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

#33 Starting Over

Woo woo, another member of The Droids is having family problems. Dana Larson’s cousin Sally has just moved in with them after years of bouncing around foster homes. Sally was held back a year, so she’s in the same grade as Dana, and this is supposed to be something potentially embarrassing. Sally’s arrival naturally causes some friction in the family as everyone struggles to adjust. Dana’s big brother Jeremy has the biggest problem with it. It probably doesn’t help matters that Mr. and Mrs. Larson kicked Jeremy out of his room and moved him to the attic so that Sally could have his room! Dana points out that the attic is huge and has been refurbished so that it’s much nicer than Jeremy’s old room anyway. So why not just give Sally the attic then? Isn’t she the one who really needs the privacy? Jeremy continuously grunts about Sally’s presence and scowls when his best friend Mark Riley develops a crush on Sally at first sight.

Dana has her issues with Sally, too. She really wants Sally to look up to her and emulate her, and she sets about trying to control everything Sally does. Because Sally is afraid of making the Larsons unhappy and getting kicked out of their home, she is more than willing to do whatever Dana wants. Sally submits to a makeover and a new wardrobe of trendy clothes, and even agrees to become the Droids’ band manager despite the fact she has no interest in their music and wants to write for the Oracle instead. And Dana finds Sally’s past embarrassing, so she orders her never to talk about it, and to lie to people about her age. Dana thinks that if people know Sally is really 17, they will realize she was held back a grade and that would be just the worst thing ever. Who fucking cares? And besides, hasn’t anyone in the 11th grade turned 17 at this point?

Sally’s life with the Larsons grows more and more strained as she goes out of her way to do all of the chores and please everyone. Jeremy doesn’t want Mark hanging around Sally, and Dana doesn’t want Sally to befriend Liz (because Dana isn’t friends with Liz), so Sally does as they say and feels lonely and miserable. Then Dana starts to get mildly pissed off when her parents begin to suggest that Dana should be helpful like Sally. Bla, bla, bla. For a while, there is no real drama at all. We don’t even get to hear that much about Sally’s life in the foster homes which is interesting considering she seems like she really wants to talk about it. We do hear that she once knew another foster kid named Marybeth who said if she could ever find a perfect place to stay, she wouldn’t let go of it – hence Sally’s determination not to leave the oh-so-perfect Sweet Valley and her first real family.

While I do feel for Sally, her story is boring. Even the inevitable major conflict that unites everyone as a family is boring. Mrs. Larson announces that Mr. Larson is coming home from San Francisco with some important news that the kids need to get home early to hear. The kids assume that means Sally is getting put back into the foster system. On the way home from school to the big family meeting, the three Larsons are silent in thought when moody Jeremy decides to pick up a couple of shitty-looking hitchhikers. Sally warns him not to, but he snaps at her and does it anyway. The two dudes “Jim” and “Al” drape themselves over Dana, demand Jeremy give them his wallet, and then say they want Dana and Sally to get out of the car to drink with them at Kelly’s.  Of course, Sally is going to save the day. You see, she’s seen people like them before because she’s a foster kid, but because Dana and Jeremy are good clean nuclear family kids, they never have and therefore had no idea that such bad guys existed. Nor do they have the brains to just drive away and call the police. So Sally tells Jim and Al that Dana is a bore and that she wants to go to Kelly’s with them willingly. They get out and Jeremy drives away fuming about his wallet while Dana oh-so-brilliantly figures out that Sally does not actually want to hang out with Jim and Al. Good one, Dana. They go get Ken Matthews, John Pfeifer, and Mark to help rescue Sally who is terrified because I guess there’s no way for her to get away from these guys in a public place. The Scooby Gang saves the day and Jeremy even gets his wallet back from these two clearly unarmed losers. They go home and Mr. and Mrs. Larson explain that the big news is that they are adopting Sally. Yay! Jeremy allows Mark and Sally to fall in love and Dana allows Liz and Sally to be friends, and we will probably never hear much, if anything, about Sally again.

