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

Archive for June, 2010

#39 Secret Admirer

Penny Ayala is single and doesn’t particularly like dating. Elizabeth Wakefield thinks this means she needs help. I hate Elizabeth.

The Oracle has decided to run personal ads, to which there is a great stigma attached at this point in time (September 1987). It feels funny reading this in today’s era of eHarmony and Match.com. Lynne Henry appears out of secondary character banishment to run the ads.

Enid starts dating Hugh Grayson, a non-descript kid from Big Mesa High. Liz and Jeffrey double date with them to the beach and run into Penny there, who feels like a fifth wheel. Liz catches Penny gazing sadly at couples running around, and so she and Enid make it their business to cajole Penny into writing a personal ad. Penny writes a really goofy one that’s meant to be humorous because she wants a boy who can take a joke and is actually interesting.

The ads run, and the whole school loves it. Penny’s ad attracts letters from a dude named “Jamie” who seems to get the joke. Enid and Liz help her write letters back to him under the moniker “Quasimodo”. Liz feels validated for “helping” yet another poor sucker who clearly needs a boyfriend, a wardrobe, and a makeover. Funny, I never thought there was anything wrong with Penny before. I’m glad we have Liz to point this shit out to us.

The girls are confused because there’s no one at SVH named Jamie, but figure he’s just using a moniker to remain anonymous. Unfortunately, they are very right about that. “Jamie” is the invention of the new asshole in school, Kirk Anderson. Kirk is a senior on the tennis team and he is good friends with Michael Harris (Maria Santelli’s former douchebag fiance), Neil Freemount (Jessica’s former paramour), and totally new kids named Chad Ticknor (LMAO) and Ron Reese. Neil is the one who’s been writing the letters at Kirk’s insistence. Kirk and the other dudes think it’s hilarious, but Neil secretly finds it questionable and is only doing it “to belong.” So when Kirk goads him into setting up a meeting with Jamie’s correspondent so they can all see who she is, Neil writes a letter arranging to meet her at the bookstore in the Valley Mall. The boys all watch from the mezzanine as Penny shows up and waits for forty-five minutes before she realizes she’s been stood up. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious that “Quasimodo” is Penny and make jokes about how no one would ever date her. Neil is ashamed, especially because he has an American literature elective class with Penny and secretly admires her.

Penny is totally humiliated at being stood up. But Neil decides to do the right thing and sends her another letter apologizing and saying he had an emergency that day and wants to meet her again, this time at the Dairi Burger. Penny shows up, but Kirk and Michael catch Neil just as he’s going to reveal himself to her. They tease him and he boldly says that he is meeting her intentionally and Kirk backs down. Neil meets Penny and exposes the truth to her, and she forgives him, and they kiss and start dating. And that’s the end of their story, so it’s kind of boring.

Liz and Enid overhear Kirk making fun of Penny at lunch one day and realize that he and his friends were “Jamie”. They decide to get back at Kirk by setting him up on a date with a magazine model named Erica Hall. Liz claims that Erica is her cousin and that she’s coming to visit from New York. When Kirk sees pictures of her in a magazine, he pretty much demands that Liz get Eric to go with him to the upcoming Swing Fling 40’s theme dance. He then walks around loudly bragging about how Erica is falling all over herself to date him. Of course the real Erica Hall has no idea that Sweet Valley even exists and never shows up to the dance. Liz sadly tells him that Erica has an ego problem and is very flaky and Kirk is left at the dance by himself and totally humiliated. It seems everyone hates Kirk’s guts anyway and is glad to see him get his comeuppance. Even Jessica turned him down, and that’s saying something. If you’re hot, that’s really all it takes with her.

The sub-plot: Jessica wants to place an ad in the Oracle, and Lila is disgusted with this idea, but finally agrees to have a “competition” to see who can run the best ad and get the best college boy for the upcoming dance. If you’re wondering how they’re going to get a college boy with an ad in a high school newspaper, it just so happens that Steven subscribes to the paper (you can subscribe?) at college and will be sure to share it with his friends. I would make fun of him for subscribing, but he does it so he can read Liz’s articles. That’s not so far-fetched. I guess. Jessica first goes on a date with a hot-sounding Italian, but it turns out to be a *gasp!* fat kid named Paolo. He takes her to Tibberino’s and Jessica gets them to leave pretty quickly by crying and saying she’s been fighting migraines her whole life. Paolo is full of admiration and takes her home while exclaiming over how courageous she is while Jessica is relieved to get away from him before any of her friends could see them together. Quote: “She couldn’t help it if she just couldn’t stand to be around fat people.” WOW. I mean, yes it is shitty when people don’t adequately represent themselves in personal ads, but that’s pretty low there Jessica. Not that I’m really all that surprised. Okay, so after Paolo, Jessica starts dating another college dude named John Karger. He seems fascinated with her, but he always has to leave to work on his sociology project, and he never kisses her goodnight. But Jessica is so convinced he’s going to win her the bet with Lila that she ditches her original date for the dance, some poor sap named Jim Daley. Lila, meanwhile, has her own mysterious date. The girls agree to meet at the beach that weekend with their respective dates so all their cheerleader friends can decide which guy is cuter and who’s won the bet. (All = everyone but Annie; she’s absent from this book.) Can you see where this is going? Yeah you can. Once again, Lila and Jessica have been dating the same dude. John Karger is at the beach with his girlfriend Faye, and also with tons of angry chicks milling around demanding answers. John just answered the personal ads for that sociology project he’s doing! He was so interested in Jessica because he was using her for his research! John is also not very bright, because he is just shocked that so many girls really liked him that much. How fucking dumb. To add insult to injury, Lila and Jessica are at the beach wearing the exact same leopard print bikini from Lisette’s! But don’t worry, they meet new nameless college dudes to take to the Swing Fling that night. God, Swing Fling, sounds like a swinger’s convention. It really does!

The cover makes Penny look like the school librarian or a teacher. Horrible clothing choices. Is that what was really in back then? I was six years old at the time, and I remember people dressing like that, but they were … librarians or teachers. She does have a very pretty face though. It might be the prettiest yet!

Let’s see if we can read the titles of the books behind Penny. There’s one with a guitar on the cover titled Monkee Mania. Then there’s one just called Poems. And James Mathewuse (the Sweet Valley cover artist) didn’t make out the rest.

Other stuff: Steven is once again said to be at the “state university” rather than Sweet Valley College. I’m guessing this is a permanent switch and not some mess-up. Maybe someone finally realized it doesn’t make much sense for him to go to school in the same small town that his family does, and still take two hours to get home each weekend. I don’t know.

Lila is often described in these books as wearing a maillot. I was very confused as a kid trying to figure out what a maillot was. It turns out it’s just a fancy word for one-piece (tank suit). So now you know (if you didn’t already).

The Droids are said to have played at a club called the Hot Potato. That’s a new one.

Neil drives a white Trans Am. Haha

Jeffrey to Liz at the dance, after she humiliates Kirk: “What a nasty one you are.” (I bet he wishes she was.) Sounds like a line from a Star Wars porn parody.

What’s on the horizon: Amy Sutton confides to Jessica that she is planning on stealing Bruce from Regina. Jessica laughs at this idea until she goes to the Swing Fling and sees Regina there without Bruce, and Regina says he’s off working on his project with Amy. I hate Amy Sutton. And I’m surprisingly sad about what’s coming up next, and if you’ve read this part of the series already, then maybe you are too …


#38 Leaving Home

DAMN this book is boring. And, way to go Francine, you made me feel sorry for Elizabeth for a change. It goes like this: Liz finds out about a prestigious scholarship she could win to attend a creative writing program at a Swiss boarding school. The scholarship, the Margaret Sterne Memorial Prize, is awarded to one California girl between the ages of 15 and 17 who shows perfect moral character, so of course Liz is a shoo-in. Liz is super excited and is all ready to spend her eleventy-billionth summer and her entire senior year at the Interlochen School in Switzerland. Jessica, Steven, Enid, Jeffrey, and everybody else are very sad at the idea of losing Sweet Valley’s own Ms. Perfect. Without Liz around, who will meddle in every problem that they have?

