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

#42 Caught in the Middle

This book is all about mean people.

Sandy Bacon the cheerleader has been dating Manuel Lopez for a few weeks. Manuel is Mexican, so of course he hangs out with a bunch of other Mexican kids at SVH. Sandy’s parents are bigoted against minorities. Sandy’s mother, Irene, grew up in an area plagued with racial violence. There were also some riots in another town called Los Perros which further scared Irene. Now while none of this is ever fully expanded upon, I guess we are supposed to think that this makes her prejudice against “those people” (her words) little more excusable. Sandy’s dad, meanwhile, is rumored to have written a letter to the Sweet Valley News complaining about minorities and immigrants running the town. Or so Lila Fowler says.

Manuel is desperate to meet Sandy’s parents, especially since Sandy has already become well-acquainted with the Lopezes. But Sandy puts it off, always having Manuel pick her up on the corner and telling her parents that she’s going somewhere with Jeanie. Since her parents have no idea that Manuel exists, they keep trying to set her up with some dude from their country club, a senior from Westwood High named Carl Pierce. They want Sandy to go with Carl to the country club dance. Country club dance? Bleaaah. It takes Manuel a while to figure out why Sandy is so reluctant to introduce him to her folks, but once he does, he’s rightfully disturbed. Sandy promises she will broach the subject with them soon.

Liz Wakefield puts an item about Sandy and Manuel in her stupid Eyes and Ears column, and Jeanie tells Sandy about it right before it goes to print. Sandy finds Liz and begs her not to put the item in there. Of course, rather than just agree to take Sandy’s business out of the fucking column, Liz demands an explanation! She has to put it in there! It’s the news! HATE. YOU. LIZ. This prompts Sandy to start bawling and explain the whole situation to Liz, giving Liz the perfect opportunity to dictate what she should do about it.

Sandy asks her mom a couple of times “What would you do if I were dating a Mexican boy?” and then tries to start a discussion about the topic. Her mom is so distressed that she can’t even sleep over the very thought of it. HELLO SANDY’S MOM, THIS IS CAPTAIN OBVIOUS SPEAKING … YOUR DAUGHTER’S QUESTIONS WERE NOT REALLY HYPOTHETICAL, WOMAN!

Jeanie gets sick of covering for Sandy, especially after the Wests have a barbecue with the Bacons and Mrs. Bacon keeps making comments about how much time Sandy and Jean have been spending together during the week. Jean feels awkward and has to keep monitoring the situation so she can change the subject whenever this comes up. Now Jean is refusing to do this bullshit for Sandy anymore, but Manuel really wants to take Sandy out on her speedboat, which she got for her 16th birthday. DAAAAAAAAAMN I don’t think even Lila Fowler got a speedboat for her birthday! Since she can’t ask Jean anymore, Sandy suddenly acts like she is Liz’s best friend and convinces her to come out on the boat, Solar One, at Secca Lake that day. Liz really doesn’t want to, probably because she doesn’t even really know Sandy, but Sandy insists, saying that Manuel really wants her to go. Then Liz is like, “Oh, okay! It’s great that this kid I’ve never even talked to wants me to go so badly. How wonderful. Count me in.” When Liz shows up at the lake, Manuel is upset because he was looking forward to a romantic boat ride with just Sandy. Liz figures out the real reason Sandy asked her, since she couldn’t before for some reason, and she feels like a dumbass, and I’m glad.

Solar One‘s engine runs into trouble and explodes. Liz and Manuel are thrown into the air and hit the water, but Sandy burns her hands and is left knocked unconscious in the boat as it burns. Manuel climbs on board and saves her right before the fire reaches the engine and the whole boat blows up. He directs Elizabeth to swim back to the shore while he hauls Sandy behind. Sandy wakes up soon afterwards, and her very first thoughts are “Oh no! Manuel saved me! I can’t let my parents find out! Manuel, go away! Liz, you take the credit!” Manuel obliges and walks away as reporters rush up to Liz to get the story … wow, that was fast. Liz feels obligated to take the credit but asks the newspaper to please not publish her name! And they’re all, But we have to! It’s the news! WHAT NOW BITCH!

Soon, the PTA is fawning all over Liz, and the Bacons praise her to high heaven and buy her a gold bracelet. Sandy STILL doesn’t want to tell the truth. Okay Sandy, I know this is hard and all, but the time to grow some ovaries arrived some time ago. Manuel agrees, and he tells Sandy they are over.

It gets worse. The Bacons don’t believe that the boat’s explosion was an accident and push the inept SV cops to investigate further. A bunch of witnesses at Secca Lake say they saw a Hispanic kid hanging around the boat as well. Manuel is hauled in for questioning and he steadfastly refuses to take the blame. Good for you, Manuel. But then Sandy’s parents make her come in with them to see if she recognizes Manuel, because by this time he has told the police that he is friends with Sandy and Liz. Sandy looks right at him and says, “I’ve never seen him before in my life.” HATE HER.

The cops are all ready to charge Manuel but then Sandy starts crying and yells about how much she loves Manuel. And he actually forgives her! I wouldn’t! And the Bacons are just like, “Oh, okay, yes, you’re right, Sandy. Yes Manuel, we would love to come to the Mexican Festival with you and your family! And we want you to take Sandy to the country club dance!” Just like that, y’all. I truly wish all bigotry disappeared this easy! Of course, this whole showdown occurs just as Liz slips into the room to hear it. She is able to explain away how she felt obligated to take the credit and help Sandy. Barf.

The sub-plot: It’s so thin and pathetic. It’s about the other mean girl in this book, Jessica Wakefield. She decides the best thing to do for Lila Fowler’s birthday is to pretend no one gives a crap, then throw a crazy surprise party the day AFTER her birthday. Cara, Amy, and everyone else all go along with the plan. Lila is furious and decides she hates her friends. Her birthday is ruined and she is miserable that day. But it’s okay because the day AFTER her birthday, she comes to the Wakefields’ house at Cara and Amy’s insistence, where Jessica has planned a killer surprise party. Lila stands there saying, “Yesterday I thought I didn’t have a friend in the world” and then goes on to say that she now feels super lucky and what a great and amazing friend Jessica is. Everyone else is praising Jessica to the high heavens as well. I DON’T GET IT. Jessica ruined her friend’s ACTUAL birthday, and now it’s supposed to be okay? What a mean bitch! The worst part is that everyone else is telling Jessica how “genius” her idea is, and giving her all the attention, which is clearly what she wanted in the first place. I have had some friends like Jessica, always demanding that all the attention be on them no matter what, and I want to slap them all in the face. I want to slap Jessica too.

Other stuff: There is a new French bistro in San Mirabel called Jacques’. Just so y’all know.

Cara and Jessica prepare Lila’s birthday banner in the student lounge of all places. Yep, sounds like a great place to hide a secret from another student at SVH …. wtf.

I could’ve sworn Lila already had a birthday in book 11.

I can’t help but notice that Liz never gave Mrs. Bacon back that gold bracelet that she did not deserve to be given.

The cover: Manuel looks like a teacher. Sandra looks 30. Business as usual.

Next up: Enid’s grandmother is moving in with her and her mom … sounds so exciting.


Comments on: "#42 Caught in the Middle" (2)

  1. Neidin Mccullough said:

    This book sounds pathetic I started it then gave up and read your recap In stead! Liz makes me want to barf

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