journalism seminar with Ian, a smart guy she met at the party.  The professor is journalism-famous and is also kind of a pompous windbag, and she and Liz get into it immediately over the merits of print versus TV journalism.  The professor challenges the class to write a thousand-word essay on a topic of their choice and invites Liz to participate. She stays up all night writing the essay, and when they arrive at class the next evening, the professor announces that Liz’s essay has won.  The woman tells her she’ll be published in a magazine and has won an internship with the college’s newspaper.  She also tells Liz that she should get her GED stat and enroll in college immediately.

Jessica attends a rush party for Theta house, the most prestigious sorority on campus.  It’s also the sorority that Alice was president of when she was a senior at SVU.  Jessica gets along with everyone until Maga, the sorority’s treasurer, tells her that she has her eye set on Zach!  Jessica feels like she’s in the middle of a dilemma based on how much she likes Zach and the fact that she’s lying to him, has a boyfriend already, and knows that a sorority sister (potential, anyway) wants him to herself.  Whatever, I hardly care.

The book ends with the lamest cliff-hanger ever where Liz storms into Steven and Billie’s apartment and tells them she’s starting college immediately and wants to be their roommate.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Liz joins in a discussion about black literature, and the titles name-dropped are The Color Purple, Invisible Man, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  • Jessica gets excited about watching late-night talk shows because Ned and Alice don’t allow it at home. What?
  • Jessica refers to her SVH sorority as Phi Beta Alpha, but it’s Pi Beta. Nice one.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “That doesn’t matter,” the girl interrupted. “I’d like to know how you feel. Do you think black men can speak for black women?” [She asks of Liz, the whitest woman in the history of ever]
  • College guys liked girls who could hold deep and meaningful conversations. (68)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a ton to say about this one, really.  I think it’s interesting to note that Steven and Billie seem to sleep in the same bedroom, despite the fact that I was convinced it was a 2-bedroom back when they did the original meet-cute story line.  There’s no mention of actual sex, but it is alluded to.  Which, par for the course with this series, right?

I also think it’s weird that the series continues to let Jessica go out with dudes that are so much older than her and there’s never any real mention of how completely inappropriate it is.  Whether or not the guy thinks she’s older than she is, she knows she’s 16 and shouldn’t be with a 21-year-old.  At one point, Billie says “you guys are adults” and I actually yelled “NO THEY ARE NOT!” because they are 16.  It makes no sense! Save the adult storylines for when they’re actually adults, guys.

Okay, enough pearl-clutching on my end.  I wonder if Liz will really start college early?!?!?

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: 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 #100: The Evil Twin

13 Jun

the evil twin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week or so

Summary/Overview:

It is Christmas AGAIN in Sweet Valley.

Jessica is sad because she’s still fighting with Elizabeth and is lonely.  She sulks through the special school assembly where Liz announces The Oracle’s plans to feature new columnists after the break, and then when she gets a special candy cane delivery during math class, she’s surprised to see the card signed “Happy Horrordays, Jessica.”

James blows Jessica off and she is sad.  Elizabeth yells at her and she is sad some more.  Then James breaks up with her over the phone even though he totally loves her and she feels even sadder.  When he calls her after Christmas and asks her to meet him at the old marina, she begs Liz and Todd for a ride, since Steven has taken the Jeep to drive Alice and Ned to the airport.  They get there in time to see James get pushed over the edge of the marina by someone.  Todd tackles who he thinks is the assailant, but it’s really Josh, who was trying to stop Margo.  Jessica faints.

Elizabeth gets a special candy cane and card, too.  Hers says something about “Decking the halls with bloody bodies.”  Todd throws the card away and tells her not to worry about it.  Elizabeth goes into her room and finds things mussed up and assumes it’s Jessica’s handiwork.  When Jessica tries to talk to Liz, she blows up at her about it.

Liz dreams about the night of the Jungle Prom and the punch she drank is featured prominently.  When she wakes up, she can’t figure out what about the dream was important.

Margo trolls the halls of Sweet Valley High, trying to gain as much information about Elizabeth as she can before she assumes her life.  She meets James at Kelly’s Bar, and he tells her he wants off the payroll.  She accuses him of falling in love with Jessica, then tells him she doesn’t need his services any more.  But then she threatens him with death if he so much as looks at Jessica again.

