Tag Archives: underage drinking

SVH Magna Edition: A Night to Remember

28 May


Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks?


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 #77: Cheating to Win

31 Mar


Estimated Elapsed Time: 8 weeks


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 Super Star: Enid’s Story

12 Mar


Estimated Elapsed Time: Roughly 2 weeks


Inexplicably, it’s Christmastime in Sweet Valley once again, and Enid and Elizabeth are looking forward to a lot of time together over the holiday because Enid is single and Todd will be skiing with his family in Utah.  Enid is secretly thrilled that she’ll have Liz all to herself, but Liz is very upset about spending Christmas without Todd.  To try to cheer her up, Enid brings Liz to the Dairi Burger, where she ends up under the mistletoe with her ex, Jeffrey French.  The two share a kiss that’s supposed to be a joke but actually fires up Liz quite a bit.  That’s too bad, because it sort of looks like Jeffrey might be interested in Enid, as he invites her to go to the ice skating party with him the next day.

At first, Liz isn’t going to go to the party because she wants to mope about how she misses Todd.  But Jessica convinces her to go, and she FREAKS OUT when she sees Enid and Jeffrey skating together.  Liz believes that there’s something going on between them and Enid has been downplaying it.  Enid apologizes and Elizabeth accepts, but that doesn’t stop Enid from going to a movie with Jeffrey that night.  She’s pretty sure that he’s interested in her, too, but he keeps bringing up Liz.  When Enid stops by his house to give him his Christmas present, he wants to obsess over the fact that Elizabeth baked him cookies.  This upsets Enid, who realizes that her feelings for him are either completely one-sided, or he’s very confused about what he wants.

Wallowing in her pain, she goes out with a former friend from her wild-child days, Brian Saunders.  She ran into him at the ice-skating party, and then he called her and begged her to go out with him.  He swears he’s a changed man, and the two have a nice dinner at a Thai restaurant.  But then he wants to take her to a friend’s house, and though she’s hesitant, she agrees.  Turns out there’s a massive party happening, and Enid leaves a totally-drunk Brian and cabs it home.

Things go from bad to worse for her when she goes to meet her absent-father at the Recency Hotel.  They’re supposed to have lunch together, but when she gets there, he’s already at the bar, reeking of gin and drunk off his ass.  They have a horrible interaction and she runs home crying to her mother, who she promptly blames for her father’s drunkenness.  Her mother tells her that her father has a serious alcohol problem and the two sort of reconcile.

But Enid still feels bad about her dad and worse about Jeffrey.  She reluctantly goes to a Christmas Eve party with Jeffrey at her ex-boyfriend George Warren’s house, but when Jeffrey asks to take Liz aside Enid figures it’s because they’re getting back together.  They aren’t, though.  Jeffrey and Liz clarify their feelings of friendship for each other and part ways amicably.  When Jeffrey goes to find Enid, she’s dancing with Brian (why is he at this party?) and decides to leave with him to piss off Jeffrey.

The two end up drunk and stoned at Miller’s Point.  That escalated quickly.  Jessica brings her date up to the spot and sees Enid out of her mind blitzed, but instead of helping, she goes back to the party.  Meanwhile, both of Enid’s parents are worried about her.  Her dad is sober enough to go look for her, and tries Kelly’s Bar before heading up to Miller’s Point after Jessica spills the beans about what she saw to Liz.

Brian has been joyriding them around in his car even though Enid has begged for him to let her out.  He ends up crashing the car, flipping it over, and starting it on fire.  Luckily, Enid’s dad shows up and pulls her from the wreck before it combusts.  Brian and Enid’s dad are both badly burned, though.  Everyone ends up in the hospital for some reconciliation.

