As we previously learned in the case of Roger Barrett Patman (Rags to Riches), becoming a rich teenager in SV World changes everything, dooming you to a life of popped collars and unbearably boring social events. As you can see from this cover, Todd now dresses in a manner befitting his noveau riche status. Looks like he’s giving his wife a hug before heading off to casual Friday at the office! At least being rich hasn’t made him change his hairdo. And man is he rich. He’s so rich, his car even has a CD player in the dash! (I keep forgetting that this is 1989 and most people didn’t even listen to CDs, let alone have a player in their car.) Despite her pleasant expression (and peach dress-that-I-want-to-like-but-can’t-because-of-that-weird-bodice), Liz feels threatened by the fact that Todd is away most of each weekday at Lovett Academy and that, well, he isn’t a Sweet Valley High Gladiator anymore. Todd and Liz are desperate to spend some time together during the week, so Liz puts off her homework and then walks out of an Oracle meeting Penny calls, and then she fucks up her proofreading and leaves four errors in the newspaper. That would be par for the course for most of the print papers published today – I’m lookin’ at you, Washington Post – but this is the 80s and Penny don’t take no shit, so Liz catches hell. Ha ha, good! As for Todd, he misses three basketball practices to see Liz, and the Lovett coach is pissed and threatens to kick him off the team.
Then Kidd shoes (a clever play on Keds?) announces a Battle of the Schools competition in which ten area public and private schools will compete. The winning school gets to appear in Kidd shoe commercials. The competition will include sports like swimming, tennis, and track and field, goofy games like an obstacle course relay run, and academic shit like a spelling bee and “College Bowl” trivia game show. The public schools asked to compete include Sweet Valley, Big Mesa, and Palisades, and the private schools include Lovett and Crestville. I think it’s said somewhere that only juniors and seniors can compete, but it doesn’t really matter because you know only a select group of people will be chosen to compete anyway. In fact, Chrome Dome and Coach Schultz tell the school that the competitors will be chosen by a lottery, which is BULLSHIT because Bruce Patman and Kristin Thompson are chosen to do tennis, Bill Chase gets swimming, etc. Liz winds up on the relay race team with Ken Matthews, Robin Wilson – and her very recent ex, Jeffrey French. Awk-ward. Even worse (at least in Liz’s eyes), Todd is also doing the relay race – for Lovett. If you ask me, it would be fun to compete against your own boyfriend and make a game out of it, but everyone is all serious about it. Ken even asks Todd to leave when he comes to watch Liz practice, because he might somehow be able to cheat later on. What the fuck? Lovett takes it seriously, too – Courtney Kane is all fired up about Todd and Liz and determined that Lovett will win the Battle over Sweet Valley. ‘Cause that’ll show them.
Todd takes Liz to a boring party Courtney is throwing at the Cedar Springs Country Club. So the Kanes are members of both the Cedar Springs and Sweet Valley CCs? Courtney calls the party a pool party, but it also has polo and dancing and golf. Todd is excited to play golf and polo, but Liz is completely aghast that he might genuinely be interested in these new things. God forbid he try to enjoy the school his dad is making him go to. You know, for someone always bitching about snobs at Lovett, Liz sure acts like one herself sometimes. Anyway, the rest of the kids at this party suck, except for Sheffield Eastman, who’s always nice. It should go without saying that Courtney is mean to Liz all day. Liz reluctantly agrees to play golf because Todd wants to. Then she sees Ben Orson, a sophomore from Sweet Valley that we’ve never heard of before, acting as the caddy for their group and stops to say hi. Courtney’s friends walk by and they all laugh about Liz talking to “the hired help.” Todd himself pretends not to see Ben. Wow, what a bag of dicks. Then Todd vanishes for a while to look at some trophies with Sheffield, and Courtney’s date, Campbell Rochester, keeps following Liz around and bragging about who his dad is and demanding that she dance with him. He’s a total creeper, but Jess says later that Lila is impressed enough with him to “just die” when she hears he was there. Why, Lila? Why? Let’s assume she just hasn’t met him yet.
