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

The twins are getting their O-faces on once again for another detective story at the Sweet Valley News! It’s the same summer that it was in the previous three Thrillers, so the twins are almost relieved to go back to school and start their senior year (or a repeat of junior year). Whatever. The title Deadly Summer is supposed to sum up all the shit they’ve gone through while working for the News without being forever traumatized one bit!

The twins open the book reminiscing about all that’s happened to them over this deadliest of summers, but somehow fail to mention the events of book 3 completely. Then they head over to the Dairi Burger where Jessica and Lila excitedly talk about the Ouija board Lila brought back with her from London, where it’s the “latest craze.” I thought Ouija boards were all the rage in America for a long time, man. I loved playing with those long before this book came out. Anyway, Liz brings out the condescension on page 8 for fuck’s sake, so you know this book is going to be a real gem! Lifting her precious golden California girl good looks chin at Lila, she says, “I don’t understand how you can waste your time on something so incredibly silly. I know Jess can be a space agent, but I thought you were smarter, Lila.” HOLY SHIT. We got fucking Buzz Killington here slamming her sister and Lila in the same sentence! No one talks to Lila like that, so she snaps, “Maybe I’m just a stupid idiot with nothing better to do, right?” and then storms away while Liz shrugs and goes all, What’d I say? What’d I say? Everyone else tells her not to worry about it, it’s just Lila. God man … when is someone going to throw a Dairi Burger clam special in Elizabeth’s face? Someone do it soon, please, pretty please? Can we have that scene in Sweet Valley Confidential? Francine, I’m begging you. Or, AT LEAST – and I’m just going to volunteer myself for this right now – allow me to ghostwrite a brand new SVH book called LILA’S SECRET DIARY in which it’s revealed she had a fling with every boyfriend of Liz’s behind her back! Oh man, I would so love to do that.

Jessica spends the night at Fowler Crest that same night, where Lila rages about how Liz thinks she’s “so superior” (correct) and “Little Miss Perfect Know-It-All” (correct) and Jessica insists that Liz wasn’t cutting Lila down (incorrect) and thinks to herself that “Elizabeth would never deliberately be insulting” (incorrect). Lila decides to teach Liz a lesson about the Ouija board and use it to play tricks on her, and Jess is eager to help. You’d think Jess has had enough drama for one summer. (What am I saying? Never!)

Liz agrees to play Ouija with Jess and Lila, secretly admitting to herself that she is curious about how it works. The hypocrisy is just stunning, I know. Jess has been reading Jeffrey’s letters to Liz from summer camp, so she directs the planchette to spell out that Liz will get some good news soon, but that it’s a secret. Jeffrey recently wrote such a thing, so Liz is instantly suspicious of Jessica, but she swears she didn’t read the letter and Liz seems to believe her. Next the planchette claims that the big Endless Summer concert is going to be delayed by a week. Liz thinks that’s ridiculous, because she and Seth Miller have been working on an article for it, and they would know if it was in fact delayed. So she runs off downstairs with her haughty ass, where she receives a sudden phone call from Seth Miller at the News. And guess what? The News editor Lawrence Robb just found out that the Endless Summer concert has been delayed, and now Liz and Seth have to get in there early the next day to rewrite their whole big feature story on it. Liz is completely taken aback and starts feeling dubious that Lila and Jess were really moving the planchette. (Of course they were; Lila’s dad had found out about the delay early because the concert organizer is a friend of his.) Liz doesn’t even try to do any of her classic detective work to discover how the girls already knew about the concert. For someone so smart, Liz sure is dumb. And then she goes upstairs and finds her journal is missing. I was hoping Lila would pull a Gimme a Kiss (anyone else love that Christopher Pike book?) and plaster that shit all over the school walls. Nope, instead Jessica had just stuck it on top of the refrigerator.

The next day, the Ouija board tells the twins where the journal is, and Liz continues to freak out, because she’s sure Jessica wouldn’t lie to her about a thing like that. So, this book further confirms that Liz is a patronizer, a hypocrite, and an idiot. Awesome work, ghostwriter.

