A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some (with lots of swears)

Archive for April, 2010

Super Edition #5 Winter Carnival

This book is so lame, especially for a Super Edition. It’s all about Elizabeth taking Jessica’s shit like she usually does, and then resenting Jessica extra hard, and then ultimately realizing the best course of action is to continue to take Jessica’s shit and just be happy about it. There, I summed it up in one long sentence. But seriously, how does Liz feel about having “the old Jessica” back now, huh? (See the previous book.) And where’s this winter carnival? Well, we don’t get to read about any carnival events until the very last chapter, Chapter 19 – and there’s only 11 pages of it. BORING.

Liz’s breakdown begins when she starts silently noticing that everything goes right for Jessica and everybody loves her. I guess it’s Liz’s turn to have a book 21 moment. Liz feels that Jessica has also been treating her especially shabbily lately. But really, it’s just Jessica dicking Liz over the same way she always does: Jessica “forgets” to do the dinnertime chores and then begs Liz to do it (which she of course does, because she’s a fucking doormat). Jessica takes credit for the chicken dinner Elizabeth made, runs off with the Fiat and leaves Liz stranded and forced to walk home from school, borrows Liz’s perfume and then losing it in her room somewhere, and also borrows her mulberry sweater without asking. Ho-hum, business as usual! But Liz just gets especially depressed and moody about it, and never tells Jessica to get her shit together until several chapters in. Grow some ovaries, Liz.

Things only worsen when Jessica and that bitch Amy Sutton hear about a trivia contest a local TV station is holding. The contest involves students from two area high schools sending in answers to trivia questions. Teams who answer all the questions correctly get entered into a drawing, and one team will be chosen from each of the two schools. (The other school is Westwood High … where’s Big Mesa? Or Palisades?) Then the two schools will have a little trivia showdown, and whoever wins gets to compete in the first episode of a local trivia game show on TV. Jess and Amy know Liz and Enid have been studying hard to get all the answers right, so they just go ahead and steal their answer sheet and enter the contest … and they win the drawing!  And hey, Amy even meets with Scott Hamilton, the TV station owner or something, and suggests the name “Trivia Bowl” as the title of the show, and he loves it … did Amy happen to be blowing him at the time? I’m just sayin’.

Jess cheerfully proclaims she and Amy took the answers from Liz, then doesn’t get why Liz looks so upset. And Liz doesn’t bother to tell her what an asshole thing to do that was, but just sits and foams at the mouth. You see why I am out of sympathy for this girl by now. So Amy and Jessica get to compete against the Westwood kids for the grand prize. Jessica announces at the dinner table that one of those kids, David Campbell, is too sexy and, oh yeah, she’s about to go on a date with him in 15 minutes. Her parents don’t even bat an eyelash, and don’t ask to meet this kid they never heard of before he takes their daughter out. Is this normal, or am I the only one whose dad demanded to meet every dude I went on a date with? (Every dude I told them I was going on a date with, anyway) Surprisingly, when Liz explains what’s happened with the show to Enid, Enid is just like, “Oh, well, whatever.” I don’t buy that reaction AT ALL since we know Jessica and Amy are the two people Enid hates more than just about anyone in the world.

Liz gets more depressed when she learns that she only got Honorable Mention in an essay contest she entered. Oh, waaaah. She’s only won every other contest she’s ever entered in her life. To rub salt in the wound, Jessica and the cheerleaders have won an entry into the All-State competition and Jessica can’t stop talking about it. Then Jeffrey tells Liz he’s taking her on a surprise date to Tiberino’s to cheer her up, but when Liz goes home to get ready, she finds that Jessica has run off with Amy and left behind dinner duties once again. Liz tries to call Jess at Amy’s house, but the housekeeper says they are gone. Now, what do you think Liz should do? I think she should just go ahead and go on her date and let Jessica take the heat when Ned and Alice come home to no dinner. Yep, that sounds like a good idea but – hey-o! – Liz calls Jeffrey and cancels the date. Wow. Could you be any more of Jessica’s bitch, Liz?

Despite all of this mess, Liz doesn’t REALLY lose her shit until Jessica fails to leave her an important note. Liz is supposed to give Teddy Collins a ride home from some other kid’s birthday party. Mr. Collins can’t for some reason. Doesn’t matter. Anyway, Liz has to go on a tennis date with Jeffrey around the same time. So she tells Jessica that the birthday kid’s dad is going to call as the party winds down and tell Liz what time she needs to pick up Teddy. Jessica is supposed to write the time down and leave it for Liz. So dude calls and Jessica takes down the information, but then she accidentally takes the note with her on a date with David. Elizabeth gets home from her date, thinks no one’s called yet, and then the birthday kid’s dad winds up having to take Teddy home because he thinks Liz isn’t coming. Why wouldn’t he just call the house again to see where Liz is? Elizabeth is humiliated and has to go to birthday kid’s house to apologize to the dad. Yikes, you can see how cell phones would’ve really helped everyone back then.

Meanwhile, Jessica is out eating at a sushi house called A Taste of Tokyo with David, his pretentious sister Barbara, and Barbara’s boyfriend Mitch. Jessica has never eaten sushi and thinks it looks gross, but decides to try some just to get Barbara off her back about it. She accidentally eats some horseradish instead and almost chokes to death. Good one, Jess. She then sees the note for Liz in her purse, realizes she took it, and tries to call Liz from a payphone, but it’s too late; Liz is already on her way to birthday kid’s dad’s house to say she is sorry. Jessica decides she might as well put it out of her head. On the ride home, she tries to seduce David into losing the trivia contest on purpose so she and Amy can go on TV, but he just laughs. Jessica almost sounds like she was planning to give it up to him if he would agree to lose. How whore-y. Jessica is really mad at David because after two or three dates they’ve had, he should just give her what she wants. She storms inside the house, and Liz is furious with Jessica for making her look like an idiot, and Jessica promises to shape up. She seems like she does mean it, but what Jessica means to do and what Jessica actually winds up doing are rarely the same thing. Funny how I know this better than Liz.

Liz is nervous because Todd is flying back to attend the winter carnival, and Jeffrey doesn’t really like the idea because he thinks Liz might still have feelings for Todd. And Liz can’t attend the opening night of the winter carnival because she already agreed to go to an awards banquet for a Big Brother-like PTA program with Todd, where he’s going to be honored for his work with his “little brother.” But Liz didn’t bother to tell Jeffrey about this dinner, and so when Jessica lets the beans spill at the Dairi Burger one night, Jeffrey is hella mad. He and Liz wind up fighting, and because Liz is a fucking idiot, she actually listens to Jessica’s advice to play hard to get with Jeffrey to make him really jealous. But it doesn’t work and Jeffrey gets even angrier, and they have a huge blow-up at lunch. Of course, Liz blames Jessica for giving her shitty advice, not that Liz actively chose to listen to it or anything. Then Jeffrey leaves her a note in her locker. If Liz can come meet him by six at Las Palmas Canyon (where?), he’ll know that she wants to make it work between them. Otherwise, he’ll assume she’s breaking up with him. Why somewhere so far? Jeez. That sounds like he’s planning to throw her into the canyon. I wish he would.

Jessica happens to be participating in the trivia contest the night of the canyon meeting, but she promises to have the Fiat back in time for Liz to drive out to meet Jeffrey, and you see where this is going. Jessica and Amy actually win the contest, Jessica decides she’ll keep dating David even though he hasn’t bent over far enough to take all of her shit yet, Mike Malloy (the game show host) offers to take them out to the Pizza Palace (not Guido’s?) for dinner, and Jess forgets all about the car. Liz can’t get out to the canyon so it’s over between her and Jeffrey. This is so dumb. Just call him later and tell him what happened! Liz is devastated and sits around crying instead, and when Jessica gets home and is reminded of her broken promise, she swears to herself that she will fix things between Liz and Jeffrey. I don’t know if it’s worth fixing. They just got together two books ago and they’ve already fought and broken up twice. I’d just let it go, dude.

