A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some

#112 Jessica Quits the Squad

Hey, I made it to #112! I wasn’t sure I was going to because after that last book, I was ready to just call it a good 12 years and quit … just like Jessica! (When this book was released, the series was approaching its 12th year.)

Before I say anything else – I wasn’t prepared for the title of this new mini-series: Sweet Valley CHEERLEADING MADNESS. Hahaha! Points for being willing to go over the top, I guess.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at this cover. 

JQTS

Ken has finally received an updated 90s hair-do! 

At left, we have Jessica fervently making out with Ken Matthews. At right, we have the cheerleading squad performing to a crowd of adoring fans. The girl on the lefthand side in that picture is Jessica’s latest rival, Heather Mallone, and as you can see, she’s shaking her pom-pom right in Jessica’s face … I guess. Maybe if Jessica was concentrating on her cheer instead of looking over at what Heather’s doing, that wouldn’t be happening. I don’t know who the cheerleader in the background is supposed to be, but she has a Courteney Cox-esque look, and as Courteney was the original model for Annie Whitman, I’m going with that. Apparently, Annie finally grew out her hair.

So yeah, there’s a new Queen B in town! The gang first spots her at the Dairi Burger after the latest home game. She sashays in like she owns the place and everyone stares at the hot new chick. All the guys start ogling her while she orders a Diet Coke with lemon “with a straw.” Oooh, how fancy. She then saunters back out with her drink and speeds off in a white Mazda Miata with plates that read CHEERLEADER (lol). Hilarious that she was the first person to want that vanity plate in the whole giant sunny state of California. Jessica is annoyed and jealous and hopes she won’t ever see the girl again.

That night, there’s a big post-game beach barbecue party. Ken gets Jessica to stop moping and come swimming with him in the sunset. After it gets dark, Bruce starts flashing his father’s new Jeep’s headlights to show off (weird) and Ken and Jessica are caught in the light making out. Everyone hoots and hollers except for Liz, who’s on a beach blanket with Todd, scowling her ass off. If you’ve already read Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, then you can guess what her damage is. Oh god, this bitch is gonna start some shit.

The next morning, Liz feels “pained” as Jessica drives them to school and rattles on about how she can’t wait to see Ken. We get a recap of how Liz and Ken had a brief affair while Todd was living in Vermont. I still don’t get why we’re supposed to think this is a huge deal. Liz and Todd broke up not long after Todd went to Vermont, and Todd was happily dating other people. Why can’t Liz? Oh well, we’ll just go with it and say Todd couldn’t handle it if he knew his best buddy was back home fingering his old girl on beach blankets.

Then, it’s Jessica’s turn to feel pained. Dairi Burger Girl is in the hallway surrounded by a bunch of people, including Ken. Lila comes up and explains her name is Heather Mallone, she just transferred here, she’s obviously quite wealthy, and she was an amazing cheerleader at her old school. Then Heather comes up to introduce herself, and comment on the 70s blouse Jessica put on to wow Ken. “That’s an adorable little blouse you’re wearing. It’s so, uh, retro.” Jessica storms off in a huff.

At the lunch table later that day, Jessica tries to convince Lila that Heather was trying to insult her, but Lila doesn’t agree. Then Annie comes up with Heather and they sit down. Heather promptly remarks on how childish Sweet Valley guys are and Lila agrees. (I’m waiting for Lila to mention her stupid older boyfriend Robby, whatever age he is in this book.) Next, Heather tells Jessica her pasta is loaded with fat and that it’s bad for her. She brags that she’s “completely eliminated” fat from her own diet, but then her lunch includes tuna (with no mayo). Heather needs to attend a nutrition class because tuna naturally has fat in it, which by the way your body freaking REQUIRES to work you effing dumbass. Jessica tries to lob her famous thinly veiled insults at Heather for laughs, but none of the other girls are laughing. They all think Heather is amazing because she’s super athletic, likes to ski at the same rich people resorts that Lila does, and was captain of a state championship-winning cheerleading squad in Nevada. Heather asks Jessica where she gets her cheers from, then insults her and says her methods are “dated” and that she should be watching “VTV” instead because “hip-hop’s the latest thing in cheerleading.” (What the fuck is VTV? Is that a play off MTV?) When Heather isn’t making snide remarks at Jessica, she’s putting on a too-sweet-to-be-true act. Ken finally rescues Jessica from the conversation by asking her to come sit with him, then asking her for a date all shyly. Okay. By the way, Heather thinks Ken is totally hot so there is bound to be some drama there at some point.

Todd hangs out in the Oracle newspaper office with Liz, where he tells her about how Ken and Jessica must be falling in love. Then he kisses Liz, and she thinks about Ken’s kisses instead. Then she thinks to herself that she is a terrible person, which is a good thing to see her finally admit to herself, though I don’t think she realizes the extent of the fact. She and Jessica are both past any chance of redemption at this point if you ask me.

Robin invites Heather to come try out at cheerleading practice that day, even though it’s not the regular try-out season. Jessica is opposed, but as co-captain to Robin, she doesn’t want the other girls to think she’s jealous even though that’s already clear. So, she finally relents and orders Heather to do some kind of extraordinary routine, in under 3 minutes. Heather does it with style and manages it all in just 2 minutes; Jessica tries to lie and says she didn’t make it, but the other girls all override her because they were timing her themselves. By the way, I know fuck-all about cheerleading so I have no idea how realistic the cheerleading stuff is in this book, but since it’s Sweet Valley, probably not very. Anyway, the girls are all for having Heather join the team to get them some new moves, but Jessica is opposed and demands a private vote, so Heather struts off while they talk. Robin is very irritated that Jessica wants to keep Heather off the squad and points out how Jessica once tried to keep Annie off the squad (and drove her to attempt suicide), and now she’s one of their best cheerleaders. Jessica totally deserved to have that thrown in her face. Jessica halfway relents, but says she’s going to come up with some tests to prove Heather’s character before she can join. Since she’s co-captain, the rest of the team agrees even though they think this is weird, and they have never done these tests before. I guess they are not worried about Heather pulling an Annie after Jessica is through with her.

In case you needed a refresher, the current cheerleading squad is made up of Jessica, Robin, Maria, Jean, Sandy, Annie, and Amy. Oh, and Helen Bradley. Dude, Helen Bradley moved away in book 28; that’s the whole reason why Amy Sutton is even on the squad! For reference, that was in 1986. This book was published in January 1995. This is what happens either when someone didn’t make the required updates to the ghostwriter bible, or the ghostwriter didn’t bother to actually go through the whole thing! Seriously, what an oversight. I thought it was just going to be a one-time typo the editor missed, but she’s present throughout the entire book. This type of shit keeps happening lately and it’s really bizarre.

Here come Jessica’s “character tests” (i.e. hazing)! First, she insists Heather spend two lunch hours in a row eating with the ultimate nerds, the Sweet Valley chess club! (Is this Saved by the Bell?) Heather insists she’s a friend to everyone, so she goes for it, even having one of the nerds help her with her homework. Next, Jessica loans Heather these green and purple striped overalls from her dad’s college drama days, plus a bright orange cowboy hat, and makes her wear them to school. Everyone crowds around and talks about Heather’s cutting edge grunge look and congratulates her for being daring. Finally, Jessica has Heather go to the front of homeroom class and sing the national anthem. As it turns out, Heather has “the voice of a professional singer.” She does a “funky” version of the anthem and everyone is enraptured. They beg her to sing something else and she whips out a damn guitar and starts singing and playing something soulful she wrote, then brags that there’s a record company that wants her to record an album, but her parents want her to finish high school first. Needless to say, Heather has passed all of her tests with flying colors. Jessica tries to convince the other girls that Heather is bad news; once again, they override her and happily let Heather on the team. Heather immediately sets about taking over the spotlight and teaching the girls some new dance steps.

Elizabeth goes to the beach to take a lonely walk and wallow in her Ken-less despair. She runs into Robin Wilson, who is sitting by herself upset. Robin says her father has just gotten a job transfer to Denver and they have to move immediately. She can’t bear to tell the other girls. Liz comforts her in her Liz way, then goes home and spills the beans to Jessica. Liz suggests that Jessica make Heather the new co-captain and you can imagine Jessica’s reaction. At lunch the next day, Robin tells the squad she’s leaving, and they cry and then promptly tell Heather she’s their new co-captain over Jessica’s protests.

Jessica and Ken have their first date that night (well – their first date in a while. I’m positive they’ve gone on dates to dances and such in the past, but nobody’s mentioning that). Liz is seething with jealousy as she watches Jess get ready. Jessica puts on a hot white mini sundress, and Liz tries to make her wear a pink granny sweater over it because she might get cold. Then Ken shows up with flowers for Jessica, and Liz flings open the front door when he knocks thinking it’s Todd, and it’s awkward. Ken and Liz spend a few minutes mumbling at each other. Todd and Liz go to a movie, only to see Ken and Jessica are seeing the same movie and are sitting several rows down. Liz has to watch them be affectionate with one another the whole time, staring down at them like a disapproving chaperone. Afterward, the four of them all go to Casey’s for ice cream where Heather Mallone shows up with a crowd of guys. She remarks on the fat content of Jessica’s banana split, then starts flirting with Ken. She seductively takes a tiny bite of Ken’s sundae, then invites him to call her so they can go jogging together sometime. Jessica and Liz are both really jealous, but Jessica mistakes Liz’s annoyance as being protective of her twin. As he drops Jessica off that night, Ken assures her he has no intentions of actually calling Heather and that he thinks she can’t hold a candle to Jessica, then they make out.

Amy is throwing a big going away party for Robin at her house, so Jessica goes shopping for a new dress to wear. Liz’s campaign to keep Jessica and Ken apart continues. She tries to dissuade Jessica by saying it’s extravagant to buy a new outfit for one party, although that just sounds like regular old Liz to me. Then she bluntly tells Jessica the dress she has tried on makes her look fat. Nasty B! The salesgirl completely disagrees, so Jessica buys the dress and goes to the party looking fab while Liz sulks. She can die mad about it.

Heather shows up to the party in a tiny miniskirt and says she had to buy it because everything else in the mall was ugly. She spends a bunch of time standing next to Amy’s pool chatting at Ken, so Jessica goes over and “accidentally” knocks Heather into the pool. Heather flounders to the surface with her eye makeup running while Jessica sweetly advises her to always wear waterproof mascara to a pool party. Haha! I’m amused. Ken later notes that Heather left the party looking very upset and Jessica is pleased. Ken and Jessica slow dance near Todd and Liz, and they look too happy so Liz can’t stand it. Liz abruptly suggests they switch partners, then when Ken goes to dance with her, she runs away.

Liz goes to talk to Mr. Collins in his office and has him close the door … creepy, lol. She tells him about her problem, only she does the classic “my friend has a problem …” Mr. Collins is just like, Well it sounds like this your friend has unresolved feelings for her ex-fling. No shit Mr. Collins. Then Liz goes over to Todd’s house to study; he tries to initiate a make-out session, but she’s not into it and bitches at him for trying to distract her, then leaves. I’m definitely tired of these story lines about the twins schemin’ on each other’s men.

With Heather as co-captain, cheerleading practice starts going downhill real fast. First, Heather starts practice half an hour earlier than usual. Jessica is the only one who didn’t know, so she shows up late. Heather shrugs it off and claims she thought she had asked Annie to tell her. Even though Jessica worked hard all weekend on a new cheer, the girls are more excited about the cheer Heather is already teaching them. It turns out to be a more complicated cheer with really funky dance moves. Heather yells at them for not doing it right. She particularly picks on Sandy and Maria, even telling Sandy she is moving like a “cow.” Ouch! Jessica is sure the girls will now hate Heather but instead, they’re more eager to please her. The next morning, Jessica finds out from Lila that Heather threw a dinner party the night before for Lila, Amy, Barry, Annie, Bruce, Rick – and Ken. Lila is sheepish about it. She says that Ken did sit next to Heather, but insists that Ken didn’t look too interested in her. Jessica is miffed because Lila likes Heather and wants to be friends with both her and Jessica. Lila also says she asked Heather why she didn’t invite Jessica, and Heather said it was because she knows Jessica doesn’t like her. Heather asked Lila to put in a good word with Jessica for her. Jessica knows Heather is a fake bitch. (By the way, I’m wondering when Ken was going to say something about this party to Jessica? Jessica has spent a lot of time confiding in Ken about how Heather is acting and how it makes her feel and he’s insisted he doesn’t think much of Heather. So after all that, he thought it was a good idea to go to a dinner party at Heather’s house without Jessica …. OK. Look, I’m not suggesting they should control each other’s whereabouts, it’s just weird and it’s never cleared up unless I spaced out while reading it, which is entirely possible at this point.)

There’s a Wednesday night football game for some reason. Jessica tries to lead the first cheer, but Heather jumps in front of her and takes control of everything. The crowd goes nuts for the cheers. Heather makes sure to take credit for all of it to a reporter that initially approached Jessica.

Jessica wakes up super sick on Thursday morning, so Alice makes her stay home from school and watch soap operas all day. (Her favorite is The Bold and the Beautiful.) Liz is sure to take advantage of Jessica’s absence, approaching Ken so she can ask him if he still has feelings for her (and she hopes he does!), but then she chickens out when he asks her what she wants. At the end of the school day, Maria calls Jessica crying. It seems Heather also took advantage of Jessica’s absence, and she has kicked Sandy and Maria off the squad. She told everyone that she thinks she can take the team to nationals, but that Sandy and Maria aren’t good enough and are holding them back. I mean, back when Annie Whitman was trying out, the series made sure to show us that Sandy was clumsy and only made the squad because they didn’t want Annie on there. I am surprised about Maria though, since Maria was one of the original members and was supposed to be legendary at backflips or something.

The next day, Jessica finds Heather at her locker and bitches her out. Heather calmly hands Jessica a copy of the cheerleading handbook, which Jessica has apparently never seen before, and shows her how it says a co-captain can make whatever decisions she needs to in the absence of the other co-captain. Jessica throws it at her feet and Heather just strolls off. With this latest  development, Liz and Lila have to admit that Jessica may be right that Heather can’t be trusted. The cheerleading team is still not convinced, even after Jessica confronts all of them and points out that Sandy is Jean’s best friend and Jean at least should be standing up for her. I’m just wondering where the adults are in this situation. There’s nobody supervising this team? Haha, I just sounded like my parents.

It’s time for Friday afternoon cheerleading practice. There’s ANOTHER big game the following night. Is this a normal high school football schedule, two games in a week, one on Wednesday and one on Saturday? I don’t remember this being the case. Anyway, Jessica has a chat with Lila beforehand, during which Jessica says she wishes Lila was on the squad with her so they could team up against Heather. Foreshadowing! It’s funny no one is mentioning that Lila once was on the team and was kicked off for playing pranks (super early in the series). Heather is late for practice that day, so Jessica starts to take control, only to be interrupted by Heather hauling up some big boxes full of stylish, skimpy new uniforms. She says they’re a gift from her and that they can’t keep practicing in their current “juvenile” uniforms (which Jessica helped pick out). Jessica thinks the new outfits are fug, but everyone else loves them. Then Heather makes everyone sit in a circle, because she wants to pass out their new diet and exercise program. (She asks Jessica if she can pass out the plans, but Jessica says no, she cannot.) Heather explains that everyone needs to be super fit if they’re going to be world class cheerleaders, and it seems starving yourself and depriving yourself of essential nutrients is a great way to do that. Jessica points out her plans are crazy, but the other girls all want to have bodies like Heather’s and agree to go along, so they start right away. Here’s my summary of Heather’s program:

Exercise:

  • Jog 3 miles every day
  • Lift weights for 1 hour every day (no rest days?!)
  • Start each cheerleading practice with:
    • 75 sit-ups
    • 30 push-ups
    • 50 jumping jacks

Diet:

  • “Fat is the enemy” – strict no-fat diet
    • Anyone caught eating fat will be kicked off the squad.
    • Can only drink skim milk, and pizza must be ordered without cheese
  • Sample of a day on this diet:
    • Breakfast: Glass of water and half a grapefruit (why can’t you have the whole damn grapefruit?)
    • Lunch: Any kind of vegetables you want (oh goody! any kind?!) with nothing on them, brown rice (if you want)
    • Afternoon snack: A piece of fruit OR a carrot stick (don’t get gluttonous and have both, ladies!)
    • Dinner: Plain salad with only lemon juice for dressing

Not mentioned are the heaps of coke Heather clearly does to function in this manner. I mean, holy shit, that’s like 300 calories for their entire day. How are they supposed to have enough energy to cheer, let alone do their bootcamp fitness routine? And where the fuck is the protein? If Robin was here, she’d be horrified to hear the squad was willingly undergoing this diet after they supported her through an eating disorder in the not-too-distant past. Or maybe she wouldn’t, because you never know in these books. I’m pretty sure Amy Sutton was on a variation of this diet in the past, and I’m positive Jessica was at various points (although at other points she’s sucking down milkshakes (and other less-calorie rich things no doubt, you get my drift?) without gaining a single pound). Now Jessica is lecturing everyone that cheerleading is supposed to be fun and acting like dieting is ridiculous. No one is listening.

