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

Archive for February, 2010

#27 Lovestruck

This one wasn’t so bad. I’m tired of reading about secondary characters getting helped out by Elizabeth though. In this case, it’s Ken Matthews, star quarterback for the Sweet Valley High football team. Ken is failing English, and he has one more chance to make it right by turning in a short story prior to the big football game against Palisades. Because this school places academics above sports, which is a shock, no one is going to give Ken a free pass to play in the game if he flunks the assignment. This is true even though everyone says Sweet Valley can’t possibly win against Palisades without Ken in the game, since the Palisades High quarterback (some dude named Peter Straus) is supposed to be the hottest thing on a pair of cleats. So Ken just has to write a halfway decent story to save his own butt. There’s just one problem: Ken can’t come up with anything, not even one crap sentence. In the meantime, he’s spending most of the time that he should be using to write with his latest infatuation, Suzanne Hanlon. Suzanne is snotty and full of herself, and she drags Ken around to shit like Ingmar Bergman movies and Sweet Valley High literature readings and history lectures. Suzanne convinces Ken to hide the fact that he’s a football player from her father since her dad hates how sports take over academics and is always going off about it. Um, I kind of hate that too … although I certainly don’t hate football. Suzanne’s brother Jeffrey is a sullen whiner. And Suzanne’s friends make fun of Ken for confusing Ingrid Bergman with Ingmar Bergman and not knowing anything about foreign films. Ken can’t stand most of the shit Suzanne is into, but he pretends to, and even plays a Mozart tape she gave him in the car when she is around. Of course, as soon as Suzanne isn’t in his car, he replaces the tape with the Rolling Stones. Ken is sure this precious gem of a girlfriend is going to ditch him the second she learns he’s having trouble with English.
When Liz hears that Ken is failing, she goes out of her way to help him out … like usual. She gives him a copy of a story she wrote, complete with the outline, to try to inspire Ken. But he’s been spending too much time out with Suzanne, doing stuff he hates, so he is always too tired to get anything done. In a moment of desperation, Ken winds up turning in Liz’s story with his name on it. Mr. Collins doesn’t find anything suspicious in this or recognize his prize student’s writing style, and he turns the story in to the student newspaper (The Oracle) for publication in the special centennial issue without Ken’s consent. He truly thinks it’s Ken’s paper … lord. Liz is horrified and upset, but she feels sorry for Ken and so she’s just going to let it slide until he feels like saying something. Don’t worry: Ken suddenly gets the inspiration to write, and at the last minute he replaces the copy going to print with his own “story” which is actually the truth about everything that’s happened. The whole school is horrified, and Suzanne dumps him. But Principal Chrome Dome, Coach Schultz, and Mr. Collins agree that since Ken was honest, he gets a “C” and can play in the game. And he wins the game. Suzanne is even at the game, sitting by herself since all her ass friends hate football. After the game, Suzanne forgives Ken and he’s all ready to be her man again, until she immediately starts trashing football and talking down to him like she has for the whole book. He tells her she bores him and walks away and that’s that. It’s rather funny.

The sub-plot: It’s time for the Sweet Valley Centennial picnic! Jessica is in charge of it because Bruce said it was too much for him to deal with in the last book, what with his girlfriend being held hostage and all. Of course, now that’s all over and it’s still too much for him to deal with. (Read: his girl’s back and they are doing it like rabbits, I’m sure.) At least now we know what the whole point of the Centennial committee is! Too bad there isn’t a Centennial Queen pageant for Jessica to compete in. Anyway, Jessica gets Lila to agree to help her with shit (read: do most of it), but then Lila bails on her to go shopping in New York for the weekend with her aunt. Jessica freaks out when her picnic posters show the wrong date and when she forgets to call and confirm her food order with the caterer. She winds up making a ridiculous number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and sets those out with potato chips, and then hides in a bush because she’s sure everyone thinks she’s an ass. But then Bruce drags her on stage, interrupts The Droids’ set, and explains to the whole crowd that Jessica did that to save the Committee more money so that they have more to donate to … something. The crowd goes wild and Jessica’s ass is saved.

WTF: There are some typos in this book. At one point, Elizabeth laughs to herself about how Jessica can be furious with someone one minute, and then suddenly do a 180 and be “unforgiving” when she decides she wants something from the person. Try again, editors.
The centennial might be celebrating Sweet Valley’s hundred years, but it appears to be solely for high schoolers.
This is the third regular book in a row where Elizabeth meddles in someone’s business. Unfortunately, the next regular book is too. Ugggh.
Ken uses a typewriter to write his story.
It’s interesting that Suzanne doesn’t know about Ken failing English, since it’s all the rest of the school can talk about at the time. At my high school, no one gave a crap about other people’s grades.
Here’s all of the random secondary characters that we’ve never heard of before who appear in this book: Scott Trost (sophomore, and receiver on the football team), Allan Partridge and his girlfriend Meg Winters (seniors at SVH and Suzanne’s friends), Paul Larchesi (SVH drama kid), Mark Andrews (another fucking college kid, who is trying to get with Suzanne — of course! The girl selection at SVC clearly sucks), Ted Jenson (another senior who reads a stupid poem about a squirrel), and Joanie Shreeves (a goth kid, although this was before the word goth existed).

