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

We’re at a point in the series where it seems they want to hit us over the head with loads of Super Thrillers on a regular basis. In other words, things are apparently going to get even MORE batshit.

So that you get an idea of what we’re in for with this one, let’s examine our cover412141

It’s another special stepback cover! On the front flap, we have two girls just cracking the fuck up in a waterfall. The one on the right has to be Lila, but are we supposed to think the girl on the left is Jessica? She looks decades older! Does Alice wear bikinis? Maybe it’s Grace? At upper right, we have Liz Wakefield (or maybe THAT’S Alice), identifiable by her pulled back hair and obligatory tank bikini, looking down in horror at something … I mean, if this wasn’t a stepback I would’ve thought it was how much Jessica has aged. There’s a Sweet Valley timeline joke in here somewhere.

Open the flap and we see ….

ST06-Inner

Hahaha! Some random (naked?) dude springing from the undergrowth to grab Liz’s leg. I’m simultaneously creeped out and highly amused. Liz’s hair is super 90s layered. If she takes it out of that ponytail, is it going to look like “the Rachel” shag that everyone was into back then?

Alice Wakefield has been “picked at random from the phone book” and won a vacation to Paradise Spa, which is “the most luxurious spa in all of California.” Uh, I hope old Alice thoroughly vetted that shit first, but given her past decisions and how fucking gullible the Wakefields are in general, you know she didn’t. She’s allowed to bring six guests, so along with the twins, she’s invited Enid and Lila and their moms for a mother-daughter retreat. Enid’s mom can’t come, so the sixth guest spot is just a waste I guess. Now the ladies are riding a train up to wherever the hell the spa is. Everyone is gushing and cooing about their adventure, including the Fowlers, though I’m somehow doubting Grace and Lila Fowler are all that impressed since they probably go to spas in Paris and shit all the time. This spa is run by someone named Tatiana Mueller who promises she can make ugly people beautiful, or something like that.

Liz and Enid go to the club car for snacks and drinks, and Enid starts bawling because Hugh apparently dumped her recently because he didn’t want to be tied down. Enid is sure it’s because she’s not as pretty as, say, the Wakefield twins. Oh GAWD, we are going to have to listen to Enid mope all throughout this damn book, aren’t we? Liz tries to reassure Enid about her looks, but privately, she recalls how Hugh started dating a “cute” and “curvy” sophomore named Sabrina right after he dumped Enid and thinks that Enid is right. Doesn’t Hugh go to Big Mesa? How would Liz know who he’s dating now? Hugh is even more boring than Enid, so I’d really like to see Enid hook up with someone who can liven up her personality a little.

The train pulls into the Paradise train station after many hours of traveling “up the California coast”. So is this supposed to be in the real life Paradise, California? History lesson time! I looked up whether Paradise had a train station at some point, and it seems it did, but it closed in 1974. The train depot survives and houses a couple of museums, and was one of the few structures to survive the awful Camp Fire of 2018. Wondering if the ghost writer knew the train depot history at that time or was just pulling a cool town name out of a hat. Anyway, our mom-and-daughter group arrives and is met by a sexy porter/driver named Chris. Jessica gets all hot and bothered and Liz gives her a lecture about how she should be thinking about Ken, as Liz, everyone’s favorite hypocrite, simultaneously finds herself also hot and bothered by Chris.

Chris drops the ladies and their luggage off at the spa and everyone gawks at the tons of beautiful people they see, as the entire staff is supermodel-level gorgeous. They’re certain Tatiana must be the most beautiful of all, but when they meet her, she’s quite dumpy. Jessica calls her a “toad” to her friends, then feels ashamed when she sees Tatiana up close and realizes that half of her face is disfigured. Wait, Jessica can feel shame?

Tatiana, who I now think of as the female version of the Batman villain Two Face, takes the group to their lodgings at Tranquillity Cottage, which has three luxurious bedrooms, and a hot tub, but no mirrors, which just about ruins things for Jessica and Lila. The girls take a dip in a “mineral pool”, and then we get a humorous description of Liz plugging her new laptop into the phone line so she can send Todd an “E-mail” (with the E capitalized, yes). As it turns out, Todd has his own personal computer and modem! Woo hoo, it’s officially 1995 in this series. The group goes to dinner, where they all gawk at hot men everywhere and Jessica preens at Chris and gets him to agree to give her a golf lesson. He immediately tries to invite some of the others, but Jessica doesn’t get a clue. Enid picks at her food and thinks about how ugly she is and how she wants Tatiana to save her. I hope she gets food poisoning. Dinner consists of salad with “oil-free vinaigrette”, poached salmon with “light dill sauce”, haricots verts (uh, as in French green beans? FANCY), steamed potatoes, and fresh fruit. OK people, how the fuck do you make vinaigrette without oil? The ingredients are freakin’ oil, vinegar and lemon juice! Is it just lemon flavored vinegar? What the hell? I’m so confused.

Lila and Jessica are disappointed with breakfast the following morning, which only consists of fruit, plain yogurt, muffins or toast, and grapefruit and orange juice. In fact, the waitress casts shade in Jess’s direction when she wants to try one of each bread item on order. After breakfast, Lila and Grace are gonna go get their nails did, while Alice shocks Liz by announcing she will be attending a yoga class. Shut the fuck up Liz. Then Tatiana Mueller comes by the table and coos over everybody. She introduces them to her young, lovely assistant Marguerite, then creepily pats Enid’s hair, calls her “my little sparrow” and assures her they’ll definitely take care of her since her mother couldn’t come. At the sight of this, Lila and Jessica are reduced to hysterics behind their breakfast napkins. Jessica asks Tatiana if she can have some mirrors put in their rooms, and Tatiana suddenly gets all moody and says they don’t have any at the spa because it’s inner beauty that counts. Alice thinks this is so admirable while everyone else rightly thinks that is fucking weird to not have mirrors at a beauty spa.

Nosy Liz takes note of a shy young waitress named Katya who hides her face behind her hair, and wonders why she isn’t upbeat like everyone else. Liz decides Katya obviously just needs a friend, like herself. We’re gonna get a scene of Katya pouring her heart and soul out to Liz while Liz does a reassuring shoulder pat, aren’t we? Fuck. BTW, I’m fresh off drinking wine and shit on a late night Zoom party as I write this, so I’m just sitting here sleepily laughing my ass off at the mere thought.

As the group exits the “alfresco dining room” after breakfast so they can skip about looking for opportunities to cheat on their significant others, a new family is coming in. It consists of a “portly man” named Kurt Spencer, his wife Joanne, daughter Chelsea (13) and son Randall (16), who is also portly. Jessica and Lila run away as soon as they see that Randall is a little heavy, and Liz is off in the clouds daydreaming about her latest hot Oracle story about a sad chick she met at the other end of the state ’cause that’s real riveting and all. I mean who am I kidding though, it’s Liz, she’ll probably win a Pulitzer. Anyway, Enid chats up Randall and feels sad that no one wants to talk to him but her and thinks everyone is so mean and she is so kind. Enid is a sad sack of protoplasm that has slowly absorbed Liz’s self-righteousness via osmosis.

Our sighing protoplasm sack glides out into the main lobby where Tatiana catches her just wandering dopily around the lobby staring at everything and trying to figure out where the fuck she’s going. Man, this place doesn’t have any staffers to help anybody? Tatiana hears sad sack Enid moaning that she wishes she had beautiful blond hair like her friend Liz, and tells her to shut the fuck up because red hair is beautiful. She takes Enid to the hair salon where she administers a special conditioning treatment for redheads while Enid pours her heart about how her mom doesn’t have as much time for her anymore because she’s a busy divorced woman. Tatiana seems very interested in convincing Enid her mother doesn’t treat her right. She also, like every other fucking person in this series seems overly interested in talking about the twins and their mom because why not, they’re obviously the most beautiful and alluring people on the planet and can’t help attracting all kinds of psychos. It’s a hard knock life!

While Enid is getting her hairdo therapy or whatever the fuck that was, Liz is approaching Katya to ask her about her life because she is a nosy ass bitch who can’t mind her own business. She actually walks up on Katya while she’s trying to change uniforms or something. Katya is nice to her because, you know, Liz is a customer and she has to be. She offers to take Liz on a tour of the property so she knows where everything is. No one else has done that yet which I find bizarre. These people won a contest at this resort and they were just dumped off at their rooms like, Okay have fun wandering around and figuring out what the fuck is going on here. Sounds like a cheap ass spa that doesn’t want them to actually take advantage of any services since they won’t be paying. Oh yeah, Liz is grossed out by the mud baths. I hope there’s a scene where Katya drowns her in them. Katya makes some wistful comments about her mom and hints at how sad she is, and of course Liz and her “reporter’s instinct” are intrigued GAWD I HATE YOUR BITCH ASS REPORTER’S INSTINCT.

Meanwhile, Jessica is having her private golf lesson with Chris the generic-named hottie. No disrespect to any Chrises, but Jessica has already mounted a few of those and they need to throw a Glenn or something out there. However, this Chris is more interested in talking about Liz. Why not? It’s the same plot we have at least once in every new SVH arc, Jess wants some dude and he wants Liz. Chris dreamily talks about how enchanting it is that Liz is a writer and tries to set up a double date with the twins plus him and his friend Alex, but Jessica is mad she had to pretend to like golf for a whole 7 minutes for someone who’s mooning over her twin, flings her golf club on the ground and stomps away.

Chris finds Liz and blushes and stammers his way through an invitation to play tennis with him. Liz is like, oh yes, another dude to cheat with, so hot. Her fantasies about the things they can do with tennis racket handles are rudely interrupted as she remembers there’s a sack of protoplasm named Enid next to her that can’t shut the fuck up about its lost boyfriend and how ugly and fat it is because it’s not a Wakefield sack, so she insists the sack join them and play doubles with the mysterious friend of Chris’s, Alex. (Remember Alex from that Spring Fever Super Edition from hell? Unpleasant flashbacks …) Enid is a little pissed that Liz is apparently pitying her and trying to find her ugly best friend a boy.

Tatiana drops by the dinner table to coo about how “ravishing” the twins and their mother are. Shit is getting disturbing, but the Wakefields are used to people acting like they’re the collective second coming of Christ and just brush it off. Enid gets called Tatiana’s “lost little redbird” and invited for more personalized beauty treatments. Alice is super disturbed by how familiar Tatiana Mueller seems to her. She goes so far as to call Ned to ask him if they knew anyone in college by that name, but he’s no help, so Alice is like, eh well. I’m sure this fucking annoying ass creepy woman isn’t of any concern.

It’s time for the Liz/Enid/Chris/Alex doubles tennis game / “double date”. Alex turns out to be just as gorgeous as Chris, and Enid is interested. But then Lila and Jessica spot their game while out for a walk and crash it, and Jessica goes all out doing stupid cheers to catch Alex’s eye. It works – Alex fucks up the whole tennis game because he can’t stop staring at Jessica. Enid is very upset. Jessica suggests the group go out to Paradise Station (where the train station is) to get some ice cream, and the guys suddenly get all weird and say they can’t leave the grounds. Apparently they have a hidden stash of ice cream and a blender squirreled away in their staff cottage, so they offer to make the girls milkshakes there. At the cottage, Enid and Lila are stuck talking to one another while the boys fawn all over the twins. (Chris and Liz are talking about writing – of course. You know that seals the deal where Liz is concerned. She learned jack shit from her Lucas / werewolf experience.) To make matters worse, Enid thinks the milkshake tastes like mud. She feels uglier than ever, and she tells Liz all about it that night while Liz unsuccessfully tries to convince her that she is also beautiful, just in a different way. For all my ragging on Enid, these scenes seem like a decent reflection of teenage angst. You know, minus the fact it’s happening at a glamour spa with spooky employees.

On Monday morning, Katya the staffer takes the Sweet Valley group, plus Randall and Chelsea for a run up the mountain. Liz is the only one who can keep up with her and gets praised effusively. They reach a waterfall and have a swim, then walk back down where Liz starts nosing into Katya’s life again. Katya suddenly admits out of nowhere that she’s a runaway and that she’ll never see her mother again, then takes off bawling and disappears. Meanwhile, Enid hangs out with Randall all walk long, who the book keeps reminding us is pudgy and out of shape. Then Enid bashes her looks some more to Liz. Enid is sad that she doesn’t have a “peaches and cream” complexion like Liz. Liz tries to reassure her but only does a half hearted job, so off Enid goes for her freckle-fixing appointment with Tatiana’s skincare consultant, Wilhelmina.