Ken takes Jessica out on their second date that night and Liz is beside herself with jealousy, especially when Jessica finishes dressing for the date and comes downstairs looking like a dope-ass ho. Liz goes overboard trying to convince Jessica she’s moving too fast, then when that doesn’t work she tries to convince Jessica she’s still ill and should stay home. Then Liz even appeals to their mother to try to make her worry so that she will order Jess to stay home! FU with a bag of pom-poms Liz. It doesn’t work and Jessica merrily goes off on her date, where Ken prepares a special gourmet picnic dinner on the beach for them (complete with sparkling apple juice). Liz goes off to a favorite author’s book reading with Todd and acts like a space cadet from hell throughout the entire thing. She then peppers Todd with questions about how much Ken cares for Jessica and he doesn’t get what the hell she’s so worried about. Liz has Todd take her home early claiming she doesn’t feel well and must have caught whatever Jessica had. Once home, she goes upstairs to wait for Jessica’s return and mope about all the times she and Ken once spent together. It turns out she keeps a special box of mementos under her bed. It includes: the rose corsage from the first dance Todd took her to, a heart necklace Todd gave her in the sixth grade, five poems Liz wrote after she killed Sam Woodruff, and a framed set of photo booth shots of her and Ken kissing, which Liz has concealed in a handkerchief. Man, they are really laying this on thick. Liz clutches the photos and lies on the bed sadly.

Jessica doesn’t get home until after 12:30 AM, so she was obviously having a pretty good time. She comes into Liz’s bedroom to tell her all about her date, forcing Liz to quickly shove the photographs under her pillow. Liz is really nasty to Jessica about her date, telling her she doesn’t want to hear all the little details, that she’s selfish, and that Ken is probably seeing someone else on the side just like Jeremy was. Then Liz storms out of the room and Jessica finds the photos under the pillow and realizes Liz and Ken were together at some point. Ruh-roh!

At Saturday’s game, Heather leads the team in a cheer that Jessica has never learned and therefore cannot do with them; she just has to stand there while the crowd goes wild. When they finish, Jessica throws her pom-poms on the ground, quits the team and storms off the field. A sympathetic Ken takes her out for ice cream (again) that night and tells her the team isn’t as good as it was pre-Heather. Meanwhile, there is a party at Lila’s but Jessica refuses to show her face. Instead, after Ken takes her home Jessica goes straight to Elizabeth’s room, finds her diary under the bed, and reads about her sordid affair with Ken. Now she knows the truth, and she feels like her life is a total mess.

I guess this whole Liz-Ken thing was supposed to be scandalous for anyone who hadn’t already read Liz’s Secret Diary. At least they were consistent with that storyline rather than burying it in a Magna Edition and forgetting about it for life after that. But they are definitely not consistent with people’s character traits. Like I said, Jessica suddenly comes off as someone who couldn’t care less about a diet, which is hilarious. She goes out of her way to eat loads of fat-filled foods like hamburgers, fries, and ten tons of ice cream just to piss Heather off. And Liz is a grade A bitch who can’t stand to see her sister happy for one second. Ken is now a shy, sensitive intellectual who loves literature and poetry. What the fuck is going on?

Also, I guess I’m supposed to root for Jessica in this one, but she’s been such a horrible bucket o’ bitch to most of these characters for so long that I’m feeling like this is just her getting what she deserves. I’m sure Annie Whitman is laughing all the way to the bank (if she’s not collapsed on the ground from that dumb diet). We all know Jessica will come out on top in the end anyway. Liz on the other hand, pisses me off beyond belief lately, and she can go sit on a broken pom-pom handle. Just dump Todd already, take a tip from your sister, and just be honest about all the dudes you want to ride in your own weird PG way.

Other BS: Rick Hunter is in this book hanging out with Bruce Patman. This is a character who was originally introduced in Sweet Valley Twins and never showed up in SVH (unless I’m forgetting). That’s the second time recently that they’ve done this with an SVT character.

Someone yells “What a dish!” at Heather. Did 1950s slang come back into style in the 90s?

Speaking of the 50s, Jessica does some random “booth dancing” in her booth at the Dairi Burger and says it’s the latest thing. (Her friends are perplexed) This reminds me of my dad explaining to me that back in the day, some restaurants / diners banned kids from dancing in the aisles to the jukebox so they came up with dances they could do in their seat instead. Yeah, I definitely feel Francine’s touch on these opening chapters.

When Heather calls Jessica’s blouse “trendy” Jessica finds it insulting to be called trendy. What the fuck? Jessica has good reason not to like Heather, but she’s still a petty ass bitch.

As I mentioned before, Bruce’s dad bought a Jeep Cherokee which Bruce keeps showing off. I find it odd that he thinks it’s so special since the twins also have a Jeep.

Elizabeth thinks about how Ken has always been her good friend because “they had so much in common.” That is such COMPLETE bullshit. Nice ret-conning SV.

Jessica tells Liz not to worry about how fast she’s driving because “You know I’m an expert driver.” I feel like that was a dig at Liz for the whole Jungle Prom accident thing.

Fun fact: In the very earliest books, Sweet Valley High had another character named Heather, and her last name also started with an M (Heather Morgan).

New characters: Sean Lowry and Charles Stewart, both members of the Sweet Valley High chess team.

Heather always says “Toodles!” as a parting greeting. One time, Jessica angrily thinks “I’d like to “toodle” you”. Yeah, that doesn’t sound the way you think it sounds, Jess.

At Amy’s party, “exotic nonalcoholic drinks” are served.

Sweet Valley High plays Whitman High in this book while Annie Whitman cheers … haha.

Liz’s diary is usually described as a composition notebook or a basic notebook, but here it’s a red leather book.

I could have sworn Robin’s parents were divorced. I might be mixing her up with Enid Rollins, who also had divorced parents and an absentee, alcoholic dad.

Jessica keeps thinking about how lucky Robin is that she gets to move away from Heather and start all over. I mean, there’s a boarding school your parents wanted to send you to during the whole Jeremy Randall mess, Jess, so try telling them you’ve started having conjugal visits with Jeremy at the Sweet Valley jail.

Certain characters are missing with little to no mention. Enid is completely absent with no explanation. There’s a passive mention that she’s Liz’s best friend in the beginning, but that’s it. Bruce hangs around Heather and ogles her, but Pamela is nowhere in sight. Lila’s boyfriend Robby is also MIA and it’s like he never existed. Maybe Lila finally kicked him to the curb. We can dream.

I am 1000% over these stupid spoilery titles. Stop telling me how the book ends, dammit!

In the back of the book: There’s another ad for the new Love Stories book series and an excerpt for book #2, Sharing Sam. I read the excerpt and it was actually pretty good, whereas the last one was boring.

Up next: We’ll find out how Jessica and friends will take their revenge on Heather.

Today is a merry day – the Jeremy Randall mini-series that does not end is finally over, once we get through this book, our latest thriller that proves the twins can never just have a regular ass peaceful family Christmas. No, they’re running for their damn lives again. And, as with the werewolf mini-series, Francine Pascal and co. have decided that we need to combine a regular series SVH book with a Super Thriller.

I’m loving this cover art, so let’s take a look. We see a couple of giant, gaily decorated, snowy trees surrounding a window into a Christmasy cabin scene. The trees look like a couple of menacing snow monsters to me, which would be a way cooler story, but we are not going to be that lucky.

ADC

We then open up our cover to reveal the stepback image …

ADC_inside

Looks like someone knocked Jessica’s ass out, set the Christmas tree on fire, and is running away! My first thought was that it was a Sweet Valley reader sick of her shit, but I guess it’s Jeremy. There’s a question: “Will Jessica survive?” like it’s even a possibility that these twins are something other than immortal.

Let’s get to our story. When we left off, Jessica had been watching the tape she secretly recorded of Sue’s kidnapper as he collected his (counterfeit) ransom money, and she recognized the wedding band she gave Jeremy on the kidnapper’s pinky finger. Not to worry, after a super long recap of previous events, Jessica is stupid enough to rationalize it all away and, as predicted, she convinces herself it couldn’t possibly be Jeremy and doesn’t say a word. Meanwhile, fake kidnapping victim Sue Gibbons is interviewed at the Wakefield house by the police and also by Sam Diamond, the piss-poor P.I. Afterward, Sue wrestles with her own guilt over this whole scheme and hopes Jeremy will come back to her and prove he really loves her or some dumb old bullshit like that. She tells the Wakefields she’s going to start making plans to go back to New York soon, and Liz thinks that’s weird or something. Liz stirs her tea while antagonizing Jessica (and Sue) with remarks about how strange it is that Jeremy has not come by the house yet. Isn’t that weird? Where is he? Then the doorbell rings, and it’s Jeremy! Yay! Jessica throws herself at him and shrieks with glee. Then he gives Sue a “brotherly hug” and whispers something in her ear that makes Sue smile, while Liz stands there frowning her disapproval. Later on, Jeremy confronts Liz about her obviously not liking him. She agrees and they have a spat. Liz tells him she’ll let Jessica marry him over her dead body. Jeremy laughs and taunts Liz about how Jessica is crazy for him, and says Liz is probably just jealous that Jessica is leaving her behind by losing her virginity, or I guess that’s his implication. He says Todd is just a “kid” and a “safe bet” for Liz and sneers that Liz wouldn’t know what to do with a “real man” like Jeremy. Liz storms upstairs.

It seems Sam Diamond has some kind of lead she can’t tell anyone about yet, so she’s MIA while she’s off working on that. Oh, she JUST NOW has a lead!

Liz tries to talk to Jessica about how she can’t trust Jeremy, but Jessica tells her to get bent. Then at breakfast the next morning, Sue tries the same conversation and Jessica has the same reaction. Why these people think Jessica would react any differently at this point is beyond me.

Jeremy takes Jessica on a date to our latest super expensive restaurant of note, Cypress Point Cafe. That’s in Crescent Beach, in case y’all can’t find it in the Sweet Valley area dining guide. He gives her a sapphire bracelet that matches her engagement ring and she coos and moans over how special it is. Then he takes her for a walk on the beach and tells her he doesn’t want to wait till their wedding night to show her how much he loves her, and says he will pick out a secluded romantic spot for them for Friday night, “and then …” Jessica goes home and wonders what it will be like to “go all the way.” She decides it’s “the right thing to do” because she’s “old enough” and is “an engaged woman.” Uh no, you’re underage and engaged to an adult predator. We learn that Jessica has never had a relationship “this serious” before, not even with Sam. Are we really supposed to think that Jessica is a virgin though? Okay, let’s just roll with it.

While Jessica is lying in bed thinking about the waning days of her virginity, Jeremy goes off and makes out with Sue in the Wakefields’ backyard hammock. He doesn’t mention he’s planning to deflower Jessica. Sue admits she’s become jealous of all the time Jeremy spends with Jessica, and he reassures her it’s only a cover and that Jessica is an “unsophisticated” child. That should creep Sue the fuck out, but she’s happy about it. So since the ransom money was fake, the new plan is that Jeremy and Sue will wait for Sue’s inheritance to finish transferring into her account, and then they plan to run away and get married in Rio. Sue thinks about how Jeremy couldn’t possibly ever lie to her (just to everyone else!) and how it’s amazing how things have spun out of control since they made their plan to come to California so they could fool Jessica into disrupting their wedding. Yes, who’d have guessed such a solid plan could go awry.

Jeremy goes back to his apartment and cackles to himself about how he’s going to have some fun banging Jessica before he hacks Sue’s bank account, steals her inheritance, and then deserts both her and Jessica to run off to the South Pacific. Oh yeah, and he’s buying Jessica all this jewelry on credit, and Jeremy Randall is a false name (big surprise). Jeremy is a smug fucker who thinks he’s an expert because he was able to quickly figure out that the ransom money was fake after it was dropped off at the exchange point. Haha, yet this series made sure to show us a scene in the last book where the entire family + Jeremy gathered around the money *before* the drop-off, and Jeremy took out the cash and even sniffed it, but he couldn’t tell it was counterfeit then?

Jessica is about to “become a woman”, so now she thinks she’s too mature for high school stuff like cheerleading practice and whatnot. Ken Matthews suddenly seems to have a crush on her because he and Terri have broken up. Man, I forgot about Terri because after she cured Ken’s blindness I really stopped giving a fuck. Jessica doesn’t notice or care about Ken’s stupid crush because she already made out with him 10000 times in the past (but I think they’re glossing over that part), plus she’s too busy drifting around fantasizing about her upcoming sexy night with Jeremy. She plans to light some candles and play Whitney Houston while they fuck. Saving all my love for youuuuuuuu! The book makes sure to tell us that Jessica knows she will have to protect herself from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It’s hilarious that they would show Jessica being responsible in that area. I know impressionable kids are reading this and all, but it cracks me up to think that Jessica would ever even worry about Jeremy having STDs. She thinks he’s God, for fuck’s sake. He could probably tell her his magical balls hold liquid gold instead of semen and she’d believe him. Then she would scheme to make herself rich off of his fabulous jizz.

The twins’ secret two-day “death threat” ordeal is the biggest story of the school day, and they are enjoying soaking up the attention like they usually do with everything else anyway. We have to sit through Lila and Todd giving a recap of their stupid plot to infiltrate the Wakefields’ house and how they ran into someone and tried to beat him up before they realized it was just Jeremy. Once again, nobody says shit about the fact that Jeremy was wearing a ski mask at the time, in Sweet Valley’s notoriously perfectly warm weather. This mess is really bothering me. I mean this whole mess.

Mr. Collins announces to the Oracle student newspaper staff that they’ve now got a subscription to INFOMAX which is a giant U.S. newspaper database. So you know, like the internet except it’s 1994, so it only searches for newspaper articles. He searches Penny Ayala’s name as an example and she comes up in tons of articles from the Oracle and the Sweet Valley News. Liz then gets this hunch that we are supposed to think is brilliant, and she searches for Jeremy Randall and finds him in only two articles, both of which are very recent. Liz is so puzzled over how Penny could be in so many articles when she’s only sixteen, whereas Jeremy is a 23 year old man and is only in two! But she doesn’t puzzle over how there appears to only be one Penny Ayala and one Jeremy Randall in the entire U.S. per this database. Also, AHEM, Penny is a senior at SVH. She is not “only sixteen”. This ghostwriter did not pay close attention to the Sweet Valley High plot bible!

There’s a Mistletoe Madness dance coming up next week that everyone’s starting to talk about, and Pamela and Bruce are co-chairs of the planning committee. That shit is weird because we literally just had a Halloween party a few days ago! I guess they had to fit Christmas in here somehow because so far, I’m 48 pages in and I’m not seeing any jingle bells here except the ones Jessica is imagining bouncing around in her bed if y’all know what I’m saying. Speaking of that …

It’s Thursday, the day before the “big night”, and Jessica gets Lila to go lingerie shopping with her and even lend her some dough. Jessica drops ten thousand hints, struts around in negligees and teddies, and then finally gets to the obvious point and brags that she is about to “do it” with Jeremy. Lila jumps up and down with glee and proclaims that Jessica will now be a “woman” and that she is “the first of any of us.” You have got to be kidding me. Hello, Annie Whitman anybody? Hilariously, Lila predicts that Jessica will wimp out and be unable to go through with actually boning Jeremy.