She sneaks into the Wakefield house as Liz and hugs Alice, who can’t help but feel weird about the encounter.  She snoops around Liz’s room, reads her diary, and is generally a creeper.  She goes out with Todd as Liz and goes to the mall with Lila as Jessica.  She continues to weave in and out of the house, pretending to be Liz when it’s convenient and causing inconsistencies in everyone’s stories.

Josh Smith is still hot on Margo’s trail, trying to find her and also trying to figure out what she’s doing in Sweet Valley.  He investigates some local unsolved mysteries, including the death of the woman Margo ran over in order to take her job at the catering company and makes connections.

He finally finds the room she’s been renting and breaks in.  There, he finds her walls are covered with stuff about the Wakefield twins.  She’s also written “I am Elizabeth” in red lipstick.

At this point, it’s probably just easier to merge the story lines.  After James is murdered on the marina dock, Todd tackles Josh to the ground.  Margo escapes and calls the police.  Todd and the twins go down to make a statement to the police about what they say.  Josh tries to warn Todd that there’s a psycho on the loose, and despite the fact that Todd is creeped out, he doesn’t seem to put together the weird events of the past several days or weeks or whatever.

Both twins continue to have nightmares and wake up screaming.  Steven tries to comfort them.  Meanwhile, Margo intercepts a phone call from Alice about the disastrous trip they’re on.  It takes for fucking ever for Ned and Alice to realize they’ve been scammed, but then they can’t get a flight back to Sweet Valley because of inclement weather.

Meanwhile, Josh escapes from jail.  Despite the radio alerts that go out about him, he’s determined to get to Margo.  She’s putting her plan into full motion, making sure that Jessica offers “Liz” the right dress she can duplicate for Lila’s New Year’s Eve party.

Liz continues to have nightmares about the night of the Jungle Prom until she finally pieces together the fact that Jessica spiked her punch.  Feeling more betrayed than ever, she cries a bunch.

At the party, everyone looks great and is having a good time.  Margo manages to get Todd alone and makes out with him, but he realizes it isn’t Liz and finally the pieces come together for him.  But Margo knocks him unconscious and runs to find Liz.  She convinces Liz to meet her in the pool house.  When Liz gets there, Margo corners her with a knife.

But Jessica knows Liz  is in danger when she sees her head outside into the rain.  She struggles to get there in time, and then throws herself in front of Margo so she can’t hurt Elizabeth.  There’s a struggle, and then Josh comes in after tussling with Steven (who has rushed to the party because why not) and pushes Margo through a window.  Margo falls to a bloody death.  The twins are saved–and finally reunited.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Josh is staying at the Dunes Motel
  • When Margo applied for the catering job, she apparently used the name Margaret Wake. Weird.
  • Lila has a signature flavor of ice cream at Casey’s: Million Dollar Mocha.
  • Despite the fact that the Beckwiths no longer live on Calico Drive because Annie Whitman moved into their house, Alice tells the kids she left their hotel information with them.  JESUS GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Margo was demonic, but her madness had a method to it.” (31) [Blogger’s note: THIS IS NEWS TO ME]
  • “Was murderous violence Margo’s answer to everything? Was no crime too heinous?” (67)
  • “‘Having somebody murdered really puts a damper on things,’ Lila observed.” (215)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  The book is bonkers and BEYOND the realms of even the slightest possibilities.  I think the thing that bothers me most about this one is how dumb everyone is for so long.  The biggest problem here is that there are multiple times where someone mentions an outing or conversation to Jessica or Elizabeth that they have no recollection of, and yet somehow choose to conveniently ignore it.  If someone was like, “It was fun trying on dresses at the mall with you the other day,” and I had no memory of the event, I would be LEGITIMATELY WORRIED.

Whatever, at least this mini-series is over.

