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

#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!

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Comments on: "#31 Taking Sides" (2)

  1. Kanna-Chan said:

    You know, Sweet Valley is like something out of a Twilight Zone episode where everyone is living in a soap opera and time has little meaning.

  2. Lila and Enid were clearly no match for Saint Liz Wakefields golden twat. 😛

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