What the girls don’t know is that Sue is in the next dressing room over, trying on a silk robe she had planned to wear on her own wedding night and feeling devastated that Jeremy would take his scheme this far. Sue is sure that Jessica is just making shit up because she knows Jeremy is “saving himself” for her. She goes out to dinner with Jeremy at the same Cypress Point Cafe. Jeremy lies and says he’s never taken Jessica there. Then he assures Sue he will never do anything but kiss Jessica. Sue is reassured.

Once Sue gets back to the Wakefield house, Jeremy calls for Jessica and Sue eavesdrops. She hears Jeremy coo at Jessica about his friend’s condo that he’s rented for their sex date, which has a hot tub on a balcony overlooking the ocean. Sue cries and thinks about how she was a fool to think Jeremy loved her. I wonder how she feels knowing she helped Jeremy take advantage of a high schooler, though.

Sue realizes Jeremy has been tricking both of them and that she can’t let Jessica give her prized cherry to this man, so she goes to Jessica’s room and tells her the whole story: She and Jeremy were planning to be married in New York when Sue’s mother Nancy’s will was read and they learned the inheritance was going to Alice Wakefield, unless Sue could stay away from Jeremy for two months. Sue shrugged it off, but Jeremy flew into a rage. Sue thought that was strange but was sure that Jeremy, whom she had known for an entire month before getting engaged, was just too sweet to have any nefarious intentions! Sue is a moron, but we knew that. Jeremy had Sue dig up some old letters Alice had written Nancy over the years which talked all about her family. He noticed that Alice wrote she was worried about Jessica because she was wild and would do anything for a boy. Jeremy became obsessed with Jessica, which again, Sue thought was totally weird! Jeremy dreamed up the whole plot of having Sue ask Alice to take her in so she and Jeremy could be married in Sweet Valley, then Jeremy would pretend to fall for Jessica because it was clear from Alice’s letters that Jessica was dumb enough to fall for it and would never let a wedding happen if she thought Jeremy loved her. Because that’s a lot easier than just staying away from each other for two months then getting married after Sue has the money. They were sure Jessica would do whatever they wanted her to, and they were right. Everything was fake from the moment Jeremy deliberately hit Jessica in the head with a frisbee on the beach, way too many books ago. Jessica can’t believe her ears because it is too crazy to her that someone wouldn’t fall in love with her at first sight. Sue also admits to the fake kidnapping, which of course, they had to do once Jessica caught Sue and Jeremy tonguing each other on the LAST FREAKING NIGHT that they had to keep up this whole charade. Jessica is very upset, but still not 100 percent convinced until Sue repeats back “intimate details” of a date that Jeremy had shared with her, that only Jeremy and Jessica could know, unless Jeremy told Sue. We don’t hear what those details were, so I don’t know if they’re talking about a deep conversation or some kinky foreplay or what. Jessica cries herself to sleep. Meanwhile, Sue seems to have no worries that she might end up going to jail over this shit.

In the morning, Jessica tells Jeremy that she has the flu and can’t fuck him at the cabin that night. She then goes to school and wanders around in a daze, trying to act normal while Ken follows her around like a puppy dog once again. Jessica is appalled that she almost gave Jeremy her treasured virginity. She realizes she was too young for that kind of relationship. Then Ken asks her to meet him and the gang at the Dairi Burger that night after the football game, and she agrees. Ken throws the winning pass to defeat Big Mesa at the game. Yes, it’s fuckin’ Big Mesa again. I wait for a big brawl to break out a la A Night to Remember, but there is none. Everyone goes to the Dairi Burger and celebrates, and Jessica starts to feel her age again.

Todd and Liz go to the Project Nature cabin on a whim, and hunt around for kidnapper clues that Sam the P.I. apparently never looked for. They go up in the attic and find food, water, a chair, rope, and a couple of batteries that could have gone into a tape player, like the one Sam says was used to play the kidnapper’s ransom messages. So like, basic AA batteries? Todd pockets the batteries like they’re hot evidence, but nothing else.

Jessica finally tells Liz the whole story that night (well, except the near-deflowering part) and they decide it’s time to go to the police. They don’t make Sue go with them. The latest moron police officer in this series (hey, but at least it’s a woman this time! Sweet Valley professions getting diverse!) seems skeptical of their story. Jessica whips out the tape she recorded of the suspect picking up the money, only when the policewoman plays it, it turns out Steven has recorded a TV show over it. When did he have a chance to do that? He’s never the fuck around anymore (and beyond this plot line, I don’t care, trust me). Even though these twins have been in this police station a million times since the start of the series, the policewoman is convinced the twins made up the whole story as a prank and throws them out of the station. How convenient. PS Why the fuck does Jessica still have the tape of the suspect, since it’s evidence? Why didn’t Sam the P.I. take it with her?

So, back to square one for these stupid twins. I hate everybody, sorry. Like, literally everybody at this point in this blog. Anyway! The twins decide that now they will try to catch Sue and Jeremy on tape, or something, and prove they’re in on this scheme. They eavesdrop on Sue as she makes a plan to secretly meet with Jeremy at a mall in “Sunset Hills” called “Hampshire Place.” Jesus, I thought Sue was done with Jeremy, but she’s not. Jessica spies on their mall meeting, but just as she’s starting to videotape it, a lady with a stroller runs into her and both Jessica and the camera go flying. The camera is miraculously unbroken. It’s still Amy Sutton’s camera, by the way, because I guess she doesn’t want that shit back even though she’s doing that whole video club crap.

Jeremy and Sue head back to Jeremy’s hotel room or apartment or whatever, and Jeremy gets in the shower (without Sue). Sue sits around in the room and decides to start snooping because now she’s suspicious again for no fucking reason other than the 100000000 reasons she already has. She finds a one way ticket to Hawaii in Jeremy’s pant pocket for that weekend and realizes he is planning on deserting her. Then she finds a camera film canister that Jeremy apparently just carries around with him. It has a newspaper article stuck in it with an Atlanta wedding announcement from 2 years ago, for a Matt Thorn and a Marla Tannenbaum. Haha, her last name is Tannenbaum and it’s Christmastime, get it! And hey, Matt Thorn looks exactly like Jeremy! Sue puts the film canister back but pockets the wedding announcement. Then she goes home and shows it to the twins and everyone freaks out. Sue claims she is now really and truly done with Jeremy. The three girls decide they need to work together to bring Jeremy / Matt to justice.

At school, Jessica calls up Marla Tannenbaum from a pay phone and poses as a police detective investigating Matt Thorn. Marla apparently hasn’t gone to the police with her story before, due to the shame, but she has no problem spilling her story to Jessica. It seems “Matt” married Marla, got her to put a ton of her money into a foundation in both their names, and then he took off with the dough. Marla never divorced Matt either because she’s just so devastated and ashamed or some shit, I don’t give a fuck.

Jeremy somehow knows that Jessica was at school today, so he surmises she must be feeling better and resumes trying to get that ass. He sends her two dozen red roses. She takes them over to the Beckwiths’ house and begs Mrs. Beckwith to take them. HELLO! THE BECKWITHS MOVED AWAY EONS AGO! This is the second time someone has randomly brought them back!

Jeremy wants to take Jessica out that night. Sue and Liz think Jessica should go and keep up appearances so he won’t suspect anything and they can use Jessica to entrap him later. Yeah, this sounds real safe. No one thinks to go to the parents or back to the police so Sue can confess, or anything, even though Sue keeps saying she is okay with facing the consequences of her actions. So Jessica goes out with this turd and he wants to take her to the cabin and stuff. Jessica manages to put him off with a “homework” excuse which he totally doesn’t buy. Thankfully, nobody gets raped.

Ken brings Jessica a single white rose at lunch, and she loves it. Later on, he asks her to the Mistletoe Madness dance, but she turns him down because she and Liz and Sue are secretly plotting some bullshit for that evening.

Sue calls her bank to see if her inheritance has transferred into her account yet. It has not! When she tells Jeremy, he doesn’t care because he knows he managed to steal it in some vague manner that they can’t bother to explain to us. The ghostwriter was straight up over this whole story by the time they got to this book.

The day of the big dance arrives. Everyone at school is dressed in red and green. That’s as Christmasy as it gets in this book. I feel cheated and I’m mad. Liz, Jessica, and Todd all plan to skip the dance so they can carry out their plan. They’ve contacted Sam the P.I. again who is like, “Yeah, I knew SOMETHING wasn’t right with Jeremy” and is just now coming around to the conclusion that all the other asshats in this story are. Sam shows them a “midwestern” newspaper clipping, featuring Jeremy as “John Ryder” from 3 years ago. He married another rich girl at that time named Kerri LaSalle, and stole her fortune and the police couldn’t find him, I guess. Haha, Kerri LaSalle, is she related to that Frankie LaSalle murderer from the Malibu Summer Super Edition? They just can’t stop using the same goddamn names over and over.

So let’s get to the stupid fucking plan because I am over this shit more than the ghostwriter. Jessica calls up Jeremy and tells him she knows what he did, but that she loves him and doesn’t care. She claims she wants to run away with him and the money. After Jeremy deduces that she hasn’t told anyone else, he agrees that sounds like a plan because he’s obviously planning to kill her. Jessica sneaks outside with a suitcase and Jeremy picks her up to take her to the Project Nature cabin for the night. P.I. Sam is hiding in the Wakefield garage in her car and plans to follow Jeremy and Jessica, because that went real well in the last book. Jessica is wearing a wire and the idea is she will record Jeremy admitting to everything while Sam listens in, then Sam will storm into the cabin just in time to stop Jeremy from like, strangling Jessica or something, and THEN she’ll call the fucking police. GREAT PLAN. Why didn’t they just record the phone conversation Jessica had with Jeremy where he already admitted everything?

The Wakefield parents are avoiding their brat kids by going out to dinner again, so they aren’t at home to catch on to any of this utter nonsense. Sam follows Jeremy and she has Liz, Todd, and Sue in the car with her. And sure enough, the car spins out into a snowbank on the way to the cabin, and they lose sight of Jeremy’s car, who was already speeding like he knew he was being followed. Jessica and Jeremy arrive at the Project Nature cabin which is all decked out for the holidays. It’s snowing like mad. Where the fuck is this cabin again?

In the cabin, Jessica listens as Jeremy makes secretive phone calls about the money in his account and writes down a bank account number on a slip of paper. Then he just goes ahead and sits down and confesses to everything because he’s obviously hoping to still get some teenage ass before he leaves. He goes to take a leak and when he comes out, there’s Jessica standing there with the phone and the account number in her hand. Jeremy freaks out and chases her around the cabin and she trips and falls and hits her head on a coffee table and is knocked out. The Christmas tree falls in the fireplace and goes up in flames and the whole cabin catches on fire. Jeremy thinks to himself that he’s happy he didn’t have to commit his first murder and flees the cabin, leaving Jessica to die. Just then, Sam and the rest of the dumbasses pull up and Sue and Liz team up to rescue Jessica from the burning cabin. Sam tries to tell them there’s too much heat and they should just leave Jessica in there. LOL!

Because Sue helped rescue Jessica, Liz instantly forgives her, as do the Wakefield parents when they show up at the hospital and are finally clued in to all this crap. The police catch Jeremy and he readily admits to everything. Everyone laughs everything off.

That was … anti-climactic.

This book was one of the worst in the whole series so far. All they had to do was give me some decent Christmas, but they couldn’t even do that shit.

The sub-plot: It’s another dumb Robby and Lila plot! Why is this always the sub-plot? Lila bristles after Amy Sutton casually mentions at the lunch table that maybe Robby is just meant to be a loser. After all, the big art show is coming up and Robby has apparently not completed a single painting. He hasn’t? I thought he had a big portrait of Lila that he was going to be exhibiting. Lila starts worrying and getting pissy. I’m so over the stupid fights these two have in every book. Days before the art show, Lila purchases canvases, paints, and brushes and does a bunch of paintings herself. She even has Jessica pose for one. Jessica hates it, but Lila thinks it’s brilliant and an example of abstract art. She hauls all her horrid paintings to the art gallery as “Robby’s agent” and Robby is not there, so Lila is certain her hunch is correct and he wasn’t able to complete any paintings in time for the show. So she sets up her ugly paintings under his name. Everyone is horrified and people laugh and gather around “Robby’s” show to make fun of the horrible technique and compare it to bird droppings or something. Lila is humiliated and realizes she ruined everything. Just then, Robby shows up late, paintings in hand and super confused by who did all these ugly ass paintings. Everyone is openly laughing at him and Lila runs outside crying. Robby comes outside to tell her it’s okay because while she was out sniffling by the dumpster, he put up his own paintings and everyone was delighted and thinks he’s a young artistic genius. He apparently works best under serious last minute pressure so he was able to complete like, a dozen paintings in a few days. Lila and Robby go back inside where everyone claps. Relationship saved, again. My god, I really prefer Lila as a swingin’ single.

Other dumb old bullshit: There are certain phrases that get repeated in this book whenever sex is discussed. First, the common euphemism that Sue, Jeremy and Jessica all use is “give myself / yourself, body and soul.” That is straight out of a bodice ripper! Second of all, whenever Jeremy or Jess allude to or fantasize about sex, they give a few details and then trail off with “And then ….” Is that supposed to be romantic because all it does is remind me of that drive-thru scene in Dude Where’s My Car? Which is appropriate because for Jeremy and Jessica, there was NO AND THEN!

“You know manual labor just isn’t my thing.” Lila, when Pamela tries to get her to join the dance-planning committee.

That’s-so-90s quote from Lila: “I thought after your last charge at Bibi’s you were forbidden to set foot in the mall until the turn of the new millennium.” Haha! Remember when everything was about the new millennium? This book was published in 1994 so it’s a little early for that here.

When Todd is regaling the gang with the story of how he, Lila and Robby dressed as “maintenance men” to infiltrate the Wakefield house in the last book, Lila corrects him: “Maintenance people.” But in that book, Lila went to great pains to put on a fake mustache and look like a maintenance man, so clearly she didn’t think anyone but a man could work maintenance back then.

Lila wonders if Todd and Liz ever “do it” and Jessica snorts at the mere thought which also happened to be my same reaction. Lila also wonders if Steven and Billie are having sex. Jessica isn’t sure, but reasons they might be because they are in college, then makes sure to state that being in college isn’t a good enough reason to have sex.

John Pfeifer is still on the Oracle staff. What the fuck is he doing there after all the trouble he’s gotten into? Why am I even asking?

There’s a “touching” mother-daughter scene between Alice and Jessica where Alice is basically like, “You’re a fuck-up, but we love you anyway” and talks to her about what true love is. I had too much wine when I read that part so I was ready to bawl, then I sobered up and laughed.

In the back of the book: Finally, some good stuff! First there’s a rather lengthy excerpt for the next book, Jessica Quits the Squad. Gee, what will happen in that book? If they could stop telling me the entire plotline before I even read the story, I might find these damned things more bearable.

Then there’s an ad for a new series called Love Stories, “a romance series that gets to the heart of everyone’s feelings about falling in love.” It advertises the first two books, My First Love and Sharing Sam. There’s an excerpt for My First Love. In it, a girl named Amy is pursued by her old friend Rick, but Amy is more interested in a guy named Chris. It is a little snooze-inducing, but a lot better than this ridiculous book I just made myself read.

We also get a TV channel listing on the inside back cover for the Sweet Valley High TV show.

Coming up next: Jessica is going to quit the cheerleading squad!

#110 Death Threat

IMG_20191202_160736

Sue is making that face you make when you’re on the toilet and realize you need more fiber.

We’re back with the latest, but sadly not the last, installment in this drawn-out saga of Jessica and her creepy ass 23-year-old “fiance.” In case you forgot where we left off last time, don’t worry, this book takes up several pages replaying the same scene with Liz at home comforting Jessica, who’s sobbing because she caught Jeremy making out with Sue in the woods behind the party cabin they were at (for Project Nature’s work party, which the entire high school attended). Then Jeremy shows up at the Wakefields’ door upset because Sue disappeared and he can’t find her anywhere. Jessica isn’t concerned about Sue; she’s just jealous Jeremy is worried about her at all. All is forgiven as soon as Jeremy sits down and makes sure to reassure Jessica he wasn’t cheating on her; Sue just approached him begging to get back together and then threw herself at him and he didn’t have time to react before Jess saw. Jessica is an airhead so she’s all, “Oh, yah, that totally makes sense.”