Jessica to the rescue! Once again, she’s here to make sure Liz doesn’t get to see her original summer plans through. (See also: Malibu Summer.) Jess and Steven decide that the best way to keep Liz home is to totally dick her over. A Mr. Sterne and Ms. Crawford are coming as representatives of the prize and the school to interview Liz. Liz is already being a control freak about everyone’s behavior and what they should do and say when the reps come to Sweet Valley. So naturally, Jessica and Steven realize the best course of action is to make the reps think Liz has a messed-up family. So Jessica wears raccoon makeup and a leather miniskirt when Mr. Sterne comes to their home, and Steven creepily goes on and on about how the family can’t live without one another until he makes them sound incestuous. Mr. Sterne is a little freaked out, but he figures Liz is still alright.

Jessica and Steven aren’t done yet. On the day that Mr. Sterne comes to the school to check things out and interview Liz’s classmates and teachers, Jessica carefully dresses in the same outfit that her sister has on, sneaking away so Liz won’t see her and catch on that something is up. Jessica is so the worst sister ever. She then keeps running into Mr. Sterne as “Liz” and cooing about how much she loves men and what a slut she is, and flirting with Mr. Sterne. So basically, Jessica just dresses like Liz and acts like herself. When Liz is finally able to sit down with Mr. Sterne and Ms. Crawford herself for another interview, Steven calls the school office a couple of times pretending to be someone named John Simmons who must talk to Liz right that second. The idea is to make Liz look like the town whore. Of course Liz is completely confused and has no idea who John Simmons is or why Mr Sterne and Ms. Crawford no longer seem happy with her. In turn, they tell Liz they think she must be schizo. But then Liz then looks out the window, sees Jessica dressed like her, and figures the whole thing out. She’s rightfully enraged. But – hey! – Jess and Steven were only doing it for their own good! They didn’t mean to hurt her! They just wanted her to see how much they love her! Can’t you see, Lizzieeee?

Liz does earn my sympathy for a good portion of this flatly-written poor-ass excuse for a book. This plot is utterly fucking stupid, for starters, so I feel sorry for her having to be the focal point of it. And her siblings are fucking dicks, let’s face it. But she kind of destroys that sympathy when she whines at her father for not coming home early enough from work to meet her interviewers and tells him he’s going to make the Wakefields look like a “broken home.” Yes, because we know that’s the worst possible thing you can look like. And because a dad who works to support his family is a bad man. Jesus. Also, she flips out and assumes Enid and Jeffrey are having an affair when really they are spending time putting together a scrapbook of memories so Liz won’t forget them when she leaves. I wish they were having an affair; it would make this book a lot more riveting. Finally, speaking of Enid and Jeffrey, Liz fucking sucks for not getting why they might be somewhat less than enthusiastic that Liz could be moving overseas for a whole year. It would be nice if they support her and all, and I’d say they do, but you can’t expect them to just wave a banner and happily wish her adieu. Especially not Enid. Enid has nothing else to live for.

I don’t even have to get into how it all plays out. Jessica and Steven fix things with Mr. Sterne and he awards Liz the scholarship. Liz and Alice and Ned ALL forgive these horrible fucking siblings because they not only fixed it, but they were just showing how much they love Liz. Why, Jess and Steven even get praised by Mr. Sterne and Ms. Crawford (Jesus, I hate typing those names out) because they are so exemplary of the love and devotion of a real family! And yes, Liz does turn down the scholarship, which we’re shown was really the right thing for her to do anyway! Not only is Sweet Valley perfect – not even Switzerland can compare! – but boarding schools are for stodgy rich bitches anyway! And I think if I drank just a little bit less last night, I might want to puke just a little bit less right now!

This cover is just ehhhh. Liz looks like someone other than Jessica and stares at a poster of Switzerland like a deer caught in the headlights. Jessica peers around the corner, looking like a thirty-year-old and wearing pants that droop strangely in the crotch. Love Liz’s fancy typewriter by the way.

The sub-plot: Winston’s dad buys him a lottery ticket, he throws a boring party to see if he won, and lo and behold, he does. Only it’s not his ticket but that of an old man named Mr. Oliver, whose jacket (and lottery ticket) accidentally got exchanged with Winston’s at Drake’s convenience store. Winston’s morality faces the ultimate test as we have it rubbed in our faces how poor Mr. Oliver is and how much he really needs that $25,000. Will Winston do the right thing and admit he didn’t really win? Will Mr. Oliver then use some of his winnings to throw a dumb beach party with some high school kids? Would it still be Sweet Valley if the answer to both of those questions was no?

Other stuff: Jessica dates a kid named Randy Lloyd in this book, whom she doesn’t really like and who serves no real purpose to any part of the story, but who is in fact at least the second Randy in this series. And Randy has a cousin named Tim who’s at least the third Tim. I hate this.

Liz calls the French household to try to track down Jeffrey, and Mrs. French tells her he’s off with Enid again: “‘I think he said he was going over to Enid’s house. […] Is that possible?'” says Mrs. French. HAHAHA. Yes, is it possible that someone other than Liz would voluntarily hang out with Enid?

A new senior tennis player named Kirk Anderson moves to Sweet Valley from San Diego. Jessica thinks he’s smoking hot but is turned off when he shows that he is full of himself. Since when does that turn Jessica off?

Once again, Steven is said to be a freshman at the “state” university. Did he transfer schools? And once again, everyone wonders why he is coming home, like this is an unusual thing.

Liz reminisces about her motorcycle accident when she sees that Randy’s cousin Tim has parked his motorcycle outside the Wakefield house. Of course, Mr. Sterne disapproves because proper people don’t ride bikes. And Liz remembers that the one time she broke Ned and Alice’s rule, she was involved in an accident. Did you forget about that time you hopped on Rene’s bike in France, Liz? And WHY is everyone insisting that motorcycles are the devil when Liz’s accident wasn’t the bike’s fault? Asjkjsad’;

The back of the book has an ad for the third Caitlin trilogy. Sounds borrrrring!

Next up: The Oracle is going to start doing personals, and everyone wonders who would be such a loser as to actually use them. Lynne Henry is going to run them. Good to know she hasn’t dropped off the face of the earth yet!

#37 Rumors

This is a mostly crap book based on a minor character we’ve heard very little from previously: Susan Stewart, a gorgeous redhead (are there any other kinds in Sweet Valley?). Susan lives with a woman, “Aunt Helen” who is neither her mother nor her aunt. Her realmother sends her huge amounts of money every month, so despite living in a modest house, Susan is considered wealthy. Susan must wait patiently for Aunt Helen to reveal the identity of her real mother to her on her eighteenth birthday, which she’s rather content to do, which is bullshit. In the meantime, everyone gossips about who they think Susan really is, but love her because she’s beautiful and well-off. Oh, and friendly and sweet and all that other stuff that’s not quite as important in this town.

Susan dates a rich senior named Gordon Stoddard. This means she has to do boring shit with his family, like play golf and attend country club meetings. And she’s also started hanging out with other rich girls that I guess she met through Gordon, since it’s implied she only met them recently. This is funny since all those girls go to a school for rich chicks called Whitehead Academy, and live in another town (Bridgewater, where only the RICHEST PEOPLE live). Hmm, if Gordon’s family is so rich, why do they send their kid to public school in Sweet Valley? I’m just sayin’.

An event called the Bridgewater Ball is coming up soon and it’s kind of a big deal, because there are ice sculptures and shit there! So of course Jessica and Lila are going to make asses out of themselves trying to secure dates to it. (Their earlier schemes to bang their way into the dance with Rob Atkins and Grant Palmer, respectively, did not work out.) Lila gets tired of hearing about how Gordon is going to take Susan to the ball and is seething with jealousy because she can’t get anyone to take her. I have a very hard time believing that Lila can’t find a date, but okay, just go with it. We’re also told that Lila went on “several dates” with Gordon in the past, so I guess that doesn’t help. Lila decides to help herself out by blithely telling Cara and Caroline that Susan’s real mom is in a mental institution, which somehow morphs into “Susan’s mom murdered someone.” If you’re worried this book might turn into a nice tome about understanding mental health issues, don’t worry! Almost immediately, Susan’s reputation is shattered, and all we hear is that it’s not Susan’s fault personally if her mother is crazy. This school sucks.

