Tag Archives: you will never see these characters again

SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Lila are spending the week of spring break in Jamaica, at Lila’s uncle Jimmo’s beach resort, Club Paradise.  Jessica won’t shut up about how excited she is, and Lila is being extra nice to her.  When they arrive, Jessica discovers that her luggage was lost in the layover.  It also becomes clear to Jess why Lila was being so nice: they’re working as camp counselors at the kiddie version of the club. She tells Lila she’ll never forgive her/never speak to her again.

Jessica gets saddled with a group of bratty five-and-six-year-olds for the week.  They bicker, do gross things, and generally don’t listen to her.  She’s infuriated to see that Lila’s group is much better behaved, and then she’s fascinated when she sees Lila talking to a super hot guy who turns out to be the windsurfing instructor named Mick Myers.

Of course they both end up going out with this guy, who is a total skeeze.  Jessica dumps her campers off on Charles, a geeky guy who is totally into her.  This pisses off Julia, another counselor who is described as “chubby” but has a lovely voice.  She decides to get even with Jessica, because Jessica told her she was too fat to attract a man.  I kind of hate Jessica, too.

At any rate, Jessica and Lila continue to both date Mick and compete with each other when it comes to their little campers and the daily talent shows.  Meanwhile, Julia also starts dating Mick, who is starting to seem like a pathological liar and also a sex addict.  He takes each girl to his “secret” lagoon to make out.

Jessica runs into Larry the hot lifeguard on the beach one day, and they flirt.  Then they run into Lila and Mick, who are clearly on a date, and Jessica is such an idiot that she thinks Mick is only pretending to like her because her uncle is his boss.  They have a stupid game of chicken in the ocean and all of them get dunked.

It isn’t long before they realize that Mick is totally playing them.  After Jessica slaps Lila and she pulls her into the ocean with her as she falls, the two have a good laugh and decide to get revenge.  They get back to their cabin to find out that Mick is literally dating every female employed at the camp.

The last night of camp, Lila and Jessica put on a magician’s show and use Mick as their audience “volunteer.”  They break his watch, cut his hair, and dye it purple, and he has to sit and take it.  They get their revenge, totally make up as friends, and have a lemonade.  All is well.

Elizabeth has plans to spend the break sweating it out in Sweet Valley.  She wants to work on an Honors English project that asks students to do a biography of an ancestor.  Conveniently, Liz has chosen to focus on her mother.  The problem is, Alice has just accepted a freelance position working with Hank Patman in his Chicago office.

Amy shows up at the Wakefield’s house to ask for help with the English assignment, which she has to do for extra credit.  She doesn’t tell Elizabeth that Jessica told her she could “borrow” her ancestor Jessamyn, the circus performer.  The two look at an old family tree of Alice’s.

She runs into Bruce at the Dairi Burger and he blows up at her about her home-wrecker of a mother. She thinks he’s cracked until she gets home to find Alice rushing off to catch a plane to Chicago with Hank Patman.  She grills her dad for information about Alice’s life before they met, but he’s sort of cheerfully vague about it all.  She starts to worry that Bruce might be right.

Instead of really working on her project, she continues to obsess about her mother’s past with Hank.  She manages to awkwardly tie it into every single old classic movie she goes to see with Enid and Olivia that week, arguing with them about the meaning of leaving a fiance for an old flame, etc.  It’s boring and pedantic.

Bruce Patman is feeling the pains of his parents splitting up.  He lashes out even more than usual and feels the sads about his family fighting.  His mother accuses Hank of cheating on her.  He decides he’s going to tell his father exactly what he thinks of their separation and how its impacting his life.  Bruce is insufferable.  Before he can do so, he overhears a conversation between Hank and Alice on the phone that leads him to believe the two are carrying on an affair.

Bruce and Liz meet several times to discuss their parents affair, which they are sure Alice and Hank are having.  Bruce seems to be working on a plan to split them up before serious damage is done, but he doesn’t bother to share it with anyone.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • It seems like everyone is going away for spring break: Barry Rork to Palm Springs, Pamela Robertson to the Grand Canyon, Ken Matthews to Monterey, Todd to Yosemite.
  • Lila still plays the marimba and listens to Jamie Peters’ music.
  • The old movies Liz, Olivia, and Enid see include My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, Philadelphia Story, and Casablanca.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Bruce grabbed the lunch tray and hurled it away. He heard it clatter against a tree trunk and imagined that it was the sound of his whole world shattering into pieces.” (7)
  • “They turned to gape as Lila walked by with her nose in the air. In a straight line behind her, six obedient kindergartners waddled like baby geese, singing in unison, ‘Row, row, row your yacht…'” (51)
  • “‘Do you like my picture, Jessica?’ Suzy asked. ‘It’s a picture of you screaming at us.'” (81)
  • “Elizabeth had amnesia and her defenses were down. Bruce had tried to take advantage of her–what guy wouldn’t?” (165) [IS THIS REAL LIFE?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps what’s oddest here is not that Jessica and Lila compete over the same dude, which has happened before, but the fact that Mick seems interested in anything with a vagina.  He literally dates something like six girls at once, and he’s also supposed to be the club’s full-time windsurfing instructor.  How does he manage to do this?  How can all the girls think that he’s only interested in them when he’s literally seen with other people in every scene?  There is virtually nothing about him that would indicate he oozes charm (except for the fact that we are told this).  Ugh.  Gross.

