Tag Archives: those crazy college kids

SVH #128: Kiss of a Killer

16 Apr

“It does seem unlikely that a town the size of Sweet Valley would have two deranged killers,” Winston chimed in.

svh128kissofakiller.jpg

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

We begin with Elizabeth coming to from her fainting spell in the previous book to discover that Katrina is still dead and that everything is still terrible. She takes a moment to appreciate being in Todd’s arms before attempting to perform CPR on Katrina, but Jonathan comes downstairs with Jessica and pronounces her really really dead. The cops arrive and bust the party, because not only is there a dead person in the house, but everyone is out after curfew.

Todd drives Elizabeth home and it seems like they might get back together until he sees Joey’s car in the Wakefield driveway, so Todd storms off again. Elizabeth and Joey make out and Elizabeth wonders if her heart’s in it. She’s surprised to find that Jessica didn’t come home and tries to wait up for her, but Jessica spends the night with Jonathan, who literally turns into a raven in front of her and transports her to the beach (?) before sucking on her neck and giving her an orgasm (?) and then transporting her to her own bed before the morning. She is unable to listen to reason when Elizabeth tries to tell her again that Jonathan is bad news.

Ned and Alice ground both twins for going to the party, and tell Jessica she has to stay away from Jonathan’s house. She FLIPS OUT and throws an actual tantrum, begging them to let Jonathan come over for dinner the following night so that they can see how wonderful he is. Ma and Pa Wakefield relent, and remind the girls they’re still grounded, but somehow Jessica gets Ned’s credit card and is allowed to go shopping for new clothes for the dinner. Y’all, I cannot.

Jonathan manages to charm both Ma and Pa Wakefield at the dinner and no one notices that he’s not eating. Elizabeth tries to grill him, but it doesn’t really work. Jessica and Jonathan make out in the den after dinner until Ned cock blocks them and sends Jonathan home right before he was about to tell her that he’s a vampire. This is what passes as suspense in the book.

A funeral is held for Katrina Sutton, although she lived in San Fransisco and was just visiting Sweet Valley. Everyone goes to the reception afterward except for Enid, who sits at Katrina’s grave and cries about how sad her own life is. Jonathan sneaks up behind her and attacks her, and then when she’s almost dead has a change of heart and rushes her to the hospital. Enid winds up in a coma, and Elizabeth stays at her bedside, absolutely sick over it. Enid wakes for a moment only to utter the word “Jonathan,” which Elizabeth takes as admission of his guilt. She rushes off to solve the mystery.

This involves convincing Maria to break into Jonathan’s house with her, and then discovering a hidden room that is full of vampire books. Elizabeth steals a bunch of them and brings them home and decides Jonathan must be a vampire. While Maria isn’t convinced, the two spend some time on the school computer doing research and discover a rash of murders in Northern California in the late 1930s and a mysterious guy named John Cayne. Elizabeth needs no further convincing.

Meanwhile, Jessica sneaks out to see Jonathan, and Liz tattles on her. Ned and Alice call the police, and the police find Jonathan and Jessica in a cave by the water, where they’ve found evidence of the killer. Jessica still hasn’t pieced any of the puzzle together and cries about being found by the police before being taken home and seriously grounded (for real this time?). It doesn’t really work though because Jessica still sneaks out to see Jonathan and then decides to run away to be with him. She shows up at his house and begs him to take him with her so they can be together forever.

At the same time, Maria shows up at the Wakefield house and tells Liz that she believes her now. She shows her a bunch of research she pulled off of the internet, and the two meet up with the rest of the gang and after like two minutes have them convinced that Jonathan is a vampire. The group decides to burn his house down and kill him, and Elizabeth is horrified. Then Enid’s mother calls with news that Enid has woken up and named Jonathan as her savior. Elizabeth calls Joey to help her stop the mob, and he breaks up with her, but luckily Todd is hanging around right behind her, and the two rush to the beach to try to stop them from killing Jonathan.

