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

#40 On the Edge

At long last, the 30s (and their tiring tales of secondary characters we couldn’t give a shit about) are over with. But alas, that means it’s come to this: the book I knew was coming and was never quite sure of how to review when I finally got to it. I’ll admit I never read this one as a child, but my sister did, and she told me all about what happened, leaving me feeling saddened. Since she did this long before I read any part of the series myself, I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t get quite the feeling that others did when I finally read book 40 for the first time two and a half years ago. But I could see why my sister and kids her age did.

Regina Morrow is often placed as one of the main characters, but we really haven’t gotten to know her all that well. The Morrows moved to Sweet Valley around book 12, when they threw a big party that Liz never showed up to because she was kidnapped. Regina earned lots of pity from the SV community because she was deaf, even though she clearly wasn’t sorry for herself and was doing just fine. In book 17, she started dating Bruce Patman; in book 18, we learned that Bruce truly had fallen hard for her, and Regina left for Switzerland to have her hearing restored. In book 26 (which is the shittiest one I’ve read so far), she returned. In that short time, she’s graced three different covers. None of them show her as the incredible beauty she’s said to be, but that’s alright; no one is ever the stunner they’re supposed to be on the cover. We love Regina anyway because she’s sweet and trusting; to be honest, we probably also love her because we haven’t gotten to know her that well and therefore haven’t been privvy to any annoying personality traits. (Hmmm, except for the fact that she jumps to conclusions easily, but doesn’t everyone in this series?) We also distrust Bruce because unlike everyone else, we don’t really believe he’s reformed from the lying, emotionally abusive, attempted (we hope it’s only attempted) date raping, controlling, womanizing, boastful douche we originally knew him as just because he fell for Regina.

Unfortunately, we are ultimately proven right. Amy Sutton has been trying her hardest to get Bruce to go for her as they work on a project about drug abuse together. She has already convinced Bruce that he needs to ditch Regina on two Friday nights in a row (plus a lunch break) to do “research” with Amy. Even though Amy’s not so hot (in my opinion), the magic of Bruce and Regina’s relationship has started to wear off, and Bruce is feeling that old familiar yearning in his silk Jockeys again. Amy realizes that Bruce is attracted to her, so she gets him to kiss her, then to admit that he wants to keep seeing her. And Bruce decides that’s it time “to spread the wealth – to share that old Bruce magic with more than one girl.” The man’s got some real class. Despite his words, Amy is convinced that Bruce is in love with her and only her, and becomes jealous whenever he obsesses over Regina. Amy was never all that bright.

Amy and Bruce start sneaking around with Amy bragging to Jessica and friends that Bruce is going to dump Regina any day now. Elizabeth is horrified when she hears what’s happening, but she can’t bring herself to tell Regina and break her heart. Come on, Liz, you’re doing her a favor! The twins throw a cookout at the Calico Drive homestead, and Liz agonizes about whether to tell Regina what’s going on beforehand so she won’t be humiliated. The obvious choice is to tell her, but Jessica and Jeffrey don’t think she should, so she keeps her fucking trap shut for a change. Wow, way to go, Liz, you’re uncharacteristically silent at a time when it matters most. Regina spends an uncomfortable evening sitting by herself while Amy drapes herself over Bruce and then disappears with him. Liz sends Jeffrey to get them out from behind a tree while Liz “distracts” Regina. WTF kind of friendship is this? Liz, you suck. But Regina sees what is going on, and man, is she PISSED.

Enraged, she demands Bruce give her the keys to his Porsche so she can drive herself home, and he does. Before she leaves, she tells Liz she’s an ass for not sharing what she knew and for going out of her way to keep it from Regina. Then she screams “I hate you!” in Amy’s face. She is too classy to punch her out however. I really love Regina in this scene. She’s way different from the naive kid whose first kiss came from Bruce Patman. She’s sure of herself, hurt, and righteously pissed, and she’s laying down the law. But when she gets home, she’s devastated, and she feels like she has no friends left. She has to admit to herself that her relationship with Bruce was on its way out, but that doesn’t justify the way it all ended. Her thoughts are pretty clear and on target, especially for an SVH book.

