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

#61 Boy Trouble

LIZ: Aw, Patty, whatever's bothering you, I'm sure my hand can help. PATTY: Really? Odd, that's not what Todd said.

Happy New Year everybody! I regret I don’t have a more exciting book to usher in 2011. Coincidentally, this book was the first of the 90s, and here is the plotline we get: Sweet Valley people acting even more childish than usual. I mean, check out this title for starters; Boy Trouble is about as unimaginative and bland as they come for a teen series. In fact I think it’s better suited for something preteen like Sweet Valley Twins or Camp Sunnyside Friends. (Does anyone say preteen anymore? I think the popular lingo is tween but I hate that word! Sounds like someone tried to say “teen” with a mouthful of peanut butter!) It’s not even about Boy Trouble so much as it is about People Trouble or Dumbass Trouble or Tendency to Overreact Trouble. And I truly feel we’ve been overloaded with Liz covers. At least we have our first African American person on the cover. I think Patty is the only black girl who’s mentioned in the series on a semi-regular basis. And she has to share the cover with stupid Elizabeth, wouldn’t you know! If you look at Liz’s hand there, it oddly seems to have been painted the same color as Patty’s skin!

Liz doesn’t even appear in this book that much; she shows up in a few scenes to give Patty advice, since Patty’s own best friend DeeDee Gordon sucks at it, I guess. Liz is doing a new “Personal Profiles” feature in the Oracle that puts a new senior student on the front page every few weeks, and she’s chosen Patty for her first victimsubject. (I guess I forgot Patty is a senior.) So that puts Liz in an oh-so-convenient spot to bnose into Patty’s effing business. We get multiple nauseating sentences about what a caring friend Liz is, how wise she is, how amazing her advice is, bla bla bla like usual!

So what is Patty’s problem? Well, she’s been dating Jim Hollis for over two years; they double date with boring old DeeDee and her boyfriend Bill Chase a lot. Jim is a freshman at Pacific College which is said to be two hours from Sweet Valley. Wasn’t Sweet Valley College also supposed to be two hours away? Or five minutes, or 45 minutes, or an hour, depending on what book you’re reading. Maybe they base these estimates on who’s driving.

Patty is excited because Jim is finally coming home for his first weekend in about a month. He’s been MIA a lot lately; they used to talk on the phone every night, but now Patty can never reach him. But then Patty’s parents announce that her older sister Jana, who’s 21, is coming for her first visit in six months that very same weekend. She’ll want to spend all her time with the family, so Patty is suddenly not allowed to see Jim or something. I don’t get it. Can’t he just hang out with them on and off and then come to visit again the next weekend? Patty tries to explain everything to Jim who throws a fit and they have the dumbest fight EVER. Patty thinks that Jim would probably rather date other girls but isn’t saying so, especially since he’s always missing from his dorm room. It seems like they might’ve broken up during the fight, but Patty isn’t sure and neither am I. Patty is devastated either way, and she comes home expecting to tell Jana all about it. But while Jana has indeed arrived home, she’s brought a man with her … her new fiance. He’s an Air Force man named Ted Brewster, and it’ll be a short engagement … because the wedding’s in two weeks. And then they’re moving to West Germany immediately afterwards hence the reason for the quickie wedding. (No shotguns here.) Damn, that was fast. Her family had never even met or heard of Ted prior to the engagement announcement.

Jana is so wrapped up in the wedding planning that she has no time to listen to Patty and gives her the brush-off whenever Patty tries. So Patty is reduced to calling DeeDee, who convinces her to do a friendly double “date” with her and Bill and Bill’s friend from Santa Monica, Craig McCaffrey, at Guido’s. Craig is funny and makes Patty laugh, but she has no other interest in him. Then they all go see a tearjerker movie that mirrors Patty’s current situation. Patty sniffles and thinks about how she’ll call Jim to make up as soon as she gets home. But when the lights come up, Craig sees her crying and gives her a friendly hug … at the same time Jim comes up the aisle and sees it. Jim himself is with another chick who looks awfully close to him. Jim and Patty are pissed at one another, and go home and have another fight about it over the phone and break up, for real this time.