Jeremy and Liz seem afraid that Sue may have run off and tried to kill herself again. (Jessica isn’t worried about that because she’s sure Sue is just trying to get attention from Jeremy.) So what do they do? Call Sweet Valley’s crackpot police force? Nah, they obviously know better than that at this point in the series. Instead, they go back to the now empty party cabin and do a fruitless search for Sue at like, 2 AM. They are able to carefully sneak in and out of the Wakefield house without waking Ned and Alice because Prince Albert the dog doesn’t exist in this story arc.

At the cabin, Jeremy tells the twins they should all split up and each search a different area of the woods. Jessica is upset she doesn’t have an excuse to sneak off with Jeremy, but follows his expert instructions. A few minutes into the search, she’s already whining to herself and planning to go back and wait in the car. Only the realization that Jeremy might then realize she’s not adventurous and ambitious (like Sue) stops her. Meanwhile, Liz is tramping around in her section of the woods, freaking herself out by imagining Sue’s dead body swinging from a tree. Haha! This series was definitely trying to compete with Fear Street. As the twins meander around, Jeremy sneaks into the cabin and heads upstairs to the attic, where Sue is waiting amidst a slew of bats and flipping out as they flap around. Hahahaa! I love this picture. Jeremy gives her a lecture about being afraid of “harmless mammals” and insists Sue stay in her bat guano-infested den so that they can finish executing their plan and ensure she gets her inheritance without his having to actually marry Jessica one day, which is the real nightmare, although I kind of think those two deserve each other. So I’m guessing they just now came up with this plan on the fly after Jessica caught them kissing and they realized Sue broke her promise. Or are we supposed to think this was their plan all along? Neither of these things makes any damn sense.

Jeremy rips off a locket Sue is wearing that her mom gave her; Sue protests because her mom’s picture is in it, but Jeremy doesn’t give much of a fuck. Then when he meets back up with the twins, he shows them the locket and says he found it in the woods. The Scooby Dookie Gang or whatever we want to call them sneaks back into the house and agrees that Jeremy will come by the next morning to tell Ned and Alice that Sue is missing. He will carefully avoid mentioning he took the twins out to search so the ‘rents won’t get mad and ground Jessica for another two whole hours or something.

Liz wakes up before school from a nightmare and realizes she has to tell Ned and Alice NOW, so she does and they are upset that the twins didn’t wake them the night before and tell them. Just then, Jeremy shows up and he’s not acting suspicious at all. He claims that he already called all of his Project Nature colleagues and no one has seen Sue, but then when Ned gets ready to call the police, Jeremy’s suddenly doing some stammering about oh wait, he hasn’t called Lila’s beau, Robby to see if Sue might be with him. That makes Ned hesitate just long enough for the phone to ring. Hey, it’s a raspy voice demanding a $500,000 ransom in exchange for Sue’s safe return! (Jessica thinks she recognizes the voice but of course can’t figure it out.) Gee, that’s the same amount as Sue’s inheritance. Who could’ve found out about it? The voice says it will call back again that night with more instructions, and the police had better not get involved. Obviously, that goes over real well although god knows this family has more than enough experience with psychos so far that they should just be brushing that dirt off their shoulder. Instead, the parents decide that the twins can’t go to school that day for their safety. (What?) Liz chirpily offers to make everyone’s favorite blueberry pancakes to cheer them up, which Jessica doesn’t like because it just shows off how Liz is less of an asshole to their parents than she is. Then Lila comes to knock on the door to pick Jessica up for school as planned, since Liz has an Oracle meeting she has to head to separately, and everyone freaks the fuck out thinking it’s a kidnapper knocking on the door, ready to grab the twins even though he just told y’all dumbasses he’s calling back later with instructions. The twins are the fucking Marcia Brady of every situation; all eyes on them. Jessica peers out the window at Lila, then Alice creeps out the door and tells Lila that Jessica has the flu and is still in bed. Lila is like, uh, okay whatever Mrs. W., I just saw her, and then she flips her hair while walking off thinking about how weird everyone is and also upset they didn’t invite her in to eat the blueberry pancakes she smells. I’d be mad too. Bitches. Finally, Ned decides that he will call up his old friend, private investigator Sam Diamond, to help since calling the police is too risky. Jeremy is not happy about this either, but for whatever reason, no one has told him to get bent yet.

Jeremy leaves the house to go join an “important conference call” for work from his apartment, and Jessica trails after him and throws herself at him and then whines that it’s not fair that he has to go do some work, because, you know, he’s an adult and all and that’s what they have to do. She then calls Jeremy’s apartment anyway because he has call waiting and she thinks he should drop his conference call to talk to his 16-year-old piece of ass. Of course, Jeremy didn’t actually have a conference call, he was just going to check on Sue, so he doesn’t pick up, but Jessica doesn’t know that and thinks he’s ignoring her and is very upset. She’s also jealous that her mom is worried about Sue and basically feels like Sue is stealing her mom from her. I don’t even need to comment.

Jeremy heads back to the cabin where he finds Sue sitting downstairs in front of a shitty fireplace fire she made with some sticks. He is pissed that she disobeyed him so he makes her go back to the attic, where he … ties her up in a chair. She lets him tie her up because he claims he’s doing it so if anyone finds her, she’ll look like an actual kidnap victim. She realizes too late that he’s doing it so she can’t leave again. OH MY GOD my face hurts from all the facepalms I’m doing. I’m concerned I may need medical attention before the book is through. Jeremy scoots Sue’s tied up ass over to the cabin’s cell phone (excuse me, “cellular telephone” in mid-90s-speak, LMAO) and a tape recorder where a pre-recorded ransom message is all ready to go for the next phone call from the “kidnapper” which I guess Jeremy now actually is. Sue is devastated and starts wondering if her mother might’ve been right about Jeremy. She graduated at the top of her class!

Back at school, Todd flips when Liz doesn’t show up because it’s very unlike her to miss school, especially when she has an Oracle meeting. He stomps into the Oracle office and starts interrogating people. He tells somebody what happened at the party with Jessica-Sue-Jeremy and how the twins left the party early afterward. He has no idea that Caroline Pearce is sitting nearby eavesdropping, so Caroline wastes no time in spreading the news about Jeremy’s cheating ass all over school. Hahaha, remember that book way back in the day where Caroline had supposedly reformed herself? And in case you’re wondering, yes, people also wonder where Jessica is. In fact they do it right in front of Lila, but Lila says jack shit about Jess supposedly having the flu and just acts like she has no idea. Huh?

Seriously, people can’t stop talking about where the twins are. Todd gets so worried he calls Liz in the middle of the school day, and she picks up and does a terrible job at faking sick. After she hangs up, Liz confronts Jessica with what she thinks happened, which is essentially what in fact actually happened. Jessica isn’t convinced because, as she points out, the flaw in the logic is how could Sue and Jeremy count on Jessica to stop their wedding like she did? Uh, because it’s Jessica? Hahaha. She was already doing stuff like walking around in Sue’s wedding dress and then throwing it under a truck. It would’ve been nuts if she DIDN’T stop the wedding, hello! Now, if we think about the actual flaws in the overall logic, we’re going to be needing some migraine medicine so let’s not do that to ourselves.

Not to worry, Sam Diamond to the rescue! The P.I. shows up at the Wakefields’ house and shocks the twins, because Sam is a she. This gives us the perfect excuse for Jessica to express surprise at this because she’s never seen a male detective before, and for Liz to then lecture her for being surprised because she needs a reason to get holier-than-thou in this book and hasn’t found it yet. To add to her point, Liz runs and grabs her own little notebook so she, too, can play detective, because that went really well in London when she tried to falsely pin a crime on her sister’s beau while mindlessly banging the real criminal the whole time. (probably banging him in a field of wolfsbane)

Sam interviews everyone in the house, including Jeremy, who makes sure to try and pin the crime on Sue’s stepfather, Phil Schmitt. Sam establishes that the money Sue was owed from her inheritance is officially hers today as long as she stayed away from Jeremy through today. So why the fuck didn’t Sue just do that in the first place? I guess she was just doing whatever Jeremy said because there’s no way someone she knew for like a whole month before getting engaged could’ve steered her wrong. Then the “kidnapper” makes his return call, while Sam records and traces it. She determines the message is a recording, and then announces she can’t actually trace it because it’s being made from a “cellular telephone.” The kidnapper also announces that because the Wakefields got a private investigator on the case, he is now upping the demand to $600,000. He says the twins have to drop off the money at “Glen’s Grove gas station” the next night at 7 PM. Sam gets suspicious about how someone found out she’s working the case. Everyone insists they didn’t say anything, and Sam is like, huh, I guess the house is bugged. She searches the house for bugs and then she’s like, huh, I guess the house isn’t bugged. No one looks in Jeremy’s direction at all. Lila calls the house right after this, and now that the secret is apparently out already, Jessica just goes ahead and picks up and whispers to Lila that Sue has been kidnapped. Sam then meets privately with Ned and Alice in the study while one of the twins eavesdrops, I think it’s nosy ass Liz but am too lazy to check, and Sam is basically like, You gotta drop off the money, sorry, I got nothin’. LOL, nice work Sam.

Meanwhile, Lila didn’t actually understand what the fuck Jessica was whispering about earlier so she’s trying to understand it. She thinks Jess said they kidnapped an ostrich, then she thinks she was saying she’s being held hostage. She calls up Todd and he, Robby and Lila all speed off to the Wakefield house to spy and see what’s going on. We get some scenes of Todd and Lila wriggling around on their elbows in the mud under the windows while Robby waits in the car down the street, and Lila bitching about ruining her nice leather jacket. Todd and Lila bicker constantly. Todd finally lifts Lila up on his shoulders so she can peer in a window. She sees the family sitting upset in the living room, and Jeremy pacing around, only Jeremy’s wearing a ball cap over his face like a creepazoid so Lila doesn’t recognize him, and thinks that’s the hostage-taker. They then go to Dairi Burger to plot about how to save everybody. Oh god, this is like that old Hostage! book where it was Regina Morrow being held prisoner. Only thankfully not even half as bad, because that’s probably impossible. Ultimately, it’s decided that Robby’s cousin Sidney, who just happens to be a vice president at Sweet Valley Power, will loan them some electric worker uniforms and a van because why not. Then the 3 Stooges here will just bust on in the Wakefield house under the guise of fixing some shit and save the day.

Back in the cabin the next day, Sue decides her mother was right, she’s done with Jeremy, and is bowing out of this whole plot. I’m sure Jeremy won’t have any issues with that at all. We learn Jeremy at least was nice enough to come by and untie her for an hour and let her eat a sandwich (and presumably go use the toilet). How gracious.

At the Wakefield homestead, the twins are home from the second day of school, so that means everyone back at Sweet Valley High is probably about to start a riot. Liz worries about her mom who’s going nuts with stress and cleaning everything constantly. Jessica sunbathes by the pool with Jeremy. He’s not paying any attention to her until she presents him with a special gift: a wedding band! Guess what, it’s the one Steven got for his wedding ceremony to Cara during their brief engagement. Oh my god, I fucking laughed out loud and nearly woke up my slumbering husband when I saw that shit. I laughed especially hard because Steven had that shit engraved (or at least that was the case in Steven’s Bride). I guess Jessica forgot about that part. The ghost writers probably did too. I like the way Jess just goes and steals her brother’s ring. She’s so desperate. And the ring doesn’t fit Jeremy’s ring finger, so he puts it on his pinky finger. PS It just occurred to me that we had a whole mini-series based in London prior to this, and not once did anyone bring up Cara. I guess it’s safe to say that both Sweet Valley and I have forgotten all about her at this point.

At school, Lila has taken a sick day with a fake note, and she sneaks back in the building to get Todd out of study hall to execute their dumb rescue plan. I really think Lila has been spending a lot of her spare time in this book getting high as fuck. Anyway, as Todd and Lila make their way out of the school, they see Principal Chrome Dome who’s making his rounds or something. Lila darts into the ladies’ room so he won’t see her; he does see Todd in the hall and doesn’t bat an eye, though. Todd then goes into the ladies’ room to retrieve Lila and walks in on Olivia doing her lipstick because I guess Olivia cares about makeup now. Olivia screams and Todd hastily apologizes and then he and Lila run away while the principal comes stomping around to see who’s doing that screaming. I guess this was mildly funny.

Lila, Todd and Robby go pick up Sidney, who bears a strong resemblance to his cousin, of course. Lila is totally diggin’ on that. Lila and Todd are dressed up like young executives so Sidney can get them into the plant without issue. Todd has on a pinstripe suit and Lila has on a tight-fitting, “elegant” scarlet suit with a matching hat. Uh, fab, I want that outfit. Sidney gets Todd and Lila into the power plant and then takes them to a uniform storage room. He and Todd guard the door while Lila picks out uniforms. Someone walks up unexpectedly and Sidney and Todd just go on and let him in, so Lila has to hide in a pile of uniforms. It’s supposed to be funny, but I’m too distracted wondering why Sidney didn’t just bring them the damn uniforms. They then go get the truck and, again, why didn’t Sidney just use his VP power to borrow the truck and bring it to them?

Back at the Wakefield house, Ned and Alice have brought home the cash in a giant suitcase and for some reason, count it in front of everyone. Liz catches Jeremy smelling it and is weirded out. I’d say this has something to do with Sam and the parents secretly suspecting Jeremy, but that would be giving them way too much credit. Then Sam is wiring the twins in preparation for the cash drop while Jeremy stands around staring at everyone and taking in the details. I can’t believe (I mean, I can) that no one thinks Jeremy is suspicious. Okay, Liz wonders what his deal is, but she doesn’t think enough of it to say anything. And why are the Wakefields even letting him in their house? He isn’t even involved with Sue anymore at this point (so he says), he’s trying to bang their teenage daughter, he’s not helping with anything, why the fuck is he there? And as soon as the twins leave to make the drop, Jeremy makes up some old bullshit about wanting to check the cabin again and tears out of the house, pulling on a ski mask as he goes. Hahahahaa, before he even gets to his car, nice.

Sidney and the Three Stooges get to the Wakefield house and the Three Stooges rush out of the van to execute their plan. Jeremy in the ski mask runs straight into them. All three of them jump him and start beating his ass, but when they pull off his mask, they’re all like, “Oh, it’s just Jeremy, oops, sorry Jeremy” and let him go … as he calls them idiots and pulls his ski mask back on. The fuck??? They think the ski mask is because it was Halloween even though it’s now November 2. And then the ski mask doesn’t get mentioned again throughout the entire rest of the story. WHAT?

The Three Stooges then make it inside the Wakefield house and Ned and Alice think the whole thing is hilarious and bring them inside to tell the whole story. Again, no one mentions that when they ran into Jeremy, he was wearing a ski mask. What the hell is happening???!!!

Meanwhile, Sam can’t leave to go tail the twins to the drop-off point, because Jeremy stuffed a rag in her exhaust pipe, but again, no one suspects Jeremy for a hot second.

Jeremy is pissed about the 3 Stooges delaying him, because his plan was to tail the twins while wearing his ski mask, then run them off the road before they got to the drop-off point, steal the money in his ski masked form, and flee. Now he’s running late thanks to Lila and friends. Instead, he goes to the cabin and grabs Sue, who’s done with his shit. Jeremy forces her into the car and takes off for the drop-off point. He just parks behind the mini mart on site. He makes Sue get out of the car, telling her he’ll come pick her up from the Wakefields’ later and they will take off for Mexico and then Brazil. He has Sue walk over to meet the twins and get the money – what? What kidnapper hands over the ransom victim before getting the money? Liz puts the money in a phone booth and Jeremy dons a new disguise and steps in to grab and look over the money while everyone watches. He sure takes his time leaving for someone committing a crime. Meanwhile, Jessica is filming the whole thing from across the street with a camcorder she decided to bring, but nobody notices. Sam finally gets there after the kidnapper has left and is like “Huh, somebody stuffed a rag in my tailpipe.” Who could’ve done that?

Everyone goes back to the Wakefields’ house for a cake and ice cream party! Everyone laughs and cheers the twins. Sue hangs out with them, but doesn’t seem happy but people are only mildly worried about this kidnapping victim. There’s no talk of calling the cops or taking Sue to a hospital or trying to find out how badly she’s hurt. Who needs that! Liz just takes a second to try and relate through her own kidnapping story and that seems to be all they think is required.

