It’s been only seven (okay, technically nine) books since Bruce Patman’s ex-girlfriend Regina died, so I was hoping this book might give us a tiny bit of insight into how he feels about that, now that he’s no longer buried in Amy Sutton’s snatch. That was dumb of me.
So, this book’s terribly pressing teen issue is that of fraternity hazing. Yeah, that’s right, we get to go into the world of high school fraternities and sororities again, a concept that is almost totally alien to me. I did know one person who was in a high school sorority, so it’s not like Francine made it up, but still … weird.
The farternity – haha, I mean fraternity (that was a total typo, I swear) – in question is Phi Epsilon, which I don’t think we’ve heard much about since they had a dance in book 1. Now they’re about to admit some new pledges, and Josh Bowen (who?) is desperate to get in because his big brother Phil was a revered member. Phil is now a junior at Princeton and is kind of a big deal. Unfortunately for Josh, the hazing this year has gotten pretty nasty. And what horrible things are the Phi Epsilon big brothers subjecting Joshy to? Well, things like being stuffed in a locker for a few minutes, eating five ice cream dishes at Casey’s until he pukes (on the fourth one, by the way – FAIL!), and cleaning up a house prior to the party. These are all held out as just god-awful things to do to a person. I can’t wait till these wimps go to college and experience some REAL frat hazing! When you’re doing a shot that’s just been poured through another dude’s asshole, just for starters, you might change your mind there about what’s out of line, Joshy-poo.
Okay, so the big asshole leading the frat crew is Bruce Patman, who appears to be one of the only seniors in the whole frat. But since there’s maybe five senior guys in this whole school, I guess that’s not weird. Other brothers include Tom McKay, Bill Chase, Kirk Anderson, Winston fucking Egbert, Ronnie Edwards, John Pfeifer … basically every major character you’ve heard of so far. Even Allen Walters is mentioned as being in there. Allen Walters! The nerdy dude that Robin Wilson picked over Bruce! And he’s in the frat with Bruce! What the fuck! (Maybe his status went up now that he’s dating the daughter of a famous movie director.) But we don’t even know what other fraternities there are at SVH, since they’re never, ever mentioned, so honestly, at this point I’m just going to assume that Phi Epsilon is the only frat at SVH and therefore it makes sense that everyone is in that one. I know it’s been stated there are others, but I don’t believe it.
Julie Porter and Liz have become really good friends again because Julie is helping Liz with her stupid recorder. Since Josh and Julie happen to be neighbors and good friends, Julie knows all about his pledging Phi Ep, and she notices Bruce Patman hounding Josh a lot. And it’s clear that Julie obviously has a big crush on Bruce Patman. Liz frets and worries over this and tries to tell Julie that Bruce is bad news, but Julie doesn’t want to hear it. You know, it might work better if you just come out and tell Julie that Bruce once tried to rape you, Liz. Just a thought.
Julie, Liz, and Josh are all at Casey’s the night the aforementioned forced ice cream gorging occurs. Liz and Julie are horrified when Josh runs out of the restaurant to barf after this, and Julie thinks Bruce is an asshole. But then she decides Bruce is nice after he follows Josh and the girls outside and tells Josh he knows he went too far. Liz and Josh leave and Julie makes up a dumb reason to stay at the mall. Bruce then asks her to go to the Phi Ep party with him and she agrees and is dancing on air. When Liz tries to talk to her about it, Julie blows a fuse because she’s sick of hearing from everyone about what a bad reputation Bruce has. Well, um, Julie, it’s true. The part that really annoys me is how Julie keeps conveniently overlooking how Bruce cheated on Regina with Amy, and acts like Bruce was still in love with Regina when she died and how that must’ve been so hard for him. What the fuck.
Josh and the other pledges go to Bruce’s house to clean the basement for the Phi Ep party. Josh gets tired of cleaning and gets in a pissy mood, and really loses it when Bruce puts a fuzz ball from the carpet on his head and tells him to keep cleaning with it on there. God, for real? What a fucking wussy. It’s a carpet fuzz ball, not a ball of pubes! Josh mouths off to Bruce and they get in a fight. Some of the other brothers pull Bruce off of him and Josh storms out of the house. John P. comes after him and tells him that he should try to forgive Bruce. You see, Bruce is still hurting from Regina’s death. He thinks he became too big of a softie while he was with her, and that if he hadn’t been so soft, he wouldn’t feel as much pain as he does. Riiiiight. Josh takes off and I think he believes it.
