Tag Archives: you can’t understand my pain

SVH #124: Meet Me at Midnight

25 Mar

meet me midnight

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Picking up right where we left off, Todd greets Elizabeth with a huge hug, completely oblivious to the fact that she looks guilty as hell and is still holding Joey’s hand.  He’s planning on staying with Winston because it’s been a whole week and he can’t live without Elizabeth.  He doesn’t notice the fact that Liz is not into this at all.  Joey tells Liz that it’s clear she’s not in love with Todd and tells her to cut him loose.  Liz agrees but backs out when it comes time to do so, telling herself she’ll just keep her summer fling a secret.  This will end well.  But Nicole tells Liz that she’ll tell Todd and blackmails her into breaking up with Joey so she can date him.

Meanwhile, Jessica nabs the lead in the camp play (shouldn’t this be for the, um, campers?).  She’s stoked about this until she gets a letter from Paul, who tells her he doesn’t want to see her again.  He calls her a dumb blonde and Jessica is pissed but sees it as a challenge, especially after she finds out that he had his heart broken by another counselor the year before and has sworn off those cheating, flighty camp counselors for his entire life.  THEY ARE ALL ALIKE.  Jessica calls him out and he tells her he’ll date her just to prove he isn’t afraid of women.  What a catch.

Apparently Jessica thinks he is the cat’s pajamas because she does stupid stuff like stealing the camp owner’s car to sneak into town to see Paul.  Of course she gets caught returning it and can’t risk sneaking off again, so she sends him a letter telling him to meet her later.  Do these people not have access to phones?  She ends up going into town to meet Joey on the day of the play and misses her own performance. Liz steps in for her and crushes it.  Joey comes up to Liz after and kisses her, telling her he knew it was her all along.  So that’s back on.

In other news, Winston is moping over the letters his girlfriend Maria (not to be confused with Maria SLATER) who is gushing over her experiences at her grandmother’s ranch and the fieldhand she’s met there.  Winston is sure she’s cheating on him with this rando cowboy, so Todd and Aaron get him gussied up as a cowboy so he can learn to ride horses or whatever and impress her when he sees her.  But he also starts dealing with a 15-year-old camper named Lara who “looks old for her age” and is totally hot to trot with Winston.  They make out a lot because whatever happens in Montana stays in Montana.  Then Winston gets a letter from Maria that includes a picture of the field hand and he’s an old dude who she is definitely not into.

I AM SO BORED.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila is still dating that dude but I don’t care.
  • Lara wears a burnt-orange baby doll dress to seduce Winston and that is the single best moment in the entire book.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She was attracted to someone else. She had to break up with Todd.  Just the thought made her feel like the most disloyal girlfriend on earth.” (54)
  • “As Winston smoothed the lotion on her delicate skin, he bit his lip.  It was hard to remember that Lara was just a camper.” (104)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

I cannot believe there’s still another book in this mini-series.  I know I’ve hated books before in the series, but something about this story is just slowly killing me with it’s complete banality.  Like, who the fuck cares about any of this?  I sure as hell don’t.  I don’t even get the sense that the characters in the book do.  The fact that they felt the need to stretch this paper-thin story across three books is boggling to the mind.

Two things bothered me about this book, though: Elizabeth’s weird mental gymnastics around her own cheating and Paul’s obvious misogyny.  It’s weird that the book frame’s Elizabeth’s guilt over having feelings for someone else as this terrible thing, because it is perfectly natural and happens all the time (in real life and in these books).  This is not the first time she’s cheated on Todd.  It’s like the 500th time, so I’m not sure why we’re supposed to be so scandalized by it.

But also, Paul’s whole “all women are alike/I’m not afraid of them” bullshit is tired, gross, and worrisome.  Are we supposed to be into the idea that Jessica has the tenacity and wherewithal to break him down into liking her?  Girl, throw that fish back.  There are plenty more out there!

