Tag Archives: wilderness adventures

SVH #116: Nightmare in Death Valley

4 Feb

nightmare

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 days

Summary/Overview:

The teens are still in the desert and they’re running out of food.  They camp overnight in the cave where the third treasure was supposed to be, and they argue over their quickly dwindling food supplies.  Heather’s ankle is still messed up from her fall while climbing, so the next morning, the group decides to leave Jessica and Heather behind and continue on, sending help when they reach the Oasis (which is still, weirdly, like 25 miles away).  It isn’t long after the remaining four set off that they argue about which fork in the trail to take.  Liz and Ken think it’s too dangerous to take the low ground, because there have been storms in the area and a flash flood could be imminent, while Todd and Bruce think it’s stupid to climb to higher ground because they don’t have enough water or food to fuel extra exertion.  The four split off into twos, which seems like a supremely bad idea.  Todd worries that Liz will cheat on him with Ken, which is a nice break from worrying if Liz will cheat on him with Bruce.

Heather and Jessica are still camping near the cave.  The two bicker and worry about what will become of them, and they’re awoken in the night by the sound of crunching gravel. The escaped convicts are rummaging through Jessica’s bag, and Heather screams, alerting the men to their awoken state.  They end up bound with ropes and held hostage while the convicts rummage through their things.  One of the men, who Jessica starts calling “Jack,” seems gentler than the other two, offering the girls water and beef jerky.  The convicts decide that sending up a flare is a good way to get the rest of the gang back, so they do that.

Meanwhile, Todd and Bruce fight and separate.  Bruce is at the top of a hill when he hears a scream and realizes that Liz is about to fall (?).  He saves her but loses his bag of gold to a bald eagle at the same time (I am not making this up).  Then Todd comes back and he and Liz make up.  They see the flare go up and decide to go back to the camp.  Ken follows behind the other three, in case it is a trap.

Which, of course, it is! The five are held hostage for a bit until Ken sneaks up and tries to steal one of the convict’s guns.  It doesn’t work, and the entire group gets bound up with rope.  BUT THEN it starts to thunder and rain! Liz convinces the men that they have to move to lower ground to avoid lightning strikes.  The men decide to leave, even though Jack expresses regret at leaving the teens alone.  The teens break free thanks to Bruce’s hunting knife and start to move to safer ground, but then they realize Jack is drowning in the river! They save him, and then he helps get Heather to higher ground (flash floods? this terrain is so confusing) by carrying her up the side of a cliff.  The group welcome him as one of their own magnanimously.

But it isn’t long before they meet up with the other two convicts, who most certainly did not drown in the flash flood.  “Moe” grabs Elizabeth and holds a knife to her throat.  Jack tries to rescue her and ends up getting shot, falling DEAD to the ground.  Moe hears a plane and goes outside of the cave they’re in to investigate, leaving the other dude to kill the teens.  Instead of killing them, he listens to Jessica’s pleas and fires the rounds into the roof of the cave, causing a cave-in.  The teens are trapped and running out of air.

After another near-brush with randomly rising water, the teens follow a tunnel towards another area.  By accident, Ken bangs a wall, and it falls away.  They manage to climb through the rock and find that they secretly discovered a shortcut to the Oasis! They are saved!

Oh, and the gold they found is really fool’s gold.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ken wears a sailor’s cap to keep the sun off his head, and Liz wears an “Indian-print bandanna.”
  • Ken and Liz see Orion’s belt in the sky, which must mean it’s winter (?)
  • Jack has a tin of brownies his lady made him, and they have walnuts in them, which makes them GARBAGE.
  • According to Jack, Moe was in for murdering a bunch of people with guns and also explosions, which would certainly put him on death row and not gen pop, but WHATEVER GHOSTWRITER

Memorable Quotes:

  • “We’re moving at the rate of an inch an hour.  It will be March of the year 2000 before we get back to the Oasis.” (37)
  • “Elizabeth, I need to say something…But you’ve made your point. So right now I wish you’d stuff a sock in it.” (52)
  • “Now it was up to her: Jessica Wakefield, sexy seductress of Sweet Valley High, was about to swing into action.” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Like, where do we even begin?  All of it is so preposterous that I feel overwhelmed by choice when it comes to mocking.