The other thing that really bothered me about this one is how fucking judgmental and antiquated Elizabeth is in her thinking about her mother.  She holds fast to this bizarre, sexist idea that a woman should only be in love once–and that she should marry that man.  Setting aside the fact that this is heteronormative drivel, it’s also so tone-deaf considering the fact that Elizabeth has been in love at least 3-4 times herself, and she is only 16 years old.   Is she damaged in some way?  Isn’t it possible that Alice was in love with Hank at one time, and then fundamentally changed and fell in love with Ned?

Also, could it be LESS of Elizabeth’s business?

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SVH #92: She’s Not What She Seems

21 May

shesnotwhatsheseems

Estimated Elapsed Time: 5 weeks, tops

Summary/Overview:

Sweet Valley High’s theater is putting on a production of Macbeth, and Jessica is determined to play the lead (kind of?) of Lady Macbeth.  She sacrifices time with friends and with Sam to prepare for the auditions, and she totally knocks each round out of the park.  Even Lila, who is a very good actress as well, doesn’t stand a chance in the shadow of Jessica.  It helps that the shy, quiet new girl Paula Perrine has been helping Jessica get ready.  She helps her run lines and feeds her ego to a creepy, bizarre degree.  Jessica nabs the lead, obviously, and her opposite is Bill Chase.  Lila gets cast as one of the witches.  After Jessica encourages her to do so, Paula tries out for the role of Lady Macbeth’s gentlewoman and gets it.

From there, she starts hanging out with the gang more.  After a makeover from Jessica, she really comes out of her shell, flirting with the assistant director and generally grabbing the attention of Jessica’s friends.  Jessica starts to feel uneasy about it, but both she and Liz (and everyone else) bought her sob story about her dead mother and abusive, alcoholic father, so they mostly feel sorry for her.

As the days go by, Jessica becomes increasingly paranoid about Paula and her motivations.  She frames situations so Jessica blows up at her because Paula didn’t do something she promised and makes herself look like total victim while Jessica looks like an asshole.  This isn’t hard, as Jessica is an asshole, but Paula is also a master manipulator.  She also starts cutting out Jessica from activities with the friend group.  Then, when Jennifer Mitchell gets mono and has to drop out as Jessica’s understudy, Paula steps up and doesn’t actually tell Jessica.  She’s also taken to wearing much better clothes and makeup at school, but still dresses way down when she and Jessica rehearse privately.

Things come to a head the night of the play’s opening, when Paula calls Jessica during a thunderstorm, crying about her alcoholic father and asking if Jessica can come get her from Cold Springs.  Jessica obliges, and it doesn’t take her long to realize she’s being played in a major way.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth figures out that Paula has been lying about her parents the entire time just before the play starts, with Paula set to go on in Jessica’s absence.

At Lila’s cast party that night, Jessica confronts Paula in front of everyone, and all her friends applaud after Paula leaves, still pretty smug about her performance.  The next day, at the Wakefield’s pool party, Paula shows up, still smug and positively delusional, and when she doesn’t receive the warm welcome she expects, she turns to leave, falling into the pool.  She storms off.  The world makes sense again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Plot convenience: Steven is taking a Shakespeare class at college and is full of factoids about the play
  • Jessica likes strawberry milkshakes from Casey’s
  • School let out early because of the play’s opening night performance. What an institution of learning!
  • Luke Perry gets a mention.  Yikes.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I don’t want to discourage you, Annie,’ said Jessica, ‘but you ought to be more realistic. You don’t have a chance at playing Lady Macbeth. Not with me trying out.'” (10)
  • “‘Oh yes,’ said Paula, almost in a whisper. ‘Everyone knows who all of you are.'” (32) [Blogger’s note: How is this not the creepiest thing they’ve ever seen?]
  • “It’s pouring outside, Prince Albert. That’s got to be bad luck on opening night. It never rains in Sweet Valley; it must be the Macbeth curse.” (121)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of things about this one that I actually really like.  For one, I was once in Macbeth, and so the play is near and dear to my heart.  But I also remember really liking this one as a kid, probably because it featured acting (my favorite thing) and crazy single white female shenanigans (another great thing).  As an adult, I actually still found this one pretty compelling, if not a little ridiculous.  There are several things that don’t work for me here:

