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

#53 Second Chance

Hi, I'm Kristin! I'm oh so busy, yet still have time to style my hair!

I’m not sure I’m going to make my self-imposed deadline for reading this whole series  if there are more books as dull as this one. It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great, it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t groan-inducing, it was just … blah. Unfortunately, it seems there are several more “blah” books before the series does a 180 after book 94, and hopefully gets more interesting.

Kristin Thompson is a character we had never, ever heard of prior to the end of the last book. I’ve noticed that the writers have suddenly developed a tendency for pulling random kids back out of the dust. Mark Riley was mentioned super early on, for example, and then in the 30s they made him Sally Larson’s boyfriend. But this chick? Nope, never heard of her. I’m sure of it! The rest of the school has though. You see, Kristin is a badass tennis player and people talk about how badass she is fairly often. Yet she has no friends, because she’s always been too occupied with her personal sports goals. This year, Kristin’s looking to win something called the Avery Cup; to do this, she has to win the qualifying matches to put her on super coach Nick Wylie’s team. So she follows a strict low-fat diet and smacks balls around all day, every day. Wait, why aren’t she and Amy Sutton good friends?

The only people Kristin really talks to are her dad, Neil, and her private coach, Dorrie Graham.  And she talks to Dorrie a lot more than Neil. Neil just mostly sits around frowning extra hard whenever Kristin does something outside the norm. Kristin does occasionally chat with someone else, like this basketball player named Shelley Novak who runs into her in the library, and she also pours her heart out to – can you guess? CAN YOU GUESS? – Elizabeth Wakefield, because Liz is interviewing her for the Oracle. I think Liz is able to hypnotize people with her stupid ocean eyes. This will be one of the major revelations of Sweet Valley Confidential, I just know it. (And would explain a few things … like how Nicholas once fell in love with Liz at first sight, even though he’d already seen Jessica who looks exactly like Liz.) Thankfully, Liz does not become Kristin’s latest #1 confidante. Oh, sweet lord, thank you.

Anyway, it seems Kristin’s mom was a pro player named Elise Randall who died in a plane crash in the Atlantic on her way to Wimbledon. So now Kristin is determined to play her heart out for her mom, but she’s finding she’s a little tired of having her life dictated to her. Everyone just wants her to eat right! and practice! and keep to her schedule! GOD! She has no time for a social life either. Trying to put a little company in her life, she finally agrees to join the Big Sisters program Elizabeth is spearheading (see the sub-plot), and begins taking an eight-year-old girl named Emily Brown to the tennis club her father owns. Emily adores tennis and Kristin. That’s nice.

When Jessica and her dumb friends get Kristin to challenge Bruce Patman to a game of tennis, Kristin feels bad for him, so she lets him win. Of course fucking Amy Sutton is all, “Ohhhh, I just knew Bruce would win! He’s the best!” Trying to get back into his pants already, huh Amy? But about this whole letting Bruce win thing … Kristin, I kind of liked you, but now you’ve lost 235770 points with me. But Bruce is all turned on by Kristin’s bowing to his dominance and so he asks her out. They go see a movie; Kristin has to sneak out because she knows her dad would disapprove. They have a good time and she likes him okay, but Bruce is OBSESSED with her. He calls her nonstop trying to get her to cancel all her tennis practices so she can hang out with him. Kristin’s dad is annoyed, like any dad would be if some douche was calling his daughter ten times a day. He’s also pissed when Kristin suddenly announces that Bruce is coming over to take her to Casey’s Place (because Bruce pulled the old “I’m going to hang up before you can say no” trick). Old Neil Thompson is mad because a) ice cream is forbidden on Kristin’s diet and b) Kristin just kind of yells her plans at him as she’s running out the door. And leave it to Bruce to announce they are in fact going to a fancy restaurant, not Casey’s, once Kristin is inside the moving car. So Kristin stays out three hours late and when she gets home her dad finally gets a backbone and sort of grounds her, and Kristin thinks it’s the worst thing ever that his voice rose about half an octave, or something.

Bruce does surprise me by never making a real move other than kissing Kristin once (um, or at least we don’t hear about any real moves). He’s full of himself and Kristin knows it, but she still gets excited when he asks her to accompany him to the Patmans’ annual “blowout bash”, whatever the fuck that is. The problem is that it takes place the night before the qualifying match for Nick Wylie’s team. Bruce knows Kristin is going to blow off a good night’s sleep so that she can go to the stupid bash with him and starts bragging to all his friends that Kristin is hot for him. Meanwhile, Amy is apparently still obsessed with Bruce 13 books after they first got together and just assumes Bruce is taking her to the fucking party instead. We’re told she flies into a rage whenever Bruce shows interest in someone else these days. What in the hell? Haven’t they been done for ages? Where was she when Bruce was dating Danielle Alexander?

The night of the party arrives; Kristin’s dad has reluctantly agreed to let her go after Dorrie said it might be best. But oh my lord … is this party bor-ing and I can’t understand why Kristin forces herself to hang around at it for so long. It’s held at the country club and Kristin shows up in a floral sundress to meet Bruce, while everyone else has on ball gowns and corsages and shit. Bruce barely talks to her, and he dances with her once and then ignores her the rest of the evening in favor of flirting with all the other chicks. “Other chicks” includes Amy, who’s wearing a “hand-crocheted shawl” on her shoulders as she drapes herself all over him. Bruce never introduces Kristin to his parents like he told he would, and the only person who really talks to Kristin all night is Winston. Kristin goes home and can’t sleep. The next morning, Kristin is tired and loses the final qualifying match to a chick named Sharon Owens, leaving Kristin as a mere alternate for the team. Everyone is heartbroken. Then Dorrie tells Kristin that her mother was planning to quit tennis after winning Wimbledon so that she could spend more time with her family, and I guess this is supposed to illustrate to Kristin that life outside of tennis is important after all, or something. I couldn’t care less.