At this point I do feel bad for Liz. The party sounds terrible, and even though Liz was being a sourpuss, Todd isn’t exactly trying to make sure that she’s having a good time – especially when he knows that Liz-hating Courtney and her ilk are hanging about. Ugggh. Liz finally finds Todd and they leave and go to the Dairi Burger and laugh about how bad the party was. They seem to be getting along great … for now. But another time, Todd suddenly demands that Liz drop out of the Battle because he doesn’t think it’s cool for them to compete against one another. He even gets offended when she wants to know why she has to be the one to quit. Todd gets all pissy about it because he’s obviously still a total douchenozzle!
Then the next day at Dairi Burger, Todd and Liz have another stupid fight. It seems Liz doesn’t like that Todd wants to tell her all about his new school and some kids of famous people he’s met. He’ll be going on a field trip to China later that year which I think is awesome, but it just wilts Liz’s flowers because she doesn’t get how he could possibly like any other school other than Sweet Valley High. As much as Todd annoys me, here he just sounds like someone trying to chat about his daily life, but Liz starts picking at him about it and they have a fight. Todd reacts to Liz by suggesting they break up and Liz doesn’t even try to argue the point. She’s all, “Oh well, that’s that.” Sigh, I guess the era of Todd and Liz fights is officially back! Joy! I wish she’d go running back to Jeffrey on a whim and that he would reject her. Heh heh.
At least we have Courtney Kane to liven up this story. She hangs around with her best friend Dominique Roy, whose sole purpose in this book is to express doubt about Courtney’s schemes and then finally agree that Courtney knows best. (Dominique also drives a blue Alfa Romeo which means that she’s alright with me.) After the qualifying matches leave just Lovett and Sweet Valley going head-to-head for the grand prize (gee, how convenient!), Courtney decides that she will cheat to help Lovett win in the College Bowl. As the College Bowl scene later proves, she has to do this because the kids at Lovett get a horrible education for their money and don’t know shit like which astronaut said the whole “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” or what temperature water boils at. Some of the parents out there need to demand a refund. Courtney tells Dominique about her plan to help these doofuses out during the College Bowl, and Dominique asks her like ten questions about it before finally agreeing because she’s a fucking pushover. They hide behind a curtain at the side of the stage during the College Bowl and move the curtain twice for true and once for false. Jessica sees what’s going on during the Bowl but chooses not to expose Lovett because she’s all wrapped up in her sub-plot bullshit (more on that later). But how no one else notices this obvious cheating is beyond me. I guess it helps that the Battle is being held at Lovett and most of the games are refereed by, coached by, and moderated by Lovett staff and admin.
Liz is supposed to do the rope climbing portion of the relay race. Courtney and Dominique help their senior friend Bob set up the ropes and Courtney deliberately hangs up a rotted rope for Liz to climb because she’s apparently a homicidal maniac. The rope snaps and Liz falls and is mildly hurt. Todd freaks out thinking she’s croaked or something and rushes over to hold her tenderly in his arms. Courtney is a bitch, so she loudly demands that Sweet Valley should forfeit because the rope snapping is somehow their fault. Jesus. Instead, there’s a stupid tug of war between the two teams to settle the matter. Liz and Todd both sit it out because they’re all winded from their terrifying death-defying interlude. Jessica gladly takes Liz’s place and threatens Courtney with the truth about the College Bowl. Some boy named Brent Calder takes over for Todd. Jessica is close to being pulled over the white line and losing when Todd screams out, “GO, SWEET VALLEY HIGH!” and the SV team is suddenly re-energized and yanks the Lovett team over the line just in time! Yes! It’s all because of the power of Todd! He’s back! He’s come to his senses! He realizes there’s no place like Sweet Valley! Land of rainbows and unicorns and pots of gold! He’s going to convince his dad to let him come back to public school! Lollipops angels flowers oh my! This calls for a huge party and a parade and some fattening-ass milkshakes and burgers after school! Heeeeeee!