Sue sneaks out of the house to go wait for Jeremy to pick her up for their getaway, but he never shows up and she finally realizes she’s been had. Oh yeah, we also learn that the money the kidnapper got was fake. Sam proudly explains that she used her connections to have the bank provide $600,000 in counterfeit bills, because I guess banks just do that. None seems worried about the kidnapper finding out the money was fake and coming back to murder them all. Also, Jeremy is missing, but no one is worried or suspicious except Sue (who doesn’t let it show). Sue just goes on playing along like she has no idea who the kidnapper is and never got a good look at him. Jessica produces her camcorder tape and they all eagerly watch it multiple times, but no one can see any identifying details. Then suddenly, Jessica recognizes something … the ring she gave Jeremy, Steven’s ring, on his pinky finger! The book ends on that note, without our finding out if she told everyone she recognized the ring. I bet y’all 100000 counterfeit Sweet Valley Bank dollars she doesn’t say shit.

The cover: Nice hot pink color. We have Sue on the left still tied up in her witch costume. Is the weird disembodied hand on the left supposed to be holding one of those old timey chunky cell phones? I don’t see any bats. I love bats so I’m disappointed. On the right, we have Jessica giving Jeremy and Liz a bitchy look as they play Dream Phone, I mean, listen to the kidnapper’s threats. I don’t understand the point of this illustration. First of all, it didn’t happen like that, but second of all, what is up with Jessica’s face? She looks almost smug that Sue got kidnapped, or maybe jealous of Jeremy and Liz or something. I guess either makes sense for Jessica though. She’s either smug or jealous all the time, as a general rule.

The sub-plot: I guess the main sub-plot is about the twins’ friends teaming up to try and rescue them. We also get a tiny plot that lasts, like, two scenes, about Lila and Robby’s latest fight. They’re eating ice cream at Casey’s when Lila decides to get back at Robby for sketching nude models. She lies and says her father knows an artist who wants to paint her nude. Robby gets upset, throws money on the table and leaves. They make up when Lila goes to his cottage to announce the Wakefields are being held hostage and to retrieve him for their spy mission with Todd. Robby exclaims that she is a handful, and Lila smugly thinks that he is correct.

Other stuff: So there are at least three separate references to the time Liz was kidnapped in book 13. You know, that ONE time.

I’m pretty sure Robby was said to be 20 in the previous books, but in this book, he’s only 18.

I’m pretty sure we were also told that Robby has been Jeremy’s bud for a long time, but in this book it comes out that Robby only knew Jeremy for a week before they met Lila and Jessica on the beach. Wasn’t Robby Jeremy’s best man? What the fuck?

“Well, if you knew anything at all about the art of subterfuge, then you would know the best way to do something secretly is to do it out in the open.” -Lila to Todd after Todd fails at figuring out how to break into the Wakefields’ house without tipping off the hostage-taker.

Lila is described as having “an imperial expression on her patrician face” as she looks down her nose at Todd. Love it! He deserves to be looked at with an imperial expression.

Lila thinking about Todd: “Todd Wilkins and his constant moaning were beginning to get on her nerves.” It’s too bad Liz doesn’t feel that way, HEY-OOOOO

In the back of the book: The usual ads, plus a big announcement about the Sweet Valley High TV show.

Coming up next: Another bloody Christmas story! Literally and figuratively! I’m glad I have an SV Christmas book to read at Christmas.

#109 Double-Crossed

Happy October! I’m so happy I made it to this next book just in time for Halloween, which I LOVE! I’m pretty sure this is the very first Sweet Valley High Halloween-themed book ever released (and, I’ll wager, probably the last, though I know the other series also have some). It even has orange covers!

This is the first book in the three book mini-series “Sweet Valley Deception” which is really just a continuation of the last mini-series, “Sweet Valley Scandal.” This soap opera-y shit is starting to grow on me.

Girl stop spyin

As you can see by the above cover, someone is having another fucking costume party only this time there’s actually a holiday that calls for it. Somebody made an attempt at hanging Halloween decorations, but I guess they were too lazy to get out a stepladder and hang those jack-o-lantern garlands a little higher. And what’s with the empty bookshelves? Have y’all never heard of a proper spooky display? I give it a “D” for “Disappointing.” And I can see that while Jessica was busy stealing Sue’s man in the previous books, she was also stealing Bruce and Pamela’s recent sultan-harem girl costume idea, and probably that outfit from the dollar store reject bin. Haha, Jeremy looks like he’s about to haunt Sue’s witchy ass right on top of that innocent pumpkin behind them. I wish Jessica would go to the bathroom and drown herself in the toilet. I haven’t even cracked the book open yet and I’m ready to murder all of these characters. According to the back of the book, in this story Jessica catches Jeremy and Sue together and thinks maybe he’s not what he seems. Are you serious right now?

Our story begins with Jessica waking up at Lila Fowler’s fabulous manse, where she apparently crashed after having wrecked Jeremy and Sue’s wedding the day before, although honestly, she couldn’t have wrecked it without Jeremy’s support. And, better to wreck a wedding than wreck a whole marriage later! Plus Jeremy, who’s 23, is basically an adult preying on a child and I can’t really get past that point now that I’m this old, but this is all shit I’ve gone off on before. ANYWAY! Jeremy calls the house and tells Jessica he wants to see her for dinner that night. Meanwhile, at the Wakefield homestead, the twins’ parents draw Liz into a discussion about how out-of-control Jessica is (because it took them 109+ books to notice) and decide to give Liz a heads up, for some reason, that they’re considering sending Jessica to boarding school in Washington State. Liz then calls Jess at Lila’s to tell her, but Jessica doesn’t think they mean it because she knows these parents don’t really believe in discipline. Oh, but there’s more. Ned is considering having Jeremy brought up on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor which to me says he thinks Jeremy banged his daughter.

On that note, ol’ Ned and Alice are just letting Jessica stay at Lila’s indefinitely. Oh, they called Lila’s mom to give her some “rules” for Jessica, which is hilarious because I’m pretty sure Lila’s parents give even less of a crap than Ma and Pa Wakefield. (And apparently the rules didn’t include anything about whether Jessica can see Jeremy – so weird.) Of course, they probably see it as a good thing that Jessica isn’t at home, both because she’s a sociopath and because they’ve told Sue she can stay with them for as long as she needs. The day after the failed ceremony, Sue spends much of her day in bed crying while Liz makes futile attempts at comforting her. Sue tells Liz that her family created the popular “MealQuick” line of frozen dinners, which Liz apparently eats all the time. Hah, like fuck Liz eats a lot of frozen dinners. This series is always taking great pains to show us how the twins have to cook every damn meal at home. Anyway, so unbeknownst to anyone, Sue was the heiress to the MealQuick fortune – until she met Jeremy. Her mom (who if you recall was Alice’s college roommate Nancy Gibbons) hated Jeremy and was convinced he was only after Sue’s fortune. Hah, I’m sure a 23-year-old man had better reasons for marrying an 18-year-old he barely knows. But Sue says that after Sue and Jeremy got engaged, Nancy wrote her daughter out of the will. So now Nan’s dead and Sue ain’t gettin’ squat and now Sue is gonna die too since she’s got that same blood disease her mom had. And Sue is left wondering if maybe her mother was right about Jeremy. Get a clue, Sue.

Sue finally emerges from her den of misery to swim some vigorous, crazed laps while Enid and Liz look on in concern. Enid wonders aloud if Jessica and Jeremy might elope and Liz doesn’t think her sister would do something like that. (Liz is, however, alarmed because she initially thought Enid was going to suggest that they might do something else which I assume is sex.) The list of things Liz doesn’t think her sister would do just keeps on growing!

Jessica drives out to the Beach Cafe to meet with Jeremy in the back of the building so they can drive out to another restaurant (an unnamed Mexican place “up the coast”) where no one will see them. Jeremy acts like a weirdo, then abruptly whips out the sapphire and diamond ring Jessica coveted in the last few books and asks Jessica to marry him. She accepts (just in case you doubted she would). The back of the book told us this was coming as well, by the way. He tells her they’ll have to wait till she’s 18, but they’ll make it work. Then he drops the bomb that he has to leave Sweet Valley to work for Project Nature in Costa Rica for several weeks. Jess whines about it until he explains that he has to do it in order to help him get approved for a transfer to Project Nature’s L.A. office. He wants Jessica to keep their engagement a secret at least until he gets back. Jessica reluctantly agrees, but you know her big mouth ain’t gonna stay shut for long.

Jessica wants to drive Jeremy to the airport the next morning, but he doesn’t like that idea at all. He finally relents, but then insists she not watch him get on the plane at his gate, but just walk away. They have a huge back-and-forth about it before he finally gets his way. Gee, I wonder what his problem was. And, Jessica wants to write him in Costa Rica, but Jeremy is all like, “Uh … what, you actually wanna write me? Well I don’t have my address, hur dur.” Several days later, Jess finally has his address because I guess he sent her a postcard with it, and he gave her a phone number she can call. But each time she does call, Jeremy’s “roommate” Juan answers and says Jeremy is not in, then Jeremy calls Jessica right back. Is there a summer camp color war going on because there are a ton of red flags, all of which Jessica remains oblivious to because she’s an insufferable moron. Her parents are probably ready to ship her off to Abu Dhabi at this point.

Meanwhile, a special letter comes by certified mail for Alice, which explains some more terms of Sue’s mom’s will. Alice takes Sue into the family room to explain. So, now that Sue isn’t marrying Jeremy, she’s entitled to her mom’s fortune, but only if she stay away from Jeremy for a full two months. Only two months? Uh, okay? If Sue fails to stay away from Jeremy, or if she goes on to marry him, then Alice Wakefield gets all the money (as opposed to Sue’s stepfather). What the fuck? Sue insists she doesn’t care about the money anyway. Liz eavesdrops on the conversation and resolves to help Sue figure out the best ways to use her new fortune; give me a fucking break. Anyway, this totally realistic scenario makes it kind of clear to me that Sue and Jeremy are just conniving to make sure they get Sue’s dead mom’s fortune one way or the other. Sue is probably a new lite version of Margo.

So, two weeks go by from the night Jeremy proposed, and then Jessica tells Lila about her engagement, who lets it slip to Caroline, who wastes no time in making sure the whole school knows. Liz is shocked (of course) and hopes her parents won’t find out, because they’ve now decided it’s okay for Jessica to come home. You see, Sue has started seeing a psychiatrist and taking tranquilizers and sleeping pills, so she’s good now! Jessica comes home in order to promptly fuck all that up. Everyone is having a nice family dinner when the topic of Jeremy comes up. Jessica does a non-apology to Sue and insists she is going to continue to see Jeremy against her parents’ protests. Then Jessica casually drops the bomb that she and Jeremy are engaged. The Wakefield ‘rents flip out and her parents begin their renewed threats about sending Jessica to the Milford Academy for Girls and Alice has to leave the table in disgust. Sue finds Jessica in the kitchen to reassure her that she wishes her and Jeremy the best, hopefully while prepping some arsenic to slip in Jess’ dessert. Since this is Sweet Valley High, I’m pretty sure the book is actually moving in that direction.

In an effort to get through to Jessica, Liz stupidly tells her all about Sue’s money situation and the terms of the will, thinking that will convince her that Jeremy is a gold-digger. Instead Jessica makes sure to call Jeremy (or his roommate, anyway) and tell him all about it. The book then cuts to a scene of Jeremy hanging out by himself, smoking a cigarette so we know he’s evil, and creepily looking at framed photos of Sue and Jessica. Juan calls to tell him that he got a call from “that girl” again so he can call her back. Play on, playa.

One morning, Sue doesn’t come down to breakfast and the whole Wakefield family (minus Steven, who is mercifully actually at school on a regular basis, now that he’s dating an actual college student) rush upstairs to check on her and find her door locked. Jessica picks the lock before Ned can break the door down and they find Sue lying unresponsive in bed with an empty bottle of pills on the floor next to a suicide note. Don’t worry, Sue didn’t actually take enough pills to do any serious damage! And don’t worry, when she comes home from the hospital everyone basically just gets her to “rest” and acts like this isn’t a big deal at all. Sue’s stepfather is contacted, but he doesn’t see a reason to come to California to look after her, raising Liz’s ire. Hmmm, it’s almost like he’s not really her stepdad or something. Then we get a scene where Sue nonchalantly checks the mail, reads a postcard for Jessica from Costa Rica with amusement, and then grabs her own mysterious letter from California to furtively bring up to her room. Let me also mention we get a new scene of Jeremy on the beach somewhere, relaxing in the sun and thinking about how it won’t be long before he can be with the one he loves. GEE I WONDER WHAT’S GOING ON HERE.

Jeremy keeps having to extend his stay in “Costa Rica” for whatever bullshit reason, and then he calls Jessica one night to tell her that Project Nature is going to have a Halloween party at a cabin in the woods and he will be home for it. Haha, awesome. He wants Jessica to come and bring all her little teenaged friends for him and his grown folk friends to prey on, no doubt. Jessica is pissed because she thinks that means she has to wait until Halloween to see Jeremy, but she also wastes no time in telling Amy and getting her to help spread the word. Jessica also updates Amy that she had an interview with the Milford Academy lady and has been accepted into the school. But Sue is encouraging Ned and Alice not to send Jessica away just yet because she’s coming to terms with what happened … even though she JUST TRIED TO KILL HERSELF. I really think this ghost writer wrote this shit up like this on purpose and was laughing all the way. Jessica is also annoyed because Sue is always in the way, helping with dinner, picking up the phone as soon as it rings, grabbing the mail before anyone else can …

Sue gets a mysterious phone call while she lays out by the pool. We’re not supposed to know who it is, but I mean, come on, it’s obviously from Jeremy. We learn she’s waiting “two more weeks” for something, and that she’s been meeting with the caller secretly. She also reassures the caller that she “put a stop” to something (which sounds like the boarding school plan, obvs), and that she won’t be doing another overdose, don’t worry, because it was a drag last time.

Liz and Sue go out to breakfast, where Sue seems to be miraculously recovering from her suicide attempt just a couple weeks before. Sue starts babbling about maybe asking a guy she knows at work out on a date when she gets back to New York, and Liz starts doing what she does best, judging her. Then Sue says she’s happy to be getting her mother’s money after all and she’s looking into donating to charities, and maybe taking a trip to Europe. Liz starts fretting about Sue traveling with her blood disorder and Sue is all confused, then confesses that she made up having inherited the condition from her mom. She claims she did it because she could see that Jeremy was falling for Jessica and she thought she could get him to go through with the wedding if he thought she was dying. Liz is stunned, but tells Sue she forgives her because Liz hasn’t encountered enough psycho bitches in this series yet to understand that Sue is definitely one of them.

Amy and Winston and some other kids are involved in some artsy video club, and doing these cutting edge projects about Sweet Valley. Amy films Jessica looking mysterious on a pier for her video. Then the video club holds a screening of the students’ films, and when they play Winston’s, there’s a long scene of a couple on the beach at Moon Beach (where Jeremy and Sue’s failed wedding was held) that looks just like … Jeremy and Sue. They’re meeting up and making out, and when they realize they’re being filmed they run off. It turns out it was filmed very recently, so Jessica freaks out a little and tries to tell herself that it can’t possibly be the two of them.

Two days before the Halloween party, Jeremy is finally back in town (not that he actually left). He and Jessica are planning to formally announce their engagement at the upcoming Project Nature Halloween party. By the way, Jessica just let Jeremy pick out their costumes so she has no idea what they’re going as. They reunite at the beach and Jessica is stunned when, while catching up on gossip, Jeremy asks how Sue is doing since her suicide attempt. Jessica is sure she didn’t mention it to him and she doesn’t know how he would know otherwise. Jeremy insists she did mention it and Jessica grabs a shovel to add this warning sign to the others in the pit.

Sue surprises Liz by announcing she is also going to the Project Nature Halloween party.  She doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her. She’s going to dress as a witch while Liz plans to go as a cat. Then Liz thinks she sees a bruise underneath Sue’s collar and starts worrying that Sue might have hurt herself. I refuse to believe that Liz is so much of a goody-goody that she doesn’t know what a hickey is, what with all that rolling around she does with Todd (and whoever she feels like messing with behind Todd’s back), so that helps confirm that she’s the second dullest crayon in the box after Jessica … in this book anyway. They tend to switch it up.