Lila throws a New Year’s Eve party and everyone is there.  Todd and Liz are reunited and Jeffrey and Enid kiss.  Their relationship is left completely undefined, which is good, because I’m pretty sure we will never hear of it again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica references Dorothy Hamill when she talks about her own skating skills.  Jeffrey tells Enid she’ll soon skate like Sonja Henie.  Hello, dated references.
  • Enid’s gift ideas for Jeffrey’s mom: perfume, a scarf, a fancy cake plate that spins around and sings a song (she already has one), a magazine subscription
  • Enid’s Christmas present for Liz: heart-shaped pink satin box. Elizabeth’s present for Enid: a framed picture of her and Enid.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Enid looked at Elizabeth affectionately. Elizabeth was always wonderful to be with. She was a warm and friendly girl, the one person everyone at school really liked.”  (2) [Blogger’s note: We’re on page two, and I’m already so creeped out I don’t know how I can go on.]
  • “‘That’s a great idea,’ Jeffrey said enthusiastically. ‘My mom’s always saying that feminism just means a woman gets to have two careers–one inside and one outside the home!'” (33)
  • “‘You’re grown up now, Enid. You should know that there’s nothing wrong with having a couple. Besides, I remember you used to do a little drinking yourself.'” (113)
  • Why do I even try? she wondered. What was the point of going straight and pulling myself together if this is where it gets me? At least before, I was too stoned to notice how miserable life can be.” (126)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of reasons I dreaded reading this one, and most of them have to do with the fact that Enid is pretty much the worst character to get her own Super Star book.  I mean, I might hate Bruce Patman because I think he’s a misogynistic sociopath, but at least he’s kind of interesting at the same time.  Enid doesn’t even have that going for her, which is why I refer to her as the “dripmaster.”  What’s funny, or perhaps alarming, is that it’s pretty clear that the ghost writer didn’t think Enid was very interesting, either, because almost half of this book focuses on Elizabeth’s problems.  Isn’t this supposed to be all about Enid?  Isn’t this her moment to shine?  WRONG! LIZ HAS FEELINGS.

If you are able to separate out the fact that it seems as though Enid’s feelings for Elizabeth run deeper than simply platonic friendship, this book still isn’t that interesting.  Enid finally gets a shot at romance, and it’s with Elizabeth’s leftovers! What is it about this town that encourages such incestuous relationships between its teens?  Furthermore, what “best friend” would ever think it was okay to go after her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, especially when readers know how serious it was for Liz and Jeffrey?

I get that life happens and we can’t actually help who we are attracted to.  I understand, even that if we adhere to the series’ cannon, Enid set her sights on Jeffrey first–although wasn’t that at Liz’s insane urging, because she didn’t want to admit her feelings for Jeffrey?  I’m even willing to admit that maybe these girls are more emotionally mature than I am and could accept their best friend hooking up with their ex–but based on how easily they freak out about stupid stuff, I doubt it.

SVH #41: Outcast

14 Oct

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week


The kids are still reeling from Regina Morrow’s tragic death at Molly Hecht’s party.  In order to channel that sorrow into something tangible, everyone decides to hate on Molly Hecht.  She’s feeling completely isolated at home and at school.  No one will talk to her: not her friends, not her former best friend Justin Belson, not even Elizabeth Wakefield, who brushes Molly off after she pleads for help.  Even her parents are pissed at her and basically blame her for Regina’s death.

Elizabeth doesn’t feel like she can talk to Molly, but then she realizes that maybe Molly really needs help, so she tries to recruit Justin, who all but hangs up on her the first time she asks.  She corners him at school and offers to help with his essay on Hamlet if he’ll help her with Molly, but he’s still extremely reluctant.  It takes a few more tries, but she finally convinces him to help her.

Buzz the drug dealer contacts Molly and asks her to meet him at Kelly’s.  She goes and lets him get her drunk and high before making out with him.  He tells her that he’s the only one who understands her, but in order for them to be together, they’ll have to run away because the cops are looking for him.  She says she has some money in an account, and the two make plans to go to Mexico.

Elizabeth follows Molly to the bank during lunch and figures out what’s going on.  She tells Justin, and the two of them worry about Molly for a while before finally heading over to her house to confront her.  When they get there, they see her getting into her mom’s car.  They follow her to Kelly’s where she gets into Buzz’s car.  Justin has Liz get out to call the police while he chases them down.  Buzz gets out of the car and tries to attack Justin with a knife, but he beats him off with a stick and a punch in the face.  The police come, Molly cries, and everyone’s okay.  Molly decides to become a better person.