Gordon dumps her, some Bridgewater bitch named Deborah Carteret (the fuck?) reneges on a dinner invitation, and Susan’s out of the Bridgewater ball. Lila and Jessica predictably start fighting over Gordon, who ends up asking Lila to the ball. Susan hangs out in the library by herself where Holy Liz of course appears, literally holds her hand, and tries to force Susan into talking to her about it. Considering that (post-motorcycle accident) Liz once tried to steal Ken Matthews from Susan by spreading nasty rumors herself, it’s amazing Susan doesn’t just deck her. Thankfully, Susan doesn’t really open up to her much at all. She does spill all to Allen Walters, though. Yes, Allen, of “Robin dumped me for George Warren” fame. Allen is still shy and bumbling, and it’s implied he is this way because he couldn’t get over Robin. So, when Liz sees him giving Susan lovesick stares across the cafeteria, she gets all in his biznazz. Allen opens up to Liz and spills his guts about how badly he wants Susan, standing right there in the lunch line where any kid can hear, to a chick who hasn’t said two words to him since like, book 4, and I hate him for it.

Meanwhile, old Aunt Helen is faced with a miserable Susan who’s suddenly lost all of her friends and boyfriend, yet she doesn’t seem to realize that anything is majorly wrong. Of course, she works as a waitress and seamstress 24-7, so I guess she’s never home. But she also can’t be bothered to tell Susan the truth: SHE is Susan’s real mother (duh) and hey, the famous movie director Jackson Croft, who just happens to be in town casting extras for his new movie, is her father. You know why Aunt Helen kept all this a secret? Because Jackson is a deadbeat dad, and that left Helen a single mother, and it would have been SO SHAMEFUL for Helen to raise Susan on her own! No, really! That’s the whole idea. Aunt Helen couldn’t bear to have Susan live the SHAME of being the daughter of a single parent! But when Jackson’s 14-year-old son Jason is killed by a drunk driver, Jackson suddenly remembers he has another child out there, whom he’s neither seen nor communicated with nor sent money to, ever. Wait, so where does Susan get her money from? Apparently Aunt Helen’s jobs as waitress and seamstress are enough to pay the bills AND keep Susan looking like a million bucks. Give me a fucking break.

So now that he’s lost his “legit” child, Jackson just goes ahead and shows up at Helen’s door looking to reconnect with Susan after over 16 years of pretending she doesn’t exist. And Helen and Jackson “have a talk” about what happened between them which consists of some awkward unfinished sentences said over wine. Susan comes home early and runs into the pair and figures everything out and gets over it in oh, about five minutes. She realizes she is “selfish” to be angry at her mother for putting her through this shit because hey, at least her mom worked her ass off to help buy her nice clothes and tennis rackets all those years. There’s no mention of Susan being angry at her FATHER for thinking she wasn’t important until he lost his other child, that half-brother Susan never met and who obviously is not important to her now. And there’s no mention of HER FATHER offering to support Helen and Susan now that he’s done being an asshole. This is bullshit.

So how does Susan’s story get resolved after this crap fest? Cara, Jessica, and Liz overhear Susan and Jackson talking about how she’s decided to stay in Sweet Valley where all these bitches are. Cara and Jessica spread the truth around, and Gordon tries to make up with Susan without officially ditching Lila. In the space of TWO PAGES, Susan agrees to go to the ball with him again, gleefully tells a table full of kids, starts to tell Allen she can’t go out with him that same night, realizes she wants Allen after all, and tells Gordon off. Lila throws a soda on Gordon’s head. Woo woo, story over! And the worst part is that we get totally cheated out of the Bridgewater Ball, as well as seeing Lila’s reaction when she initially hears that Susan is Jackson Croft’s daughter. Nope, that’s not in here.

I’m thinking the same person who wrote Hostage! also wrote this Pulitzer Prize-winner.

The cover shows that Susan is indeed very pretty, but her left eye is freaking me out a little. Her blouse and this whole scenario are definitely very “Poor Little Rich Girl.” Um, how is she rich, when her mom is a waitress and seamstress again?

The sub-plot very nearly takes over the main plot and is what truly makes me fucking HATE this book. Mrs. Wakefield starts complaining of nausea, demanding pistachio ice cream, having secret conversations with Mr. Wakefield about telling the fam something, and stashing baby clothes in her closet. So the twins freak the fuck out and decide she must be pregnant. Rather than ask her, LIZ decides the best course of action is to “spy on her” and drop hints about how crazy they are about babies, to coax her into telling them herself. While I generally hate plots that revolve around babies or young children, that’s not why I hate this so much. It’s because the book can’t come out and say “sex” and that makes for a very awkward narrative. At one point, the twins act like such lunatics about babies that Mrs. Wakefield assumes one of them must be pregnant. But she puts it to them like this: “Which one of you is in trouble?” and the twins nearly die of embarrassment. And there’s health class (health class? who has health class in 11th grade?) discussions about fertility and older women having children, but no mention of menopause or any shit like that. There’s even an awkward moment where Jess wonders how her mother could possibly be pregnant, then corrects herself because of course she knows HOW. Ugh. The whole thing is resolved when the kids finally confront their parents, who tell them the clothes are for a baby shower, Mrs. Wakefield was just being a bitch about the pistachio ice cream, and the secret conversations were about a month-long vacation the parents are thinking about taking. Because clearly, leaving your sixteen-year old brats home alone for a whole month is the best idea ever. Hurrrr! Y’all so SILLY!

Other bullshit: The twins read the newspaper (Liz: front page, of course, Jessica: comics, of course) and Liz and her mother discuss on article on mothers choosing career over family with much dismay and sadness at the choices some people make. Now I see where Liz gets her judgmental attitude from.

Liz continues to pity Regina for once being deaf.

Everyone wonders where Dana buys her crazy clothing. Um, you guys ever been to a thrift store? I guess they don’t have those in Sweet Valley.

Gordon’s parents are named Farley and Binky and they love to have discussions about the riff-raff infiltrating Sweet Valley. These books really love stereotyping rich people, don’t they?

Further proving that nothing has changed since Jessica ran away, Mr. Wakefield automatically assumes Liz made the delicious meat loaf dinner and laughs when Jessica says it was actually her doing.

Prince Albert is STILL a puppy.

Roger Patman is described as being Bruce’s half-brother which is inaccurate; he’s his cousin.

It’s once again emphasized that Lila and her father just recently became wealthy which is flat-out untrue.

Liz and Heather Sanford are such great friends now that Heather’s even made an awesome dress just for Liz. I hope she put some poison in it.

Enid and Liz engage in some weird joking around about Liz’s presumed girl-crush on her and it’s too weird. I really think they have something going on that Francine is keeping from us. Oh, please, PLEASE let them be a lesbian couple in Sweet Valley Confidential. It’s just too perfect.

Jackson Croft gives Liz an interview for her stupid school paper and all she has to do to find him is walk up to him. There’s no security around him or anything. But there is a loudspeaker over which a bitchy lady demands that he needs to see somebody “immediately.” I guess the director doesn’t really run the show? Whatever.

Jessica further courts skin cancer by rubbing cocoa butter, not sunscreen, over her legs at the beach.

Liz silently pities Susan once everyone likes her again, because she knows they all just like her now because she’s a famous person’s daughter. Well, YOU only liked her once you saw she was another poor soul you could offer yourself up to! So fuck off!

The bottom line of this book is this: unmarried girls “in trouble”: bad, very bad, and deserving of shame and crazy cover-ups. Unmarried deadbeat dads: hey, that’s cool, as long as you’re rich and famous!

Next up: Regina has been telling Liz all about Switzerland and now Liz wants to go study creative writing there. Good, go away.

#36 Last Chance

I really can’t wait to get out of the 30s. These books seem stupider than usual. The twins are more annoying than ever. And whoever edited this one did a god-awful job. There are mistakes galore including bad use of commas and quotes left off of dialogue.