The night of the fabled Halloween party FINALLY fuckin’ arrives. Jessica’s parents have basically vanished from sight at this point, in case you were wondering. Jessica and Jeremy go to the party as Jasmine and Aladdin, from the Disney movie. How precious. After a little bit of dancing, Jeremy disappears to get Jessica a drink. Yeah, okay. Ten minutes later, Jessica gets tired of waiting on him, and suspicious because Sue is also missing, and decides to take a walk in the woods to clear her head. This book is hilarious. She hears the sounds of making out nearby, and whaddya know! She catches Jeremy tonguing Sue up against a tree. We didn’t see that coming by the cover, or the back of the book, or anything like that, and I really don’t know why they thought people wanted to read a whole book that had the ending already spoiled. Anyway, the two realize they’re caught and make a big production out of telling Jessica that they “weren’t doing anything.” Jessica is dumb enough that it just might work, so can’t blame ’em for trying. Jessica runs away, finds Liz, and gets her to drive her home as Todd stands by threatening to go do a Todd punch. Jeremy chases after the twins as they drive away, trying to explain, and Liz threatens to commit vehicular manslaughter with her Jeep, because she has good practice at that you know. I swear to God this ghost writer is in on the joke and I am loving it.

At home, Liz is trying to comfort Jess with hot chocolate and popcorn when Jeremy knocks on the door. Jessica thinks about forgiving him for a hot second, and then he sadly tells them that Sue has gone missing. Who cares? Gag me with a bobbed apple.

The sub-plots: Lila is still seeing Robby Goodman, the poor artist who faked being rich to impress her (and to whom she then faked being poor to test his love). Now, Robby is working on an upcoming art show, at which he will feature Lila’s portrait, but Lila is convinced the contract he signed for the show is a bad deal and thinks Robby needs more business sense in order to be a successful artist. She secretly signs Robby up for a college business class at SVU behind his back and pays for everything (and it’s non-refundable), because she thinks when he finds out he’ll just do what she wants. When Robby gets the registration notice in the mail and realizes what she did, he’s upset with her for trying to control his life and they have a spat at the Dairi Burger. They then ignore each other for the next few weeks which is real mature. Robby finally shows up at Lila’s house and begs forgiveness and they go down to her rec room and roll around on the couch. Then Robby confesses that he did end up going to the business class. What’s more, it lead him to take an advanced drawing course as well. Lila is delighted beyond belief until Robby mentions that he has to sketch nude models in the drawing class, including women. She gets jealous and demands he drop the class. He refuses and storms out of Fowler Crest. How much silly drama can this damn couple have? Are they trying to give Todd and Liz a run for their money or what? Lila talks to Jessica, who suggests they go check out Robby’s drawing class to see how professional everything really is. She also wants to creep on the nude male models. Later on we learn that Jessica also suggested Lila tell Robby to draw her naked instead, and Lila got mad and threw her hot dog bun at her. Lila goes over to the cottage Robby shares with his dad to apologize, and they kiss and make up. Robby reveals he already made Lila’s Halloween costume for her, which is kind of ironic since as far as I know she didn’t ask him to and he sure didn’t like her making decisions for him, but what the F ever. It turns out the costume is the Mona Lisa, or as Robby puts it, the “Mona Lila.” It’s a hit. Robby goes as Dracula and runs around all night pretending to bite Lila’s neck.

A second sub-plot has to do with … mathematics. Liz goes to trig class where she’s disgusted that all the boys take turns shouting out the answers before anyone else has a chance to contribute. One of the boys eagerly showing off his knowledge is that dummy Ken Matthews. Another is famous Betsy-Martin-bangin’ bad boy (and racist, but they want us to forget that part), Charlie Cashman. Last I checked neither of those guys gave two shits about doing well in school so I’m wondering who the hell approved this scene. Then there’s a shy new character named Molly Adams – not to be confused with Molly Hecht from the old Regina’s death arc – who gets called on to answer when the teacher gets fed up with the boys hollering out answers. Molly shyly does her best, but gets it wrong and everyone acts like that’s hilarious and she is humiliated. I’m trying to reconcile this scene with my own high school experience and having a really hard time. I think I went to a kinda crappy school, but pretty much nobody gave a shit about math class, especially jocks and bad boys like Ken and Charlie. Anyway! The whole purpose of this scene is to introduce us to our next sub-plot. Principal “Chrome Dome” Cooper calls a special assembly and announces that SVH will be taking part in a special program, by a group of researchers called Educom, called “Go Math” (Girls Only Math) that aims to address the issue that girls are apparently falling behind boys in high school when it comes to math prowess. As a result, certain female students at SVH have been selected to spend a few weeks taking special female-only math classes and have the results tracked. There will also be some male-only classes, and everyone else will stay in the same classes they always had. Although it’s clearly stated it’s for research into the issue and how to find solutions, Liz is outraged immediately. She starts carrying on about sexism and plans to expose and stop the program via her Oracle articles before she’s even heard more than three statements about it. A great journalist, this one. Then she actually starts taking the class (taught by a man, natch!) and sees the effect upon her fellow female students when they can learn without the distraction of the boys, and how they are starting to speak up more. E.g., Molly Adams feels comfortable talking now and is learning faster, Maria gets an answer wrong and nobody laughs or makes her feel bad, etc. Everyone’s grades start rising and Liz realizes she loves math. The book tells us that Liz’s own math grade went up from a B+ to an A and I’m mainly just shocked she didn’t already have an A. Liz starts writing articles praising the classes and they get picked up by the Sweet Valley News. Gag me with a math book.

Yet another effing sub-plot is about Winston and Todd getting new haircuts. Their regular barber is apparently a guy named Rigoberto, who has a stereotypical Italian accent and can’t keep Winston’s name straight. For some reason, Rigoberto and company get up to mischief and decide they want to give Winston and Todd exciting new hairdos. The end result is that Todd’s hair looks something like this:

toddshair

Or at least that’s the way I’m reading it. Since this story is set in 1994, maybe they meant more like this:

toddshair2

Meanwhile, Winston’s comes out looking like this:

winstonshair

Winston is as sad about his new ‘do as the guy in the pic above, but Todd loves his. To make matters worse, it encourages Todd to try and grow a mustache. All his dumbass friends egg him on and he starts acting more macho. Liz hates the whole thing, so Alice reassures her with a story about how Ned once grew a soul patch and she had to just wait for him to come to his senses. There’s a scene where Todd keeps trying to make out with Liz and is totally oblivious as to why she’s not into having him rub his fuzzy mustache all over her. Meanwhile, Winston keeps going back to the barber to have his hair “fixed” and ends up sporting a crew cut, and then finally, no hair at all. I don’t understand why he didn’t just let the shit grow out, other than this storyline was supposed to be comedy gold as far as Bantam Books was concerned. Liz stays silent about her dislike of Todd’s new look for many weeks, glaring at him while he twirls the ends of his greasy pornstache around his fingers, until he finally gets mad at her sullen behavior, and then they don’t speak for another week or two. God, it’s so weird having this book last for two months. A couple nights before the Halloween party, when Liz and Sue are about to go see a movie, Todd shows up (in a backwards baseball cap) and confronts Liz for acting like a “witch” and she blows up about how hideous he looks. I mean, she really goes off. She tells him he looks like he’s been out stealing cars and belongs in a juvenile delinquent hall or something. LOL! In return, he yells that all the guys think it’s “totally radical.” After a huge fight, they break up and he leaves. On the night of the party, dressed as a cat and a wizard, Todd shows up with the mustache shaved off, and they make up. Gag me with a container of beard balm. Winston, meanwhile, takes advantage of his new bald look to attend the party as Captain Picard from Star Trek while Maria dresses as a Vulcan.

Other stuff: Robby makes a joke about how Lila and Jessica are “jailbait” for him and Jeremy.

Lots of makeout scenes in this book and nearly every one makes sure to include a mention of making sure parents don’t walk in!

Lila’s mom offers Lila and Robby some “chocolate mousse” if they want a “snack.”

There’s a new “health food” restaurant in town called Alfalfa’s, which basically sounds like it just doesn’t serve meat. The fact that this was supposed to be edgy or something back then is a little mind-blowing to me today. I try not to go out of my way to “feel old” just because things change or progress, but I did feel a bit ancient when I read about Liz explaining to Todd how you can make imitation meat with tofu and his mind was blown (and disgusted, because he’s supposed to be going out of his way to act like an alpha-male in this book or something?).

Jessica is awed by a newspaper ad for platform shoes.

Whenever the ghost writer lets us see inside Jessica’s head, they make clear that she is truly just as selfish and loony as she seems on the outside. To me this stands out because typically, we’re supposed to see that Jessica has heart or has some (contrived) sad-sap reasons for her loony behavior or is just trying to have fun and got carried away. I feel like this ghost writer isn’t even here for it; they just know that Jess is a mess, period.

Jessica looks at a pier down the beach and thinks about how once, she and some other boyfriend she can’t remember fell off of it. Is this referencing a scene from earlier in the series? The only thing I can think of is when Margo pushed James off the pier to his death in the Evil Twin mini-series. Again, I feel like the ghost writer did this on purpose!

Lila mentions another past event to Jessica, in which Sam’s parents were out of town and Jessica went over to his place to “stay late” but didn’t want her parents to know she was over there getting dicked down, so she lied and told them she was at Lila’s. Then Prince Albert got loose (I’m referring to the dog, not Sam’s dick) and Alice had to call Lila’s house to see if Jessica had him with her (like Lila would allow a dog to come to her house). And Lila had to say that Jessica was in the shower and then call Jessica at Sam’s to call her mom right back. I think this is another new scenario that they inserted to try and make the book seem more “hot” because I don’t quite remember this one either, although I guess it could’ve been in one of the early Jess/Sam books where they were doing a lot of making out and worried they might end up having sex by mistake or something.

One of the girls in Elizabeth’s Go Math class is Grace Oliver. I’m quite certain this is the first time I have seen mention of Grace Oliver in this series. The last time I saw her mentioned was in Sweet Valley Twins in a Super Edition. Random!

Robby thinking about his fight with Lila: “Dammit, he loved her.” A cuss word! Awwwww I’m tellinnnnnn.

Quote from Liz that made me laugh: “I’m not saying he’s a gold-digger.”

Robby and Lila making out: “Robby kissed her face, her hair, anywhere he could reach.”

Valley Mall has a smoothie shop called Smootharama and a hot dog place called the Dog House.

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.” -Lila, referring to what a dumbass Jessica is about Jeremy’s obvious playa ways

Liz subscribes to a computer magazine. The hell? Jessica, more characteristically, subscribes to a Hollywood gossip rag.

Jessica suddenly refers to Milford school as Milford Military Academy. That’s the first and only time it’s referred to as a military school, so I can’t tell if she’s making a joke or if somebody fucked up somewhere or if I’m just really dense and didn’t catch on that it wasn’t “just” a boarding school.

Sue and Liz go see a British comedy flick called Happiness is a Warm Scone.

The Droids play the costume party, under the moniker “The Nontoxic Avengers.” Dana Larson is on the mic as a mummy.

After Sue and Jeremy are caught smoochin’, Liz notes that the two month stipulation in Sue’s mom’s will hasn’t been met yet. So I guess the Wakefields are rich now? If that whole thing isn’t fake as hell anyway. The Wakefield parents are stupid enough to leave their children behind for days to meet with some fake lawyer while Margo butchers them, so the “official documents” Alice got in the mail was probably just something Sue made up with letters cut out of the newspaper and mimeographed. “AL ICE U get MONEY If SuE leave JEreMY Alone! FOR 2 M0NthS. Signed, A LAWyer”

Not enough Halloween in this book! Fuck these people for giving me hope! They have costume parties every other week in this damn series; you didn’t have to float Halloween over my head! I would’ve at least had Jessica throw a burning jack o’ lantern at the cheating couple, or try to drown Sue in a vat of bobbing apples! It’s the least you can do people!

In the back of the book: The same old ads for the same old SVH books. No new ads or anything fun. I’m always sad about this because when I was young, the back-of-the-book ads were one of my favorite things about the paperbacks I read. I even tore out the coupon and sent away for some shit a couple of times!

Coming up next: Sue is missing, and somebody’s making a death threat! I’m sure when I read the back of the next book,  it will just summarize the whole plot for me, so at least I probably don’t have to actually read it!

Quick note: Photo issue is fixed and the pix are back. I’m not claiming they are great pics (they’re not, lol) but better than none, so you can at least see what the F I’m talking about!

At long last, the first Sweet Valley High graphic novel (published by Dynamite Entertainment) is here! I enjoy reading comics and graphic novels, so I was excited to see the twins in this format. (By the way: may I give your local comic shop a plug? If you haven’t yet purchased this volume and would like to, and you have a nearby comic shop, try calling them up and asking them if they have it. If they don’t, see if they will order it for you and then go pick it up and pay when it’s ready. You’ll get your book quickly and give them some much-needed business! Check out Dynamite’s site for a comic shop locator.) Because this is my first graphic novel review, I want to be sure and give a shout-out to the folks behind this volume: Cover/artwork/inks by: Devaki Neogi, Writer: Katy Rex, Colors: Pippa Mather, Letters: Cardinal Rae.

So what we have here is a line of brand new stories set in the present day, rather than a full re-do of the original series. I think I prefer it that way. There’s only so many times you can re-tell the original stories before it gets old (literally AND figuratively!). With that said, I think you’re going to recognize some classic SVH tropes here … lol. To give a quick spoiler-free review, while I wasn’t blown away by this story or by the art, I did like both of those things well enough. Initially, I found the story a little “eh”, especially because the storyline didn’t flow well between panels in some cases (and I have a funny example of this below). But then it picked up and I ended up finding it cute and funny, if hardly earth-shatteringly original. I also thought it brought the twins into the current era effectively while sneaking in clever little throw-backs to the original series that made me chuckle. The art was good overall, although in places it looked a bit wonky to me (most noticeably, eyes not aligned, and this one guy’s muscles looked “baggy” to me). It did work for me as a whole, and was generally fun to look at and illustrated the story well. I especially liked the expressiveness of each character; I thought that was well-done, and I also enjoyed looking for the little details in each scene (such as all the little things in each twin’s room that illustrate the individual personalities).

Here’s a quick synopsis of the plot from the back cover: “When Jessica falls in love with her poetry teacher, she begins to act like her studious twin sister Elizabeth to impress him. Now it’s up to Elizabeth to make sure that all’s well that end [sic] well – but with Jessica playing her role, will anyone be able to tell which twin is which?”

Let’s take another look at the front cover.

IMG_20190813_172310

The title of this book is a bit awkward, but I like the cover art. I especially dig the throw-back to the original SVH cover layout, with the flag in the upper left and the circular design. There are some random fall leaves here and there drifting down the cover, even though this story takes place in the summer, so I find that … super random. Maybe this story was originally supposed to take place in autumn. Across the top of the cover, we have Roy Marlowe, who is Jessica’s teacher, at left, followed by everyone’s favorite Todd Wilkins. Todd doesn’t really look the way he was described in the original series. Below Todd and Roy are close-up face shots of our twins as well as full length portraits. Interesting clothing choices for the two girls. The shoes make me feel like I’m headed straight back to the 1990s, but then again, some of these things are coming back in style. (The story is set in the present day.)

Also, remember how I had seen an alternate cover posted somewhere but couldn’t find it? When I opened the book to the title page, there it was:

IMG_20190813_191418

I believe I read that this image appeared as the cover on a version given away at a comic con. Which cover do you prefer? I’m neutral on this one.

Warning: THE SPOILERS WILL NOW BEGIN. If you haven’t read my blog before, I do FULL recaps with complete spoilers. If you don’t want to know everything that happens, STOP HERE!

This story opens with the twins and their friends enjoying the summer before their junior year at Sweet Valley High. We start with an unseen narrator telling us about how Sweet Valley is idyllic and perfect. We get a view of the beach, which has no “Beach Disco” but does have a “tiki zone.” We cut to the Wakefields’ house, where Liz is trying to read while Jessica blasts music at top volume.

Four of Jessica’s friends come over. There’s Lila Fowler, still very Lila-ish:

IMG_20190817_174543

I honestly don’t like the way she is drawn at all.