The B-Plot involves Jessica wanting to do something in memory of Regina.  She recruits the rest of the Pi Beta Alphas into helping her create a scholarship fund for SVH students who have overcome adversity of some sort.  It is a success, thanks largely to Ned Wakefield, whose law firm will handle the financial aspects of it.  Jessica feels good about herself but still mostly hates Molly Hecht.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Get out of here!’ he screamed, raising a hand as if to hit her.  ‘Get out of here and leave us alone!  You killed my sister!  You killed her!'” (50)
  • “No thanks.  I’ve been your scapegoat long enough, Elizabeth, so you can take your talking and shove it.” (113)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book begins right after the last one, when people are just leaving Regina’s memorial service.
  • Sweet Valley High has a language lab.  This strikes me as extravagant.
  • Mrs. Wakefield picks up Chinese food for dinner, and everyone goes crazy for it, seemingly forgetting that Ned Wakefield is allergic.
  • Molly Hecht has $2,314.83 in her savings account.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

People tend to react irrationally when something bad happens.  When tragedy strikes, a natural impulse is to look for something or someone to blame.  In this case, it’s Molly Hecht, who hosted the infamous party where Regina died.  But people’s automatic shunning of Molly seems so forced and so over-the-top that it’s difficult to believe.  Her parents, in particular, struck me as a weak plot point:

“No, Molly.  You’re staying in Sweet Valley, and you’re going to go to school every single day.  You’re going to face those kids and take it, and you’re not staying home sick or or dropping out or moving away.  You’re going to stay and take what’s coming to you,” her father says to her after she tries to explain her feelings.

This scene comes quickly after a scene at the Wakefields’ house, where Ned and Alice sit all three kids down for a family meeting and talk about drugs.  Both parents urge their children to always feel as if they can approach them about anything, and the family shares some wholesome moments.  But Molly’s family situation is much different: her parents are divorced, her dad lives in San Francisco, they don’t seem to like her, etc. etc.  Perhaps this is why she got into drugs, but that is never explained or even talked about.

I guess it doesn’t matter why the trashy girls do drugs.  It only matters when it’s someone who’s heroic and beautiful like Regina.

Lesson learned.

SVH #40: On the Edge

11 Oct

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Bruce Patman and Amy Sutton are totally hooking up, and pretty much everyone at Sweet Valley knows it except Bruce’s girlfriend, Regina Morrow.  Elizabeth worries over whether or not to say something to Regina, but Jessica convinces her that it might only make things worse.  The twins throw a barbeque, and Bruce and Amy hook up behind a tree.  Elizabeth tries to distract Regina while Jeffrey intercedes, but Regina’s not completely stupid and sees what’s going on.  She freaks out and yells at Elizabeth, Bruce, and Amy.  She storms out and goes home.

Both Bruce and Elizabeth try to talk to her in the days that follow, but Regina shuts them down.  She starts hanging out with pseud-bad boy Justin Belson, who’s on academic probation because of cutting class.  He’s friends with a lot of the shadier kids at SVH, including some druggies.  People try to warn Regina about Justin and his friends, but she’s not very receptive and thinks that she knows him better, he’s complicated and misunderstood, etc.

Regina and Justin go to a wild party at Molly Hecht’s house.  Everyone who’s there is excited about the possibility of a drug dealer named Buzz showing up.  Even though Nicholas Morrow, Elizabeth, and Bruce all warned Regina that the party was bad news, she goes anyway, despite being completely uncomfortable with the situation.  At the party, people are drinking beer and smoking the marijuana.  Regina coughs because the air is thick with smoke, and Molly Hecht and Jan Brown make fun of her.  Buzz shows up and everyone crowds around him to look at his little baggie of cocaine.

