Hey guys, did you know that Jessica Wakefield is a horrible bitch? In case you had any doubts, this book introduces a brand new type of person that Jessica hates. We have already seen her cruelty to nerds, obese people, former drug users, and anyone who likes another chick better than her. Now we introduce the newest target of JW’s pure, unadulterated loathing (thank you, Wicked) – the school “slut”! (In other words, the chick who’s getting more dudes than Jessica.) Brace yourself … the WTFs will be OUT OF CONTROL for this one.
The cover: The color of this cover really vexes me. It’s like a weird off-white that kind of wants to be purple. Did you guys know that the cover model for this was reportedly Courteney Cox? Nice touch with the tiny tear on her face; surprised her raccoon-eye makeup isn’t running. You see, only trollops wear that much eye makeup. Her hair is classic 80s pseudo-mullet. Jessica’s cheerleading sweater is hideous.
The plot: Girl-about-town Annie Whitman is desperate to become an SVH cheerleader — they are “the cream of the crop” after all –but even though she’s pulled up her grades and memorized all the cheers, she has a reputation. As we all know by now, a “reputation” (for having SEX, silly!) is the mark of doom for an SVH girl. Now, they have to let her try out, but Jessica Queen Bitch Wakefield sure isn’t going to approve her, no matter how good she is. Jessica and Robin are co-captains of the cheerleaders … even though they’re both juniors … in fact, I’m not sure there is a single senior on this team! Yes, the school revolves around this crowd! (Annie is a sophomore, though .. how refreshing to hear about someone from another class.) The other cheerleaders include Helen Bradley, Maria Santelli, and Jean West, who are all described as being simply gorgeous, charming, and classy. And Jessica can’t have someone on the squad who has no class. Yes, because Jessica has so very much of that.
“Easy Annie”‘s grades are awful, but with the help of Liz the math tutor, she starts getting As. Jessica is still determined not to let Annie on the squad, but is surprised when she is clearly the most talented girl at try-outs, if not better than the entire team. Liz keeps the tutoring a secret from Jessica, as she tries to get Annie onto the team. Sound familiar? Yes, in many ways, it’s Power Play.
Liz goes over to Annie’s apartment, where she lives with her drunken, chain-smoking mother (who had her at 16) and mom’s lecherous boyfriend, Johnny. So Liz learns the sad life story of Annie Whitman and realizes that she really is a great person deep down inside (although to be honest with you, even Liz sounds like she has her doubts). But Jessica will never be convinced, especially after Annie and Bruce Patman tie Jessica and Skip Harmon in a dancing contest at the Beach Disco.
There are three phases of tryouts for the cheerleading team, and only two slots available. Cara Walker pretty much already has one of the spots. She was a cheerleader previously, but she and Lila Fowler were both kicked off the squad for setting off sprinklers on rival team Palisades High’s performance … they got KICKED OFF the squad for that? For reals? Cara wants to come back on the squad, but Lila isn’t interested. So no one is sure about the other slot, but Jessica thinks Sandra Bacon (Jean’s best friend) might be a great choice. Sandra is pretty clumsy and not necessarily well-liked – Cara and Jess make fun behind her back for trying to impress some boy named Mark with crappy flips off Lila Fowler’s diving board. But, hey, she doesn’t fuck around, and the implication is that Annie does. So Jessica plans to put Sandra on the team in place of Annie. But Jessica has it coming to her when Annie successfully passes the first two phases of tryouts and wows them all with her own amazing dancer-like moves. Robin, Helen, and Maria are all delighted and want Annie on the team, but Jean will vote for Sandra since Sandra’s her best friend and all. Jessica knows she can’t sway Robin or Maria, so she puts it in Helen Bradley’s hands and gives her a talking-to about what a hobag Annie is and how Helen can cast that third decisive vote that splits the tie and saves the integrity of the cheerleaders! When Helen starts to waver on her promise to vote for Sandra following Annie’s amazing third performance, Jessica gives it to her straight: If you let Annie on the squad, I’m off! And of course, that elicits wails of “NOOOOOO” from Helen, who goes ahead and votes clumsy-ass Sandra on instead. You see, Jessica is apparently the heart and soul of the cheerleading team, which I 100% don’t get. It’s Maria Santelli who can do the backflips, y’all! And what the fuck, how does a girl who falls on her ass during a tryout (I’m looking at you, Sandra) fit these rigorous cheerleader standards?
So Annie is cut, and of course, she is in complete shock. She freaks out, and when she learns about WHY she was cut, she leaves school for a few days. She apparently had no idea that everyone talked about her trollopy ways behind her back. She’s found unconscious in her apartment, having overdosed on pills to try to kill herself. Jessica immediately feels like the soulless bitch from hell that she is, and she goes with Liz and some other kids to the hospital, where they learn that Annie is slipping in and out of consciousness and doesn’t seem to want to live. The doctor suggests that Jessica fix the problem by sitting by Annie’s bedside and telling her that she is being let on the cheerleading team after all. And, lo and behold. It works, Annie wakes up, is magically cured of the horrendous depression that usually leads someone to kill themselves, and goes right back to the squad.