This is Amy Sutton (on the right):

IMG_20190817_174551

As you can see, Amy now has short brown hair. But as shown in other panels, she still loves to talk about diets!

The redhead in the panel above is Ellen (!). They don’t give her last name, but I’m wondering if this is Ellen Riteman from the Sweet Valley Twins series. Ellen never showed up in SVH that I’m aware of, but that would rule if they added her here and kept her original personality. Ellen was hilarious (although she wasn’t a redhead). I like the way she is drawn.

I have no idea who the person on the right in this panel is:

IMG_20190817_174716

She’s drawn about the way I would expect Amy to be drawn, except that she looks like someone’s mom, but Amy is definitely the brunette on the left. Maybe this other girl is supposed to be Cara or even Caroline? They haven’t named her yet, so stay tuned.

Jess and her girls watch the latest episode of a soap opera called Young & Beautiful, starring apparent twins who look just like the Wakefield twins. We get two pages of scenes from the soap opera which seems a little unnecessary, but entertaining enough. Lila mentions Jessica won’t be able to come to Bruce Patman’s barbecue because of her summer school class, in a typical Lila Fowler “rubbing it in” way. Jessica starts cooing about the hot T.A. (teaching assistant), Roy Marlowe, who instructs this class. Why is she having to take the class to begin with? Well, it seems she missed a lot of English classes during her sophomore year (because of cheerleading practice or something?), so Mr. Collins kindly set up a transfer credit from Sweet Valley University. Wow, that’s nice of him. Jessica is all aglow about Roy and how she’s sure he likes her. Then Ellen expresses doubt that Jessica’s TA would be interested in her, because she’s not studious enough. Womp womp! Jessica’s mood shifts way down. Then Lila says she has to go because her online followers are expecting to see her latest makeup tutorial streamed that night. Mysterious blond girl reminds the others that Lila is their ride home, so Jessica’s friends are all shown on their way out of Casa Wakefield. Then Liz shows up and finds Jessica sitting alone, looking sad because she’s thinking about what Ellen said, and asks her what’s wrong. Jessica mumbles that everything’s fine.

Here’s an interesting face Jessica makes when Ellen says that college boys without a car and muscles are not worth someone’s time.

IMG_20190817_174558

Practicing for Miller’s Point?

We cut to the Sweet Valley “municipal” pool, where Liz is lifeguarding while also reading a book. Uh … are lifeguards allowed to do that? LOL. Liz tells a kid to stop running and then a lady comes over to yell at Liz for yelling at her dumb ass kid. Then Todd shows up and tells the lady off for yelling at Liz, and Liz gets upset that Todd is interfering with her job. Then Todd and Liz get into a mini-argument about how busy Liz is these days with all her extracurriculars and volunteer work, and how Todd doesn’t get to see her much anymore. Liz says it’s important to her to get into a good college and Todd pulls a douchey old “More important than me?” Same old same old!

After that scene, we cut back to the main story with Jessica, and a scene with Jess and all of the girls back at her house, even though they just left for the night, and are wearing the same clothes they were just shown leaving in. There’s no explanation, so I’m confused. Did they leave and come back? Had they not actually left yet when Liz came into the room to find Jessica by herself and staring into space? What? Yo, this is bothering me!

Anyway, the girls help Jess pick out clothes from Liz’s closet, that she can supposedly wear to impress Roy and make him think she’s studious and serious like Liz. We get a fun couple of panels of Jessica modeling. But can I just say the clothes the girls pick for Jessica from Liz’s closet largely seem like things Jessica could’ve had in her own closet? I don’t think there’s that much of a difference in how the girls dress so far, other than Liz occasionally looks more sporty.

Jessica goes to class in one of Liz’s outfits, looking straight out of the 90s with a mint green and black striped off the shoulder dress, which has a big black belt, plus black boots and a big black floppy hat. She makes sure to sit in the front row and give long, rambling answers to Roy the TA’s questions about Twelfth Night. I like that nobody is complaining about her big hat blocking their view. After Roy praises her answers and moves on with the reading, she daydreams and starts making up a list of “Smart Clothes” which apparently includes things like “shoulder pads” “satchels” and “Burberry”. Haha! After class, Roy asks Jessica to stay after for a minute and tells her he was impressed with her answer. Jessica does some babbling about how much she loves poetry, so Roy invites her to bring some friends with her to an upcoming poetry reading while Jessica chews on her lip and tries to look sexy or something.

Back to Liz and Todd’s boring bickering! Todd comes to Liz’s model United Nations meeting to pick her up for their weekly Wednesday date. Liz has to drop some extra food off at the local shelter, so she tells him she’ll drive over to the shelter in her own car and then meet him at the park. Then when she does show up at the park, she’s wearing a different outfit than she just was! Did she go home and change? Todd has prepared a picnic with his mom’s rosemary chicken and some pie, but Liz spends the first several minutes wrapping up loose ends and answering messages related to her extracurriculars on her phone. By the time she’s done, Todd is pissed and they have another mini-spat. They’re both annoying, so this is definitely true to the original series. Todd stomps off soon afterward to make an early basketball practice that Liz forgot about. We learn that Liz and Todd share an iCalendar and these kids are definitely more organized than me and my husband, two late-thirty-somethings.

That night, Jessica and Liz watch TV and Liz has a mini breakdown and starts bawling about how busy she is and how Todd just doesn’t understand. Jessica comforts her and tells her she should date an older man. She then starts bragging about her upcoming “date” with Roy (the poetry reading that Roy obviously didn’t think was a date). Jess is acting like they’re already an item, so that’s pretty true to her character, lol. Liz gets very concerned because Roy is an adult and Jessica is only 16, and seems like she might be about to tell Steven and their parents, who have just arrived home. So Jessica backs down and tells Liz she was just exaggerating.

By the way, here’s Steven Wakefield:

IMG_20190817_195443

The way they have him walking in reminds me of a sitcom where A.C. Slater or somebody would walk in and everyone in the audience would yell, “WOOOOOOOOO!”

And here are Ned and Alice Wakefield:

IMG_20190817_195352

They look … older than I was expecting? (Note: They’re dressed up because they’re coming back from a play or some such.)

After her conversation with Liz, Jessica goes upstairs to sprawl on her bed and text Lila about how annoying it is that Liz almost ratted her out. Jessica’s bedroom is purple, just like it is in the later SVH books. Meanwhile, Liz is texting with Todd, who’s trying to set up a Saturday date with her. Liz reminds him that her iCal says she’s busy that day “teaching blind children to ride horses rescued from circuses and factories.” HAHAHA. I LOVE how this book riffs on the Liz character like this. She’s not just a do-gooder, she’s an impossibly do-goody do-gooder.

Saturday arrives and Todd goes out shopping with his mother and mopes around while she shows off how rich they are. For a late lunch, they go to “La Rotonde des Expatriates”. I love that they’re still putting French restaurants and names in these books. (Francine Pascal has a house in the south of France and reportedly loves all things French.) The restaurant just happens to be the same one where the poetry reading is being held. Jessica is there, only she’s dressed like Liz (and how we might actually expect Liz to be dressed this time – cardigan, buttoned-up blouse and headband). Jessica doesn’t see Todd, but he sees her, and he thinks she’s Liz. Todd starts texting Liz to see if she will admit to not being at the horseback riding lesson. He sees Jessica pick up her phone at the same time, so when Liz texts Todd back about the trails she’s riding and how things are going, he thinks he is seeing Liz sitting there in the restaurant texting back lies. Instead, it’s really Jessica texting Lila about the poetry reading. Roy Marlowe comes on the stage and reads a poem while Jessica moons over him and then yells “Woo hoo! Poetry!” (No, really!) Todd is outraged and storms out of the restaurant with his mom without Jess (or Liz, obviously) having a clue.

Jessica then goes to class the next week looking all Lizzed out again, and takes a selfie of herself with Roy teaching in the background and posts it to her freakin’ Instagram with the hashtag #MrsJessicaMarlowe. Lila catches up with her later and brings her a unicorn frappucino that she says Winston Egbert made (because he works at Starbucks) but Jessica turns her nose up at it. Then Lila starts planning a pool party for her house that weekend, but Jessica makes it clear she thinks that’s childish.

 Todd takes Liz out on a surprise date to La Rotonde. She is delighted because she hasn’t gotten a chance to go there yet. He tries to get her to say she’s been there before and she doesn’t get what the fuck is going on. Todd confronts her about what he saw. She tells him the obvious, that he’s stupid for not realizing that was Jessica, especially since in this book he’s known Liz her entire life. He doesn’t believe her and storms out, leaving her to find her own way back from the restaurant. Oh my god, he’s such a jerk. Liz texts Jess to come pick her up, but Jessica says she can’t because she’s on a “date.” By that she means she went to the local art gallery to stalk Roy, then ran into him and made sure to snap a selfie. She then gets stuck in an awkward conversation with Roy and his adult friends about art and picking up kids from daycare.

Jessica comes home and starts talking about her supposed relationship with Roy and freaking Liz out again. She assures Liz that they just have a special understanding and Roy is perfectly willing to wait until she turns 18 to make their relationship “official”. Then Liz has a Skype call or something with Amy Sutton about some letter of recommendation thing, and I guess Liz and Amy are kinda friends in this one, and maybe Amy is a tad less boy crazy. Liz asks Amy what she knows about Jess and Roy, and Amy says Jessica and Roy are serious and it’s all over Jessica’s Insta. Liz is upset because she’s worried Roy is pressuring Jessica to sleep with him, and Jessica has never done that before. Amy does some babbling about how that’s probably what he expects but that she doesn’t KNOW that’s what’s happening. Liz checks Jessica’s Instagram for the first time in the past few days, and sees lots of posts about supposed dates she’s been on with Roy. There’s even a #winegram post where Jessica posts a close up of two glasses of wine and alludes to being on a dinner and drinks date with Roy. #scandalous

Liz decides to take things into her own hands. She dresses up as, well, as herself, and then goes over to SVU to talk to Roy in his office, posing as “Jess”. The ruse works because Roy doesn’t know Jessica has a twin. Roy is obviously uncomfortable about being alone with Jessica, especially after “Jess” mentions she wants to take a “romantic” walk. Then “Jess” alludes to their dinner date and he is confused and asks her if she’s referring to the alumni party that she helped with, that he actually couldn’t make it to. Liz quickly realizes that Jessica was exaggerating everything. As she goes to leave, she hears Roy on the phone with a wife or girlfriend, talking about the baby they’re expecting! She overhears Roy set up a plan to make a trip to Sunnyside Bay beach as a mini-babymoon.

Unbeknownst to Liz, Todd was at SVU at the same time for “SVU Orientation” (what? Is he supposed to be older in this book?) and he sees Liz giggling at Roy. Of course, this time he can actually tell the twins apart and knows it’s Liz. He leaves without confronting her.

That night, Jess and Liz are hanging out on the couch where Jess paints Liz’s toenails as Liz knits. This is actually a really cute sisterly scene. Then Todd barrels in and ruins it. He starts hollering at Liz about seeing her around with another man. Liz doesn’t want to expose what she did to Jessica, so she starts making up some obvious bullshit and begging Todd to trust her. He doesn’t, and barrels out. Liz breaks down, and to make her feel better, Jessica offers to help her do something Liz-like … like help organize canned goods at the shelter or go brush the shelter dogs. Wow, this Jessica is definitely much better than the original series’ Jessica! But Liz tells Jess she would rather go to the beach in the morning.

The next morning, Liz wakes Jess up. Jess then snaps an Instagram of herself lounging in bed for her Insta, looking off at an unknown something to one side, and she captions it “Lazy mornings with bae.” Bruce Patman has this to say in response: “OMFG jessica are you SLEEPING with him?! seriously?!” Damn girl, you’re gonna get someone arrested.

Liz and Jess hit the beach where Liz makes sure they run into Roy Marlowe and his pregnant partner, Jennifer. Jessica is thoroughly embarrassed, and comes down off her Roy cloud – especially when Roy announces he’s coming to Sweet Valley High to teach in the fall – and everyone is bound to realize Jess wasn’t really dating him and had made a bunch of that shit up. Roy then introduces the twins to his nephew, Ben Marlowe, who’s their age, super muscular, and also coming to SVH. There’s a panel where Roy introduces Ben, and Roy suddenly looks like he’s about 50 years old and with no chin, like King of the Hill. I don’t know if they did that on purpose, but I think it’s hilarious. Compared to Ben, he no doubt suddenly DOES look way older to Jessica!

Liz and Ben take an interest in one another, and Ben starts texting Liz to ask her about the student newspaper. Meanwhile, Todd sends Liz a snapchat of himself in his swim trunks asking her to forgive him, but she ignores it. Jess barges into Liz’s room and expresses some mild shock that Ben is texting Liz and not her. Then Liz goes on a coffee date with Ben, and we have our set up for the next book.

Other stuff: Steven comes home from a date with Tricia Martin in this book and, just like in the original series, Jessica doesn’t approve because Tricia’s sister is “trouble” Betsy Martin. Oh boy, I guess we can look forward to that whole story again!

There’s a scene where Jessica is drawn in some panels without a headband, and in the following panels she suddenly has one on.

The SVH cheerleading team is now called the Boosters. This was originally the name of the cheerleading squad at Sweet Valley Middle School (from the Sweet Valley Twins series).

Roy Marlowe’s office door suddenly changes to say “Prof. Roy Malory” in one or two panels. Not only is the last name wrong, but he is supposed to be only a T.A., not a full fledged professor. I’m guessing he was originally a professor in the story and the editors didn’t update all of the original graphics by mistake.

Amy has a unicorn phone case with a horn coming out of it. Liz has a phone case with some kind of cat image on it.

Jessica’s Instagram name is DEVILINABLUEJESS. Amy’s is the totally boring BOOSTERAMY and Lila’s is LOVE.LILA.XO. Bruce’s is PATMAN.PLAYA.01. I’m DYING!!!

One of the twins mentions that they are going to help their mother make vegan sloppy joes for a conservation event.

Liz reads a book titled “Chicken Soup” something or other. Is it supposed to be one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books? I used to read those in high school, no joke. They had a couple for teenagers too. Do they still publish those?

In one panel it’s said that Liz and Todd have been dating since the second grade. In another panel that gets changed to the sixth grade (which would be Sweet Valley Twins). Maybe the first panel was an exaggeration / joke?

Coming up next: The ending makes clear that another graphic novel is planned, in which Liz will be caught between Ben and Todd. It implies that Ben is or will become Jessica’s crush. Hopefully Ben’s muscles will be drawn better in the next book. And speaking of the next book, I haven’t heard or seen anything on when book #2 is coming out or what it will be called. This may well depend on how well #1 sells. I think grown-up SVH fans will flock to it, perhaps not in droves as with Sweet Valley Confidential (partially because SVC seemed to have far more buzz), but the nostalgia will draw in many. Whether younger readers will pick up this new series, and feel they can relate to the stories, remains to be seen – and right now, I seriously have my doubts. What do you think?

Out now!

Look what Iiiiiiii have ….

img_20190813_172310.jpg

It is smaller than I was expecting. (Good thing I’m only talking about the book) It’s about the same size as a Sweet Valley Twins paperback.

I’ve also seen a photo floating around of an alternate cover, but of course I can’t find the damn thing now.

REVIEW COMING SOON!

It’s time to delve into Jessica’s secret diary! Let’s hope that this one will be more entertaining than Liz’s. Having just started the book and essentially blogging as I read, I can say that Jessica’s tone of voice in this one is definitely preferable to Liz’s.

The book follows the same format and sequence as Liz’s: Jessica, in the present day, gets upset about something, then decides to read back over her diaries for some past-events insight into her present-day woes. As before, the diary entries are relatively short, and are interspersed with Jessica’s first-person recap of what happened. Each chapter recaps a different SVH book. The back cover says this Diary covers books #30-40, but that’s wrong (again); it actually covers books #32-40. Not sure why they can’t keep that shit straight.

IMG_20190802_182252

BOR-ING

The cover is nothing to write home about (just to write in a blog!). It’s just Jessica’s smirking face from the same old “new” portraits of the twins done for the post-Night to Remember books. I’m really not certain why Jessica’s portrait has her wearing less makeup and more clothing than Liz’s. And here at least, Jessica looks almost wholesome and innocent in her portrait, whereas Liz looked kind of smirky and devious in hers.

