Every once in a while, a Sweet Valley book comes along that is so boring, I have to force myself to finish it. It’s not laughably bad, it’s not amusing for its retro pop culture kitsch, it’s just … boring. My friends, this is one of those books.
We already know that Ronnie Edwards is one of the most douchey people at SVH, however fairly minor his role has been up to now. We saw him treat Enid like crap in books 1 and 2, getting all rapey with her in their break-up scene, which permanently branded him a major league asshole. Now this book wants us to know that hey, no one else likes Ronnie either! Oh, really? Is that how he managed to join Sweet Valley’s exclusive fraternity, Phi Epsilon? Is that why his influence was supposed to swing a thousand Fall Queen votes in nerdy Enid’s direction – enough to make Jessica worry about losing to her? My, how things have changed.
So yeah, no one likes Ronnie, and guess what? His parents are divorced. Oh, that explains it. Gaaah. But now Ronnie’s found a way to Win Friends and Influence People. He’s taken up with some bookie named Big Al, who takes bets on – get this – high school sports. And not just football – soccer! Frickin’ public school soccer! Big Al has even lent him his Mustang to drive around town in! And Big Al calls Ronnie “Smallfry” … HAHAHAHA. That is the most appropriately undignified nickname for an SV character I have ever heard of. In fact, I’m going to call Ronnie “Smallfry” from now on!
Smallfry shows up at the Dairi Burger flashing his cash and trying to impress people. Some stereotypical big goons, one of whom is named Bruno, are hanging out there and take special note of his cash. They ask to go look at his car outside, and Smallfry is stupid enough to fall for it. The goons lure him into an alley and try to take the money. Liz begs Jeffrey to go do something, so he goes out there and winds up saving the day by speaking menacingly. That’s right, these three huge dudes are scared of some little high schooler threatening them. Oookay.
From that point on, Smallfry is like effin’ Prince Albert the golden retriever, constantly following Jeffrey around and bothering him. It turns out Smallfry owes his bookkeeper, Big Al – yes, that’s his name! – a few thousand smackaroos or something. So Smallfry has basically become a high school panhandler, begging for money all day long. Jeffrey relents and gives him 25 bucks, but obviously that’s not enough. So Big Al tells Smallfry that he wants him to pay the money back by having Jeffrey fix the big state championship soccer game. Oh, he doesn’t have to lose it, he just has to make sure Sweet Valley wins by only two points. Jeffrey was previously on a high because with Big Mesa’s star player, Jack Everly, out with an injury, SV is sure to win. Now he’s afraid if he doesn’t do what Smallfry asks, he’ll get murdered, because nobody can like, call the police or anything. But Jeffrey still turns Smallfry down flat, but then Liz overhears them talking about it. She’s upset because now it seems like Smallfry is the third wheel in their relationship. Truthfully, he’s only interrupted like one lunch, but he’s so irritating it must seem like a thousand lunches. Liz starts badgering Jeffrey to tell her what’s going on and why Smallfry is his new best friend. He doesn’t want to discuss it, and he also resents Liz trying to tell him who his friends should be, so they get into a big fight. Hahaha, we haven’t seen this type of situation before … Out of Control, anyone?
Seriously, Smallfry is SO fucking annoying. He comes to Mr. Russo’s class while the soccer team is in there taking a test and stands out there whining and bitching that he HAS to talk to Jeffrey. Mr. Russo has to threaten to suspend him to get him to go away. Jesus, what the hell? It turns out that one of Big Al’s goons just beat him up and so now Smallfry is especially desperate not to be sleepin’ with the fishes, see? That’s about the way Big Al talks. Hahaha. I gotta few names I wish Big Al would take care of. Seriously, I have no idea how this kid managed to get into Phi Ep. Speaking of, even his frat brothers laugh their ass off when he says he needs to borrow some cash. You telling me Bruce can’t be persuaded to hand it over? Just offer to write up an article about what an awesome Phi Ep president he is or something. After Jeffrey sees how Smallfry got beat up, though, he feels bad and finally agrees to shave the points. Good, shave them and let’s move on. I just want this book to be over with.