Paula is a total creeper from page one, and I have a hard time that people wouldn’t get the heebie-jeebies from her.  She lays it on so thick that it’s impossible not to feel like something is off about her, and while the Sweet Valley kids have proven themselves to be the dumbest, densest teens around time and time again, it still feels like a little much.

Part of this has to do with the exchange Jessica has with Sam on page 104:

“Jessica, I don’t know what’s wrong with you lately…But you seem to go off the deep end whenever Paula’s involved…It’s not like you to be so paranoid.”

“Sam,” Jessica said, trying to stay calm, “I am not paranoid. But Paula is trying to sabotage me somehow. You’ve got to believe me!”

The thing is, if Sam knows her as well as we’re supposed to believe, he would know it’s not like her to be so crazy paranoid about Paula.  It’s weird to me that she’d be able to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes like that.  Eh, whatever.  Sweet Valley, am I right?

The other thing that stood out to me was that when Jessica gets the call from Paula saying she needs rescuing, there’s a clap of thunder on Jessica and on Paula’s end.  If she’s in Silver Springs, you idiot, you would not hear the same clap of thunder miles and miles away.  Whatever. I’m probably overthinking it.

Super Thriller #5: Murder on the Line

12 May

murder on the line

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth are working as interns at the Valley News for what appears to be the second time, because they are driving the Jeep and the back of the book mentions the word “again” as if this is the second time, but it’s really, really hard to tell.  At any rate, it is their second week on the job, Jessica is already bored, and Elizabeth is totally kissing the ass of the newest hire, Bill Anderson.  Because of construction going on near the newspaper’s building (construction being done to create the tallest building in downtown Sweet Valley, courtesy of George Fowler), the paper’s phone lines are a total mess.  People keep intercepting other calls, and this is probably the thing that Jessica finds most interesting about her days at the paper.  She eavesdrops on a ton of calls until she hears a man identifying as “Greenback” threaten to kill someone else.  When she tells Liz about it, Liz brushes it off.  Jessica leaves work early to meet Lila at the beach, and the two are sunbathing when someone screams because a body has just washed up on shore.  Totally out of character, Jessica actually faints.

The next day, Jessica goes straight to the police.  She talks to a Detective Jason, who wants her to keep listening in on the phone and report back to him everything she hears.  She also finally, finally makes contact with Mr. Gorgeous, a young guy who works the next building over whose attentions she’s been trying to attract for days.  He introduces himself as Ben Donovan, and he tells her he’s an accountant.  Her interest in him dwindles as he tells her he’s also really into reading and classical music.

When Bill Anderson tells the twins that Rose, the receptionist quit, he assigns Jessica the job of manning the switchboard.  She can’t listen in on the phones while she does this job, but she figures out a way to call her own extension and listen that way.  It isn’t long before she overhears another call by Greenback, and this time, she records his conversation with a Dictaphone.  She plans to show it to Detective Jason later.  But as the conversations continue, she hears Greenback mention a friend in the police station, and undercover cop, and makes a comment about how a “spy” can’t be listening in at the office.  Jessica is worried, but not enough.

Meanwhile, Seth Miller and Elizabeth Wakefield are trying to solve the murder of Tracy Fox, the girl who washed up dead on the beach.  She was found with cocaine on her, and that’s why she ran away from home, according to her mother.  Liz and Seth go all over the place trying to figure out who knew her and why someone wanted to shut her up permanently.  But this is complicated by the fact that Jessica becomes convinced that Seth is Greenback–because he seems to be flush with cash and because the Telex in his office makes a similar noise to something she heard in the background of one of Greenback’s phone calls.

Elizabeth brushes off Jessica’s theory until she remembers that she actually saw Tracy Fox at the Western building shortly before she died.  When they check the visitor’s log, they find out that Tracy was there to see Seth! HOW CONVENIENT!  Elizabeth still isn’t convinced that Seth is Greenback OR a drug dealer, so she asks Jessica to give her some to figure it out.  Jessica agrees to wait until the following Monday.

