Yes, Todd Wilkins is moving back to Sweet Valley at long last, and by the looks of this cover, there are two blondies who aren’t very happy about it! Why, the title even has some weird dramatic shadowing behind the letters! (In truth, this cover creeps me the hell out. Liz and Jeffrey look like they are related.)
Liz is very sad – oh wah – because it seems everyone in Sweet Valley has been getting letters and hearing gossip from/about Todd but her. Todd wrote to Winston and Ken to say that he won’t be at Sweet Valley High; his parents are insisting on sending him to Lovett Academy in nearby Cedar Springs as a day student. How many “nearby” towns and private schools are there anyway? And Lila Fowler heard from her friend at the Sweet Valley Country Club that Todd’s father was such a swell office manager that his company, Varitronics, has promoted him all the way up to President, hence why he’s returning, and will be living in a 12-bedroom mansion just around the corner from Fowler Crest. WHOA, whoa, wait a minute. Todd’s dad was an office manager and is now the president of the company? Well, that gives me some hope that my own salary can suddenly skyrocket from 5 to 7 figures. Sweet Valley, keeping corporate dreams alive.
Liz knows Todd is no longer dating Suzanne Devlin, but she figures he probably found another sweetheart and doesn’t really care about Liz. Then she finally gets a banged-up letter in the mail from Todd; it didn’t get to her sooner because he has some sloppy-ass handwriting. In the letter, Todd says he’s available, he still loves Liz, and that he knows she’s dating somebody else already so he’ll leave it up to her, or something like that. Liz is so excited but also scared shitless because she might have to let Jeffrey go. It’s 100 percent obvious that her relationship with Mr. French is doomed. She keeps saying she is “confused” but I don’t hear the “L” word being thrown around at Jeffrey anymore. Todd is all Liz can think about. Worst of all, Jeffrey like … hangs in there, losing his more assertive personality in favor of letting Liz string him along until she realizes they’re done. Suddenly, it’s very clear that Jeffrey is an A.J. Morgan-type character, one whom Francine only introduced to give Liz someone to date until Todd could return. And I’m sad, because I love Jeffrey. He doesn’t throw self-righteous punches, he doesn’t inspire Liz to moan “Oh, Todd!” every other page, and he’s just way cooler. But I guess this book is our adios to him. We’ll never hear from him again in this series, mark my words.
Todd comes to see Liz and they talk somewhat awkwardly and almost kiss. Then Todd comes over to have dinner with the Wakefields and that too is awkward. Liz feels bad for hurting Jeffrey. Well, cry me a fucking river, Wakefield. Next, Winston throws a party at which everyone is gossiping about whom Liz will choose because everyone can see that Liz is moping around all lovesick. Todd and Jeffrey very awkwardly meet for the first time at this party, and don’t have much to say to one another, which is a far cry from that other first time they met back in Winter Carnival and became instant best buds.
There are several awkward scenes between Liz and Jeffrey in which he desperately wants her to assure him that she doesn’t plan to leave him for her old boyfriend, but she can’t do it. She’s quiet and depressed a good deal of the time that they’re together, even when Jeffrey takes her on a fancy date to the Valley Inn. Well, who wouldn’t be depressed at the Valley Inn? That was Tricia Martin’s favorite place and it’s also where Steven ruined Cara’s birthday (that is, her real birthday, as opposed to the fake birthday at the Mariner House that he also ruined). They go parking out at Las Palmas Canyon and Liz is so quiet and weird that I want to shake her and tell her to get a grip already. Dump him and get it over with! I seriously can’t believe Jeffrey is still hanging around with her after the Bruce Patman shit, and now this bullshit! Jeffrey, regardless of how “confused” Liz is, you deserve better!
Jessica and Liz go to some lame-sounding residence hall party at Lovett with Todd, where they meet all his snooty friends. Hey, they go to private school, of course they’re snooty. A pretty stuck-up girl named Courtney Kane tries to make Liz feel uncomfortable. Courtney is the daughter of the Varitronics chairman or something, and she is Lila’s friend from the country club, and she looks down on Lila for going to public school and thinks about how she normally wouldn’t bother to be friends with someone like that. Oh lord. Do we really need another snotty private school girl, let alone another one named Courtney, let alone another Courtney trying to steal Todd? (See also: Perfect Summer.) Courtney talks about some dinner date she had with Todd, and Todd has to explain to Elizabeth that it didn’t mean anything, it was just part of his new rich boy obligations. There are an awful lot of those, by the way. Apparently if you are rich, there are 2117689 things you must do to build and keep a social standing. Todd even has to plan some big party at the Wilkins manor that he doesn’t want to, and put Courtney as the co-host or some shit. Well, you know what I’m going to do when I’m rich? WHATEVER I WANT, HAHAHA. But with that said, why does Todd have to explain anything to Liz? Isn’t she making a conscious choice not to date you? Are you really going to wait around till the day you die for her to decide she wants to be with you?
When Todd drops Liz off from Lame Lovett Party, he does kiss her, but she pulls back before he can stick his tongue in or anything. Alice has a chat with Liz about her confused feelings and says that her heart will tell her what to do. Sure, ’cause it’s doing a real swell job so far! Liz thinks Todd might ask her to be his date to his party, but instead she hears from Lila that Todd is taking Courtney. In fact, that’s just a rumor that Courtney started. Todd isn’t planning on taking her at that time, but then Courtney tells their friend Sheffield Eastman that Jeffrey gave Liz a promise ring, signaling that Liz made her choice. Sheffield tells Todd, Todd believes it, and Todd asks Courtney. Todd mails Liz a fancy invitation which is addressed to “Miss Elizabeth Wakefield and Friend” showing that he understands Liz is bringing a separate date. Liz is terribly upset, but resigns herself to a lifetime spent pretending to love Jeffrey. Liz: “I know I was just telling Olivia it’s better to be independent and self-reliant than to spend all your time clinging to a man, but I didn’t really mean it. I was just trying to be helpful and shit.” You know, f you Liz. You were hoping Todd would ask you, and then you’d dump Jeffrey for the party even if it was last minute, is that it? God, she’s worse than Jess, and we’re supposed to accept it because hey, she doesn’t mean it, she’s just confused, waaaaaaaahihateyou.
At the party, Jeffrey has finally accepted that Liz doesn’t really love him anymore and is only staying with him because she can’t have Todd. He sees Courtney slipping a note into Liz’s jacket while Liz is in the bathroom (yes! the bathroom! they said it!), and decides to get all Sweet Valley P.I. He follows Courtney and Todd in the shadows and sees Courtney pretend to get a bad headache around Todd. She asks him to take her to a secluded gazebo out in the Wilkins gardens. Todd does as she asks, and Liz walks up with the note just as Courtney throws her arms around Todd and starts kissing him. Todd kisses her back for lack of anything better to do. Liz drops the note and runs off crying and tears off in the Fiat (stranding Jeffrey) while Jeffrey runs up and grabs the note and reads it. It’s a fake note from Todd, in handwriting other than his – what the fuck? How did this not make Liz suspicious? Dammit, why do I even ask. The note asked Liz to meet Todd in the gazebo, but it was all a set-up, bla bla.
Jeffrey makes the difficult moral choice to lose the only girl he’s ever loved, or whatever, by telling Todd the truth about Courtney and Liz. Todd drives off looking for Liz and finds her perched on some rocks at their old make-out spot at Secca Lake. They get back together and make out again and go back to the party to make their little debut to society as an officially reunited couple.
Jeffrey, I’m gonna miss you buddy. This book was mean to you and I don’t like it.
The sub-plot: Jessica meets Sheffield Eastman, a friend of Todd’s and an ex-boyfriend of Courtney Kane’s, at the boring Lovett party. They start dating and she thinks he’s the most perfect man ever simply because he’s rich, conveniently overlooking that he bores her whenever he talks. She tries to show him off at Todd’s party to Lila, who’s clearly jealous until Sheffield announces he’s planning to sell his car and all his possessions and spend a year living and working in a homeless shelter as a special project. Jessica is so upset and disgusted that she wants to throw her drink on Sheffield, and Lila is highly amused. He’s rich … he’s handsome … he’s philanthropic … oh, we can’t have that.
WTF? Okay, let’s think about how long we’ve known Jeffrey. He and Liz started dating in book 31 and have just now broken up. They were always serious and always said “I love you” and Liz always thought of Todd fondly rather than mooning over him and wishing he’d move back home. Jeffrey was never presented as filler – until this book. Suddenly Liz never says she loves him or even thinks it to herself, she’s said to have been dating Jeffrey for “a few months” rather than “a long time” or whatever, and it’s like Todd never left.
I cannot get used to the idea of Todd’s family being wealthy. He’s even traded in his Datsun for a BMW.
Todd and Jeffrey are said to be the only two boys Liz has ever loved, so I guess Tony Sargent and Eric Hankman aren’t supposed to have really happened.
There are a ton of old movie and TV star references in these books. I love that stuff, but it’s rather odd that teenagers in the late 80s are supposed to be obsessed with it too. Sheffield Eastman looks like “a young Paul Newman” Would Jessica even know what that looks like?
Random character: April, another chick at Lovett. Kent, Sheffield’s “cute” younger brother.
We finally have a reason for Lila and Bruce attending SVH rather than a private school. That reason is that Sweet Valley is such a great school that there’s no need to send them away. Yeah, it’s so great that no one goes to class for more than an hour at a time, they have umpteen random breaks from school, and SVH is willing to cut class time so that the kids can paint a picture.
Liz is so nervous about the return of Todd that she doesn’t eat her dinner at all one night, and no one in the family notices or cares. Typical.
Lila is at Todd’s party with that college kid Drake Howard that she dated in a couple of books previously … well over 30 books ago. I had almost forgotten he existed.
Amy and Bruce are together at Winston’s party, so I guess they are still getting it on. Must be one hell of a ride.
Jessica flirts with Aaron Dallas and Ken Matthews because she used to date them both and wants them to keep their hard-on for her for all eternity. same ol’ same ol’
Coming up next: “Todd’s back and Elizabeth’s got him!” Oh, I’m just so excited for a book full of “Oh, Todd!”s.