Elizabeth has been angsting over what to do about Regina being at this party.  I don’t know how it’s her business, but apparently it is, because she calls Nicholas, who thanks her and races out to his car to go to the party.  He gets pulled over for speeding, and when he can’t produce his driver’s license, the police take him to the station.  I don’t know about you guys, but here in the U.S., drivers have 24 hours to produce their license.  He finally gets the police to listen to him about the party, and they head out towards Molly Hecht’s house.

Justin can tell that Regina’s uncomfortable and promises that they’ll leave soon, but he’s worried that Buzz is trying to get Molly hooked on heroin, and so he wants to be there–to stop her, I guess?  Regina sits at the table with the cocaine and watches it get cut into lines.  She’s teased for being naive, and then she decides that it looks harmless, so she does two lines of it.  Her heart starts beating super fast and it’s clear that something’s wrong.  Justin tries to get someone to call an ambulance but Buzz is like, “ARE YOU CRAZY THERE ARE DRUGS HERE!” and Regina’s gotten pale and weak.  The cops and Nicholas burst in and Regina’s rushed to the hospital.

Bruce and Liz are called to the hospital and wait with the Morrows.  The doctors come out and tell them that Regina suffered a heart attack due to the cocaine and she’s dead.  Everyone cries.  A memorial service is held a week later, and everyone cries some more.

The almost nonexistent B-Plot involves Amy and Bruce in their attempts to gather information about drugs in Sweet Valley for a school project.  They meet up with Amy’s cousin Mimi, who tells them all about Buzz, the drug dealer who will be at Molly’s party.  Apparently he’s the biggest pusher at Sweet Valley College and the police have been trying to catch him for a while.  This seems mostly like exposition to further the plot along.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Regina knew her parents would die if they knew where she was.  As it was, they hadn’t been thrilled when Justin had shown up wearing  a leather jacket.  Even with his chiseled features, he looked slightly tough–a little older than guys she knew at school and definitely more streetwise.” (59-60) [Blogger’s note: Her parents have a problem with a leather jacket but not an attempted date rapist?]
  • “According to Justin, authority, no matter what kind, was bad.  If someone told you not to do something, chances were you should go ahead and do it–if only to show them how stupid rules were in the first place.” (90)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Amy Sutton’s cousin Mimi, who is helping provide information for the project she’s doing with Bruce, is only 19 but is apparently a junior in college.
  • Justin Belson’s life is messed up because his dad was murdered during a robbery at the liquor store he owned.
  • The ghostwriter spells Secca Lake wrong, and then, only a page later, claims that Bruce’s vanity license plates on his car read Bruce 1.  This is a falsity and very close to blasphemy, as we know that his license plate reads 1Bruce1.
  • Molly Hecht’s party starts really early.  Like, 7pm early.  I wasn’t invited to a lot of parties in high school, but I do know that a 7pm start time would make Molly’s party the place to not be.
  • Nicholas reads “Dirge without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay at Regina’s memorial service.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

“We don’t know exactly what happened yet,’ the internist said wearily.  ‘All we can say for sure right now is that Regina took a lethal amount of cocaine tonight and experienced an extremely rare reaction–rapid acceleration of the heartbeat, which brought on sudden cardiac failure.  It’s possible that a heart murmur she’s had since birth may have contributed to this…” (131)

It’s hard to snark on a novel that is actually pretty sad.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to, but it’s harder to do when the premise isn’t so flat-out ridiculous.  That being said, there are a few things worth mentioning in this analysis.

The first is that I’m uncomfortable with how ignorant everyone seems to be about cocaine.  Now, granted, I was born after the characters of this world (although we graduated high school around the same time in terms of publishing dates.  Haha), so I went through the DARE program in the early 90s.  I lived in a world where drug awareness and scare tactics were used from an early age.  We were warned of the dangers of ALL drugs and were told to STAY AWAY.