While Elizabeth talks to Seth about his possible involvement (he mentions that he never met with Tracy but did receive a phone call from a scared-sounding girl), Jessica confides her suspicions in Bill, who tells her they’ll meet back at the office that night and go to the police together.  Jessica doesn’t think this is weird at all and agrees to it.  Liz and Seth meet at the Box Tree Cafe while Jessica goes ALONE to meet with Bill.  Liz and Seth piece together that Bill has moved all over, and every place he’s lived has had a drug-related death.  When they call the police to send help for Jessica, Detective Jason blows them off, so of course they race to save her.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets up with Bill, who is totally high on cocaine (she sees it on his desk) and chases her up onto the roof, where he tells her to jump off the roof with the conveniently-planted coke he wants to place on her.  He’s going to make her death look like a drug-fueled suicide and then frame Seth for the murder.  Wait, what?

LUCKILY Ben Donovan is the real undercover cop, and he arrives on the scene with Elizabeth and Seth.  He manages to save Jessica as Bill dives at her, sending Bill off the roof to his death.  Whatever, this is ridiculous.  Anyway, everything works out okay.  Detective Jason is “detained” for questioning, Ben asks Jessica out, and the twins are treated as heroes.  And we are treated to more didactic rambling about how drugs are bad.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Adam Maitland is still? living with the Wakefields
  • Todd is vacationing elsewhere with his family
  • I had to Google what a Telex is, and it’s basically like a fax machine?  I think?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Not metallic silver,’ Jessica murmured. ‘No matter how you’re shaped, it’s bound to make you look like a station wagon!'” (19)
  • “A violent murder had taken place, right there in the Sweet Valley area.  This kind of story was rare.” (59)
  • “‘If I had my way, you’d be shark bait by now, Jessica Wakefield,’ he rasped. ‘From now on, you’d better keep your mouth, eyes, and ears shut, or I’ll shut ’em for you.'” (116)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m not sure why the timeline of this one bothers me so much.  I mean, it’s not like a completely wonky timeline is so out of the norm for this series.  Maybe it’s the flagrant disregard for continuity?  Like, the publishers didn’t care enough to give the readers a story that makes sense within the bounds of physics?  How do the twins have the Jeep in this one?  How are they still 16 even though it appears to be the summer following junior year?  Why is Todd around but not Sam?  Why is Adam Maitland making an appearance after disappearing for like, 25 books?  WHY?

Also, how dumb are the twins in this one?  The jumping to conclusions, and the complete logic fails make me crazy.  All of it is so contrived and so obviously a way to move the plot pieces around I can hardly stand it.  I’m thinking about this too much.  I should go lie down.

SVH #87: My Best Friend’s Boyfriend

5 May

mybestfriendsboyfriend

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Denise Hadley is beautiful and popular and charismatic.  Her best friend, Ginny Belasca, feels like the dull, undesirable friend, forever in her shadow.  When Denise urges Ginny to volunteer at Project Youth, manning the teen line, Ginny is reluctant but finds that she’s actually sort of great at it.  It doesn’t take long before she takes a call from a teen named Mike, and the two hit it off.  He continues to call the teen line with his family problems (his mom is marrying a new guy and there are familial adjustments), and the two start to form a relationship.  When he presses her for a meeting, she finally relents, but then she begs Denise to go for her, just this once.  Denise agrees, telling herself she’ll explain to Mike how shy Ginny is and arrange a secret meeting for them.

When they meet, however, Denise is totally taken with how attractive Mike is.  Even though she has a boyfriend, she’s flustered and giggly around Mike, and she doesn’t tell him that she’s not Ginny.  In fact, she agrees to go out with him again later that week.  She tells Ginny that she’s really into Mike, and Ginny asks her what she’s going to do about her boyfriend, Jay. Denise hedges on this for a while and then breaks up with him.  Ginny angsts about the fact that she likes Mike but doesn’t ever tell Denise this.

Denise actually brings Ginny along on their next date, which is super creepy.  The girls tell Mike that Ginny’s name is Denise.  This will end well.  Throughout the course of the date, both girls reflect on how well the real Ginny gets along with Mike and how uncomfortable the real Denise is with him.  They have nothing in common, and it’s clear that Mike sees it.  But he still doesn’t say no when Denise asks him out again.

Mike continues to call the teen line and talks to Ginny.  At one point, she pretends to be someone else to avoid talking to him as Ginny, and he tells her all about how he’s actually into someone else now.  She assumes he means someone other than her, because Ginny kind of sucks.  At any rate, she cries a lot about it and worries how Denise will take it when she inevitably gets dumped.

