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.
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:
- 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
- “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.