Jessica and Lila take therapeutic mud baths and whine about how much the mud stinks. Afterward, Lila spots some man she’s been stalking going into the men’s mud bath area and flips the fuck out. You see, Lila has been sticking her nose up at the twins ogling the gorgeous spa employees because she doesn’t believe in banging the “hired help.” On the first night at dinner, she spied some man in sunglasses, presumably a guest, sitting at one of the tables and started swooning. She saw him again yesterday in the woods around the tennis court as she and Jessica were about to crash the doubles tennis game. He disappeared, but left a rose on the ground which Lila is sure was for her. Now, Lila is literally sneaking into the men’s mud room to see if she can catch him naked and she’s dragging Jessica in there with her for some reason. Uh, that’s super disturbing. Unfortunately, the only naked men she sees are Randall and his father, whom the book once again reminds us are totally fat. The girls shriek with laughter at how fat they are. Can someone arrest these bitches for sexual harassment?

Enid has her freckle appointment, which leaves her face stinging, then heads to Tatiana’s office for her red hair treatment appointment. Enid starts whining about how jealous she is of Liz’s looks and how the twins get all the boys, once AGAIN. Then you know, Tatiana just goes ahead and hypnotizes her and plants the idea in her head that her mom doesn’t love her and resents having her around. Then it’s back to the present, and Enid has no memory of this session. Ooookay. I’m reminded of that mom in Get Out. Ding ding ding goes the tea cup. Tatiana promises she will make Enid super beautiful and that Hugh will regret dumping her.

Chris takes Liz on a special picnic in the woods and I can’t stop thinking about all the ticks they must be getting on themselves. They eat their meager rations in a cave, and Liz starts asking him about Katya, but he doesn’t know very much about her. Chris says he’s 18 and he hopes Liz doesn’t mind that he’s so much older which is hilarious that this would suddenly be an issue in these books. Liz embraces Chris and starts kissing him and thinks it’s “magic.” I wonder if she’ll send herself on a huge guilt trip later like she did following the last trip where she had a side piece. You know, they went out of their way to show us how bad she felt about that stuff, but I guess she is over it now.

Katya finds Liz by one of the pools on the property and apologizes that she reacted the way she did to Liz minding Katya’s business. Then all the teens, minus Enid, join Katya for a frisbee golf game in the woods. Liz and Chris take advantage to do some more smooching behind some trees. Things go sour when Katya accidentally leads the group through the woods to a clearing with a big, windowless white building. Everyone stands there staring at it in awe, and Katya starts panicking and quickly leads them away. Later, Liz overhears Katya getting reamed out by Tatiana. Katya seems afraid and nervous at dinner again, and a different server (Sierra) waits on the Wakefield & Co. table. Liz encourages her mother to take Katya under her wing and solve all her problems, and Alice agrees.

Enid starts talking shit about her mom Adele, and Liz doesn’t understand what is going on but also doesn’t give much of a fuck because she’s ready to get dicked down by the hired help. She meets up with Chris later that evening and tries to ask him about Katya and the building, but he doesn’t seem to know anything. Then Liz thinks to herself that she’s got to push Todd out of her mind so she can have a hot make-out session with Chris guilt-free, which she does. When she gets back to the cottage, Jessica points out the grass in her hair and Liz is very mildly ashamed. Jessica happily announces that she and Alex are falling in love. Yay, the twins are finally bonding over the fact that they are both coo coo for cock! Now that Liz is finally letting her true colors shine through, she and Jess can be closer as sisters.

Alice takes a walk in the garden the next morning and runs into Katya. How convenient. Katya readily confesses that after her father died, she spent many years living happily with her mother and brother, but then her mother remarried and her brother went off to college, and Katya is convinced her stepfather doesn’t like her, even though she doesn’t really have a solid reason to feel that way. So she just took off and ran away. Now, she keeps insisting she can’t leave the spa and won’t see her mom again or something. Alice finally convinces Katya to consider giving her mom a call. As Katya leaves, Alice sees her run into Tatiana the creeper. Tatiana then comes over to the pool as Alice is about to swim some laps and starts cooing over Alice’s good looks again and saying it’s too bad she can’t stay there forever. Alice quizzes Tatiana on if she’s seen her before, and Tatiana is as weird about it as you would expect and insists she doesn’t know her.

Enid goes to her latest freckle cream appointment and Tatiana substitutes for Wilhelmina and applies the cream herself, then hypnotizes Enid again. This time, she drones on about it’s not fair that Liz and Jessica get all the boys, and then she inserts a false memory in Enid’s brain that when she was 13, her mom told her no boys liked her because she was ugly. Post-hypnosis session, Enid tells Tatiana she wants to look like a new person and Tatiana tells her she knows a surgical procedure that can help her. Yikes.

Liz sees Katya in the lobby and runs over to loudly say she’s glad Katya talked to Alice, and to ask Katya if she called her mother yet, without even noticing that Tatiana is standing nearby listening until it’s too late. Some detective you are. Katya reacts like a robot and starts giving a rehearsed speech about how Paradise Spa gives her everything she needs.

At dinner, Enid barely touches her food and takes some special “redhead vitamins” that Tatiana gave her. Lila spies her mystery man across the room and gets up to go talk to him, only to crash head on into Katya and cause a huge wreck. Katya collects her dishes and runs away crying.

That night, Liz and Enid have an argument in their room because Liz doesn’t like how Enid keeps calling herself ugly and is determined to change her entire appearance. Enid goes on and on about how she wants to be just as beautiful as Elizabeth and weigh the same. Even though these books have continuously preached to us that the twins have “perfect” figures, Liz is suddenly on some body acceptance trip and starts preaching at Enid that the size that works for Liz doesn’t work for everyone. Enid gets mad that Liz doesn’t want her to be as beautiful as she is and stalks off, then Liz leaves the cabin to go meet her side piece.

Jessica sneaks out to go meet Alex in the sauna room, and for some reason, she drags Lila along claiming they can swim first. Instead, Jessica goes straight to the sauna where she finds Katya’s dead body slumped over a bench. Jessica starts screaming and everyone who matters in this book comes running. Liz wants to call the cops, but Tatiana insists that Katya had a heart condition and clearly just died from taking too long in the sauna. Everyone blindly accepts what Tatiana is saying immediately, even Liz. But then Tatiana goes to get a tissue out of her pocket to give Lulu (Katya’s devastated fellow waitress friend) – and a paper falls out on the ground. Before Tatiana snatches it away, Liz manages to see that the paper is a note from Katya asking Alice to meet her in the sauna. When she asks Alice about it later, Alice knows nothing about it. Liz deduces that Tatiana must have intercepted the note and knew Katya would be in the sauna, and she goes to get a flashlight so she can snoop around in Katya’s (conveniently unlocked) room.

Meanwhile, Jess is holed up with Alex in his room, making out and sobbing about Katya. Alex doesn’t seem very disturbed by Katya’s death, and he finally suggests Jess go back to her own room and get some rest.

Liz enters Katya’s room and prowls around to see what her little reporter’s brain can find. There’s nothing earth-shattering in there. Liz sees a framed photo of someone who must be Katya’s mother, and a Help Wanted ad for Paradise Spa falls out of a book. Liz takes note of the publication the ad was posted in, something called Manford House, and tucks it in her pocket. She vows to get to the bottom of Katya’s death. She seems overdue for confiding in Chris and teaming up to accuse Jessica’s man or something.

Enid is hanging out in the cottage by herself, checking out her reflection (in a compact she brought) and contemplating the surgery Tatiana offered her. She thinks about how her own mother doesn’t care about her, and that Tatiana is like a mother to her now.

Liz gets back to the cottage and logs onto the internet with her modem and starts “dialing Olivia Davidson’s E-mail address”. Dialing an email address, what the fuck? I don’t remember that shit working like that. You logged onto the Internet by dialing into a local provider or maybe a bulletin board service (BBS). (The book glossed that over as well and acted like Liz was just automatically connected when she plugged into the phone line, like it was ethernet, in which case I would think she wouldn’t need a modem.) Then you used your email client or your web browser. You definitely didn’t “dial” an email address. Right? Or maybe it depended on what service you were using and this was in fact the way Prodigy or AOL or Compuserve worked back in the day? Oh my god, my head hurts. I have no idea if this was the way the shit actually worked as described in this book and my memory is bad, or if Bantam didn’t give a fuck about how it worked at the time and never fact checked whatever the ghost writer came up with.

Anyway, after Liz emails Olivia, Olivia responds right away and looks up Manford House for Liz via that INFOMAX service this series keeps pimping out, the one that played a big roll in felling Jeremy Randall in our last book. O. reports back that Manford House is a chain of shelters for runaways, with its own magazine published for the teens who reside there. Olivia then advises Liz she can just dial into her own Oracle account number and use INFOMAX herself. I’m so confused. This book is suddenly reading like a valuable historical artifact holding the keys to mid-1990s American humanity. Anthropologists need to study this.

Liz finds Chris and straight up asks him if he and Alex are runaways. He’s like, well, yeah. He says they ran away to escape abuse at their respective homes and that Tatiana is like a parent to them now, but he doesn’t want to discuss it any further. Back at the cottage, Mrs. Rollins calls for Enid, but when Liz tries to pass the phone to her Enid refuses and starts smiling oddly.

Liz marches into Tatiana’s office and starts asking what Katya’s autopsy revealed and is shocked when Tatiana says they didn’t do one because one isn’t needed. I’m just wondering why it’s up to Tatiana whether Katya gets an autopsy.

Jessica and Lila are sunbathing at the pool. Lila is complaining about how bored she’s getting when her mystery man walks up, and she stops being bored real fast and begins flirting wildly with him. The man, whose name is Michael, is clearly interested in her and happily brags about how he works in Hollywood casting. There’s just one problem: His voice is squeaky like he just inhaled helium from a balloon. It’s an instant turn off for Li, who (quite literally) takes off running.

That afternoon, Elizabeth organizes a waterfall hike in remembrance of Katya. Enid doesn’t go because she’s in Tatiana’s office agreeing to some surgery or whatever the fuck Tatiana has been talking about. Liz of course takes the opportunity of this memorial hike to sidle up to Katya’s fellow servers and friends, Lulu and Terry, and confirms that they are also runaways. What’s more, they don’t get paid. They work in exchange for room and board, and “mothering” or whatever. Liz is horrified by this probable violation of labor laws, but Lulu and Ter just stare blankly at her and smile like a pair of Stepford wives. When the group reaches the waterfall, Liz tells Jessica that Alex is a runaway. Jessica knew something was off. Jessica doesn’t believe Liz’s theory that Katya was murdered and Tatiana knows who did it, though. Then Alice abruptly vanishes while testing the water in the waterfall or something, I don’t know. One second she’s there, the next she isn’t and Grace is flipping out. Everyone searches for Alice, but she’s nowhere to be found. The group races back to Tatiana’s office, but old Tati is not concerned and insists Alice probably just wanted to go off on her own for some privacy. And I’m going to keep calling her Tati because I’m getting tired of typing out Tatiana. Liz goes back to the cottage to call her dad for advice, but the line is dead. It would’ve been a useless call anyway. Old Ned is probably losing his mind right about now from having to cook his own meals for a whole half a week.

Jessica overhears Tati talking on the phone in her office and waits to enter until she hears her hang up so she can ask to use her phone. But when Jessica enters, Tati claims none of the phone lines on the spa campus are working. I’m finding it really hard to believe that Grace and Lila wouldn’t have an early version of a cell phone on them. Even Zack Morris had one and that was years earlier! Jessica waits until Tati leaves, then sneaks back into her locked office through a window to use the phone and leave her father a voice mail at his law office asking for help and telling him to call the police if he can’t get through to the spa. She notices a copy of her mother’s Sweet Valley University yearbook, just sitting right there in plain sight on Tati’s shelves. It has Alice’s photo cut out of it (from a superlative page where Alice was voted “Most Popular”). Then Jessica digs through some file cabinets and discovers that all of the staffers at Paradise have had plastic surgery. There are Before and After files for Chris, Alex, and Katya and they all look totally different. Afraid of needing to escape quickly, Jessica unlocks the office door (why? couldn’t she just go back out the window? it’s not like the person entering would be coming in through the window) which makes it convenient for Enid to walk into the office just as Jessica has found Enid’s “Before” file. Jessica shows it to Enid, certain that Enid will be horrified, but Enid is all brainwashed and talking about how she can’t wait to look like a supermodel and become an aerobics instructor (presumably for Paradise Spa).