SVH #97: The Verdict

4 Jun

theverdict

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth goes on trial for manslaughter.  She feels lonely and alone, because Jessica won’t talk to her, Todd is cheating on her with Jessica, and her mother has turned into a zombie 50s housewife.  When she gets on the witness stand, she can’t really give testimony because she can’t remember.  This is seriously the most boring trial ever.  At one point, Liz takes the bus to the ocean and contemplates suicide.  On the last day of the trial, Ned calls a surprise witness–a man named Gilbert–who was drunk driving the night of the accident and swerved into the path of the Jeep. He sideswiped the vehicle and caused the accident.  With this news, the judge rules Elizabeth guilty of drunk driving but not of vehicular manslaughter.  The Wakefields (sans Jessica) rejoice.

Jessica continues to go out with Todd, including to the beach disco the night before the start of the trial.  They slow dance and make out.  She worries constantly about losing him to Liz and is generally a crazy person, doing everything she can into manipulating him to stay with her.  She intercepts a letter Todd wrote to Elizabeth and hides it from her sister, lying to Todd about how Liz read it and ripped it up when he asks about it.  Despite the fact that Todd is clearly miserable and the fact that Jessica is exhibiting signs of a psychotic break, the two continue to see each other.

Lila watches her parents reminisce about when they were young and in love and wonders if they could ever be a real unit again.  When she asks her mom if she’s thought about moving back to Sweet Valley, Grace tells Lila about why she left.  She tells her that she threatened to take Lila and leave George because he was a workaholic.  George told Grace that if she tried, he’d sue her for full custody and prove she was an unfit mother.  And then he did just that.  So Grace fled to Paris.  Jesus.

Bruce is still refusing to speak to Pamela, who has transferred to SVH.  He continues to be really cruel to her in public, and doesn’t seem to care that she keeps crying.  This story is so fucking boring.  When Amy and Lila see Pamela volunteering at Project Youth, they decide to give her a chance and become fast friends.  Then Amy tells Bruce how wrong everyone was about Pamela, and he finally finds her (and rescues her from some dude trying to take her out) and they embrace.

Steven is enjoying living with his new female roommate, Billie Winkler.  She’s a great cook and decorator and is very empathetic.  The two share some creepy, totally not-normal-roommate-behavior moments before Steven goes home for the trial.  When a classmate mentions that he heard Steven’s mom is really losing it, Steven gets super pissed, wondering who could be spreading rumors about the family and then comes to the totally logical conclusion that it must have been Billie.  He goes off on her and she tells him she’ll move out.  When Steven finally realizes that it was Jessica who was talking about how unhinged Alice has become, he takes a while to work up the nerve to apologize to Billie.

Margo arrives in Los Angeles and promptly runs into Josh, the brother of Georgie, who she killed.  He confronts her in a diner, but she escapes and boards a train to San Diego instead of Sweet Valley as a way to throw police off the scent.  When she finally arrives in Sweet Valley, she buys a blond wig and thinks about how she’ll soon take over Elizabeth’s life.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The district attorney prosecuting Elizabeth’s case is named Hempstead Dilworth, and that is legitimately the most amazing thing this series has ever done.
  • Liz’s license has been “indefinitely” suspended because of the accident and the trial.
  • According to Grace, she was 19 when she met George, and he was 27.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Wakefield Manslaughter Trial Starts Tomorrow,’ she read. Lila shivered. ‘Manslaughter trial–they make it sound like she’s a serial killer or something!'” (20) [Blogger’s note: you’re an idiot.]
  • What’s she doing here, anyway? he wondered as he sauntered down the hall, hoping everyone could see that Pamela Robertson meant absolutely nothing to him. Has she slept with all the guys in Big Mesa? Did she switch schools so she could make some new conquests?” (26)
  • “Couldn’t he see that Jessica was the one he was meant to be with? Hadn’t they secretly been drawn to each other from the very beginning? We would have been going steady ages ago, if Liz hadn’t stolen him away from me, Jessica reflected.” (64)
  • “‘That’s what families are for,’ Steven declared, his own eyes damp. ‘When everything else is falling apart, your family will always be there for you. We would never have let you face something like this on your own.'” (169)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  Okay, first of all, let’s talk about the fact that this new mini-series format makes each story line absolutely interminable.  These stories have no substance and are severely underplotted, but go on FOREVER.  There was no reason to have Bruce and Pamela stretch their will-they-won’t-they stuff over three books.  The trial of Elizabeth Wakefield didn’t need three books, either, especially because the trial itself was over in a week.  JEEZY CHREEZY.  Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Jessica needs serious psychological help. I don’t feel qualified to go any further, but seriously.