It makes no sense that the group would continue to split up after leaving Heather and Jessica in the middle of nowhere.  I mean, I know they are teens and therefore impulsive, but this is why they would have a guide.  WHATEVER.  Furthermore, there are a lot of discrepancies in how much distance the group has traveled and why they keep crossing paths with the convicts.  It makes no sense and many of these moments felt like ways to push the plot forward (but made no actual logical sense).

The convicts are dumb, even Jack, who is supposed to be the most humane of the trio.  When Jessica asks him what he did to land himself in prison, he says he was talked into holding up a liquor store.  Okay, buddy.  You aren’t a murderer but you definitely made some questionable choices.  But he’s the least bad of the bunch! He has a woman waiting for him! He wants to run away to Mexico!

I guess the thing that sticks out the most in this book is how many natural disasters they face.  Cave-ins, flash floods, near-lightning strikes, and so much more.  The cave-in thing actually made me laugh because they talk about nearly running out of air and then follow a huge tunnel for a while, which would mean they had way more air than the ghostwriter thought.  I don’t know.  None of it makes sense.  I HATE IT.

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SVH #108: Left at the Altar

11 Jul

left at the altar

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jeremy and Jessica continue to see each other behind Sue’s back, despite the fact that he’s still completely engaged to Sue and going forward with the wedding.  They sneak off to Miller’s Point and make out, and Jeremy tells her he’s going to break it off with Sue and tell her he just wants to be friends.  Jessica believes him for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, Sue tells Liz that she was diagnosed with the same rare blood disease that killed her mother and she only has a few years to live. She tells Liz that she wants to set Jeremy free so he doesn’t have to bear the burden of her illness.  I thought Sue’s mother died of cancer, but whatever.  Liz thinks Jessica will have to give up Jeremy now, because everyone is an idiot.

When Sue tells Jeremy that she’s calling the whole thing off, he refuses and then rededicates himself to her.  He tells Jessica they can’t keep seeing each other, but then she corners him in an elevator and they make out.  Todd finally arrives back in Sweet Valley and before Liz can tell him about her affair with Luke, he tells her that he met someone when he was staying at his grandmothers but he realized Liz is the girl for him.  She FREAKS THE FUCK OUT and breaks up with him, telling him she only thought of him in London.  What is this book?

When Sue and Jeremy go on a nature hike to clean up trash, Jessica volunteers to go with, so Liz does too.  The twins end up separated from the couple and when Jessica realizes it’s a 6-mile trek, she pretends to twist her ankle so Jeremy has to carry her to the car.  That night, they have a barbeque on the beach and Jeremy and Jessica sneak off to make out before Enid and Liz interrupt them.

The night before the wedding, the twins and their friends throw a bridal shower for Sue before deciding to crash the bachelor party Robby is throwing.  Sue goes home to bed and the teens hit up the party, which turns out to be a stuffy dinner.  Liz and Todd make up after Steven gives some good advice, and she finally comes clean about Luke not-a-real-werewolf.  All is well.

The day of the wedding, Sue and the girls get manicures and she loses her shit when the manicurist accidentally hurts her hand.  Then she blows a ton of money on a dress that Liz thinks would be weird to wear in the rain forests or wherever the fuck Jeremy and Sue are going on their honeymoons.  Jessica moans about having to be in the wedding and watch this farce but Liz cajoles her into it.  When the minister (or “Father Bishop” or whatever) asks if there’s a reason they shouldn’t be wed, Jessica bursts out with “YES” and Jeremy admits he’s not in love with Sue.  The wedding is called off!