Jessica hears a rumor from Lila that Bruce originally asked someone else to the party who turned him down. So in other words, Julie’s second best. Ohhhh noes. Liz and Josh decide to tell Julie and she is crushed, but ultimately decides that she’ll go with Bruce anyway. Hey, even if he’s an ass, he’s got these beautiful blue eyes! I’m so sick of hearing about his eyes. I don’t even remember hearing that they were blue before. They’re brown on every cover, right?
The night of the party arrives. Liz discovers that the girl Bruce originally asked to the party was a blond senior named Danielle Alexander. She has no idea if Danielle is actually going to go with Bruce or not, but Danielle is going to the party. She winds up not warning Julie about it, because, man I don’t know. I’m getting bored. Bruce makes some excuse that he can’t pick Julie up because has to clean the house, which is total bullshit since the pledges are the ones doing that. So Julie rides to the party with Jeffrey, Liz, and Enid, who’s going solo because – get this – Hugh has a basketball game at Big Mesa that he “has” to go to. Um, like he’s playing in it? Or he just wanted to go to the game? If it’s the latter, he’s so cheating on you, Enid.
The kids get to the party and for some reason they can’t park in the Patmans’ driveway and have to hike up it to the house. What the fuck ever. Josh answers the door dressed like a woman. He and the other pledges are dressed in stupid outfits and this is supposed to be mean. Okay. Julie finds Bruce and he gives her a grand tour of the mansion and makes flirty comments about skinnydipping and bedrooms. Speaking of bedrooms, Bruce’s has a whole wall full of pictures of just himself, but this doesn’t strike Julie as odd. Instead, she thinks Bruce is a great guy because he didn’t try to seduce her. This girl is hopeless. It’s been said (by Josh, I think) that she’s just a naive young teen, but I think it’s a little past that now.
Liz sees Bruce with Danielle and sees him kissing her, but she doesn’t do anything about it, not even after Bruce then goes to dance with Julie and leads her off to a “dark alcove” that he has set up for making out, haha. Come on, we’re really supposed to believe Liz wouldn’t go barging in on them like she did when Jessica was with Bruce? Anyway, Bruce sweet-talks Julie but leaves right before he kisses her to go change the music. He makes out with Danielle and they have a good laugh about something. Meanwhile, Julie thinks Bruce has come back into the alcove to kiss her and they start making out. It’s Julie’s first kiss. Then someone flips on the lights and everyone stands around laughing as Julie realizes she was kissing Josh and flips out and runs out of the house. Liz chases after her and gets the story. Liz realizes that “the old Bruce” is back, and “Julie was his first casualty.” Okay, so Regina wasn’t? Oh, I guess it was okay that he cheated on her because they had started to grow apart or something. That’s what book 40 tried to make us believe. This series makes no damn sense.
Back at the party, we learn what the fuck that was all about. Bruce sent Josh into the alcove thinking he was going to make out with someone he didn’t know who was going to “judge” him. All the pledges were basically supposed to make out with this chick one by one in the alcove to see who was the “best lover.” Uh, so basically they were all going to tag team her. Only Josh didn’t know that Julie was the chick, and Julie, of course, had no idea she was supposed to get a whole line of dudes. That is fucked up. Winston thinks that was a shitty joke to play and he and Josh go off to the kitchen to eat potato chips and dip and talk about how fucked up the fraternity is now that Bruce has taken over.
Josh feels horrible about what happened and tries to apologize to Julie, but she doesn’t want to talk to him. Meanwhile, Bruce and Ronnie continue to haze him, making him do 50+ push-ups every day. They also have Ronnie play an accordion in the hall at school while Josh jumps around like a trained monkey and kisses random girls who pass by. Of course, Julie just happens to walk by and Josh just happens to accidentally kiss her. Oops. Julie freaks out and screams at Josh to leave her alone. Later on, Josh tells Liz the truth about what happened and asks her to tell Julie, but Julie is still so humiliated she wants nothing to do with him.