And how about that winter carnival? What the fuck is that anyway? Well, it’s an annual event that takes place at Mont Blanc ski resort for juniors, seniors, and alumni. Here’s all the shit they have planned (and naturally, most of it is organized by the junior class who apparently have a say in everything):

-An ice show (what is that? like ice skating?) on the ice rink organized by Amy Sutton

-A big dance called the Snow Ball, of which Winston Egbert and Enid are co-chairs. Worst dance ever.

-A mock Winter Olympics by Bill Chase and Ken Matthews

-Card and board games, Ping-Pong, and hot cider and chocolate for all the losers who don’t want to do the fun shit outside. Okay, that was mean of me

-An opening night pizza party

Sounds like it would be pretty fun, especially for Sweet Valley since no one there ever sees snow. Except since Liz and Jeffrey are refusing to talk to one another, neither one is really looking forward to it. Also, Jessica has gone ahead and taken the liberty of insinuating to Todd that Liz doesn’t really want to go to the dinner with him. This is part of Jessica’s brilliant plan to “fix things.” Todd does what he assumes is best and tells Liz he doesn’t want her to come to the dinner anymore. And even though Jessica always tells lies to fuck shit up between Todd and Liz, he somehow doesn’t question what Jess says. I hate Todd. Liz thinks Todd hates her guts and gets even more depressed.

Jessica executes the rest of her plan. She writes a note from “Liz” and drops it in Jeffrey’s locker, saying she wants to meet him at 6:30 the opening night of the carnival so they can make up. This is necessary because Liz would just rather mope around about losing Jeffrey and can’t be persuaded to fix shit herself. Then let her reap the consequences, dammit! Jess plans to tell Liz about the note on the bus to Mont Blanc so that Liz will make up with Jeffrey once they get there, and all will be right with the world. Only Jessica and Amy are late meeting the bus for Mont Blanc because Amy is fucking slow and has to pack her whole closet or something, and so it leaves without them and they have to drive to Mont Blanc themselves. My head hurts.

They get there and since Liz can’t be found and it’s almost 6:30, and Liz has no idea she is supposed to meet Jeffrey, Jessica goes to meet him instead, posing as Liz of course. He is delighted they are making up and gives Jessica sexy eyes and she gets uncomfortable. A senior gossip girl we’ve never heard of before named Chrissy Nolan sees them and tells Liz she saw her hanging all over Jeffrey. (I guess we can’t have Caroline be the gossip now since she supposedly redeemed herself way back in book 17.) Liz knows it wasn’t her with Jeffrey, and she freaks out, thinking that Jeffrey is now doing it with Jessica. This is supposed to be an example of Liz blowing shit out of proportion, but you know what? I don’t think so. After all, in the last book, Jessica wasted no time going after Jeffrey when she heard he and Liz had split up. Why should she change now?

Liz has had enough. She packs her shit and takes a bus out of Mont Blanc. Ken, Cara, Enid, and Steven all realize she is leaving but no one stops her. I guess I wouldn’t either, seeing as how we’re now nearly 200 pages into the book and the carnival is just now starting. Liz gets home and Jessica calls demanding to know what’s going on. Liz screams at her that she wishes she never had a sister which is way harsh, come on, and hangs up on her. She falls asleep crying and wakes up from a phone call from the hospital. Jessica tried to drive down the mountain after Elizabeth and wrecked the Fiat, and she’s in bad shape. Liz runs outside and into Todd who obviously should be at the banquet. He drives Liz to the hospital and they are told that Jessica died by their pediatrician (pediatrician? they’re 16!) who’s wearing strange glasses. We get a view of the next couple of weeks in which the whole family mourns Jessica and silently blames Liz. Mrs. Wakefield wears her dead daughter’s clothes which is creepy. When Liz finally meets with her friends again at Enid’s house, Enid is wearing Jessica’s silver ski suit (ew! the one she died in?) and Jeffrey and Todd are both there and they get in a fistfight that is flat-out fucking hilarious. By now, you should be fully aware that this is a dream if you somehow didn’t get it initially. Did anyone read this when it first came out and think Jessica really died? I’m just curious.

Here’s the bullshit ending. Liz wakes up to hear Jeffrey and Jessica come into the house and call for her. She is overcome with joy that Jessica is alive and that it was just a nightmare. Jeffrey apologizes for being possessive. And Liz is so grateful that Jessica is alive that she forgives all the crap Jessica did. That’s nice and all, except Liz decides to keep taking Jessica’s shit because “Jessica was Jessica.” That’s right, she’s not going to force her to be accountable for her shitty nature because hey, that’s just the way she is! At least she’s alive! At least she has a sister! It’s okay that she treats Liz like shit and keeps doing it no matter what Liz says! Fucking enabling bullshit! Then they go to the stupid winter carnival and Jeffrey and Todd get along great and everyone has a blast at the stupid carnival doing goody-goody shit and it’s really, really boring. Oh, and I don’t think Liz ever finds out that Jessica had Todd tell her not to go to the banquet with him, so she gets away with that, too.

This book sucks. A fat one.

The cover makes me laugh so hard. Once again, Liz has a totally stupid expression on her face that makes her look like she ate some shrooms. Nice poofy ponytail. I kind of like Jessica’s jacket. I did not say that out loud. Also, the back of the cover mentions this is the twins’ “mid-winter break.” What the fuck is a mid-winter break? Is that like, a break after the regular winter break so no one has to go to class for more than a week or two at a time?

Stuff and Things: Further evidence that the ghostwriters can’t be too creative with names: Todd’s “little brother” is named Timothy Bryce. Jeffrey’s cousin, mentioned in book 32, is named Bryce.

Amy and Jessica have to go to the library to research what the longest river in Africa is. Uh, you mean the NILE RIVER? DUH!

Jeffrey is irritated because Liz uses the excuse that she can’t let Jessica just take the heat for not making dinner, because their parents will be so tired when they get home they won’t feel up to cooking anything, and that’s not fair to them. I was going to say Ned and Alice should just zap something in the damn microwave until I remembered most people probably didn’t have microwaves back in 1986. In fact, I think we didn’t get ours until maybe a year or two after this book was published.

The outfits in these books have always been amusing, but lately they’ve been especially horrendous. I didn’t think anything could beat the tuxedo pants with the bow tie or whatever the fuck that one was in book 1, but I’m thinking Jessica’s sparkly silver ski suit in this one might do it!

More one shot characters: David’s trivia partner, Jake Thomas. Some senior dude named Craig that Lila dances with at the Snow Ball, while wearing a white dress covered in feathers. HAHAHA I told you … these outfits are hilarious!

Liz wears a hideous-sounding silver dress with puffy sleeves, but Jeffrey thinks she is beyond gorgeous in it. I guess that dress would’ve been really popular back then though. Guuuuh … things I don’t miss about the 80s!

The Droids play a godawful song called “Snow Girl” with crappy ass lyrics. I think “Summer Girl” by Tony Sargent was better. And Dana Larson sings it which sounds funny since she’s telling the “Snow Girl” she sets her on fire with desire or something. Maybe Dana is bi and these early books are more diverse than I thought.