The sub-plot: Jessica is pissed that Liz is getting more attention than her over the whole Todd thing. So she decides she wants to go to Lovett so that she can meet cute guys and do upstanding social shit like … hang around at wine and cheese parties? Sounds like a blast. She starts being a huge snob to all of her friends and refuses to join in the Battle or cheer for Sweet Valley because she thinks she’s truly a “Lovett girl”. She tells her parents she wants to go to Lovett Academy and they’re all like, “Okay” because let’s be real, they couldn’t give a shit less what their kids do or how much it costs. They’re apparently as rich as the Wilkins and the Kanes and able to send her over there and pay the 40,000 tuition a year or whatever. So Jess gets stricken with the Boring Flu as she occasionally does whenever she dates a rich boring guy or wants to date a rich boring guy. She starts studying chemistry in her room rather than going out to the effing Beach Disco, and she signs up for the first of four entrance exams which I’m sure cost her parents a fair amount of buckage. But then she bombs her initial interview, shudders at all the dress code and other rules she learns about, and finally starts to think that duh, maybe Lovett isn’t so great after all. She is afraid to not go through with it because she’s been such an ass to her friends about it, and you know, I’m sure her parents wouldn’t be pleased to know they paid a few hundred dollars in exam and entrance fees for no good reason. When Jess sees Courtney and Dominique blatantly cheating at the College Bowl, she doesn’t say anything because she’s afraid it might hurt her chances of getting in … like that horrible interview didn’t!!! I mean, Jessica said all of the following at the interview:
“I, uh, I’m very enthusiastic,”
“I-I like to write,” and
“I’ve been studying very hard.” And that’s, quite literally, ALL she says.
Jessica gets over herself after she sees Liz take her nasty fall, and so she pulls that Lovett stick out of her ass and rams it back up Courtney’s where it belongs.
So there are two morals to this whole story, kids: 1) Be true to your school, but only if it’s Sweet Valley High School, and 2) private school kids suck!
Some other crap: I’m getting sick of hearing about how snotty private school kids are supposed to be. Of course, Todd is the exception because he’s been forced to go there. Because Amy, Jessica, Lila, Bruce, and all the other public school kids are just so much nicer because they go to public school. Right!
Jeffrey says that Liz is “as loyal as they come” – right, like she was to you until Todd came back?
We get a confirmation that the nobody Rod Sullivan is in fact dating Olivia Davidson now.
Liz invites Jess to go roller skating with her and Todd. That just makes me smile and giggle. I want to go roller skating too! … but not with them.
Senior Skip Harmon, whom I don’t believe we heard anything from since he took Jessica out way back in book 10, is said to have ignored Jessica in the lunch line recently. It pisses her off so badly that it helps encourage her to look for more mature guys at Lovett. Ha ha! Guess Skip wasn’t impressed with Jess at Miller’s Point!
Liz sadly thinks about how Todd’s Datsun didn’t even have a radio in it … wow, really? Was it common for cars to not have radios in the early-mid 80s? ‘Cause that’s bad. (And I’d be willing to bet that if I cared enough, I could find a scene of Todd and Liz riding along listening to the radio somewhere in an earlier book.)
At one point the author accidentally calls Palisades High School, Pacific Palisades which is funny to me because that is in fact a real town and real high school in L.A.
One of Todd’s friends at Lovett is named Sandy Winters. That’s the second separate kid with the name Sandy and the third with the last name of Winters. There’s also been like fifty Tims in the series. I’m considering putting up a new page here with a list of all the names in the Sweet Valley series thus far so you can see JUST how much these names are repeated over and over because it chaps my ass and I like to bitch about it and let it chap my ass some more. But seriously, should I put the page up?
The College Bowl teams are: For Sweet Valley – Patty Gilbert, Winston Egbert, and Peter de-fucking-Haven whom I still hate after all that bullshit he pulled with Johanna Porter. For Lovett – Sheffield Eastman, Alison deLong (total idiot who’s clearly only at the school because her dad is a movie director), and Bradley Tushingham who is supposed to be a physics nerd.
Here are some more Lovett kids: Roberta Thornton, Jonathan Davis, Jake Iser (beats Bill Chase in swimming), Tim Sollers (got to eat dinner at Michael Jackson’s house once), Jacqueline Livingstone (heiress or something to Livingstone Pictures … woo woo).
The title of this book annoys me because we are supposed to believe Liz and Todd never truly stopped loving each other. So how are they in love again?
So who exactly from Sweet Valley gets to be in the Kidd commercials? There’s no mention of that. Maybe that’ll be the sub-plot in the next book … yeahright
Next up: Amy and Ken are hookin’ up and Jess worries Ken will take it too seriously. Because Jess has personal experience with hooking up with him because she has “nothing better to do at the time”, but it’s not okay when anyone else does it. And I love the way that’s the set-up for book 60, and then we’re told the title is THAT FATAL NIGHT. That’s not fair, it gave false hope that Amy would finally get her comeuppance for Regina. THAT’S RIGHT I SAID IT