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

#56 Lost at Sea

What a sad, sad experience this was. Few things can compare to the utter disappointment of revisiting one of the first books to spark my obsession with deserted-island tales. Okay, I’m pulling some Jessica-style melodrama. But a chapter or so into this book, I found myself wondering, “How did I think this was so cool back in the day?” Then I remembered that … oh yeah … I was 7 years old!

I guess it’s not that bad. I’ve read worse, especially since these books in the 50s have been about two things: new characters finding themselves, or our favorite lavaliere wearin’, dimpled-left-cheek identical twins experiencing severe brushes with danger. But the whole book has this stupid tone that is supposed to be humorous, but it fails on so many levels that Jessica and Winston become weird caricatures of themselves. Both of them are terribly annoying, with Jessica acting so juvenile I think maybe this was supposed to be a Sweet Valley Twins.

So, how did Jess become Lost at Sea? Well, since she and Amy goof off so much in chemistry class, Mr. Russo has suggested they earn some extra credit to save their grades by joining a Sunday field trip to Anacapa Island, where they will study marine life for just a few hours. Even though this is for marine biology, he’ll still give them credit for chem class. The trip sounds fun – I did something kinda similar my senior year – but leave it to Amy and Jess to act like it’s the worst thing ever. Amy gets out of it by claiming she has a family obligation, but she’s really at the beach on Bruce Patman’s dick – again. And because Jessica can’t go even four hours without making out with somebody, she zeroes in on Ken Matthews for the day. Liz and Lila are both surprised that Jessica wants to sneak off into the woods with Ken, especially since Jessica already hit that in the past. But let’s face it, he’ll go for it.

When the kids get to the pier, Jessica starts acting totally nutty, thrusting her crotch at Ken and moaning and stuff like that. There are sixteen kids total on the trip; we aren’t told who all of them are, but some of the ones I haven’t mentioned are Enid, Liz, Lila (who doesn’t want to go either), Tom McKay, Aaron Dallas, Lois Waller, Randy Mason, and some girl named Katrina. Mr. Russo announces that everyone will be divided into four teams of four. Jessica immediately sidles up to Ken, hoping to be on a “team” with him so they can spend some quality time studying human anatomy in the woods. (Hey, Winston isn’t the only one who can make bad jokes!) But Bob Russo is no fool. He knows Jess won’t do any work unless he sticks her with the nerds, so he puts her with Lois, Randy, and Winston. Then he also makes Winston and Jessica safety buddies in case of an emergency, and THEN makes Jessica the “scribe” for her team so that she has to do some work. Ha ha ha!

Man, Winston is so not funny here. I guess he figures since his girl Maria can’t come on the trip, he’s got to harass Jessica instead. He bugs her every second, making bad jokes that would put Bazooka Joe to shame. Every time Jess tries to show Ken that her panties are all ready to drop for him, Winston appears to shatter her reverie. He sneaks up and drapes two life preservers over Jessica while she’s moaning at Ken like a bad Cinemax softcore porn. The weird part is that Tom, Aaron, and Ken are all cracking the hell up, but not at Jess, at Win. They really think he’s hilarious. I hate to say it, especially since normally I kind of like Winston, but in real life I think the jocks would probably toss him over the boat and have a laugh at that instead. Now Jessica doesn’t exactly win me to her side as she sticks her tongue out at Winston and yells shit like, “Why don’t you go jump in the ocean?”

The kids reach the island, and Jessica acts like a bitch to her nerdy teammates. Randy and Lois seem afraid of her for some reason. Why is Randy such a doormat? Doesn’t he remember how Jessica almost got him expelled for hacking into the school grades system? (Not that she forced him to do it, that is) So the first task for each team is to find a tidepool and then write down a thorough description of it and its contents. Jessica acts like it’s the hardest thing anyone could ever ask of her, Randy and Lois tremble at her trifling ways, and then Winston stumbles and stamps his big foot right into the middle of the tidepool and ruins everything. With these four bozos, this is definitely the Worst.Team.Ever. The second task is for each team to identify twenty plants and insects within a 10 yard area. All Jessica has to do is stand there and write shit down, but she whines the whole time. No worries, Winston plays a dumb trick on her every couple of minutes. He throws wet seaweed on her, puts a big hermit crab on her head, and throws coconuts at her from a palm tree.

Let’s get to the storm already. It blows up quick and the boat’s captain, Marsden, orders everyone to leave the island early. Jessica sits next to Ken on the boat and uses the turbulence as a good excuse to get thrown into his arms. He’s starting to ask her to go to Bruce’s party with him when the boat gets so full of water that everyone has to evacuate into inflatable life rafts while Captain Marsden calls the Coast Guard. Winston dumbly grabs three oars instead of two, yet Liz and Aaron somehow get into their raft and out in the water before they realize they’re missing one. Winston paddles over and stands up to throw them the third oar, and it flips the raft over, throwing him and Jess into the water. Jessica is swept away from everybody, gets caught in an undertow, and can’t see anything, so she just swims for the heck of it until she comes to a random island somewhere. She staggers on shore and falls asleep on the sand.