Liz interviews Patty for the stupid newspaper profile, and convinces her to go to Jim’s and make up. After all, Patty can’t be sure that the girl Jim was with was anything more than a friend, especially since we already know Jim made the wrong assumption about Patty and Craig. But when Patty goes by Jim’s house, he’s in the yard with that same other girl, tossing a Frisbee around. Patty drives home bawling. Jana couldn’t care less; she’s all about her wedding planning and is really abrupt and self-absorbed. Patty never tells her that she and Jim are over, but clearly something is wrong and Jana does know that they had a fight. Patty finally gets upset and yells at Jana about how little she cares about her dumb wedding. Jana is really hurt and yells back that she doesn’t want Patty to be her maid of honor anymore and storms out of the room. Holy shit, the melodrama in the Gilbert family is a little crazy.

Patty’s mom comes in to her room one morning to talk to her and tell her that she’d better make up with Jana because Jana is about to ask their cousin Tracy – a junior at SVH – to be her maid of honor instead. Patty is all, F off Mom, GOD! And refuses to make up with Jana or even attend the wedding, EVEN THOUGH she knows not going will make her mother cry. My mom would probably just force me to be the maid of honor anyway, but I guess Mrs. Gilbert is nicer than that, or something. God, Patty is being such a selfish twat though. Just go to the damn wedding! It’s your sister! I mean, did she murder your boyfriend, or did she just seem rather full of herself? I’ve never gotten that family drama where people refuse to attend a wedding as punishment for some dumb tiff or another. One time my friend had like 15 relatives refuse to show up at her wedding because they were mad at her mom for something totally unrelated to my friend, that was silly anyway. I mean, for real? Oh shit, I’m going off on personal stuff again. Uh, so Patty goes on feeling miserable and not talking to Jim (who’s back at school) and going out of her way to avoid Jana, who storms out of the room whenever Patty appears anyway. The Gilbert household is sure a fun place to be right now.

Oh don’t be afraid, there is a happy ending. I know you guys were really worried. Elizabeth figures out that the chick Jim was hanging around is his cousin Monica, who was in town to show her designs at the Sweet Valley craft fair. Jessica bought some earrings from her there. (See the sub-plot for more on the stupid fair.) So Liz goes to the Gilberts’ house and tells Patty, who’s relieved that Monica is a relative, but still figures Jim doesn’t want anything to do with her since she can never reach him. She figures she was too mean and he’s really done with her and ready to date other girls anyway. Well, it’s true that he’s probably out drying his tears with some hot co-ed’s hastily discarded panties, Patty dear.

Jana needs a ride to the bridal shop for her dress fitting and has no choice but to ask Patty for help. Patty winds up missing her dance lesson to see Jana try on the dress, and they cry and make up and admit they’ve both been acting like complete juveniles. Jana isn’t worried about cousin Tracy being upset that she can’t be maid of honor now, because Tracy didn’t want to take Patty’s place anyway. Then Patty shows Jana a letter she wrote to Jim explaining herself, but is too big of a wimp to mail it. Jana mails it for her with an explanation and an invitation for Jim to come to her wedding and make things right. When she calls Mrs. Hollis to get Jim’s address, she learns that Jim is off at a two-week-long geological class in the mountains and that’s why Patty never heard from him or could reach him. So what about all the times leading up to that class? And you’d think he would’ve just mentioned this class to Patty ahead of time, or explained it to her when she yelled about him seeing other people. DIAGNOSIS: SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE ALREADY.

