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

#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.

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Comments on: "#37 Rumors" (2)

  1. pibetaalpha said:

    “Hmm, if Gordon’s family is so rich, why do they send their kid to public school in Sweet Valley? I’m just sayin’.” That’s exactly what I always wondered about Lila Fowler, what with George Fowler being so intent on flaunting his nouveau wealth everywhere. It is explained with one random throwaway line somewhere (I think it’s in that back where Jessica wants to go to Lovett Academy) where Lila says that George sends her to public school so that she will be “grounded” or down-to-earth or something.

    I, too, always thought that it was odd that Aunt Helen’s waitress and seamstress jobs supported them both AND allowed Susan a swanky wardrobe and upper crust activities. To me, that was the most unrealistic thing about the whole series, and, as we all know, that is saying a lot!

    Mad props for the Elizabeth (Cat Blanchett film) reference.

  2. Kanna-Chan said:

    I haven’t read this book but maybe what they mean that Lila and her dad recently became rich means they became rich in that generation. Sixteen years isn’t really that long to be rich, especially since you are not considered “Old Money” until at least the third generation and only if that third generation proves they can continue to grow the family wealth. Usually if you can get past the second generation with your wealth intact then you are more likely to continue to grow your wealth.

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