Tag Archives: the big game

SVH #117: Jessica the Genius

11 Feb

jessicagenius

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

 

SVH #114: V for Victory

29 Aug

v for victory

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week?

Summary/Overview:

The SVH cheerleaders have won the state championships and are on their way to regionals, but Jessica and Heather are still bickering over every stupid thing imaginable.  Liz is, for some reason, still cheerleading, even though Jess let it slip that she and Ken used to to totally hook up.  When the cheerleaders mistake Liz for Jess and lift her up to celebrate her, Jessica runs off and cries and is super mad at Liz.

Liz tries to tell Jess that she and Ken are over and their feelings for one another are resolved, but Jessica is convinced she’s a boyfriend stealing bitch.  Todd is also not interested in hearing what Liz has to say and breaks up with her.  By the time the girls are on the bus (they decorated it) to Yosemite for nationals, Todd realizes he still loves Liz.  After he and Ken have a huge fight in the hall at Sweet Valley, they decide to road trip to Yosemite to win them back.  Great! Not at all boring!

There’s a cheerleading camp with cabins, because of course.  The SVH squad is rooming with a group from Alabama, so there’s lots of Southern twang stuff that’s totally hilarious.  THEN Heather’s old squad from when she lived in Reno shows up, and Heather gets kind of twitchy.  She finds a newspaper clipping about how she was kicked off her old squad, and there’s a special note from Marissa James, who is the captain of the Reno squad.  Heather messes up all the routines the next day, but WHY?!

Because the cheerleading camp is girls-only, the boys (Ken, Todd, and Winston, for some reason) can’t get in.  Instead of admitting defeat, they decide to dress up as girls.  This will end well.

Jessica calls Heather out on her crap, and Heather argues with her before telling her about how she cheated on a math test and got booted from the squad.  The girls tell the rest of the squad, who decide that Marissa is the worst person ever.  The next morning, the squad finds that they can’t leave their cabin because Marissa has locked the door from the outside (what?) and blocked all the windows.  When the girls don’t show up for the contest, the boys (dressed as girls) come and rescue them.  Everyone laughs about their terrible cross-dressing attempt.  Okay.  Jess and Liz make up because the sight of boys dressed as girls makes them laugh so hard they can’t stay mad at each other.

Before they’re set to perform, they decide to prank the dudes and call them up to do a routine.  They can just do that in the middle of a competition?  At any rate, the dudes suck, but they also start sliding all over the floor.  The girls realize the stage has been tampered with.  The Reno squad admits to sabotage and are disqualified.  The SVH cheerleaders perform and take second place.  Everyone makes up with everyone else. Thank FUCK this mini-series is over.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Despite the super sparkly uniforms on the cover (terrible artwork, though), I’m not sure the uniforms ever look like that.
  • Lila makes a reference to the Bobbsey twins, which was about the most exciting thing in this book.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Something’s up here, Elizabeth thought, her reporter’s nose sensing trouble.” (25)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Although it’s a common refrain on this blog lately, I carried this book around for like two weeks before finally getting down to it.  It’s weird, because I love the movie Bring it On, but reading about the SVH cheerleaders and their struggles to reach nationals is so completely boring I can’t even believe I finally made it through.  I don’t understand any of the characters or their motivations in this book.

Like, why did Heather think that she had to conceal the reason she got kicked off the squad to the point where she intentionally sabotaged her own team?  Why are Liz and Jess the worst?  Why is Todd so boring?  Why couldn’t the boys wait three days for the girls to return to Sweet Valley?  NO ONE CARES.

SVH #112: Jessica Quits the Squad

13 Aug

jessica quits

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is trying to get over that whole unpleasant episode with Jeremy, the money-grubbing sociopath and has thrown herself fully into the cheerleading world once again.  This doesn’t go as smoothly as she’d like when new girl Heather Mallone shows up and starts stealing the spotlight from her.  Heather was a big deal cheerleader at her old school and walks her way onto the team with very little effort.  Despite Jessica’s best attempts to get the better of her, Heather keeps laying on the sickly sweet act and messing up Jessica’s plans to rule the school.

Jessica decides to make Heather perform a series of tests to prove her worthiness or something.  She suggests having Heather sit at the chess club table at lunch two days in a row.  Then she has to wear a totally embarrassing outfit.  Jessica has her sing the national anthem in front of a class.  I don’t get how any of these things are that embarrassing, but whatever.  All of these “tests” backfire in Jessica’s face, as Heather manages to pull each one off with panache and grace.  She ends up on the cheerleading squad.