I’m not going to debate the effectiveness of such programs, because it’s sort of irrelevant.  At any rate, we were made aware that drugs could be dangerous.  What is surprising to me is that the teens of Sweet Valley seem to be ignorant of this.  None of the people at the party seem to think that cocaine could be dangerous.  They laugh off Regina’s questions and Buzz even says something about how he can’t believe that people are telling lies about cocaine being dangerous or addictive (I realize this is part of his business strategy, but bear with me).  At the hospital, after finding out about Regina, Bruce asks if the cocaine had been poisoned.  This leads me to believe that he can’t imagine the drug alone could hurt her.  Pssh.  Whatever.

The last thing I want to talk about is how Regina’s death is actually explained.  The doctor said that she took a “lethal” dose of cocaine and this exacerbated a potentially pre-existing condition caused by a heart murmur.  But if the dose was lethal, couldn’t that just have been it?  People can overdose on the drug.  The word “lethal” was in his description of what she took.  Doesn’t lethal mean death?  Why did they have to over-complicate her death with the discussion of a heart problem?  Moreover, how is it possible that they never caught this hypothetical heart murmur over the course of her extensive medical treatments?  I know that the treatments focused on her hearing, but you’re telling me she never had a physical?  Really?

At any rate, someone’s gonna be blamed for the loss of an innocent, and that person is gonna be Molly Hecht.

SVH Super Edition: Spring Break

8 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week


Jessica and Elizabeth are going to Cannes, France on their spring break as part of an exchange trip that the SVH French Club set up.  In return, their French host family is sending a daughter to live with the Wakefields.  The twins are excited to spend their break on the French Riviera with Avery Glize, a private nurse, and her handsome son Rene.  While Avery is a sweet and gracious hostess (if a bit absent), Rene is rude, acerbic, and borderline abusive towards the twins.  It’s clear that he hates them on sight, and it comes out that Rene’s father was an American who left his young family.  As a result, Rene hates all Americans on sight, which is about as irrational as one can get.

The twins set out to have a good trip despite Rene’s rudeness, and it isn’t long before Jessica meets a very rich but plain and shy boy named Marc Marchellier.  She lets him take her to a very exclusive beach club.  Elizabeth finds a puppy that has gotten lost, and when she returns it to its owner, she meets a countess whose grandson, Jean-Claude de Willenwich, is fabulously good-looking and charming.  The two of them go off cavorting around Cannes.  Naturally, when Jessica finds out that Elizabeth is hanging around with a super rich, gorgeous guy, she’s totally jealous.

When Elizabeth runs late for a date with Jean-Claude because of an errand she ran for Avery, Jessica takes full advantage of the situation and pretends to be Elizabeth when Jean-Claude shows up.  The two of them hit it off, even though he thinks her name is Jessica, and she decides that she’s fallen in love with him.  The two of them spend several days together.  Elizabeth tries and fails to befriend Rene, who is so obstinate and mean that it’s almost painful to read.

When Jessica (pretending to be Elizabeth) and Jean-Claude get caught in a storm in his tiny sailboat, Elizabeth begs Rene to take her to the pier to see if they can find the two of them.  Rene is surprised that Elizabeth doesn’t care about Jessica’s deceitfulness, and agrees to take Liz on his moped (motorcycle danger again!), even though he hasn’t been in or near the water since the tragic drowning death of his best friend some time before.  The two of them can see the sailboat and watch as it capsizes.  Elizabeth jumps in to rescue Jessica, who fell and hit her head, and Rene dives in to help her, too.  They save the day!

After this exciting brush with death, Jessica comes clean to Jean-Claude about who she is, but he still loves her.  Elizabeth and Rene end up as friends with the possibility of something more, and the twins look forward to the rest of their vacation.

The B-Plot involves Rene’s younger sister, Ferney, who has gone to stay with the Wakefield family while the twins are in France.  Everyone is surprised with Ferney is the SPITTING IMAGE OF TRICIA MARTIN (and I do mean they are identical).  Steven Wakefield seems to take this as a sign that he is meant to be with Ferney even though he’s been dating Cara and seems to be in love with her.  He takes Ferney around Sweet Valley, and even though he speaks no French and she speaks no English, he believes she’s Tricia reincarnated or something.  Everyone around him is totally freaked out by his behavior, and Cara is naturally heartbroken, but no one can talk sense into Steven.  He finally invites his friend David down to visit, because David is a French major.  With David translating for them, Steven discovers that Ferney is not like Tricia at all, and is, in fact, kind of a ditz.  He realizes the error of his ways and he and Cara make up (while I die a little inside).