Here’s the deal: Julie Porter, who’s been mentioned briefly before (and more extensively in the Sweet Valley Twins series), has an older sister named Johanna, who should be a senior. But Johanna dropped out of school last fall because she felt too stupid. She waitressed at the Whistle Stop Cafe, where she felt better about herself and enjoyed the company of her co-workers. But six months ago, Mrs. Porter was killed by a drunk driver who hit her car head on. (Why didn’t we hear about this before? That seems like a pretty monumental event, especially since Elizabeth is kind-of-friends with Julie.) Johanna was devastated and felt left out of the family even more since her sister and father are both musical geniuses. But then she found her mom’s journal in the attic, detailing how she had always hoped Johanna would change her mind and go back to school, but she couldn’t make her. So now Johanna is coming back to honor her mother’s last wish.

Johanna has to make up her second semester of junior year, making her feel awkward since she should be taking senior classes like her friends. I don’t get this time lapse – if she dropped out last fall, wouldn’t that mean she had already finished her junior year? Unless we’re supposed to think it’s STILL fall right now and she dropped out last year? UGH, there I go trying to put some logic into this series again.

Everyone at school acts like Johanna is an idiot for taking chemistry at 17 and is a huge bitch to her for dropping out. It’s a big deal that she is 17 and in the 11th grade. I want to punch them all in the face! Peter DeHaven, a smart senior and Johanna’s secret crush since she was a kid, is kind to her, but only when his bitchy girlfriend Amy isn’t around. That’s right, Amy is dating a nerd. If you have read the Twins series, then you might recall that Peter was portrayed as a huge nerd along the lines of Randy Mason in those books. There is no way Amy would date him. Johanna has no other friends at school; not even Julie hangs around her for some reason, and Johanna doesn’t chill with Sally any, which is odd since she and Sally were both held back and were taught to be ashamed of it, and therefore have a lot in common.

Peter is an ass. He talks down to Johanna all the time, acting like she’s too stupid to care about math and science. He secretly likes her a lot, but he is too wrapped up in himself, a computer science he’s working on, his acceptance to MIT, and the fact that he is dating a popular cheerleader who in the real world wouldn’t look twice at him. He realizes Johanna digs him, so when Amy goes on a mountain vacation with her parents, he takes Johanna out to his nice friend Larry’s house, and then to Las Palmas Canyon and comes on to her, and I swear the book is implying that they have sex. Seriously, it does that same “fade away” and he “whispered her name over and over again into her ear” bits that many books I’ve read do when they want to say a couple did it, without coming out and giving you the graphic details. The last sentence of the chapter even reads, “All that mattered was Peter and what was happening then.” Then the next day, Liz notices that Johanna looks “different”. Right!

Johanna sees Peter again the next night and he tells her that he’s going to break up with Amy the first chance he has. He doesn’t, and he ignores Johanna at school while all the bitches he hangs out with laugh at her. I hate these kids.

Peter later explains himself by saying he just can’t stand to hurt Amy, this girl he admits to himself he doesn’t give a crap about but is dating just for the status of it. Johanna ignores her misgivings about the situation and falls for it, even when he tells her he’s going to wait to dump Amy until after the big PTA Dance that weekend. Johanna confides in Liz, who’s tutoring her in English, about the situation, and Liz promises not to tell anyone, but promptly tells Jessica because LIZ IS AN IDIOT. Jessica swears not to tell, but you should be able to see this coming: Amy pisses Jess off by scolding her about interfering with Steven and Cara (see sub-plot), and Jessica gets back at her by telling her everyone knows Peter is cheating on her with Johanna. When Amy confronts Peter, it’s his big chance to get rid of her; he just proves what a dick he is further by frantically making excuses to cover it up and insulting Johanna for good measure. Amy sticks around and they go to her stupid party that weekend together, which takes place over a page-and-a-half and sounds totally boring. Then they go to the PTA Dance which everyone complains about because it’s in the gym … aren’t most of the two billion dances they have in the gym?

Get this: Johanna isn’t stupid at all, like everyone says – she’s really a genius at math and science and she’s just bored with the material and has no confidence. She’s the only one to get an A on Mr. Russo’s chemistry exam, she figures out a tricky part of Peter’s computer science program for him (by suggesting he make a decision tree to figure it out – duh), and she solves all of Steven’s tough college problems for him. But when Peter tells her he can’t see her anymore because Amy suspects something, she tells Liz off, figuring it had to be her who let the secret out. Then she overhears a couple of bitches who used to be friends with her talking shit about her in the locker room, and that’s the last straw. She quits school again! Nooo, Johanna! By this point I liked Johanna a great deal and even identified with her in certain situations. She’s just an honest kid trying to figure herself out, and she comes across as more real than many similar characters in these books.

Here’s why Johanna is really awesome: After Liz tells Peter to grow some balls, he comes to see her at the Whistle Stop and makes a half-assed attempt to get her to come back to school and to start messing with him again. She tells him to get bent. Later, she does come back to school – on her own accord – and arranges to take advanced math and science classes. Peter dumps Amy and tries to get with Johanna again, and SHE TURNS HIM DOWN. You read that right! There is no happily ever after! Johanna realizes she needs time to get herself together. She also sees that Peter wouldn’t be a good boyfriend because he’s too self-absorbed and won’t care about her as much as he should. I wanted to stand up and cheer! A girl who wants to work on herself first before dating some dude who’s been an ass to her! I LOVE JOHANNA PORTER! YOU GO ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF GIRL!

Johanna reconnects with her dad and Julie, and Liz figures out it was Jessica who let the secret out about Jo and Peter. But here’s the part that makes me want to find Liz and slap her. Liz never admits to Johanna that she told anyone the secret. In fact, Johanna figures Liz didn’t really do it and she apologizes to her for yelling at her – and Liz “generously [forgives] her”! In fact, Liz even seems to think in her own mind that she DIDN’T tell anyone and it’s all Jessica’s fault – even though LIZ told Jess to begin with! Liz, you’re an ass and a total moron for continuing to trust your ridiculous, sociopathic twin. And, I don’t even have to tell you that Jessica gets away scot-free for telling Amy. Liz barely even scolds her.

Johanna is described as a beauty, and she does look pretty on the cover. Amy looks almost exactly the same as she did on the cover of book 29, with the same expression too! Peter looks like a teacher hitting on her. Creepy. In fact, both he and Amy are dressed like teachers! And as usual, none of the girls on this cover have any discernible breasts.

The sub-plot: Jessica is a bitch. That’s all. Oh, okay: she decides she hates people going steady, so she makes it her mission to break up Cara and Steven “for their own good.” When Steven comes home like he always does (yet it’s played up like it’s rare, of course), she tells each of them that the other has been cheating. They fight and then they each take someone else to the PTA Dance. Cara goes with Ken Matthews, and Steve goes with a friend of his from college named Eve Young. Wait a minute – what is Steven doing at a high school dance? Do I even have to ask? Cara and Steven clear the whole thing up, realize Jessica is a lying bitch, and then confront her and just kind of agree that Jessica was doing something good for them to test their relationship. I hate these people.

Other stuff: The book opens with Jessica talking about going on a diet so she can fit into a size four dress that she’s just got to have. She cheerfully refuses to eat her lunch in front of everyone and talks about dropping three or four pounds a week and no one thinks this is fucked up. The worst part is that her plan works and we get to hear all about she was able to buy the dress. Way to encourage eating disorders, Francine.

One-shot characters: Yvonne White and Lisa Howard, two seniors who used to be friends with Johanna but now talk badly about her behind her back. That’s the fourth Lisa in the series so far. I know why am I counting? There are more: bitch girls named Lucy Hawkins and Carol Ulrich. Second Lucy, second Carol. Scott Long, Enid’s date for the dance. Alicia Benson, a sophomore who sounds like a little asshole. Like everybody else in this book.

Johanna’s A grade on her chemistry test is a 92. I thought a 92 was a B-plus on the high school scale. In my school, the scale was 100-94 was an A.

Liz thinks to herself that there’s nothing worse than feeling like you failed your parents and just can’t imagine that anyone’s parents could feel that way about their child. Step out of your bubble already, Liz.

I’m not a computer scientist, but I do work for a large IT project as a consultant. And I have to say that if Peter couldn’t figure out on his own that a decision tree would be a good way to map out his computer science project, he’s not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. Drawing one of those would be standard form such as the program he built, which is described as being based solely on “Yes” or “No” answers.