Meanwhile, Liz approaches Chris and asks to use his phone, but he claims it’s not working either and encourages Liz to trust that Tati is right and Alice just went off somewhere. Liz takes off to her cottage and sees that the phone lines there are all cut. So she plugs her computer’s wire directly into the phone jack and that works. Wouldn’t that just be the same as a regular phone line? So why doesn’t she plug the phone in and call the police? Jesus, I never wanted to refresh my knowledge of 90s internet so bad, what the hell is wrong with me. Why can’t I just accept this series makes no sense! So anyway, Liz sends a couple of E-mail messages to her dad and sits there waiting for him to answer, but he doesn’t, so he must be doing some actual work. Then Liz remembers what Olivia told her about INFOMAX, so she dials into that and starts picking through news articles. INFOMAX has some kind of search engine where you can enter multiple terms or elements and the tool will tell you what they all have in common. Uh, okay? Liz enters the treatments Enid has been telling her about and the tool tells her this means Enid is going to have plastic surgery.  Then Lila and Grace come back into the cottage. Liz gives them a quick rundown, then grabs a flashlight and takes off to search for Alice herself. The Fowlers are supposed to just … sit there and wait to see if Alice comes back.

Jessica returns to the cottage and she and the Fowlers exchange discoveries. They hear Liz’s laptop ping with a message – it’s an E-mail from Ned. He doesn’t seem too terribly concerned about Liz’s message and I guess he didn’t get Jessica’s frantic voice mail. With the number of times his daughters have nearly died in their 16th year alone, I’d be a lot more panicked if I were him, but maybe he’s sick of them and knowing in the real world, one of these serial killers would be able to take care of that for him eventually. Ned mentions in his message that he realized he and Alice did know Tati after all. She lived on Alice’s dorm room floor junior year and followed Alice around “like a puppy dog.” Ned very nonchalantly mentions that everyone called Tatiana “Tatty Mule” because she was so “homely and pathetic.” Damn Ned, you were a bully! This explains a bit about how your daughters turned out. Love how Alice remembers nothing of this person that idolized her and followed her around. But I suppose this is just following the classic horror trope of the wronged individual coming back for revenge. Also love how Tatiana goes by her real name and just somehow knew that Alice wouldn’t have a clue who she is. The last thing Ned remembers is that Tatty Mule went to medical school. Suddenly Jessica and the Fowlers realize that this must mean that Tatty plans to operate on Alice and steal her face for her own. Happy Mother’s Day bitch!

Meanwhile, Liz has found the waterfall where Alice disappeared. As she’s poking around, a hand suddenly grabs her ankle and pulls her through the waterfall into a hidden cave. It’s Chris! Liz is happy to see him because she’s a moron and also because she tends to forget that both she and Jess have a thing for falling in love with killers and shit like that. Chris is unsympathetic to Liz this time and he roughly drags her through a secret passageway to the windowless white building everyone saw earlier. Turns out it’s the spa’s clinic.

Grace goes to Tatty Mule’s office to call the cops. Tatty Mule sounds like a groove band or a rapper’s name or like a frat boy nickname for a weak ass beer. Enid shows up and is acting fucking weird like she always is now, so Jessica grabs her and shakes some sense into her, literally. Jessica and Liz want to go back to the waterfall where Alice disappeared and look to see if they can figure out where she went from there, but Enid suddenly speaks up to say they should look for Alice by going to the clinic. Then she falls silent and becomes useless again as Jessica and Lila tramp through the woods trying to find the clearing Katya accidentally brought them to, where they first saw the clinic building. Enid follows but has nothing useful to say. So they all get lost, argue and finally figure out where they’re supposed to be going.

Inside the clinic, Alice has woken up inside an operating room and doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. Tatty Mule looms over her cackling about how she’s going to become an Alice clone and then kill off Alice and take her place. I’m a little unclear if she’s going to actually take Alice’s face like in the movie “Face/Off” or if the surgeon will just mimic Alice’s looks, but I think it’s the latter. Tatty explains she had her face operated on before but the surgeon botched it, hence her scars. So Tatty deliberately went to med school and worked on becoming the best plastic surgeon in the world so she could train others, all so she can have her face operated on to look just like Alice’s. That operation will be done by Marguerite, hopefully you remember her since we haven’t seen hide nor hare of her since the very beginning of the fucking book. Marguerite and Tatty have worked on all the other staff to make them gorgeous; now Marguerite will complete the imitation-Alice surgery on Tatty. Chris and Alex are their assistants, and so is the spa’s aerobics instructor, Candace who also hasn’t been mentioned before. A gas mask or something is lowered over Alice’s face and she passes out.

Chris drags Liz up to a secret clinic building entrance and on up to Tatty’s clinic office, and Tatty gives her a tour of the facilities and cackles about how evil she is. There’s an operating theater which has giant blown-up photos of Alice Wakefield all over it, and of course, Alice lying knocked out on her stretcher or whatever. Liz starts freaking out and nobody cares. Tatty indicates she will kill Liz so that she only has to be mother to one twin post-surgery. Then Jessica and Lila finally break in to the building with Enid and are confronted by Alex and Chris, who chase after them as they flee to the operating theater, which they guessed the location of because Alex is a moron and looked right over at it when Liz asked. There, Liz tries to get Chris to let her go and call the police, telling him he doesn’t have to be a slave to Tatty anymore, while Tatty menaces Liz with a scalpel and reminds Chris of all she’s done for him. Liz can’t get through to Chris, but she apparently gets through to Enid who leaps forward and snatches the scalpel from Tatty like it’s nothing. Chris and Alex then suddenly snap out of the brainwashing they’ve been under for YEARS, and they jump on Marguerite and Tatty and restrain them. That’s it? Enid proclaims that everyone is now free. Is this for real?

The cops bust in and arrest Tatty and she just sits there and explains her whole sad sob life story to everyone because that’s what the criminals always do in these books. Now you caught me, so let me tell you how I became a bad person so you can feel sorry for me. In this case, Tatty became who she is because her mom was gorgeous and dragged her to European beauty spas and talked about how homely Tatty was her whole life, or something. Who cares. Ned calls and offers to come up to Paradise and retrieve everyone so they can go home now, but they DECLINE. They just had the shit traumatized out of them and have been harassed by brainwashed staff, but they would rather go ahead and stay another night in this creepy ass place with the same staff and just trust that they’re all magically back to normal and won’t try to hurt them.

Breakfast the next morning is the cheesiest affair I have ever seen, sadly not literally. Lulu and Terri and the rest of the staff mill around not knowing what the fuck to do with themselves because they don’t know how to make breakfast without someone to tell them how to do it. Suddenly, they realize they can do whatever they want because Tatty no longer controls them! THEY’RE FREE! HOOOOOORAY! Seriously, everyone crams into the dining room, all the guests and everything, and cheers, even though these kids probably need some serious therapy pronto. With the love of the twins, Chris and Alex are now back to normal and talking about how they’re free. Chris wants to see Liz again, and she sheepishly admits she already has someone else. Chris isn’t even mad because he just took one look at Liz and knew she was a cheater, pretty much.

The freshly free-minded guys drive all the guests back to the train station. Everyone realizes with shock that in the space of under one week, Randall has slimmed down and  gotten tan and suddenly looks cute. He and Enid are gonna stay in touch. Michael is there, but Lila ignores him because she’s still traumatized by his voice, and I don’t get what the point of that whole plot line was. And did he drop the rose on the trail on purpose or not? Why do these writers insist on hooking Lila up with the stupidest men?

Liz and Jessica smooch the boyfriends that were gonna have them killed just last night goodbye. All the runaway kids are gonna call their parents and go back home, except I guess the ones who were being abused, not sure what the fuck they’re gonna do since they don’t have any income, but they’re not worried about it! And, someone is gonna figure out how to get in touch with Katya’s mom and let her know her daughter is dead. Yay!

Liz somehow gets her dial-up internet working on the train and sends Todd a goddamned E-mail to tell him everything … except, she thinks with a little smile, about Chris! Tee hee! Cheaters are so cute. Although by now, I’ve decided they actually have an open relationship and just occasionally get mad at each other about it. Maybe they decided on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Hope they use condoms.

I didn’t set it up this way, but this was certainly a well-timed book for Mother’s Day weekend, huh?

Seriously, what a shit show.

Other shit I noticed: Ned Wakefield is said to have “a brain like a computer.” Too bad they never programmed any common sense into it.

The ghostwriter remembered that Enid’s mom’s name is Adele and that Enid is an only child.

When Jessica reacts in horror at Lila trying to sneak into the men’s room to see Michael’s dick, Lila reminds her that the cheerleading team once spied on the boys’ locker room and implies it was in order to see everyone naked. What in the FUCK. Were they trying to show equality by showing women can be harassers too? Besides, it’s not realistic they would spy because half of those girls have already seen all those dudes naked at Miller’s Point at one time or another.

Stupid fucking moment: When Liz is playing tennis with Chris, Alex, and Enid, Chris announces the score as “Fifteen love”.  Liz’s reaction: “Elizabeth sensed that in addition to announcing the score, he was sending her a special message. A message about love …”

Alice tells the group that she got stuck in a pose called the Serene Swan while taking a yoga class with Grace, and Grace had to unbend her.

Chris tells Liz he’s 18, but then later on, he says he’s been at the spa for three years, “since I was sixteen” making him 19.

Great typo on page 184: Alice is missing and Grace, Lila and Liz are talking about how to find her, when suddenly “Alice stood up” and offers to accompany the group to find … herself. Book’s over, Alice found herself.

Mrs. Mueller’s maiden name is apparently Mueller, but she goes by “Mrs.” Did she maybe keep her maiden name when she married, and then kill off her husband?

In the back of the book: Nothing new or interesting.

Coming up next: These dumbasses are gonna scrounge around in Death Valley looking for buried treasure! It better be at least as silly as this one.

 

From time to time I make a post about who the cover models were for Sweet Valley High books. It’s always fascinating for me to see what obscure jobs folks took before they went on to become big stars. My readers have been a big help with this as well. So while I work toward my next book recap post, I thought I’d give an update on some of what we know so far regarding the original SVH cover models:

Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield: The original model was a truly stunning soap opera actress named Jonna Leigh Stack. I came across this scoop several years ago courtesy of blogger Cliquey Pizza, who was tipped off by her reader Kathleen. I had never heard of this actress before, but there’s just no way it’s not her. Check out this post by blogger Red Lemonade to see lots of photos for comparison – it’s uncanny. (It also looks like Jonna herself left a comment on Red Lemonade’s post confirming this, although the poster’s name is “Unknown.”) The original SVH cover artist, James Mathewuse, did an amazing job capturing Jonna’s likeness. (He’s still in business today, by the way – visit his website here.)

To see a video of Jonna in character as Summer Blake on the soap opera Santa Barbara, try this Facebook link.

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Jonna Leigh Stack photo from Red Lemonade; book covers from Goodreads

Annie Whitman: It’s already known that star actress Courteney Cox appeared on multiple young adult book covers over the years, including in color photographs taken for the cover of romance series like Sweet Dreams. There are many, many examples out there & I’ve shown a few below. The belief that Courteney modeled for Annie Whitman’s initial appearance on the cover of Wrong Kind of Girl is one I have heard given as a certainty over the years, but have never heard or seen the actress speaking on the matter. But I absolutely believe it myself, especially when you compare Annie’s hair with Courteney’s hair on the cover of other YA books and with her appearance in the Bruce Springsteen video “Dancing in the Dark.”

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Jonna makin’ Courteney cry

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Courteney Cox book cover photos from Brin’s Book Blog

(Thanks to Brin’s Book Blog for the above photos of some of Courteney’s other books.)

Lila Fowler: One of my readers once commented that Lila’s early covers look just like a young Jennifer Connelly, the gorgeous brunette movie actress. I hadn’t thought of that before, but since then, I can’t unsee it and can’t believe I didn’t realize this before. I think that’s definitely her. We do know that the future movie star modeled for plenty of covers with color photographs, including Sweet Dreams, etc. In fact, a couple of years ago Jimmy Kimmel brought her on his show and got her reaction to some of those covers. There was no mention of Sweet Valley High, but I’m convinced. I really hope Jennifer mentions SVH some day because Lila is an iconic character.

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Jonna and Jennifer face off!