Not going to lie: I will never understand the rational for the trial plot-twist readers are treated to in this one.  So Elizabeth isn’t guilty for the death of Sam even though she was intoxicated because the eyewitness testimony of someone who was also drunk says “she was driving just fine”? Like, this is seriously all it takes?  It’s such a bizarre plot twist (the first and perhaps most ominous of those to come) and such a way of providing an out so Elizabeth isn’t a murderer.

 

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 #94: Are We in Love?

26 May

areweinlove

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Steven Wakefield and Cheryl Thomas have been spending a lot of time together.  They get along well and Steven has been teaching Cheryl to drive (stick).  They notice that everyone seems to think they’re dating, and they aren’t sure how they feel about it.  Everyone has an opinion about an interracial relationship, and they aren’t shy about them.  Most of these opinions are super, super racist, by the way.

One night, Steven and Cheryl go to a restaurant for a bite and they’re hassled by some skinheads.  It shakes them both up, and after they leave, they embrace on the beach and then end up kissing.  Because of this, or because they feel like they have something to prove, the two start dating.  It’s clear from the start that neither one is into the other, though.  Both agonize over how to deal with this privately, because they want to prove that people of different races can be attracted to each other.

This drags on for over 150 pages.  They continue to date, mostly to prove a point, while also dealing with casual racism and ignorance at every turn.  Jessica tries to be super supportive because she loves the idea of her brother being a trailblazer, but it just makes everyone feel even more awkward.

It isn’t until the wedding of Cheryl’s father and Annie’s mother that Cheryl finally comes clean to Steven by making her toast to her parents all about love and standing up for it or something.  The point is, she’s just not into him.  They laugh it off, embrace, and decide to just be friends.  Everyone celebrates the marriage of Walter and Mrs. Whitman! Hooray!

The B-Plot involves Jessica baking the wedding cake for the wedding.  Shenanigans ensue.  I can’t bring myself to care.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Steven takes Cheryl to the Crooked Canyon Cafe, which has Mexican food and burgers.
  • Marpa Heights is a town near Sweet Valley, though this is the first we as readers have heard of it.
  • Apparently Steven has friends, because they all go with him to the Beach Disco one night, including token black friend Martin Bell
  • Jess and Liz talk about their future weddings. Liz would want Enid, Penny, Olivia, and Jessica to be bridesmaids, and they’d wear cornflower-blue dresses.  She thinks Todd would pick his dad to be his best man (WHAT?) and Winston, Ken, and Aaron would be ushers.  WHAT IS THIS?
  • Andrea Slade and Nicholas Morrow have broken up.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Look, all I’m saying is that Steven could have any girl in Sweet Valley,’ Lila defended herself. ‘Cheryl’s fine for a friend, but I think it’s kind of odd that he’d like her that way.'” (19)
  • “She looked over at Steven, feeling something like awe. My big brother is half of the very first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High!” (20) [blogger’s note: LOL WHAT?]
  • “Why is everybody so racist?” (51)
  • “She and Steven had needed to hug, to kiss. Cheryl’s eyes stung with tears. They had come together, briefly, for the right reason. But they had stayed together for the wrong one.” (130)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is the last of the regular series books.  After this, it’s all mini-series, all the time.  I’m excited for the shake-up, but this book as the conclusion to the traditional run of the series is TERRIBLE.

The problems here are myriad, but one that sticks out is that the book seems to have taken the issues of race, racism, and identity in the last book and run with them.  What was problematic (and it was super, super problematic) in the last book is off the charts bizarre here.  While readers are supposed to recognize the blatant displays of racism on the pages here, where characters talk about race in a blatant, horrible way, there’s also a lot of weird, underlying racism intrinsic to the story.

Both Steven and Cheryl think a lot about the fact that they’ve never dated someone of the other race, and they worry that it’s because they can’t be attracted to someone of the other race.  This is a theme revisited again and again by multiple characters in the book, and it is weird and oddly tone-deaf, considering the fact that the book culminates in the wedding of Walter Thomas and Mrs. Whitman, people of different races.