The B-Plot involves Lila and Robby, who are back together after a brief time apart in the previous book because Robby lied about having money when he was really a penniless artist.  Lila worries that he’s only into her because she’s rich so she spins a yarn about how she was taken in by the Fowlers and her parents were servants and she’s been forced to work for the Fowlers, etc. etc.  What century is this?  At any rate, Robby eats that shit up and asks for more.  Finally, Lila confesses that she’s rich, but Robby still loves her.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Despite the fact that in the previous book, Steven was away at school, he is back and has now been sleeping on the couch in the den so Sue can have his room.  This makes no sense to me.
  • Liz is now reading a book about women with love addictions.
  • Jeremy’s parents send the happy couple a matching pair of Koala sweaters as an engagement gift, while the Fowlers give them pink satin bedsheets.  GROSS on both accounts.
  • Liz reads a book called Women as Seen Through the Eyes of Male Society
  • Lila wears an ivory raw-silk dress to the wedding, which, isn’t that a big no-no?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I hope that you and Jeremy will continue coming to stay with us after you’re married,’ Mrs. Wakefield said. ‘That is, if you don’t mind Steven’s single bed!'” (29)
  • This should keep Jessica away from Jeremy now.  There’s no way even Jessica would continue to deceive a dying woman.” (59)
  • “‘How could you? I trusted you. I thought about you the whole time I was in London.'” (71) YOU ARE ACTUALLY INSANE.
  • “‘Jessica’s still in high school,’ Sue said. ‘Isn’t that adorable?'” (132)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analsysis:

I guess I don’t understand any of this.  Like, why is Jessica so into Jeremy?  Why is Sue?  I can’t get past the fact that none of her family nor her friends are at the ceremony.  Like, why are all the Wakefields and their friends the only people (I guess besides Robby) at the bridal shower and bachelor party?  Why is Liz so terrible?  How can this story be drawn out over so many books when there isn’t an actual plot?

BLERGH.

SVH Sweet Valley Saga #1: The Wakefields of Sweet Valley

2 Apr

wsv

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 generations…

Summary/Overview:

Summarizing this book is kind of a nightmare, but I’ll see what I can do.

Alice Larson, 1866

Fresh off (on) the boat from Sweden, 16-year-old Alice Larson meets handsome Theodore Wakefield and falls in love before the boat hits land.  He rescues her from near-drowning one night during a terrible gale.  The two are separated at immigration and never meet again.  Alice moves with her aunt and uncle to Minnesota, and eventually meets and marries a very nice man named George Johnson.  The two have three children: Steven, and identical twins Jessamyn and Elisabeth. Steven dies as a child of Scarlet Fever, but Jessamyn and Elisabeth are raised in Prairie Lakes, Minnesota.  Jessamyn is a wild tomboy who dreams of joining the circus, and Elisabeth is a mild-mannered good girl.  Hmm.  Alice still thinks about her true love Theodore and absolutely FREAKS OUT when Jessamyn mentions that a man called Theo W. is part of the circus.  The two never cross paths, though.

Jessamyn and Elisabeth Johnson, 1893

Sixteen years old and beautiful, the girls live a fairly nice life in Minnesota.  Both of them are crushing on Tom Wilkens (seriously?), but he chooses Elisabeth to kiss after winning a corn husking contest.  Then Jessamyn sneaks off in the middle of the night to join the circus as a bareback rider.

Elisabeth befriends Peter Blue Cloud, the man who taught Jessamyn about horses, and when his health fails, she hops a train in search of her sister, despite her parents protestations.  She finds Jessamyn, who agrees to return home the next day.  Elisabeth asks to ride Jessamyn’s horse, and gets thrown from it, promptly DYING.  Jesus Christ.

