Tag Archives: winston egbert

SVH #56: Lost at Sea

3 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: One week?

Summary/Overview:

Mr. Russo is taking some students on a field trip to Anacapa Island as part of an extra credit assignment.  Over the course of the Sunday afternoon, students study the plant and wildlife on the island.  It must be super-extra credit, because last I remember, Mr. Russo taught chemistry, not biology.  Anyway, the kids all pile onto a boat and sail out to the island.  Once they’re there, they get split into teams and start studying tide pools.  Jessica’s pissed because she gets put into a group with Lois Waller, Winston Egbert, and Randy Mason.  She wanted to work with Ken Matthews because apparently she’s interested in him again.

A storm suddenly appears, so they cut the field trip short.  On the way back, though, the waves are so big that the boat almost capsizes.  The captain orders an evacuation into the life rafts, and Jessica and Winston get placed in one together.  When Winston tries to give Liz and Aaron an extra oar, their raft capsizes for real and they’re washed away from the group.  The storm ends and the rest of the group is saved, but Jessica and Winston are nowhere to be found.  Liz cries a lot.

Jessica and Winston both wash up on an island some time later.  Jessica sleeps through the night on the beach and then wakes up furious, blaming Winston for their predicament.  He manages to temper some of her fury by offering her a breakfast of freshly caught fish and fruit.  The two of them eat and then start building a shelter on the island.  Later, the two of them explore further up the island, where they run into a bear.  TERROR!  Winston freezes up, and Jessica saves the day by throwing blueberries at it.  This actually happens.

Meanwhile, Liz and Steven can’t just sit at home while the coast guard looks for Jessica and Winston.  They ask Nicholas Morrow to take them out in his boat.  They don’t get very far before it starts to rain again, though, so they head home.  Alice gets upset because she thought she was going to lose her other two children to the sea as well.  Much melodrama ensues.

Jessica and Winston wait out the second storm in their shelter.  Then they are rescued by the coast guard in the most anticlimactic way possible.  When they arrive home, Jessica is interviewed by reporters.  She takes credit for all of Winston’s ideas and basks in the spotlight.  The world makes sense again!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But talk about romantic!  She and Ken Matthews, soaking wet and clinging to each other in a tiny lifeboat in the middle of a raging sea…” (34)
  • “There’s no such thing as an uncharted isle, no matter what they say.” (112)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica and Ken went to Homecoming together their sophomore year.
  • The name of the boat the field trip group rides on is Maverick.  The name of Nicholas Morrow’s boat is Nighthawk.  I wish I were joking.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

We’re talking about a book where Jessica and Winston go on a field trip only to get stranded on a deserted island.  They build shelter and cook fish and Jessica entertains ideas of wearing a palm frond skirt.  The entire plot of the book is far-fetched at best, but I couldn’t help but get tripped up on one detail: the weird response of the Wakefield family in general.

Elizabeth is understandably distraught at the idea of losing Jessica in the middle of the ocean.  It’s fair to say that the entire family is pretty upset, actually, but what’s weird is how their actions don’t seem to match up to their emotions.  The night Jessica goes missing, Alice has Jeffrey, Steven, Cara, and Liz sitting in her kitchen, waiting for word from the coast guard.  She serves them coffee and lemon bars.  It just feels…oddly formal.  Then she allows Steven and Liz to go off and search for Jessica in Nicholas Morrow’s boat.  This doesn’t really make sense, either.

Of course, one could make the argument that you shouldn’t judge another’s actions until you’ve been in their situation, but since I don’t foresee that happening, we’re going to have to assume that sending your remaining children to school the day after their sister is lost at sea is a little strange.

SVH #38: Leaving Home

8 Oct

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth has become obsessed with the idea of going to boarding school in Switzerland, so when Regina Morrow shows her a brochure about the Interlochen school, she knows it’s like totally fate (like Shannon pointed out in her review, the Interlochen school is in Michigan, but whatevs, Sweet Valley).  The school is internationally renowned and has a strong focus on literature and writing.  There’s also a scholarship that would pay for Elizabeth’s entire senior year to be spent abroad learning and studying there.  In order to qualify for the Margaret Sterne Memorial Scholarship, Elizabeth has to undergo a pretty rigorous process: along with her application, she must submit writing samples, some faculty recommendations, and have two interviews, one with a family member of the scholarship’s namesake, and one with an alumnus of the school.  If she passes all these steps, then she’ll have the opportunity to spend her entire summer and her last year of high school learning with the elite.