This lame book is finally over when Josh and the pledges are made to “serve” people in the cafeteria at school like waitresses. Josh wears a baseball cap to hide himself so he can talk to Liz about Julie without Bruce noticing. But then a pledge named Andy Snyder comes over to offer them Sweet Valley’s “finest” half pints of milk — GOD THIS BOOK IS FUCKING LAME – and Bruce sees Josh. And what’s the big punishment for dodging the pledge task du jour? Josh has to go buy six bowls of Jello, mix it up, and serve it to Julie. For fuck’s sake! Josh gets the Jello, mixes it up, and then dumps it in Bruce’s lap while everyone screams with laughter. Oh, except Liz, who’s standing up and applauding. Dumbass. Josh tells Bruce he can take his fraternity and shove it right up his ass alongside the gold-plated stick he already has stuck up there. Then he leaves the cafeteria and he and Julie smooch in the hallway and confess they’re in looooove while Liz probably watches nearby, patting herself on the fucking back for saving another pair of souls while glaring self-righteously at this oh-so-evil Phi Epsilon fake-waitressing that’s going on. This book is so fucking dumb. Oh, and Danielle dumps Bruce because she thinks he’s a dick for the way he treated Julie. Right, like she wasn’t laughing her ass off at the party with everyone else.
The sub-plot: Jessica decides to audition for You Can’t Take It with You, which calls for some dancing. So she spends a good deal of time training to be a dance again, which involves re-learning ballet. (There’s a shout-out to Sweet Valley Twins when it mentions Madame Andre’s ballet class.) Oh, and starving herself. Jessica tries to make herself eat only carrots for dinner so she can develop a lithe, lean dancer’s body. I guess it wouldn’t be a Sweet Valley book without mention of some ridiculous diet. It turns out Jessica is up against Danielle Alexander for the role. Danielle is a professional ballet dancer, so Jessica is sure she’s going to lose out to her. Jessica flubs the audition and falls down twice and tries to joke about it, and she’s miserable. But, as usual, things turn out well for Jess, who never even bothered to read the fucking play. It turns out the role requires that she make everyone laugh with her terrible dancing. So needless to say, Jess gets the part. She’s almost too vain to play a role that requires her to act like an ass, but she comes through in the end and does an awesome job.
Um, so Josh looks pretty cute on this cover. Julie reminds me of DeeDee Gordon from the cover of Too Much in Love. Bruce looks rough. Nothing like the smoldering Patrick Muldoon lookalike on previous covers. Looks like he got older and had some shitty face work done. And nice sweater there, Bruce.
Other stuff: Liz thinks that something is up because if Bruce was just trying to make Amy jealous, “he would have asked someone truly stunning.” In other words, not Julie. I love how Liz has the same fucking thoughts Jess has but thinks she’s morally superior.
Lila complains to Liz that she went on a few dates with John Pfeifer and now he is obsessed with her and it’s really annoying. She wants Liz to run a fake item in Eyes and Ears that she has a college boyfriend so John will give up (which needless to say goody-two-shoes Liz won’t do). When Liz won’t do it, Lila refuses to tell her more about the rumor about Bruce asking someone else to the dance … But let’s think about this bit about John being obsessed with Lila. Considering what we know about John in later books (no spoilers here) that is REALLY CREEPY. I mean, did they set this up way early or something?
At one point, Liz thinks to herself about how upset Jessica was when Bruce dumped her. Um, no, Jessica dumped HIM and made him look like an ass in front of everyone, remember?
Enid yells at Jeffrey that he has to let go of Liz before she has him arrested for “assault with intent to kiss” … worst … joke … ever … Enid is seriously like, the lowest of the low on the popularity scale. I’m convinced Liz is only popular because she looks like Jess and Jess is a head cheerleader and all that jazz, and therefore, Enid’s being Liz’s best friend just barely saves her from being on the lowest rung of the popularity ladder. It’s like, lowest rung: Randy Mason, next lowest rung: Enid, Allen Walters.
Jessica thinks of DeeDee as her “friend.” Wow, on what planet is this the case? Oh, I forgot. The planet where DeeDee is in good with Mr. Jaworski, the drama teacher, and can help Jessica get the role.
There’s a stupid scene where all the Oracle staff members are freaking out about getting the paper done on time. It’s a high school paper. Oh, but someone mentions a band called “the Surf Boys.” AHahhaa sorry I just think that’s almost as dumb as “The Surfers’ Waves.”
Okay, seriously? Where the fuck is Abbie Richardson? She was introduced as being super best friends with Liz or something and constantly at the Wakefields’, and now there’s not even a PASSING mention of her like they’re so careful to give to all the other minor characters.
Stupid nerdy fact about the cover: I noticed that while most covers have a line above and a line below the title, this one only has it above the word TROUBLEMAKER and not below. I can’t believe I a) noticed that and b) am fully exposing my geekdom to this extent.
coming up next … FINALLY, a Sweet Valley book that’s guaranteed to be more fun than the last few I’ve forced myself to read … SLAM BOOK FEEEEEEEEVAAAAAA