Jessamyn Johnson, 1900-1908

Now living in San Francisco and making her way as a single lady, Jessamyn brings all the boys to the yard.  She’s being courted by a man named Taylor Watson, who runs a car company.  He asks her to marry him, but she has commitment issues due to the death of her sister.  She sort of says yes, but then starts seeing Taylor’s friend and race car driver protege Bruce Farber.  She’s torn between the two men until the day of the San Francisco earthquake when Taylor rescues Bruce from a collapsing building and Jessamyn decides her loyalty has always been with him.  The two marry, move to Michigan, and she gives birth to a boy, Harry, and  two identical twin girls, Samantha and Amanda.

Samantha and Amanda Watson, 1920-1935

Coming of age during the roaring twenties, Samantha and Amanda could not be more different: Samantha wants to be a famous actress and Amanda wants to be a writer.  Hmm, again.  Amanda has a serious boyfriend named Geoffrey (seriously?) and isn’t interested when her brother Harry writes about his college roommate, Ted Wakefield (are you fucking kidding me).  But then she meets him and falls in love, despite the fact that Samantha is quite taken with him, too.  Despite her feelings for her boyfriend, she totally kisses Ted and they fall deeply in love, keeping their relationship a secret even after she breaks up with poor Geoffrey.

Much of their relationship is carried on through letters, which Samantha conveniently intercepts one day.  She FREAKS OUT and decides to sabotage the relationship in any way she can.  This includes intercepting all future letters, sabotaging her sister’s newspaper room at school so she misses Ted’s next visit, and then, when Ted still declines her advances, posing as Amanda in an attempt to frame Ted for selling illegal alcohol.  All of this is so convoluted and stupid it’s hardly worth recapping.

TL;DR: Ted gets arrested and released after Amanda finds out what’s happened and begs the police for mercy.  Ted’s already left town, claiming heartbreak that his girlfriend would set him up like that (this dude is an idiot).  Amanda’s not an idiot, I guess, because she figures out that it was all Samantha’s doing, and she gets into a huge fight with her, leading to complete silence between the two.

Samantha leaves for Hollywood and promptly gets married and pregnant by a man named Jack Lewis.  When the doctor calls to tell the Watsons that Samantha might not survive the delivery of her baby, Amanda rushes to be by her side.  She arrives just in time to meet perfect little Marjorie and then watch her sister perish.  Although she promised her dying sister that she would help raise the little girl, she doesn’t end up doing such a great job: when Jack gets a job overseas in France, Amanda declines tagging along, citing her job as a teacher at Sweet Valley High as more important.  Okay.

Marjorie Lewis, 1940-1949

Despite the fact that it’s wartime in France, Jack doesn’t send Marjorie home to Sweet Valley.  When he finally does attempt to ship her back to the states, it’s too late, as he’s been taken by the Nazis and Marjorie is taken into hiding by a family friend who is also hiding a Jewish girl named Sophy.  The two live in hiding for a year, when Sophy’s brother Jacques comes to them and asks Marjorie to send coded messages for the resistance.  She works for the resistance fighters bravely and falls in love with Jacques along the way.  Ah, romance.

When she learns that Sophy has been captured, she and Jacques work out a plan to pretend to swap Marjorie for Sophy, since they believe Marjorie has more value to the soldiers as someone with insider knowledge of the resistance fighters.  At the train station, they get Sophy on the train headed to Spain with faked papers, but before the rest of them can get on the train, all hell breaks loose and Marjorie loses sight of Jacques and his friend Pierre.  It looks as though Jacques is killed in the shooting melee that ensues, but Marjorie makes it into the compartment with Sophy.

Once on board, Marjorie and Sophy cry over Jacques.  Then Marjorie tells her that she doesn’t have papers and plans to jump off the train before it gets to Spain.  INSTEAD, Sophy gives her her papers and tells her to go home, choosing instead to stay and fight for the resistance.  Um, okay.  Marjorie goes home to Sweet Valley and eventually marries a man named Charles Robertson (and her dad is totally still alive and walks her down the aisle).