Liz tells Jeffrey that a scout from Branford University is coming to watch him play, so he’s got to do his best. Not only that, but Jack Everly is back in the game. Jeffrey’s about to lose his head, so he finally confesses the point-shaving scheme to Liz, who flips out. She couldn’t give a shit less about what happens to Smallfry, she just doesn’t want Jeffrey to betray his team. Wait, you don’t care about someone’s well-being Liz? Because he treated Enid like dick, right? Let him suffer! Liz … I see your true colors shining through.
On the day of the game, one of Big Al’s goons, Max, appears and takes Smallfry off to an old abandoned bar to taunt him with a noose. Liz follows them and gets dragged in there herself. Back at SVH, the game starts and Jeffrey decides to just play his best. But then he gets a TELEGRAM warning him that if he wants to see his “little pal” again, he’d better not play his best! Oh no! Big Al is in the crowd, too! Jeffrey starts to play like shit without even trying, he’s so wrecked. It doesn’t help that he can’t find Liz in the stands anywhere … because she’s his inspiration. That’s because Liz is now tied up in the old bar while Max plays the game on the radio. He’s all eager to mess up these 16-year-olds, but he hasn’t even tied up Ronnie yet. Liz is just like, “Ohhhhh noes, what’ll I do”. Yeah, okay, in the last book she was fired up enough to kick old John Kincaid in the leg as he dragged her off WITH A GUN and here this dude just needs a noose to keep her quiet and still. But THEN he mentions that Jeffrey is also gonna kick the bucket if the final score isn’t what Smallfry promised. THAT gets Liz all fired up and she distracts Max by flailing around in her chair while Smallfry sneaks up on him with a bottle and bashes him unconscious with it. So then what do they do? They spin out of there, call the police, and then Liz screeches up to the field and makes Coach Horner call a time out so that she can tell Jeffrey to not worry about it anymore. Coach Horner agrees to do the time out just because he knows and trusts Liz as such a good student. There’s no way she would pull a stunt like this if it wasn’t serious! GAAAAAAH! Liz, the Angel of Sweet Valley! Liz gets Jeffrey to look and see how the police are showing up and dragging Big Al away, and then they take Smallfry off to the station for questioning, but even though it was clearly a female who made the call, no one asks or requires Liz to give a statement as well. And that’s that. That’s the end of it. SV wins by one point as Jeffrey’s stress is allllll gone. If I was him, I’d be too distracted wondering what the fuck was going on to make any goals. And Liz is not traumatized by what just happened to her AT ALL.
The sub-plot: Jessica starts making her own ugly ass earrings and gets her friends to wear them. Smallfry overhears her talking about making more to sell at local shop Treasure Chest and offers to loan her a grand to buy the necessary supplies. So Jessica delivers her sales pitch to the Treasure Chest lady, who looks rather dubious. But just then, Lila and Amy conveniently walk by the store talking about how hot the new earrings are. And that’s really all it takes. Wow, Jessica’s life is easy. Now Jessica doesn’t have enough supplies, but Alice agrees to loan her a couple hundred that she can pay back once the jewelry starts selling. They actually have a halfway smart conversation about the loan and its implications, except this is Jessica Wakefield we’re talking about. Jessica places her order for supplies and it winds up being over 900 bucks. So she hits Smallfry up for that loan, but he turns her down because he lost all his money. Oops. Jessica tells Alice that it’s going to be more than 200, more like 500, or a little more, and her mom’s just like “Okay, that’s fine, I’m just going to forget all about the other heinous charges my daughter has surreptitiously run up on my charge before.” Jessica spends the whole weekend making new jewelry and forgetting to return a call from Treasure Chest lady. When she does remember to return it, it turns out the lady was calling to tell her about a change in policy that bars her from accepting Jessica’s jewelry anymore. Treasure Chest will only be selling just a few pieces of established designer jewelry. Doh. Then the bill comes and Ned and Alice are just SHOCKED that Jessica ran their shit up like that and lecture her about how she made Ned’s card decline at the gas station. Her punishment is that she has to be a saleslady at Treasure Chest until the bill is paid off. Wauh wauh wauuuuuuh.