Soon afterwards, Jessica catches Liz reading a book titled Beginner’s Guide to Occultism. Wow, really? That is hysterical. Lila next decides that she and Jessica will have the Ouija board say that Bruce Patman is dying from cancer or something but that he doesn’t want to talk about it. Liz is dumb, so she’ll feel sorry for him and spend a lot of time meddling in his business. Lila knows that Jeffrey will be pissed off when he comes back from camp and sees his girlfriend hanging all over the boy (or man, since he’s 18) who once tried to rape her. In fact, although she doesn’t share that thought with Jessica, she hopes that Bruce and Liz will wind up getting together so that Lila can finally get with Jeffrey for real. Oh, god. Okay Lila, I love you and all, but please get over Jeffrey already. Anyone who would seriously choose Liz over you is a tool, and it’s time to let it go! But the plan works, so Liz gets all depressed and hangs all over Bruce, who’s excited at the thought of finally being able to close the deal with the other Wakefield twin.

The news report at work the next day announces that a paranoid schizophrenic named Donald Redman has escaped from San Rafael Psychiatric Hospital, and the whole area flies into a panic. He once kidnapped a cheerleader named Melanie, because she rejected him and got all her jock friends to bully him in high school, and he also attempted to kill his parents with a homemade bomb. Then Liz goes to babysit for this kid Max Bartel and tells his mom, Elsa, about Redman escaping. Elsa is so freaked out that she decides to stay home with Max herself and kicks Liz out. Gee, do you think Elsa has some personal connection to Redman?

Meanwhile, Liz and Bruce are together all the time, and Bruce is always about to kiss Liz but she excuses it thinking he’s just hiding behind a facade. I think she’s had too many head injuries. Jessica wants to end the whole charade but changes her mind after Lila casually reminds her that telling Liz the truth means also letting her know that she snooped around in her notes and journal. Later on, she does tell Bruce that Liz is only being nice to him because she thinks he’s dying, but that only makes Bruce more convinced that he can get in Liz’s pants. Then Jeffrey comes home early from camp – that was his surprise for Liz – and finds Bruce and his girlfriend getting all close in the Wakefield’s Spanish-tiled kitchen. Liz does that same shit she pulled in Two-Boy Weekend where she drapes herself all over another man while refusing to tell Jeffrey what’s going on, yet insisting that he trust her and getting pissed off when he doesn’t.

Redman starts making bomb threats and leaving fake bombs behind for the police to find. In the first one, he leaves a gift-wrapped package at the Valley Cinema, and the police just pick it up and are all, “Oh, this is fake.” WTF? No testing it out first? He makes another threat to Sweet Valley’s “county airport”. Liz also begins getting prank phone calls at home, work, and at Elsa Bartel’s. A couple of the calls are from Lila, who’s trying to keep up with the latest Ouija “prediction” that someone mysterious is trying to reach Liz, but Redman is doing the rest of them. He thinks Liz is Melanie, the cheerleader he kidnapped, and he’s out to get her again. Then a mysterious visitor, who says he’s an old college friend of Elsa’s, comes to the Bartels’ house wanting to see her while Liz is there sitting. He says he has to leave town very soon so he’ll come back the next day. Liz thinks he looks familiar but can’t figure out that’s it’s in fact Redman with a little facial hair … huuuuuurrrrr.

The Droids are playing a “Be True to Your School” back-to-school pep rally at the SVH stadium with a song called “A-Plus.” Yes, that’s what it’s called! Holy shit. Liz is at the stupid rally with Bruce and Jeffrey and they’re fighting over her and it’s lame. She storms off by herself into these tunnels that connect the stadium to the school. Then Principal Chrome Dome cuts in on the Droids to make the announcement about the bomb threat. Everyone in the stadium freaks the fuck out and total pandemonium ensues. Liz runs into Elsa’s mysterious visitor man in the stadium tunnels right before the announcement. She finally puts two and two together and realizes the man is Donald Redman. But when she calls Elsa to ask her about the visitor, Elsa acts weird and insists that it really was an old college friend. Then we learn that Elsa is really Redman’s brother and that it was him, and that she just doesn’t want to turn him in to the police yet. You’re not helping things, Elsa.

Jeffrey goes to the record store ahead of a date with Liz, where he sees Bruce buying a huge stack of “compact discs” – you know, just to help rub in how rich he is. Bruce brags about how Liz is going to ditch Jeffrey for him tonight, then he calls Liz and pretends he’s about to commit suicide. Liz runs out of the house to meet him at the tennis courts. Jessica and Lila are over there, and she makes them swear not to tell Jeffrey where she went when he gets over there for their date. So of course Lila pretends she has to go back outside to look for something she left in her car, waits for Jeffrey, then tells him where Liz went when he pulls up in the driveway. Jeffrey tears off like a bat out of hell and finds Liz and Bruce embracing in the stadium stands, where they’ve gone to have a chat about Bruce’s suicidal thoughts. God, Liz is such an idiot. Not only does she try to convince herself that Bruce isn’t really kissing her collarbone – his lips are just moving because he’s sad – but she is ENRAGED that Jeffrey came to see what was going on. Why can’t he just TRUST her! Jesus!!! Liz is so upset that she yells out Bruce’s “secret” that he’s sick and Bruce starts smirking and Liz realizes it was all a joke and that she is the planet’s biggest moron. (If it was such a secret, then why doesn’t she think about how Bruce knows that Liz knows? Shouldn’t Bruce be surprised that Liz has figured out he’s ill?) HA ha! I only wish she hadn’t figured this out until she’d agreed to sympathy fuck Bruce so that he wouldn’t die without knowing the pleasures of the flesh one last time. I’m sure he could pull that off. Liz tears off into the tunnel under the stadium and thinks that an electrical closet is a great place to hide so that Jeffrey and Bruce won’t find her. When she steps into the closet, she sees this giant bomb and then Redman traps her in there, calling her “Melanie” and roughhousing her a little. Next he gets her to scream to help lure Jeffrey and Bruce inside the closet, then tells them about how he’s going to blow them all up a week earlier than planned. He was going to wait till the season opener football game. This is the climax of the book, but I’m getting bored. Try to hang in there you guys, I’m almost done with this recap, I swear.

Jessica and Lila are back at the Wakefield homestead, where they try out the Ouija board yet again. Jessica is upset because she just knows something isn’t right with Liz. Then the board spells out that “EW” is in danger at the stadium. Jessica flips out and accuses Lila of making it say that, but Lila really wasn’t doing it. Elsa comes over and shares what’s going on at long last, and they call the police and rush to the stadium. A SWAT team comes out and the cops try to get Redman to leave the tunnels. Instead he sets off the bomb’s timer, and Bruce grabs it and takes off running. Redman follows, and Jeffrey and Liz struggle to grab the remote out from under a cabinet and destroy it because they think that will stop the bomb. (They really just had to hit the button again, but I guess only Redman knows that.) BOOM! There’s an explosion. But the bomb doesn’t go off the way Redman wired it to. It was supposed to start a whole series of bombs that would implode the whole stinkin’ stadium. Fail. Liz screams and cries thinking that Bruce exploded, but instead he’s just injured. The dead man is Redman because he tackled Bruce or something to get back his precious bomb. I’m so confused.

Oh, and how did the Ouija board know that Liz was in trouble? Well, according to Liz’s Occultism book, people often subconsciously control the planchette with their thoughts when they’re stressed about something. So Jess was doing it with her famous twin intuition but didn’t realize it. That still doesn’t explain how she knew Liz was in the stadium. She said she was going to the tennis courts!

Anyway, the ordeal is over. Liz and Jess link arms and skip off to the Dairi Burger. No really, they do. The end.

I find this cover HILARIOUS. The twins don’t look even slightly scared. Liz: “What’s that, you say there’s a bomb? You really should get some professional help, sir. Here, let me assist you and help you do a complete turn-around and see the error of your ways.” Jessica: “Wait, did you say sir?! It’s a man? Does he sound cute? Tell him I’m making my best blowjob face right now and he just has to come see it!” Also, why is Jessica dressed like Liz? And WHY IS SHE WEARING A SWEATER IN THE SUMMERTIME? That makes me sweat to death just looking at it.

WTF? So! Since about book 50, Liz has been knocked out and dragged away by a mobster, tied up and threatened with a gun, tied up and shoved into the trunk of a car, and trapped with a bomb. But she’s still here. And still annoying.

Jessica keeps saying “y’all” to her friends. Since when does she ever say that? Isn’t that the type of slang she made fun of those kids in Kansas for using?

No one in this book really talks like themselves. Something about the tone is just … off. I know that can’t be helped when you have multiple people writing a series, but it strikes me as really odd this time. In fact, the dialog sounds like some Girl Talk or Fifth Grade Stars characters speaking. I haven’t read those books in years, but I still remember the basic tone because I’m a big nerd with a memory like an elephant.

When Liz and Jess get to the Dairi Burger, Enid is already there and sitting with Lila and Cara. The book explains that sometimes Enid finds herself hanging out with people she can’t stand just because of the way her social life with Liz interacts. So in other words, Enid has no other friends besides Liz and has no choice but to do whatever it is Liz wants to do. Although that still doesn’t explain how Enid was already sitting with Cara and Lila voluntarily.

It’s genuinely funny to me that Liz is such a fucking stick-in-the-mud about having a little fun with a Ouija board because she’s sure the supernatural doesn’t exist – then, less than a year later, the Sweet Valley Twins Super Chillers were published in which Liz meets a ton of ghosts at age 12.

There is all kinds of talk about how Liz has always been disdainful of Bruce and made “cutting remarks” to him, but NO mention whatsoever of what he did to her in book 7! Liz thinks she must have just misunderstood him all this time, or not looked hard enough to see the real Bruce (because she wrecked his junk when he tried to make her look hard enough).

There’s a brief mention of the events of Slam Book Fever, but the ghostwriter gets it way wrong. He or she writes that the slam books said Liz was in love with Roger Patman (it was A.J.) and that Jeffrey was in love with Enid (it was Olivia).

That bratty intern Darcy Kaymen is completely absent and there’s no mention of her. Perhaps Whitehead Academy starts school earlier than everyone else. But there are new reporters named Anita Solarz and Pete.

Near the end, Jessica goes back and forth from thinking Lila’s gone too far with the Ouija crap, and thinking it’s hilarious and they should keep fooling Liz. Hey, she never said she was consistent.

It kind of bugs me that everyone keeps calling San Rafael Hospital the “nuthouse” over and over. I know, I know, that’s what many people call mental hospitals. But let’s face it: no one in Sweet Valley has any kind of mental illness except crazed killers that try to blow up high school stadiums. Everyone else can just sit on their lofty perch and call mental institutions nuthouses.

There’s a lot of talk about how the SV police force is made up of bumbling idiots since they can’t catch this guy. Some try to defend them and say they’re doing all they can. Sorry, I have to agree with the “bumbling idiots” opinion.

Oh, and although the whole town seems to be lined up outside the stadium waiting to see if it blows up or not, Ned and Alice are nowhere to be found! Um, and HOW was everyone allowed to get that close anyway?

Sweet Valley is referred to as a county in one paragraph and then as a city several paragraphs later. Whatever it is, it has its own airport and towering office buildings, so it can’t be THAT small!

I’m not clear if San Rafael is just the name of the hospital or if it’s also the name of a neighboring city. The book doesn’t seem to know either.

Jessica and Lila are watching Terror in the Subway, Part Four when the bomb threat is called in to Valley Cinema. Awesome movie name! It’s about droids climbing out of drains in the subway stations!

I laughed to myself every time I read “Redman” in this book because it made me think of the rapper Redman.

Sweet Valley timeline issue: Lila thinks to herself about the time that she sabotaged the slam books to break up Liz and Jeffrey. That happened after the first two Super Thrillers had been released, yet here’s the fourth one and we’re supposed to still be in that same summer as the first Super Thriller. *Note to self: Stop doing this to yourself … stop doing this to yourself …*

Next up: Olivia has a crush on a teacher, because the book is called Teacher Crush! Unless they’re going to have a hot affair, I’m so not interested.


Comments on: "Super Thriller #4 Deadly Summer" (2)

  1. katerin5000 said:

    I’m a little late to the party, just had to let you know how much I laugh at your commentary. Your humor often turns my crappy days around, thank you. It’s the little things. I also just came across Christopher Pike’s Gimme a Kiss while cleaning out the attic! Loved that book too when I was younger.

  2. Jess’s O is definitely more…shall we say “practiced” than Liz’s? 😛

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