Robin Wilson announces that her dad has accepted a job transfer to Denver, Colorado.  Jessica is worried this means that Heather will make a play for the co-captain spot.  At the going-away party, she announces Heather’s ascension to co-captain.  When Jessica catches Heather flirting with Ken, she “accidentally” bumps into her, sending her straight into the pool.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth OBSESSES over the fact that Ken Matthews and Jess have started dating and are now the school’s “it” couple.  She keeps angsting over the fact that she and Ken hooked up a couple of times while Todd lived in Vermont, even though this totally didn’t happen except for in her Secret Diary.  I still declare those books anathema, so it’s hard for me to get behind this.  She goes to see Mr. Collins and asks for advice for “her friend.”  He tells her she needs to tell her “friend” that until she and this guy resolve their feelings for one another, there will be jealousy and hurt in the air.  Liz takes this to mean she should hide her feelings inside.  Okay.

At the party at Amy’s, Liz is so jealous when she sees Jessica and Ken dancing together that she suggests they all switch partners.  Then she can’t talk to Ken, gets upset, and runs away.  When Jessica asks Ken about it, he gets weirdly defensive.  In fact, both he and Liz are super weird to Jess about the other, but she still doesn’t put it together.  Liz keeps telling Jess that “anything could happen” which is a weird way to warn her off of Ken.

Heather takes over as co-captain and starts pissing Jess off immediately by changing the time practice starts and not telling her and then condescending to every suggestion Jess makes for their cheers.  When she starts harshly criticizing the other cheerleaders’ dance moves, Jessica gleefully thinks it won’t be long before everyone hates her.  But then she finds out that Heather invited a bunch of girls and guys (including Ken) over for a “dinner party” and didn’t invite her.  When Jessica asks Lila about it, Lila says it’s because Heather thinks Jessica doesn’t like her and really wants to be friends.

Then Heather kicks Sandy Bacon and Maria Santelli off the squad on a day when Jessica is home sick.  When Jessica confronts her about it, she pulls out a rule book and references an obscure loophole that lets her make that kind of decision without Jessica present.  Jessica declares war on Heather.  But before she can really do anything, she realizes that Heather has completely brainwashed the entire squad, as well as having put them on a crazy restrictive diet and exercise plan.  She feels frustrated.  The night of a big game, Jessica watches in horror as the team performs a cheer she doesn’t know.  Furious and humiliated, she yells at Heather, quits the squad, and runs off the field.

Ken tries to cheer her up, but she’s seen pictures of Ken and Liz together and has doubts about his feelings for her.  When she gets home that night, choosing to skip the pool party at Lila’s, she digs up Liz’s diary and confirms her suspicions: Liz and Ken had an “affair” back when Todd was gone.  Jessica cries.  And…scene!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Heather Malone drives a white Mazda Miata and has a vanity license plate that says “Cheerleader”
  • At Amy’s goodbye party for Robin, everyone drinks “exotic nonalcoholic drinks”
  • Typo alert: “”always were waterproof mascara to pool parties.” AWESOME. It’s not even the right homophone.
  • Whitman (High?) is another of SVH’s rival schools for sports events

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Hi, Jessica,’ Heather said, smiling that same syrupy smile as she extender her hand to Jessica. ‘What an adorable little blouse you’re wearing. It’s so, uh…retro.'” (21)
  • “Heather opened her mouth, and out came the sounds of a professional singer.  All of the students sat perfectly quiet and still as Heather filled the room with her beautiful voice.  She did a funky version of the national anthem, and some students were even clapping their hands and snapping their fingers.” (55)
  • “It was totally out of character for Elizabeth to lie to her sister like that, but she couldn’t help it.” (90)
  • “‘You’re right,’ Lila said, pausing in the middle of applying mascara.  ‘You look like Joan Crawford. Wipe it off and try mine.  It’s less harsh.'” (142)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

There are a few things that struck me about this book.  One was the callous way the ghost writer would refer to a couple of fairly serious things that happened in previous books. The first of these was Annie Whitman’s attempted suicide.  Jessica thinks back on it and sort of brushes it off again.  It’s weird and jarring.  This is compounded by the fact that after Heather unveils her new diet and exercise regime for the squad, Jessica thinks about Robin Wilson’s “bout” of anorexia.  She thinks about how Robin got so thin she had to be fed intravenously in the hospital.  Uh, that is not a “bout” of anorexia.