They intercept Jonathan and Jessica right before he’s going to change her into a vampire (?) and Jonathan realizes how much love surrounds Jessica and leaves her with his ring (but then the ring disappears from around her finger a bit later, so I guess he wanted it back after all). He flies away just as the mob shows up. So he escapes, I guess. Todd and Elizabeth make out. Jessica cries. Enid wakes up and feels a strange sense of loss. All is normal in Sweet Valley again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently there’s a place called Season’s Gourmet Shop where residents of Sweet Valley can get fancy food groceries. Did we know this?
  • Jessica’s new outfit for the dinner with Jonathan consists of a lilac silk dress, a silver chain belt, “dressy” leather sandals, and mauve lipstick.
  • She also buys a new outfit for Katrina’s funeral: gray and black striped dress with a black satin vest.
  • The school has a psychologist named Ms. McLean

Memorable Quotes:

  • Some party! Enid raged to herself. Katrina Sutton dropped dead,and Jessica stole Jonathan away from me. The night was a total bust.” (9)
  • “‘I understand what you mean,’ Lila said. ‘Right now it doesn’t matter that the girl has no fashion sense or style whatsoever. I feel sorry for her anyway.'” (83)
  • “He gazed pensively at the fire. ‘I grew up in a tiny coastal village in Prussia.’ Jessica frowned. ‘You mean Russia?'” (123) [I AM DEAD]
  • “She knew from past experience that computers were very useful when it came to confirming suspicions about a person.” (143)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Y’all, I don’t know. I feel like this recap was extra-long, but I also couldn’t figure out what to cut without the story making even less sense than it already does. There was a lot of plot in this one, which makes me wonder why they didn’t put some of it in the previous book where nothing at all happened. At the same time, this plot didn’t make a lick of sense. Like, none.

My favorite thing about this book was the weird references to computers and internet searching. It’s so dated, but you can tell that the ghostwriter was trying to explain the wonders of the world wide web to an audience who probably had more experience with computers than they did. How quaint.

When I was prepping this post, I read somewhere that the series was in danger of being cancelled around the time this book was published (I don’t have a source. I’m a bad librarian, I know). That tidbit of gossip helps illustrate why they might have thought suddenly introducing supernatural elements into the series was a good idea, though it still doesn’t make sense given the history of the series. I never thought I’d say this, but it makes me miss poor Luke, who just thought he was a werewolf.

I’m a rambling, incoherent mess, just like this book. All is well.

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SVH #126: Tall, Dark, and Deadly

8 Apr

talldarkdeadly

Jessica raised her eyebrows. “It’s garbage. How do you expect it to smell?”
“There’s so much of it,” Lila whined.

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks, in the loosest sense.

Summary/Overview:

One night at the Dairi Burger, Jessica loses one of her new earrings and decides the best place to search for it is in the dumpsters out back.  She drags Lila along, but she doesn’t find the earring. Instead, she finds a live kitten, which she decides to adopt and name Jasmine, and then, more horrifyingly, she finds a dead body.  The body, belonging to a teenage boy from Big Mesa, appears to have been drained of all its blood. The police are called, everyone is shocked, and Jessica, ever the sociopath, plots on how to turn her discovery into fifteen minutes of fame.

Everyone at school is abuzz over the news of the body, and there’s a special assembly called to discuss it with students.  At the same time, Chrome Dome Cooper announces that there’s a new transfer student, a dark-haired, gorgeous senior named Jonathan Cain. Jessica, like most of the female student body, is immediately transfixed by him.  Elizabeth is not, having seen him act like a total jerk in the hallway earlier. But she’s in the minority, as Enid also decides that he’s her soulmate. It isn’t long before nearly all of the girls in school are dressing in black and wearing dramatic makeup in an attempt to catch Jonathan’s attention, but he remains an enigma.

Even though he never seems to interact with any of the other students, Jonathan becomes the topic of conversation at school. Apparently he’s super good at advanced chemistry, knows more about European cultures than the teacher, can sink baskets from across the gym, and drives a motorcycle. All of the girls–and then, hilariously, most of the dudes–at school begin to dress in all black and wear dramatic makeup in an attempt to get his attention. Enid loses her mind completely and has her hair chemically straightened and dyed black, and completely changes her makeup look.

Despite all this, Jonathan ignores everyone. Jessica is not deterred and continually tries to win his affection, attempting a bunch of different stunts like draining her car battery and passing him flirty notes in French class. He doesn’t take any of her bait, which just makes her want him even more. She buys a bright red minidress and hops onto his motorcycle at the mall, and he takes her for a ride before dropping her off and telling her to never do that again. Then he totally returns her missing diamond earring by dropping it off on her bedroom windowsill, but Jessica doesn’t see him do it.

When Jasmine, the new kitten, escapes one night, Jessica finds her up another tree, and Jonathan is nearby. He tells her to listen to her kitten, who is freaking out, and avoid predators. Jessica doesn’t get his heavy-handed meaning, because she’s an idiot. Instead she thinks about kissing him.

Both Enid and Jessica seem to be particularly obsessed with Jonathan, and when Enid tells Jessica that she followed him home one day, Jessica manages to get the address out of her. Jessica tricks Elizabeth into thinking that she’s home, steals the Jeep, and heads out to Forrest Lane, where Jonathan lives. The house is a crumbling mansion, creepy as fuck, and just before she loses her nerve, Jonathan answers the door, and then they kiss. Then he threatens her life. Romantic.

