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

#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!

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Comments on: "#38 Leaving Home" (2)

  1. pibetaalpha said:

    When I was really little, I thought that the cover featured Liz and Jess in a Power Play-like stare-to-the-death-athon. I didn’t get that she was actually looking at the Switzerland poster while Jessica spied on her.

    Though Jess and Steve were just awful to Liz in this book, I thought that their schemes were hysterical. Mr. Sterne is such an snobbish tightass, and such a good target. I love it when Steve’s like, “I can’t get along without seeing my entire family every day, I’d become unbalanced, so I have to come home from college all the time!!” Hee.

    • I love it when Steve’s like, “I can’t get along without seeing my entire family every day, I’d become unbalanced, so I have to come home from college all the time!!”

      Wow, it’s like the series is poking fun at itself…but that would be way too clever and self-aware.

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