Waking up from the nightmare the next day, Regina finds herself agreeing to go out with Justin Belson, an “outsider” kid (read: pothead) who is rumored to hang with a bunch of other kids that do drugs. Since I guess no one in Nancy Reagan-era California schools did drugs at the time but the bad kids, everyone is worried, but Regina’s just relieved to find a friend. Justin is openly crushing on her, but prior to the Bruce mess, Regina had tried to let him down gently. Now, she figures she might as well go for it. But Justin has recently broken up with his girlfriend, Molly Hecht. Justin and Molly started dating back in junior high, but Justin dumped her because she keeps hanging around with a druggie named Jan Brown and doing cocaine and he can’t stand that. Regina knows she doesn’t really belong in their world, but she finds Justin a sensitive and caring friend, and that’s what she needs right now. Regina’s brother Nicholas is annoyed because his friend Sam Watson told him that Justin is a bad kid or something. Regina is pissed that Nicholas is trying to tell her what to do. Nicholas also tells their mother Skye what he’s heard about Justin, and she’s just like, oh, Regina, well now your curfew is a little earlier, like 12:30 a.m. MAN. My mom would’ve locked me in my room if she thought I was hanging around bad people. I had to lie about who I was going out with all the time. WTF? Good parenting there, Skye.

Bruce and Liz both try to talk to Regina about hanging around Justin. She reacts very badly, as would I. I mean, she already feels hurt that her friends knew about Bruce and Amy and didn’t tell her. Now here they are getting all up in her face about hanging with some kids who actually like to party and have a good time. You can’t blame the girl for being upset that people who are supposed to be her friends didn’t think it was necessary to tell her that her man was cheating on her, but that they do feel they have the right to lecture her about who she hangs out with. I would’ve had the exact same reaction as Regina.

On their first date, Justin takes Regina to Kelly’s, so you know he’s bad news. He wants to buy Regina a beer, and feels bad when she tells him she doesn’t drink and wants a Coke instead. He promises to take her somewhere nicer next time. He spills that he had a pretty good life until his dad, who owned a liquor store, was stabbed to death by some teenagers trying to rob him for drug money. (There are liquor stores in Sweet Valley?) After that, Justin took a year off of school. He’s now a junior but is supposed to be a senior. Justin tells Regina he admires her because she seems to really have it all together. Although nothing explicitly romantic develops, they realize they make a really good pair of friends. So they keep eating lunch together and make plans to attend a huge party that Molly and her ninth-grade brother, Ty, are throwing while their mom is out of town this weekend. Molly boasts that a dude named “Buzz” is going to be there and that he’s lots of fun. Justin doesn’t like what she’s saying. Regina doesn’t get what the fuck is so special about Buzz or why he has such a dumb name. She does get that Justin is obviously still in love with Molly.

Amy and Bruce meet with Amy’s cousin Mimi to learn more about “the drug scene.” Mimi is a junior at Sweet Valley College, but she’s also only 19. Okay. Mimi is studying to be a social worker and works at a clinic. Plus she knows a lot of people, so she has the “down-low” on the “drug scene” in Sweet Valley. What the fuck? Mimi gives them a bunch of info and then says she is working with some private detectives to take down the SVC drug dealer, Buzz Jackson. Mimi already knows that Buzz is coming to the party at Molly’s and will have drugs, but for some reason, the detectives aren’t going to go there so they can arrest him and all. I am confused. Bruce is horrified by what he hears and calls Regina to talk to her. She is rude to him and he is just SHOCKED that one week after he messed with another chick right in front of her, she is still angry with him. Regina refuses not to go to the party. Nicholas can’t keep her from going either, and old Skye doesn’t seem to give a shit about where she goes.

Regina and Justin go to Casey’s Place for sodas before the party. I guess this was the “nicer place” that Justin promised to take Regina to. They talk about the odd romantic tension between them and admit that they are good as friends and that yeah, Justin still loves Molly. Then they head to the party where someone hands Regina a beer and she goes ahead and starts drinking it. Right away, Molly makes it clear she’s threatened by Regina being at the party, even though she’s the one who invited Regina to begin with. She starts dancing with Justin while mean Jan Brown harasses Regina for trying to steal Justin. Regina stands up for herself. Justin and Molly come back over to them fighting about something. Justin runs off to dance with Regina and Molly looks upset. Regina downs more beer to feel more at ease, and before long, she is pretty buzzed. Heh heh, just then “Buzz” shows up! Everyone is excited because he’s going to be giving out free drugs! Meanwhile, Regina decides she wants to get her coat and go for a walk to sober up and walks in on Molly, Jan, and a chick named Tina passing a joint around. Jan bitches her out yet again for trying to take Justin away. Regina realizes that Molly feels the way about her that Regina feels about Amy, so she does her best to appeal to Molly. Molly sounds like she could be listening, but she’s also pretty wasted so it’s hard to tell.