It turns out, she takes it surprisingly well.  As she and Mike are leaving the Box Tree Cafe, Liz says hi to her and calls her by her real name.  This spurs a confession to Mike, who isn’t mad at all.  In fact, he goes along with Denise’s idea to set him up with the real Ginny.  He calls the teen line again, talks to Ginny-as-someone-else, and then, when she runs out into the hallway, he’s waiting to ask her out.  Great! Oh, and Denise gets back together with Jay, because a pretty girl in Sweet Valley can’t be single.

The B-Plot focuses on Liz wanting to write an article about sexual harassment for the school paper.  When she brings the idea forward, Mr. Collins gets super weird about it, but finally says he’ll read her draft and go from there.  But he tells Mr. Cooper about it before Liz has written a word, and he promptly shuts it down. Furious about the censorship, Liz decides to write it anyway, approaching it from an angle of being censored.  She shows it to Mr. Collins, who changes his mind, brings it to Cooper, but it’s still a no-go.  So Liz and the rest of the crack staff at the Oracle decide to distribute it as an “underground” newsletter.  They end up having another confrontation with Cooper, but because Liz is such a good writer, everything ends up just fine.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Shoehorned literary reference: Elizabeth’s English class is reading A Tale of Two Cities
  • In addition to Casey’s, there’s an ice cream place called the Lucky Duck where the waiters wear duck costumes.  Sign me up.
  • Pop culture references: Lady Macbeth and Frankenstein’s monster

Memorable Quotes: 

  • “You’re special, Ginny.  You’re a beautiful person. I know you must be so pretty.” (47)
  • “‘So what?’ Penny demanded hotly. ‘Newspapers aren’t about making people feel good.  Newspapers are about information that’s important.'” (71)
  • “Denise shrugged. She could understand the pressure that people put on attractive girls.  Being pretty was a very difficult responsibility.” (94) Okay, Denise is officially the worst. 

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are two things that struck me upon reading this one, a title which I had never read before.  The first is that although we are supposed to like Denise, she comes off as kind of the worst.  Like, throughout the entire novel.  She makes a weirdly disparaging remark about homeless people in Sweet Valley and how they’re bringing the town down, she thinks that completely obnoxious thing about pretty girls I quoted up above, and, oh yeah, she goes out with the guy her best friend is into when she’s still dating another dude.  Now, an argument could be made that Ginny is a total wet blanket incapable of actually standing up for herself, and that’s true–Ginny is also pretty terrible–but there isn’t anything cool or okay with what Denise does.  This is a totally sick, unbalanced friendship between the girls.  Gross.

But the thing that stood out to me during this reading most prominently was the issue of sexual harassment.  The book talks a lot about “sexual harassment,” but from what I can tell, they’re really talking about sexual assault and rape.  It’s weird, because the book touches on aspects of rape culture–society telling girls to stay quiet and not cause a scene, the entire idea of power dynamics as they relate to sexual assault–but the book is incredibly reticent to use the correct terminology.  Only when they refer to a rape crisis center is the word ever used.

This is probably largely due to when the book was written and published–these things are never so dated as when you see them try to tackle an issue deemed taboo–but it’s also probably in part because they didn’t want to rankle parents.  So in purporting to tackle the issue of censorship and rape culture, the book is actually censoring itself?  Maybe a little?

Also, at one point, Chrome Dome makes reference to issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault being a “family matter.”  I actually did a double take, because WHAT IN THE WHAT?

SVH Super Star: Todd’s Story

2 May

todds story

Estimated Elapsed Time: just over 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s summer vacation in Sweet Valley yet again, and everyone is talking about how they’re going to be day camp counselors at Secca Lake for two weeks.  Elizabeth hopes that it will help reinvigorate her relationship with Todd, which she thinks has gotten stale lately.  Todd worries that his unpaid gig as a camp counselor won’t be enough to appease his father, who has been pushing for him to take an internship at Varitronics, the company he works for.  Liz watches them butt heads at a family dinner and wonders why Todd won’t stand up to his father more.

When the gang goes to the day camp training, Todd is shocked to see Kevin Holmes, a boy he crossed paths with in Vermont.  Back in Vermont, Todd stopped Kevin in the midst of mugging and old man in an alley and sent him to jail (it’s referred to as “prison” several times, but this was within the last year, so is it really?).  At the trial, Kevin’s dad tried to bribe Todd, and then after his sentencing, Kevin swore to Todd he’d get his revenge.  Todd wonders if Kevin is also the person who has been calling him and hanging up without saying anything.

Instead of telling Liz or Jessica or, I don’t know, the camp director, Todd decides to keep it to himself, especially after Kevin pretends to not know Todd.  He worries about Kevin not having changed at all and having sinister motives, but everyone else seems to really like him, including Todd’s parents, who keep inviting him over for dinner.  Turns out Kevin’s interested in an internship at Varitronics, and Todd’s dad is over the moon about it.  While Kevin charms everyone else, he keeps making weird threats to Todd about not letting it slip about his past.  Todd is completely distracted by this, and his refusal to confide in Liz drives a wedge further between them.