Steven wants to take Cara to a new French restaurant, oh-so-creatively called Maison Blanche, which means “White House.” Hurrrr

Jessica and Lila bring guys from nearby Bridgewater High School to the PTA Dance because they want to get invited to the Bridgewater debutante ball later. Jessica’s date is named Rob Atkins, and I guess all sorts of hijinks are going to ensue with this bitchery in the next book, in which we learn more about the aforementioned minor character Susan Stewart, who hangs with the wealthy Bridgewater kids. Oh joy.

Super Edition #6 Spring Fever

Prairie bitches and hos

God, look at this fucking cover! What the hell! The twins are dressed like freakin’ Laura Ingalls Wilder or some shit. This book finds them vacationing in Walkersville, Kansas and I guess that’s what they assume everyone in Kansas dresses like. I remember showing this to my sister when I was a kid and she goes, “They look like dorks.” Yes! Also, the cover of mine claims it’s a “Special Book Club Edition” and has an arrow like it’s pointing to some special content, but there is none. What the hell would make it a special book club edition anyway? Discussion questions? How about:

1) Expand upon Elizabeth’s deep-seated desire to interfere with the lives of all the mere mortals who cross her path. How does this exemplify Elizabeth as the Patron Saint of Sweet Valley?

2) Do you think Jessica is really still a virgin? Explain why or why not.

3) Compare and contrast Elizabeth’s relationship with Jeffrey to the relationship she had with Todd. Which boy is the bigger tool? Which boy evokes your sympathy for being stuck with Elizabeth more, and why?

Sounds like a fucking delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon! But I have no room to talk, this is the fourth SVH book in a row that I have read in just the past two days and I feel like parts of my brain have died. I need to give it a break soon.

Uh, so why the hell are the twins dressed like that? Well, they are headed to Walkersville, Kansas, to visit their great Uncle Herman and Aunt Shirley for 11 days, and I guess that’s what they think everybody in Kansas dresses like. God, Liz looks like  a DOUCHE with that stupid belt and scarf over her schoolteacher outfit. And Jessica is just like, “Uh …. is this really happening? Am I really wearing a prairie hobag dress and spinning around a big old field waiting for a farmer boy to come pay me a sweet penny?” GUH.

Herman and Shirley Walker are Alice Wakefield’s aunt and uncle. Alice warns the girls that they are to “do as the Romans do” meaning that Kansas can’t possibly compare to the sunny streets of Sweet Valley and the twins should just accept that and shut the fuck up. Speaking of Rome, Lila is going there with her dad for spring break and Jessica is pouting about it. Should’ve refrigerated that Tofu-Glo, Jess.

The twins arrive in Kansas and they literally ride around the town with their heads hanging out the windows ooh-ing and aah-ing and gasping with disbelief that they are in a real small town. For some reason their great-aunt and uncle are not insulted by this. It gets even worse when they arrive at Five Elms, the family homestead. They gasp out loud at the country decor and the “huge brick fireplace that really worked”! What the fuck, have they never seen a wood fireplace before? What the fuck is this shit? Do I have to read the rest of this?

Ugh … moving on. Herman and Shirley are pretty old-fashioned. I can’t believe the twins really wanted to spend almost two weeks with them. What a complete drag for two sixteen-year-olds. I would’ve died of boredom. Even the car ride to the town sounds awful. Herman and Shirley rag on Elizabeth when they hear she has a serious boyfriend because she’s so young, and then Jessica sucks up to them by talking about how she agrees completely and would never date just one guy and Liz gives her the evil eye. Heh … one of my close friends has two old country grandmas who wanted her to get married and have kids right out of high school.

The girls go out to get a tour of Walkersville from Shirley and Herman. Jessica ditches them briefly to “go look in a craft shop” and by that I mean she wants to drape herself over some boys she saw hanging outside Walker’s, the five-and-dime Herman owns. She introduces herself to Dennis Stevens and his four friends, Louis, Sam, Hank, and Matthew. She starts flirting with Dennis and the boys “couldn’t believe she was really from California” and stammer from the nervousness of meeting glamorous Jessica. They even ask her if she’s ever met any movie stars since I guess people living in Kansas are too dumb to understand not everyone in Cali knows a movie star. Seriously, who wrote this?

While Jessica is still giggling with Dennis and friends and making them all tongue-tied, Dennis’s girlfriend Annie Sue Sawyer and her friend Mary Hamilton show up. Jessica doesn’t understand why Annie Sue doesn’t like her very much since Jess was just flirting with her boyfriend and all, no big deal. Annie Sue brags about a party Jessica isn’t invited to, and Jessica feels bad. WAAAAH. You NEVER treated anybody like this, right Jess? Jessica catches up to her boring relatives and asks Shirley about Annie Sue. Shirley thinks Annie Sue is “the sweetest girl in town” and later on introduces her to Liz and tries to get them to hang out. Annie Sue makes up some bullshit about having to run but it’s clear she hates both twins. You and me both, Annie Sue Sawyer. Is that the most stereotypical name you’ve heard so far or what? Liz wisely surmises that everyone probably feels threatened by them because they’re such glamorous outsiders and they’re just too much for this small town. Jesus.

The next day, Herman and Shirley take the twins to the carnival and Jessica creams herself because she’s never been to a real live carnival before! Ohboyohboyohboy! (And by the way that’s bullshit, there are numerous books that revolve around a fair or carnival of some kind.) Jessica scandalizes Shirley by wearing a ridiculous rhinestone jumpsuit, but Liz isn’t much better with a plaid skirt. Who wears a skirt and sweater to a carnival! Jessica can’t wait to meet a sexy carnie and is pissed when Shirley warns her of the obvious: carnies are gross. DUH. The carnival kind of sucks until they meet a sexy college boy from Kansas City named Alex Parker who’s giving horsey rides. Golly gee whiz, he’s a twin too! His twin’s name is Brad! Brad happens to be a lot like Liz! A twin for each twin! Wowsers! I’m sorry, I’ll try to control myself. This book is just way more ridiculous than I remembered. Long story short, Jessica tries to set it up so that the two sets of twins can double-date. Alex is extremely uncomfortable at this idea, and starts mumbling shit about why it isn’t possible for Alex and Brad to be together at the same time (their schedules are just so different in this tiny town!). He also studies Elizabeth carefully while slowwwly figuring out how to describe Brad to them, and hey! it just so turns out Brad matches everything Elizabeth already said about herself. If by now you haven’t figured out that there is no Brad, and Alex is just a creepy carnie hoping to score with both underage chicks, then you are hopeless. But the twins totally fall for it and Liz sends herself on a guilt trip for being attracted to someone other than Jeffrey.

Jessica makes plans to meet Alex later that evening. She tells Shirley about Alex and almost gives the old gal a heart attack. No, really! She literally clutches her heart and begs Herman to bring her her pills! I am not making this up. So Jessica stomps back to her room because Aunt Shirley doesn’t want her to get raped by some strange overage carnie man. Jess then sneaks out to meet Alex and Liz freaks out over having to cover for Jessica which she should be used to doing by now. Jessica has a lovely evening riding a stallion named Midnight with Alex.

Annie Sue spends a lot of time stalking around glaring at the twins, particularly Jessica. Jessica and Elizabeth get put to work helping out a girl named Mindy behind the soda fountain counter of the five-and-dime … man, what a vacation. Dennis and friends come in and flirt with them, then Annie Sue and Mary come by and see that and aren’t very pleased. I guess not since Mary’s boyfriend Hank was just checking himself out some Jessica.

Annie Sue’s grandmother invites them out to her farm to have lunch with Annie Sue and her friends. But when they get to the farm, no one has shown up but Annie Sue’s little sister Janie, who’s dressed like Carrie Ingalls and is also a 9-year-old brat from hell. Janie tries to get Jessica kicked by a cow, Elizabeth stampeded by pigs, gets the twins lost in the woods, and tries to lead them into poison ivy. Then the twins get back and decide not to tattle on her … what the fuck? I’d be all about that. I hate bratty kids. Then they have to wait on the porch for Annie Sue, who of course stands them up. The twins feel “humiliated” which I don’t get. They still get to eat lunch and apple pie and instead of enjoying it they feel “mortified.” Dude, you’re not the ones acting like assholes. Enjoy the nice lunch so Mrs. Sawyer doesn’t feel completely horrible about her dumb granddaughter.