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Jennifer Connelly book cover photos from Brin’s Book Blog (Note that the first book is authored by a “Lila” … coincidence? LOL)

Joelle Carter: This actress starred as Ava on the crime drama Justified, which was a favorite of mine. I noticed that Joelle bears a striking resemblance to one of the portraits on the cover of Sweet Valley Saga: The Patmans of Sweet Valley (which I haven’t gotten to yet), and she did indeed model as a teenager, so I think I got one!

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Ava Crowder, is that you?

There have been others I’ve noticed but am really not sure of. For example, I think early paintings of Bruce Patman kind of look like Patrick Muldoon, but I could also see where maybe it’s just a model with a strong resemblance. Dana Larson on the cover of In Love with a Prince reminds me of a young Katherine Heigl, who did model as a teenager, but it’s another big “if.” Finally, Dee Dee on the cover of Too Much in Love reminds me of pre-Married … with Children Amanda Bearse, but Amanda was already a movie actress around the time the portrait would’ve been done, so I’m not sure how many book covers she would’ve been doing at that point.

Various other people have been identified as modeling for things here and there beyond SVH; e.g., actress Amanda Seyfried did some cover photographs for some other Francine Pascal books in her pre-Mean Girls days. When the SVH series was (briefly) re-released in 2008, TV and movie actress Levin Ramblin (The Hunger Games, One Tree Hill, soap operas) appeared as the new cover model for everyone’s favorite annoying twins.

Back when SVH still used painted artwork for their covers, it seems that typically, a photo would be taken of the model(s) and the cover artist would then paint the cover off of that. Jennifer Connelly and others have noted that the photographers would tell the models a little bit about the story so that the models can try to get in character. In later years, Bantam seemed to favor more action shots on their cover rather than portraits, so that may be why they started using other cover artists beyond James Mathewuse. Although, if you look at Jimmy’s web page, he’s painted plenty of lovely action shots (Nancy Drew Case Files, anyone)? I have to say, I really miss beautiful book cover art!

Got any more SVH cover model tips? Let’s hear them. 🙂

Hoo boy, a lot has changed worldwide since my last entry. I hope all of my readers are hanging in there and doing okay. After that godawful cheerleader trilogy, I was seriously considering just throwing in the towel. I was that over it. Then I realized that we could all certainly use some silly cheer these days, so who am I to do such a thing? So, I’m eagerly (I guess) devouring the next book in our scheduled line-up … a Super Thriller … MURDER IN PARADISE! So if you’ve been desperately seeking some type of diversion to help you avoid thinking about more stressful topics for just a minute or two, then I hope this blog can deliver. Stay tuned … ’cause to paraphrase Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day, “Watch out for that next book, it’s a doozy!”

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Oh happy day! We’re at the last book in the Sweet Valley Cheerleading Madness mini-series. By the time we get to the end of nearly any mini-series, I’m more than ready to move on. There’s certainly no exception to that rule with this book.

Time to examine our cover:

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Fancy

We’ve got our combined squad competing in front of a golden curtain. Their formations don’t seem to match up right, but what the F do I know. I also don’t know if that’s supposed to be Heather or Jessica leading the squad .. or who all these other girls are. This time my guesses are: Left group, top: Jade; left group, bottom, from L-R: Lila, Amy, Patty, right group top: Sandy; right group bottom, from L-R: Liz, Annie, Jean. Truthfully, I don’t freakin’ know. The girl in the middle on the left looks like old-school cover art Liz, but she also looks far too exuberant. There are more girls in the back of these groups of course, either that or some of these girls have extra legs. P.S. Take a good look at Patty in the picture, because they completely obliterated her face. I mean, that is fucked. Why the hell can’t y’all treat Patty right?

This book opens with the combined, regionals-winning SVH squad in Santa Barbara at the state-level competition, waiting to hear who won states. My, that was quick. Both twins are alive, so they didn’t murder each other yet, sadly. In third place, we have Sacramento High, in second place, Laguna High, and the state champions:  Sweet Valley! That’s right, in the span of a week or two, you can form a scrappy cheerleading squad and take them all the way to the top in one of the biggest states in the U.S. The girls erupt in celebration, but then Heather elbows past Jessica to take the mic and accept the award. She calls the squad “my squad” even though of course it’s Jessica’s too. Jessica then goes up to make her own speech as co-captain, but she’s drowned out by the crowd chanting to see Heather’s prize winning combo jump, which Heather happily executes. Jessica does what she does best, and flounces off the field in a rage. Some of the SVH cheerleaders hoist Heather on their shoulders and carries her off the field, while the rest look for Jess so they can lift her up as well. But Jessica is off pouting under a tree in the parking lot and giving us a recap of what happened in the last book, so the cheerleaders mistake Liz for Jess (OF COURSE) and hoist her on their shoulders singing “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Liz feebly tries to correct them, then gives up and pretends to be embarrassed. Fuck off with your false modesty. Jessica comes back on the field to witness the end of this and yells at Liz for stealing her boyfriend AND her glory, then she stomps off again. Ugh, I’m in for a couple hundred pages of this bullshit, aren’t I?

We learn that the twins are not speaking to one another, and they are still apart from their boys. Whereas in the last book, Jessica thought Ken was seeing Liz behind her back because he still loved her, she now understands how Liz’s date with Ken went down – that Liz tricked him and he didn’t know it wasn’t Jess until he kissed her. But she still hasn’t forgiven him because she thinks Ken should’ve known off the bat that Liz wasn’t Jessica. I mean, I don’t disagree, Ken can’t tell them apart for shit at this point. It’s like he just grabs whatever twin he sees and hopes it’s the right one. I don’t blame Jessica for being pissed about that when she already knows she’s Ken’s sloppy seconds at this point (or sloppy thirds really – remember Terri?). I do still wonder how Jessica got home in the last book after she took off running into the woods. My guess is that Ken tracked her down and drove her home while explaining what really happened, but she still wouldn’t forgive him.

Monday morning arrives and the Wakefield parents are at the breakfast table with Liz, plying her with a delicious home-cooked breakfast and asking her to tell them all about the state victory, since I guess they didn’t come watch their own daughters compete. Ned Wakefield remarks on what a great achievement this is for SVH to have finally won a state cheerleading championship. Liz mocks him: “Winning the Nobel Peace Prize, that’s an achievement. Being awarded the Purple Heart for bravery, that’s an achievement. Winning a Pulitzer Prize, that’s an achievement. Cheerleading? That’s stupid.” WOW, um …

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…you aren’t ever getting a Pulitzer Prize Liz so you might as well “settle” for cheerleading!

Of course Liz feels bad for making these comments and her parents mildly admonish her, or well, her mom does. Then they immediately forgive her because I guess they understand Liz has fucked up everything and is having a hard time with the consequences of her being a fuck-up. Liz rushes off to school with her mom driving, because Jessica has started leaving for school without her, and I guess their parents don’t care about that either.

At school, Mr. Collins asks Liz to write up a last-minute article about the cheerleading state championship win, because Olivia is sick and Jon Pfeifer the wannabe rapist is covering the tennis championships (what tennis championships? haha, nobody cares about those), and Mr. Collins is a lazy fool who didn’t assign anyone to actually go to the cheer event previously because I guess he didn’t think they would win or something. I don’t fucking know. Mr. Collins is excited that Liz will have “insider information”, but Liz resents having to write the article, and ends up being late for cheerleading practice while she struggles through her crappy write-up. She asks Penny to add some “spice” to her draft while she dashes off to practice. I don’t get it, if she hates cheerleading so much, why doesn’t she just fucking quit now? At this point in the story, the book tells us that Jessica still has Liz “over a barrel” by blackmailing her, so she can’t quit. What in the fuckety fuck? Todd already knows! The secret’s ALREADY OUT! Are we supposed to think this is about the rest of the school finding out? Wouldn’t they also already know? Editors, hello?!

Anyway! Liz shows up for her stupid fucking practice an hour late and the rest of the girls are just sitting on the floor in a circle. Jessica makes a big deal out of Liz’s tardiness and acts like they’ve just been sitting there waiting for her, but as it turns out, Heather and Jessica have been arguing the whole time. I wish these bitches would go play on the freeway at rush hour because this mess is getting older than an Egyptian pyramid. There’s some mildly interesting drama when Heather sees her old high school’s name on the list of teams competing at nationals – Thomas Jefferson High School in Reno, Nevada. She’s obviously super disturbed by it.

After practice that day, everyone goes to the Dairi Burger for burgers and shakes (there goes that no-fat diet Heather tried to make everyone do). There’s a stupid moment where Liz, Jess, Ken, and Todd all show up at the same time and all play music tables with the last four open tables as they try not to sit together, ending up in each one taking a separate table by themselves. I guess I’m supposed to be amused by this. Then Heather, Annie, Lila, and Amy show up and sit with Jessica. The girls order fries to go around and Heather still has her usual Diet Coke with a slice of lemon and a straw. In all seriousness, this is making me crave a Diet Coke with a slice of lemon in it … why, I don’t know, haha. Heather gets flustered when Jessica starts talking about Heather’s old high school and her amazing success as a cheerleader there. She gets up, throws cash on the table, and leaves without finishing her drink. Gee, maybe she lied about all that shit and y’all just bought it? It wouldn’t be the first lying new girl in these books.

Liz goes into Jessica’s room to explain what happened with Ken on the infamous Liz-playing-Jessica date (even though Jessica was just telling us what happened. Was she supposed to not already know?) and beg Jessica to forgive her. Jessica refuses and Liz cries, then gets mad and leaves. Later on, Liz approaches Todd and he has the same reaction as Jessica. He tells Liz she isn’t who he thought she was and Liz is deeply wounded. This seems like a scene I’ve read many times before. Why are these two supposed to be such an iconic couple, again? We get a look into Todd’s inner thoughts and learn he forgave Liz for fucking around with Luke the Wannabe Werewolf because Todd was also getting some on the side at the same time. Oh, that’s how this works. So Todd must’ve forgiven Liz for Bruce because of his own fling with Jessica (which is way worse than Liz & Ken, but that’s ancient history now). This would be an opportune time for Jeffrey French to pop up and go, “Hey, she cheated with me, too” (see Elizabeth’s Secret Diary) but I think we’re supposed to forget that happened. Ken later comes up to Jessica and tries to get her to forgive him, too, but she barely speaks to him. Also, Ken and Liz are now saying what they had meant “nothing” which is quite the little 180.

The cheerleading squad is now doing practices twice a day and there’s plenty of boring arguing. Jessica and Heather can’t agree on which cheers to do, and then they fight about which uniform they should wear. Jessica has some uniform samples she ordered, which are described as skirts with red catsuits under them. Heather has skimpier, glittery red 2-piece outfits like the ones you see on the cover. In each case, they take a vote and Heather’s wishes win out, and of course Jessica stomps out of the gym when she doesn’t get her way with the uniforms. Somebody needs a little time-out!

Time for a pep rally to send off the cheerleading squad to nationals! Yay! It takes up a whole chapter and is absolutely not worth all those pages. Chrome Dome gives a boring speech, and then Ken gives a speech and presents roses for the cheerleading squad from the football team. Then Heather and Jessica compete with each other to give the best co-captain speech. The national championship competition, by the way, is being held in “Yosemite.” Uh, like the national park? It’s close enough that the squad just rides the bus (which they have decorated) up there. They don’t have any chaperones by the way. As the school sends the cheerleaders off in style, Todd and Ken stare sadly at their respective favorite twins and think of how they wish they could get their girls back. I need to interject that we aren’t that far in this book yet and I’m already quite bored.

Now for some Saved by the Bell-style shit. As the crowd piles back into the school post-bus send-off, Ken gets pushed up against Todd. Todd loses his shit as is typical for him, and shoves Ken. Ken shoves him back, then Todd throws a Todd-punch but Ken dodges, then repeat for Ken! Now they’re squaring off and doing some kind of MMA-style dance-around preparing to throw more blows! Then Mr. Collins and a bunch of football players break it up and hold them apart. Just then, Bruce shows up and taunts them for fighting over the Wakefield twins, who he says are not worth it (correct!), and both Ken and Todd break free of the football players and tackle Bruce to the ground and that part is pretty funny. Ken and Todd are brought to Chrome Dome’s office, where he lectures them on how the penalty for fighting at SVH is expulsion. Hah, like fuck is anybody ever getting expelled in this place. Sure enough, Chrome Dome is like, “Well, since you two have excellent records …” and by that I’m sure he means their sports score records. The boys each get a week of detention for fighting.