Meanwhile, camp starts and Todd continues to obsess about Kevin.  Kevin starts flirting or dating Jessica, and Todd worries about how this brings him closer to Liz.  No one can understand why Todd is so cold to Kevin, and there are several moments when Todd completely loses his cool around him, including an unfortunate moment after Kevin beat Todd to a drowning child.  Todd snaps that not everything is a competition, but it seems like no one else thought that was an appropriate thing to say.  By this point, Liz has told Todd she thinks they need a breather, and they are broken up (again).  Todd is miserable.

Kevin lies about a bunch of stuff, and while people seem to sort of catch the lies, they let them go, which is weird.  Also, things start disappearing around the camp, like Liz’s lavaliere necklace and Cara’s keys.  Todd continues to withdraw into himself, further alienating himself from his friends.

Then Kevin starts telling people that Todd had a reputation back in Vermont as kind of a bully.  He tells people that he roughed up some basketball players, punched a teammate, and there were rumors that he maybe sexually assaulted a girl.  Because Todd’s friends are literally the dumbest, most gullible people on the planet, they believe Kevin’s story, even though they have known Todd for sixteen years.

Somehow, Kevin gets Liz to agree to a date with him, which pisses Jessica off to no end.  Liz goes on the date and is struck by how awful Kevin is when he’s by himself.  Obsessed with the sound of his own voice and with how much he hates Todd, Liz realizes that he isn’t as cool as she first thought.  After the date, she goes home to worry about stuff, and Kevin goes out to mug one of the other camp counselors at Secca Lake.

Todd witnesses the mugging, which is just one in a string of recent muggings in the otherwise crime-free Sweet Valley.  The next day, he tells Winston and Aaron about his suspicions and what really happened in Vermont, and he feels better.  He decides to go to the police the following day.  Only, he doesn’t get to do that, because Kevin has framed Todd for the muggings, I guess?  They seem to think the fact that his pen shows up on the beach means he’s guilty?  Despite the fact that this is where everyone has been working for the past two weeks?  Whatever, I don’t care.  Todd gets arrested.

At the final BBQ party for the camp, Kevin asks Liz to go for a walk.  She agrees for some reason, and the two take a hike alone.  At the same time, Jessica finds Liz’s lavaliere in Kevin’s car and realizes that he’s been the stealing stealer all along!  She runs to tell her friends.

In the nature, Kevin tells Liz that he used to have a brother named Brent and that he accidentally killed him in a car crash.  He tells Liz this, and then he tries to kill Liz, because that’s the only way he can think to hurt Todd.  Luckily, Todd is out of jail and rushes into the scene in time to save Liz.  Kevin gets arrested, Liz and Todd are back together, and all is right with the world.  I guess.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book takes place in the summer, but it is after Todd has moved back from Vermont.  It is also after Cara Walker has moved to England, and yet she is here and still dating Steven.  Sam Woodruf is nowhere to be found, despite the fact that he and Jessica have been dating for a while now.  HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT.
  • Almost 100 six-to-ten-year-olds enrolled in the summer camp.  Talk about a nightmare.
  • Kevin drives a black Mazda

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Kevin nodded. ‘My dad thinks everybody should be required to read The Wall Street Journal with their breakfast.'” (83)
  • “Maybe there was nothing behind them.  Maybe Kevin Holmes didn’t have a soul.” (97)
  • “‘No, he’s not lying,’ Aaron agreed. ‘He’d have no reason to lie.'” (134) Are you a fucking idiot, Aaron?
  • “No, Kevin must be innocent, Todd decided. A person simply couldn’t be one thing on the outside and something entirely different on the inside.” (151) WHAT THE HOLY FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Here’s the thing about this completely ridiculous book: I remember liking this best of all the Super Stars.  That’s not surprising, really.  It has the most interesting premise: working as camp counselors during summer break, dealing with a mysterious new person who displays signs of being an actual psychopath, etc.  But reading this book now, I’m struck by how completely fucking stupid everyone is in the book.

Talk about plot points! Everything that happens here is meant to further the plot and not the characters.  Todd doesn’t tell anyone that he knows Kevin from before, ostensibly because he’s scared if he does, Kevin will retaliate.  Okay, fine, but shouldn’t the camp director have run a basic background check on anyone being left alone with children for any period of time?  Is that not a lawsuit waiting to happen?  If Kevin had served any jail time, which we are led to believe, he would have had a record.