Obviously this idea doesn’t go over well with anyone in Elizabeth’s life.  Jessica is devastated at the idea of spending a year apart from Liz.  Jeffrey’s sad, Enid’s upset, Steven’s confused, and Ma and Pa Wakefield are a bit worried, too.  But Elizabeth has her mind set on it and won’t listen to anyone’s concerns, although no one seems to be able to offer anything constructive to the argument, choosing instead to be flummoxed on why anyone would ever want to leave Sweet Valley.  Liz becomes obsessed with winning the scholarship and focuses all of her energy on presenting her life and family in the best possible light for the interviews.

Jeffrey and Enid decide that they haven’t been supportive enough and funnel their efforts into creating the most amazing going-away scrapbook ever.  They spend all their free time together working on the book, and Liz begins to suspect that Jeffrey has already replaced her with her best friend.  Jessica and Steven decide that the best course of action is to sabotage Liz’s interviews and go out of their way to seem totally crazy.  Steven drops hints during the family interview that their family is a mess, and Jessica actually pretends to be Liz at school and hits on the interviewer.

When Elizabeth finds out what they’ve done, she’s rightfully pissed.  She’s screaming at them when the interviewer shows up at the house to offer her the scholarship.  He tells her that Steven and Jessica confessed to what they did and he was impressed with her moral character, blah blah blah.  Jeffrey and Enid show up with the scrapbook and Elizabeth realizes why they’ve been spending all their time together.  She looks at all the pictures of her wonderful life in Sweet Valley and turns down the opportunity to study abroad.  Everyone’s happy.

The B-Plot involves Winston accidentally switching coats with an old man at a convenience store and then winning $25,000 in the lottery with that man’s ticket.  He worries over what to do for a while before finally bringing it to the man (who is quite poor) and admitting what happened.  Everyone thinks Winston did an admirable thing, except Lila, who’s incredulous that Winston didn’t keep some of the money.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica looked glum.  ‘I thought twins were supposed to be close,’ she complained.  ‘Haven’t you always said how important it is for us to spend time together, Liz?  I’d like to know how much time we’re going to get to spend together when you’re off wearing lederhosen and yodeling and chasing goats.'” (8)
  • “‘Dad!’ Elizabeth shrieked. ‘He’ll think we have a broken family or something.'” (90)
  • “And then they’ll decide she’s even better than she is, despite her weird background.  Then they’ll give her twice as much money and send her away for twice as long.” (107) [Blogger’s note: They’re going to send her away for two senior years?  Really?]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Wakefield family meets Steven in San Farando, a town about 25 miles north of Sweet Valley that is apparently the halfway point between home and Steve’s “state university.”  I wish the ghost writers would make up their minds about where Steven goes to college.
  • Jeffrey’s birthday is July 12, in case you were dying to know.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess my biggest beef with this story is not how completely clueless Elizabeth seems to be about how upset she’s making everyone in the novel, but how Steven and Jessica (though less so) rationalize their behavior.

Both Steven and Jessica think it’s okay to completely sabotage Elizabeth’s chances at the scholarship because they don’t want her to leave.  Even though their attempts are pretty transparent and there’s not a chance that they’ll get away with the entire scheme without people catching on, it’s the sense of righteousness in their actions that bothers me the most.  The idea that their love for Elizabeth has become so misguided that they are willing to ruin her chances at a truly amazing educational experience is really alarming.

What kind of message does this send to SVH readers?  It’s okay to sabotage an amazing opportunity like this for someone else if you know what’s really best for them?  It doesn’t matter that what Jessica and Steven did was totally wrong and completely crossing the line, because they owned up to it and Liz was offered the scholarship anyway?  It’s okay because deep down, Liz didn’t really want to leave Sweet Valley and her siblings’ antics helped her to admit it?