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Of course he was aware that Ferney and Tricia were two different human beings, but a little bit of pretending couldn’t be so bad, he rationalized.  After all the pain he had gone through when Tricia had died, he deserved a candy-coated fantasy every once in a while, didn’t he?” (39)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently the Wakefield twins have a curfew of midnight (one that Ma and Pa Wakefield try to enforce on Jessica by saying she should be home at 11), but it doesn’t seem to ever be enforced.
  • At one point, Jessica wears velour jogging pants and a man-tailored shirt and we are supposed to believe this is fashionable.
  • Apparently Lila is also on the French trip, staying with another host family, but we don’t see or hear from her the entire book.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are so many problems with this book that it is hard to know where to begin.  There’s a lot of talk about this book being one that never actually happened–this isn’t the twin’s only (or even FIRST) spring break, and although it seems to take place between books #27 and #28, this huge trip to France is never mentioned in the regular series (well, it’s mentioned again when the twins go to London and run into Rene much later in the series, but that’s nearly a hundred books later).  Also, where did the money for such a trip come from?  Back in SVH #11 (the last spring break the twins had), the Wakefield family only had enough money to send one twin to New York, but now they can send both twins to FRANCE for 10 days?  I guess the Wakefields are financially flush and forgot to mention it.

What’s more is the absolutely appalling way that Rene treats both twins, but especially Elizabeth.  Jessica and Rene have very little interaction after the first encounter, but Liz continually tries to be nice to him.  His complete lack of regard for her and his verbal abuse cross over from general rudeness into almost sociopathic behavior, as demonstrated from the following excerpt:

“My, my, aren’t we a bit out of control today?  But then you’re not used to having people make waves, are you?  Life is supposed to be so easy for you.  You have everything you need, and you have everything you want, too.  And then some.  That’s what American girls are all about.  A closetful [sic] of clothes and nothing to wear.”

Elizabeth summoned up all her willpower in an attempt to be reasonable.  “Rene, what do you have against me?  Have I done anything to you?  Has Jessica?  Why are you treating us this way?”

“It’s not what you’ve don, it’s what you stand for.”  There was poison in Rene’s words.  “All you American girls.  You think the sun rises and sets on you alone.  That’s what they teach you.  Oh, we see your movies, get your television shows.  I know how you girls think.”

I know.  Yikes.

Finally, there’s the ridiculousness of the Steven Wakefield B-Plot.  This is technically the first book where Steven falls in “love” with a Tricia Martin doppelganger, but it won’t be the last.  The world of Sweet Valley seems to be populated with a lot of people who are nearly identical to complete strangers–the twins meet a pair of psychotic twins who look exactly like them, Steven falls for like, twenty girls who look like Tricia, Elizabeth sees a lot of boys who look just like Todd.  It’s a strange and highly unlikely phenomenon, and after a while, it starts to get old.

But even pushing the skepticism of the likelihood of a perfect stranger being identical to someone else aside, this plot hurts to read.  Steven has a history of being a total douchetruck to Cara, and the fact that she’s put up with it for as long as she has is best left for an essay on being a doormat, but his actions in this book eclipse previous behavior.  He essentially dumps Cara without even telling her, choosing to spend all his free time staring open-mouthed at Ferney.  They go out around town, and he moons over her while Cara sits at home and cries, wondering if she’ll ever see Steve again.  It was hard enough for her to try to compete with a ghost, but now she has to compete with a little French girl?  I don’t think so.

When they finally get back together at the end and Steve apologizes and tells her he sees the error of his ways, it feels like too little too late, but Cara takes him back.  And that, disturbingly enough, seems like something a sixteen-year-old girl might do.