Ken and Todd leave the office and start mocking Chrome Dome and it’s mildly funny. Then they get the bright idea to take a road trip to Yosemite to track down the girls and win them back, because I guess they can’t wait a couple days. I really want to put this book away.

At this point I’m also confused about the timeline. We learn the competition is taking place over a three day weekend, from Saturday to Monday. The pep rally happens in the “afternoon” on a Friday. We’re told the bus ride from Sweet Valley to Yosemite takes six hours and they get no pit stops (gee, hope they have a bathroom on board). The bus leaves right before Ken and Todd have their fight, and the boys exit their talk with Chrome Dome at 3 PM and take off for Yosemite at 4. So if we assume the bus left around 3, the girls should’ve gotten to Yosemite at about 9 PM. But it’s still light out & day time when they arrive and there are all sorts of assemblies, dinner and other activities happening that Friday before they tuck in. What?

The SVH team arrives at Yosemite after their harmony joy bus ride, and Heather pisses off Jessica by acting like a drill sergeant to get everyone and their stuff off the bus. Jessica eagerly wonders aloud, “Do you think she’s going to strip search us?” I really think Bantam Books missed their chance at providing us with a cute hate-to-love story for Heather and Jessica. Then the Reno girls from Heather’s old squad walk by and Heather is not eager to talk to them. Yes, yes, we know, there’s some kind of big secret!

The Sweet Valley girls find their cabin and it turns out they have to share a cabin with the state-winning squad from Braselton, Alabama. There’s “a big freckle-faced southern girl” named Peggy May and a blonde named Wilhemina and they make sure to have them say “y’all” a lot. This book is going to be awful all around, isn’t it? Liz is setting up her bunk when a framed photo of Todd she had in her bag from previous trips falls out. Wilhemina pops up to ask if that’s her boyfriend because “he sure is cute” and Liz sadly says that he used to be, and puts the picture away. The girls decorate the cabin and go to an assembly where some lady tells them that the competition will take place in thirds starting tomorrow (Saturday), with multiple routines a day and the winner determined by the highest score total. Everyone acts like they never heard this before and had no idea what would be required of them at this competition until now. Then they go to the dining hall where the captain of the Reno squad, Marissa James, slinks up and introduces herself as Heather’s old teammate. Heather makes excuses and leaves the table early. She goes back to the cabin by herself and decides to go to bed early so the other girls can’t ask her questions about Marissa or the Reno squad. But when she pulls back her bed covers, there’s an ominous looking envelope with her name on it. Inside is a newspaper article about how Heather was kicked off the Reno squad for a “serious cheating incident.” Heather crumples the article up before we can read the rest of it. There’s also a note from Marissa ordering Heather to meet her outside at 10 PM that night.

Stupid Todd and stupid Ken are on their way on their stupid road trip in Todd’s “shiny black BMW.” Why do these books always make sure to call it “shiny”? Are there matte black BMWs? They load up on snacks and gas and we get some dumb bro-bonding moments. Then they pass Winston hauling a bunch of groceries back home for his mom and invite him to come with them. Winston says he can’t because his mom is expecting her groceries back and he has to do a bunch of other chores, but Todd and Ken have him get in the car anyway. Then they eat up the groceries on their way to Yosemite & I guess Winston’s fam is going hungry for the night and also calling the police to see why their son went missing.

Saturday arrives; let the competition begin! Heather and Jessica are arguing as usual. This time it’s about which routine they should do for the first round. Heather wins out, which she always does by the way, and then Heather totally fucks up the final part of the routine and humiliates everyone. Gee, I wonder if she did that on purpose because Marissa is blackmailing her. Jessica suggests they boot Heather off the squad, but Liz interrupts and gives an impassioned speech about teamwork and what cheerleading is all about, bla bla. What the fuck do you care, Liz? Aren’t you the one always bitching about how sexist and lame cheerleading is? Liz shames the girls enough that they override Jessica and decide to keep Heather on. Then when they do the second routine, Heather fucks up their pyramid and everyone falls to the ground. Heather runs off crying.

The boys spend Friday night in “lumpy beds” at the Red Wood Motel, wherever the hell that is, and then head on over to the cheerleading compound on Saturday morning. They’re greeted by a “No Boys Allowed” sign and two burly security guards who confirm boys aren’t allowed at a girls’ competition because they just mess everything up. Is this really fucking happening? So these books have no idea that male cheerleaders do exist. And this place refuses to let in any male family members to watch the competition or what? The boys try to pass themselves off as reporters who forgot their press passes, but for once in their lives, someone doesn’t buy these teenagers’ act and they are told to leave. As they drive back to Sweet Valley, they suddenly get the bright idea to dress in drag as cheerleaders and come back. I’m not making any of this shit up. Just wait.

Following Heather’s latest flub, the SVH squad is now ranked 48 out of 50. With Heather off crying in the cabin again, Jessica calls an emergency practice. Liz takes off to get the squad’s routine book. Jessica takes advantage of her absence to once again propose to the rest of the girls that they boot Heather from the squad. This time they all vote yes and Jess goes to the cabin to tell a distraught Heather she’s off the squad. Heather essentially says that she won’t argue. Meanwhile, Liz goes back to the field where the other cheerleaders are, catches wind of this development, and gets back up on her high fucking horse again. She bitches at Jessica in the cafeteria line that night. The next morning, Jessica takes the squad on an impromptu jog to “get in shape” for that day’s competition (it’s a little late for that), while Heather once again sulks in the cabin. (If she’s off the team, why is she still there?) Jessica then goes back to the cabin while Lila leads the squad through a cool-down, where she comes across Heather crying in the bathroom. They get into it and Heather is starting to explain that Marissa James blackmailed her, duh, when Liz storms into the cabin with the other girls and makes a huge deal out of Jessica holding the Heather-removal vote without everyone present, demanding that Jessica invalidate the vote and hold a new one now that Liz is here. FUCK YOU, Liz, oh my GOD I’m SO sick of her holier-than-thou attitude. Just a day or two ago Liz was talking about how “stupid” cheerleading was, now she’s here telling everyone how to run the team. Anyway, Heather gives the whole squad the sob story about how, back in Reno, she was indeed the championship-winning cheer captain. She paid more attention to cheer than to her grades, and her math grade got low enough to potentially get her kicked off the squad. So she cheated on a math test (and helped others cheat), then she got caught and got kicked off anyway. Marissa has always been her biggest rival, so now Marissa is forcing Heather to throw the national competition via blackmail. I don’t get how Marissa can have this much power over Heather with this “scandal” that was already publicized in a newspaper article and had to do with a whole other school. I guess Heather feels like her spotless reputation can’t be compromised among the SVH girls or something. But the SVH squad doesn’t even give a fourth of a fuck and they vote to let Heather back on the squad and team up to show Marissa a thing or two. Okay. I’m almost surprised Liz isn’t over here reading Heather the riot act about the evils of cheating, but these books suck at consistency.

Patty does some quick calculations and realizes that if the girls manage to place first in every round from now on, they can still place in the competition, although they are definitely out of the running to win nationals overall. The squad goes out and does indeed win first place in the first round that day. Marissa tracks Heather down and reminds her of their deal, and Heather basically tells her to go F herself and says she doesn’t care. Marissa then never makes good on her threat to expose Heather’s cheating scandal. What in fuck?

Oh yeah, back to these dumb boys. Ken, Todd and Winston shave their legs, dress in purple and yellow cheerleading outfits, put on wigs, and cake on loads of makeup. Ken does all kinds of exaggerated flirting with Todd, calling him “baby” and such while helping him remove his overdone makeup and put new makeup on. Then the “boys” show up to the competition and get in and attract all kinds of attention from girls calling them Amazons and cat-calling and whistling and shit. Uh? They garner the attention of the ACA leaders who want to know what a non-competing team is doing there and why they haven’t registered, so they say that they are visiting from Saskatchewan, Canada (but where in Saskatchewan?) and wanted to check out the U.S. nationals. They give their names as Winnie Egbert, Tilda Wilkins, and Kendra Matthews. They prance around trying to act as girlish and feminine as possible with all sorts of exaggerated high pitched voices and giggling and shit. Just kill me. I know I’m supposed to find this hilarious, but I really do not. We get it, these SVH men are just such manly men! It’s so funny when people don’t act in accordance with their gender roles!

The “boys” follow the SVH girls around and figure out what cabin they are in. That’s a good thing, because Marissa James and her squad manage to lock the SVH squad in their cabin before they are supposed to go on for their second Sunday routine (I think … I’m losing track and not caring). When the SVH girls are late for the routine, the boys go off in search of them. Meanwhile, the SVH girls stand around just figuring they are doomed before one of them has the bright idea to check the windows. The windows will not open. Isn’t this a fire hazard? Jesus. The cheerleaders then see a tiny window super high up on the wall that is in fact open, so they get to work forming a four tier pyramid to try and get Jade up there so she can scramble out. Go team go! The pyramid collapses just as Jade reaches the window. They figure it’s hopeless, and I’m just over here sipping my wine and trying to figure out how the fuck Marissa locked them in the cabin from the outside. Thankfully, the boys show up in drag and unlock the cabin. Hilarity ensues as the girls get a load of the boys’ costumes! The girls make it to the field at the last minute for their routine and win first place again. I so don’t care!

Time for the next routine! Oh no! Marissa has cut the elastic out of the girls’ uniform skirts! They debate which alternate uniforms they should wear instead and finally just wear the catsuits that go with the uniform instead. I thought the catsuits were just samples that Jessica ordered and they didn’t have enough because Heather’s uniforms won out? I also like how Marissa knew exactly which uniforms to target. Hey, SVH wins first place again! Woooo! The whole squad hugs and Heather and Jessica almost hug and it’s awk-ward!

Liz takes a lonely walk by herself in the woods to kick rocks, literally, and think about how she is sure Todd only showed up because he wants to support Ken in his quest to win back Jessica. I wish a rabid raccoon would come take a bite out of her, but no such luck. Lila and Jessica sneak away to go to a nearby ice cream parlor called the Crystal Ice Palace. Jessica talks about how she isn’t going to ever forgive Ken for what he did and that he wasted his time “coming all the way to Yosemite dressed like a transvestite.” Yes, those are the words from her mouth.

Ken and Todd, excuse me, Kendra and Tilda, try to get the twins to talk to them but then “Winnie” runs into them and they all fall down in a heap. Liz and Jessica crack the fuck up and then Liz apologizes to Jessica again for trying to hit it with her man and Jessica forgives her and all is well, at least probably until the next mini-series. The twins agree that before they forgive Ken and Todd, they have to make them really pay for what they did. What did the guys do to them though that was so bad in this instance? Todd’s main crime seems to be not insta-forgiving Liz for her own fucking mistake that she chose to make. Ken’s crime is not realizing that Liz was deliberately pretending to be Jessica so he would kiss her.

It’s time for the final routine! Marissa’s Reno squad goes on right before Sweet Valley’s so you know some shit is gonna go down. At the end of their routine, they make this big dramatic sweep of the floor with the pom-poms. Liz and Jess then take the stage for Sweet Valley and announce that before Sweet Valley begins, they want the Canadian cheerleaders everyone’s talking about to come up and do a routine first. Everyone goes apeshit. By the way, I think we’re supposed to know that by now everyone has figured out that the Canadians are actually guys in drag. I guess? I don’t care. The boys start doing this fake flouncy cheerleading routine and everyone laughs hysterically. Then they try to do some fancy moves and they slip and slide across the floor and keep falling down, and some of the wigs come off. The ACA heads come onstage and make the guys leave but nobody gets punished for letting them in. Meanwhile, the boys’ disastrous falls show the SVH squad that someone has oiled up the floor. They go get a referee and tell him they think Reno fucked with the floor and he goes and confronts them just because they said to. Then they start calling him a “guard” instead of a referee and I’m absolutely serious, this book is making me drain a whole bottle of wine. Marissa puts up a big stink and refuses to open her duffel bag and the guard, who’s now being called a referee again, is like Welp I’m gonna open it myself then and he does. There’s a whole case of open bottles of baby oil in there and I shit you not, this guard-referee-guardaree goes “Looks a little suspicious.” Yeah, just a little. He notes that there are bands around the open bottles that could connect the bottles to pom-pom handles, so I guess they had open bottles attached to their pom poms and then at the end of their routine swept the floor with the oil without anybody noticing, without managing to spill any before that moment. Marissa is trying to prattle about how they were just tanning when a nameless girl on her squad speaks up and just admits to everything. Haha, fucking narc! That chick’s getting fed to a bear later. The ACA people get notified of what happened and clean the stage and then Sweet Valley goes on and does their best job ever, oh my god! The final results are in! Sweet Valley made second this time, and Reno won this round, but wait! The ACA head lady, whose name is Zoe Balsam by the way, I just couldn’t be arsed to say it before, but she comes out and basically says, “Well, we determined Reno probably cheated so they’re kicked out of the competition and out of the ACA. Sweet Valley is now the first place winner for this round. Okay bye” Then the ACA does the tally for the entire competition. San Antonio Tigers made third place, and Sweet Valley made it to second! They grab the silver trophy and go batshit crazy and we never even hear who won first place, because nobody cares. Jessica looks at Heather and realizes Heather will always be Heather. Until she vanishes and is never mentioned again except in passing, I’m guessing.