Gross.  Just–gross.

SVH #34: Forbidden Love

29 Sep

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

So basically what we have here is a modern day Romeo and Juliet, or at least, that’s what the author wants us to think.  Maria Santelli and Michael Harris are dating, but the whole thing has to be kept very hush hush, because their families are feuding as a result of some business deal that went bad.  Maria and Michael date in secret and then, naturally get engaged, because what 16-year-old doesn’t want to get married like, immediately?  Elizabeth thinks they’re making a huge mistake, Jessica thinks it’s super way totally romantic, and even though it’s supposed to be this HUGE secret, the entire school seems to know about it and Maria is showing off her engagement ring at cheerleading practice.

Coincidentally (or not), the teens are all taking part in a special project for social studies (as an ACTUAL social studies teacher, I find this particular project dubious at best) that pairs them up into pretend marriages.  The duos will be given jobs and incomes and must negotiate budgets for their new households.  Jessica is with Winston, Liz is with Bruce, and Maria is with Michael.  How completely hetero-normative, SVH.  This is obviously going to end well.

Because Maria is apparently a really ambitious girl, she’s managing Winston’s campaign to be the student council representative for the PTA.  This is such an in-demand position that there’s a campaign?  One probably shouldn’t look too closely at this, as it seems to be just a plot device to further the problems in Michael and Maria’s relationship.  Once they’re engaged, Michael seems to be demanding more and more of Maria’s time.  One might even go so far as to say that he’s being controlling.  He wants her to stop helping Winston all together so that she can go shopping with him and attend every single one of his tennis matches.  Maria is conflicted about all this, because she really likes helping Winston, but Michael doesn’t like the way Winston looks at her.

It’s not just that Michael’s a control freak, though.  He’s just an all-around douche bag, as Maria finds out through the marriage project.  They don’t seem to agree on anything having to do with their relationship, and she starts to really question whether or not they should even be together, let alone dating.  They fight some more.

The climax comes at the surprise engagement party thrown for the couple at Lila Fowler’s house.  When Michael sees Maria dancing with Winston, he makes an announcement that he’s also going to run for student council PTA representative, and Maria’s going to help him.  Winston runs away, hurt.  Michael and Maria fight and break up.  Plot contrivance, plot contrivance…the Santellis and the Harrises find out about the engagement and rush to the party, demanding an explanation, and then the two fathers make up.  Maria finds Winston and explains what has happened, and they kiss.  Winston wins the student council position.  All is right in the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I can’t,’ she admitted. A sudden pang seemed to strike her. ‘You don’t think I’ll end up an old maid, do you?’ she asked. ‘So far I haven’t been very good at long-term relationships.  You’re the one who’s good at that.'” (38-39)
  • “‘Why not?’ Jessica asked gaily, cutting herself a piece of cake.  ‘I’m sure it was just a little spat,’ she added.  ‘It happens on my favorite soap opera all the time.  No engagement counts unless it’s been broken at least twice.'” (104)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Maria’s engagement ring is a small round diamond with a slender gold band.
  • Lila went heavy on the desserts at the engagement party.  Jessica and Liz both have wedding cake and then split a strawberry tart.  (This is me, totally jealous.)
  • Michael drives a trans-am, which makes him a douche truck automatically.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The entire plot is dubious at best.  The idea of two sixteen-year-old kids getting engaged for no apparent reason, even in the mid-eighties, is completely ridiculous.  There’s nary a mention of religion or sex, which are two powerful motivators for early marriage.  The two of them simply get engaged because…they love each other?  I love donuts, but you don’t see me getting engaged to one.

I also have a bone to pick with the social studies project that the kids participate in.  These types of projects seem to happen a lot in books and on TV shows, but do they ever actually happen in real life?  Even if they do, wouldn’t they be better-suited to a home economics class (I realize that these classes are now referred to as FACS–Family and Consumer Science–but give me a break, people, it is what it is) where these types of subjects are actually studied?  What self-respecting social studies teacher would agree to such a terrible project?  Also, all of the pairs were boy-girl, which like I mentioned before, is totally hetero-normative, but also unrealistic–there were gay couples in the 80s for sure, but there were also a lot of single parents.  Why wasn’t that explored in this terrible plot device.