SVH #22: Too Much in Love

29 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


DeeDee Gordon is in love with Bill Chase.  She’s also terrified that she’s going to lose him, and so she clings to him as if her life depended on it.  Bill is feeling pretty crowded, and rightfully so, and longs for the days when DeeDee was independent and awesome.

When Elizabeth asks DeeDee to help with the planning of the talent show, DeeDee hesitates, not wanting to be apart from Bill.  But her best friend Patty Gilbert tells her to do it, and so she reluctantly starts to help.  When she finds out that Bill went to a movie with Dana Larson, she freaks out.  Bill is bewildered, because it was an innocent meeting between friends.  He tells her that he can’t keep meeting her needs and suggests they take a break.

DeeDee is crushed, but when Liz feigns laryngitis, she has to step up and finish planning the talent show.  DeeDee does a wonderful job and rediscovers her love of design and sense of independence.  Bill is taken with how beautiful DeeDee looks when she’s being independent or something, and the two reconcile.

The talent show goes off without a hitch and is a roaring success.  Everyone is stunned when Todd Wilkins gets up onstage and instead of doing stand-up comedy, he reads a sappy poem about remembering and goodbyes or something.  I think it’s supposed to be deep.  Elizabeth is confused and worried, and when she asks him what’s going on, he tells her that his dad is being transferred and he’s moving away!

The B-Plot involves Ma and Pa Wakefield taking a vacation to Mexico and leaving the twins unsupervised at the house.  Things start to go wrong immediately, with Jessica over-loading the washing machine (thus breaking it) and starting a small grease fire in the kitchen.  Things go really badly when Lila and Jessica throw a party at the Wakefield house that gets way out of hand when some college frat boys crash it with their BEER.  The police are called, Steven saves the day, but Ma Wakefield’s design plans for a huge project are ruined by the BEER.

In a panic, Jessica begs DeeDee to come and fix the plans (since she’s so good at design).  DeeDee does a beautiful job, just in the nick of time, because Ma and Pa Wakefield come home early.  All is well, though, because Ma Wakefield can’t tell the difference between her drawing and DeeDee’s.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila yawned. ‘Don’t get so excited. Daddy’s thinking of sending me to a spa for my birthday this year,’ she confided. ‘They have this marvelous machine at the Fountain of Youth that takes all the fat off the backs of your thighs.  And they soak you in minerals until you’re entirely purified.'” (96)
  • “‘It’s DeeDee,’ Elizabeth whispered, slipping her arm through Todd’s. ‘She’s driving me crazy!  Todd, the girl can’t do one single thing by herself.  I had to find people to help paint sets.  Do you realize she’s called me four times since she and Bill broke up?  And that was only yesterday!'” (82)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Todd has apparently started working part-time at his father’s office.  What his father does, however, is not mentioned.
  • At the talent show, Patty Gilbert dances, Winston and Ken do a magic act with Jessica as their assistant, Olivia sings, and Todd is supposed to do comedy (but instead reads a poem).
  • Pop culture references include Psycho, The Birds, The Philadelphia Story, Duck Soup, and West Side Story (I’m sensing a theme here).

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It seems almost too easy to focus on the character of DeeDee and examine what the ghostwriters have done to her.  While she is described as being a girl who has always been fiercely independent, we as readers don’t have many examples of that.  Sure, when she and Bill first got together, she was trying to get into surfing and she went out alone and almost drowned, but was she really independent or just kind of foolish?

But we’re supposed to believe that all of this is okay because once DeeDee is given a project, she’s able to find her purpose again and no longer relies solely on Bill’s attention to fulfill herself.  It’s probably best not to look too closely at the female role models in her life (the little tidbits thrown into the story about her mom and her art teacher both losing the men in their lives because they were too busy pursuing other passions were both bizarre and jarring and were clearly added to rationalize DeeDee’s sudden behavior change) and just accept this story for what it is: a happy ending.

Looking at the cover makes me wonder how happy of an ending it can be when DeeDee’s been stuck with the worst name and the worst haircut, though.