SVH #122: A Kiss Before Dying

2 Mar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth watches a bunch of dudes get arrested in the aftermath of the fight against Palisades, including Bruce Patman.  Todd has already been carted away.  Bizarrely, Liz feels guilt at having called the cops even though it’s pretty clear someone could have died if she hadn’t intervened.  She, Enid, and Maria take Winston Egbert to the hospital, and it turns out he’s got a broken nose amongst his other injuries.  Jessica has run off with Christian, and they make out and cry about how no one understands their love.

At school the next week, Todd is out of jail but won’t speak to Elizabeth, Ken is furious with Jessica and basically tells her she’s garbage, and the boys are pissed at the Wakefield twins because they’re Palisades sympathizers.  Liz has had enough and tells the dudes that none of the females at SVH will have anything to do with them until they call off this stupid war.  Bruce thinks she’s bluffing, but then all the girls agree.  I guess we’re in a warped version of Lysistrata now? (This actually gets mentioned by Liz in a super didactic moment later, but when I wrote this, I hadn’t gotten that far in the book.)

Liz and Enid meet with Caitlin and Marla at Palisades and convince them that the no-dude-contact is the way to go.  They agree, and then surfer girl Rosie Shaw comes up.  Despite Caitlin and Marla telling Liz point-blank that she can’t be trusted and Liz’s own feelings that she’s a bad seed, Rosie tells Liz that the two of them can come up with a plan to save their schools from the war.  This will end well.  She keeps pushing Liz to find out where the SVH guys are meeting.  Liz finally finds out from Todd and Rosie tells her to meet at this divey diner so they can go meet both groups of guys and convince them that the other side wants peace.  Liz thinks this is the best plan ever.

Liz and Enid show up and the diner and it takes them a very long time to realize that Rosie isn’t showing.  Enid reads some articles from the Palisades paper about SVH and Liz realizes that Rosie made up their shared interests from the articles.  She calls Jessica to warn her that Rosie’s up to no good and that she knows about her and Christian.  Then she realizes that it’s probably too late and Palisades is already on their way to beat down the SVH boys at Bruce’s house.

Indeed they are, as Rosie taunts Todd and the others before the Palisades dudes come out wearing warpaint on their faces and brandishing weapons like brass knuckles.  There’s a standoff, and Christian arrives to try to keep the peace, but at the exact moment that Liz, Jess, and Enid arrive, a terrible fight breaks out.  Christian tries to protect Ken from a particularly brutal blow and ends up getting knocked down, cracks his head on concrete, and falls into the deep end of the pool.  Jessica dives into save him and tries CPR, but when the ambulance arrives, it doesn’t look good.

At the hospital, a doctor comes out and tells the teens that Christian has died.  Everyone feels terrible and Todd announces that the war is over.

A few weeks later, Jessica is visited by Christian’s mother, who gifts her with his prized surfboard.  Jessica uses it to compete in the surfing competition that I had forgotten about and wins, dedicating the trophy to Christian’s memory.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Rosie is Danish, and this gets talked about for a long time, which is weird.
  • Elizabeth claims her favorite poet is Christina Rossetti

Memorable Quotes:

  • Elizabeth had known Bruce since childhood. He did have a hot temper and a reckless side, but it shocked her to see him treated like a dangerous criminal. (2) [LOL OK LIZ]
  • “One thing this whole rivalry mess has shown me is that people don’t always act the way you’d expect. Who would have ever thought Todd could be so violent?” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What can even be said about this tonally-bizarre book, or the two that preceded it?  If it’s trying to make a commentary on the state of gang warfare, it fails at every level.  Nothing about the formation of the two schools’ gangs makes any sense, and even though one could argue that gangs don’t make sense to begin with, it still doesn’t make sense in this situation.  Gangs evolve for a variety of socioeconomic reasons, none of which are at play here.  The two groups hate each other over a football game.  Even West Side Story had more going on in terms of conflict.

And while it’s sad that Christian died, it’s not like it was a shock, what with the cover, the title, and the way he and Jessica kept talking about their “forever” love.  I don’t know.  This entire thing has left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and in a different way than usual.  Something about all of this is just gross.