But also worrying is the fact that everyone keeps talking about the fact that Steven and Cheryl will be the first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High (nevermind the fact that they won’t actually appear at SVH because Steven is [allegedly] in college).

I’m sorry, but what?  Haven’t we dealt with this before?  There are at least three other coupes at SVH who are interracial.  This issue has been dealt with before.  I read this as the (presumably white) writers acknowledging their own bias in that a white person dating a black person is, in some way, a “bigger deal” than a white person dating someone who is Hispanic or Asian or whatever.  Which is totally FUCKED.

Okay, enough with the race stuff, SVH.  This is starting to really bother me.

 

SVH #93: Stepsisters

23 May

stepsisters

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Annie Whitman’s mom has been spending a lot of time in New York as part of her work as a fashion model (strictly catalog work, Annie is quick to tell her friends), and when she comes back from her latest month-long trip (leaving Annie alone, I guess?), she tells her that she’s been seeing a man in New York–a photographer named Walter Thomas, and the two of them are getting married! Walter has a daughter about Annie’s age named Cheryl, and the two of them will be moving to Sweet Valley.  Oh, and they’re black.  Annie is stunned but works hard to not be prejudiced about the fact that her new family will look different from her.  Whatever, I hate this book already.

In the span of like a day of this news, Annie’s mom buys the house next door to the Wakefield twins, and within the week, the new family is moving in, Walter and Cheryl already in tow.  The twins are excited about the new neighbors and are totally cool about Cheryl.  They help the girls unpack and notice that things between Annie and Cheryl are already tense, despite the fact that it’s clear Annie is trying as hard as she can to make Cheryl comfortable.  The problem is, Annie’s so concerned with not being a racist that she ends up being super, super racist, obsessing over color and inviting a bunch of students of color to the party she throws in Cheryl’s honor even though she’s not good friends with them.  She also doesn’t tell anyone that Cheryl is black before they meet her, making the situation even weirder.

Annie keeps trying to include Cheryl in her life, but everything keeps going wrong.  She encourages her to join Pi Beta Alpha and go to football games, even though neither is Cheryl’s scene. The two continue to resent one another but neither one is willing to admit it out loud.  At a pool party at Suzanne Hanlon’s house, Cheryl makes a little speech thanking the PBAs for considering her for membership, but then declines to even pledge.  She also accuses Annie of trying to make her fit in by turning her white.

Eventually, the two figure out a way to talk to one another, but it takes a trip to the hospital to do so.  Annie’s mother had appendicitis–but she’s fine now.  The girls decide to allow them to be themselves or something, and all is well with the world.  Cheryl also starts flirting pretty seriously with Steven Wakefield.

Oh, and Annie and Tony Esteban get back together.  YAWN.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Cheryl’s friends spend their summers at Blue Water, a place for musicians
  • Cheryl is a lacto-ovo-vegetarian
  • Rhomboid is a new up-and-coming band.  The name is literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
  • Annie throws a party for Cheryl at their house the DAY AFTER they move in.  Jesus, that’s fast.
  • Apparently Annie is quite the cook?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Annie thought carefully about the question. She was friends with Patsy Gilbert and Andy Jenkins, who were black, and Rosa Jameson and Manuel Lopez, who were Hispanic, and she could honestly say that she didn’t think about their skin colors or ethnic backgrounds any more than she did about, say, Jessica and Elizabeth’s English and Swedish background.” (13) [Blogger’s note: Are you fucking kidding me?]
  • “‘You actually have sororities in high school here?’ Cheryl asked, sounding surprised. ‘Sweet Valley sounds like something out of a 1950’s beach-party movie–football, cheerleaders, sororities, surfing. I suppose you have a burger joint, too?'” (75)
  • “‘And there’s something else I wanted to ask you about,’ Cheryl went on, looking a little troubled. ‘What gives with all these black, Asian, and Hispanic kids here? I don’t think I’ve seen this many people of color since I got to Sweet Valley, and certainly not in place.'” (86)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Guys, this book is fucked.  Like, seriously, seriously fucked.  It’s hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure that the underlying message of the book is that skin color doesn’t matter and that people who worry about whether or not it does are doing the real anti-racist work, but the message is so, so wrong and so convoluted it’s hard to tell.  Annie’s obsession (and seriously, she is OBSESSED) with the fact that Cheryl is black is so hard to read, because I think we’re supposed to identify with Annie?  We’re supposed to think that because she’s worrying about it, it means she’s not racist?  When the reality is that she comes off as more racist than anyone else, even Suzanne Hanlon, who is clearly a racist little twat?