Wrapping this shit up because it’s yawn-worthy: Bruce demands to know why Kristin left the party early and she tells him off because she’s just not interested. Bruce goes around telling people Kristin isn’t as good a player as they think she is because she lacks “spirit.” F you, Bruce, you go win the Avery Cup then! Kristin has a talk with Emily who is afraid Kristin will be mad at her for not making it in to some tennis camp. As Kristin reassures her, she realizes her own problem is that she was afraid Dorrie and her dad didn’t love her for her, but for how well she played tennis like her mom. Nick Wylie calls Kristin to tell her that Sharon sprained her ankle in the middle of the Avery Cup tournament and he needs Kristin to replace her. All the kids Kristin never talked to before, plus Emily show up at the match to cheer her on. Kristin beats Rachel Rose, one of the best junior players in the world or something, and the crowd goes apeshit. Bruce tries to make up with Kristin again and she tells him to fuck off again. Dorrie and Kristin’s dad announce they are in love. Liz and Enid throw an ice cream party for the Big Sisters group. Woooo eeee. And now that she’s on Wylie’s team, Kristin will get to travel internationally a lot, so at least there is a real reason we won’t ever hear from this character again.

This one was dry. I’m not feeling good about these books in the 50s y’all. Love the way the front tagline asks, “Will a normal life make Kristin Thompson happy?” like we’re supposed to know who that is. Like we’ll look at it and go, “Oh man, let’s find out! Kristin Thompson! We’ve got to see what happens!”

The sub-plot: Is there one? I guess it revolves around the Big Sisters club and Jessica and Liz’s involvement. We get maybe two scenes, if that, of the twins with their little sisters. Jessica’s “sister” is Allison Post who likes fashion and shit, and Liz’s is a girl named Kim Edgars who is positively amazed by how totally awesome the Wakefields’ Spanish-tiled kitchen is. She even says something like, “Oh wow! We get to cook here?” The twins and their little sisters have a cookie bake-off to see who can make the most cookies. The losers have to clean up the kitchen. Jess and Allison make the most because they leave out a bunch of ingredients so that they can go faster. How does that work? Is it that hard to throw chocolate chips in the dough? I’m confused. But then Alice Wakefield samples one of their cookies and it tastes of shit, so Liz proudly announces that she and Kim are the real winners, and Jess and Allison are left to do the cleaning. This is bullshit; they didn’t put taste into the rules ahead of time! They just said to make the most! But of course, Liz and Kim help Jess and Allison clean the kitchen anyway. And … that’s the whole sub-plot, right there. No, for real. That’s it.

WTF? This book claims Enid and Liz have been best friends “for years” – untrue; this is junior year and they just started hanging out last year. Or … is this the series’ way of admitting they’ve been juniors FOREVER?

The Big Sisters program is mentioned as being as for girls who’ve lost their mothers. In real life, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is for any child who needs a role model to look up to. Just throwing a plug out there for them because I used to be a Big Sister myself.

Kristin pours herself a bowl of cereal the morning after losing the qualifying match, then immediately decides she doesn’t want it in the next sentence. How fucking wasteful! For all the whining she does, Kristin gets away with an awful lot of shit!

Emily Brown apparently goes to “Sweet Valley Grammar School.” Call me ignorant, but what in hell is a grammar school?

Minor characters: Adam Tyner, a friend of Bruce’s. Betsy Weber and Wendy Gibson, other junior tennis players trying to get on Nick Wylie’s team.

Kristin doesn’t realize Bruce might have a reputation until she sees the way he acts at his Patman bash. Really? Kristin does go to SVH you know … you mean she seriously never heard anything about him?

1989-tastic: Bruce brags to Kristin that he has some awesome new speakers and some “compact discs” he wants her to come listen to. (She says no.)

As often happens, the cover shows the character with the wrong color eyes. The book says Kristin has brown eyes, but here they’re definitely straight up blue-green, y’all. In fact, don’t they look the same color as the Wakefield twins’? This is blasphemy, I demand an explanation!

And the background is so … BRIGHT! And it matches Kristin’s eyes … what in the fuck.

Coming up next: Jessica is ready to play the field again.


Comments on: "#53 Second Chance" (5)

  1. Grammar school? Either the person who wrote the book is REALLY old or they’re English. I have no recollection of this book at all, like zero remembering. It sounds just so exciting though…. I think the 50’s and maybe some of the 60’s were pretty dull and then it gets better.

    • Yeah, I was wondering what happened to Sweet Valley Elementary!

      And yes … I’m ready to get out of the 50s, or at least get to the whole “Todd returns” bit.

  2. pibetaalpha said:

    Kristin bears a resemblance to the young Diana, Princess of Wales.

  3. We have schools that call themselves Grammar Schools in Australia. It’s basically just a private school giving themselves a fancy name though.

  4. I actually thought this one was well-written for what it is and valuable for teenage girls to read about: a girl who learns the all-too-common lesson of not losing your goals or sacrificing too much in a relationship. It also inspires other girls to strive for something great and work hard for it.

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