Moving on: Todd continues to not tell anyone despite his suspicions.  He puts off going to the police for days, despite his having witnessed one of the muggings.  All of this is way, way too convenient for the plot we end up with.  I can’t help but think that the ghostwriter of this one thought that the readers were really, really dumb, because we aren’t allowed to think anything about anything here.

Also, the completely ridiculous rationalizations of everyone throughout the novel make no sense whatsoever.  Why would everyone believe Kevin over Todd?  Why does Todd continue to doubt Kevin’s motivations and behavior, despite the fact that he has continually threatened him throughout the course of the book?  Do these people have selective amnesia?  Am I the crazy one?

 

SVH #82: Kidnapped by the Cult!

18 Apr

kidnappedbythecult

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica believes her life is super unfair because her parents grounded her after she lied about failing a bunch of tests in math class.  She feels alienated from her friends, who are having parties and sleepovers without her, and disconnected from Sam, who seems more interested in his motorbike racing than in shopping with her.  When she finally is released from her grounding, she goes to the mall, where she meets Ted, who tells her about the Good Friends and invites her to have dinner with them.  When Jessica goes to have dinner at the place where all the Good Friends live, she’s freaked out by the neighborhood and then sort of taken in with how earnest and nice all the people in the house are.  When she meets Adam Marvel, the leader of the Good Friends, she’s smitten, because he’s gorgeous.

At any rate, Jessica starts spending all her time with the Good Friends, helping around the house, participating in book group discussions, and canvassing houses and asking people for money at the mall.  She undergoes a complete physical transformation, wearing conservative clothing, and doing all her homework on time.  While her family notices this, they don’t seem bothered by it at all.  Sam is, though, because she keeps blowing him off and lying to him about where she is.

It isn’t until Ned conveniently mentions that a new cult has come to town called the Good Friends that Liz starts to worry.  Ned says that his law firm has been approached by some charities who worry this cult is using their names to collect donations that are then being used for the cult’s own selfish purposes.  When Elizabeth asks Jessica if she’s heard of the cult, she’s shocked at how defensive Jessica is about the whole thing.

Then Liz gets Sam to insist Jessica go out with him one night, and she infiltrates the cult in Jessica’s stead.  She’s amazed as she watches these “clear glass marbles” parrot everything Adam says.  When some of the members come in to report that Brian, one of the teens, has gone missing, Elizabeth sees how angry Adam is.  Turns out that Brian’s parent kidnapped him away from the cult to deprogram him.  Ned tells Elizabeth and Jessica that he’ll testify against the Good Friends once he’s healthy again.  Um, okay.

Jessica tells Adam this, and the two decide to kidnap Brian back.  Then things escalate, and Adam convinces Jessica to leave town with him and the rest of the Good Friends.  But Liz, Sam and Todd stage an intervention as Adam is rounding them up into a van.  Sam runs into the house and finds Susan, a member of the cult, unconscious, bound and gagged.  Guess she was a reporter and Adam found her out.  The police show up, Adam is arrested, and Jessica goes home with Elizabeth. Yay?

The B-Plot is all about a new bowling team that’s been started at Sweet Valley High.  Liz and Todd join the team, and it isn’t long before Liz has caught the eye of the team’s coach, Justin Silver.  He begins to basically beg her to go out with him, and while she politely declines, he eventually wears her down to the point where she feels obligated to go out once with him.  She finally gets him to stop after that, but not before making Todd a little jealous.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently the SVH cheerleaders only hold practice on Tuesday afternoons?
  • There’s a new bowling team starting up at school
  • Apparently Jessica doesn’t like popcorn? But she’s eaten it in a bunch of books when she watches TV at home. Weird. Also, I hate myself for knowing this.
  • She also hates tofu and muesli, both of which she eats in this book.
  • The local bowling alley is called The Fast Lane

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila was telling Cara where the best dress shops were in London, and Amy was trying to talk with an English accent.” (7)
  • “There was a cafe beside the artificial waterfall at the mall that had always made Jessica think of Paris.” (15)
  • “‘This is ridiculous,’ she said out loud. ‘I’m not going to find people who understand me here. I’m going to find people who shop in thrift stores.'” (28)
  • “‘People don’t just disappear in shopping malls,’ Adam said evenly.” (117) [Blogger’s note: actually, they do. Hasn’t Adam ever read The Face on the Milk Carton?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

I mean, there are tons of things that strain credulity in this one.  First of all, Jessica strikes me as someone who would be the least likely to fit the criteria for a good cult member.  Second of all, her ridiculous transformation from popular, confident teen to one who is obsessed with service never rings true.  This is not a series that prides itself of subtlety, but even by SVH standards, this is ridiculous.