When she wakes up the next day, she has no idea where she is. She stumbles around looking for “fun” and decides this is a great place to sunbathe. Yes, really. Then she starts thinking there might be cannibals/headhunters on the island and freaks out at some noises she hears, but it turns out to be Winston crashing through the bushes. Winston confesses that he paddled to the island in the lifeboat after the big wave separated him from the group, but that he didn’t secure it well enough, so it drifted back out into the ocean. Jess is enraged and yells at Winston that she hopes the cannibals eat him. This is getting old fast. Winston shows Jessica the big piles of fruit he’s collected and some fish that he caught, but it doesn’t win her over right away. First she stomps off in a “melodramatic rage” and pouts by herself, so Winston guts and cooks the fish by wrapping them in palm leaves and throwing them on the fire. Then she magically has a change of heart when she smells the food and comes over to eat.

After they eat, they start arguing about what to do next. Winston insists they set up a rescue signal, collect some more food, and make a shelter, but Jessica just wants to sunbathe and have “fun”. God, just club her over the head and toss her back in the ocean. She refuses to let Winston use her gold bracelet to make a rescue signal; thankfully, he has a Swiss army knife to use instead. Then he coaxes her into helping him make the shelter by saying she can decorate it after they’ve built it. Okay, I know this is supposed to be a parody of Gilligan’s Island and whatnot, but this book is not endearing me. They build a lean-to against some rocks with palm leaves and sticks, and then Winston gets to work making a fire pit while Jessica makes a “couch” out of palm leaves (how does that work?), a dividing curtain out of vines, and decorations out of flowers. Winston praises her work to high heaven like it’s the best thing ever. I guess that’s how you keep her lazy ass moving; it’s the old “OH WOW! THIS IS SO GREAT! LET’S SEE WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO” trick I use on certain people I have to work with. And it works on Jess: she eagerly tramps off in the woods with Winston to gather more food, after they have an awkward bonding moment on the palm leaf couch.

Winston and Jess find tons of firewood and oranges, which they carry in Jessica’s cheesy gauze shirt, and then a storm starts to blow up, but they still go up on a bluff because they spot more fruit up there. Then they run into a bear snuffling around some blueberry bushes. Yes, a bear. On an island. It sounds like a black bear, so they could probably just dash by and leave, but Winston freaks out and drops EVERYTHING over the cliff and into the ocean. And I guess Jess forgot whatever it is she was supposed to learn from that OTHER bear encounter she had back in Super Edition #1, because she has to take some time to figure out what to do. Ultimately, she decides to pitch fruit over the bear’s head and then take off running back to their “camp”. Winston is in complete shock so she has to drag him after her. Then he’s feeling guilty about dropping everything, so he hangs out in his side of the lean-to as the rain pours down. You know, if they hadn’t run into the bear, they probably still would’ve been stuck with sopping wet firewood and fruit anyway, since they had to dawdle so much to pick some damn blueberries even though they KNEW a storm was coming. Jess comes over to Winston’s side and they chill on the palm couch and share their true impressions of one another. Did you know Winston thinks Jess is a snob, and Jess thinks Winston is a big goon? These are supposed to be startling revelations. Winston reveals he knows he went overboard with the jokes on Jess earlier and he’s sorry but that it’s not easy being the class clown. Awwww. Then Winston puts his arm around Jess and they settle back to wait out the storm, and I’m hoping that it will later be revealed that they in fact found a good use for that palm leaf couch.

The storms passes and the kids look for ways to pass the time. They play 20 Questions, Charades, and Truth or Dare. What kind of dares can you get up to on a deserted island? Heh, I can think of a few … Instead Winston whines that Maria will ditch him for some jock while he’s gone. You know what’s funny about this book, in the beginning of the series Jess was Winston’s dream girl and he probably would’ve killed for some alone time with her like this. But now he has it and he doesn’t even want it. I wouldn’t either, she’s a real piece of work, and not in a good way. As sunset approaches, Winston sets up a fishing pole and gets to work on a sand castle while Jessica looks for seashells and then sits and prays about all the things she’ll do differently if she’s rescued. These include being nicer to people, more considerate of Liz, and getting a part-time job to help her parents pay her way through college. Just then a Coast Guard helicopter appears to rescue them, and all thoughts of that bullshit fly right out of Jess’ head. Come on, if none of the other shit she’s gone through has changed her, this certainly won’t! They get on the helicopter and Jess kisses the pilot on the cheek and thinks about how cute he is. They’re SAVED! and Jess can go back to her normal role as leader of the Mean Girls.