There were so many moments when I laughed out loud because I was completely incredulous about what was being said or done in the book.  Take this quote, for instance:

‘I’m sure you have less to worry about than you think,’ Elizabeth suggested. ‘Maybe you should talk to Patty or Tracy Gilbert, or maybe Andy Jenkins. I know Andy did have that trouble with Charlie Cashman, but aside from that I don’t think he or any of the other black kids have had much reason to feel uncomfortable at Sweet Valley High.’ (40)

She’s talking about that time that Andy Jenkins was jumped by five guys, punched in the stomach by his best friend, and was hospitalized.  You know, “that trouble” where Andy was the victim of racialized violence.  But apart from that, students of color at Sweet Valley don’t worry about racism in their high school or their town!

Except for when Rosa Jameson lied about her ethnic heritage because she was afraid that students wouldn’t accept her.  And when Sandy Bacon dealt with comments about the fact that her boyfriend, Manuel Lopez, was Hispanic and she was white.  Except for those incidents.

Also, how completely fucked is it that Liz is speaking on behalf of students of color to begin with?  YOU ARE THE PROBLEM, LIZ.

Ugh, I just can’t.

 

SVH #83: Steven’s Bride

21 Apr

steven's brideCan you say “Child Bride”?

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Cara Walker is acting weird at the Wakefield’s impromptu barbeque-pool party.  When Steven presses her about it later, she admits that the trip to London she just took with her mom was more permanent than originally thought: she and her mother are moving there in three weeks! Steven is devastated, because all the girls he loves leave him.  Miserable, he sulks around about Cara’s impending departure until Jessica is struck with a brilliant idea while watching Love Story: Steve and Cara should get married!  This will end well.  Instead of telling Jessica she’s an insane person, Steven agrees and rushes over to Cara’s apartment to propose.

Cara thinks about it for like five seconds before saying yes, telling herself that it will solve all her problems: she won’t have to leave Sweet Valley, and she can throw loud parties whenever she wants once they have an apartment of their own.  Um, okay.  The two vow to keep it a secret until after they get married (a few days before Cara is set to leave with her mom), and they ask Jessica to keep the secret, too.  But Jessica is physically incapable of doing so, because she keeps dropping heavy hints at school and home about Steven and Cara’s plans.  Even though Steven has told everyone that Cara is going on a ski trip with some of his college friends the weekend before she leaves, people start to get suspicious.

Elizabeth figures it out when the jewelry store calls the house to let Steven know the engraved rings he ordered are ready.  Elizabeth even wonders why Steven would give the store the phone number for the house instead of his dorm, but simply pointing that out doesn’t make it any less IDIOTIC.  When she confronts Jessica about it, Jess comes clean.  When she confronts Steven about it, he sort of brushes her off and is like, “this is happening!”

Jessica ends up telling Lila and Amy about Cara’s plans, and the girls decide to throw a secret bridal shower for her.  The bridal shower ends up being not so secret, as nearly all the cheerleaders are there.  Cara is super uncomfortable the whole time, wincing when people refer to her as the bride and positively melting down when she realizes that marriage equals sex.  This never occurred to her?  Really?  She ruminates over the fact that she doesn’t feel ready for sex, which probably means she definitely isn’t ready for marriage.  When her father calls and tells her he’s coming for a visit and has a surprise, her brain leaps to a parental reconciliation, for some reason.  She figures this would solve all her problems and she won’t have to leave Sweet Valley–or get married!

But it turns out her father’s news is that he’s marrying someone else–a woman with auburn hair named Julia–and Cara is furious at HER MOTHER for it.  She accuses her mother of blowing her chance to put the family back together and then decides to really commit to marrying Steven.  That will show her family!