Also, LOL forever at Liz’s ideas about what “dangerous” criminals look like and also her complete inability to look at Todd’s history of PUNCHING PEOPLE OUT and relate that to how violent he’s become in these books. Jesus, Liz.  Get it together.

SVH #120: In Love with the Enemy

25 Feb

inloveenemy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 days

Summary/Overview:

SVH is playing Palisades High in an important football game.  The Palisades team plays unfairly according to SVH, but they still win, leaving Ken Matthews feeling particularly unhappy about the outcome.  There’s tension between the football players on the opposing teams, which is too bad, because Liz and Enid have made friends with Marla Daniels and Caitlin Alexander, both Palisades High students, and the foursome plan to hold a joint dance for the schools.

Jessica, Amy, and Lila are at the beach one day and watch a surf contest happening. At the end of the contest, it’s announced that another competition will be held in a month, and the winner gets an interview on RockTV and a trip to Hawaii.  Jessica decides to enter, despite the fact that she doesn’t currently surf.  This is met with derision from not only Lila and Amy, but also from the surf contest’s champion Rosie, who tells Jessica that cheerleaders can’t surf and she’ll never make it.  This only fuels Jessica’s desire to win even more.  She bets Lila that she’ll win, or she’ll wear a wet suit to school, and Lila takes the bet, swearing she’ll wear pink sunscreen on her nose if Jessica does indeed take the trophy.

Elizabeth and Enid continue making plans for a charity dance with the girls from Palisades despite the fact that tensions between the guys at both schools continue to ramp up.  They decide on a masked dance to help encourage co-mingling, and Elizabeth is stunned when Bruce and Todd have violent reactions to the idea of the dance.  Things continue to escalate after both groups of dudes play pranks on the others, and they decide to “have it out” at the dance.  Liz decides that the only course of action is to call the dance off completely.  But then Jessica tells them that the guys are going to meet at the warehouse where the dance is being held regardless of the status of the dance, and the girls think their presence might help calm tensions.

Meanwhile, Jessica starts taking surfing lessons from a mysterious surfer dude named Christian Gorman.  The two meet nearly every morning before school to surf the waves and reveal secrets to one another.  They kiss a bunch, and Jessica feels more distant from Ken than ever before.  It doesn’t help that he’s become obsessed with getting even with Palisades.

The Oracle’s attempt to run a feature on Palisades to highlight their good qualities backfires and only serves to ramp up feelings of hostility.  The night of the dance, the two groups of dudes meet and start a fight.  Jessica runs outside to tell Ken and Todd that Liz is calling the police, and she sees Christian beating the bloody hell out of Ken.  And…scene.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Ocean Bay is the most popular beach in Sweet Valley
  • The Palisades High School newspaper is called the Pentagon.
  • The Droids dress up as the Flintstones for the dance

Memorable Quotes:

  • “This whole world is a boys’ club. Girls need to stick together.  Otherwise, we just spend all our time hating each other and ourselves and competing for boys’ attention.” Jessica took a breath.  The words had come out in a rush. (57)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It feels redundant to point out how dumb and unnatural the rivalry between Palisades and SVH is in this book.  There are a couple of sporting events where bad feelings are bred, and all of a sudden, both schools have dangerous gangs of dudes wearing black jeans and black leather jackets and totally living up the Sharks vs. Jets thing without any of the fancy dancing.  It feels very obvious and very forced, and none of it works on any level.

Another clunker of a plot point is the SHOCKING reveal that Christian is a Palisades High student, which is obvious from the book’s title alone but also makes no sense within the confines of what Jessica and Christian have been doing.  They’ve been meeting every day, have professed their love for one another, and yet never bothered to mention that they go to newly-rivaled schools?  I don’t buy it.

This whole book is dumb, dumb, dumb.  I don’t have high hopes for the two books that follow in this little mini-series.  Talk about stretching out a topic already worn thin.