Liz is relieved that Jessica didn’t try to cook anything for the picnic after the way she poisoned everyone with those mussels. What the fuck Liz! Get over it already! Also, book 20 kind of rubbed it in that Jessica was a great cook who just fucked up that one time. So why does everyone insist on being such a huge asshole about it?
I am tired of having it drilled into my head that Liz is the best writer that ever existed on the face of the Earth. That’s the main point of this book, I think.
High school football games don’t go into overtime. If they get a tie, they get a tie. I was unaware of this.
Ken and Liz man the kissing booths at the picnic. Ken doesn’t even worry about what Suzanne will have to say about him smooching other chicks all day for money. And Liz gets worn out from kissing so many people. Should’ve put Jessica in there.
I can’t help but notice that this is the second rich Suzanne we’ve had in the series.
Writing this blog has brought me to the realization that I use the words actually and apparently way too much.
The back of the book has an ad for that free Love Letters newsletter. We are told the newsletter contains the “true facts” about Sweet Dreams series authors. “True facts” … nice redundancy.
The cover shows a totally bored and annoyed-looking Ken. He’s wearing a gold chain and he appears to be about to cry and throw a total spaz on Suzanne. Suzanne is kinda pretty, but her hair is hella ugly.
Set-up for the next book: Elizabeth sees a shy girl named Lynne Henry, whom we’ve never heard of before, standing by the stage looking longingly at The Droids and crying. And, of course Liz is going to get involved. Blaaah. But before that, the twins go to France for spring break, and I hate them.

#26 Hostage!

This book was the biggest letdown I’ve had in the whole series so far. It is the stupidest fucking Sweet Valley High story written yet. I can’t believe that I can honestly sit here and tell you that book 25 was BETTER than this piece of steaming, smelly, fresh-plopped crap. Holy shit. Did anyone actually read this sack of shit as a kid and think, “Wow! This is a really moving story!” Whereas previous “dramatic” stories like book 7, or 13, or the one where Tricia dies, are just cheesy, and lame, and typical teen drama — this one is FUCKING DUMB. This book made me seriously question my commitment to finishing the series. It also made me want to throw it across the room. It was genuinely painful to read. I couldn’t even laugh at it after a while.
As we learned at the end of the last book, Eddie Strong went to deliver groceries to the Morrow house and was met by a strange woman claiming to be Regina’s aunt … and, he SAW Regina, who’s supposed to be in Bern, Switzerland getting her ears worked on. But no one else had any idea that Regina was back in the U.S. Liz is immediately suspicious and she gets Jessica and Bruce all worked up about it. And of course nosy Liz goes to the Morrow estate, where she sees Regina looking scared just after “Aunt Claire” said she wasn’t there. Liz tries to talk to Regina, but Claire orders her upstairs and won’t let Liz come in or talk to her. Bruce points out that Regina’s parents are both only children. Liz calls the police and they check it out, find nothing out of the ordinary, and are annoyed she sent them over there, probably because they still remember bringing “Elizabeth” home from that disastrous date with Rick Andover in book 1. So the three cook up a scheme to deliver groceries to Regina’s house in Bruce’s black Porsche, and sneak a note into a fashion magazine for Regina. At least they think to hide the Porsche so no one will look and wonder what the hell a grocery store boy is doing driving that. Their letter somehow doesn’t fall out until Regina opens up the magazine. Regina responds by hiding a note in her silver compact (because as a rich kid she wouldn’t have a plastic one) and throwing it out the window for the Three Musketeers to pick up.
The twins and Bruce learn from her note that Regina was kidnapped from the airport in Switzerland and forced to fly back to Sweet Valley (yes, I KNOW) and her parents are being held in a separate location. Regina can’t leave the house on her own because Claire has threatened to have her parents killed if she does. Meanwhile, Nicholas is off in San Francisco with some friend of his named Buddy Ames, so the three little detectives get him to come back and help out, too. 