Ken and Jessica make up, and Todd and Liz make up. Todd speeds off in his shiny black BMW with Liz in the front seat, and with Maria and Winston in the back seat, and with the pom-poms from their drag outfits flying off the back of the car. Fucking litterers. Then we cut to the squad bus where Ken has boarded with Jessica, and Maria is on that bus even though just a few sentences ago they had her riding off with Winston. I just cannot.

The twins get home and Liz informs Jessica that although she enjoyed getting the championship and apparently learning a backflip in a day, it’s not for her and she is quitting the team. Toodles bitch!

Other stuff: When Sacramento gets third place at the state championships, the audience “remains quiet”! No one claps, except Sacramento! Y’all are mean.

This book keeps describing the cheerleaders as “bouncing” everywhere. So-and-so bounced up to the stage, the girls bounced into line, etc. I have a sudden urge to go put on a sports bra.

Have the SVH colors always been red and white? I know there’s a cover with Jessica wearing a white sweater with red letters on it, but feel like I read they favor blue at one point. … Not that continuity means anything in this series.

I hate how these books try to hit us over the head about Liz’s supreme reporting capabilities. When Heather realizes Reno is going to be at nationals, she looks sick and acts weird, and we’re supposed to think that Liz noticed because of her “reporter’s nose” as opposed to the fact it was obvious to anyone paying even a modicum of attention. Also, I think by “reporter’s nose” they mean that Liz is nosy as fuck and they are just looking for a way to excuse that shit because we have to believe that Liz is the most upstanding person.

On Sunday morning at the competition, Jessica tells Heather she flubbed up “today” but that was in fact yesterday (Saturday).

We learn Annie Whitman is Heather’s biggest fan.

Heather calls the twins “the Bobbsey Twins.”

The SVH squad performs some kind of 70s routine while wearing red and white checkered hip hugger skirts.

Lila buys the squad fancy uniforms with red and white lace on them.

Heather has custom-made cheerleading sneakers.

There’s a squad from “Riverdale” and they perform a 50s sock hop routine. Is this an Archie comics reference?

The Alabama squad places fifth overall.

Speaking of Alabama – I have no idea why they felt it necessary to insert those characters. The SVH squad has a total of 12 members, yet they have to share a cabin. That must be one big ass cabin. Then again, the only Alabama squad members they ever mention by name are Wilhemina and Peggy May. Most of the time it’s like those are in fact the only two people on the squad.

Gold quote: Heather: “Contrary to what you may believe, the world doesn’t revolve around you.” Jessica: “It doesn’t? What do you mean?”

Heather: “‘Now I hate myself, probably more than all of you hate me now.’ ‘Why, Heather, that would be impossible,’ Jessica started to say [before being interrupted].”

In the back of the book: The usual ads, nothing new or exciting.

Coming up next: We get a break from all these mini-series with a brand new, stand-alone Super Thriller. Or at least I assume it’s “stand-alone” because you never can tell anymore.

#113 The Pom-Pom Wars

Welcome to the second entry in the Sweet Valley Cheerleading Madness mini-series. So far, this storyline isn’t as bad as I was expecting, fun at times even, but make no mistake – it’s not great. After that stupid Jeremy/Sue finale I’ll take almost anything different. Also, there are a lot of typos and continuity errors in this one so you might wanna grab your popcorn before you read this post because you know I’m going to over-analyze each one.

Let’s get a quick glance at the cover. I’m going to talk about who I think all these cheerleaders are after we get through our story recap because otherwise, I’m going to spoil shit early (if anyone cares, lol).

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Let me start off the plot by saying, again, that the continuity is abysmal in this one. In a series that occasionally re-introduces characters who “moved away” eons ago, this should not be surprising, but lord have mercy, what the fuck is going on? A brief recap of the end of the last book: Jessica quit the cheerleading squad and stormed off the football field at the Saturday night game after new co-captain Heather Mallone and the other cheerleaders debuted a brand new cheer they must have been practicing behind J’s back, because she’d never seen it before and couldn’t join in. Ken later came by to take a despondent Jess out for ice cream and tried to convince her to come to Lila’s post-game party, but Jessica refused. Then Jessica took advantage of Liz’s absence (b/c Liz did go to the party, even though she’s always talking about how she doesn’t like Lila) to go home and read Liz’s diary about her and Ken gettin’ it on back in the day.

So in this book, the story starts out on that same night, only this time the party is an “impromptu” party at Winston’s, not a planned one at Lila’s, and Ken is at the party acting like he hasn’t seen Jessica and doesn’t know if she’s coming to the party or not. He comes up to Liz to ask her if she was able to convince Jessica to come over, even though in the last book Liz went straight to Lila’s party after the game. Liz is hanging around by the snack table bitching about Heather with everyone, and when Ken tries to talk to her she gets all flustered at the mere sight of him and has to hang on to her tortilla chips for dear life. The book just started and I’m already wishing she would drown herself in the salsa bowl.

Also on the “We Hate Heather” team at the party: Todd, Enid (she lives!), and former cheerleaders Maria Santelli and Sandy Bacon, who you’ll recall Heather recently kicked off the squad. Maria and Sandy are bitching about the horrible diet Heather made them do before they were let go, which doesn’t make any sense because Heather didn’t introduce that shit until AFTER she kicked them off the squad.

In other fun continuity news, Heather’s squad is now just 4 cheerleaders: herself, Annie Whitman, Amy Sutton, and Jean West. The ghostwriters realized Helen Bradley shouldn’t have just mysteriously reappeared in the first book in the mini-series when she moved away several dozen books ago, so for the second book, she’s re-disappeared without a word of explanation. My assumption is that Heather killed her off. Now we’re supposed to think a 4-person team can make it all the way to nationals and win. Like I said last post, I know very little about cheerleading, but I’m pretty sure you have to have more people than four to do the types of stunts and moves that will get you a championship. I will from time to time come across a major cheerleading competition on TV, and the squads usually have loads of people (men and women, actually) and are doing all kinds of crazy formations and jump combos that you can’t do with just four people. Whatever!

Ken suddenly gets a great idea and leaves Winston’s party to talk to Jess about it. He encourages her to form her own separate cheerleading squad so she can keep doing what she loves. (Jessica, by the way, doesn’t let on that she now knows all about his past relationship with Liz.) Jess decides that’s a great idea; when she shares it with the fam at breakfast the next morning (including big brother Steven – he’s finally home again for a weekend from college, unfortunately), her parents love the idea. Steven rags on her, and Liz acts like it’s the worst idea she’s ever heard because girls should be playing sports themselves instead of “sitting” and cheering on the men. Never mind that the SVH cheerleaders also cheer at the womens’ games, and they are doing all sorts of gymnastics stunts. Man, fuck you Liz, you haughty ass bitch. It’s a wonder Liz makes these comments while having the gall to call people like Lila Fowler snobby. God, I just can’t stand a fucking hypocrite. Anyway, Liz is super jealous about Jessica dating Ken still, so her bitchiness has extra spice. Jessica now knows what her problem is and she delights in rubbing it in. LOL. These twins are the worst to each other.

Jessica has spent some time thinking about how she can’t believe what a “cheater” her sister is for seeing Ken behind Todd’s back. I’ve said this shit before but 1) Liz wasn’t cheating on Todd unless we go back and revise the entire timeline. THEY BROKE UP. I know the whole Secret Diary editions thrive on retconning and all that but even those books are supposed to line up with the original books during which Liz and Todd had in fact broken up and Liz was single and trying to move on. Even Liz was going back and forth on whether she was single, or Todd’s girlfriend in the Diary edition. Now, we need some fresh drama so apparently, her seeing Ken was “cheating.” And 2) Jessica saying she’s surprised Liz would cheat is some serious retconning in itself. I mean, pretty much every damn mini-series post-Jungle Prom aftermath has included a storyline about Liz cheating! Hello, this girl gets around! Get some new plot ideas already!

Amy calls Jessica up to crow that an American Cheerleading Association scout was at the last game and wants Heather’s squad to enter regionals, and hints that Jessica could re-join the squad if she told Heather she was sorry. Jessica hangs up on her. She then goes to school and starts looking for gymnasts and dancers to recruit for her new squad. She gets Sandy, Maria, and Lila to agree to join her (although Lila needs a little more encouragement than the others because she thought cheerleading was boring the last time she did it). Next, they approach Patty Gilbert and Jade Wu, because they’re dancers. (Both girls were also featured on the cover of previous SVH books, but I don’t blame you if you don’t remember those.) Jessica also bugs Liz to join because she’s “athletic” and she thinks a cheerleading team with twins would be a big hit. Liz refuses to come down from her high horse and makes sure Jessica knows that she’s disgusted by the very idea. Then Lila bets Jessica that she can’t get Liz to join the cheerleading team; whichever girl turns out to be right about Liz has to purchase cheerleading uniforms for everyone. Word spreads like wildfire around the school that Jessica will be holding tryouts for a new team, and loads of girls show interest and sign up. Suddenly, a bunch of also-ran characters from dozens of books back reappear! (More about them later.)

Liz continues to sulk about Ken and Jessica and not deal with her feelings. She has stupid dreams about cheerleading and having to rate Todd’s and Ken’s kisses. It turns out Ken is the better kisser. Liz no longer feels any passion for Todd and thinks about Ken constantly. She almost tells Enid about her problem, but chickens out at the last second. Liz seethes with jealousy when she hears Ken and Jessica have gone on a date to a “secret beach” that Ken knows about. Liz is sure it’s the same one that Ken once took her to and I guess she was thinking it would remain their special beach for life. Go drink a glass of arsenic, Liz. (Jessica asks Ken if he’s ever brought anyone else to that beach, but he says he never did, not even his former long-term girlfriend Terri Adams. So is he lying or does he know of a second secret beach?) When Jessica gets home from this date, she rubs it in that she was making passionate PG-rated love to Ken on a beach blanket. She also lies and tells Liz that Ken said she was probably too bookwormy to try out for cheerleading. Liz is so stupid that she just believes he said that and gets super pissed off.

Finally, Jessica gleefully confronts Liz with the knowledge that she knows about Liz’s “affair” with Ken, and uses it to blackmail her into joining the new cheerleading squad. In this instance, I do like Jessica’s brand of bitchery, but mainly because I’m tired of reading about Liz moping about Ken after all this damned time just because he’s dating her sister. I mean, she sure didn’t mind when he moved on with Terri, but that’s because this retconned shit makes no real sense. With Liz now reluctantly on the team, Jessica has now won her bet with Lila and Lila has to buy the uniforms for everyone. Jessica makes Liz talk to Lila on the phone to deliver this news.

Oh yeah, after Ken and Jessica’s beach blanket make-out session, they run into Heather at the Dairi Burger. Jessica makes a big deal out of telling Heather good luck at regionals, catching her off guard.

Jessica starts a week of cheerleading tryouts at 6 AM on a Monday morning. Despite her previous disdain for any type of diet, Jessica is now all about it. Breakfast consists of homemade yogurt / banana / strawberry / orange juice / protein powder smoothies and buttermilk bran muffins with apples and raisins. Liz tries the smoothie and won’t admit that she likes it. Haha, choke on the bitter smoothie of your own jealousy and regret, Liz. Let the tryouts begin! The girls learn some moves from Jessica and then practice them with varying levels of aptitude. Liz finds she doesn’t hate cheerleading as much as she thought. But Jessica’s patience goes on a downward spiral because I guess she thought someone can just learn a backflip in an hour and she’s mad they aren’t getting all the moves right fast enough. She asks the prospective cheerleaders to practice their herkies and they all stare at her blankly because they don’t know what a herky is. (Me either, I had to Google that shit) Jessica is outraged no one bothered to study up on basic cheerleading moves before trying out for cheerleading; she throws her pom-poms down and storms off the field like a child. Everyone starts to gather their stuff and leave. Liz then saves the day (of course) by giving them a speech about how Jessica has a lot on her shoulders with this effort and it’s clearly just bothering her. Everyone agrees to come back and start anew the next day while Liz thinks about what Jessica owes her for this. I’ve definitely lost track of what the twins owe each other at this point. Once Liz sets things up so that Jessica gets wasted and accidentally kills one of Liz’s boy toys, I think they’ll be about even.