In the back of the book are these weird ads for grown-up mystery novels revolving around virgins and shit that I think are really odd for being in a Sweet Valley High book. There’s also an ad to sign up for the Bantam Deadline murder mystery newsletter … get it … Deadline? Hehehe.

Next time, we’ll find out what happened with Sally Larson and her cousin. I really do not want to read it. I just don’t. It sounds boring. I’ll try.

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#32 The New Jessica


Ah, we’re up to that famous tale of Jessica becoming somebody brand new, or trying to, anyway. Is there anyone  who hasn’t read this book? It seemed like it was everywhere when I was a kid. Jessica is moody because everyone  keeps joking about how much she and Liz look alike. Well, um, you do. The final straw is a day in which she chooses  to wear Liz’s dress to school and is then shocked when people naturally think she is Liz. To be fair, I don’t get how  people get the two confused since Liz is always wearing those stupidass barrettes. Jessica is furious nonetheless,  and so here comes a complete transformation. Man, she hasn’t been this angsty since she ran away from home in  book 21.

Jessica starts by spending a whole weekend with Lila Fowler so she can get made over and come home Sunday  looking like a European model she saw in Vogue magazine. She also thinks she needs to change her personality, so she starts acting really ridiculous.

-Lila dyes Jessica’s hair black, with some temporary stuff that washes out in two shampoos. Why not just do permanent? It would save Jess a lot of upkeep.

-She starts wearing heavier makeup. She wears red lipstick and lines her eyes with kohl pencil all the time.

-Lila’s dad just got back from Paris and brought her a whole new wardrobe, which Lila goes ahead and loans to Jessica. I have a hard time     believing Lila would be that generous to her number one competition. We’ll just go with it.

-She starts carrying around European magazines and flashing them at her classmates.

-She develops a fake British accent, a la Madonna, and calls people “darling” and shit.

-She goes to see a foreign movie, but privately notes she can’t read half of the subtitles because she sat too far back in the theatre.

-She tries to impress Lila by ordering some espresso at a little coffee shop called L’autre Chose (doesn’t that mean “The Other Thing”?), but thinks to herself that it’s disgusting. She even tries to make sophisticated expressions and Lila makes fun of her.

-She puts a ridiculous outfit from Lisette’s on her parents’ charge account. It’s a long white skirt, white sweater with sequins, and a white beret. Gnarly. She also wears a lot of jumpsuits. Were those really in fashion in the mid-80s? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one of those in real life, but I’m always reading about them in this series.

-She decides she wants to look “gaunt” like a fashion model she sees in a magazine, so she goes on a crash diet of only yogurt and carrots, and loses three pounds. Her parents don’t even seem to notice she is starving herself. How fucked up. When she finally gets too hungry to keep up this charade, she eats a ton of fries and ice cream in front of Jeffrey who is weirded out.

-At DeeDee Gordon’s suggestion, she goes to see a fashion photographer named Simon Avery about becoming a model. He mentions that she can do junior fashion modeling at Lytton and Brown department store. First of all, what the fuck is DeeDee doing helping Jessica after Jess was a dick to her in books 8 AND 22? Here she’s practically falling all over Jessica and her new look.

-She talks about how juvenile cheerleading is and misses a few practices. Why don’t they kick her off the team? First she missed practices for Bruce Patman in book 3, now she’s acting like she’s too important for it.

-She tells Liz that a fair they go to every year in a town called Ramsbury is silly and she’s not going this year, breaking Liz’s heart.

-And the real kicker … she privately thinks to herself that when she becomes  a rich and famous model/actress, she’ll use “Jessa Fields” as her professional name. Thankfully, she never voices that sentiment out loud to anyone in this book.

Seriously, Jessica is beyond ridiculous in this book, yet everyone is oohing and aahing over her like they have never seen anyone so glamorous. That includes kids to whom she’s an ass on a regular basis, like DeeDee, Olivia, and Winston. Only Enid doesn’t seem that impressed, and I have to give her credit for that! Liz, meanwhile, is totally heartbroken. She starts crying the second she sees the new Jessica, and runs away upstairs which I think is just a wee tad melodramatic.  We get lots of scenes of her writing in her journal about how upset she is about Jessica’s transformation. That I can understand, crying and running away from Jessica I can’t. I remember when my dad shaved off his mustache and I bawled at his new look. The difference is I was six years old at the time.

In order to meet with Simon Avery’s Lytton and Brown connection, Mr. Mahler, Jessica has to get a portfolio of pictures made for something like a hundred fifty bucks, which is typical for people who want to get into modeling. Although honestly, even by 1986 standards, I think that’s way cheaper than a typical portfolio. Whatever, this is fiction. If Jessica wins the modeling job, she will do a runway show for Lytton and Brown and will get paid five hundred bucks, enough for her to pay her parents back for the portfolio and the Lisette’s charge. That’s right, Ned and Alice lent her the money for the portfolio, and they didn’t even get that mad about the Lisette’s charge. So I guess she’s just freely allowed to use their credit account. Wow, I was pretty spoiled, but my parents would so not be having that.

Before Jessica can meet with Mr. Mahler, the Wakefields watch some home videos of the twins because they are trying to splice together a series for Grandma and Grandpa Wakefield. Jessica is moved by the images and decides she’s going to the Ramsbury Fair after all. Then Penny Ayala shows up at their house with Elizabeth’s lost journal (see the sub-plot), and Jessica of course reads it in the hallway. When she sees Elizabeth’s feelings about her transformation, she feels really sad. NOSY!

She still doesn’t switch back to her old self, however. That’s going to take the disastrous meeting with Mr. Mahler, in which he tells her her look isn’t right for the runway and she bawls in front of him and Simon. But then the dudes walk out and see Liz and jizz in their pants over how she is just what they need. They want to use Liz so badly that they up the payout to SIX hundred dollars. Jessica is hysterical and decides to pose as Liz and so she can model in the show. She goes home and washes the dye out of her hair. I’m having a hard time believing it would come out that easily – black dye from blond hair? I also don’t see why she couldn’t just show up as herself. I mean, all they care about is THE LOOK, right?

The Wakefields and a bunch of people who don’t like Jessica show up to watch her walk the runway as Liz. Liz wears a fugly black wig to the show to try to pose as Jessica. Hur hur, hijinks! But since Jessica didn’t try to get her parents in on this dumb scheme, Mr. Mahler figures out from Ned and Alice that it’s really Jessica doing the modeling. Then Winston pulls off Liz’s wig in front of Mr. Mahler, and he just laughs and then he puts both Liz and Jessica in the show, even though Liz didn’t have any modeling training or experience whatsoever and didn’t have to pay for a portfolio. They’re twins, you see, and it’s just amazing. Gag me.

The sub-plot is really just part of the main storyline. Liz has the worst two weeks at school ever, but she brings a lot of it on herself. First Jeffrey makes a remark about how he likes Jessica’s new look and Liz flips the fuck out. She thinks Jeffrey really likes Jessica now, but instead of asking him about it, she walks around brooding. Then she loses her journal in the Oracle office and can’t find it and freaks out with fear, which as a lifelong personal journalist (since the age of 6, anyway), I totally understand. Then Jeffrey wants to go to the Ramsbury Fair and Liz makes a pissy remark about how Jessica doesn’t want to go this year. Jeffrey is annoyed because Liz seems like she doesn’t want to go unless Jessica goes, but Liz twists it around and makes it out like JEFFREY doesn’t want to go unless Jessica goes. She breaks their dates and then tells Jessica that she thinks Jeffrey likes her now. Horrible Jessica is all about that even though Liz hasn’t really broken up with Jeffrey, and so she tries to come on to him at lunch, but all Jeffrey wants to talk about is Liz. Jessica *eventually* tells Liz what Jeffrey said and the couple make up. And, Penny finds and returns Liz’s journal. Jessica changes her mind about the Ramsbury Fair. All is right with the world. I gotta give Jeffrey props though. He is a pretty straightforward dude. I like him way better than Todd – much less of a tool.

This cover cracks me up. First of all, a few tweaks and Jessica’s look would be back in fashion today. Secondly, is Liz wearing jodhpurs? I’m not even going to remark on her dumb barrettes that are inflicted on us pretty much every cover.

Stuff and things: We get to read several of Liz’s journal entries. I wonder if these will be repeated verbatim in the Secret Diary Magna Editions later?

Steven is nowhere to be found in this book. HALLELUJAH. He is mentioned as being a student at the “state college”. Since when is Sweet Valley College the “state college”?

Lila is still kind of pissed about losing Jeffrey to Elizabeth.

1986-tastic: Enid compares Jessica to Joan Collins in Dynasty. Jessica tells Lila they can watch movies on “the VCR”.

Lila asks some dude named Gregg McGinnis to dance with her at the Beach Disco.

Jeffrey tells Liz his cousin Bryce is visiting from Oregon, but we never meet this Bryce (unless he’s going to show up in the next book).

Penny is mentioned as being a senior. I really thought she was a junior.

Ms. Dalton hates the scene Jessica makes with her new appearance in homeroom and tells everyone to sit down. Tell ’em Nora!

The department store modeling show reminds me of modeling classes that were offered at our mall when I was a kid. I felt too awkward and ugly to go, but my parents bought me the two beauty/confidence textbooks that went along with them.

Finally –  I really don’t get why Elizabeth carries her journal around with her everywhere at school. I would never, ever do that. Of course, my high school didn’t have its own student lounge and office for the newspaper – we didn’t even have a newspaper – but seriously? I would DIE if someone read my journal or if I lost it like Liz did. Hell, I would die if someone even read my tawdry high school secrets today! And I think even someone as nice as Penny Ayala would probably take a peek before returning it to Liz, which Liz of course does not consider.

Set-up for the next book: We get another Droids-centered storyline. I don’t know why The Droids annoy me so much, but they do. The Larsons’ cousin, Sally, is coming to live with them following a string of stays at foster homes. Dana is excited about it, but her older brother Jeremy hates the idea. And of course Dana just goes ahead and confides in Liz about it during class, so I guess Liz is going to get involved. Ugh. Why does everyone tell Liz everything? Thankfully, before we can get into that, we have another Super Edition! (Unfortunately, I read this one when I was younger and I can already tell you that it’s not very good.)

#31 Taking Sides

I just have to get this off my chest. This is one of the fucking ugliest SVH covers I have ever seen. Above the neck, the twins look like soccer moms squaring off about whose turn it is to run the carpool this week. Below the neck, these stupid arms-crossed, pouty-face poses help them look like ten-year-olds fighting over who took the best set of markers in art class. And their hair … is bleach blonde, not “sun streaked” and is prematurely thinning. And what ugly outfits; are you telling me Jessica would really dress in a polo shirt like that? Guuuuh.

Okay, phew. Jeffrey French has moved to Sweet Valley from Oregon, and he and Aaron Dallas are already best friends since they went to the same soccer camp in northern California. What’s up with these kids going way out of their way for summer camps? (Remember Enid’s Maine sailing camp? And how did her family afford that anyway since she can never go on vacations?) Is that really necessary? They don’t have soccer camps in Oregon? Enid started crushing on Jeffrey immediately in the last book, but when Lila sees him later on she is all about some French action. Enid and Liz try to convince Jessica and Lila, whom they’re eating lunch with for some reason, that Jeffrey is too much of a farm boy (and too much her age), but that only turns Lila on more. She gets up and goes over to charm him. Enid and Liz are pissed off because Lila is somehow supposed to have ESP and realize that Enid likes him. I’m rooting for Lila because she had the balls to go introduce herself. Also, because Enid sucks.

Liz is desperate to hook Enid up with someone since she hasn’t dated anybody seriously since George Warren left her for Robin Wilson. (She’s had a bunch of flings with mostly college-age dudes here and there, however, something she has in common with Lila.) Jessica is determined to get Lila and Jeffrey together. Liz hasn’t told her Enid wants a piece of that, so when Jess finds out, she is infuriated and thinks that, once again, Enid is trying to butt in on a friend’s “reserved” boy (see also: Enid-Chris-Amy from book 29) and that Liz is encouraging her. And so here we have the “hottest feud” that the back cover was telling us about. Yeah.

Elizabeth herself hasn’t “met anyone” since Todd, and she’s not sure she’s “ready to fall in love again” or so this book claims. LIES. She just talked about how her love with Tony was more special than any other she had known two books ago! I guess it goes without saying that we won’t be hearing about Tony ever again.

The Wakefields have their cousin Jenny Townsend visiting for a week or so from Dallas. She’s about their age. Doesn’t anybody have to go to school in these books? (More about Jenny in the sub-plot.) She hangs around Jessica and annoys her all the time. But Jenny is good for letting secrets slip to one twin or the other. It’s Jenny who tells Jessica – oops! – that Elizabeth is trying to get Enid and Jeffrey together. It’s Jenny who accidentally tells Elizabeth that Lila is having a pool party and that everyone’s invited except Enid and Liz. But for something that’s supposed to be such a big deal fight between the twins, they don’t really fight much. They just kind of stomp around behind each other’s backs.

Liz starts chatting Jeffrey up, getting him to work as a photographer for the Oracle, and then trying to get him interested in Enid. Like any normal person, Jeffrey has barely even noticed Enid and can’t understand why Liz keeps pushing such a total bore on him. It’s obvious Jeffrey really wants Liz. Liz likes him too, but she feels guilty knowing Enid likes him and is in complete self-denial. Liz tries to get Jeffrey to meet Enid at an SVHS volleyball game that night. Jeffrey wants to go with Liz. Liz lies and says she has to do something with Jenny. Jeffrey doesn’t commit to going, but Liz gets Enid to go to the game and wait for him. He doesn’t show up, and Enid’s humiliated. Liz feels like an ass. Meanwhile, Jessica and Lila invite Jeffrey to go dancing with them at the Beach Disco that same night and mention that Jenny is coming. Jeffrey assumes this must be what Liz had to do, goes to the Beach Disco to see her, and is surprised she isn’t there. Well, I’m surprised he doesn’t give her a hard time about it later. He doesn’t even mention it until AFTER Liz jumps all over him for not meeting Enid, even though he never said he would. Then Liz just feels like an ass again. Good Liz, stop fucking meddling!

Jenny tells Liz about the Beach Disco and that Lila and Jeffrey were slow-dancing all night long. Now Lila is really serious about him and is going to buy him a brand new camera AND a tripod! (Jeffrey ultimately turns the gifts down because they are “too expensive”.) She even gets him last minute tickets to a pro soccer game in L.A. and Jeffrey feels obligated to hop in her lime green Triumph and ride off with her out of nowhere. Are his parents not going to wonder where he is when he doesn’t come home from school, or does he have a Zack Morris-style cell phone? My mom would’ve never let me get away with that shit. I’m jealous. Well, anyway, Liz is really upset about Lila throwing herself at Jeffrey because she likes him, but she tells herself she’s just mad because Jessica hid the plans for this from her, and of course because she wants Jeffrey to like Enid. She and Enid decide to get Jeffrey to auction himself off at the upcoming PTA charity auction, with the understanding that they will set Enid up to win. Enid cleverly tries to recruit Jessica and Lila to help carry cans to and from the auction all day, and of course they don’t want anything to do with work so they make up excuses and then don’t go anywhere near the auction. As much as Enid annoys me at times, I have to say that was indeed pretty smart of her.

To make a bid at the auction, you have to use cans of food for currency, so Enid shows up with two huge boxes full of cans. Oh well, the food pantry will definitely appreciate it. Enid wins Jeffrey with a frantic bid of 75 cans. Way to go, Captain Obvious. Jeffrey and Enid go to the Dairi Burger where Jessica catches sight of them, figures out what happened, and is infuriated. Then E. and J. go to the Beach Disco to dance and by now Enid has realized Jeffrey really isn’t into her and that she can make peace with that. But Liz can’t.

Of course, the school throws a big party on the beach with a huge wooden dance floor and The Droids to celebrate the PTA Auction. You know they probably could’ve donated that money to the fucking food pantry, but whatever. It’s Sweet Valley, money grows on trees, except for people with single parents. By now Lila has monopolized Jeffrey and follows him around calling him “Jeffie” and wearing a jumpsuit and gold heels. HAHAHA. Good one, Lila. Jeffrey likes her more than Enid, but he really wants a piece of the Liz action. So Liz manages to get three people pissed at her in the space of a few pages: Jessica for scheming behind her back (oh no! only one sister is allowed to do that!), Enid for embarrassing the shit out of her by trying to force Jeffrey to talk to her, and of course Jeffrey who gets so mad at Liz for being a dumbass that he shakes her. It’s described as a “little shake that was almost rough” but I’m not sure how I feel about this! Why would you set that up as an effective way to get your anger across to teenagers? I don’t know. Anyway, Jessica forgives Liz and encourages her to get with Jeffrey. Enid forgives Liz and encourages her to get with Jeffrey. Liz cuts in on Lila and Jeffrey, and replaces Todd with Jeffrey, who tenderly tells her he’s in love with her. I don’t know why, but I’m not really feeling the connection between the two of them at this point. Maybe it’s because Liz spent so much time denying there was one and avoiding Jeffrey except when she was pushing Enid on him.

Lila is pissed at both Liz and Jessica when she sees Jeffrey and Liz smooching on the dance floor, but calms down after Jessica reminds her that she already dates tons of other guys all the time!

The sub-plot: Jessica is “in love” with her latest obsession, a senior swim team dude named Eddie Winters. As usual, something stands in her way – this time its cousin Jenny, who’s 15. Didn’t we already have this stupid plot with Jessica, Danny Stauffer, and those Percy twins? Yeah, you know how this goes. Jessica gets to date Eddie, but has to bring Jenny along, and Jessica is perpetually annoyed because Jenny is soooooo annoying and wants to be just like Jessica and copies off her all the time. And, following a recurring theme that isn’t openly recognized in these books, Jessica in fact doesn’t get her man. Eddie is a perfect match with Jenny and Jessica turns out to be the real third wheel. Snap.

I’m curious if we’ll ever hear about Jenny again. Could she be Rexy’s little sister? We do know that she is the daughter of Alice Wakefield’s sister, but that’s it.

Little details: This is at least the third different kid with the first name of Eddie and we’re only on book 31. Further reflecting the strange trend of repeating Sweet Valley names, it’s the second kid with the last name of Winters (see: Meg Winters from book 27). I find this extremely annoying!

Jessica and Lila giggle over “romantic” Jeffrey’s last name is. I have no idea if the ghostwriter meant for us to just think of French stuff or French kisses, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess the former.

1986-tastic: Jessica asks Lila about borrowing her cassette player and Lila brags that “Daddy” has a bunch more at home.

Elizabeth asks Enid, “Can you imagine any guy preferring Lila Fowler to you?” Well, since you asked … yes. Like every guy.

Jenny giggles that she’s going to be thin just like the Wakefield twins. GAG ME. This is a page after Jessica critically notes that Jenny is at least ten pounds overweight, and feels embarrassed.

Jessica and Liz spend an awful lot of time noticing how much food Jenny eats, and giggling about it, because at 10 pounds overweight she’s just obese right? Fuck off!

Enid suggests to Liz that they convince Jeffrey to “sell himself” which Liz is initially puzzled at. I think Enid really had her going there for a second!

Obligatory character we’ve never heard of before making a tiny appearance: Stacie Cabot, a “pretty sophomore” who bids on Jeffrey at the auction. How many times have we heard of a sophomore described as “pretty”? No, seriously, I feel that every time a ghostwriter describes a new character, particularly a sophomore, they have to go out of their way to say she is “pretty” … so that we can still sleep at night knowing that Sweet Valley is full of mostly good-looking people, I guess.

Penny Ayala, editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, expresses disbelief that there are people going hungry in Sweet Valley. Wake the fuck up!

Caroline desperately bids on Jeffrey as well, so I guess she’s not with that Jerry dude anymore. Or maybe she’s just trying to fool around behind his back since he’s at college and all.

I can tell this book was written by the same person who wrote the previous one because the phrase “[So-and-so] thought fast” appears repeatedly.

Where the hell is Cara? She is completely absent. Remember the earlier SVH books where she and Jessica were always together?

The back of the book has several old-school teen series ads including one for Sweet Valley Twins. I remember this ad so well. “Tell your kid sister, your sister’s friends, and your friends’ sisters … Now they can all read about Jessica and Elizabeth in Sweet Valley Twins-a brand-new series written just for them…” and so on. I’m definitely going to have to review some of those books when I’m done with SVH!

Coming up next … Jessica keeps being mistaken for Liz, and she’s pissed. Time to get rid of those California-girl good looks!

#30 Jealous Lies

This is the last book in a small arc of some of my favorites when I was a kid. This particular one, like book 29,  focuses more on the complicated nature of high school friendships than it does boys. I like the romance and all,  but this is refreshing. Or at least, for a while. It starts getting boring near the end.

If we’re attempting to make some sense out of the SVH timeline and continuity, and you know I’m going to, then  another summer is over and we’re back to school …. and everyone is a junior again. It’s also pledge season for Pi  Beta Alpha. Jean West couldn’t pledge last time because she was doing some “big music project”, but since she’s  PBA sister Sandra Bacon’s best friend, it’s a given she’ll get in. What no one knows is that old Sandy is incredibly  envious of all of Jean’s accomplishments. It seems like Jean is perfect at everything, and Sandy is sick of hearing  about how great she is. Funny how we, the readers, have heard almost nothing about Jean before this book other  than that she’s a cheerleader.

Sandra thinks she weighs too much and is “average” yet she’s in PBA so she can’t be all bad. Or maybe she can –  Enid’s a member right? Hahaha. Because we can’t have Sandy just being a bitch for the hell of it – that’s Jessica’s sole  right – we are told that Sandy’s also afraid that once Jean joins PBA, she’ll lose interest in Sandra since PBA is “the  only thing Sandra has that Jean doesn’t” at present. Right.

Well, Sandra nominates Jean like everyone expects her to, but then proceeds to morph into a scheming biotch to keep her out of the sorority. One of the pledge tasks is that each girl has to get a certain guy to take her to this dumb party Cara is having. Sandra picks Tom McKay as the guy Jean has to ask because she knows Tom thinks Jean is a snob. Jean is horrified, but Sandy explains it away by saying she doesn’t want to look like she is playing favorites with Jean. With Lila’s help, Jean gets Tom to go with her, and it turns out he’s had a secret crush on her for ages. They start hanging out more, and honestly, it’s hard to see how they are going to work out at first. Jean acts kind of snotty when Tom takes her on a picnic because she thinks it’s a weird thing to do, and her thoughts remind me of Suzanne Hanlon’s at times. Oh by the way, Suzanne Hanlon is also a PBA member, but she’s not in this book at all. Just sayin’.

The more Tom and Jean see each other, the more they like each other, and Sandra can’t have that. Sandra, you are seriously a desperately evil bitch. Sandra drops by The Tennis Shop, where Tom works. Yes, that’s what it’s called. She “accidentally” lets it slip that Jean just asked him to have a date for the dance to fulfill a pledge, insinuating that she doesn’t really like Tom and is just using him. Tom feels humiliated, flies into a rage, and stands Jean up the night of the party by claiming he had to go to the hospital for food poisoning and have his stomach pumped. (Would they really pump your stomach for having food poisoning?) When Jean shows up without Tom and explains what happened, the girls are all sympathetic and ready to forgive this slight until Sandra starts insisting that they check out Jean’s story. Cara and Lila are a little surprised by this. Man, where is Jessica? She’s seriously nowhere around most of these PBA happenings, and she’s supposed to be the president! Jean calls the hospital and finds that yep, Tom never really checked in and he was lying. She is PISSED, but Cara and Lila are going to go ahead and let Jean get in the sorority anyway even though she failed her pledge task. Sandra calls bullshit on that and tells them they can’t let Jean in, and everyone is appalled. So then Jean tells everyone that for a new plege task, she will get back at Tom with an elaborate plan. She’s going to go to the big Friday the Thirteenth dance with him, where she and Dana Larson will be asked to choose the guy of their choice for the first dance since it’s also their birthday. Jean will ask someone other than Tom! Oh noooooes! Lila and Cara are fucking delighted with this plan. Jean then bitches Sandra out for not having her back. Sandra feels like an asshole. Good.

The rest of the book revolves around Jean and Tom falling in love, Jean deciding she can’t go through with the plan to mortify him, Tom telling Jean the real reason why he stood her up, Jean crying about Sandra but being a doormat and not asking her what the hell her problem is, and Sandra standing around feeling pretty stupid and praying Jean won’t find out that she tried to sabotage her. You know, I have to agree with Sandy on that list bit. She is stupid. If she were smart, she would’ve taken a tack from Jessica circa book 4, and just blackballed Jean anonymously at the end. I mean, no one knew it was Jess that wouldn’t let Robin in, right? So why not do it that way to Jean rather than make a big obvious ass of herself? Jeez.

Sandra runs into Liz in the student lounge (student LOUNGE? do all schools have this and I was just deprived?) but, get this, DOESN’T confide in her! YES! I was totally expecting a stupid Liz-saves-the-day scene (because I couldn’t remember what happened the first time I read this) and was so overjoyed I didn’t have to read through that. I was even more shocked when perpetually nosy Liz hears about Jean’s evil plan for Tom, thinks it’s awful, and declines to get involved because she doesn’t know Jean that well. NO.FUCKING.WAY.

Now, by the time we get to the big Friday the Thirteenth dance, it’s all a little boring. Yet we do get a huge description of how elegantly the school is decorated and you can tell this book was published during the booming 80s economy since they have huge dances like this every.single.week. They even have a bunch of “unlucky” items set around the room as decorations. Anyone besides me think some Christian parents’ group would be throwing a fucking fit if they tried to pull that today? So Jean asks Tom to dance with her instead of snubbing him, the PBAs are furious, Jessica actually appears for a second, Sandra begs the PBA harpies to kick her out rather than blackball Jean, and Jean overhears her and they cry and make up. They have a good laugh about it while the PBAs decide what to do with them. Because this is Sweet Valley, it works out perfectly and PBA accepts Jean and keeps Sandy.

What have we learned? 1) High school friendships are very complicated. 2) Jealousy will turn you into a monster. 3) If someone’s being a dick, it’s best to just not say anything and hope it will work out. 4) If you’ve been a dick, it’s best to just not own up to it and hope it will work out. If you do have to own up to it, just make a self-sacrificial statement and your friend will forgive you.

This cover is pretty appropriate. Sandra is wearing a totally bitchy expression and reminds me of Grease with her nickname “Sandy” combined with that big pink satin letter jacket. I don’t recall ever reading that the PBAs wore these jackets. Whatever. Jean’s face plays the part of the unsuspecting best friend perfectly, and we can tell she is “sophisticated” because she’s wearing a pearl necklace like Lila and Suzanne H. Nice hairband, Jean. Totally 80s. Love it. Also dig that we get a dark blue background for a change, combined with a Pepto-Bismol pink cover. HOT.

The sub-plot: Steven is home on some unspecified one week break from school. This book was published in September 1986, so let’s say fall break. But why does he even need a break? He’s HOME ALL THE TIME! His dorm roommate Bob has invited Steven to drop out of school and work with him on his dad’s ocean liner. They will be gone for eight to nine months at a time and see the “Far East” and Europe, which Steven considers “the whole world.” Everyone is horrified by the plan. He couldn’t care less and thinks it’s time he got a job and got out and saw the world. Ahahahahaha. Me too, you spoiled brat. Elizabeth decides the best way to handle it is to pretend they don’t give a crap, and actively support his decision to leave. Since it was Liz’s idea, the Wakefield parents are all about it. As everyone shows they don’t give a shit if he goes, Steven starts pouting and thinks everyone hates him. Well, I do hate you Steven and I wish you would go, so I don’t have to read about you moping around the house in every book. The Wakefields throw him a surprise “Bon Voyage” party and he gets mad and tells them he’s not going and everyone cries with relief. Come on, are they for real? He can’t stay away from home for three DAYS; did they really think he was going to leave for EIGHT MONTHS?

Oh, and Steven seriously does not give a crap about Cara. I have no idea how she puts up with it. First he totally ignores her when Ferney comes around, now he doesn’t even think twice about leaving her behind for nine months at a time. Yet he gets pissed that she doesn’t want to maintain a long-distance relationship at age SIXTEEN. Ugh. However, there is a funny scene where Cara says she’ll always remember Steven and he yells “Like hell you will” and storms off.

Stuff and Things: Sandra considers herself just “average” which is funny since in book 10 we were subjected to oozing prose about how the cheerleaders are “the cream of the crop.” See, Jessica effed up the team by letting Sandy on!

Jessica is supposed to be PBA president, yet it’s Lila who’s leading the pledging and all that. In fact, Jessica isn’t mentioned in a lot of the PBA scenes. Maybe Lila is just pledge-master. And of course there are no seniors in PBA or cheerleading.

Steven is 18 again in this book. Guuuh. Pick an age and stick with it, would ya?

There are hardly any Wakefield twin scenes in the book. Jessica is pretty much absent and Liz is only in one or two scenes. In one of them, she’s rushing off to hurry and proofread her Eyes and Ears column, which is apparently a huge deal. Dude, that column is what, five lines long?

Okay, I normally don’t track something like how many siblings people have, but I find it interesting that it changes all the time. So in this book we learn that Sandra has three brothers and Jean has two. One of Jean’s brothers is named Richard. I’m guessing the other must be the senior named Peter West that Lila hit on at Jessica’s crazy party in book 22. Oh, and for the record, one of the very first books mentioned Todd saying he has a sister. Okay, let the official sibling tracking begin.

Even though she went off in book 29 about how much she hates sandwiches, Jean makes herself a sandwich waiting for Tom to show up for the PBA party date.

Sandra and Jean practice water ballet in gym class!

Jean is terrified of heights, but agrees to go on the Ferris wheel with Tom. She is cured of her phobia simply by keeping her eyes shut until they reach the very top, then opening them to see the killer view. Nice amateur Fear Factor there, Tom.

1986-tastic: Liz tries to convince Steven to give her his word processor before he leaves.

Amy Sutton takes Aaron Dallas to the pledge party and they sound like they’re going to hook up afterwards. I guess he’s not with Patsy anymore. Maybe Amy was supposed to break them up. That sounds like something that little bitch would do!

More one-shot characters: Jerry Novak (Dana Larson’s latest boyfriend), Leslie Decker, Janice Young, and Becky White (PBA pledges).

Possible future book spoiler alert: Maybe 40 books later, Tom comes out as gay. I can’t help thinking that Francine already had that planned when this book was written. There are jokes about how Jessica had turned Tom off to females forever when she dated him. Tom also talks about how he doesn’t feel comfortable getting too close to girls, etc. None of which is strange on its own until you consider that many books later, Tom comes out as gay. Hmmmm!

The back of the book has the fun Sweet Valley Twins ad, about books “created especially for you.” There’s also an ad for the SVH Super Editions that calls the SVH stories “real-life adventure.” Uh, what planet are you from, copy-editor?

So that’s the first book of the 30s. By now it’s 1986, and the twins have been 16 years old for about three years. I have to say that I’m not looking forward to reading most of the other 30s. A lot of them focus on secondary characters, and/or have stupid plots that I couldn’t give a shit about. But there are a couple of good ones in there, and we still have two of the original Super Editions to look forward to … although I already know that one of those blows hardcore.

Next: There’s a hot new boy in town, and Enid is all about it. Surprising since he’s her age!

Super Edition #4 Malibu Summer

I was so excited to read this. This was the very first SVH book that I ever purchased. I think I bought it back in  1987 from the Waldenbooks in the mall. In fact, now that I think about it, this is probably the first one I ever read,  not Kidnapped! I think this book colored my ideals about how summertime should be for every teenage girl. (Oh,  lord.) And the cover definitely fascinated me as a kid. We have Liz and Jess standing on the beach looking just  delighted to be there. Jessica is the cool one laughing at something and taking off her sunglasses for a better look. I  wanted that pinky-peach bikini. (Note the past tense.) And, naturally, Liz is the one wearing the stupid-ass  matching barrettes (come on, even to the BEACH Liz?!) and crossing her arms self-consciously over her  conservative tank suit. I didn’t like Liz’s suit, but I still wound up with one that looked a lot like it when I was 12.  (My mom wouldn’t let me get a bikini until I was 14.)

So summer’s here, AGAIN, and the twins and all their friends have just finished up at least their second junior year.  Actually, I think it might be the third. I’m losing track. George Fowler forces daughter Lila to get a job in Malibu  as a mother’s helper in order to build some discipline or character or some bullshit like that. It’s a little late for that  George. Of course, the job she  winds up with is ridiculously cushy and she spends maybe two full minutes the whole summer actually doing  anything with the kid. In fact, she describes her duties as reading a bedtime story to the kid each evening. What the fuck kind of shit is that? Hiring someone just to read a story … ahhhh, nevermind. I’m taking this too seriously again.

When Jessica hears about this job, she is all about it and immediately wants to do the same thing. Ned and Alice say she can’t do it unless Liz does, too … why? Who cares? Is Liz supposed to chaperon Jessica? Well, Jess can’t convince Liz to go because Liz has been trying to hook up a summer internship for the Sweet Valley News … until LILA makes Liz feel bad about not giving Jessica what she wants. It only takes two seconds for Lila to make Liz reconsider, because Liz is stupid. Liz, I’m seriously going to smack you. So yeah, Liz gives up her prized internship that she worked so hard for, and prepares for Malibu with the oh-so-strict condition that Jessica do all the work, line up the interviews, and pick the families that they’ll work for. You see where this is going. Jessica is basically going to give herself the best family. She goes and interviews with the lady who runs the agency, who doesn’t appear to check any references. In fact, she pretty much hires the Wakefields solely because they are twins and she thinks the clients will dig knowing that twins are working for the agency. Because twins are such magical, special creatures, like unicorns and mermaids.

Despite Liz’s admonishment that Jessica do all the work, she has to do interviews with both families that the girls have been assigned. Why? Well, because Jessica and Robin Wilson are going to a weekend cheerleading camp together. So Liz reluctantly goes to both interviews and yes, that means she poses as Jessica for one of them.

Jessica has picked out a family called the Sargents for herself. Josh and Lucy Sargent have a three-month-old baby named Sam, so you know there is an ulterior motive for this. Jessica only wants to work for them because Josh Sargent’s cousin is a 17-year-old singer/movie star named Tony Sargent, and Jess thinks he might drop by the house and fall in love with her. He’s apparently already released two gold records and done a movie, but he’s never been mentioned in this series before, and Liz hasn’t even heard of him. He’s the 1986 equivalent of Justin Bieber. He sings pop songs like “You’re on My Mind” and “Tonight Is For You, Girl” and I remember reading about him when I was a New Kids on the Block fan, and being totally charmed. Of course, at 28, I find his lyrics a lot sillier.

Jessica sets Liz up with Malcolm and Audrey Bennett, who have a bratty six-year-old daughter named Taryn. She figures Liz is getting the raw end of the deal but will get over it. What a good sister, that Jessica.

Elizabeth goes to interview with the Sargents as Jessica, and finds the house is actually super tiny, six miles away from the beach, crammed full of boxes, and worst of all, Jessica will be staying in a cramped room on a cot, just inches away from the baby’s crib. Then Liz drives to see the Bennetts, and sees that they live in a HUGE oceanview mansion with a whole separate wing for Taryn, and that there’s a housekeeper named Maria who also looks after Taryn. Liz is so stupid she actually thinks Jessica willingly took the Sargent assignment and gave Liz the better house to make up for Liz having to skip out on her internship. Liz, you never learn, do you?

When Jessica arrives at the Sargents and sees the house, she is devastated. Josh also tells her that they haven’t seen Tony in three years and he never comes around. Serves her right! But she perks up a bit when she meets the Bennetts’ hot next door neighbor, Cliff Sherman, who just graduated from high school. Jessica spends a good deal of the rest of the book trying to get Liz to switch assignments with her, but Liz isn’t having it. That’s right Liz, grow that backbone! Jessica tries to change Liz’s mind by pretending she’s allergic to the Sargents’ cat, Spot. Liz isn’t buying it because Jess had allergy tests a few years ago when she tried to claim that she was allergic to dishwashing soap, and everything came out fine.

The back of the cover tell us that Jessica “desperately tries to get bronzed Cliff Sherman to notice her” but all she has to do is smile at him! There’s a mild conflict where Jessica has to convince Liz to babysit for Sam so she can go to a big party Cliff is throwing in honor of his visiting friend. One page later, Liz has agreed to watch Sam. Jessica goes to the party, and she and Cliff are an item for the rest of the book. Yawn. (Do people really throw parties in honor of visiting friends that often? It seems like a nice gesture, but still …) Cliff is okay; he jogs and he doesn’t seem to have much of a personality.

Lila brags about how she wants to meet a hot older man like the hero in a romance novel she’s reading. Then she falls for Cliff’s friend Ben Horgan, whom she meets at the mall. She just assumes Ben is older than she is. They take a romantic walk, and Ben acts weird about his age, but finally admits he’s only fifteen (big deal!) and won’t be sixteen till September … oh, how horrible. Jessica finds out about Ben’s age from Cliff, and she gives Lila a hard time about it and pisses her off. Um, remember Dennis Creighton, Jessica? Ben offers to teach Lila how to windsurf. She already took lessons last summer but she pretends she doesn’t know how to do it so that Ben can feel like a great teacher. Why do chicks always pull this in these books? That’s a bad message to send if you ask me. Lila and Ben fall in love. I kind of don’t like Ben; he sounds like a douche.