Meanwhile, Steven is stressing about what married life will mean for him.  He goes apartment hunting for something in their price range (free?) and then angsts about the fact that he got into the accelerated law program at his school.  Realizing that he can’t be married and do the law program, he tells his family he didn’t get in.  But when Jessica finds the acceptance letter, she realizes that the marriage is a terrible idea after all and decides she has to drop hints to Cara and Steven to get them to change their minds.

Nothing she does seems to work, though.  Cara babysits for a family with awful children one night but is able to laugh it off, even after Jessica lays it on thick that Cara and Steven will have TONS of kids someday soon.  Then she takes Cara shopping for boring housewares stuff and tries to stress how much everything costs.  When that doesn’t work, Jessica spills the beans about the fact that Steven got into the law program and lied about it.  Cara feels bad.

The day of the wedding, Steven is feeling pretty resolved about marrying Cara, and she is filled with doubts.  They arrive at the chapel in Nevada and being the proceedings.  Steven says “I do” and Cara says “No” just as the entire Wakefield family and Cara’s mother burst in to stop the ceremony.  Steven runs out, feeling betrayed.

Lila throws Cara  a going-away party and Liz REFUSES to come because she’s butthurt that Cara would hurt Steven like that.  Apparently Liz doesn’t think that telling her parents about the wedding to stop it is the same as Cara stopping it?  I can’t figure this out at all.  Liz is the LITERAL WORST.  Cara is sad, and ends up calling Liz and asking her to meet her at the Dairi Burger.  The two girls meet, hash it out, and Liz ends up feeling so bad she tells Steven about how much Cara loves him.

Steven rushes to the airport in what is supposed to be a tense scene.  He catches Cara right before she’s about to board, and they swear their love to each other and have one last kiss.  Steven is sad, Cara is sad, but at least they parted without misunderstanding.  Or whatever.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Steve’s roommate is named Bob?
  • Despite proclaiming to hate popcorn the previous book, Jessica eats a big bowl of it in this one.
  • Jessica makes Sam watch Love Story on TV, a movie she has seen “at least three or four times.”
  • Cara’s bridal shower gifts: a VHS copy of Barefoot in the Park, lace-trimmed silk negligee, bath towels, plastic tumblers and an ice bucket, a black lace teddy

Memorable Quotes:

  • You can’t go, he repeated silently. Don’t go. Don’t leave me like Tricia did.” (13)
  • “‘You’re not really engaged if you don’t have a diamond,’ Lila said decidedly. ‘No man’s marrying me until I have a big fat rock on my finger.'” (52)
  • “Of course marriage meant sex. Everybody knew that. So why hadn’t it occurred to her?” (65)
  • “‘You can’t be sure of that,’ Jessica pointed out. ‘You know the facts of life as well as I do.  Even when you use birth control, accidents can happen.'” (106)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

As far as the novels go, this wasn’t horrific in terms of having to slog through it.  But I couldn’t seem to suspend disbelief when it came to a couple of different things: the lack of awareness of the logistics of marriage and the lack of understanding of how laws work.

Okay, first of all, let’s talk about laws.  Even in the crazy state of Nevada, both parties entering into a marriage must be at least 18 years of age or have consent from the parents.  This is never once mentioned throughout the entire book.  Cara is 16, so are we to believe she either lied about her age or forged consent from a parent?  Wouldn’t the parent actually have to be present?  Either way, this marriage wouldn’t be legal and would have no standing as such.  It’s weird to me that Steven, a dude obsessed with becoming a lawyer, wouldn’t think about this at least once.

Second of all, while the book gets props for actually saying the word “sex” more than once (twice, by my count) and talking, albeit nervously, about life after marriage, it’s completely disingenuous to me that Cara wouldn’t have thought about sex.  It’s weird that these teens never talk or think about sex in any real, authentic way.  It might be the thing that bothers me most about the series as a whole (it’s not, but I’m being hyperbolic).

Look, I get that not everyone is ready for sex at 16.  It’s cool that Cara isn’t ready to have sex with Steven, and I think that’s a fine message to send to readers. Whatever.  But the fact is, she’s dating a dude who is in college, and sex would be an issue for them.  They’re alone in his dorm a lot.  There would be conversations about this.  To think that the idea of sex has never occurred to Cara is completely ridiculous.

What is Sweet Valley doing to all its teens? Are they putting some sort of weird libido-crushing drug in the water?