Jessica sneaks out every night to get some Alex action, causing Herman and Shirley to become concerned she is either sick or depressed since she “goes to bed” at 9 every night and then sleeps in past 10. Of course, Liz goes ahead and comes clean to Shirley about Brad, and convinces her to let her see him (in the daytime) since Shirley is terrified the twins might get knocked up by a carnie baby daddy. Hehehe. Shirley relents because it’s Liz. So Liz sees him, feels guilty about liking him, but ultimately nothing happens between them at all, no kisses or anything. The most exciting thing that occurs is Brad injures his hand on a nail or something and gushes some blood.

Jessica, meanwhile, tries again to get old Herm and Shirl to let her see Alex, but flips out when they won’t let her walk to the carnival in the dark by herself to meet him. And then she freaks out again when they ask to at least meet him first before giving their consent for Jess to date him. What the fuck? My parents always wanted to meet guys that I was dating. Is that so strange, to want to make sure your daughter is hanging out with a decent fella?

Jessica doesn’t bring Alex over, but continues to see him after dark anyway. She decides she’s falling in “love” with him, or Jessica’s version of love anyway. Annie Sue sees them out one evening with Midnight, and comes into the five-and-ten the next day to harass Jessica about it and threaten to tell the Walkers. She starts blackmailing Jess into giving her a bunch of shit like her rhinestone headband, cowboy boots, a pin, sunglasses, necklace, etc. You’d think Jessica would just stop wearing these accessories since she knows Annie Sue will take them. Of course, Annie Sue can’t help but want to be like Jessica since she’s so stylish and glamorous and beautiful. Annie Sue and her friends Mary Hamilton, Susie, and Carol all start dressing like Jessica, but of course they’re described as looking plainer than Jess. Just kill me.

As the end of this too-long vacation comes to a close, Herman and Shirley decide that since they haven’t even met these Parker twins the girls are always talking about, and the bratty Wakefields refuse to let them meet them, that they can’t go to big square dance with them. Jessica thinks that Herman and Shirley should just get a grip and accept that since Alex’s dad OWNS the carnival, he’s clearly a good guy. Only poor people commit rapes and shit. God. Just let them meet your stupid carnies already, then go have fun rolling in the hay at the square dance! But noooo, Jess just flips out about the square dance and runs away to the carnival to see Alex one last time. Annie Sue is there and she announces her daddy just bought Alex’s prize, but moody stallion, Midnight and then demands to ride him. Jessica tries to stop her, but Annie Sue throws herself on the horse and jerks the reins too hard, and of course the poor horsey flips out and gallops around trying to throw her. I wish he would. Jessica saves Annie Sue in front of a bunch of people, conveniently just as the Walkers arrive with Elizabeth. This is all it takes for the Walkers to completely forget their precious grand-nieces are a couple of lying twats. The whole town praises Jessica, and Annie Sue does a complete 180 and has a deep talk with both twins about what an ass she has been, and why she’s that way, and how insecure she’s always been, and she feels trapped, and bla bla, and riiiiiiiiight. Liz thinks about how much she “pities” Annie Sue and I want to slap her. Annie Sue even throws a huge party and invites the whole town, and stands up on a chair and makes an impassioned speech about how much she loves the twins. Then she starts insisting they come visit again soon. Yeah, right, we all know we’re never going to hear of any of these people ever again.

At this party, Liz sees that Alex has a hand injury just like the one Brad has, and finally puts two and two together. DUH! There is no Brad! It’s all Alex! Liz is infuriated but keeps the secret from Jessica because she doesn’t want to hurt her, because Jess loves Alex so much. Just like she allowed Jean-Claude to think Jessica was her because they loved each other so much. But Liz does decide that she has to get back at Alex in the most juvenile way possible. So when the square dance rolls around, she gets Annie Sue to torment Alex by continuously cutting in on him to get him to dance with Liz, then Jess, then Liz, then Jess … Alex gets worn out and he finally apologizes to Liz. You see, he liked both twins! They’re both so beautiful, and glamorous! They don’t have anything like that out thur in Kansas! He couldn’t help it! But now he really likes just Jessica! It’s okay!

I think anyone from Kansas who reads this book should be personally insulted and write Bantam nasty letters!

Other stuff: Cara Walker’s name is typoed as “Cora Walker.” Oh, Cara, you’re so effing forgettable.

Dennis is baffled by the rhinestones on Jessica’s jumpsuit and asks her if they are real diamonds. Kill me

When Alex tries to hide his bandaged hand, he puts his hand in his pocket and “looks uncomfortable” and everyone wants to know why. If it were me, I would’ve assumed he had a boner and left the poor dude alone.

Annie Sue explains herself to Jessica by saying that she’s an only child, and Jessica doesn’t challenge it even though just a few chapters back, Annie Sue’s little sister Janie was harassing them. Wow, a glaring continuity error within one book.

In case you were wondering – no, Herman and Shirley Walker aren’t any relation to “Cora” Walker. It drives me INSANE how uncreative the ghostwriters are with names.

Worst. Super. Edition. Ever. Seriously, this one might be worse than Winter Carnival! And I REALLY hated that one.

Next up: A pretty high school dropout tries to give school another shot, which of course means she’s fair game for Jessica and her bitch friends.

#35 Out of Control

Here’s a book in which the sub-plot is far more interesting than the main storyline. So let’s get this plot out of the way! Jeffrey French and Aaron Dallas are the best of friends, but lately Aaron has had some kind of anger problem. Needless to say, Elizabeth is going to get involved. Since the issue is affecting the boy she loves, I can understand that better than I can when she meddles with kids she never even talks to normally, so I won’t rag on her too much … just yet …

Aaron has only been a bit player in this series so far. We know he’s a popular kid on the soccer team and that he’s dated a number of sexy chicks, including Lila Fowler, Patsy Webber, and now some sophomore girl named Heather Sanford. If you read the Sweet Valley Twins series, then you likely remember him as Jessica’s first serious boyfriend (or as serious as you can be when you are 12). I’m afraid I can’t very excited about getting deeper into the mind of Aaron Dallas. I’m ready to stop reading about secondary characters, and I think the 30s books are getting too ABC After School Special on us. (That’s probably why I found the sub-plot such a relief!)

Aaron’s mother is divorcing his father for another man and moving to New York. Mr. Dallas has been full of rage over the divorce and is taking it out on his son; he even hits him at some point. As a result, Aaron is handling his own rage over the issue very poorly. But for the most part, we don’t get to see much of this story from Aaron’s point of view. Instead, we watch as Aaron freaks the fuck out over tiny things, like:

  • Someone stepped on his foot at Lila’s dumb engagement party in the last book
  • Mr. Collins gave him a C on a paper
  • Tony Esteban made a bad call on Aaron at soccer practice
  • Robin Wilson supposedly cheated off him on a math test (she claimed she was just trying to pick up her dropped pencil…riiiight)
  • Michael Schmidt agreed with Tony on the earlier soccer call

Despite shit like this, Jeffrey defends his friend to Elizabeth, probably because Elizabeth is always defending Jessica to Jeffrey (although not as often as when she dated Todd). But Liz can’t let it go because she’s worried Jeffrey will be the target of Aaron’s anger next. And, it doesn’t help matters that Liz often winds up being forced to hang around with Aaron and Heather, which she hates doing, and frankly, so would I. Everybody has to walk on eggshells around Aaron, and Heather is seriously fucking annoying with the way she literally baby-talks her man and babbles about clothes in the middle of a movie. Ugh! I hate people talking during movies. But Jeffrey is in denial about what’s going on and wants Liz to shut up and take it. I guess he forgot Liz only bends over like that for Jessica. Their relationship gets slightly strained as Liz tries to keep away from Heather, who is trying to be her best friend. Liz even goes “out of character” and loudly makes fun of Heather’s baby talk voice to a bunch of kids at a sales party Jessica throws after Heather leaves early. Everyone, even Liz, is shocked that Saint Elizabeth would do a thing like that. Right. Elizabeth gets to know Heather better later and feels bad that she made fun of her. But if you think Liz is going to get served her comeuppance for what she did, you clearly don’t know this series well enough.