The whole stupid reason for the kidnapping is that Claire and her cronies want a microchip that the Morrows’ company has just developed. Rather than just breaking in and stealing the shit, using inside intel, or, I don’t know, getting one of the Morrows to hand it over at gunpoint, they’ve instead decided the best way to do this is kidnap Regina FROM SWITZERLAND, fly her ON A PLANE, and have her go to the Morrows’ company and ask them to give her the chip at a designated day and time. Of course, they will also have Mr. Morrow call the company and instruct them to give Regina the chip. There’s so much wrong with this storyline that I don’t even want to get into it. I’ll be going off for ten paragraphs more than usual. So now the kids just have to figure out when, exactly, this plan is to transpire, so they can interfere and hopefully get shot. The only clue they have is the phrase “Money is heaven” which Regina could just make out Claire saying on the phone. Of course what Claire really said is “Monday at seven” but no one has figured this out yet. Some detectives.
Nicholas and Liz go to spy on the Morrow estate, and see this strange dude coming down the driveway. Nicholas of course takes that opportunity to lay one on Liz so dude will just think they are out for a “romantic drive” and happened to pull over to make out right in front of someone’s house. I’m getting a migraine. Later on, Nicholas realizes the strange man is Phillip Denson, whom Mr. Morrow had arrested for stealing from the company several years ago. Now he’s out of prison, and he means BUSINESS.
Everyone spends time racking their brains to figure out how to help Regina, rather than give the note to the police and show that they now have proof Regina is in trouble. The twins and Bruce decide to go out to Phillip’s house in Fort Carroll and Liz feels guilty about skipping school. I guess it’s okay to do it in order to play a trick on DeeDee but not to help your kidnapped friend. Anyway, yeah, you read that right: they’re going to go to Phillip’s house and confront him … aaaagh I can’t stand this. Then Jessica figures out that Claire’s “Money is heaven” really means “Monday at seven” and everyone freaks out praising and congratulating her because they were all too stupid to figure that out themselves. Also, because Jessica supposedly read a lot of mystery novels and that’s why she’s so good at this. I didn’t even know Jessica read. No one in this book acts like themselves. I hate this book.
They pull off the plan about visiting Philip’s house. Jessica claims to be doing a stupid school poll, and flirts with Phillip’s son Mitch, who’s mowing the lawn with his shirt off, to get information out of him. Mitch is all nervous and insists his dad is asleep. Jess sees the Morrows inside the house and they flip out and run away from the windows. Later Jessica gets Mitch, who basically stammers and shakes all over the place whenever she talks to him, to sort of agree to go on a date with her the next Monday, just so she can show up and get Bruce to herd the Morrows out of the house while he’s distracted.
So Bruce and Jessica go to rescue the Morrows from Phillip’s house on Monday at seven while he’s supposedly out helping Claire steal the chip. The plan fails because Phillip shows up unexpectedly and pulls a gun and everyone freaks the fuck out. They get away because Mitch tackles him, and they all run to meet the others at the plant, where Liz is posing as a reporter to try and distract Claire. Claire probably thinks it’s weird that a sixteen-year-old is claiming to be a Sweet Valley News reporter. She eventually gets annoyed and pulls her own gun and everyone cries and yells while a nearby security guard goes to lock up the plant and is completely oblivious. Nicholas calls the police and they think he’s just making shit up even when he says he’s the Morrows’ son and he knows for a fact they have been captured. Then the police get a call from Mr. Morrow and are all like, “Oh okay, he just verified your story … never mind!” What kind of fucking crackpot police force is this! When the police finally fucking come, everyone gets dragged away, and the kids are hailed as “the four heroes.” Meanwhile, Regina’s mom quickly recovers, where she was practically peeing on herself with fright before, and throws a huge party. Regina is going to stay in Sweet Valley with her love, Bruce, and Elizabeth is moved by their embracing and making out in front of everyone.
Oh yeah, Regina can hear now. Woo woooo.

This book SUCKS. It’s horribly written, the plot is ridiculous even for a kid’s/teenager’s book, and the ghostwriter clearly didn’t do much research on the characters before writing it. Jessica and Bruce spend too much time bickering over stupid shit because Jessica gets insulted every time Bruce insinuates dudes are charmed by her, and it’s supposed to be cute and funny but it’s incredibly nauseating. Also, I think Jess is just still pissed about losing her hymen to Bruce or something. The book is also full of obvious lines like, “The sooner the woman [Claire] suspected what she [Liz] was going to do, the harder her job would be.” NO SHIT SHERLOCK.

The subplot doesn’t really exist; it’s just an arc about Ken failing English that seems pretty out of place. Ken fail English? Unpossible!
We also learned … that Regina is a 16-year-old junior. I’m only putting this down because I occasionally get confused and think she is a sophomore.
Jessica uses baby oil when she tans (to get more sun). Hellooooo skin cancer.
There’s also a scene where Jessica works out to an aerobics record — yes, like a record on a turntable!
The Wakefields have an extra phone line installed in this book. Jessica calls Eddie on it, while Liz calls Bruce. I remember it used to be a huge deal if you had a separate, private line in your house. But you can’t beat Bruce’s cordless phone!
Jessica claims her detective skills are better than Liz’s because she read Agatha Christie all the time as a kid while Liz read “big boring” novels. Funny, in Sweet Valley Twins, Liz reads “Amanda Howard” mysteries and shit like that while Jessica doesn’t read anything.
Nicholas makes the twins nervous by threatening to go punch Claire in the face a couple of times. I’m telling you, this guy’s a douche.

Mrs. Morrow quickly recovers from her trauma yet insists that Regina needs a week at home from school to “rest” … oookay.

Bruce and Regina reunite and see each other for the first time since Regina left Sweet Valley. It’s supposed to be amazing that they are together again. Um, isn’t Bruce loaded? Couldn’t he have just hopped a plane over to Switzerland every weekend? Or during the summer and Christmas breaks that took place since book 18?
Buddy Ames is mentioned a couple of times, but of course we never meet him and probably never will.

There’s one scene where Elizabeth takes a carton of milk out of the fridge. Then a few lines later, she pours herself a glass of juice.

I know the whole premise of this book is pretty dumb, but I just have to say … really, Regina? You went ahead and got on this plane to Sweet Valley with this woman who says she has a gun? I was flying back in 1986, and it’s not like the airports didn’t have any metal detectors or security measures! What the hell? And WHY would the woman need YOU to get the microchip when she can just force one of your parents to do it? Come on, run away screaming to security or something! What is she going to do, shoot you in the middle of the airport?
I saw the cover of this book when I was pretty little and my sister had it. I remember thinking that some big scary man had come to gag Regina with that rag and that’s how she was kidnapped. Then when I was 7, I read Christopher Pike’s Gimme a Kiss and decided that, like someone in that book, Hostage‘s baddie must have had a rag soaked in chloroform to knock her out with. Yeah … nope. Chalk this up to another cover scene that never happens in the book (see also: book 20). Also, I think what I thought was a man on the cover is supposed to be Claire, since Regina doesn’t really spend much time with Phillip. We don’t have to worry about the chest looking manly because we already know that no one in Sweet Valley actually has boobs except that hobag Annie Whitman.
The back of the book has the same old mail-in order forms as usual, and then funnily enough there’s one encouraging you to buy Bantam versions of Wuthering Heights, Little Women, and Jane Eyre. The ad is headlined, “Stories of Love That Will Live Forever.” It’s interesting to see these books advertised in a Sweet Valley High novel.
Next up … we’ll find out what happens between Ken and his new girlfriend, Suzanne Hanlon, who wants to change him. I for one don’t care so much. Ken has always struck me as the stereotypical dumb jock, and Suzanne is a character that’s barely been mentioned before.  We’ve been told she is a PBA member, and she’s wealthy and into things like poetry and classical music. Because only rich people like that crap.

Sweet Valley High: The 2008 Series

As I’m sure anyone reading this is aware, Random House re-started the Sweet Valley High series in 2008, revising and repackaging the series for today’s teenage reading pleasure. Unfortunately (or maybe that’s fortunately), the series was canceled after the first six books. My friend Leah was sweet enough to pick up copies of 3, 4, and 5 for me several months ago, and I’ve just now ordered the new 1, 2, and 6 off Amazon! So stay tuned … because I will be reviewing these as well (mainly the differences). I already know they will change the twins’ size from a 6 to 4 and introduce cell phones and email … but what new outfits will replace the previous 80s-tastic ones? Will the storylines change at all? We’re going to find out!

#25 Nowhere to Run

We’re at the 25th book in the series, which seems like it should be monumental. Instead, I was bored almost to tears. The ghostwriter of this particular book has a clean, crisp style that is much better than the melodramatic proselytizing of some of the previous. Too bad he/she doesn’t have a better storyline to work with. This is the first time I was so utterly bored with a story that I seriously considered just not finishing it. At least you are guaranteed a shorter post to read either way!

Emily Mayer is the drummer for The Droids. She and her father have been pretty close ever since her mom up and left them when she was a little girl. This embarrasses Emily, because only perfect families are acceptable in Sweet Valley, so she lies and tells everyone that her mom died when she was young. But now her dad has remarried. His new wife Karen is very harsh on Emily, and her dad just steps back and takes it, revising all his old rules to let Karen rule the roost. Even worse, Emily has a new baby half-sister, Karrie, who’s always crying and screaming and shit. You know, like babies do. Lately, Karen has been pretty unfair to Emily, who’s a good kid, and she’s hinted strongly at sending Emily away to a boarding school.

Well, leave it to Elizabeth Wakefield to be in the perfect position to help somebody! Who else would Emily lean on? Certainly not Dana, who doesn’t get what Emily’s problem is, and not Dan, who Emily thinks would think less of her. Max and Guy don’t make any appearances here other than asking why she didn’t show up for band practice, and all that jazz. And it appears Emily has no other good friends outside of The Droids. But Liz is just so UNDERSTANDING! She gets that Emily doesn’t really want to write for the school paper and is only doing it because Karen thinks it’s what she SHOULD do rather than banging on her drums all day. Of course, she gets this by automatically assuming that a drummer couldn’t have any other interests *eye roll* In this case she’s right, but way to go, ghostwriter.

Since we can’t have a secondary character story without a love interest for them, the ghostwriter pairs Emily with Dan Scott, the bass player for The Droids. (Haha, their band name is especially funny now that I have a Motorola Droid smartphone.) Emily really likes Dan, but Karen keeps imposing a curfew that prevents her from getting to band practice or hanging out with him one-on-one. So Emily invites Dan over when she thinks Karen won’t be home, but of course Karen catches them (just playing drums) and makes a huge nasty scene. She implies Emily is acting like a “tramp” just like her mom, and she also exposes THE TRUTH about Emily’s mother to Dan, totally humiliating her.

Emily threatens to run away from home, her father threatens to put her drum kit (with its brand new cymbals) out on the street, and Emily relents and decides to act exactly like Karen expects in order to avoid being sent away to boarding school. She quits The Droids and pushes Dan away when he tries to help her. She asks Elizabeth to help her sell her drums through The Oracle, but then Dan gets his friend Jamie (a sophomore at Palisades High) to buy them off of her so she won’t lose them for good. To make a long story short, Elizabeth and all of the Wakefields get involved in Emily’s story, and they actually act like mature responsible people rather than just showing off how much better their family is.
Emily is at home with Karen when Karrie nearly chokes to death on a loose button (on a dumb doll Karen stupidly gave her) and Emily saves her with the Heimlich maneuver. But Mr. Mayer only appears just in time to see everyone crying afterwards, wrongly assumes Emily tried to hurt Karrie, and tells her to get out. Emily flees to the Wakefield clan and announces she’s running away to Chicago to find her mother, but when she tries to track her down, she finds her mom was remarried two years ago and is most likely in Mexico. Meanwhile, Elizabeth calls Mr. Mayer, the Mayers come over and say they know what really happened, and Karen cries and apologies to Emily with everyone watching. She explains that she felt threatened by Emily and wasn’t fair to her, and the Mayers make up while everyone watches. The Wakefields then have the Droids set up all the band equipment — including the drums, which “Jamie” (who I think we’re supposed to assume doesn’t exist) didn’t want after all — in the dining room to surprise Emily. She and Dan get together, but we’re cheated out of that first kiss. Oh darn.

The sub-plot is horrible. Ned’s parents come to visit and start taking the twins out to do all kinds of cool shit. Alice suddenly gets terrified she doesn’t spend enough time with them and that the twins don’t really need her anymore. So, Ned has the twins ask their mom to help them coordinate a big surprise party for their grandparents (which soon becomes Emily’s party as well). Liz also asks Alice for advice about Emily’s situation. This causes Alice to feel more loved and she gets out of her funk. And that’s the whole story.

WTF? Let’s start with the word “tramp”! I think that’s a new “bad” word for SVH, but I’m not sure. I feel like Jessica used it at one point. Regardless, it was nasty of Karen to say, but Emily seems to think Karen might be right about her mom. I guess the ghostwriter left some backstory out here, because I didn’t get the impression the first Mrs. Mayer ran around on Em’s dad or anything.

In book 24, both the stepmother and the baby were named Karen. In this book, baby Karen has been changed to Karrie with no mention of her being called Karen before.

Emily says Karrie is her stepsister, but she’s actually her half-sister.
When Emily first comes over to the house, she winds up telling all of the Wakefields, including the grandparents, her story. I found it a pretty touching scene in spite of myself. Also, when the Mayers come over to the Wakefield house and Karen apologizes to Emily and everyone, I thought it was a sweet scene, probably because it’s doubtful this would happen in real life. Karen was just too nasty to do an about-face like that without some serious therapy. Maybe almost losing her baby made her think about it a little harder. I do wonder why Mr. Mayer didn’t apologize to Emily though. He definitely should have.
We meet another brand new secondary character named Eddie Strong, who’s a sophomore like
Regina (and like the mysterious “Jamie”). Sometimes I think Francine just wants to go out of her way to prove the school has more than one grade. Eddie works at the supermarket and tells Liz about how he saw Regina back in town. I guess that’s his sole purpose.
Grandma Wakefield gives us some Wakefield history when she tells Emily that she married Ned’s dad, Bob, after his first wife died in a train accident. Bob had a son named Louis from this first marriage, who is Ned’s older half-brother. Ned’s real first name is Edward and he’s at least 11 years younger, most likely more. And Grandma Wakefield admits she has never told this story to the twins before. (I’m detailing this in particular because when I get to the Sweet Valley Saga series, I’m going to see if all of this is still in there!)
When Liz decides that telling Mr. Mayer Emily is over at the Wakefield house is the right thing to do (following the blowup where he told her to get out), Jessica calls her a “rat” and runs out of the room. I’m surprised to see Jessica standing up for Emily after she blackmailed her in book 3. Also, Jessica should know better than anybody the consequences of running away.
Emily saves Karrie by slapping Karen “as hard as she could” across the face to force Karen to give her the baby. This is explained as something Emily was taught in her CPR class – to slap someone out of shock – but I have a feeling it was very cathartic for her as well.
I already noted that Emily saves Karrie by performing the Heimlich. I had always been taught babies were too small to get the Heimlich and you were supposed whack them on the back … that’s how my mom stopped me from choking to death on a marble once. Maybe the rules were different when this book was written.
There’s a funny scene near the end where Bruce brings out a cordless phone and shows it to Liz, calling it his dad’s “latest toy” and explaining to her that you can carry it with you anywhere. Liz jokes that they’ve got to make sure Jess doesn’t find out about it. That’s January 1986 for you. 🙂
The cover is appropriate, but Emily doesn’t look like a drummer for a hot rock band. She looks twelve. Liz is wearing her dumb barrettes again, like she does on every cover where she’s doing the condescending “let me help you” shoulder grab. She looks so much like this girl I went to high school with, only blonde instead of brunette. Neither she nor Emily have any boobs. Also, I distinctly recall reading early on in the book that Emily is at least a couple of inches shorter than Liz, who’s 5’6″. Yet here Emily looks taller. Also, as usual no one’s eye color matches what it’s supposed to be, but I’m so not getting into that.
Next book will be way more exciting … as Eddie told Liz, Regina is back in town with her aunt, but no one knew she was coming back from her ear treatments so early. Liz goes to see her, but the Morrows’ gate is padlocked. Liz informs Bruce and they call the Morrow mansion, where a strange lady answers the phone and says she’s Regina’s aunt and Regina isn’t there. But Regina doesn’t have any aunts. Something’s definitely up! Time for Detective Liz to get to work!

Super Edition #2 Special Christmas

It’s time to meticulously chart every detail of another Sweet Valley Super Edition. This one is easily one of the most contrived ones I’ve read yet. Get ready!
It’s Christmas time in Sweet Valley and the twins are still juniors, despite their also being juniors during the last spring break. Yeah, yeah, it’s like a comic strip — they never age until a new SV series is needed. Anyway! That last spring break took place in book 11, when Suzanne Devlin visited and proceeded to traumatize Sweet Valley forever. (You can read more about her in my review of that book.) This would be but a distant memory for all the Sweet Valley kids, but now Ned and Alice Wakefield have done their children the ultimate “fuck you” gesture by agreeing that Suzanne can stay at their house for the holidays in order for her to have a chance to convince the town to forgive her. (Mr. Collins has apparently already forgiven her for accusing him of trying to rape her — chump.) Steve finds out and exposes the plan to the twins, who desperately try to convince their parents to keep Suzanne from coming. It doesn’t work, and so Jess and Steve then force Liz (by way of tickling – ew) to call Suzanne and try to convince her not to come. Liz is way too nice when she talks to Suzanne, so Suzanne continues with her plans to visit. It would’ve been better if Liz had been a complete bitch to her on the phone, but since she wasn’t, the Wakefield kids and their friends decide to be as bitchy to Suzanne as possible while she’s there to make her want to go home early. They appear especially concerned for the welfare of Winston Egbert and Aaron Dallas, who had crushes on “Suzy” last time. I guess those guys can’t man up and get over it. And what the hell did Suzy do to Aaron anyway, except go with him to a dance and get bored with him?
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other Christmas festivities planned at SVHS, which is funny because I’m reading this in politically correct 2010, and there’s no mention of any other winter holiday at all here. Hahaha. There’s a Secret Santa giveaway that apparently only involves the junior class (despite the book’s claim to the contrary), a big dance at the Patmans’ mansion, a holiday parade, and a “Miss Christmastime” pageant. Another beauty pageant?! Aside from trying to sabotage Suzanne, Jessica is busy crushing hard on a German exchange student named Hans and engaging in a stupid war for the Miss Christmastime title with Lila Fowler. They want to win so they can ride in a float in the parade and wave at people. Meanwhile, Liz just wants to get her hands on Todd and his “coffee-brown eyes” – he’s visiting Sweet Valley again and staying with Ken.

The story of Suzanne takes up most of the book, with the kids getting progressively more juvenile and assy as they try to think of a good way to get her to go home. They:

  • Go all summer camp pranks with plans to short-sheet the bed and put burned-out lightbulbs in Jess’s room while Suzy is staying there. That’ll get her.
  • Have Aaron and Winston send Suzy “Secret Santa” bullshit like a note telling her to go home, a gift box with nothing in it, and a prank call
  • Have Aaron ask her to a party at his cousin Eddie’s house, then give her directions to an abandoned, supposedly haunted house on Forrest Lane (which I guess must be in the area of town Betsy Martin and Annie Whitman live in, haha, since it’s a “bad area”)
  • Generally act like jerks to her, making snide comments and pretending they forgot she was coming and where she is from
Of course, Liz feels bad about it the whole time, and Steven eventually feels so bad he drops out of these childish schemes. But the joke’s on the kids. Oh my lord, this is just so dumb. It turns out Suzanne found out she has multiple sclerosis and that’s why she is so desperate to make amends with everyone in Sweet Valley. She explained the situation to the Wakefield parents, and they actually agreed to keep this a secret from the kids so that Suzanne could get them to forgive her on their own terms. Come on Suzy, why didn’t you just write them a letter and let it go? The Wakefield twins do notice that Suzanne looks pale and too thin, but she pretends she was on a diet recently, which of course gets Jess to suggest putting butter in her food to make Suzanne fat. Why am I not surprised? Getting fat in SVH (read: gaining half a pound or more) is the ultimate punishment. When they notice that Suzanne has a lot of prescription meds and gets dizzy a lot, Jess does what anyone would do and tells people she is a drug addict.
It gets better. It also turns out that Suzanne and Todd met again in Vermont about a month ago, when Todd and his new friend Jerry Peterson went on a ski trip to “Killington”. We get a flashback of this scene and see how Jerry tried to get with Suzy but struck out, but Suzy did hang out with Todd. She apologized for her previous behavior and Todd almost kissed her until she suddenly mentioned Liz and shocked him back to reality. But there wound up being major sexual tension between them, heh heh. So now Todd can’t look at Suzy without flipping out because he’s fallen in love with her, and Suzy stupidly drops a fucking vase of Jessica’s flowers when she sees Todd at the Wakefield house. (Apparently Suzanne understands that Todd has some kind of boner going on for her, although I still don’t get why she would react that way at seeing him. Seriously, her melodramatics are getting a little tiring.) Todd hasn’t said anything about seeing Suzanne to Liz, so Jess determines Todd had some kind of “tryst” with Suzy behind Liz’s back, but decides not to tell Liz so she won’t hurt her. But of course, in reality, Todd and Suzy didn’t even kiss. I think it’s a huge shame that they didn’t; that would throw some real drama in the mix and teach Liz to run off with Nicholas Morrow all the time. Hahaha.
In the end, the last prank — the “Get Suzy to go to abandoned shack” trick — fails when Suzy’s medicine mixes with the champagne she had and she passes out and wrecks the Fiat on the way there. Everything comes out and Jessica is immediately horrified with herself, but you know she’ll pull this shit again at some point. Liz has decided she and Todd don’t belong together anymore, and as the Wakefields rush to the hospital to see if Suzy will be okay, she realizes Todd is in love with Suzanne and is surprisingly okay with it. (I call bullshit.) Of course, Suzy’s condition goes from “seriously injured” to “concussion” and everything there seems A-OK.
At the Patmans’ big party, Todd and Liz can agree their feelings aren’t quite the same and finally end their boring, drawn-out long distance relationship, and Todd and Suzanne start dating later. Honestly, I think Liz would be pretty pissed off that Todd never told her about meeting Suzanne before, but hey! IT’S CHRISTMAS! THE SEASON OF GOODWILL! (That’s what the Wakefields keep rubbing in their kids’ faces, anyway.) Mr. Collins tells the whole school about Suzanne’s MS at the Patman party and everyone is so concerned … BUT! The doctors were wrong! Suzanne doesn’t have MS! She has …. a RARE COMPLICATION! From MONONUCLEOSIS! They were MISTAKEN! It’s going to be okay! She’s won’t be “trapped in a wheelchair”! It’s a Christmas miracle!
I am totally not making this up.
As for Miss Christmastime? Jessica winds up helping as a Santa’s elf at the mall on behalf of Pi Beta Alpha, but Lila gets Cara to (unknowingly) give her the wrong info so that she has to stay there way past the time of the pageant. Lila wins, but Jessica gets back at her by switching their outfits on the day of the parade. Jessica gets to ride in the parade and Lila has to ride on another float as the elf. I have no idea how that actually worked out that way, but whatever. It’s Sweet Valley – we weren’t meant to question it too much (but you know I always do anyway). Lila kind of gets the last laugh though when it turns out that Hans is her Secret Santa — Winston’s was Jess’s. Hans appears to have the hots for Lila even though he was smooching Jessica at the Dairi Burger several chapters back. (“Those foreigners really know how to kiss!”)
One thing that bugs me is that Suzanne blames her prior behavior on being mad at her diplomat parents for abandoning her so much. She also blames the behavior of her ex-boyfriend Pete (who tried to rape Jessica in book 11) on trouble “with his parents.” Apparently in Sweet Valley World, everyone has a reason for being a dick, and it has to do with not having a perfect family like the Wakefields’.

Some other bullshit: John Pfeifer hits Liz in the back of the neck with a paper ball and she yells “Ow!” Wimp!