This cover shows Smallfry as about as big a douche as he really is. Perfect expression, except that’s not really what he looked like when he turned down the loan to Jessica. He was really down in the dumps and mumbling to himself, not desperately trying to explain anything away. It would be more appropriate if the chick on the cover was Liz, or hell put Jeffrey on there again. But you do get to see a small bit of Jessica’s ugly earring, although it’s somewhat covered up by the giant hair pouf she has going on here. It looks like a gold feather surrounded by green plastic beads … lovely!
WTF? Jessica thinks to herself that she’ll need to design some type of Wakefield logo or crest to advertise her jewelry. Yes, make it a golden W sitting on a throne, with angel wings and a halo.
Jeffrey thinks to himself that “just the thought of high school gambling made his stomach turn.” Wow, is it that evil? I didn’t realize this was such a big problem, except on Beverly Hills, 90210.
Jeffrey gets PISSED when Smallfry calls him “Jeff” and says nobody calls him that. Hehe, I seem to remember reading somewhere that he does in fact go by that name in the SVH:SY series!
I love when teen series try to do a play on a real college name. In this book, it’s Branford, not Stanford. In Saved by the Bell, it was Stansbury.
Random character of the day: Chris Wells, a JV soccer player.
I don’t get why Jessica didn’t just try to continue selling her jewelry on her own to at least make a dent in the giant debt. We’re told she had just lost interest in it, because that’s her usual pattern with her hobbies. Which makes it doubly stupid that Alice agreed to loan her any money at all.
I have such a hard time believing that Liz wouldn’t have called the police earlier, you know, before she got abducted, since she’s had such a close personal relationship with them and all.
The only reason the SV police want to talk to Smallfry is because Max already gave them a description of a kid that looks like him. Hahaha. So they show up to the game and are like, oh, there he is. But Max didn’t say anything about Liz? And he’s already talking about his victims so the police can go ahead and slap charges on him? Is this like the end of Home Alone 2 where Marv is babbling nonstop to the police about what brilliant criminals he and Harry are while Harry yells, “SHUT UP MARV!” and kicks him over and over?
Enid update: She’s only in a couple of scenes, to serve as a spectator cheering on Jeffrey, and to make fun of how ugly Jessica’s jewelry is. Man Enid, you are the most unnecessary character ever. Hugh is in the book though. And the ghostwriter decides not to mention how he’s also from Big Mesa. You could’ve had at least a couple of scenes of them joking around in a couple-y way about which team to cheer for at the championship game or something. But then, we might decide Enid isn’t really just in the closet lusting after Liz after all.
Smallfry’s dad is the worst parent ever. He makes a slight remark about how he doesn’t like Smallfry hanging out with that Big Al character, and that’s all we see of him, saying that as Smallfry dashes out the door. So be a parent Mr. Edwards, make him stop doing it. None of this mealy-mouthed “errr, I don’t like you hanging out with — oh, what’s that? You’re running off to drive around town in that flashy Mustang this weird older guy lent you? *speaking to empty room* Oh, okay, that’s fine. I’ll just be here. Alone. Hoping my son will come to his senses. Sigh. It’s so odd, being a divorced parent in this town. I keep wondering when I might have friends. Just me and the birdies. Yep.”
From the Mouth of Lila Fowler: “Oh, please. What have you been doing, mowing every lawn in Sweet Valley since the age of two?” ~to Smallfry, when he boasts that he earned his stacks of cash.
Next up: John Pfeifer is in love with some chick named Jennifer Mitchell, but she’s going out with Rick Andover, and you know what that means!