Just then, little Ty shows up yelling that Buzz is about to get out “the stuff” and everyone better hurry up! Regina tries to leave, but the kids see her and taunt her. She feels stupid so she comes back over and whispers to Justin that she wants to leave. He promises they will as soon as he is sure that cocaine is all Molly is going to do. Buzz has been trying to get Molly to try heroin. So everyone sits there in a circle while Buzz shows them some coke, which I guess he’s just giving away for free, and everyone starts gawking at it while he chops the lines. There is a pause in the music just as Regina asks Justin what Buzz is doing. Everyone laughs because they all like to laugh about what a goody-goody rich kid Regina is. (You’d think it would be the rich kids spending the money on the coke … whatever.)

Meanwhile, Amy has told Jessica about the drugs at Molly’s party. Jessica has told Liz, and Liz has gone ahead and told Nicholas. Now Nicholas is on his way to the party to get Regina, but he gets pulled over (for doing TEN OVER) and then hauled off to the police station for DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENSE (he couldn’t find his wallet). As usual, the police are all bumbling fools who don’t give a shit what a bunch of stupid kids have to say about anything – until Nicholas finally tells them that there are DRUGS at a party! Then the police are all over it. Gee, I guess the detectives working to bring Buzz down don’t communicate very well with the rest of the force. Urrr.

Back at the party, Molly is dreamily telling Regina all about how much she loves cocaine. Jan and her boyfriend Jay Benson (second or third Jay in the series) make fun of Regina for not wanting to do any. Regina grows tired of the teasing and always doing what people expect she will and announces she wants to try some. Molly is excited about it, and Justin sits there grinning while Buzz explains to Regina how to snort it. Wow, so Justin doesn’t like that Molly does cocaine but it’s okay for Regina to get started on it. Regina does a line and likes it. Jan says she should do another. Justin doesn’t want her to, but bitchy Jan basically shoves Regina’s head down into the second line and so Regina does that one too. Regina says she’s high and everyone laughs. She feels like part of the crowd because now they all like her for doing coke with them. A moment later, her heart starts beating fast and it freaks her out. Well, that’s what coke is supposed to do. But then she feels pain in her chest. She says she hears “drums” in her ear which Justin realizes is her heartbeat. She gets really sick and looks pale and passes out. Justin carries her to a couch and wants to call 911, and Buzz is like, “No fucking way.” Just then, Nicholas busts in with the cops. Nicholas throws Justin across the room while Regina mumbles about wanting to see Liz and Bruce. Buzz tears out the back door. Everyone just crowds around gawking at Regina when I would assume they’d be following Buzz’s lead.

Regina is taken to the hospital while Nicholas calls Fowler Crest, where a bunch of kids are watching movies in the home theater. Bruce and Liz go to the hospital and Amy is such a bitch that she clearly doesn’t like that Bruce is worrying about Regina again. GOD I hate Amy! It turns out Regina had a really rare heart condition. Regina dies and there is a memorial service and it’s really terrible. Lila tells everyone that she has never done cocaine and never will, but that some of George Fowler’s colleagues’ kids do it. I don’t know, I could see Lila doing a line or two every now and again, especially if it kept her thinner than Jessica.

All kidding aside, this is a really sad book. It’s especially sad that Regina wrote Liz a letter forgiving her (and Bruce and Amy! Because it’s not their fault that Regina was hanging on to a dead relationship!) and Liz gets it the Tuesday after Regina’s death. I wish Regina hadn’t put so much blame on herself. She had a right to be as mad as she was!

Justin comes to Regina’s memorial at the high school, and sits in the back. Molly is there too and she tries to talk to him but he ignores her. Everyone wants to kill both of them for killing Regina, even though, and I hate to say it, Regina killed herself. (Although Jan helped with that second line) I’m not saying they shouldn’t be pissed at Molly and friends for encouraging Regina to do drugs; they should. But how can you help other people avoid making bad decisions if you just go ahead and deny that Regina made the ultimate bad decision herself? Can’t you only help by taking the time to think about why she might have felt tempted to make that decision?