I wish I was making all of that up. I really do.
And, because no girl at Sweet Valley is complete without a love interest. Annie gets Ricky Capaldo, the shy manager of the cheerleaders. What in the hell do the cheerleaders need a manager for? I guess they’re too lazy to fetch their damn megaphones? Ricky and Annie really love each other, but even Ricky’s loving talk to Annie can’t get her out of the coma. She lives for cheerleading, y’all, she really does.
This book kind of made me want to puke all over myself.
The sub-plot: There isn’t one.
WTF? Where do I start?!
-I think it bears repeating that 75 girls signed up to try out for the team. You’re telling me that many chicks are really that desperate to be cheerleaders?
-AGAIN, why are all the cheerleaders freakin’ juniors? Why does Jessica dominate everything? Can I go throw up now?
-A lot of other bloggers have asked why it’s okay for Jessica to slut around, but not for Annie. Well, you see, Jessica doesn’t actually DO IT. She CONTROLS her boyfriends! And because the boys can’t ever pick the Golden Cherry, Jessica maintains her respect. Oh, silly Annie. You have to keep them from untying your bikini top, girl!
-I guess Francine can’t let her ghost writers say S-E-X in these books. Everyone, even Annie herself, says she’s been “deeply in love” … what the hell? I mean, now I’m confused. Deeply in love? Well, if you put it that way, it doesn’t sound any different from what Jessica does! And uh, it also sounds like a porno to me … Deeply in love … Deep inside Annie Whitman. Heh, heh, heh!
-Annie has banged Rick Andover, Bruce Patman, Tim Bradley (Helen’s brother, who’s a senior, and who I guess is the Tim that Lila once dated), some dude named Billy, and apparently, all the other boys in school. Of course, it doesn’t come out and say that she slept with all of them. It just says that she’s been on tons of dates. Again, when you put it that vaguely, it doesn’t sound any worse than Jessica.
-”If only Annie had one guy like Todd, Elizabeth thought, she wouldn’t need an army of other guys.” Liz, you disgust me. No, if only Annie had more respect and love for herself, she wouldn’t need an army of guys who disrespect her! Why do you have to have a boyfriend to be a success at this school?
-While Liz is usually pretty open-minded, caring, and desperate to help out a boyfriendless soul, in this book she seems like she’s ready to bolt from Annie Whitman. She gets uneasy every time Annie starts talking about her family history or her dates with boys. I guess Annie’s non-nuclear family is just too unsettling for our little perennial do-gooder.
-We learn that Cara has a huge crush on Steven Wakefield and that Jessica really wants to set him up with her so that he won’t keep dating Tricia Martin. Only people with two parents get to hang around the Wakefield clan, you see!
-Jessica introduces Ricky to the cheerleader hopefuls by saying, “…and please don’t rip his clothes off.” Well, if they did, then I guess you’d be able to keep all of them off the team too!
-Jessica is PISSED about Annie and Tim Bradley because she is “mildly interested” in him herself, and thought he was going to buy her a Coke. HAHAHAHA. Can’t you buy your own Coke out of the vending machine, Jessica? Of course, maybe she’d just mad because according to Helen, Annie went “all the way” with him. Yep, he told his sister about this. Isn’t that just a little bit creepy?
-Annie horrifies Liz by telling her she’s going to the Dairi Burger with Billy and then to the beach with Rick. Two dates in one day! Inconceivable!
-The band that plays at the Beach Disco is called “The Surfers’ Waves” … what? I’m surprised they let anyone but The Droids play anywhere in Sweet Valley. And apparently Jessica’s date that night, Skip Harmon, is a senior who usually proclaims he won’t look at any junior girls. Silly Skip. Guess he never dated any cheerleaders then!
-And by the way, you’re not fooling me, Jessica! I know you let Bruce hit it.
-Annie laments that no “nice guys” want to ask her out. And she also is shocked that someone like Liz would want to be her friend. Oh, barf. A Wakefield on a pedestal again! Of course, Liz is such a good friend that she doesn’t even notice when Annie is out of school for a few days following the cheerleading tryouts.
-Annie’s mom chain smokes cigarettes all over the hospital, even right outside Annie’s room. I guess that was okay in the 80s, but it sounds totally crazy now!
-I don’t like the way this book treats suicide. If you’re going to introduce this topic, then do it right. A girl who literally doesn’t want to live because she can’t be a cheerleader needs more help than Jessica flippin’ Wakefield can give her. And she isn’t going to be magically okay a couple days later.
-What is it with Sweet Valley and girls who can only truly be worth something IF they get to be part of some horribly snotty club?
In the back of the book…My copy just has an ad for an upcoming “Sweet Valley High/Soap Opera Celebration Contest”! But you have to wait until August 1984 to get all the details!
Coming up next…Liz meets someone who’s even worse than Jessica! Actually, they’re probably about the same.