I have a theory about some of these dumb books in the 50s! Francine and friends decided that we, the (then) young readers, wanted to get to know some characters other than Jessica and Liz and the rest of the crew. GUESS AGAIN. I couldn’t care less about kids like Jennifer Mitchell, Kristin Thompson, Jade Wu, and now Shelley Novak – all people we hadn’t heard ANYTHING about prior to their respective storylines. But all of a sudden, they’re so important that they get a whole cover, and we’re supposed to give a damn. I remember being a kid and being reluctant to spend my allowance on SV books that featured characters I had never heard of and knew nothing about! I didn’t feel particularly urged to find the answer to questions like, Will Jade continue to do her fabulous dancing? Will Kristin continue to be the best tennis player ever? Will Jennifer stop fucking whining about how much her parents suck long enough to realize nobody cares? Fuck that! I wanted more Lila stories! Is it too late for me to picket Bantam Books’ corporate offices about this now? WE WANT LILA! WE WANT LILA!
*Ahem* Alright, so this new random talented chick that we have to hear about is fucking Shelley ass Novak. Is she related to Dana Larson’s once and vanished boyfriend Jerry Novak (book 30)? Just curious. Shelley is on the ladies’ basketball team, and we’re supposed to give a damn. We first met Shelley in book 53 when she ran into Kristin Thompson in the library and they had a two page exchange about sports. Now, just like Kristin, here’s Shelley striking a menacing sports pose on this cover with this dumb douche holding out his camera and staring at her in awe. Nice thick bangs, Shelley. My forehead is breaking out just from looking at them. Jim looks like a skinnier, puffier-haired version of Ben Affleck. I bet if you stuck a ruler in that ‘do you’d get a full six inches of height. The cover also wants us to question whether Shelley will “lose her chance for love” like love is some gem that you can only find once, and if you blow it, you’re destined to be an old maid for life. (Unless, of course, you’re a Wakefield.)
It’s a new week in Sweet Valley, so that means there is a new big dance coming up. This time it’s for the Varsity Club which wants to honor all the athletes who lettered this year. Shelley is a basketball player, so in SV Land it goes without saying she’s very tall for a girl (6 feet), and of course it also goes without saying that she is ashamed of and shy about her height. Shelley hates her appearance so much that she refuses to let anyone take pictures of her, and when her classmate Jim Roberts, who has a huge crush on her, does anyway, Shelley makes him swear never to show the pix to anyone. He reluctantly agrees.
One reason Shelley hates her height is because mean kids in middle school teased her about it constantly. (Can we all just agree that middle school is the fucking worst? I hated it too!) Shelley’s best friend, another chick on the b’ball team named Cathy Ulrich, keeps telling her she’s beautiful and graceful, but Shelley doesn’t believe her. Now Cathy is a little sassy and way cooler than 90 percent of the people we’ve met in this series so far, which makes me sad we’ll probably never hear another word from her after this book. But back to Shelley: she has a horrible crush on her good friend and neighbor, a senior named Greg Hilliard, but worries he’s still got a thing for his ex-girlfriend, the “tiny, ruffly” senior chick Carol Stern, whom he just broke up with recently but still hangs around. Cathy encourages Shelley to ask Greg to the dance anyway, and when she does, he turns her down in shock. He’s never thought of Shelley that way. But instead of just leaving it at that, he makes it worse by carrying on about how she’s way too tall for him anyway, and how ridiculous they’d look if they tried to dance together. Way to go, ass. Shelley is humiliated and further convinced that she is the ugliest creature on earth.
Shelley starts fucking up the playoff games against Emerson High School because her mind’s on how mean Greg is. She starts going on dates with Jim primarily to get back at Greg, who couldn’t really give a fuck. But Shelley finds she really likes Jim way more than she liked Greg. And conveniently, Jim happens to be about the same height that she is. I call bullshit on that one. Hello, look at the cover, the only reason he’s her height is because of that hair! Jim and Shelley start making out and stuff and all of a sudden she’s crazy about him and couldn’t care less about Greg. But then Jim messes the whole thing up when Jeffrey French gets all on his ass about entering some photography contest the Sweet Valley News is having. He must have learned this shit from Liz because he’s really pushing it, even playing the old “Oh, it’s none of my business but I really think you should …” bullcrap. At the last minute, Jim agrees to enter this picture of Shelley gracefully soaring through the air toward the basketball hoop, like a gazelle or something. Everyone agrees it’s the best picture ever and can’t wait to see it on the front page of the News. Then Shelley finds out through Olivia that Jim entered the picture and throws a fit because he broke his promise. Even though Jim could have chosen to enter any of his other equally awesome pictures that we keep hearing about, we’re supposed to think Shelley is a mean bitch for expecting Jim to keep his promise. Jim has the News (through Mr. Collins, who has some kind of hookup there) withdraw the pic from competition. Not to worry, Shelley soon sees the error of her ways and feels bad for telling Jim what a jerk he is! She pedals over to Mr. Collins’s house and he agrees to get the pic back in the competition. And Jim wins, so he should be happy Shelley got over her fear of being laughed at long enough to fix shit for him, right? But we still have to sit through several pages of Jim and Shelley stumbling through conversations with one another. AWK-WARD!