The other thing that struck me about this one: why in god’s name isn’t there a coach for the cheerleading team?  They wouldn’t put two high school juniors in charge of the entire team.  From my limited experience with high school sports, I know there were captains for cheerleading squads, but they were just sort of like, senior members.  They weren’t in charge of all of the choreography and the meets and such.  Whatever, this is making my brain hurt.

SVH Magna Edition: A Night to Remember

28 May

anighttoremember

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

At a Sweet Valley High-sponsored (?) beach party one night, the students are raided by a band of crazed Big Mesa High teenagers.  They toss around their food, spray them with shaving cream, and pick up some of the girls for funsies.  Everyone is super, super pissed about this and swear they will get their revenge.  Liz and Todd hope that everyone will lose interest in their quest for vengeance.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Elizabeth come up with the idea of having SVH host a jungle-themed prom.  While they disagree about whether or not the attendees should wear formal wear (Liz) or Tarzan-and-Jane outfits (Jess), they do agree that it will be the Best Night Ever.  They can’t wait to tell everyone at school about it, and once they do, the gang starts planning the affair.  Elizabeth manages to find a local environmental group to help sponsor the prom, and then they throw in a huge bonus: an all-expenses paid trip to Brazil for the prom queen.  She’ll also be a new spokesperson for the group.

Both Jessica and Elizabeth are interested in becoming the Jungle Prom Queen, albeit for very different reasons.  Everyone thinks Elizabeth is a shoe-in because she’s working so hard on the planning for the dance.  When the prom committee chooses formal-wear over the more casual jungle-look, Jessica’s PISSED even though she missed the planning meeting.  She gets her revenge when she has Caroline Pierce write an article for The Oracle that credits Jessica with all the planning ideas.  The two end up fighting about the fact that they both want to be prom queen and snipe at each other.  I’m bored, and we’re only a third of the way through the book.

The twins continue to butt heads over plans for the prom, which is fast-approaching.  When it comes time to decide whether or not SVH should invite students from Big Mesa to the prom (like, as dates, I guess), the vote is split, further dividing the twins.  Then Penny tells them that Sweet Sixteen magazine wants to do an interview and photo spread on the organizers of the dance, and the twins are super excited.  But Jessica is so late that Liz and the magazine people leave to do the magazine spread without her.  Jessica is not pleased, and the two have a huge fight that ends with each of them refusing to speak to the other one.

The night of the dance, the girls get ready alone and then go to the dance with Sam and Todd.  When Todd is crowned prom king, Jessica worries that Elizabeth will end up the queen by default.  Some kids from Big Mesa have crashed the dance, and one of them hits on Jessica.  He’s drunk, and Jessica asks for some of his vodka (or whatever clear liquid is in his flask).  She pours it into Elizabeth’s unguarded cup.  But Liz shares that drink with Sam, and suddenly they are both super, SUPER wasted.  Like, crazy wasted, dancing all over the place, slurring their words, having deep and meaningful conversations with their friends.

No one thinks that Liz is wasted because she would never do something like that.  Then she decides that she doesn’t want to be prom queen and withdraws her name.  Perfect timing, because a few minutes later, Jessica is crowned queen.  In the midst of the applause, Jessica loses sight of Sam and Liz, and before she can do anything to stop them from leaving, the two do.  She tries to run after them, but they speed off into the night.

AT BASICALLY THE SAME TIME, a riot erupts at the dance between Big Mesa students and SVH students.  Everyone runs around, and Bruce and some other dudes end up fighting on the football field.  Jessica manages to grab Todd and tell him that she thinks Liz and Sam are in trouble, and they drive off to find them.  But they’re too late! There’s been a terrible accident, and it looks like Sam and Liz are dead! CLIFFHANGER.

Other character arcs in this book: Lila is really struggling with the aftermath of her near-rape.  She’s still in counseling at Project Youth with a counselor named Nathan who tells her that she’s overreacting to situations on dates and that not every dude is a scumbag.  She’s also desperate for a mother and spends much of the book sad about the fact that her father leaves her alone a lot.  As she spends more time in counseling, she starts to formulate a crush on Nathan.  During the riot at the dance, Nathan pulls her to safety in a classroom and she freaks out, thinking he’s going to try to rape her.  The police come rushing in and arrest Nathan, I guess.