The sub-plot: Jessica sneakily adopts a Golden Retriever puppy while Ned and Alice are away at something called Casa de los Caballos. Where the hell is that? Jessica wants to name him Spot, even though he has no spots. Liz names him Prince Albert, which of course is also the name of a penis piercing. Heh. Jessica has no idea how to take care of a puppy, but Elizabeth enables her by helping her hide the puppy from their parents until they are ready to tell them about him and show them that they can take care of a dog. Wow, what a great plan! I know my parents would just laugh it off and let me keep a puppy if they found out I’d had him imprisoned in the house for the past week! They leave him in the basement and Jessica’s room all day long and newspaper-train him. But Prince Albert does all the shit that neglected puppies do, like piss on the floor and chew up the washing machine hose. Even though Liz agreed to this plan, named the fucking puppy, and also wants to keep him, it’s Jessica’s responsibility to pay 50 bucks for the hose. Okay. The twins ask their parents about adopting a dog and Ned and Alice say they will consider it. But then Prince Albert escapes on his first real walk ever and goes missing for several days, forcing the twins to hide their complete misery from their parents. Not that their parents would notice or give a shit anyway. Then Mr. Wakefield finds Penis Piercing in a shelter and adopts him as a surprise for the twins, having no idea that this same dog lived in his house for a week right under his nose. Harrrrrrrr.

WTF? Jeremy’s nickname is “Jerry” which I found very confusing as  I was not aware that the two names were related. That is probably just ignorance on my part. Either way, that’s at least the third Jerry in this series.

Dana says: “Don’t you think malls are wild? They’re like the new Main Street, USA, know what I mean?” Did they not have malls prior to 1987? And is Dana a real Valley Girl or what?

There is a shout-out to Sweet Valley Twins book 5, Sneaking Out, when Liz reminds Jessica of what happened the last time she tried to take care of a dog.

Elizabeth laughs at Jessica’s drama and tells her she should be an actress. Unless something’s changed since book 8, she is one!

Of course, the first thing Sally notices about the Wakefield twins is how gorgeous they are. She even starts talking to them about Dana because the twins are the most exciting thing she has seen in Sweet Valley. The funny part is Dana has no idea how to explain to Sally how to tell the twins apart. Just say “barrettes,” Dana!

I love how Sally is so in love with Sweet Valley and thinks it’s perfect, even though she never leaves her room or does anything in Sweet Valley, except stuff that she doesn’t actually want to do!

Elizabeth feels “that special rush of pleasure” whenever she thinks about Jeffrey. Orgasmic.

Enid teases Liz about her do-gooder attitude: “Elizabeth Wakfield to the rescue! […] Fear not, all you sad, lonely people! Elizabeth will come to save you!” Truer words were never spoken.

Because it’s convenient to the plot, there’s an actual rainy day in Sweet Valley – yet Elizabeth and Sally eat lunch outside under a tree that same day!

The cover makes me laugh. Sally looks ridiculous with Dana grooming her hair like that. And what a weird priss expression, and that shirt that belongs on a 90-year-old lady! Dana is definitely totally 80s, but she’s also really pretty. In fact, I think she’s the most beautiful girl to grace the cover so far, way ahead of other supposed beauties like Regina and Suzanne Devlin. Only Lila’s cover from book 9 might rival her. Funny how that works out.

The back of the book tells you about a new Bantam series called All That Glitters. Never read it, but I remember seeing the books at our school book fairs!

Next up: Maria Santelli is dating a senior boy named Michael Harris on the sly because the Santelli and Harris families have some ancient feud. So the couple has decided that the best thing to do is get engaged, at 16. Hey, it worked on One Tree Hill, haha. This bad romance has already inspired a Droids song! Elizabeth is terribly worried about the whole ordeal, even though Maria is Jessica’s cheerleading buddy and Liz doesn’t even know her. Gee, we haven’t been down this road before …

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Comments on: "#33 Starting Over" (3)

  1. “Liz names him Prince Albert, which of course is also the name of a penis piercing…”

    I lol’d at that one. This shit is gold hahahaha!

  2. Wow, Jessica, way to not pick the most generic dog name ever (I bet her second choice was “Fido” 🙂 ). When Liz thinks of a hilariously scandalous name before you do — and without even realizing it — you know you have a problem.

  3. “Then Mr. Wakefield finds Penis Piercing in a shelter”

    You slay me! 😀

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