SVH #119: Jessica’s Older Guy

16 Feb

jessica's older guy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 days

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Liz are smack-dab in the middle of their college-immersion week at SVU.  Jessica is still trying to juggle dating Zach without him finding out that she’s really in high school AND without sorority girl Magda finding out that she’s dating the dude Magda is into.  She’s also still trying to cover for Liz with the sorority, because it’s important to her that they both make a good impression for when they rush in two years.  Jessica also starts to feel serious guilt over lying to Zach about her age, but tries to suppress it, because that’s what she does best.To convince Magda that she’s not dating Zach and stay on her good side, Jessica visits the sorority and lies about Liz, saying that she’s an out-of-control flirt.  The girls buy her story and she’s back in solid with the Thetas or Zetas or whatever the fucking sorority is named.  Then she decides that she will stay at SVU, too.  Because this story makes so much fucking sense.

Meanwhile, Liz has convinced herself that she’s ready to start college like tomorrow and has already told Todd she wants a long-distance relationship.  Her first day at the news internship doesn’t go very well, because her boss is a total lech and she does menial tasks like fetching coffee and making copies.  Then she further embarrasses herself that evening when she opines about capitalism with a bunch of Ian’s Marxist friends, and she’s mortified about how much she doesn’t know.

Todd is understandably not cool with this new revelation, and he angsts about it a lot to Ken, who is unaware that Jessica is totally dating someone else while on a week-long vacation.  Todd drives around and moons over Elizabeth.  It’s been like three days, dude. Chill the fuck out.  He meets with Ken, who is distraught over the news that Jessica has decided not to come back, too, as well as Lila and Enid, and the three brainstorm ways to get the twins back.  They briefly discuss kidnapping and deprogramming, which feels extreme, and finally settle on a bit of reverse-psychology.

It starts to work immediately, because everyone in these books are complete and total idiots.  Enid calls Liz and makes her miss SVH gossip.  Steven and Billie make a huge, healthy breakfast with “tofu salad” to teach the twins about brain food after pulling an all-nighter.  Alice tells them she’s happy to have a break from being a parent.  Whatever, this is the most obvious thing ever.  The culminating event will be a surprise party at Steven and Billie’s on Saturday night with all their SVH friends.  The teens even prepare a slideshow.

Jessica manages to convince Liz to pose as her on the night of the Zeta fraternity dance so she can go with Zach without Magda being the wiser.  Liz reluctantly agrees, and the girls wear dresses that the other would normally wear.  It works, and Jessica is having a great time with Zach while Liz deals with the blind date she’s been set up with via Magda.  Then Magda tells her she just found out that Zach is actually in high school, which Liz finds hilarious.  Todd and Ken crash the party, mistake each twin for the other, and get mad.  Liz and Todd make up immediately but once Ken realizes that Jessica’s been cheating on him, he storms away.  Jessica finds out that Zach is in high school and they both yell and then laugh at the irony.

Back at the apartment, the twins are surprised by the whole gang, minus Ken.  They realize they’re totally being reverse psychology toyed with, but they allow their friends to reminisce all the same.  Everything is well again, and the twins decide to stick with high school.  Jessica catches up with Ken and tells him that it took her cheating on him with Zach to realize she really loves him.  They make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, SVU is 2 hours from Sweet Valley.  Which…what?
  • Outfit alert! Jessica wears a salmon-colored babydoll dress on her picnic with Zach.
  • SVU’s football team is called the Vanguards

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But I feel sorry for you–Elizabeth sounds just awful,” Magda said. (55)
  • “I think the value of capitalism is freedom,” Elizabeth put in, stirring her cappuccino thoughtfully. (72) [AND HERE IS WHERE I LINK TO AYN RAND’S SWEET VALLEY HIGH]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

LOL forever at Liz deciding she’s just going to stay at SVU.  Like that’s how it works.  I actually can’t even snark on this because it’s so dumb.

What are the odds that the totally inappropriate dude Jessica has been seeing is also in high school and is also lying about attending college at SVU?  Pretty slim, right?