Alice Robertson, 1962-1969

Alice goes off to college and finds herself while she draws pictures and deals with the advances of rich, arrogant Hank Patman.  After Hank saves the day at a sit-in protest by helicopter dropping food to the student protesters, Alice decides to finally go out with him.  See? You can wear people down until they’ll date you.

At any rate, the two date for a while, become fully enmeshed in the hippie culture, and eventually get engaged.  But I guess Alice can’t keep Hank’s eyes from straying, because they fight at a beach party after she catches him chatting up another woman.  Angry, she dives into the water and nearly drowns, only to be saved by Ned Wakefield.  She’s startled by how she feels as though she has met him before.  Whatever, they have a connection, but she is marrying Hank Patman and that is that.

When she overhears Hank talking about how Alice’s friends are a bunch of worthless hippies, she decides she can’t go through with the wedding and calls it off moments before it happens.  She looks up Ned’s address in a phone book and the rest is history.  I guess.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Pi Iota Gamma is the name of a frat at Alice’s university.  I don’t know why I think this is so funny.
  • All the identical twins in this line of women also have identical moles on their left shoulder, just like LIZ!
  • Pop culture references: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix
  • One of Amanda’s students at SVH is named Walter Egbert, and he is–you guessed it–a jokester!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessamyn looked up at her friend. His back was as straight as a boy’s, and he led Smoke Signal with a sure step.  True, the deep lines in his face made it quite impossible to imagine him as ever having been young.  But Jessamyn thought he was like a great, ancient tree that had been growing almost forever–and would always be there for her.” (45) Jesus Christ.
  • “‘Instant wealth,’ Samantha said. ‘Sounds like a plot for a motion picture.'” (142)
  • “I never thought I’d see the day when these squares joined the revolution.” (299)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This entire book is a moron.

First of all, the title doesn’t make sense, because these are Alice Robertson’s female ancestors.  None of them are named Wakefield until she marries the dude named Wakefield, no matter how close they come to it in generations before.  And speaking of that–no one else thought it was fucking stupid that ALL these women kept running into these men with the surname Wakefield who all descended from the same magnificent man?  Seriously?  What is the message here?  Past lives are real?  True love knows no time limit?  Are we really to believe that Alice and Ned’s marriage was MEANT TO BE from the time their ancestors arrived by boat?

Setting aside the historical inaccuracies and weird white-washing of historical events, this book is still dumb.  The slang terms clunkily inserted into the dialogue alone make it cringe-worthy on nearly every page, but the stories set in the 1920s and 1960s are by far the worst.

If you start to think about the timeline for Alice Robertson too much, you realize that it doesn’t make sense.  If the original SVH novels began their publishing run in 1983 when Jessica and Elizabeth were 16, then Alice had to have given birth to them in 1966-1967.  That means that by the time she meets “Ned” after her engagement to Hank, she’d already have had Steven and the twins.  Which is probably why the book fudges the numbers a little bit with Alice: her last few chapters just say “Sometime in the late 1960s.”  LIKE THEY HAD ALREADY GIVEN UP TRYING TO MAKE THE TIMEFRAME WORK.

I mean, I understand that when you have a series that runs for over a decade (seriously, think about that for a minute) and the characters remain the same age the entire time, you run into serious problems with consistency.  But it still really bothers me, much more than it should.

SVH #71: Starring Jessica!

17 Mar

starring jessica

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Famous talk show host Eric Parker is coming to Sweet Valley for a special episode of his show.  He’s selecting one teen from Sweet Valley High, his alma mater, to interview on his show.  Jessica is convinced this is her chance at fame and stardom, and she’s determined to get the guest spot on his show.  All interested students have to fill out an application proving how all-American and well-rounded they are.

Jessica angsts about her application, because in her mind, her only real competition is Lila Fowler.  Lila seems to be fudging the truth on her application, but perhaps her most egregious lie is that she leaves off exactly how wealthy she is.  This infuriates Jessica, who is working hard to create an application that is truthful and representative of who she is.  She decides she needs something a bit more academic for her application, so she writes a feature for The Oracle about the worst dates she’s ever had.  Penny loves it and promises to print it in the paper’s next edition.