The B-Plot, as it is, involves Liz still struggling with her waning feelings for Todd while pining for Joey, the boy she dated while she was a camp counselor. While she’s not sure she’s ready to throw in the towel with Todd, she is worried to learn that Joey is transferring to UCLA, and he won’t stop writing her letters and doing weird things like putting a canoe paddle in her locker (what the actual fuck, Joey?).

Because Maria Slater was at Camp Echo Mountain with Elizabeth and saw the entire thing with Joey unfold, Elizabeth confides in her. This bothers Enid, who seems to be undergoing another psychotic break. She lashes out at Elizabeth and is super bitchy to Maria, and then cries about how no one understands her. She loves Jonathan, and she needs to be near him.

Elizabeth and Maria Slater seem to be the only two people who have not fallen under his spell, though it’s unclear why they are immune to whatever magic is happening. When Jonathan appears at The Oracle office after school one day and warns Elizabeth that if she loves her sister, she’ll keep Jessica away from him, her feelings about the danger everyone is in are solidified. When another body is discovered near Secca Lake, Elizabeth becomes convinced that it’s Jessica and calls Todd in a panic. As he tries to get to her house, Elizabeth opens the door to find Joey on the steps. They embrace, and of course Todd sees them. DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica and Elizabeth’s grandma sent them each a pair of diamond stud earrings, and Jessica regales her friend group with the anecdote that her grandmother was the first girl in her town to get her ears pierced at age 12.
  • Jessica considers the color purple to be a “power color”
  • Lila wears a designer called Pierre Jove
  • Mr. Fellows is teaching his students about Spanish settlers in the Americas.
  • When Maria was a child actress, she starred in a movie called The Visitor, and commercials for Crystal Drops, Feathersoft, and was something called The Macaroni Princess.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Experience had taught [Elizabeth] to listen to her gut feelings; more often than not, they were right.” (38) [Ed. note: This is 100% inaccurate but ok]
  • “‘French is one of the few classes offered at SVH that’s worth attending,’ Lila declared. ‘Bo says that French novels are the most lushly romantic in the world, but unless you read them in the original language, you miss most of the subtle richness of the text.'” (62)
  • “Her face was different, too. Her eyebrows had been plucked into thin, glamorous arcs.” (107)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

So after a super, super long hiatus, I’m back at it. The truth is that I’ve been thinking about trying to finish the series for a long time, and then I looked at how many I have left and was all, “That’s IT?!” as if it’s completely accomplishable. But these books are so, so bad.

I jumped back in with almost no refresher on what’s happening in the series. The book spends the first few minutes having Jessica’s friends razz her about her breakup with Ken, telling her that when she cheated on him it made him into an asshole. Jessica almost cries because it was such a painful breakup, but I’m left confused because she’s dated like at least half a dozen dudes since they broke up, including Poor Dead Christian.

It’s obvious that the series has completely dispensed with trying to make sense in terms of a timeline, which is maddening but weirdly understandable? The book refers to their time at Camp Echo Mountain as being during the previous summer, but they’re a.) still sixteen, b.) still juniors in high school, and c.) on their fourth or fifth summer vacation? I DO NOT GET IT AND I DO NOT KNOW WHY IT BOTHERS ME SO MUCH.

Apart from that, the most bizarre parts of this story revolve around Jonathan’s magical charisma that seems to make everyone want to be like him or near him, despite the fact that he doesn’t ever interact with anyone. Jessica has to literally jump onto his bike while he’s on it to get him to interact with her, and we never see him talk to anyone else, apart from when he vaguely threatens Elizabeth.

Yet everyone wants to be like him. I suppose we’re supposed to believe that there’s a supernatural element at play, but the writing is so bad and the plot and character development so flimsy that it completely relies on a suspension of disbelief that’s staggering. Nothing about this greasy, brooding, goth douche canoe indicates that he’s charismatic or even interesting, and yet everyone is losing their goddamn minds over him.

The other weird thing is that readers are suddenly treated to Jonathan’s thoughts three-quarters of the way through the book. This shift in character perspective is lazy writing, but it’s also jarring and doesn’t make sense. It’s clear that he’s conflicted about hurting people, and there’s a lot of angst about ignoring his “needs,” but if this is true, then why would he choose to start attending class at a local high school? What fucking sense does that make?

I guess we’ll find out in the next installment. I know I can’t wait.

 

SVH #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 #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 #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 #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?