Finally Shelley sees Jim at one of her playoff games and has Maria take him a note telling him she is in love with him. Jim sees it and he forgives her! For getting mad that he broke their promise! And suddenly Shelley plays like the champ she really is inside! Awwww! Gag me. Then Greg comes up after the game and tells Shelley he changed his mind about the dance because of course now that she’s a star, he does think of her “like that” after all! Shelley’s like, “That’s nice” and shows off Jim as her date. So they go to the damn Varsity Club dance and Shelley wins a surprise scholarship, and then she and Jim win a waltz dance-off contest or something (see the sub-plot). Shelley knows she is a winner, so now she is one, get it! Take note for the future, kids. Just remember, if you’re the type of person who really doesn’t like having his/her picture taken, you’re clearly in the wrong and should just get over it when someone decides to ignore your genuine discomfort for their own personal gain. (For the record, I’m not that kind of person, but I don’t force people to come to terms with their inner beauty by insisting on having a picture of them published on the front page of the damn newspaper!)
But what do I really think about Shelley? Well, she bores me. Because she spends most of the book thinking about how ugly she is. Yes, I spent a good part of my teenage years doing the same. That doesn’t mean I want to hear about someone else doing it. Is that mean?
The sub-plot: Now that Jessica and A.J. are officially over, Jess isn’t wasting any time “getting back in circulation.” Ha ha! I’ll just bet she’s ready to get passed around the block a few times. Oh, and that whole stalker thing from a couple days ago? Jess is already over it. I guess we knew she was over it when she agreed to leave her weak, gasping, just-rescued, horrified sister lying on the ground so she could go get some fucking crown she wound up not caring that much about anyway. But I digress. Now Jess has her eyes on a senior football player named Kurt Campbell. So when a UCLA dance major named Patrick McLean starts holding free ballroom dance lessons in the SVH gym on Wednesday afternoons, Jess goes hoping to have an excuse to dance with Kurt. Kurt’s a frickin’ football player; I’m sure he’s all about learning to cha-cha. Amy is still delusional and thinks she’s the world’s best dancer, so she’s all about going too. Amy is a total bitch who makes snotty remarks about Shelley’s height, and she’s also just a complete idiot, but we knew that. Jessica forgets all about Kurt when she sees Patrick, who’s supposed to be the most gorgeous man ever created … at least since the last most gorgeous man Jessica saw, whoever that was. Jess and Amy start competing for his affections because they both think someone who’s a senior in college is going to want to waste his time with some giggling 16-year-olds who step all over his feet. Or maybe I’m wrong about that, because Patrick actually comes to watch their stupid cheerleading practice after school at Amy’s invitation. I’m thinking Chris Hansen needs to come get all To Catch a Predator on his ass. The girls make a dumbass bet over who’s going to get Patrick to dance with them first at the Varsity Club dance, which is being held at the new Royal Hotel downtown. Uh, wait, WHY does Patrick give a fuck about some high school awards dance? He’s not even from Sweet Valley, he’s just looking to set up a dance studio here. The loser of the bet has to pay for the winner’s dress. Then Amy and Jess show up to the dance wearing the same dress. Hurrrr! That’s a new gag if I ever heard one! Amy demands Jess take off the dress immediately. She goes, “Jessica, there’s no way we’re going into that ballroom wearing the identical dress. I’d rather die.’ Jessica snaps, “So die!” Heeeeeeeeeeee! I really did giggle out loud at that one. I hate Amy that much too, Jessica. But can you guess who does get to dance with Patrick? His date, a hot chick named Ellen who looks completely bored out of her skull and disdainful at the fact that she’s being forced to attend some high school function with a bunch of 16-year-olds giggling over her drinking-age boyfriend. Jess and Amy are shocked, shocked I tell you, that Patrick would show up with a date. So Jessica dances with Kurt and Amy gets on Bruce’s ass yet again. Shock me shock me shock me.
WTF? Regarding the video camera he could win in the photography contest, Jeffrey looks at Elizabeth: “‘I wouldn’t mind winning a video camera. I can think of someone I wouldn’t mind taking movies of!’ He winked at Elizabeth.” Good luck with getting her to agree to that one, Jeffrey old pal.
Minor characters: Cathy’s boyfriend, a freshman at UCLA named Tim. How original, there’s only been three or four other Tims in this series. Nancy Roy, Emerson’s “best player.”
Sweet Valley High has its own darkroom for the Oracle staff to use. Wow man … they take their newspaper shit even more seriously than I thought. What do you want to bet the darkroom is used for less appropriate purposes 90 percent of the time?
Jessica is surprised at how mean Amy can be sometimes. Dude, Amy is the worst bitch on planet Earth, Jess, aside from yourself that is. Get used to it already.
From the mouth of Lila Fowler: After seeing Jessica and Amy show up at the dance wearing the same dress: “Jessica, I thought you had enough of that twin stuff with your own sister.” She’s serious too! HAHAHA
In the back of the book: an ad for the Sweet Valley High board game. “NOW SWEET VALLEY HIGH IS A GAME!” We do have this game at home and I might get around to reviewing it sometime. Please don’t kill me, because I know a lot of you do love this game, but my sister and I played it once and we thought it was very boring. The gist of it is that you choose to be Jessica, Lila, Elizabeth, or Enid and then you run around the board trying to collect your respective party, outfit, boyfriend, and teacher by picking up random cards on the board and hoping that they match. It seemed to drag on forever when we played it, and ultimately we just quit without anyone winning. I don’t know, maybe I was just put out because my sister called dibs on being Lila.
Coming up next: It’s one of my absolute favorite SVHs of all time … LOST AT SEA! I am so, so excited to re-read this one!!! In fact, knowing this one was coming up was one of the only things that got me through this book! “HANG IN THERE, girl,” I told myself … “HANG IN THERE! Lost at Sea is coming!” (I think I had too much caffeine today) Why don’t you guys answer a little poll for me while you wait to hear this Wakefield-centric story? Because I wanna know …