After throwing her little temper tantrum, Jessica runs into Ken who encourages her to try visualization techniques with her new squad hopefuls, like he does for football, and maybe that will get them to improve quickly. She agrees to give it a try and orders a visualization tape from a cheerleading supply company to make the prospects watch later that week.

At lunch later that day, Enid and Todd are in complete shock that Liz is actually trying out for the cheerleading squad, and she acts like it’s just something she wanted to do. Heather confronts Jessica in the lunch line about how her side-squad plan is guaranteed to fail since they aren’t even official or anything and SVH can only have one squad. Jessica and Ken flounce off.

On Tuesday, Jessica goes and sits with Amy, Jean, and Annie at lunch, but they say they can’t be seen talking to her or their cult-leader Heather will get mad, and they pack up their stuff and leave Jessica sitting by herself. Penny Ayala asks Liz to write an Oracle story on the cheerleading tryouts despite Liz’s obvious bias, so Liz does the world’s briefest and shittiest interview with Heather and no new insights are gained. YAWN, put away that fake reporter’s disguise already, Liz. On Tuesday night, Todd takes Liz parking at Miller’s Point; she makes out with him pretending he’s Ken the entire time. As they leave, they pass Jessica and Ken coming in and we get more of Liz’s stupid inner thoughts as she imagines them dry-humping.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jessica has the cheerleader hopefuls come to her house and watch that visualization tape. The tape features the current national high school championship team demonstrating various moves. The girls watch the tape twice and the idea is they will take in the detail and imagine themselves doing these moves and it will make them better. The next morning at tryouts, Lila notices it seems to have worked. The squad also does an afternoon practice and Heather’s squad is also practicing nearby and casting Jessica’s wannabe squad snarky looks. The visualization techniques didn’t really work on Liz, who is grouchy and slumping through her moves because she is upset Ken doesn’t care about her anymore. Then Ken shows up to watch tryouts and Liz is suddenly inspired to do a bunch of back handsprings and other shit that I guess just anyone can do. What? That’s right, she just up and does all these difficult moves across the field so Ken will look at her. God this shit is ridiculous. Ken and Jessica clap and praise Liz’s moves while Liz silently thinks “He was watching me, he was watching me …” Oh my god, Liz. GIRL. PLEASE get some help.

By Friday, Jessica has made her final cuts and the remaining girls are doing amazing. The final girls on Jessica’s squad are: The twins, Lila, Maria, Sandy, Jade, Patty, and Sara Eastbourne. (If you’re wondering who the hell that last one is, it’s the totally forgettable protagonist (antagonist really) from The Long-Lost Brother, but they are now spelling her last name differently.) Hooray for a squad that has some diversity for a change. (Patty is black and Jade is Chinese-American.) The new squad has a great first practice as a team, and later on, Ken comes up to congratulate Jessica on the field, but he mistakes Liz for Jess. Yeah, I call bullshit. He embraces Liz and she starts to get lost in the delightful sensation. He realizes his mistake right when he’s about to kiss Liz. Jessica witnesses this and is jealous for a little bit, wondering if Ken might still have feelings for Liz (when Liz obviously has feelings for Ken). She pushes that aside as she’s long since decided Ken truly cares for her and doesn’t have any lingering feelings for her sister.

Heather learns there is a rule that says only one squad from each school can compete for that school at regionals. I would’ve thought this was obvious, but I guess Jessica didn’t know that, because when Lila tells Jessica, she’s shocked. Jessica then decides to start harassing the American Cheerleading Association regional scout man who made the decision to invite the Sweet Valley squad, and she goes into stalker mode. She finds out where he lives (Bridgewater), calls information to get his number, then she calls him at his house to ask him if he would consider changing the rules. When he refuses, she gathers all the other cheerleaders and they pile into two cars in uniform and DRIVE TO HIS HOUSE. His wife says he went to the store, so they wait for him to roll up and then perform their latest and greatest cheerleading routine on  his lawn as he’s trying to get out of his car with his damn groceries. He admits their routine is one of the very best he’s seen, but insists that rules are rules and Heather’s squad is the one that’s going. Jessica has another one of her mini-tantrums. On the way back from his house, the girls hear on the radio that the Sweet Valley Gladiators are losing to El Carro High School. (Interesting school name … The Car High School) It’s almost halftime, so what do they do? They go to the high school and hide under the bleachers while Jessica runs up to the sound booth and gets the sound girl to switch out the tapes, because everyone does what Jessica says without much of a protest half the time. At half time, Heather’s team is preparing to go on, when Jessica’s team’s music comes on and they come running out to perform the cheer that wowed the ACA head man. The crowd goes apeshit for them while Heather stands there in disbelief that someone else is as big of a bitch as she is. Jessica’s squad manages to finish without being interrupted or getting in any trouble because nobody actually cares what she does. And, what do you know! The Gladiators are so inspired that they make a huge comeback to win the game!

Jessica’s squad triumphantly rolls into the Dairi Burger post-game where they are loudly clapped for and congratulated by everyone … well nearly everyone. But seriously most everybody is all, Your new squad is the best we’ve ever seen Jessica! We wish you were the official SVH cheerleaders! Yay! Bruce grabs Jessica and plants a kiss on her cheek right in front of Pamela (who has reappeared in this series) and I really think Pammy should watch out because she’s dating a sleazy cheating bastard, but she obviously knows that since she took Bruce back after he felt up Liz’s molars with his tongue in front of everybody, so ok. Amy is sitting in a booth sulking with Barry. She’s obviously hangry from Heather’s starvation diet because she comes over to Jessica crying and wanting to know how Jessica could do this to her and that she guesses they aren’t friends now. Oh fuck you Amy you raggedy bitch, I’ve always hated you. Regina killin’ BITCH

On Monday Jessica rolls into Principal “Chrome Dome” Cooper’s office and gives a “stirring speech” about how it’s not right that the students can’t choose which cheerleading squad gets to represent them. I mean, technically it is right, but whatever. Her speech isn’t that great, but Principal Cooper is profoundly affected and starts expounding on the merits of Jessica’s team since their little stunt magically improved the Gladiators’ performance, and sports is all that matters in this school, so he agrees with Jessica that there should be a vote. He just up and lets have her way immediately after her five sentence diatribe. This explains a lot about why Jessica gets away with everything. Chrome Dome decides the school will have a cheer-off after school the following day and then the students will vote on who gets to go to regionals. Chrome Dome makes the announcement over the loudspeaker and the school goes wild because I guess nothing else exciting is happening in this dumb town. Heather is pissed and confronts Jessica and they have a terse little discussion that lasts about five seconds.

Penny liked Liz’s article about the two cheerleading squads competing, which was called “The Pom-Pom Wars”, of course, and now she’s bugging Liz for a follow-up article and I really wish she would just shut the hell up. Then Mr. Collins asks Liz about that advice he gave her for “her friend” (in the last book) and how the friend is now doing. Liz gives him the latest, bla bla bla and he encourages her to get “her friend” to just come clean to her boyfriend about everything. Liz just never thought of that before because she’s used to being a fake ass bitch who presents herself as a candidate for sainthood while simultaneously thinking shit thoughts about everyone in her head. It never occurred to her to state how she feels openly instead of scrawling it on the page of her diary for someone to read later on. So, Liz has Enid over and tells her the truth and Enid is patting her hand probably trying to seduce her, uh I mean, she’s trying to help Liz get her courage up so she can tell Todd. She probably wants Todd to dump Liz so Enid can finally make her move because all she does in these books is wait around for Liz to remember she exists and spend time with her.

So Liz is about to tell Todd the truth at Guido’s when Ken and Jessica show up and pass by their table. Todd starts talking about what a great friend Ken is and that’s pretty much the end of Liz’s courage. Also, Todd does some babbling about how he doesn’t see what Ken sees in Jessica (of course he’s gotta say that after he cheated on Liz with Jessica. Why is Liz so worried about telling Todd about her and Ken again?!), but he knows Ken truly loves Jessica. He says Ken told him he’s only been in true love once before this. Liz automatically thinks that means her. They just had a stupid fling! What is Terri, chopped liver? God, I feel like I already know how this is gonna go down in the end and it makes me want to throw the book across the room.

The day of the cheer-off arrives! Amy tracks down Jessica to apologize for her outburst the other day and they make up. At lunch, Jessica has her cheerleaders get up on a table and do a flash mob cheer or some shit to get the crowd hyped up to vote for them later. The school just allows this. All the girls’ boyfriends are running around the crowd waving flags and hanging up banners to support the squad of their choice, and it’s got a very Power Play-element to it (when Robin was competing against Jessica for Miss Sweet Valley High and the boys were running through the crowd with banners).

The cheer-off gets underway in the gym. Following a coin toss, Jessica’s squad of 8 girls goes first. They do amazing and are sure they”ll beat Heather’s squad (which is still just 4 girls – although let me be clear, I’m the only one pointing this out. The book doesn’t give a fuck). Of course, Heather’s squad also does amazing. Principal Cooper and Coach Schultz ask everyone to vote by moving their asses to 1 of 2 sets of bleachers, each designated for a different squad. Everyone moves their asses and then they count the total asses at each bleacher set, and hey, there’s an equal number of people at each one. It’s a tie! But wait! Mr. Jenkins – that’s the ACA scout man Jessica was stalking – is there! He tells Cooper and Schultz the obvious – if the two teams merge to make one squad, then they can all enter regionals! Fuckin’ DUH. Everyone is delighted and hugging one another! They’re all going to regionals! Well, everyone except Heather and Jessica. Heather loudly proclaims she’d rather walk on hot coals than cheer with Jessica. OK great, looks like Jessica can just be the lone captain and go without Heather right? No, she turns into a baby and loudly yells that she’s not going to work with Heather either! So there! And she storms off again. Does anyone have a pacifier they can stuff down Jessica’s throat? Margo come back and fix this please.

Since Margo isn’t available to off anybody, the newly merged squad comes up with their own plan. They approach Jessica and Heather separately and tell each girl that the other has decided to go ahead and step down as co-captain, and let the remaining girl lead the way in order to get the whole squad to regionals. Are you following? The squad warns Jessica and Heather separately that the other “former captain” might be having some difficulty letting go of the role and urges each girl to just let the other girl think they can still have a say, for the sake of the whole squad. Jessica and Heather were each born yesterday so they buy it. Over the next few days, their practices for regionals are real fun as there’s lots of bitching and yelling at each other. One night, Ken shows up early for a date with Jessica, and Liz tells him how the girls fooled Heather and Jessica to get them to agree to work together and the two are not aware they are actually still co-captains. Ken agrees to keep the secret so now Liz probably is thinking about what other new secrets she can get him to keep. Yeah, you know she’s gonna try to worm her way back into that jockstrap.

The night before regionals, Jessica and Liz go to Casey’s with their respective dates to eat ice cream (again … that’s every other date lately). Liz has to watch Jess and Ken have a hot, dessert-covered make out session at their table from across the room and we get a few more pages of her being jealous. Gag yourself with an ice cream scoop, Liz. Jessica and Ken, on the other hand, are happily talking about how they came to care for each other. Jessica tries to prod Ken to see if he will admit to his fling with Liz, but all he will say is that he regrets he didn’t realize sooner that no other girl can hold a candle to Jessica.

So anyway, the new combined squad of 12 girls magically puts together the perfect routine last minute and heads for regionals, which are being held in Carver City. There’s lots of squabbling and the cheerleaders have to threaten to compete without their co-captains if H & J can’t stop acting five year olds. So, Heather and Jessica start working harder to agree to each other’s routine changes and work out their final routine while remaining oblivious.