Turns out that the applications from Sweet Valley High were so good that Eric needs more time to narrow down his choices.  He selects some students for interviews, including Jessica and Lila, whose rivalry for the spot is so intense at this point that they aren’t speaking to one another.  Lila tries to sabotage Jessica’s interview by removing the note that tells candidates the interview room has been moved, and Jessica tries to sabotage Lila for that prank by casually mentioning that Lila’s father practically owns Sweet Valley.

All this is for naught, though: Jessica ends up winning the spot on Eric Parker’s show, and Lila is the alternate choice in case Jessica can’t make it.  Jessica is elated; Lila is furious. She devises a plan–with the help of Bruce Patman, who’s pissed about Jessica referring to his kissing abilities being like a jellyfish–to keep Jessica from being at the school on time for her taping.

Lila convinces Jessica to go shopping with her for a new outfit before the taping.  They do this on the same afternoon as the interview, and Lila convinces her to drive a ways up the coast.  Once there, Lila ditches Jessica while she’s in the dressing room, and Bruce Patman calls the store and pretends to be a detective, warning the store owner of a shoplifter fitting Jessica’s description.  Jessica is detained, Lila goes back to Sweet Valley, and all is lost.

Only, when Jessica calls home, Elizabeth comes up with a plan.  Stepping in as Jessica for the interview, she nails it, allowing Jessica to have her glory and Lila to get locked in the dressing room closet.  Elizabeth saves the day!

The B-plot features Elizabeth worrying that her interests are too focused on the literary.  She decides to become a volunteer junior park ranger at Secca Lake.  She and Enid attend some classes, take a quiz, and then Liz is appointed the Chief Junior ranger.  Only she starts to feel overextended, and then finally realizes that you can be passionate about a lot of things, but being dedicated to them all is exhausting.  So she gives it up to focus on her writing.

Fun Facts/Trivia:

  • The special edition of Eric Parker’s show is called “Growing Up in America”
  • Winston refers to the time he and Jessica were shipwrecked on Outermost Island–was that what it was called?
  • Apparently the Big Sister/Little Sister program is still a thing at SVH, because Jessica puts it on her application
  • Jessica mentions that Bruce Patman kisses like a dead jellyfish in this book, but it’s mentioned as something that happened in the past in the previous book (Enid’s Story).  Continuity is hard, guys.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘So many barefoot girls who are ready to lay themselves at his feet and become his love slaves,’ Lila added with a sly smile.” (44)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There isn’t much to snark on here, really.  Apart from the awkwardly shoe-horned in lessons about the environment and the importance of conservation, this is a fairly straight-forward plot.  I do find it weird that everyone is so obsessed with Eric Parker’s talk show, because it doesn’t seem like something that would actually appeal to teens at all–from what little we know of it.

Also, the Lila-Bruce kiss thing: I didn’t mention this in my recap, but they kiss each other passionately after congratulating one another on their devious plan to sabotage Jessica goes off without a hitch.  It’s a weird moment–and it feels so disingenuous to the characters that I found it jarring.  I know it was meant to serve as a way for Lila to yell at him later about kissing like a dead jellyfish, but it still rankled me.

Up next: SVH #72: Rock Star’s Girl.

SVH Super Edition: Perfect Summer

28 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 month

Summary/Overview

Jessica and Elizabeth are on summer vacation, and they’re going on a 1-month-long bicycle trip with a bunch of their classmates and chaperones in the form of Ms. Nora Dalton and Mr. Roger Collins.  Apparently the two teachers signed on for the trip back when they were hot and heavy but have since broken up.  Scandal!  The rest of the teens going on the trip are: Todd Wilkins, Bruce Patman and Roger (Barrett) Patman, Olivia Davidson, Lila Fowler, Charlie Markus, Annie Whitman, and Principal Cooper’s nephew from Ohio Barry Cooper, who has never met any of the SVH kids and yet wants to spend four weeks bicycling and camping with them.  Barry is chubby and awkward, and the author reminds the reader of this at every turn.  He’s slovenly and slow and has a thing for Jessica, who’s downright rude to him at every chance she gets.  This is a recipe for disaster.