Things about this book I did not like: Drugs are shown as being something that only “the bad kids” or “the wrong set” does. Regina is shown as being a complete innocent who just fell into the wrong place at the wrong time. I know this was the 80s, but seriously, not everyone who does drugs is a “bad” person. And I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t decide to hold a super good kid blameless for making a bad choice, painting her as the “victim”. That’s not right and it implies that it’s not your fault if you make a shitty choice as long as someone else was encouraging you to do it. It’s their fault. Since you’re normally sweet and pretty and good, you are blameless. They’re the ones who regularly snort the nose candy, this makes them evil heathens out to kill you. Regina clearly just stumbled into it. Give me a break.

Old Principal Chrome Dome does make a speech at a special assembly about what happened to Regina but withholds details. He could’ve taken that opportunity to explain a little without getting too much into her business, but he didn’t. Kids make mistakes dude, and Regina is hardly evil for doing some blow, but come on – don’t cover the shit up and act like she is a victim of other people. She made a choice.

There is an implied message that Bruce can’t be held liable for cheating on Regina because their relationship was on its way out, anyway. Bruce and Amy are both basically let off the hook.

Contrasting with the above, it is also insinuated that if you love someone, you stick with them and “fight for the relationship” no matter what. I’m sorry, but if someone is abusing drugs all the time and turning into a person you don’t recognize, is there not a point where you just have to let them go?

If you want to keep kids from doing cocaine, I don’t think the best way is to show them that an “extremely rare” heart condition exists in some people that might kill one or two people who do a couple lines.

It is true that kids who use drugs will sneer at you if you don’t do them or don’t know how. And it is true that if you are at a party with people who are doing drugs, the fastest way to get into their good graces is to do some of their drugs with them. I did feel that this part was well done. Even the lines that Jan and Jay say to Regina are pretty realistic (though not all of them!) which makes me wonder if Francine had to go do some research of her own for this book, haha. Putting people down who don’t use drugs is not usually a ploy to get people to buy your drugs (like I guess Buzz would do) but just part of the normal way that kids (and plenty of adults) have the tendency to put down anyone who does things differently. Also, MANY people in my high school used drugs or at least binge drank when I was Regina’s age, including the popular, sunshiney kids like Liz and Jess. So the idea of only “one crowd” or easily identifiable people doing the drugs is totally alien to me, and probably is to many people who read this book.

When Regina first arrives at Molly’s party, she gasps in shock because she has never seen a party with darkened lights, loud music, candles, the smell of smoke, and beer. Uh, so it’s like every other party in the world? (Except a Sweet Valley party I guess)

The book makes it out like Regina had no choice but to snort the second line because Jan was pushing her head into it. Um, did she also force the dollar bill up her nose and pinch the other nostril for her?

Well, if any kids reading this book were worried about going to a party and not knowing how to snort coke, now they know how, thanks to the book’s detailed instructions!

With all of that said … I really liked Regina in this book, simply because her thoughts seemed very real. Her hurt was palpable and I could see why she was taking the actions that she did. We got her complete thought process all the way up to the moment of her first passing out from the cocaine. I’m saddened that she was killed off, but I guess Francine wouldn’t have made the same effect that she would have if she had killed off, say, Amy. Too bad. Did I mention that I hate Amy?

Despite the parts of the “drug scene” that I thought were totally unrealistic, the book was well-written overall. Some crap editing here and there, but hey, that is typical. As for my whole disdain for the “cautionary tale” part of this book, some of you might be thinking “Well smartass, what’s YOUR suggestion for how to keep kids off drugs?” Dude, I don’t know – but I don’t think showing someone having an “extremely rare” bad reaction to a drug is the best way. I do have to admit however that I’ve heard from many people that this book kept them from touching any kind of drug as they grew up, so maybe I just have a big old stick up my butt and it WAS done the right way. 🙂

Other random shit: Buzz’s real name is (probably) William. Molly’s is Margaret, Jay’s is James, and Jan’s, of course, is Janice. Molly is a stand-alone name so I didn’t realize it could also be short for Margaret.

Although these are supposed to be “the bad kids” crowd, there is no mention of previously mentioned “bad kids” such as Rick Andover, Jim Sturbridge, Charlie Cashman, Nicky’s friends, etc. Why weren’t they at the party?