Before everyone goes on, Ken shows up to watch Jessica, only he once again mistakes Elizabeth for Jess. He comes up behind her, wraps his arms around her and starts murmuring to her. We learn he has a musky deodorant scent. Liz loves the scent of sweat and male deo so she rolls with it and loses herself in the sensation of an Old Bay commercial. When Ken invites “Jessica” to go to their secret beach later that night, Liz keeps playing along and says okay. As Ken walks away, Heather walks up and yells at Liz to hurry and come join everyone else to watch the other teams compete. Liz doesn’t know how much Heather saw and is nervous, and I wish she’d just go ahead and piss her uniform in front of everyone.

Conveniently, SVH is the last to go on so they have the advantage of watching the other teams go first. By the time Sweet Valley is up, it’s apparent that Ramsbury High is the team to beat. The last thing I remember about Ramsbury is that they have some county fair every year that the Wakefields go to. SVH competes and wins regionals. The squad’s ruse is exposed when the announcers call both H&J up as co-captains. The girls start to argue about who’s going to go up there and once again the squad intervenes and says that either both girls stay on as co-captains and go to state, or none of them are going. The girls collect their trophy and great joy ensues. There’s nothing these twins can’t do!

Now for some Liz bitchery. When the twins get home, Liz starts to give Jessica Ken’s “message” for her – about the beach date – but instead she finds herself saying that Ken had to do something with his family and can’t hang with Jessica that night. So Jessica goes to a catered, poolside victory party at Lila’s house, complete with tasty-sounding Chinese food instead. Seriously, I haven’t had Chinese food in a while and I am ready to order some. Meanwhile, Liz goes in Jessica’s room and dresses in one of her outfits – loose slacks and a clingy top – and goes to the secret beach with Ken pretending to be Jessica. (This is the same shit Jessica pulled with Jeffrey in Jessica’s Secret Diary, only for some reason, this seems worse. I think it’s because we expect Jessica to be a sociopath, whereas Liz tries to act like she’s better than everybody when she can easily be just as conniving and selfish.)

Ken gets on the beach blanket with Liz and they start making out. It’s supposed to be a big deal for Liz because this is the first time she’s been with anyone but Todd in a long time. It wasn’t that many books ago that she cheated with Luke, and Bruce before that, but okay! This series has a selective memory and the rest of us just have to adapt (I fail). Liz is surprised she’s not into Ken’s smooches since she’s been touching herself to the thought of them for weeks, and she suddenly cares about Todd again. At the same time, Ken realizes the girl he’s kissing is Liz. He calls her on her bullshittery and they have a heartfelt talk. The grossest part of the conversation is that Ken says it took him a long time to get over Liz and that’s what attracted him to Jessica in the first place, that she looked like Liz and he could almost pretend she was Liz. EW. (So he was thinking about Liz the whole time he was with Terri, too?) But now, he truly loves Jessica – she’s the Wakefield for him. K & J have a good laugh and then they decide it’s finally time to tell Todd the truth about their past fling. They aren’t going to tell the truth about what happened tonight, of course! Man, I’ve never liked Liz a ton but I really dislike her as a man-stealer. She’s just insufferable lately in general.

Unfortunately for Liz, while she was getting some Ken Matthews tongue action, Heather was approaching Jessica to casually mention that she saw Liz and Ken together earlier. Jessica rushes off to call Liz, who’s not answering, and Todd, who says Liz told him she was tired and going to bed. Jessica drives home and finds Liz isn’t there, and her closet is open with an outfit missing. She realizes Liz lied to her and that she and Ken are together and starts crying.

Ken drives Liz to Todd’s so they can talk to him and they are greeted with the sight of the twins’ Jeep already there. Todd answers the door, with Jessica by his side, and she’s holding Liz’s diary. Ken tries to explain but neither Todd nor Jessica will let him finish. Liz reaches for Todd, but he slams his front door in disgust, and she runs off toward the Jeep bawling. Jessica points at Liz and tells Ken to go back to the girl he really loves. Ken tries to tell her that it’s her he loves, but she takes off into the woods or something by herself and thinks about how winning regionals has cost her the only boy she’s ever loved. (Way to shit on Sam’s memory.) She thinks Liz has gone after Ken to get back at Jessica for blackmailing her into joining the squad, because those two things are certainly equal to one another. But everyone is so irrational and extreme in these books, sure, why not.

P.S. Someone is always reading Liz’s fucking diary and causing problems … when is she going to learn to lock that shit up?

Who’s on the cover? A bit of a mystery since half of these girls seem to have the same face, but if you’re like me you’re all about figuring it out.

Obviously, the big squad of 8 girls in the background is Jessica’s squad. The two girls in the front of that group of 8 are Jess and Liz – Jess with her hair down leading the squad, Liz with her hair pulled back like she always has it, jumping into the air with glee, most likely because Ken is watching or maybe because she’s making fun of cheerleading.

For the other six girls, let’s start by admitting that we have no idea what Sara looks like or at least I sure as hell don’t remember what she looks like. (For the one book Sara starred in, Bantam put Liz on the cover instead of Sara, because of course they did.) We know what the other girls look like in general because they’ve all had at least one cover shot and have been described in detail. We know that Jade, Maria, and Sandy all have bangs. (Yeah, people could’ve changed their hair since then, so I’m just grasping at straws here.) Sandy is the only blonde besides the twins, unless Sara is also blonde, but I don’t care about Sara and I’m treating her like a wild card. Jade is Asian and has black hair, Lila is white with lighter brown hair, and Maria is white and has shorter brown hair and she is also described as being more petite (if I’m remembering correctly). Patty is black with longer dark brown hair.

So for the first group of three, on the back right (to the right of Liz): My guess is, from left to right, Lila, Sara, Maria. I’m wavering on saying the one in the middle is actually Lila because of the way she’s preening, but the face of the one on the left looks way more like Lila, especially the way they’ve been drawing her lately. That girl also has some slight highlights in her hair which Lila also has on the more recent covers, so that would make sense. The girl in the middle also has some highlights in her dark hair. Truthfully, she looks like Jean with the long, dark hair and the bangs, but Jean isn’t on this squad. But it can’t be Patty because Patty has a darker skin tone, and it can’t be Sandy or Jade because the hair color isn’t right. So I’m going with Sara.

For the second group of three on the left side, who are mostly hidden by Jess and Liz: This is especially difficult. The one on the far left, where we mostly see the arm and a tiny bit of leg, appears to have an arm with darker skin so we’ll say that’s Patty. Of course they covered her up almost completely. The other two in this group have dark hair and lighter skin. The one to the right of Patty has black hair with bangs, and since Jade has black hair with bangs let’s say that’s Jade. Man, someone took some lawn clippers to Jade’s bangs though. That leaves Sandy as the last one, but Sandy has blonde hair so I dunno. But we could argue that Sandy is partially covered by Liz so we can’t really see all of her hair, and that her hair is actually dirty blonde / darker blonde. That would make sense since her hair does look like a darker blonde on at least one of her covers. So my final line-up of the girls in the back is, left to right: Patty, Jade, Sandy, Lila, Sara, Maria.

In the front right corner of the cover, we have two girls doing an obvious spy on the twins’ squad with one of them fucking pointing for no one’s benefit. Heather and Amy are the only two blondes on Heather’s squad so that’s gotta be them. We’ll go with Heather at the top, since the hair looks more like Heather’s hair on the last cover, and say that’s Amy on the bottom and Amy grew out her hair. But that hair almost looks reddish so I’m tempted to say it’s the ghost of Helen Bradley whose body Heather buried under the bleachers after she tried to make Helen quit and she refused. Everyone else knew Helen was supposed to have moved away ages ago and thought it was just a weird time blip like Sweet Valley gets sometimes, so they aren’t missing her.

Other fun facts: Elizabeth eats a tomato, cheese and sprouts sandwich for lunch one day.

Liz’s Oracle newspaper column is back to being called “Personal Profiles” again.

In the last book Liz kept her diary under her bed. Now she keeps it in a drawer buried under a pile of old school notebooks. She should be keeping it in a locked safe.

Jessica can’t think of any words that rhyme with “beat” and Liz has to help her. FUCK

Scott Trost is referred to “Scottie Trost”

Jessica on the day of the cheer-off, in her head: Heather may be hot, but I’m volcanic. So like, explosive diarrhea?

Ken facts that Jessica has learned: His favorite ice cream flavor is mocha chip, he wants to study premed in college, he arranges his shirts by color in his dresser drawer, and he once went skinny-dipping in Secca Lake.

Here are the other high schools that made it to regionals: Whitehead Academy, Springbrook, Fort Carroll, Lawrence, Palisades, San Pedro, Ramsbury. I like that Big Mesa wasn’t good enough.

Lila’s parents had a banner made for the post-regionals party with a “congratulations” message on one side and a “sorry you blew it” message on the other side so they could display whichever side was more appropriate post-competition.

Something else that’s bothering me: What uniforms did the combined squad wear at regionals? Remember that Heather retired the original squad’s old uniforms. Then she introduced new outfits for the five cheerleaders remaining after she kicked Sandy and Maria out. (Five including the ghost of Helen Bradley) Then Jessica had Lila order new, different uniforms for their own brand new squad of eight. So we have three different types of uniforms (old squad / Heather squad / Jessica squad), and not one style has enough uniforms to go around for all 12 girls on the combined squad. And once they combined, they had two days to get new outfits and it wasn’t ever addressed how they did that or even that they needed to. So my assumption is they competed in mismatched outfits. EXPLAIN IT PLEASE GHOSTWRITER, I’m going too deep with this shit and I can’t just sit here and let it roll okay?!

Mr. Krezenski, Jessica’s dance teacher from Miss Teen Sweet Valley, gets a mention because Sara and her best friend Amanda take dance lessons from him now. It’s not mentioned that Jessica once did as well, and Lila tells Jessica “Supposedly, he’s pretty tough” like Jessica didn’t already know that.

And finally, as promised, let’s look at all the old very minor characters that were resurrected for cheerleading tryouts:

  • Jennifer Morris: A senior member of Pi Beta Alpha introduced in Outcast. May have had a few tiny mentions in later books whenever there was a PBA meeting. Not to be confused with Jon Pfeifer’s ex-girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell.
  • Stacie Cabot: A sophomore first seen in Taking Sides when she bid on Jeffrey French at a date auction. She pledged PBA in Rosa’s Lie and got in, then was seen pledging it again many books later in Stepsisters, in another glorious continuity error.
  • Lisa Walton: A sophomore who ran against Winston for student council in Forbidden Love. Later seen pledging PBA. Are you seeing a theme yet?
  • Alicia Benson: Another sophomore first seen being bitchy in Last Chance. I think she popped up one or two times later whenever they needed some random filler.
  • Aline Montgomery: Another redhead. She was introduced in Playing with Fire as the girl Jessica caught Bruce with at Guido’s in the infamous Jessica-Bruce breakup scene. Despite this, Aline later managed to pledge PBA even though Jessica was president.
  • Leslie Decker: Introduced in Jealous Lies as a, guess what, PBA pledge. Not sure we ever saw her again until now. I think she’s a gymnast.
  • Amanda Hayes: Introduced in The Long-Lost Brother as Sara Eastborne / Eastbourne / what-the-fuck ever’s pretty best friend who got involved with Sara’s brother.
  • Danielle Alexander: Introduced in Troublemaker when she dated Bruce Patman and competed against Jessica for a lead role in a play. Hasn’t been mentioned since then that I recall. Known for being a ballet dancer.
  • April Dawson: A dirt bike racer featured on the cover of The Girl They Both Loved. First introduced in That Fatal Night as part of Terri Adams’s group of friends. Last I checked, she was dating Maria Santelli’s ex-fiance, Michael Harris.
  • Mandy Farmer: A “shapely” girl introduced all the way back in Dangerous Love as a girl who rode on Todd’s motorcycle and made Liz jealous. She later dated Winston Egbert,  but they broke up when Mandy moved away from Sweet Valley. Oh my god, I’m going to have a scar on my face from all the face palms I’ve been doing.
  • Patsy Webber: A redhead that Todd dated in ninth grade, before “settling down” with Liz. She moved to France and then came back for her introduction in Heart Breaker, in which Liz was insanely jealous and convinced Todd and Patsy still had feelings for each other (because they were acting like they were).

In the back of the book: The same old stuff. There’s a channel listing for Sweet Valley High TV series on the inside back cover but I think we’ve seen that before too.

Coming up next: Drama at the state competition, probably paired with a glass of wine for me!

#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.

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

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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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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

This is Amy Sutton (on the right):

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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?

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