Ugh.  I’m just glad this one is over.  It’s hard to recap the books with these ridiculous tertiary characters when I hardly even care about the main characters, let alone some sad sack who’ll probably never get mentioned again.

SVH #24: Memories

10 May

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Steven Wakefield is realizes that he kind of likes Cara Walker, who has grown up a lot since her parent’s divorce.  But he’s also feeling guilty about moving on from Tricia Martin.  This is exacerbated by the fact that Betsy Martin won’t let Steven forget her and goes off at him at a party about how he’s betraying Tricia’s memory.  Steven angsts a lot about what it means to hold onto Tricia while also living his own life.

Liz is dealing with Todd-moving-away-aftermath.  She swears she sees him at school, and then again at the mall.  Finally, she realizes that it’s not Todd but a guy who looks remarkably like him and attends the nearby high school Big Mesa.  Not-Todd’s name is Michael, and he’s the captain of the rival volleyball team SVH is playing against in an upcoming match for charity.  There’s a dance afterward, too.  SVH wins the match, and Michael hits on Liz and tells her he’ll see her at the dance.

Steven goes to the dance with Betsy and when Cara tries to say hello to him, he blows her off.  He’s a complete tool and after Jessica basically gives Steven the business (Hi, Tricia’s dead?  Cara has a pulse.), he asks Cara out.  They go on a picnic, have a lovely time, and he takes her out to dinner for her birthday.  But the Valley Inn is where he had his last date with Tricia, and he freaks out again, leaving Cara at the restaurant and spending the entire next day with Betsy, looking at pictures of Tricia.

Liz dances with Michael but soon realizes he’s a jerk.  I guess just because he looks like Todd doesn’t mean he has the personality of Todd.

Elizabeth sees how much Cara is hurting and goes over to Betsy’s house to make her see reason.  She agrees and sets a plan in motion to have Steven and Cara reunite under the clock at SVH.  She gives them her blessing and all is well again.

The B-Plot involves Jessica overhearing her mother talk on the phone to Winston Egbert’s mom about a relative who is visiting who also seems to be a movie director.  Jessica gets it into her head that she’ll be discovered and decides to use Winston as her way in.  She hints about going to the dance together, but he’s in charge of the food and is focused on that.  She works with him on a school project and finally meets the relative, and when she tells him she’s very interested in his work, he seems surprised but pleased.  The two sit down to go over his latest plans, and it’s then that Jessica discovers that this relative is not a director (his brother is and couldn’t make it) but an engineer.  Yawn.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Although she had a reputation as a gossip and a flirt, Cara now displayed a sensitivity and maturity beyond her years.” (38)
  • “I’m sorry for that, Steven.  I am.  But I can’t compete with a ghost.  And the truth is, I don’t even want to.” (120)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently Mr. Collins’s English class is in room 103, and he greets his students with a, “Good morning, Scholars.”
  • Steven Wakefield is named after Ned’s best friend from college who died in a car crash.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Can we just talk for a minute about what a total douche truck Steven is in this book?  He runs so hot and cold with Cara that it makes your head spin.  He likes her, he’s guilty.  He likes her a lot, he’s reminded constantly of Tricia.  Not only is his coldness toward her at the dance completely RUDE and unacceptable, but leaving her in the middle of the restaurant ON HER BIRTHDAY?  Pretty much inexcusable, save for an incidence of explosive diarrhea or something.

There’s also the complete idiocy of the plot point involving Liz and Michael, who looks like Todd.  Everyone is okay with the fact that Liz is interested in this kid based solely on the fact that he looks like Todd.  Gentle readers, I can’t be the only person who finds this disturbing.  It’s a theme that is explored in other books as well, with Tricia Martin doppelgangers.  Liz is interested in this boy because he reminds her of Todd.  There’s got to be a Freudian theory for that.