Something that really bothered me in this book is how Jessica continues to cheat on Ken but the second she sees him again she realizes that she really loves him.  I realize that in order to keep the books about the twins interesting, the ghost writer has to feature stories about them meeting new dudes and falling in love (see: how boring Todd and Liz are all the time because they’re so static), but then have Jessica be single.  There’s no reason for her to chronically cheat on her steady boyfriend like this only to “learn her lesson” and go back to him because he’s her true love.  Like, it sends such a weird message and it really chafes me.

SVH #117: Jessica the Genius

11 Feb

jessicagenius

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 weeks

Summary/Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

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

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

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

 

SVH Super Thriller #9: A Stranger in the House

6 Feb

stranger

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

For some bizarre reason, it is summer vacation AGAIN.  Steven is home and working at Ned’s law office, and the twins stranger 2have both gotten jobs at the Marina Cafe as waitresses.  Jessica thinks it’s going to be all hot guys and big tips, but Liz is, predictably, much more practical about the entire endeavor.  When Jessica points out that Liz is in a rut, she actually agrees and wonders if she can shake things up.  Their first day of waitressing entails a lot of running around and getting mixed up by the restaurant’s manager.  Liz leaves with Todd for a date and Jessica ends up meeting  handsome young man named Scott Maderlake who tells her he’s a scout for a television series.  The two flirt and make plans for a date.

Meanwhile, Ned Wakefield is obsessing over news that convicted murderer John Marin is being release 15 years early from prison.  Ten years prior, Ned put him away while working as an assistant district attorney.  Before Marin was locked up, he swore he’d get his revenge on Ned by coming at him through his family.  Worried about the safety of his children, Ned leaps at the chance to send Steven down to San Diego for a month to work on a case, and frets over Liz and Jess’s safety.

When Ned receives a threatening card from someone who signs it “JM,” he is sure it’s from Marin.  But the police basically tell him that they can’t do anything unless Marin violates parole, which he does about five minutes later, as he gave his PO a fake address.  But now no one can figure out where Marin went, so they have to look for him.  In a panic, Ned calls in a favor to a PI friend and arranges to have someone follow Jess and Liz during the day, for their “protection.” He doesn’t tell the girls–or even Alice–this, of course.  This will end well.

Of course, Marin is already in Sweet Valley, has already broken into the Wakefield home, and has gathered intel on the twins and their lives.  He’s also set up a phone tap on the house phone, because of course he has.  So he’s one step ahead of Ned (or, like, seven, but whatever).  Ned continues to receive threatening mail from him, including an envelope with Jessica’s lavalier necklace.

Liz locks eyes with a mysterious cute boy at the Dairi Burger one night and thinks he might be her soulmate because he’s writing in a notebook.  When he shows up at the cafe the next day, she finds out from Jane that he’s living on a boat and is a writer.  Liz practically swoons.  When she finally gets a chance to talk to him a few days later, she finds out that his name is Ben Morgan.  They take a walk along the docks.

In fact, both twins continue to see their new dudes (who is totally the same person but whatever) in secret, not even telling each other about their newfound love.  When Ned asks tensely if either girl has met anyone new or unusual lately, they both lie, and it’s clear that they are both lying.  Ned doesn’t tell the girls about the necklace and though he worries about it and Jim the PI tells him it’s important to know which twin it came from, he continues to sit on it.

The police call Ned with good news: they’ve arrested who they think John Marin is.  But then the twins are attacked while closing the cafe one night, and when they ID the man they think did it, it’s the dude the police had already arrested.  It becomes clear that Marin set this guy up to take the fall.  Although both twins know about John Marin and their father’s past now, Elizabeth still sneaks out to meet Ben for a midnight sail.  Ned is distracted by the fact that Marin has killed Jim, his PI.  The police also find the body of the security detail that was hired to watch over Jess and Liz.  What a murdering spree!