Bruce Patman becomes obsessed with getting revenge on Big Mesa and also sort of dates Andrea Slade but only when she’s not totally available to him.  He doesn’t want a girl who’s always available to him, and he tells her this.  She acts like a wounded puppy dog about the whole thing.  Bruce can’t seem to connect to people and is carrying a lot of anger, and the book deduces it’s because he’s not over Regina Morrow. Um, okay.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Big Mesa’s school paper is called The Bull’s Eye.
  • Apparently Jessica’s favorite dinner is Chinese chicken stir-fry, Elizabeth likes cold rice salad, and Ned LOVES peach cobbler.
  • The reggae band featured in this book is called Island Sunsplash
  • Nathan the counselor’s dog’s name is J.D.
  • According to Lois, who is doing a report, SVH serves the healthiest institutional food in Southern California.  Random.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She glanced at a nearby table where Enid and Hugh were sitting with two other couples.  That was another thing she felt like challenging her sister about.  How could Elizabeth be best friends with someone who not only was a total drip, but also dated a guy from Big Mesa?” (49)
  • “Hadn’t she decided to assert herself, to be an Elizabeth Wakefield who nurtured all sides of her personality, even the part that dared to be self-centered and ambitious?” (68)
  • “‘But it shouldn’t be a popularity contest,’ Elizabeth argued. ‘I deserve the prize. I’ve earned it. Wasn’t the prom my idea in the first place?'” (191)
  • “‘But I’m telling you something, Liz. It’s not going to work,’ Jessica warned. ‘Sooner or later, everyone at Sweet Valley High will wise up to your act. They’ll figure you out. So, go ahead,’ she challenged. ‘Lie and cheat and sneak around all you want to. We’ll see who comes out on top!'” (234)
  • “A wicked smile spread slowly across Jessica’s face. What an idiot–she can’t even tell it’s spiked! It was really a hoot, Jessica decided: Elizabeth Wakefield, the most upstanding, self-righteous person at Sweet Valley High, breaking the cardinal rule against drinking!” (301)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is probably one of the most famous (or infamous) SVH books that exists.  Everyone remembers the Jungle Prom and the apparently magical vodka that ends up killing Sam Woodruff (seriously, why couldn’t it have been Liz?).  And really, there are a lot of things about this one that are dumb (mostly relating to the twins’ stupid feud about who gets to be the fucking prom queen), but the thing that is beyond weird is how alcohol is treated in this one.  So let’s break it down.

Jessica asks a random drunk dude for some of the booze in his flask.  He’s already super wasted, so he’s probably had a fair amount of the liquid in there.  While he does empty the rest of his flask into her cup, there can’t really be that much left.  But then it gets split between two people, and they’re both completely blitzed.  Also, Elizabeth’s behavior is super erratic for a drunk person.  The book goes into detail about how they’re swinging each other around and dancing faster than any of the other party goers, and…we’re supposed to believe it’s just alcohol that’s doing this?  At most, 3-4 shots split between two people?  WHAT?

Whatever.  It makes no sense.  Perhaps there was some coke in that vodka.

SVH #80: The Girl They Both Loved

9 Apr

girl theyloved

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Michael Harris and April Dawson are dating.  This is the same Michael who had a secret engagement to Maria Santelli that one time.  Apparently he’s still kind of a dingbat, because he is OBSESSED with dirt bike racing.  It comes before everything else, including April’s interests and his ailing grandmother in Texas.  But his parents don’t see it that way, and off to Texas he goes to visit his gma.

In the meantime, April runs into Michael’s former-best-friend-turned-rival Artie Western, and the two hit it off.  They end up racing together in a relay, and they win!  April tries to get Artie to tell her what happened between him and Michael, but he brushes her off, saying it was a misunderstanding best left in the past.

When Michael gets back into town, it takes exactly five seconds for two different people to congratulate him for patching things up with Artie.  He freaks out on April and says some of the most ridiculous, emotionally manipulative shit imaginable.  April goes home pissed, and rightfully so.  He calls to apologize, and she accepts it, and then acquiesces to his request that she not see Artie any more.

But April totally can’t help it that he sits next to her at the movies again, when Michael is stuck at home babysitting his little sister.  The two go out after, and Artie finally tells her the story of why he and Michael don’t talk any more: they both had a crush on a girl who used to come watch the motorbike races, and they challenged one another to a race around Secca Lake.  Artie lost control of his bike and swerved in front of Michael, forcing him to drop his bike.  Mike thought it was on purpose, and that was it.  Wait, that was it? Seriously?