Things get really bad when Aaron beats up his teammate Brad Tomasi for tripping him up in a soccer game, and the coach suspends him for two days for his “prima donna” attitude, with a promise to cut him from the team if he gets in a fight again. Good job, Coach Horner! Nobody would have been suspended from a sports team at my school for a thing like that. Sports ruled the school. But then nosy Liz decides to write an article for the Oracle about Aaron punching out Brad, because she feels obligated to report on the facts even though it’s just a stupid high school newspaper. Seriously, Liz, get the fuck over yourself! Do you feel obligated to report on who’s having sex with who at Miller’s Point each weekend as well? …Oh, wait, you do.

Aaron is humiliated by this article, and declares Liz and Jeffrey are no longer his friends. Jeffrey is upset that Liz wrote it and annoyed when she tries to pull the whole “I’m a serious reporter and it was my duty” bit. Liz also tries to say that maybe this will convince Aaron to get some help. Heather has the same thoughts. Liz and Mr. Collins talk about the article and Mr. Collins reaffirms Liz’s self-righteous attitude and sense of importance. He also sounds like he is flirting with her, but then, he always does. I think he’s way inapprop.

At lunch, Jeffrey and Liz run into Aaron and Heather. Jeffrey asks him to forgive and forget about the article, but Aaron demands Liz apologize for writing it, and Liz is completely appalled by this. You see, Liz never does anything wrong! Then Aaron freaks out and punches Jeffrey right in the kisser in front of everybody! Everyone gathers around to witness the huge spectacle and talks about how Aaron must be off the team and won’t be able to play in the big game against Big Mesa that day! Surprisingly, Elizabeth doesn’t whip out her stupid reporter’s notebook to record everything! Heather takes off after Aaron to try to help. This time, she doesn’t use her baby talk, which by now we’ve learned is her way of calming Aaron down. Man, if twalking like this to Aaron-poo is what he needs to cwalm down, he seriously does need professional help. But Heather is kind of cool for making her own clothes and insisting Aaron get help. But let’s be straight, Heather is still the type of kid who insists on talking loudly through movies. If this book took place in 2010, she’d probably also be answering her cell and texting.

So, the denouement? Aaron and Mr. Dallas get some help from the school counselor. Coach Horner proves that sports do indeed rule the school as he goes back on his earlier promise and agrees to keep Aaron on the team. Aaron and Jeffrey grudgingly forgive Elizabeth for writing an article about him punching Brad, like Ricky Capaldo also had to do (book 21) because hey, Liz was just doing the right thing even though she humiliated her friends for a FUCKING HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER. Jeffrey forgives Aaron for socking him in the face. Aaron’s anger problem is magically solved in the next soccer game as someone trips him and he doesn’t do anything, even though he punched Jeffrey out just a couple of hours before. Heather overhears everyone begging Elizabeth to do her Heather impression again, but instead of getting pissed off, she shows she’s cool with it by doing her own just-sorta-funny Liz Wakefield impression ’cause she and Liz have an understanding now. And Sweet Valley wins the big game because they never lose any that I’m aware of. Like usual, everyone gets off scot-free in the end, and it all happens within just a few pages.

And OMG! I love this sub-plot! Jessica decides she wants to be rich like Lila Fowler, so she starts selling a beauty product line called Tofu-Glo. The products are made from soy and include shampoo, face wash, moisturizer, and a dietary supplement. Jessica orders a huge introductory shipment of Tofu-Glo, but she doesn’t try the products herself. You can tell this is going to be a huge disaster. I love it. Of course, Elizabeth’s “reporter’s instinct” also kicks in as to what a bad idea it is. You see, only people who write ridiculous gossip columns for a high school newspaper are smart enough to tell something like this just might be a scam.

She throws one of those home parties to sell the products and forces Liz to invite Heather Sanford, whom Liz still despises at that point. Lois Waller is also there, and of course her weight is played for laughs as she asks Jessica about weight loss in connection with the supplements. Jessica lies and tells her that Lois won’t have to eat anything while taking the supplement. She convinces a ton of her friends to purchase the shit. Liz even whines at Enid to purchase something, and Enid gives in. What the FUCK? Dude, Enid hates Jessica more than anything, and here’s Liz forcing her to buy something from her so Liz can feel good about putting more money in their spoiled brat coffers. All because Jessica wants to be able to compete with Lila on the spending money scale. Way to be a good friend, Liz!

Next, Jessica goes around the neighborhood selling Tofu-Crap door to door. She’s a born saleswoman, I guess, because she makes five sales in a row and no one even asks to try the product first! It helps that she lies to a client of her mother’s about how she and her mom use it and love it. When someone finally does ask to try some of the lotion, Jessica is horrified to see that the products have rotted and that the lotion won’t absorb into the skin.  Of course, the lady who wants to try the lotion before spending money on it is portrayed as a “hatched-faced” old witch.

Jess goes home humiliated to find all of the products have rotted and smell to high heaven and every dog in the neighborhood is prowling around the house sniffing out the fermented soy. Ewww. People start calling and saying they want their money back because the shampoo won’t wash out of their hair and smells horrible. Cara wails that her hair and therefore her date with Steven is ruined, and Jessica has to keep explaining to Steven why Cara can’t see him. Get over your fucking hair, Cara, like he cares! Mrs. Wakefield makes Jessica go and try the products herself, so Jessica does and finally sees that the shampoo is indeed impossible to wash out of one’s hair. Then she tries the face wash and her face instantly swells up and turns bright red. Jessica’s own date with Neil Freemount is ruined. Yes, that’s right, old Neil is still hanging around! I guess Jessica still uses him as a back-up when there’s nobody better willing to dry-hump her on a Saturday night.

The end of this highly entertaining escapade is that Jessica not only has to give everyone their money back, but she also has to arrange for a shady dump truck man to take the dozens of boxes of rotted tofu out of her house and to the dump for sixty-five dollars. She calls the company who tell her that there is fine print on the bottom of the containers that you have to refrigerate the products. How did they not spoil on the way to the house the first time then? But then Mr. Wakefield saves the day by finding out about a class action suit against the company which means Jessica is going to get all of her money back plus damages. He tries to give Jessica a stern warning about doing things like this in the future, but come on! This is Sweet Valley! There are no consequences! Get real, Mr. Wakefield! Your daughter has a perfect right to borrow lots of money from you for all kinds of modeling and get-rich-quick schemes because her clearly huge allowance just isn’t enough as the rich bitch down the way! And everyone knows that only poor kids like Ricky Capaldo have to get real jobs!

The cover: UGH. Did EVERYONE wear pants up over their bellybuttons back then? It just looks so uncomfortable! I’m talking about you, Liz. And is that an elastic waistband? Liz looks like a schoolteacher breaking up a fight. She also looks much prettier than she usually does. I guess anger is good for her. Her hair is fug though. I think this is the first cover with Jeffrey French on it. Not bad, not bad. Aaron’s hair is like, down in his eyes.

Other stuff: Jessica reads a lot of Sweet Dreams romances, according to page 2. A rare moment of self-promotion for Bantam Books.

The Wakefields make a Mexican dinner at one point that made my mouth water bad. Mmmmmm, Mexican food. Of course, when I say “the Wakefields” make it, I mean primarily Mrs. Wakefield. The book explains that Alice runs the household and implies that she is responsible for cooking everything, even though she has a full-time job just like Mr. Wakefield. How nice.

Since we haven’t had anyone on a diet or complaining about their weight in a while, Heather only orders a Diet Coke at Casey’s Place so she can keep fitting into her clothes or something. Elizabeth snidely thinks of Heather’s diets as “another symptom of her vanity.” Fuck you Liz! Not everyone can chow down on sundaes and cheeseburgers every single day and stay a perfect effing size six!

Does anyone ever watch current movies in this town? I feel like every time someone goes to a movie in this series, it’s described as an old romance or a classic or something. Only recently was a modern spy thriller mentioned. I love old movies, but just sayin’. I don’t think it’s realistic that teenagers dig watching those that often.

When Heather is still desperate to be Liz’s friend, we of course get to hear her thoughts about how Liz is just so poised and perfect or whatever. GOD! Is there ANYONE who doesn’t want to wipe Liz’s ass for her?