Once Jessica figures out that Liz isn’t with Todd like she said (because he calls the house), she and Ned and the police rush to the beach disco to interrogate Jane about who Liz has been seeing in secret.  They go to find the boat and end up sending out the coast guard (and riding along, because why not) to meet the boat.  John tries to kill Elizabeth with a knife but she stomps on his foot and runs towards the back of the boat while he heads towards the dinghy to make an escape.  She nearly drowns, but Jessica saves her.

At home, the police show up and tell the twins they found bloody remnants of Marin’s jacket and that he’s believed to have been eaten by sharks.  Because that’s the most logical explanation for his disappearance.  The twins rest easy for approximately five minutes before Marin shows up, having hidden in the basement and drugging Prince Albert.  Marin hits Ned with a piece of wood and goes upstairs to kill the twins.  Before he can, Ned storms in and throws him against a wall.  Then Marin jumps out a window. I’m not sure why.

The police arrest Marin and all is well with the world.  OR IS IT?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Marina Cafe makes their waitresses wear turquoise polo shirts and khaki shorts. Glamorous!
  • Ned has “progressive views on rehabilitation”
  • Jane has just graduated college but at one point she sees Todd and says, “If I were ten years younger…” So, you’d be into him when you were 12? WHAT?
  • “Ben’s” boat is named Emily Dickinson

Memorable Quotes:

  • “After ten years in prison, there isn’t much I don’t know about picking a lock.” (37) [Wait, what?!]
  • “Calm down, Ned. Your daughters are attractive girls. They might not have realized that this was different from the kind of surveillance they must be used to from men.” (174)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

My first issue with the book is the entire concept of John Marin.  First of all, he committed a horrific crime, was convicted of it, and was up for parole in 10 years.  He murdered two people brutally, which under California law would have made him eligible to be tried under a Capital offense, unless I’m mistaken (I’m no lawyer like Ned, but I think this is right).  So he wouldn’t be up for parole.  But even if he hadn’t been tried under that, he still wouldn’t have been eligible for parole after 10 years.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Not even for a pretty white dude in prison.

But then there’s the complete ridiculousness of Ned Wakefield.  He tells no one in his family that he’s worried about John Marin, even after John Marin has started to break into the house.  This is not the reaction of a human being who loves his family.  This is the reaction of a person who has lost his grip on reality, or someone who secretly wants his family dead (can’t blame him there).  It makes no sense.

My favorite part of this book was when the police show up with scraps of the windbreaker Marin was wearing on the boat and they tell the Wakefields that there’s blood on the clothes and it’s being tested for a DNA match, but it’s only a “formality” because they’re sure Marin is dead. I actually laughed out loud, because this is legitimately the dumbest thing I have heard, maybe ever.

SVH Super Thriller #8: Murder in Paradise

28 Jan

murderinparadise

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Alice Wakefield has randomly won an all-expense paid trip to a spa in a glamorous location.  Because Alice has no friends, she takes her daughters, as well as Lila and her mom, Grace, and Enid (her mom has to “work” and can’t make it). The spa, creatively named Paradise Spa, is full of beautiful people, with the exception of the spa’s owner, Tatiana Mueller.  While Alice has a feeling of deja vu when she meets Tatiana, she largely ignores her feelings of foreboding.

The ladies settle into life at the spa.  Jessica and Lila are horrified to find that there are no mirrors anywhere at the resort, and when they ask if they can have a mirror delivered to their room, Tatiana tells them no, because the spa focuses on inner beauty.  Except this is a beauty spa, so that makes no sense, but whatever.  It takes approximately five seconds before Jessica meets a golf instructor named Chris and falls in love with him.  She gets worried when he seems to be pretty into Liz, though.

And indeed he is, because he asks Liz to meet him for a rousing game of tennis.  She agrees, so long as he’ll bring a friend for her friend, Enid.  Enid has been feeling bad about how gorgeous Liz is and how she gets all the boys or whatever.  Tatiana has actually been feeding into Enid’s insecurities, but they are boring, so whatever.  Enid hits it off with Chris’s friend Alex, and the date goes well until Jessica shows up and acts all distracting.  Enid is miserable and consumed with jealousy, which is only compounded by the fact that Tatiana has started hypnotizing Enid and telling her that her mother never loved her.  WHAT?