Of course Michael is waiting on April’s porch when she gets home with Artie in tow, and the boy scream at each other until April’s dad threatens to call the police.  Then they challenge each other to another race around Secca Lake.  This time, Michael swerves in front of Artie’s bike, and Artie ends up in the hospital.  It’s never clear if Michael did it on purpose, but April seems pretty pissed at him.

Eventually, the three make up, and April and Michael continue seeing each other even though Michael is a total d-bag.

The B-and-C-Plots: Elizabeth and Todd bet each other that they other can’t do tasks that are traditionally fairly gendered.  So, Todd has to cook, grocery shop, and sew an apron.  Liz has to change a tire, build a shelf, and change a washer on a pipe.  Okaaaaaaay.  Both end up admitting that the tasks are hard, so I’m not sure what the message here is, because it’s super weird and sexist.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets Sam Woodruff after attending a dirtbike rally, and is totally smitten.  It turns out that the two have a lot in common, and she ends up falling for him completely.  But she doesn’t want to introduce him to her parents, because they’re super anti-motorcycle after that one time Liz was in a coma after Todd crashed his motorcycle a week after getting it. But then Sam shows up at her house, charms the pants off Alice, and all is well.  I actually really like Sam, so this worked for me.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Michael drives a Trans Am and his middle name is Lloyd
  • The Plaza Theater is hosting an Alfred Hitchcock film festival
  • Elizabeth likes walnuts in her chocolate chip cookies.  She’s a MONSTER.
  • Jessica and Sam like the same kind of pizza: pepperoni with double cheese and hot pepper flakes.  That actually sounds pretty awesome.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Michael stared hard at the road ahead. ‘My grandmother would understand,’ he said shortly. ‘She wouldn’t want Artie Western to beat me, either.'” (23)
  • “‘Michale and I are equals in everything. Even in dirt bike racing.  Who is he to boss me around?'” (52)


A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m sorry, but Michael Harris is a total douche.  I don’t have a lot of investment in any of the characters featured in this ridiculous plot, but he comes off looking the absolute worst throughout the book.  There isn’t anything compelling about his feud with Artie except how self-obsessed Michael is (something that both Artie and April point out to him more than once), and it doesn’t actually seem like he undergoes any sort of personality change by the time the book is through.

Also, Artie is in the hospital for like a week after his accident, even though his injuries aren’t that serious.  Doesn’t that seem like a really long time for a broken rib and some scratches?  My dad just had heart surgery and he was out in 24 hours.  Whatever.

Last thing: how dumb is the title?  The “girl” in question isn’t April, as the cover might suggest, but some rando chick they knew back when they were friends.  She doesn’t get more than a mention in passing, and they never even bother to name her! What the fuck!?

 

SVH #77: Cheating to Win

31 Mar

cheatingtowin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Tony Esteban is a track star determined to win the upcoming All-County race, but he also has his sights set on the Olympics one day.  The drive to win isn’t entirely internal, though: he gets an immense amount of pressure from his former-football player dad, who wants nothing more than to see Tony win big.  At a track meet, Tony falls and tears a tendon in his knee.  It’s very painful, but the doctor says that he should be back to normal if he stays off his feet for a full week and doesn’t push himself too hard.  His new girlfriend, Annie Whitman, worries that he won’t be able to follow doctor’s orders.

Tony FREAKS OUT about not being able to work out like he normally does.  He manages to stay off his leg for the week, and when the doctor gives the all-clear, he starts working out immediately.  But he’s not as fast as he was before his injury, and this is unacceptable to him, despite the fact that it’s literally the day he gets the okay to start running again.  When a dude at his gym offers him some “magic vitamins,” promising him that they’ll improve his speed and make him stronger, Tony accepts without asking what’s in them.  And lo and behold, he’s stronger than ever before.  But he’s also more of a douche than he was before, if it’s possible.

Obviously a bit ‘roided out, Tony starts lashing out at Annie and his friends.  When Annie finds the pills in his locker, she sneaks one to her biochemist cousin to run some tests on.  Then she enlists the help of Liz to switch out the pills for placebos, arguing that it might all be psychological.  Meanwhile, Tony finally feels guilty enough to come clean with his coach and his dad after blowing up at troubled 13-year-old Mitch Ferguson.  Mitch has been staying with Roger Barrett Patman while suspended from school, and Mitch takes a liking to Tony.  Whatever.

Tony gets in some trouble but everyone is really pleased that he came clean.  Annie also tells him that she swapped out the pills, and because of this, he’s still able to run in the All-County race–and win! Duh.  Winners never quit.