IMG_20190802_180614

A “lesson in love”? I hope they’re not referencing Jessica. These twins can’t actually learn.

Normally I love stepback covers, but this stepback portrait here is even crappier than Liz’s (and so I didn’t give a crap about getting a decent scan or photo, sorry). We get retouched art featuring Liz and Jess from #32 The New Jessica, Maria and Michael from #34 Forbidden Love, and Regina awkwardly staring at Bruce’s photo from #40 On the Edge. I noticed that Jessica’s jacket from TNJ is changed from its original black to a dark violet color, and they made sure to cover up her totally 80s belt. These art clips seriously look like total dookie all spliced and stuck together like that. You can’t even really see Maria and Michael. Also (spoiler alert) they absolutely should’ve found a way to put a portrait of Jeffrey here. This whole thing looks so sloppy.

Our Prologue opens with Jessica, who’s hanging out with Amy and Lila at a fabulous party at Bruce’s beach house. Ew, is this the same house where he got all rapey with Liz in Dear Sister? Jessica is at the party with a college boy named Jack Wayland, whom she’s been casually seeing for about a month. (Amy is at the party with her main man Barry Rork, and Lila has brought Paul Sherwood as her date – a guy Jessica once dated and proclaimed a horrible kisser. I guess this is supposed to be pre-Lila and Robby Goodman. By the way, Lila thinks Paul is snobby and is not impressed.) Jessica is nuts about Jack and does her usual proclamation that he’s the only boy she’s loved since Sam W. I seriously think that’s what we’re going to hear about every boy of hers through the remainder of this series. Jessica and her friends speculate about when Jack will tell Jessica he loves her. Jessica goes to dance with Jack and reminds him it’s their 1-month anniversary. He takes her out onto the beach to tell her something important and she blurts out that she loves him. He awkwardly responds that he’s actually in love with Elizabeth, who barely knows he exists. That’s why he kept showing up at the Wakefield house when Jessica thought he was coming to see her, and I guess Jack just went with it because he’s a mealy-mouthed moron. Why am I having deja vu over this storyline?

Jessica flees from the party in tears. She decides she is sick of being second best to Liz all the time, and decides to run away. (Just like book #21, Runaway) As she packs her suitcase, she remembers to get her stack of purple notebooks out from under her bed – these are her secret diaries that not even Liz knows about (and, Jess makes fun of Liz all the time for keeping a diary, so Jessica can’t imagine letting on that she, too, has started keeping one). As Jessica is packing these books, one falls open to a certain page and she sits down and starts reading. On to endless recaps we go!

Book recapped: #32 The New Jessica
Events covered: Jessica gets tired of everyone mistaking her for Liz and drastically transforms her entire look and character, but it’s only temporary. Liz hates it and flips out, even dumping Jeffrey because she mistakenly believes he prefers the new Jess to Liz. Even worse, Liz misplaces her diary. Jess helps fix both issues.
Interesting insights: Jessica tells her diary that her day “blew chunks, as Bruce would say.” More like, as Wayne and Garth would say. I guess they are trying to 90s-ize the original story, which was first published in 1986. Jessica also confesses to her diary that she has always had a big crush on Jeffrey.
New scenes: In the original book: Before Jessica undergoes her transformation, she goes to school in Liz’s peach dress and a bunch of people thinks she’s Liz, outraging Jessica. This includes Jeffrey, who sat down with Jessica at lunch thinking she was Liz. Here, they’ve changed it so that Jeffrey French kissed Jessica at her locker because he thought she was Liz. Much smaller new event: after Jessica decides to go back to being herself, she tells her diary that she confessed to Liz that she read Liz’s diary and learned how upset she was over Jess’ transformation. According to Jessica, Liz forgave her. This wasn’t mentioned in the original story; in fact, Liz had believed she got her missing diary back “unread” (although she did not).
Also: In my original post about The New Jessica, I wondered if any of Liz’s diary entries might be reproduced again in the Secret Diary volumes, which I’d never read at that point. Well, Liz’s diary entry that Jessica read does indeed show up here, verbatim. Fun facts!

Skipped: Super Edition #5 Winter Carnival

Book recapped: #33 Starting Over
Events covered: Dana Larson’s cousin Sally transfers from foster care to the Larsons’ home; family drama ensues. This is neatly resolved in the usual way, by sticking everyone in a life-threatening situation. Thankfully (I guess), this Secret Diary focuses way more on the sub-plot, which was all about the twins secretly adopting their golden retriever, Prince Albert (also known as Penis Piercing) and hiding him from their parents.
Interesting insights: So far, Jessica actually sounds *nicer* in her Secret Diary than Liz did in hers. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she can be sassy and sarcastic (and it’s funny), but I thought she’d have all kinds of nasty things to say about people. I was expecting her to say something horrible about Sally Larson’s appearance, but the worst she had for us was that Sally was dressed “not badly, just a little dull” (which she also says is how Liz dresses! LOL!).
New scenes: None at all. What’s the point of this?

Book recapped: #34 Forbidden Love
Events covered: Maria Santelli and Michael Harris have been dating secretly because their families hate each other. They get engaged so they can elope and stay together, but then Maria realizes that Michael is a huge douche and that she actually loves Winston Egbert. Sub-plot: The Scooby Gang gets paired up with one another for one of those high school marriage projects.
Interesting insights: Jessica does just a little bit more mooning over Jeffrey in her diary. She thinks he’s the most perfect boyfriend ever and it’s not fair that he got stuck with someone as boring as Liz.
New scenes: None!

Book recapped: #35 Out of Control
Events covered: Aaron Dallas is having anger management problems. Thankfully, this book focuses far more on the sub-plot, which is Jessica’s delightful, disastrous attempt to get rich by selling Tofu-Glo soybean beauty products! That was one of my favorite sub-plots ever.
Interesting insights: Jessica uses more 90s slang (“Doesn’t that just bite?”) and ponders buying a new pair of Doc Martens. She also mentions in her diary that Robin Wilson is a “pain in the neck.” Hah – more like YOU were a pain in HER neck! Jessica writes about how nobody takes her seriously, but one day she’ll be an amazing businesswoman, traveling all over the world. (According to Sweet Valley Confidential, she’s correct!) Jessica confesses to her diary that she is secretly terrified of public speaking and battles stage fright every time. Finally, I have to note that I am really enjoying Jessica’s dramatics in diary form. It is funny how much more enjoyable her entries are compared to Liz’s, not that I am totally surprised. E.g., here’s Jessica writing in her diary after her Tofu-Glo products turn out to be a scam and everyone angrily demands their money back: “My life is over. I’m going into one of those witness-protection programs. I’m going to join a convent. No, I’m going to become a worm farmer in Utah.” And, after fantasizing in her diary that Jeffrey tells her she’s the one he’s always loved, she then admits he’ll never leave Liz and declares, “I think I’ll go downstairs and overdose on large quantities of chocolate.” There are a lot of witty gems in here like that. “So that’s over … so is my life among the soybeans.” Here’s another one I think everyone will appreciate: “I gave her a menacing glare I learned from Lila.” And after her dad calls to tell her she’s entitled to a big payment in the class action Tofu-Glo lawsuit: “Cancel my room at the convent.” Finally, Jessica calls something “totally rad.” Wasn’t that a dorky thing to say in the 90s? That is definitely more 80s slang. I know it came back into fashion starting in the early 2000s, but I feel like if I said “rad” in 1994 people would’ve made fun of me. So I can’t imagine 90s Jess saying that. Maybe it’s a California thing.
New scenes: ZERO. For fuck’s sake!

Skipped: Super Edition #6 Spring Fever

Book recapped: #36 Last Chance
Events covered: So I didn’t hate this story the first time, but I totally forgot about it. It’s the one in which Julie Porter’s older sister, high school dropout Johanna Porter, returns to school, gets made fun of, hooks up with Amy’s turd of a boyfriend, then finally claims her self-respect and tells everyone to F right off. Again, in this book there’s more focus on the sub-plot since that’s Jess’s story: She gets in a funk about seeing happy couples everywhere, so she tries to split up Steven and Cara, and momentarily succeeds because they’re both dumb as a pile of Prince Albert’s poo.
Interesting insights: Jessica’s opening diary entry in this chapter sounds like it’s trying to convince us she might be sick of seeing all the happy couples primarily because she can’t have Jeffrey. Clever plot tweak, that one. LOL. The Jessica breaking up Steve and Cara story is just as stupid the second time around. She’s horrible and they’re moronic. She’s also so pleased with her success breaking them up that she privately wonders if she might also be able to break up Jeffrey and Liz, an idea she soon abandons as completely unfeasible. Jessica privately admits to her diary that she actually feels shame for having been mean to Johanna in the past.
New scenes: None.

Book recapped: #37 Rumors
Events covered: Lila Fowler starts nasty rumors about Susan Stewart’s real mother because she wants Susan’s boyfriend as her date to the exclusive Bridgewater Ball. The sub-plot: The twins suspect Mrs. Wakefield is pregnant. She’s not, but we get to hear about it ad nauseam in Jessica’s diary.
Interesting insights: I’m definitely getting sick of Jessica making sure to slip in bits about how Jeffrey is the perfect hunk, boyfriend, etc. Foreshadowing is a hell of a literary device! Jessica sounds a little bit more like her normal bitchy self when she talks about Susan and “total drip” Allen Walters getting together. Also, I’m reminded of how crappy this whole story was the first time.
New scenes: Yawn, none, although there is a tiny change. In the original book, I’m quite certain that it was Liz who had the idea to spy on Mrs. Wakefield to figure out if she’s pregnant or not, instead of just coming out and asking her. I remember thinking that was unlike Liz at the time. In THIS book, they change it so spying was Jessica’s idea (which is admittedly more realistic – I think. One never knows with these girls anymore).

Book recapped: #38 Leaving Home
Events covered: Liz applies to a special writing school program that would send her away to a Swiss boarding school for her entire senior year (and the summer before). Jess and Steve freak out and scheme to make her stay in Sweet Valley by acting like complete and total assholes. Sub-plot: Winston wins the lottery, but with someone else’s ticket he took in a bizarre mix-up. He finally returns it and is hailed as a hero.
Interesting insights: The original story was yet another stinker that I’m just SO thrilled to relive! But, regarding Liz’s excitement about Switzerland, Jessica tells her diary “Gag me with a ski pole”. Her hilarious commentary on everything is the only thing saving this Secret Diary as far as I’m concerned. Jessica also admits to her diary that she is “DESPERATELY IN LOVE” with Jeffrey French. Yes, she put it in all caps! Gag me with a bad young adult novel.
New scenes: YES, finally. Jessica’s latest beau, Randy Lloyd, drops her off early from a date because he’s feeling sick (of her shit, probably). Jess changes into a casual outfit, then gets bored and drives out to the Beach Disco to see what’s going on out there, just in time to see Liz and Enid take a walk off down the beach because Liz is upset no one is enthused about her Switzerland plans. (The part about the Liz-Enid walk is from the original story.) Jessica just so happens to be wearing a very similar outfit to Liz’s, so when she walks into the Disco, Jeffrey spots her and thinks she’s Liz. They sit and have an intense Switzerland-centered talk, during which Jessica keeps up the charade, mainly because Jeffrey is stroking her hands and she likes it. She is tempted to take advantage of the situation to engineer a break-up, because maybe then Liz will really want to leave for Switzerland and that means Jeffrey will be left behind with Jessica. But her better angels win out and Jessica, as Liz, reassures Jeffrey that nothing is as important to Liz as him. She then says she’s upset and makes Jeffrey promise not to bring up this conversation again, then flees to “collect herself” before real Liz comes back and catches her frontin’. She then drives home sobbing to herself because she loves Jeffrey. The next day, she tells her diary she doesn’t know what got into her. I know what she wishes she got into her. (I can’t help myself)

Book recapped: #39 Secret Admirer
Events covered: Personal ads wreak havoc in the lives of Penny Ayala, Lila, and Jessica.
Interesting insights: Not many. Just that I’m even more horrified the second time by how mean Jessica is to “fat people” as I re-read the scene in which she’s on a date with a “fat, ugly” man. If there were any justice in the world, Sweet Valley Confidential would’ve shown what happened to Dairi Burger-diet Jessica once her metabolism slowed down.
New scenes: None. Just a recap of the original story that seems entirely too long.

Book recapped: #40 On the Edge
Events covered: Bruce, who has been dating the beloved Regina Morrow, starts having an affair with Amy Sutton. Regina finds out and hates them and everyone else for not telling her. She attends a drug party where she tries cocaine and dies instantly, breaking millions of young readers’ hearts.
Interesting insights: I know I said this before, but everyone is such an ass for enabling Amy and Bruce’s affair and working so hard to keep Regina from finding out because they didn’t want to hurt her. She had a right to know! Jessica writes about her frustration that Liz blames her for Regina’s misery over losing Bruce, when Liz is also to blame. She confesses to her diary that she has never done any drugs, but that she is sometimes curious about what it’s like. Her curiosity is ended when, in the next entry, she writes “Oh God, Diary. OH GOD! Regina Morrow is dead.”
New scenes: In a scene I already reviewed from the Meet Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield book, Liz asks Jessica to kindly break her date with Jeffrey due to her newspaper obligations and explain Liz would see him later. Instead, Jessica, both pissy with Liz about the Regina stuff and also secretly in love with Jeffrey, pretends to be Liz and goes out with Jeffrey. They wind up making out on the beach, where Jeffrey quickly realizes “Liz” is really the other twin, but keeps kissing her anyway. The pair soon break apart realizing what they’re doing is wrong. They say not a word about it, to each other or anyone else, and Liz is none the wiser. We’re supposed to think that now that she’s finally made out with Jeff, Jessica is satisfied and is able to leave it alone and go on with her life. Good for her? My God, Jessica really is a horrible person. Oh yeah, and we learn Jessica’s make-out session with her sister’s boyfriend, is what delayed Jessica from telling Liz about how much trouble Regina is in! At the end of the chapter, right after Regina has died, she and Jeffrey look at each other over a crying Liz, and Jess realizes there is no way they will ever let Liz know about their make-out session, because they can’t bear to hurt her. This seems … ironic?

And that (finally) brings us to our Epilogue, which is very short. After reading her diary entries about Regina, Jessica is crying. She realizes life is precious and that you have to cherish every moment, so she gets up and carefully unpacks her bag and puts her things away, “handling each item as if it were heavy, and very, very fragile.” Damn, that’s deep.

So what did I get out of this book? Nothing, other than the odd laugh over Jessica’s funny commentary. Okay, and I was oddly touched by how much Jessica really does care about Liz and her best buddy Lila, even though Jessica still does awful things. For a horrible person, she’s not all bad, just mostly. Was her Secret Diary better than Liz’s? For me, it’s a toss-up. Jessica’s tone of voice and narrative style is far better than Liz’s, but as far as the newly revealed “secrets” go, I went WAY too many pages in Jessica’s before I got to anything even slightly juicy. Liz’s “secrets” in her Diary were ridiculous, but the tea being spilled was hotter. I might be more shocked at Jess very briefly making out with Jeffrey if she hadn’t JUST pulled a similar stunt with Todd (and then some!) post-Jungle Prom!

Now that I’m through with both of the first two Secret Diaries, I want to be absolutely serious. I have read some tedious books in this series. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you surely know that. In fact, there are times where if I didn’t have this blog, which I very much enjoy writing, I would’ve just stopped rather than drag myself through some crap story. (I really do love writing this blog. I tend to take a too-long break every now and again when life gets in the way, but I love my readers and the whole “Sweet Valley nostalgia” community, if that’s what we should call ourselves.) But yeah – these two books were the biggest drag of all of the ones I’ve read. I understand why some love these so much, but for me as a first-time, much-older reader, there’s very little that’s new and fun here. It’s just the same old stories newly redone in the first person, cleverly tweaked to fit in some character assassination. It wouldn’t be quite as bad if they weren’t so damned long.

I know we have Volumes II and III coming up in the future. I will see them through, but take my word, I will have an unusually stiff margarita in hand!

In the back of the book: Nothing new or different, except that there are two different ads begging you to buy Sweet Valley University.

Coming up next: We return to the whole Sue-Jeremy-Jessica scandal with the next regular series “mini-series”. That crap almost looks good again.

%d bloggers like this: