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

Archive for March, 2010

Sweet Valley Twins and Beyond

We’re now at the point in the series where its very first spin-off, Sweet Valley Twins, was introduced. The series chronicled the twins in the sixth grade at Sweet Valley Middle School, at age 12. If you think about it, it makes no sense for them to be age 12 in sixth grade and age 16 in 11th, but whatever. You know Francine doesn’t give a crap!

The series lasted for 118 books plus multiple Super Editions, Super Chillers (my favorites!), and Magna Editions. Around book 50, the series’ name changed to Sweet Valley Twins and Friends … how dumb. I stopped reading it several books into that, but it looks like it changed back at one point. Later on, a weird two-book “special” spin-off called Team Sweet Valley was debuted which just focused on the twins as sports mavens or something.

The series debuted in August 1986, and was widely advertised in the backs of Sweet Valley High books. “Tell your kid sister, your sister’s friends, and your friends’ sisters!” they proclaimed. I devoured these books (along with SVH) up to a point.

When the series starts, Jessica and Elizabeth are just starting the sixth grade. In the first book, they have recently discovered their individual interests. They stop sharing a room and quit dressing alike, and they begin hanging with different friends. All of this bothers Elizabeth at first. Elizabeth starts writing for a sixth grade newspaper called The Sweet Valley Sixers while Jessica joins a club of “the most beautiful and special girls” called The Unicorns (more on them later). No, really. Every book starts by telling us about how the Unicorns consider themselves the most beautiful and special girls!
Many of the SVT stories were clearly based on stories already covered in SVH. For example, Hostage! was repeated with Mary Is Missing. The entire Liz-Todd-Jessica debacle from Double Love was replayed in Elizabeth’s First Kiss, only without the whole Rick Andover bit. And in Best Friends, the first book, Elizabeth joins the Unicorns just because Jessica wants her to, but hates it and quits so that she can spend more time writing for the Sixers newspaper. If you think of these things in literal terms, it is hilarious that they don’t learn their lesson and repeat the whole debacle with Pi Beta Alpha and the Oracle in high school!

The SVT books didn’t really delve into dating and mature topics until the early 40 numbers. Before that, it was more about the twins snarking on each other’s friends, solving mysteries, trying to excel in various things like dance or acting, or getting in trouble for sneaking out of the house or playing hooky. Eventually, most, if not all, of the characters were paired off with a boy and dating became a big, and stupidly explored, theme throughout the remainder of the series. Liz dates Todd, Jessica dates Aaron Dallas, Lila dates some dude named Jake, and nerdy Amy is weirdly paired with Ken Matthews. Other characters date people we never hear from again.

Many of your favorite SVH characters show up in this series, but others vanish with no explanation. Lila is there, as is a new cousin we never heard of before, Janet Howell, who is an 8th grader and a complete snob. I love Janet. Cara Walker isn’t there; instead, we have Ellen Riteman, a rather spacy chick who makes kind of dumb comments and gets ragged on by Lila and Jessica fairly often. Ellen rocks. Liz hasn’t met Enid yet, and so we get to meet the old Amy Sutton, who is tomboyish, clumsy, and nerdy. True to form, Jessica and her friends all hate on Amy. Bruce Patman and Winston Egbert are prominently featured in the series. Other, more minor characters like Ronnie Edwards, Jim Sturbridge, and Charlie Cashman pop up from time to time. Lois Waller, who I’ve only seen casually mentioned in the SVH series a handful of times, is prominently featured in SVT as a fat chick which of course means she gets to be the butt of many jokes. Naturally, Bruce Patman gives her the most grief. Lois is cooler than everyone gives her credit for, in my opinion.

Steven is in the ninth grade during the SVT series, which again doesn’t match with his age and grade in the SVH series. Well, we already know Francine isn’t one for continuity. Julie Porter is in the series and is pretty well-liked. Caroline Pearce is also there and we see her in her early days of being the school gossip that nobody likes. We don’t get to hear about the twins’ cousin Rexy and his untimely death, but we do meet their favorite cousin Robin, who I don’t think is mentioned at all in SVH.

Several of the stories revolve around the Unicorns. Like I said before, they are an exclusive club for “beautiful” and “special” girls. Janet is president, and I personally thinks she kicks ass. All of the Unicorns must wear something purple every day, and they sit at a lunch table called The Unicorner. Most of them are bitches. They also spend all of their time gossiping about boys and celebrities. Elizabeth doesn’t like that, but come on, they’re like a lot of kids their age.

Betsy Martin is an eighth grade member, and apparently not using drugs and sleeping around yet, but who knows. The only nice members of the club are Mandy Miller (who survives cancer), Mary Wallace (a former foster child who was kidnapped as a baby), and Belinda “Billie” Layton (a very sports-oriented-type girl, which is portrayed as being outside the norm here). The Unicorns occasionally throw parties where they sit around braiding each other’s hair and giggling about cute boys. Most of these Unicorn members are completely absent from SVH, including the three nice chicks (unless they pop up later on and I’ve just never read about them — Billie might make an appearance).

Here are some of my favorite (regular) titles from my SVT days. Yes, I remember these very well, and we still have several stuffed up in our attic! Maybe it’s time I did some rooting around up there … I will likely review some of these, eventually.

#1 Best Friends – The very first book in which Jessica and Elizabeth both join the Unicorns, but only Jessica gives a fuck about it. Liz is devastated and thinks they should be doing everything together, but she eventually quits the club in favor of writing for the Sixers. There’s some fun drama about club initiation rites first.

#8 First Place – Lila gets her own horse named Thunder, so Liz sucks up to her just so she can ride him. Aw, not such a righteous person now, are you Liz?

#14 Tug of War – Liz and Jess run against each other for class president and fight like crazy about it. Liz ends up dropping out so that the third candidate, nerdy Randy Mason, can win. I think this was the first SVT I read.

#15 The Older Boy – Jessica meets a hot 16-year-old named Josh, so she lies and says she’s 14 so he will date her. He gives her her first kiss. Steven figures out what she is doing and she is forced to come clean to Josh, who just thinks she’s a cute kid. Once again, Jessica is enabled.

#24 Jumping to Conclusions – Jessica assumes her mother is having an affair and starts following her around and acting ridiculous.

#28 April Fool! – Elizabeth and Jessica switch identities like they always do every April 1st. By now everyone is supposed to be in on the joke, but instead Liz keeps getting her day fucked up because of it.

#29 Jessica and the Brat Attack – Jessica gets stuck babysitting two stupid rotten kids.

#34 Jessica, the Rock Star – Jessica joins a band with Aaron Dallas and Bruce Patman. She’s supposed to be the Dana Larson of the band, but she sucks ass. Aaron and Bruce are too pussy to tell her, so she keeps on. Oh don’t worry, by the end she’s found her “true voice” and can sing fantastically after all.

#35 Amy’s Pen Pal – Amy has this pen pal, Sam, come to visit from San Francisco. Sam makes up all kinds of crazy-ass stories. The Unicorns eventually figure out she is lying and concoct a plan to humiliate her, live on the air! Liz steps in and saves her at the last minute. It turns out Sam is a runaway. This story has hints of Love Letters to it.

#37 The War Between the Twins – The twins get in some stupid argument about the sixth grade newspaper and Jessica winds up making her own with the Unicorns, which is of course printed on purple paper.

#42 Jessica’s Secret – Liz gets her period, and of course she assumes that Jessica has hers too since they are identical twins. Hey, so does Mrs. Wakefield. *eye roll* Jessica goes along with it because she is embarrassed. All of a sudden, all the Unicorns can talk about is having their periods and Jessica feels stupid. Then the twins go to visit their cousin Robin. Robin is trying to join a cool club called the Jaguars, and Jessica offers to help her through her initiation to show how cool and grown-up she is. But the Jaguars are way more daring than the Unicorns, and Elizabeth ultimately tattles on them. Jaguars, Unicorns, it’s starting to sound like gangs. Jessica gets her period at the end of the book and feels like a real person again.

#43 Elizabeth’s First Kiss – Liz likes Todd but thinks he likes Jessica and Jessica likes Todd too but Todd really likes Liz and … yeah, we’ve been here before. Also, Liz tries dressing up for school in this weird blue-and-green striped dress (which I guess was the style at the time) and is embarrassed when one of the boys gives her an ugly blue-and-green plastic bracelet as a gift to match her dress, because he wants to get with her. In the end, Todd gives Liz her first kiss, which is on THE CHEEK, and Jessica makes a huge deal out of it like it’s the most amazing thing ever. I guess she thinks her smooching on a 16-year-old can’t match up.

#44 Amy Moves In – Amy’s house burns down and she moves in with Elizabeth. We get a hint of the SVH Amy when she starts treating Elizabeth like shit and begins hanging around with Lila and Jessica and exaggerating about the fire in order to get attention. It turns out Amy is really afraid that she started the fire herself. It turns out she didn’t.

#46 Mademoiselle Jessica – Jessica fills out a crazy application to win a modeling search and a trip to Paris that she is totally not qualified for. (I think you had to be fluent in French or some shit, I don’t know.) She doesn’t intend to mail it, but Liz mails it anyway. When Jessica actually becomes a finalist, her family decides to be a dick and “teach her a lesson” by pretending to be super French and humiliating Jess in front of the model scout. What a great family. Hello, she DIDN’T WANT THAT SHIT MAILED IN! Now we see why Liz thinks it’s okay to meddle!

#54 The Big Party Weekend – The twins and Steven throw a huge party while the Wakefields are away, and concoct a wild plan to get around their babysitter, an old drill sergeant lady. Duh, the party gets out of control, but the babysitter gets home in time to help them clean. Jessica’s boyfriend Aaron kisses her in this one and then a giant piece of baloney hits Jess in the face a second later. It annoyed me that this was championed as her first kiss when that happened way earlier.

#57 Big Brother’s In Love! – What a stupid fucking title. The twins try to set Steven up with his coworker Cathy, but Steven is obsessed with some popular bitch named Jill.

#61 Jessica the Nerd – Jessica tests into a special program for smart people along with a bunch of nerds and is humiliated. But she finds she has a lot of fun with the group. That won’t stop her from being a dick to them later, though.

#66 The Great Boyfriend Switch – The school hosts a Valentine’s Day dance. A royal first class bitch named Veronica shows up and steals Todd from Liz. Jessica ditches Aaron for Bruce, and Liz and Aaron wind up together as they cry over their respective lost loves. Veronica becomes Jessica’s best buddy and tries to pit her against Liz. Eventually Jessica fixes everything and everyone gets back together. And there’s a gross scene where Amy and Ken are caught making out in a laundry room.

#67 Jessica the Thief – Veronica frames Jessica as a thief who’s been stealing shit from people and stashing it in her locker.

#68 The Middle School Gets Married – The whole school does that project where everyone “gets married” and takes care of eggs. I never got to do that shit. Liz is paired with Bruce, and Jessica gets a hot kid named Rick Hunter, who kisses her while she bitches at him for tossing their egg around.

#70 Psychic Sisters – This was the last one I read. Everyone thinks the twins can read each other’s minds … ooooooooo.

Following Sweet Valley Twins, multiple other SVH spinoffs were introduced, all with the twins at various ages and grades.

Sweet Valley Kids came out sometime around 1989 or 1990. It featured the twins as seven-year-old second graders at Sweet Valley Elementary. These thin paperbacks had black-and-white illustrations, and the print was very large. I was in third grade when the first one was published, and I got teased for being able to read one in under 20 minutes. (I was the biggest bookworm in my grade by FAR.) One of the books I read had Lila Fowler being exposed as a bedwetter. There were also Super Snoopers editions where the twins solved mysteries.

The Unicorn Club covered the twins as seventh graders. It came out sometime around the mid-1990s when I was getting sick of Sweet Valley and “kids’ books”. It was unique as each book was written from the first-person viewpoint of a different character. In the first book, the Unicorns opened up to include more people and Elizabeth re-joined along with her friend Maria Slater. I only read two of these and in the second one I read, the Unicorns split in two and the nicer people (including Elizabeth) formed a new club called the Angels. Tell me you couldn’t see that one coming. The series didn’t last long.

Sweet Valley Junior High was one I never read. The twins were eighth graders who had to go to Sweet Valley Junior High School after a re-zoning removed them from Sweet Valley Middle. What? You mean Sweet Valley is big enough for two middle schools? And one is SV Middle and one is SV Junior High? Riiiiiiight. I don’t think this series lasted very long.

Sweet Valley Senior Year is, of course, the twins’ last year of high school. The titles for these were supposed to be in-your-face and “hip”, and I never read any.

Sweet Valley University came out some years after Sweet Valley Kids. The twins start college, and I’ll give you one guess which school they and all their friends go to … uh … hmmmm … keep guessing …. I never read any of these, but I’m beginning to think I should’ve. Sounds like I missed some gems.

And finally, Elizabeth was a six book series that followed our favorite uppity heroine after she fled SVU and took off to London.

Sweet Valley Confidential is a standalone novel that will come out in early 2011 (or so we’ve heard), as I’ve mentioned before, and is supposed to give us a glimpse of the twins in their late 20s to early 30s. I’m secretly hoping it’s scandalous, juicy, and at least 500 pages long.

#29 Bitter Rivals

I was so excited to pick this book up because it was one of my favorites as a kid. But also, the last several books I’ve read have been all about some poor soul who needs the magic of Elizabeth Wakefield to make them whole again. It was nice to have a break from that and instead read about Liz making a few missteps herself. Yes, Liz is definitely not a saint in this book. In fact, she is largely an ass. Well, she always is, but this time it’s more obvious.

This book covers the return of Amy Sutton to Sweet Valley, and the resulting battle for Elizabeth’s friendship. Amy and Liz were best buds for years before Amy moved away to Connecticut after sixth grade, but Enid only became Liz’s friend in the tenth grade. Now that Amy has moved back, it appears E and A aren’t going to get along, but Liz is sure trying to make them!
Elizabeth is so excited to have Amy return to town that she is completely oblivious to the fact that Amy is now a complete airhead. She has also forgotten Enid exists, literally. She breaks a couple of dates with Enid, including standing up Enid as she runs off to meet Amy. Even after she remembers that Enid is standing around at the beach waiting for her, she doesn’t do much to try and fix the situation, like you know, go drive off to the fucking beach to find Enid. She even has Enid reschedule a planned ski weekend with her Aunt Nancy three times, two of those just to accommodate Amy, whom Liz has taken the liberty of inviting along. (Yes, they’re going skiing in the time period between spring break and summer break. I am confused.) It’s pretty clear that Amy and Liz essentially have nothing in common anymore, but Liz is so desperate to rekindle their old friendship that she keeps fooling herself into thinking that they do.
It’s also obvious that Enid and Amy aren’t fans of one another. Regardless, Enid decides to put up and shut up and pretend that she and Amy can be great friends. She grudgingly agrees to let Amy come along on the ski trip, keeping it a secret the whole time (from Liz and from we the readers — I feel cheated out of some great scenes) that Amy has been a complete bitch to her whenever Liz isn’t around. (And I mean complete bitch — telling her she’s a loser, stay away from Liz, she makes her sick, etc.) But Enid is afraid Liz will ditch her and think she’s lying if she tells her the truth about Amy. Man, Enid is one poor soul who has no real friends aside from Liz. Nowhere is this more painfully obvious than in this book. Seriously Enid, go chat up Lynne Henry or somebody. Enid is also a bit of a clingy and possessive friend, which she admits to herself, and she is jealous of Amy the second she hears she’s coming back to town, long before she sees firsthand what a douche Amy is.
Now, whereas Amy was a tomboy and a bit of a loser in the Sweet Valley Twins era (just to remind you, that series was in the works when this book was published, but not yet released), here she is a dazzling, fashion-conscious, boy-crazy cheerleader who loves hanging out with Jessica, Cara, and Lila but repeatedly stands Liz up for plans. She is also a drama queen who starts crying at the drop of a hat and calls everyone a “doll.” She terrorizes Enid for being a “bore”(and let’s face it, this is a fact) but she herself can’t shut the fuck up about her boyfriend John Norton (or “Johnny”) back home for several chapters. She is at least two inches taller than 5’6″ Liz, but she says she strictly diets so she can’t go over 110 pounds. Jesus. (For breakfast, she has a cup of black coffee and a grapefruit while scowling at Enid’s pancakes, butter, and maple syrup.) She is ridiculous.
We get several chapters of Liz acting stupid and trying to force Enid and Amy on each other, Amy being flaky, standing Liz up and then crying hysterically when Liz asks her what her deal is, and Enid silently glowering about it all. It finally comes to a head at Lila’s latest “biggest party of the year” which is to honor her 19-year-old cousin Christopher, who’s in town from Maine. Apparently Chris is going to visit for three weeks and hang out with a bunch of fucking jailbait. Great. Amy wants a piece of that the second she sees his picture, and Lila is all about setting them up at her stupid party. Oh, did I mention it’s a costume party even though it’s not Halloween?

Well, surprise! Chris and Enid already know each other from a sailing camp Enid was at two years ago, and Chris totally wants him some Enid. Amy is furious, screams at Enid, and keeps throwing herself on Chris, who finds her fucking annoying by the way. Liz tries to fix the situation and both Enid and Amy tell her off and run away.

Of course, both girls forgive Liz in the end, but not each other. Here is the truly ridiculous part of this story. Even after Liz and Enid make up and Enid tells Liz what a bitch Amy has been to her, Liz STILL SUGGESTS AMY COME SKIING and ENID AGREES TO THIS FUCKING IDIOT IDEA. Thankfully, Amy has the sense to say no, and Liz basically walks away from the friendship. UGH.
At least Liz and Enid own up to the dumb mistakes they made along the way and remain friends, but Enid? Seriously, get a hobby, or at least some other friends. Maybe she and Chris will prove to be a serious item and give her a life for a while, but I doubt it. And Liz? Yeah, I understand how it feels to desperately want to hang on to a friendship that’s past its prime, trust me … but you made it an art form, and a sad, sloppy one at that.
Amy, you’re hopeless. Congratulations on making the cheerleading team. Funny how you didn’t have to go through the THREE try-outs that everybody else did last time. Guess Jessica didn’t want to risk someone attempting suicide and ruining HER life again.
The sub-plot features Jessica being as ridiculous as Amy. She develops a crush on some kid in her French class named Jay McGuire. Oh, I’m sorry, not a crush, it’s LOVE! True LOVE! Like she just had with Jean-Claude. Well, Jay is dating a senior girl named Denise Hadley and they are crazy about each other. It just so happens that Jess and Cara have started an advice column for the Oracle called Miss Lovelorn, so Jess goes ahead and writes two fake letters for her to answer that week, one from a boy dating an older girl and one from a girl dating a younger boy. Miss Lovelorn’s prize advice is to just break up, already. Of course, the assumption is that Denise will think Jay wrote one and Jay will think Denise wrote the other. For some reason, the letters actually cause the pair to fight a lot. Jessica takes advantage of the situation and gets Jay to take her out, throws herself on him, and seals the deal by telling Jay Denise has been cheating on him and the whole school knows. Because Jay is stupid and has no idea what Jessica is really like for some reason, he consoles himself by diving in between her thighs, or whatever we’re supposed to assume they were doing. (I know, I’m so vulgar.) Jessica and Jay go to Lila’s party where Denise is with some older dude. Jay runs out of the party crying, and hey, he’s back with Denise on Monday morning. Seems this one is Liz’s fault since the couple wrote letters (for real this time) to Miss Lovelorn about how much they want to fix things. Jessica meant to throw the letters away, but she forgot and Liz wound up printing them and telling the letter writers to give it another try. I’m glad to know a stupid advice column can make or break a love life, especially when everyone knows who writes it and it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that Jessica faked the original letters and that she’s trying to get in Jay’s pants. Way to go kids. What I really want to know: Why isn’t Denise coming for Jessica’s ass? I forget I went to an uncivilized high school where girls solved things like this by beating each other and leaving piles of hair strewn all over the hallways.
The cover is hysterical. Everyone looks like they are about to throw down, and wearing fugly outfits. Toss those stupid barrettes already, Liz. And why has your lavaliere blown up in size on the last two covers? I HATE Enid’s hair. UGH. Also, why do the books always describe Enid as having brown hair? Hello, it’s red. Amy isn’t as hot as she thinks she is but she does have a cute pout going on.
Weird shit: Jay mentions two friends of his named Eddie and Tom, who I assumed were Eddie Strong and Tom McKay, but instead it’s two dudes named Eddie May and Tom Richardson. So basically the ghostwriter made up two brand new characters we’ll never hear of again for no reason. I hate when they do that. I know, I pay too much attention to this shit.
Seriously, Denise should at least cuss Jessica out. That would be funny. Although Denise and Jay don’t strike me as the two brightest crayons in the box, so they probably still don’t realize what Jessica pulled.
Here are the costumes people wear to Lila’s party: Enid and Liz come as skiiers (DORKS), Amy is a ballerina, Jessica is Cleopatra, and Lila is the Princess of Wales (you mean Diana?). Sounds like a blast to wear ski outfits in the hot California spring air.
Lila describes how hot her cousin is to her friends and pretty much drools all over herself. Ewwwwww.
Cheerleader Sandra Bacon is jealous that she can only eat yogurt while her best friend Jean eats a sandwich (and bitches about how much she hates sandwiches … who hates sandwiches?). But why is Sandra only eating yogurt, you ask? “…she had been gaining weight lately, and unless she starved for three weeks, she would burst the seams on her new cheerleading uniform.” I HATE HATE HATE how this series presents body image! Or hey, forgets to show how you can lose weight without eating nothing but goddamn yogurt and grapefruit! Oh, I forgot, only Jessica and Elizabeth can eat like normal people and stay a “perfect size six.” HATE.
Sandra wonders how she got on the team since she fell on her ass during the tryouts last time. Hahaha, you mean you didn’t hear how Jessica forced people to vote you on just so Annie the slut couldn’t shake her pom-poms at people? And how Annie tried to off herself because everyone knew you sucked ass and she was so much better than you and rightfully deserved your spot? Oh, Sandra, you really are out of the loop aren’t you … pity.
Next up ... the twins go on their second summer vacation, this time to Malibu. And then we’ll see how Sandra handles Jean wanting to join HER precious sorority. It’s not going to go down well.

#28 Alone in the Crowd

Meet Lynne Henry. Lynne is probably the most painfully shy girl in school with some of the worst self-esteem issues I’ve ever heard of. Of course, she still manages to teach kids guitar at The Music Center (yes, that’s what it’s called). All sarcasm aside, Lynne spends most of her time cursing her existence and wishing she was a Wakefield twin. No, really, she tells Liz she would give anything to be her. Ugggh. Lynne lives with her mom, who runs the Silver Door salon. Her dad died when she was little. Lynne’s mom is hopeful her daughter will recognize how special she is and get a better self-image. Thankfully, the book emphasizes that this isn’t based so much on looks as it is being proud of your individual talents and knowing who you really are. Well, with stronger emphasis than usual, anyway. I’m glad this isn’t another Power Play or something.

Despite the cover’s implications, Liz isn’t as much of a busybody in this situation as she has been in past books. The story centers far more on Lynne and a song she has written called “Outside, Looking In” which she’s turned in anonymously to a songwriting contest The Droids are holding. (Did Aaron Lewis steal that song about 15 years later?) Lynne has a serious crush on Guy Chesney, The Droids’ guitarist/keyboardist/whatever (depends on what book you are reading/how much of a crap you give), whom we last saw flirting wildly with Liz in book 6, I think. Guy seems to like her too, but Lynne is convinced he wants someone who looks like Linda Ronstadt. Now, not to pick on age or anything, but Linda was 40 when this book was published. I find it odd that the ghostwriter would focus so much on the looks of someone that much older than these kids. Ah, I digress.
Elizabeth eventually comes across Lynne giving a little boy a guitar lesson, and immediately recognizes Lynne’s voice as the one on the tape, which The Droids played one day hoping to find out who the anonymous songwriter was. No one else has any clue that it’s Lynne because she’s worked so hard to keep her musical talents a secret. And Lynne has no clue that The Droids are so frantic to find the songwriter because she very literally has zero friends. Despite her shyness, Lynne feels comfortable pouring her heart out to Liz because Liz has that magic spell she casts over everyone when she leans forward and touches them like she is on this cover and a bajillion others. Liz keeps Lynne’s secret, even though Guy talks to her in private at least twice about how desperate he is to know who wrote the song. Seriously, why does everyone confide in Liz when they don’t really talk to her otherwise? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Guy to talk to Dana or Max or somebody about this? Well, Guy figures it out anyway when Liz mentions that the girl has talked about Linda Ronstadt, and he exposes Lynne by, get this, having her picture sketched on a flier (by a police sketch artist — what the fuck?) and passed around the cafeteria. That’s what he does to announce her as the winner of the song contest, rather than telling Lynne he knows it is her. By this time Lynne has gotten a makeover, but I think we are still supposed to understand she is not as pretty as a Wakefield. Everyone congratulates Lynne on her amazing talent, Guy tells her he is in love with her, and Lynne sings the song for the whole cafeteria with The Droids backing her up.

I tried to hate on this book, I really did. But I have to say I found its message more sincere than past books. And despite being fairly outgoing myself, I could identify with some of Lynne’s thoughts enough that I was a little unsettled. However, I did not appreciate the continued emphasis on how perfect the Wakefield twins are. Trust me Francine, we understand this by now. I also would like to see a book where a girl can gain some self-esteem without a boy being in the picture. No, I don’t think it’s bad that there IS a boy in the picture; I just wish there wasn’t one for a change.
The sub-plot isn’t really there …. it focuses on Jessica’s “brilliant” idea to raise money for new cheerleading uniforms through a stupid rocking chair competition and dance. Uh, did I say rocking chair competition? Why yes, I did! The cheerleaders literally sit in a chair and rock for hours and collect pledges for every hour that they rock. It’s called “Rock Around the Clock” and everyone proclaims it a brilliant idea because it was Jessica’s. BARF.
The corners of these books have a tendency to snap off when they get old. I just thought I would say that. Let’s talk about this cover. It’s not too bad. I’m sure Lynne could have chosen any other pair of glasses but these giant ones, though. They are even bigger than my ninth grade boyfriend’s, heeeee. Liz looks like a gym teacher and her lavaliere is so big that it looks like a gym whistle from far away. And why is she always touching people like that? Graaagh! Back off, Liz!
Little bits: It seems like Lila might be on the cheerleading team again, but I can’t tell. Last I checked she didn’t want back on there after she got kicked off with Cara.
We get our second black character introduced … a sophomore named Lisa Reed. Other minor characters we probably won’t hear from again: basketball forward Keith Webster and his girlfriend, another sophomore named Lynne Jacobs. Lynne H. thinks Keith is calling to her for a sec until she realizes it’s that other Lynne.
Jessica has been traumatized by what happened with Annie Whitman and doesn’t want to go through another round of auditions for the next cheerleader. Cry me a fucking river, Jessica!
The cheerleaders find out Helen is moving when they go to the Bradleys’ house to practice rocking. You know I am not making this up.
Enid crushes on a senior named Brent and dances with him at the Beach Disco (isn’t it time for a new name for that place?), but he doesn’t seem to have any interest in her. HA HA
I find it odd that Lynne thinks her tall, skinny figure isn’t attractive like the more “curvaceous” girls at school. When I was her age, I worried that I wasn’t skinny enough and that I was too curvaceous. There is nothing wrong with either body type, but we all know that things are different in Sweet Valley!
When Lynne tells Liz how much she wishes she was a Wakefield, Liz tries to make her feel better by telling her she can’t sing and has never played an instrument. I’m pretty sure that is total bullshit and I am going to call it on her when necessary. See why I track this shit so vigorously (other than the fact I am a total nerd)?
Liz becomes a Billie Holiday fan in this book, after she listens to one of Enid’s records. As much as those two annoy me, I have to give them props for appreciating Billie.
Guy falls in love with Lynne’s voice before he falls in love with her … brain hurts.
Back of the book advertises the next upcoming Sweet Valley High Super Edition, Malibu Summer, as well as some Sweet Dreams mini-series no one cares about. What’s funny is the Malibu Summer ad goes ahead and states that it’s the second summer Super Edition. They really do not give a crap about continuity!
The plot bits for the next book involves cheerleader Helen Bradley, who no one cares about anyway, moving away to L.A., and Lila’s cousin Christopher coming for a visit. And then we learn that Liz’s middle school best friend, Amy Sutton, is moving back to Sweet Valley from Connecticut and Enid starts to get jealous the second she hears about it. And all of this ties together quite nicely in book 29, which kicks off a short string of the SVHs I loved best as a kid! Yay!
(Another note: A few books after book 28, the Sweet Valley Twins spinoff series was introduced, with the twins in the sixth grade. In that series, Amy was Elizabeth’s best friend until she moved away after the series concluded. When Liz asks a group of Jessica’s friends if they remember Amy, Cara, Lila, and Caroline all say that they do. I find this funny since Cara is nowhere to be found in the SVT series — unless she popped up near the end when I had stopped reading it.)

Super Edition #3 Spring Break

It’s April 1986 and we’re on to the third Super Edition, and the twins are off to the South of France for 10 days as part of an exchange program between Sweet Valley and Cannes. The back cover informs us that “Elizabeth can’t wait to practice her French, but Jessica’s dying to meet those romantic French boys.” Of course. Now, if I’m not mistaken this is the twins’ second, possibly third spring break. The first one was in book 11. Then there was a strange one week break from school in book 21, and since that was right before the first Super Edition summer, I guess we have to assume that unnamed break = spring break. Then they had the first winter break with Super Edition 2, and now we are back to spring again. Why do I do this to myself?

Let’s talk about the cover. Is that a green coat Liz is wearing? She looks like a psycho with that weird expression. In fact, it’s really quite hysterical if you look at it for too long. And Jessica is apparently so delighted to be in Europe that she’s doing an impromptu joyous striptease. At least we get a decent background for a change … are they near a lake?
The twins’ host family consists of a lady named Avery Glize and her 17-year-old son, Rene (that’s Re-nay – I don’t know how to do the accent mark over the ‘e” and I’m much too lazy to figure it out), and younger daughter Ferney who stays with the Wakefields. Of course, the Wakefields noticed right off the bat that there is no Monsieur Glize and appear genuinely shocked and curious as to why this isn’t a nuclear family. Groan. The family picture the Glizes send to the Wakefields shows Ferney with her head to the side so no one can see her face. It makes so much sense that they would choose to send that one shitty picture.
Avery, a nurse, is very nice to the twins, but Rene acts like a dick and makes bitchy comments about “you Americans” as soon as they meet him. It’s a shame because Liz started crushing on Rene as soon as she saw his picture, and Jessica desperately wants them to hook up because the only Sweet Valley people who are single for too long clearly have something wrong with them. While the twins ride to the Glizes’ house in Cannes, Rene quietly bitches to Avery about stupid Americans and “my father” so I guess it’s pretty obvious that his dad was an American and that’s why he hates all Americans. Of course, it’s going to take a bunch of meddling from Liz to figure this out, so we aren’t supposed to have caught on yet. Jessica instantly hates Rene since he’s a big jerk, but she acts like a 6-year-old about it. Seriously, does anyone above that age stick their tongue out at people? Jess goes for a jog with Liz (I had no idea they jogged) and takes off with some rich kid she meets named Marc Marchieller, who turns out to be totally boring. That leaves Liz with Rene, whom Avery has ordered to be kind to the twins. You see, Avery thinks forcing her son to hang out with two Americans is the best way to get him to stop being so full of hatred for Americans. Sounds great.
Rene takes Liz out to lunch with his friends Edouard and Georges who scold Rene for being mean to Liz. They don’t like that Rene is yelling at the waiter that Liz needs more ketchup because she’s American. This just makes him hate Liz even more.
Rene ultimately deserts Liz despite his mom’s insistence that he show the twins around, so Liz decides to spend some time by herself while Jessica is off with Marc again, who is still boring her. Liz finds a lost puppy named Nykki, who happens to belong to a Countess with a hot grandson named Jean-Claude. The Countess loves Liz (shocker), but Jean-Claude and Liz don’t really click. But Jean-Claude does let it slip that Rene is afraid of the water because his best friend Antoine drowned in the Mediterranean some years ago and Rene couldn’t save him. Liz feels pity and you know she’s on a mission to show Rene the light. Liz goes ahead and makes plans to hang out with Jean-Claude soon anyway because she doesn’t have any other friends here besides the Countess. But then she accidentally stands him up because of an emergency errand she had to run for Avery, and a traffic accident that slows up her bus and makes her late getting back to the house to meet him, wah wah. (Liz gets out of the bus to inspect the accident, naturally, and I seriously thought she was going to solve the issue herself!)
Liz did leave a note saying she might be late because of the errand, but Jessica gets home first (fleeing from Marc, who naturally has a puppy dog crush on her), sees the note, and then is bowled over when hot Jean-Claude arrives. J.C. has no idea that Liz has a twin and assumes Jessica is Liz, and Jess keeps up the charade because she wants a piece of that ass. The fake “Liz” and Jean-Claude fall in love, and Jessica sneaks around with him behind Liz’s back for a few days and lets Liz think that Jean-Claude is mad at her, and that it’s Marc Jess is with the whole time. So when Marc shows up at the Glize house looking for Jessica and saying he hasn’t seen her in days, Liz is a little surprised and wonders who Jess’s mystery man is. She’s with J.C., DUH. Liz agrees to go with Marc to an art gallery where they meet Veronique, the daughter of a famous painter named Joseph Gallirere or something. The painter thinks Liz is unusually astute for a 16-year-old (*eye roll*), Veronique and Liz become friends, and Marc falls for Veronique. Aw, now Liz is the only one left all alone. You know the book won’t let it stay that way for long.
Back at the Glize house, Liz tries to bond with Rene when she finds out his dad has been sending him letters every month from America, which Rene throws away without reading. It only takes a couple of pages for Liz to convince Rene to open the letter. I mean, she’s really badgering him about it and I kind of want to stuff the letter up her nose. But then Jessica comes in and ruins the whole thing. Rene is back to hating Americans again. But you know what’s really funny? Rene bitches at Liz for being all up in everyone’s business. It’s funny because it’s true.
Naturally, it takes a near-tragedy to get Rene over his hatred and fear of both Americans and the ocean. A storm blows up at sea while Jean-Claude and Jessica are out on an island making out. Liz runs into Rene again and he tells Liz that Jessica’s mystery man is Jean-Claude and that Jean-Claude thinks Jess is Liz. Liz is furious but surprises Rene by insisting they go to find Jessica and J.C. and save them. I guess Rene thinks Americans are so evil that Liz would just want Jessica to drown. Liz only briefly stops to think of her dead cousin Rexy and her previous accident before hopping on the back of Rene’s moped. She got over that quick. They arrive at the beach just in time to see Jessica get knocked unconscious by the boom on Jean-Claude’s capsizing boat. It takes Jean-Claude, Rene, and Liz working together to save her. Liz realizes that J.C. and Jess have fallen in real love and helps to keep up the charade by pretending to be Jessica. Later, Jessica tells the Countess and J.C. who she really is, and of course the Countess thinks it’s “intriguing” and of course J.C. still loves her. OF COURSE. Remember that dumb shit with Bill Chase in books 7-8? That’s the way it works when you’re from Sweet Valley, kids.
Of course Rene gets over his fears, of course he does it with Elizabeth’s help, and of course it takes a major near-tragedy to hammer it all home. I’m glad to know that’s all it takes to get someone to stop being prejudiced!
Now that Rene has magically transformed from an ass to a nice person, he and Liz hook up and admit they both thought the other was hot from the very beginning. Rene felt he had to be extra assy to her to fight the feeling of wanting to jump her bones. Awwwww, how sweet.
Meanwhile, back in North America, Ferney arrives and Steven is shocked to find she resembles Tricia Martin. He immediately forgets all about Cara and starts hanging around Ferney nonstop and salivating over her every movement, convinced she is the living version of Tricia. There’s a whole boring scene where Ned and Alice discuss the situation. Of course Ned decides it’s not worth worrying about and Alice just goes along with what he says. Well, Ferney sucks at English and Steven sucks at French, so they wind up just hanging around mooning over each other until Steven’s friend David arrives to help translate. Steven realizes Ferney isn’t anything like Tricia (no, really Steve? You mean two people can look the same but be very different? Like some twins do? Hmmmm); he just assumed she was but she’s rather shallow. By this point, he has completely ignored Cara and made her feel so bad that she’s reduced to confiding in Enid, of all people. But when Steven sees how wrong he was about Ferney, he suddenly remembers Cara exists, comes over to her apartment and apologizes to her, tells her she’s special, she forgives him, and damn, why are we not done hearing about Tricia Martin yet? Come on! Man Cara, dump this guy. Seriously, what if Ferney HAD been just like Tricia? Then what? Would Steven have hopped a plane back to France with her?
The book ends without us ever seeing what really goes down between Rene and Liz. We just know they like each other and have a date, and there’s only a few more days left on the vacation. Come on, don’t leave us guessing like that! I can only hope this will be addressed in the secret diary editions much later. I do have to say I got tired of every adult Liz met telling her how intelligent and perceptive she is. Yeah, yeah, WE KNOW!
Little details: This book was written when it was still kosher for people to smoke on airplanes, as the announcer tells everyone to put out their “smoking materials.”
The twins poke at their airplane meals and talk about how gross it is. You know, I’ve been flying since I was very little, and I seriously have never had airplane food that I thought was truly gross. Maybe I am just unusually blessed?
France was still using the franc for currency when this book was published.
This is apparently Lila’s third trip to France, but neither she nor any of the other Sweet Valley kids appear anywhere in Cannes alongside the twins. It’s kind of nice to have a break from those kids for a change! (And the Ms. Dalton/Mr. Collins drama)
Jessica once dated some dude named Chuck Wollman, who was “tiny.” Hmmm … uh …
I love the way there’s always a good reason for someone being a crappy person, and it’s usually the parental units. Rene is a jackass because of his parents. Suzanne Devlin was a jackass because of her parents. Oh, need we go on?
One of the reasons Steven thinks Ferney is just like Tricia is because he mistakenly thinks she wants to be a scientist — just like Tricia did. I don’t remember hearing about this before, I really don’t.
Marc takes Jessica to a private beach where everyone goes topless. Jessica whips off her own top and then dives face-down onto her towel while blushing furiously. Are we really supposed to believe Jessica would be shy about this?
Occasionally this Super Edition will randomly go into a stupid melodramatic sentence, like many SV books. But I think this one may be the worst I’ve read in ANY Sweet Valley book so far: “An oasis of sympathy sprang up in the desert of anger that Elizabeth had felt.” WOW.
I think it is strange that Ferney barely knows any English. She’s in an exchange program for language classes. At my school, you had to have taken a minimum of two years of the language before you could go on the exchange trip. Of course, I know it’s different when you learn a language in a class and then go to a foreign country and hear someone else speak it, but still! Also, Jessica is terrible at the language when she arrives, and then halfway through the trip she’s suddenly fluent. I don’t think I need to tell you that Liz was perfect from the beginning.
Here’s another random place to add to all the others: Estrella Beach! Steven talks about taking Ferney out there.
The back of this book tells us this is a pretty late printing as it has an ad/order form for SVH Super Thrillers and Super Stars, which were published much later, boys and girls. Lord, I can’t believe I’m still doing this.
Now it’s back to our regular SVH books. It is always hard for me to go back to those after reading the fun Super Editions. And yes, our next one is about Liz meddling in some poor soul’s life, this time back on American soil. I wonder how many books in a row this makes about her fucking meddling.
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