Perhaps my biggest issue with this one is how ill-defined the cult actually is, though.  There’s no religious affiliation with this cult, which, fine.  Despite the fact that that’s a common trait of these organizations, I’ll let it slide.  But there isn’t anything that tells me that Adam Marvel is particularly magnetic (except for his good looks) or has a message that would really resonate with teens.  Whatever, I am definitely overthinking this.

SVH #80: The Girl They Both Loved

9 Apr

girl theyloved

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Michael Harris and April Dawson are dating.  This is the same Michael who had a secret engagement to Maria Santelli that one time.  Apparently he’s still kind of a dingbat, because he is OBSESSED with dirt bike racing.  It comes before everything else, including April’s interests and his ailing grandmother in Texas.  But his parents don’t see it that way, and off to Texas he goes to visit his gma.

In the meantime, April runs into Michael’s former-best-friend-turned-rival Artie Western, and the two hit it off.  They end up racing together in a relay, and they win!  April tries to get Artie to tell her what happened between him and Michael, but he brushes her off, saying it was a misunderstanding best left in the past.

When Michael gets back into town, it takes exactly five seconds for two different people to congratulate him for patching things up with Artie.  He freaks out on April and says some of the most ridiculous, emotionally manipulative shit imaginable.  April goes home pissed, and rightfully so.  He calls to apologize, and she accepts it, and then acquiesces to his request that she not see Artie any more.

But April totally can’t help it that he sits next to her at the movies again, when Michael is stuck at home babysitting his little sister.  The two go out after, and Artie finally tells her the story of why he and Michael don’t talk any more: they both had a crush on a girl who used to come watch the motorbike races, and they challenged one another to a race around Secca Lake.  Artie lost control of his bike and swerved in front of Michael, forcing him to drop his bike.  Mike thought it was on purpose, and that was it.  Wait, that was it? Seriously?

Of course Michael is waiting on April’s porch when she gets home with Artie in tow, and the boy scream at each other until April’s dad threatens to call the police.  Then they challenge each other to another race around Secca Lake.  This time, Michael swerves in front of Artie’s bike, and Artie ends up in the hospital.  It’s never clear if Michael did it on purpose, but April seems pretty pissed at him.

Eventually, the three make up, and April and Michael continue seeing each other even though Michael is a total d-bag.

The B-and-C-Plots: Elizabeth and Todd bet each other that they other can’t do tasks that are traditionally fairly gendered.  So, Todd has to cook, grocery shop, and sew an apron.  Liz has to change a tire, build a shelf, and change a washer on a pipe.  Okaaaaaaay.  Both end up admitting that the tasks are hard, so I’m not sure what the message here is, because it’s super weird and sexist.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets Sam Woodruff after attending a dirtbike rally, and is totally smitten.  It turns out that the two have a lot in common, and she ends up falling for him completely.  But she doesn’t want to introduce him to her parents, because they’re super anti-motorcycle after that one time Liz was in a coma after Todd crashed his motorcycle a week after getting it. But then Sam shows up at her house, charms the pants off Alice, and all is well.  I actually really like Sam, so this worked for me.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Michael drives a Trans Am and his middle name is Lloyd
  • The Plaza Theater is hosting an Alfred Hitchcock film festival
  • Elizabeth likes walnuts in her chocolate chip cookies.  She’s a MONSTER.
  • Jessica and Sam like the same kind of pizza: pepperoni with double cheese and hot pepper flakes.  That actually sounds pretty awesome.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Michael stared hard at the road ahead. ‘My grandmother would understand,’ he said shortly. ‘She wouldn’t want Artie Western to beat me, either.'” (23)
  • “‘Michale and I are equals in everything. Even in dirt bike racing.  Who is he to boss me around?'” (52)


A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m sorry, but Michael Harris is a total douche.  I don’t have a lot of investment in any of the characters featured in this ridiculous plot, but he comes off looking the absolute worst throughout the book.  There isn’t anything compelling about his feud with Artie except how self-obsessed Michael is (something that both Artie and April point out to him more than once), and it doesn’t actually seem like he undergoes any sort of personality change by the time the book is through.

Also, Artie is in the hospital for like a week after his accident, even though his injuries aren’t that serious.  Doesn’t that seem like a really long time for a broken rib and some scratches?  My dad just had heart surgery and he was out in 24 hours.  Whatever.

Last thing: how dumb is the title?  The “girl” in question isn’t April, as the cover might suggest, but some rando chick they knew back when they were friends.  She doesn’t get more than a mention in passing, and they never even bother to name her! What the fuck!?