Steven and Cara are both in this book, but there is zero mention of the fact that they just started dating in the previous book.
AND, whereas Tricia’s death is overly dramatized throughout most of the rest of the series, in this book she isn’t mentioned at all. The only reference of her is reduced to “a personal problem” that Steve “had been very busy with” the last time Suzanne visited!
Ken Matthews tells Liz, “Todd Wilkins will be all the Secret Santa you can handle.” Liz thinks, I hope so. Am I the only one with a mind dirty enough to see the humor in this?
Here’s another one: “Santa’s eyes twinkled as he looked Jessica up and down.”
The Secret Santa drawings are described as being for the whole school, but everyone who draws the names gets somebody in the junior class (except for Jessica getting Bruce Patman).
Liz frets over what to get Todd for Christmas. She thinks a wallet would be too extravagant, but apparently a watch band wasn’t for his birthday a few books ago. Plus, can’t you just get some cheapo wallet? I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than 10 bucks for a wallet.
Jessica owes Pi Beta Alpha seventeen dollars in dues, which Liz considers a lot. Uh, really? Yet you guys can afford to use your allowances to get your parents dinner theater tickets (book 20)? And you are shocked when you see a teenager who has to get a job (Ricky Capaldo, book 21)?
Ned and Alice explain to their kids that they can’t do anything to stop Suzanne from coming to Sweet Valley. Uh, how about just saying “No”?
Jessica is sheepish about Suzanne’s boyfriend Pete attempting to rape her (in book 11) when Steven asks her about it. Of course, we then get the typical paragraph about how she can usually “handle” the boys she dates, but Pete got out of control. Yeah, he’s the only one who’s done that to her so far! (See book 3, book 5, Super Edition 1, etc.) And once again the book can’t use words like “rape” or “sex”!
Speaking of that shit with Pete and Jessica … Jessica threw herself at him for days, knowing he was dating Suzy, and not knowing that Suzanne was a bad person. So Jessica basically went after another girl’s man … the same thing she thinks Suzanne is doing to Todd. But she always gets away with it because she’s a Wakefield. If you ask me, Suzanne is looking like a better person than Jess.
Liz calls Suzanne “Demolition Devlin” and Jess calls her “Devil-Face Devlin”
Ned and Alice are such great parents that they force Jessica to give up her room and bunk with Liz while Suzanne is there. Okay, seriously, WTF! You’re already forcing this chick your kids hate on them at CHRISTMAS; now you’re going to insist she stay in one of their rooms when there’s a perfectly good den and two studies downstairs! (Don’t Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield each have their own study?) Jessica complains that the last time Suzanne stayed in her room, it “smelled like perfume for months”. Yet Alice insists that “it’s the best place” and then immediately insists that Jessica clean up this “best place” because it’s too big of a mess for anyone to stay there in its current state! Uh … so make Liz give up her pristine room then?
Aaron is now dating Patsy Webber. Remember her? She was Todd’s serious girlfriend before Liz.
Suzanne thinks to herself that she doesn’t want to get in the way of Aaron’s relationship with Patsy, yet she doesn’t seem to think it’s a bad idea for him to take her to the Patmans’ dance instead of Patsy. Jessica, meanwhile, tells Aaron that Suzanne wants to “seduce” him. Hey, there’s a word close to sex.
When a cop sees Suzy wreck the Fiat, he yells, “Jesus!” Watch your language! Kids are reading this!
Suzanne apologizes to Jessica for what Pete did to her. Jessica’s sardonic reply includes, “Well, it’s true that I’m not used to that sort of thing … Out here in small-town America, that sort of thing just doesn’t happen every day.” LIES!
Enid comes to the Dairi Burger with another date, Chip Ettelson, a freshman at Sweet Valley College. Honestly, these SVC kids must troll the halls of SVHS for fresh jailbait.
Olivia Davidson’s Secret Santa has the swim team serenade her at the Dairi Burger. Stan Richards is one of the swim team members. Who the hell is that?
Liz claims she has “never really been the jealous type” which is a HUGE LIE.
I don’t want to go into the whole MS vs. mono shit. But I will mention that Suzanne’s doctor flies in from New York to check on her or something after she’s in the hospital, and breaks the news to her. I find that weird, but I find it even weirder that no one mentions a lawsuit for medical malpractice (with “I’m Every Lawyer” Ned taking the case, of course).
Suzanne was over-the-top sweet to everyone in book 11, but it was part of a fake act; she was just trying to fuck with them. Now she’s still over-the-top sweet, but it’s supposed to be her natural behavior. Give me a damn break.
Finally, Ned Wakefield has an obsession with decorating their tree in blue and silver, and the Patmans’ tree is decorated that way at their dance. I have Jewish friends who decorate trees and bushes that way for Hanukkah. And that’s the closest we have to a multicultural reference in this book, and I’m sure the ghostwriters didn’t even realize.
The cover is very appropriate for the season, but Liz’s eyelids have some weird creases in them, and Jess’s hand looks odd all up on her shoulder like that.
The back of the book has a contest to be a Sweet Dreams cover girl. Must be a perfect size six.
Next, we’ll get back to the regular schedule with Emily Mayer’s problems at home. And by the way, I think it’s weird that Todd and Liz’s official, “final” breakup happens in a Super Edition. Just sayin’.
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