The twelve of them depart and start heading up the coast.  Their itinerary is kind of weird, but they make stops in Newport Bay, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, Big Sur, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco.  The group makes a 3-day stopover in Los Angeles to stay with a very rich family-friend of the Patman’s.  Steve Thomas and his daughter, Courtney live in a huge mansion in Hollywood, and while Mr. Thomas is pretty nice, his daughter Courtney is a raging bitch.  Within minutes of meeting the group, she hops on her boyfriend Nolan Ruggers’s (best name ever?) dirt bike and takes off with him, clad only in a bikini, which is just bad sense.

That night, when the teens head out for an unsupervised night on the town (really?), Mr. Thomas invites Ms. Dalton and Mr. Collins up to the main house for a drink.  He and Dalton have champagne, but Collins has a glass of Perrier with lime, which makes me think HE IS AN ALCOHOLIC.  Over drinks, Mr. Thomas begs the two teachers to take Courtney with them on the rest of the trip.  He needs to get her away from her bad-news boyfriend and is at his wit’s end.  Mr. Collins is angry and privately thinks Mr. Thomas is abandoning his own bad parenting and pushing Courtney off on someone else, but he reluctantly agrees to the arrangement.

Once on the trip with the group, Courtney does a complete turn-around, behavior wise.  She kills with kindness, sweetness, and light.  But she’s also pretty helpless, and requires the near-constant attention of Todd.  This bothers Elizabeth, who doesn’t trust Courtney and the stories she’s spinning (her dad’s an alcoholic, she’s worried sick about him).  Todd begs Elizabeth to give her a fair chance, and this becomes a thorn in the side of their relationship, and it pushes them to the breaking point.

Lila is pissed that Ms. Dalton is dating her father and taking up even more of his time.  She is nasty to her whenever she can, and when she runs into a few boys at a hostel who recognize Dalton from a few years back and tell her that Dalton used to be called Beth Curtis, Lila blackmails her into bending to her every whim.

This secret that Ms. Dalton is carrying around causes problems between her and Mr. Collins.  When swimming one day, Dalton sees a stingray and panics, nearly drowning.  Mr. Collins saves her, and she shivers in his arms and they have a nice little moment before she pulls away.  When Lila finally spills the beans about Ms. Dalton’s former life (and marriage), the whole story comes out.  Ms. Dalton, formerly known as Beth Curtis, was a French teacher in Arizona, married to a man named John.  John was a mean drunk, and he beat her.  When she finally got the courage to leave, he begged her to return, and when she refused, he shot himself.  His family blamed her and wouldn’t leave it be, so she changed her name and moved away.  Somehow, George Fowler knew the Curtises and pseudo-blackmailed her into dating him.  Mr. Collins and Ms. Dalton make up and make with the love-promises.

Meanwhile, Jessica becomes obsessed with a boy named Robbie October, who is riding up the coast with his brother.  After a few encounters where she kind of blows it, she meets up with him in Big Sur, where they sneak off in the middle of the night to take a hike.  When she’s not back in the morning, everyone goes looking for her and they discover that Robbie and Jessica (who now hate each other) are trapped in a bear cave with a very angry mama bear.  Barry Cooper distracts the bear long enough for them to escape, and thus he saves the day.

That night, Courtney asks Todd to meet her in the woods.  She smokes a cigarette while waiting for him, and flicks it into the brush when he arrives.  She asks him to go back with her to L.A., and he agrees and kisses her.