Liz and Chris run off and make out.  Later, the group of teens is on a fun outing of frisbee golf, like teens are wont to do, and they stumble upon a super weird building in the woods without any windows.  The hotel staffers run away, and there’s clearly something weird going on.  Liz overhears Tatiana yelling at a waitress named Katya about letting guests into the woods, and when Katya ends up dead in the steam room later, Liz finds it mighty suspicious, despite Tatiana saying that Katya had a heart condition.  Liz does some more snooping and discovers that not only was Katya a runaway, but so are most of the spa’s staff.  They work at the spa for room and board and make no actual income.  Liz also thinks that they seem a tad brainwashed.

Then Alice goes missing, and Tatiana brushes it off, saying she probably just wanted some time alone.  The twins try to call home, but the phone’s dead.  Tatiana continues to act weird, and Jessica spies on her and sneaks into her office when she’s not there.  Once inside, she finds a yearbook from Sweet Valley University with Alice’s picture cut out.  DUN DUN DUN!  Eventually, Elizabeth manages to get her laptop plugged into a phone line, and after a little research, pulls up some weird stuff about the spa and plastic surgery.  While she does that, Jessica goes through Tatiana’s files and finds that all of the staff have undergone plastic surgery, and Enid is next!

The twins get an email from Ned, who tells the girls that they did know a Tatiana Mueller in college.  She was obsessed with Alice and everyone made fun of her because she was unattractive.  Liz goes to do some thinking by a waterfall and gets kidnapped by Chris, who is wearing a lab coat.  Once she’s kidnapped, Chris reveals to her that Tatiana wants to look like Alice and has trained another person to be the perfect plastic surgeon so this can be accomplished.  The plan is to kill Alice once the surgery is complete.

Right before Elizabeth dies, Lila, Jessica, and Enid come rushing in to save the day.  Enid’s brainwashing unravels as Chris spews his story, and she helps overpower Tatiana and her assistants.  The police arrive, and all is well.  Everyone goes home.  Even the surgically-altered runaways.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The shelter for runaways that Liz calls is called Manford House
  • There’s another plug for the search engine (?) INFOMAX in this book

Memorable Quotes:

  • “’I’ve gained four pounds since Hugh dumped me.’ Her green eyes glittered; a tear slid down her freckled cheek. ‘If I were prettier, if I looked more like you and Jessica, Hugh would have never gotten tired of me.’  Elizabeth continued to shake her head empathetically. Inside, though, she had to admit that there might be a tiny measure of truth to what Enid said.”

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I mean, what is there even to say?  The idea that Alice would bring her daughters, their friends, and their friend’s mothers (well, except Enid’s) to a spa for a week is sad enough.  Don’t you have any friends, Alice?  Isn’t it weird to bring the mom of one of your daughter’s friends whom you barely know?  Setting aside that, don’t you think it’s weird that you can’t remember the name Tatiana Mueller, which is fairly unusual?  Remember how she lived down the hall from you in college and was OBSESSED with you?

But then the rest of it is just silly.  Both Jessica and Elizabeth are supposed to have boyfriends at home (Ken and Todd, respectively) and within minutes of arriving at Paradise Spa, they’re macking on the same dude.  Like, what the hell?  A fling when you’re across the world is one thing, but you’re going to be home in a matter of days (provided you don’t die at the hands of a deranged, body-image-obsessed psychopath).  Cool your jets, ladies.

Then there’s the issue of Tatiana and her hare-brained scheme.  How did she really see this playing out?  She was going to kill the entire group and take over Alice’s life?  That seems unlikely.  So she just wanted to look like Alice and go on living her life?  Did she not think that people were going to start getting suspicious about how many people “disappeared” or actually died in her health spa?  Are there not regulations regarding those sorts of things?  Didn’t she have to put in purchase orders for her medical equipment?  DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE SENSE?

Also, Enid.  LOL.