A shitload of reporters are waiting for the helicopter to touch down at the U.S. Coast Guard station. So anybody can just come up to those? I’m confused. I figured they’d have it cordoned off since it’s a military property and all that. Instead the reporters ask all sorts of questions and Jessica tells them that SHE did all the work! She even makes up some shit about being chased by a school of sharks, but “kindly” leaves out the part about the bear because she knows she’d have to tell them what a wimp Winston was. Funny how she can’t fudge that part and act like Winston wasn’t scared, but she can stand there and tell them about all the survival techniques “she” came up with. And Winston just stands back and lets her run her big lying mouth! What a bunch of horseshit!

The sub-plot is just about everyone worrying about Jess and Winston. They find Jessica’s life preserver and Winston’s ball cap in the water after their boats are washed away, prompting Lila to start screaming hysterically. At least that gets Tom McKay to snuggle up to her. And then the next day, the Coast Guard finds their empty lifeboat. Liz insists on going to school even though her sister’s gone, and spends the whole day not eating and acting like a zombie while everyone around her acts ridiculous. Lila screams and wails about how terrible it is that Jessica is gone. Amy makes it all about her like usual by saying she’s glad she didn’t go. And everybody just assumes that Jessica and Winston drowned, and meanly shove that assumption in Liz’s face! Um, what does this say about how people really feel about the two of them?

Nicholas Morrow takes everyone out on his boat, Nighthawk to see if they can find anything, but then another damn storm blows up and they have to return. Ned and Alice are terrified they lost Liz and Steven and cry with relief when they return home. Why let them go out on the boat in the first place then? You can’t go check the weather report first?

The cover doesn’t really happen …. Jessica doesn’t walk around crying at any point. And by the time she’s making her pleas for rescue, her gauze shirt has been thrown over the cliff with the oranges and firewood. Doesn’t she look awful though? Check out her little tears, sunburned skin, and running mascara! That’s gold right there

WTF: Nicholas tells Liz and Steven that he is very sympathetic to the Wakefields’ plight, and they think about how he lost Regina. Yet there he is all chillin’ and chattin’ with Bruce on the boat, like Bruce never did anything to his beloved deceased sister!

In an attempt to get that Ken Matthews magic going on, Jessica reminds him about some dates they went on in the past. Ken was Jessica’s 10th grade homecoming date, and “last spring” they danced at the Beach Disco and kissed once. Woooo eeee.

The island Jessica and Winston were marooned on is called Outermost Island. How appropriate

How was there a bear on the island? Especially if it’s so far away from all the islands?

Not only do the kids back at school all have an “Oh, well, they’re dead” attitude about Jess and Winston, barely shedding any tears, but when Liz insists she knows they’re alive, they’re all “Look Liz, YOUR SISTER IS DEAD”. Not in so many words, but that’s the basic attitude! The only one who seems genuinely upset is Lila, who is wailing miserably in every scene she’s in!

When Winston cooks the fish, Jessica initially decides to ignore her hunger pangs because that way she can lose some weight and impress Ken with her skinniness when the rescuers come.

Lois Waller’s mom is the school dietitian. SVH has its own dietitian? And I’m guessing that’s supposed to be funny since Lois is overweight. Hardy har har

We know Ned and Alice are genuinely worried about Jessica because they’re described as looking older than their children for a change.

The boat is named Maverick. There’s nothing really weird about that, except that it makes me think of the last presidential campaign and giggle.

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: “All the times I’ve made her feel inferior because she can’t afford as many expensive clothes as I can and she doesn’t have her own car or as much jewelry.” ~while bawling about how mean she’s been to Jess in the past. Liz has to remind her that Jessica has stolen boys from her to calm her down.

Coming up next … It’s the last Super Thriller we’ll have for some time. This may be a good thing.

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Comments on: "#56 Lost at Sea" (3)

  1. Jessica is SO DAMN ANNOYING in this one. She’s stranded on an island and she’s worried about being skinny? It’s pretty funny though that no one seems all that upset about it. And Liz goes to school? If my sister was missing and presumed dead, I sure as hell wouldn’t care less about school. Obviously that’s just a way to keep the other kids involved. I agree with you too- in real life someone like Winston would not be accepted by the “jocks” or rich kids.

    It does suck though when you have such good memories of a book you read when you were a kid, only to be totally let down as an adult. I felt like that about On the Run. I swear I just loved that book when I was younger and thought Eric was so dreamy…. and then I read your review. What a wimp!

    • Snark Valley … ruining everyone’s happy childhood SVH memories! 😉 But yes, this one was just ridiculous … and with On the Run, yes, Eric WAS such a wimp! In that way he was perfect for Liz, haha.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. “We know Ned and Alice are genuinely worried about Jessica because they’re described as looking older than their children for a change”

    Yeah, for once they’re not model fabulous and maybe Jessica can stop creaming over how hot n sexy her dad is lol.

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