The next morning, a forest fire is raging near the group’s campsite.  Bruce, Roger, Mr. Collins, and Charlie courageously put it out, with Bruce finally acknowledging that Roger is his blood-kin.  Elizabeth blames herself for the fire starting, assuming that she didn’t put the campfire out properly the night before.  She tries to run away but Mr. Collins intercedes and tells her about Courtney’s problems.  Liz goes to confront her and the whole truth comes out, including the fact that Courtney set the fire accidentally.  Mr. Collins ships Courtney off the next morning, and the group continues on to San Francisco.  All is well in the world.

Oh, and Annie Whitman and Charlie Markus start dating.

Memorable Quotes

  • “As the bike got closer, leaving churned-up bits of grass and dirt in its wake, Elizabeth could make out its rider–dressed from head to toe in black leather.  He was wearing spike-studded wristbands and calf-high, black, lace-up army boots he had decorated with heavy chains.  His hair was shorn almost to his skull, except for a narrow strip that ran from the middle of his forehead to his neck and stood straight up in stiff bristles.” (25)
  • “‘Somebody ought to give both Todd and Courtney a sound spanking!’ Jessica wrote in bold letters.” (116)
  • “‘Honestly,’ she said when they were out of Bruce’s earshot, ‘he’s as bad in the kitchen as you are.  What do you people do on the servant’s night off, anyway?’  Lila looked Jessica straight in the eye. ‘Cold lobster and caviar,’ she said earnestly.” (119)

Trivia and Pop Culture

  • Enid is working at Casey’s Ice Cream Parlor over the summer, while Cara is a junior counselor at a camp in Oregon.
  • Courtney favors Marlboro cigarettes.
  • Sweet Valley High apparently has campus gates.  This blows my mind.
  • References to The Twilight Zone, the Jackson 5’s “ABC,” The Brady Bunch, and Munchkins are made.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

The first thing I’d like to focus on is the food the group consumes on this trip.  By far, the list of items they eat is the most extensive we’ve seen.  Over the course of the trip, the group consumes: chicken parmesan, blueberry muffins, cheese fondue, chocolate fondue, trout almondine, asparagus, shredded carrot salad, flaky fruit pastries, fudgy brownies, cider, paella, hot-and-sour soup, burgers, salad, cookies, seafood (a clambake), melon, prosciutto, cream of tomato soup, rootbeer and other sodas, pizza, and chocolate cake.  Much of this food is consumed while camping, which boggles the mind.  True, some of these items are eaten at restaurants, which brings me to my actual point.

Who is funding this trip?  I mean, is it organized through the school?  I’m assuming it is, since there are teachers chaperoning the event (I’m not even going to get into the details of the fact that the teachers were sharing tents with students).  But like, did families pay for their children to go on the trip?  How much would a trip like this cost?  What would the insurance liabilities be for a trip like this?  Why is none of this even explained?

The theme of Mr. Collins-as-savior is explored in this book again, with him rescuing Nora from drowning, carrying Barry after he is chased by the bear, and interceding before Elizabeth runs away after the forest fire.  He is presented as a man of morals (and yet no mention of what kind of child care he had arranged for his six-year-old son while he was on the trip is made), a man who loves Nora in a pure, mostly non-sexual way, a man who doesn’t indulge in alcohol and who remains true to the well-being of his students, no matter what.

Which is mostly boring, although he does have one moment of almost-real insight when standing in Mr. Thomas’s house:

Roger Collins weighed the pros and cons of taking Courtney along.  He found himself thinking that perhaps Steve Thomas had given up on disciplining his daughter and that he was now turning to someone else for a solution.  What’s more, there were certainly more pleasant prospects than suddenly becoming responsible for a girl like Courtney (31).

But despite showing a rare moment of good sense, he agrees to the half-assed plan and that’s where all the trouble begins.  Oh, Mr. Collins.  So close, and yet so far.

I will give a shout-out to the SVH crowd for going green way before it was trendy.