Since this book is all about drugs, Enid, of course, makes a mention of when she used to hang with “the fast crowd” and how she couldn’t handle it. Well, um, you were a fuck of a lot more interesting back then Enid. And I love the way she didn’t want anyone to know about her old Bennies-poppin’ days but then keeps bringing it up.

Regina thinks about how she and Bruce were able to keep their relationship going while she was in Switzerland because they both had plenty of money for phone calls. Okay, well first of all, Regina was presumably unable to hear till she returned to Sweet Valley in book 26. I assume these were teletype calls. Secondly, I know I have said this before – if they are so rich, then Bruce has the money to come visit her.

In the beginning of the book, Amy keeps fretting over who is prettier, her or Regina. Jessica is like, “Yeah, Regina wins.” HAHHHH

Can I just say … it’s always funny to me when Lila throws a party or some get-together and Liz, Enid, Jeffrey are invited, and SHOW UP even though they don’t like Lila and her friends. In this case, it’s especially funny since it’s just a small get-together. Liz, Enid, and Jeffrey all come over even though they’re going to be forced to endure small company with Amy and Bruce, whom they all hate right now. Plot convenience!

Sub-plot: Zero.

The cover: Once again, Regina doesn’t look like all that, though she definitely looks sad. Bruce looks like, well, like Patrick Muldoon again. Nice preppy black and white portrait. Reminds me of Liz’s picture on the cover of book 7. Didn’t more people use color film back then?
Also – what is Regina wearing? I see it’s a tank top, but then at the bottom it looks like she might have on a tutu or a big puffy skirt! Like the tank top is really just part of a dress. But the circle design cuts it off here, so I’m not sure.
Also wondering what the pink thing on her dressing table is. A jewelry box?

Coming up next … Everybody hates Molly Hecht.


Comments on: "#40 On the Edge" (3)

  1. I have greatly enjoyed your blog!!!! I read these books religiously growing up but this one and the prom ones are the only I really remember. As an adult reading these posts I can’t get over how ridiculous most if these plots are and how I bought into it as a kid lol. Thanks for taking the time to read all these and post the funny reviews. It brings back a bit if my childhood without having to actually read the trash again lol.

  2. I’m sorry, but if someone is abusing drugs all the time and turning into a person you don’t recognize…

    But I thought this party was portrayed as the first time Regina did drugs.

    The book makes it out like Regina had no choice but to snort the second line because Jan was pushing her head into it. Um, did she also force the dollar bill up her nose and pinch the other nostril for her?

    So, there was a significant enough amount of time between Jan physically forcing Regina’s head into the second line and Regina snorting said line for her to reach into her wallet/pocket/whatever to get a dollar and give it to Buzz? I agree that the first line was entirely her choice, and she should be held accountable for that, but (I haven’t done cocaine myself — honestly; I’m not just saying that — so I could be way wrong about its effects) by the time Jan shoves her into the second line, wouldn’t Regina not have been thinking entirely clearly anymore, meaning she wouldn’t have been able to make an entirely rational decision whether or not to snort the thing that’s been physically forced into her nose? Especially if this is the first time she’s ever done cocaine? And after she’s had a few beers (those were her choice, yes…which, along with her choice to do the first line, one could argue makes everything she does as an effect of that her fault…)?

    I’m just saying, if you’re sixteen/seventeen years old, and your mind is already clouded, and someone literally forces your head into something…yeah, presumably Regina could have tried to pull away, and I don’t know how strong Jan was/whether she’d have just let go and made fun of Regina or forced her head back down…

    It just doesn’t sound like Regina should be held entirely accountable for the second line, at least not on the same level as the first line. I do agree that writing her character the way they did — i.e. that only someone with a rare heart disorder could actually die from doing drugs, whereas the people who do it all the time would barely show any damage beyond their social standing — was a bad idea. Then again, as you said, the book did seem to have the desired effect on some readers, at least younger ones. Even as a middle-schooler, I probably would’ve related to/felt as sorry for Regina as the writer meant me to, as well as seeing those “bad kids” as negatively as the reader is meant to, so that I’d have been convinced (at least at the time; I had a fairly sheltered upbringing, and even in high-school, the most I ever heard my classmates talk about was drinking beer) that cocaine is a Really Evil Thing.

  3. ellebrand0ns said:

    Okay, this sounds… SO NOT REALISTIC, so she just finds out she has a heart disease right after, she is cheated on and all that… wow

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