Little Taryn Bennett hates Elizabeth and Cliff and her parents and everyone else. Her parents neglect her and she’s miserable. But Jessica tells her fun “secrets” about a “wicked little girl named Taryn.” Taryn likes Jessica’s style. Haha, take that, Liz.

On the night of Cliff’s big party, Liz is babysitting when the Sargents’ friend Jamie Galbraith, a college junior at Yale, stops by. He’s all intellectual and 21, and he talks about literature and gets Liz all hot and bothered. They share a slow dance and she freaks the fuck out when he’s about to kiss her. I have to say that is a little skeezy for an adult to be after some jailbait babysitter that he just met. But Liz’s main problem is that her parents wouldn’t approve. Liz, you’re on vacation. WHO CARES? She’s also afraid to tell Jessica because then Jessica would have to hide it from their parents and that would be such a burden on her. LIZ. HOW MANY OLDER GUYS HAS YOUR SISTER DATED, EXACTLY? DIDN’T YOU HAVE TO COVER FOR HER WHEN SHE GOT STRANDED OVERNIGHT WITH ONE? GEEEEEEEE …

Lar lar lar, Liz keeps seeing Jamie secretly but feels guilty about it. Give me a fucking break. They fall madly in love and Liz is shocked because she hasn’t felt this way about anyone since Todd. Of course, we quickly learn that Jamie is really famous Tony Sargent in hiding from a stalker who wants to kill him. You see, Tony was lonely on the road, so he “had a drink” with a groupie named Lisa. I gather that is code for “had a one-night stand”. It turned out Lisa had a crazed boyfriend in jail named Frankie LaSalle. Now Frankie is out and he’s going to kill Tony for “messing around” with Lisa. To protect Tony, Tony’s manager, Jody, hired “professional makeup men” to give him a new look … and all they did was dye his hair, give him colored contacts, and have him wear wire-rimmed glasses. Uh, couldn’t he have done all that on his own?

Liz and Jamie/Tony go on romantic dates to the Beach Cafe, and Liz makes a big deal out of how she is going to tell her parents. What a goody-goody. You’re on your own on a beach trip; do what you want! Well, to be fair, it sounds like Liz and Tony were planning on making their summer romance a year-round deal.

Frankie tricks Tony’s secretary in telling him where he is by saying he is a policeman (over the phone). Right. Now he’s on his way to Malibu to kill Tony for banging his girlfriend.

A huge storm blows up one night. Taryn has come down with a horrible fever, but no one thinks to take her to the hospital. She gets out of bed and overhears her parents arguing, and she packs a tiny suitcase and runs away. In the middle of the storm, Jessica drives to the Bennetts’ house on instinct to see if Liz is okay, but Liz isn’t there because she’s at the Beach Cafe again with Jamie. Jess and Maria decide to get Taryn and leave the house because the storm is too dangerous. Jessica is afraid the house will wash over the cliffs or something. Come on, is this a hurricane?!

Maria discovers Taryn is gone and she and Jess run out to look for her. The police find Taryn trapped on a broken footbridge over a rushing river, but Taryn won’t come to them. Jessica gets Taryn to come to her by yelling out a secret just seconds before the footbridge breaks completely apart. Taryn is extremely ill and is rushed to the hospital. She keeps asking for Jessica and it’s really sweet. Awwww. And, because all family matters and life-and-death issues can be wrapped up very neatly in Sweet Valley World, Jessica has Audrey tell Taryn a secret herself, about how everything’s going to be okay with them from now on. Malcolm and Audrey apologize for being shit parents and make up with Taryn and with one another. So Taryn pulls through. This is at least the second book where someone has to have the “will” to live and Jessica solves it. (See also: Book 10.) I love this place.

Back to Liz and Jamie. Crazy Frankie goes to the Sargents’ house and poses as Jody the manager. Lucy tells him where Jamie has gone. Then the REAL Jody comes by later to check on Jamie, and they all nearly have a heart attack. Frankie finds Jamie and Liz right as Jamie is about to tell Liz that he’s really Tony Sargent. Frankie attacks Tony with a huge knife, slicing open his shoulder. Liz clunks Frankie over the head with a pewter vase and saves the day. By now she’s figured out who Jamie really is. She basically gives him the cold shoulder and refuses to talk to him because she doesn’t see the point in trying to carry on the relationship. After all, Tony will be on tour all the time soon, banging groupies like Lisa. She’s also suspicious that Tony couldn’t possibly have really loved her, even though he calls her at least three times following this incident. She also thinks that Tony is nothing like literary, studious “Jamie” she fell in love with. Uh, well that’s a hell of a character to fake. What did he do, study Cliffs Notes so he could talk about literature with Liz? Come on. Liz is devastated because Jamie/Tony is the only boy she has really loved since Todd. Jessica thinks Liz is being stupid to not even talk to Tony, and I have to agree with her.

Tony throws a benefit concert and leaves free tickets for everyone at the Malibu Inn, where he’s now staying. Jessica and Cliff keep trying to set Liz up with Cliff’s hot (and literature-inclined) friend Brent, but Liz isn’t having it. (Brent? It’s another name repeat. Enid went after some dude named Brent a few books back.) So then they finally convince Liz to go to the concert with them. The Number One (an L.A. band from book 29) is the opening band. Then Tony comes on stage and he says he’s written a new song for Liz. Even though Liz is pretty much in the front row, he still says “Liz, if you’re out there” so I guess he is blind. Liz is shocked that Tony hasn’t forgotten her yet and she cries hysterically because his love is the best she has ever known. No, really. The song is called “Summer Girl” and it goes like this:

“Summer girl, I think I always knew

My whole life, that it was you.”

That’s deep.

Stuff and Things: Why are Tony Sargent’s relatives seem to be poor? Can’t he help them out a little? And how can they afford to hire a mother’s helper? I don’t get it.

The plot itself is surprisingly thin for a Super Edition, and of course it is crappier than my 6- or 7-year-old self thought it was. I finished the book really, really fast. All of the events in the book take place before the 4th of July.

Liz tells Jamie/Tony that she doesn’t know much about music. But in book 28, she spent a lot of time chatting with Enid about music and she even went to The Music Shop (or whatever the generic name was) to check out some records.

Speaking of generic names … The Beach Cafe, The Music Shop, The Tennis Shop, The Malibu Inn … why are there so many unoriginal names in these books?

As usual, Enid is almost entirely left out of a Super Edition. Good.

Lila tells Ben that she just finished her junior year. Hahaha. Yes, for the second (third, actually) time she has.

Mr. Fowler hooked Lila up with her hot job because the people are clients of his. Isn’t that conflict of interest?

Next up … a new school year has supposedly begun. So now we’re back to school and I guess, following the publication timeline, we are supposed to assume that Sandra Bacon spent the whole summer glowering about her best friend Jean wanting to join HER sorority, Pi Beta Alpha. Man, Sandra’s had a lot of time to stew about that shit. This is going to get nasty!

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I’ve pulled this blog over from Blogger because it’s much easier for me to maintain here. I’m not planning on doing anything really fancy with it. Basically, this is the blog to come to if you want excruciatingly-detailed entries about the Sweet Valley High series that also takes it way too seriously! 🙂

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