Jessica has an obsession with the number “137”. This has been tracked in other blogs (see shannonsweetvalley.com) so I won’t bother to go over all of the instances in which she says it here, but rest assured that she does at least a couple of times in most books, and this one is no exception. I figure that is Francine’s lucky number.

1987-tastic:  Soya-Soft face cream has PABA in it, which has since fallen out of favor due to allergy and increased sun damage issues (hence the “PABA Free” labels on many sunscreens).

Jessica and Elizabeth seriously must have the biggest allowances ever for a middle class family. Jessica is able to buy a shitload of health food drinks and snacks for her Tofu-Glo party even though she just spent a hundred fifty bucks on the Tofu-Glo starter kit (AND she had to borrow fifty of that from Liz).

I was confused as to why John Pfeifer wasn’t writing the soccer article since he is the sports writer for the Oracle. I guess that would be too inconvenient to the plot. Plus John probably wouldn’t “do the right thing”

Love this quote from Jeffrey, at Liz when she tries to defend including the Aaron-Brad incident in her article which was supposed to be about the soccer team: “Stop pulling that ‘just the facts’ stuff, okay?” YES. You tell her Jeffrey!

Next up: It’s time for the last Super Edition we’ll have for a long time. This time, the twins are going to Kansas to spend spring break with their aunt and uncle.

#34 Forbidden Love

In this tome, SVH tackles the difficult subject of teen marriage. Cheerleader Maria Santelli and senior tennis player Michael Harris (who?) have gotten engaged, and it’s kind of a big deal. Funnily enough, no one in school wonders if Maria might be pregnant. (She isn’t, of course. This is Sweet Valley. No one has sex.)

Maria and Michael have had a secret relationship for some time now, even though we’ve never heard of Michael before that I can think of. Maria has Michael pick her up a few blocks from her house for dates and tells her parents she’s seeing a kid named Josh. They buy it even though they have never met this Josh. Michael apparently doesn’t have to make up shit to explain where he is going all the time. Even though everyone in the school knows they are together, somehow word never got back to their feuding families, who have hated each other ever since a business deal gone wrong several years ago. Michael somehow figured it made sense to buy Maria a diamond ring and propose because when they do expose themselves to their families, the engagement will somehow make them take their love more seriously. Because 16- and 17-year-olds getting married is something most parents would respect, right? Ha.

Jessica and her cronies think the engagement is totally romantic and use it as an excuse to start planning a surprise party for the couple at Lila’s “Spanish-style” mansion. Meanwhile, Maria and Michael are not getting along. It turns out Michael is a big douche and Maria just never had a chance to notice before. Maria has been spending a lot of time helping Winston Egbert campaign for a Student Council-PTA officer position, and Michael is annoyed because it’s pretty obvs that Winston is crushing hard on Maria. He says they are spending way too much time together. While Michael is clearly the ass here, I do have to say that I don’t get why it takes so much time to photocopy fliers and shit either. Maria agrees to stop helping Winston at Michael’s insistence and tries to pass the duties off on Liz instead, who politely tells her to get bent. Ha ha! Maria begs Michael to change his mind about Winston, and he grudgingly agrees to “let” her help him after all. Meanwhile, Winston has admitted to Liz that he has fallen hard for Maria.

Also, some juniors and seniors are working on a special marriage seminar (see the sub-plot), and Michael and Maria are of course paired together (by random drawing, heh) and then find they can’t agree on anything. Michael reveals he thinks married women shouldn’t work, misbehaving kids should be hit, and that psychology and therapy are a bunch of bullshit. Maria is horrified but she seems to have some kind of problem with speaking her mind ever since she and Michael got engaged. Worse, Michael seems to have lost all interest in “coming out” to their families. Maria starts thinking about what a shitty relationship Michael’s sister Kate has with her fiance Richard and worrying that this is a bad idea. Gee Maria, ya think?

Lila throws the stupid party and Maria and Michael are predictably miserable at it because Michael is picking at Maria again. The party has a wedding cake, a leatherbound guest book, balloons, and of course The Droids are set up in the corner playing the wedding march. Maria and Michael are forced to take pictures in front of the cake and dance for everyone. HAHAHA. Worst. Party. Ever. Liz is there because Jeffrey wanted to go, but she has been worrying that throwing this party will expose Maria and Michael to their parents because word will somehow get out faster that way than it already should have! I mean, what the fuck? I grew up in a fairly small town myself and there is NO WAY their parents wouldn’t know by now! “The walls in this county have ears” as my dad used to say! But because it’s more convenient to the plot, the Santellis find out about the engagement when they run into Caroline Pearce’s mom at the movie theater. Glad to see Caroline is back to her old gossipymouth ways.

Needless to say, the dumb fucking wedding party is about to become a complete trainwreck. Michael gets jealous when he sees Maria doing a silly dance with Winston. He reacts by suddenly making a speech in which he announces he is running against Winston for Student Council and that Maria is going to help him win. Winston assumes Maria was in on this plan and leaves the party upset. Michael threatens to break up with Maria when she tries to go after him, and they have a huge fight in front of everyone in which Maria starts crying and breaks the engagement. The Santellis and the Harrises arrive at Fowler Crest together to confront their kids because that’s just the perfect place to do it, in front of a bunch of nosy teenagers. In the process they meet with Michael who is devastated that Maria has dumped him. He explains everything to them and the Santellis and the Harrises take all the responsibility for their children’s shitty decisions and end their 4-year-feud like, immediately. Meanwhile, even though she is still very upset about having to break up with someone she loved so much, Maria goes and finds Winston in the Fowler gardens and they make out for half an hour. (For real – they say “half an hour later” they came back to the house!) Liz has a heartfelt chat with Michael whom I’m fairly certain she has never deigned to speak to before and I’m going to puke. Then Maria and Michael agree to be best friends forever and Michael leaves the party misty-eyed because all it took for him to realize the error of his ways was Maria’s dumping him. Wow, I wish all douchebags were cured of their douchery so easily.

The sub-plot is very thin and is really only there to aid the main story. As I mentioned earlier, the school is having a special marriage seminar project, but only for 24 juniors and seniors. Winston and Jessica are paired together for a little comic relief, and their handout says that they have seven children and a combined yearly salary of a whopping $23,000. Lila gets paired with Bill Chase and treats him like crap. Man, Lila is especially bitchy in this book. Liz gets stuck with Bruce and clearly thinks of him as a friend now that he’s dating Regina, because that completely erases the fact that he tried to rape her once.

Other stuff: Annie says, “Boy, Ricky sure knows how to tire a girl out.” I’ll just bet he does.

Lila has decided she hates Prince Albert the puppy. And true to form, Liz is doing most of the taking care of him.

Is it typical to call a divorced woman “Mrs.”? See: “Mrs. Pearce had been divorced for years.” Even if she kept her ex-husband’s last name, wouldn’t that be Ms. Pearce?

The Droids sing a shitty song called “Hold On Tight.” I wish I had written down all of their song titles earlier. They’ve had some real gems in there.

Lila dances with Bruce at her party which is amusing since they supposedly hate each other. And Regina is nowhere to be found in this book. And Aaron Dallas is now dating Heather Sanford who I thought was a minor character from the early books, but that was Heather Morgan.

Michael drives a Trans-Am. Maria has a little sister named Diane. I don’t know why I’m all about the random facts lately.

Lila stamps her foot screaming at the Droids to play more songs when she feared the M-M drama has ruined the evening. It’s quite an amusing spectacle!

Of course Winston wins the student council position. He is up against three sophomores: Brian Klein, Jimmy Reed, and Lisa Walton, who is apparently a dead ringer for the position because she uses smart slogans like “Exalt in Walton.” Is this for real? Does anyone really give that much of a crap about who wins student council? Oh, and Winston’s slogan is: “Winston This Instant!” hehehe.

Jessica thinks about how handsome her dad is at length again. Seriously, we get it. The Wakefields are the most attractive family on planet earth, and Jessica thinks about that all the time. Creepy much?

The cover shows two reasonably attractive thirty-year-olds. Did kids really dress that adult in 1987? And what the fuck is up with Maria’s pants? Guuuh. Those look SO uncomfortable. I see she’s rocking the Liz Wakefield barrettes, too.

Next: Aaron Dallas has some kind of anger management problem. Liz to the rescue!

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