The B-Plot involves Liz and Todd feeling like they can never get quality alone time.  After both get frustrated with the other one blowing them off or agreeing to group outings, they both hatch a plan to “kidnap” the other one and bring them to a romantic getaway.  For some reason, they plan this for the same day at the exact same location, and they think this is hilarious and not at all creepy.  Whatever.  They’re boring.  NEXT.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • For some reason, Roger Barrett Patman’s name is hyphenated in this book.
  • Tony drives a used Mazda.
  • Annie has a cousin named Beth.
  • This book is the worst.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Liz and Todd,’ he drawled. ‘I guess you’ve come for our “rescue a hoodlum” barbecue.’ He laughed. ‘Roger’s out back with the little fiend. But I warn you, don’t expect too much. You know what those people are like.'” (16)
  • It isn’t too late, a voice inside him protested.  Just walk away from this place and don’t come back.” (95)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

You can tell how much I don’t care about a book by how short my summary is.  But it’s also that this one is just so stupid–why do I care about this character who is a total douche bag BEFORE he starts taking steroids?  I won’t ever really have to read about him again, so why does it matter?

Also, this one is so PSA-heavy it’s a joke.  The didactic walls of text about the dangers of steroids read like the script of an episode of Saved By the Bell.  There’s so much info-dumping about steroids and the research on them it’s clear that someone was doing some reading while they were writing this book.  Blech.

And yet, no mention of testicle shrinkage, which makes sense, since every dude in Sweet Valley High appears to be castrated at birth, considering how low the sex drive of teens is around town.

SVH #70: Ms. Quarterback

10 Mar

ms. quarterback

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Sweet Valley High has a couple of big football games against Big Mesa and Palisades High coming up, but their new-ish quarterback Scott Trost is in danger of being suspended from the team because his grades are bad.  Scott took over after Ken Matthews went temporarily blind that one time, but now it looks like Ken might be ready to take over the team again.  The school is holding try-outs, and it looks like Ken has some competition in the form of new-girl Claire Middleton, who is totally serious about football.

Everyone is shocked and intrigued by the fact that Claire wants to play on the football team.  When Liz interviews her for The Oracle, she’s surprised to find out that Claire isn’t dazzled by her friendly persona.  Claire gives her the bare minimum of information about herself, and Liz actually has the audacity to get frustrated with her because of this.

Other people aren’t faring much better with Claire, either.  When Jessica tries to talk to her in hopes of getting her to join Pi Beta Alpha, Claire makes an insensitive comment about cheerleaders that pisses Jessica off so much she decides to get the other cheerleaders to help her sort of haze Claire during try-outs.

On the other hand, Terri Adams becomes increasingly worried about the idea of Claire on the team.  She worries about this almost as much as she worries about Ken not being ready to play football again.  Apparently he still has moments where his eyes “black out” and he can’t see anything.  He won’t listen to her worries though, and continually makes comments about how awesome Claire is, sending Terri into fits of near-psychosis.  In her sad little mind, she believes Ken is going to leave her for Claire.

So naturally, she helps the cheerleaders “teach” Claire a lesson by telling them about a picture signed by “Ted” in Claire’s locker.  The girls work it into a cheer that they perform at try-outs, and Claire FREAKS OUT and walks off the field.  Ted is Claire’s dead brother.  I know.  Yikes.

At any rate, Ken gets first-string and Claire is put in as second-string quarterback.  The day of the big game, Ken fumbles a pass and benches himself, leaving Claire to save the day and win the game.  Whatever, I’m bored.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Terri has a little brother.  Seriously, this book is scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of anything being remotely interesting.
  • At one point, Amy says that all she’s been able to think about is the comment Claire made about cheerleading.  Homegirl needs to get a life.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Claire shrugged but didn’t even bother to look at Jessica.  ‘Suit yourself. I think you’d do yourselves and everyone else a lot more good if you played a sport instead of jumping around and screaming.'” (44)
  • “That’s when it hit her: she was intensely jealous of Claire.” (70)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book sucks.  I don’t even hate it enough to have a multitude of thoughts on it.  I will say that I thought Terri acted like a complete PSYCHO throughout this whole book and I had to go back to #60, That Fatal Night, to see if I felt the same way about her.  Turns out there is such a thing as consistent character writing in the world of Sweet Valley, because she was just as much of a doormat then as she is now.

Whatever.  This book blows.