Jana and Ted have their wedding rehearsal dinner at the Valley Inn. Ted’s best man, Marshall Borden, gives a toast and Patty notices that Ted isn’t even listening, and then he checks his watch and runs out of the Inn right in the middle of it. Wow, that’s really rude. If I were Marshall I would be pissed. And you know they didn’t tell him what was going on ahead of time or he would’ve just delayed his toast a bit or given it earlier! Patty is convinced this means Ted is a cheating asshole or something, or at least not the man Jana thinks he is. Right, he ran out of his own rehearsal dinner because he had to go meet his other woman behind the Valley Inn dumpster. In reality, Ted was going to pick up Jim from the bus stop. He got the letter and came down from the mountains. And he does come to Jana’s wedding the next day, where Patty sees him as she marches to the altar in her rather prissy-sounding bridesmaid dress. Patty and Jim make up and cry all over each other and Patty seems to think she was wrong to question why Jim was never around at school and why he couldn’t just explain about Monica and the geological course ahead of time. I hope this is the end of all their stupid drama, but I doubt it … we have too many books left in the series.

The sub-plot involves another dumb Jessica scheme. She’s bored with all the boys at school, of course, and looking for a hot older man. She runs into DeeDee at the Valley Mall crafts fair, and DeeDee asks Jessica if she could watch her booth for five minutes so she can grab some lunch. DeeDee is selling some artistic T-shirts she painted and they are all the rage. They sound like those giant tees a lot of people wore in the late 80s/early 90s, you know, the ones with the fabric paint and tiny mirrors on them, the ones you had to secure at your hip with one of those special twisty clip thangs. Jessica reluctantly agrees to sit at the booth even though she can’t stand DeeDee. While she’s there, a man in his late 20s comes up and introduces himself as Vincent Delano, co-owner of the new Blue Parrot art store. He’s impressed with the shirt designs and wants to cut a deal to sell them. Jessica thinks Vincent is hot, so she goes ahead and pretends to be the designer, and gives him her number. She isn’t worried about the ruse because she’s sure Vincent is just interested in dating her, a 16-year-old who giggles and bats her eyelashes, and that he’s only pretending to be interested in the shirts so he has an excuse to get her number. Well, why not just say they aren’t yours and give him your number anyway then?

Vincent calls Jess a few days later wanting to set up a time to show the shirts to his partner, Cassie. DeeDee sold all of the shirts, so Jess doesn’t have any to bring to the meeting to pass off as her own. So she decides she’s going to make some new ones herself. Oh this is rich. She barges in on DeeDee and Patty’s lunch table and demands to know where DeeDee gets her paint supplies because she’s decided she wants to make shirts too. DeeDee is completely stunned because of course Jess never told her about Vincent, so she doesn’t know what the fuck is going on or why Jess is so desperate to copy off of her all of a sudden. After Jessica leaves, DeeDee laughs to Patty about how in art class last year, Jessica tried to sculpt a bust of Charlie Markus and it looked awful. But Jessica buys the paints and makes some shirts with landscape art that of course turn out completely hideous. When she shows them to Vincent and Cassie at the Blue Parrot, they are stunned and Jessica acts offended. Finally she’s forced to admit that she isn’t the real artist, and Vincent calls DeeDee and asks to sell the shirts and DeeDee’s whole day has just been made. Well, bully for you Dee. I’m not feeling particularly enthused by this storyline.

Here’s a part I don’t get. After all of the above happens, Jessica sees Patty wearing one of DeeDee’s shirts and almost passes out in shock … why? I’m confused. Who cares? Isn’t everyone supposed to be wearing DeeDee’s shirts? At first I thought it would turn out to be one of Jessica’s ugly shirts that Patty wore as a joke – maybe to let Jess know that Dee found out the truth from Vincent – but nope. So weird.

WTF? So these books seem to be getting lamer and lamer all the time. I believe the 50s ushered in an era of stories that focus on random secondary characters and their pithy problems.

Even the font in this book is whacked out, at least on the cover by-line, and then on the inside front page where the excerpt is. I find it weird, like the editor decided to mix shit up for a change.

I don’t get all these couples that consist of one college boy and one Sweet Valley High girl. How do these things last? When I think about my college days, the last thing I would’ve wanted was some underage boy waiting back at home for me, whining that I spend too many weekends partying elsewhere instead of trekking back to my hometown over and over! (Kudos to you if you made such a thing work in real life, but I never could.)

Have some history: maybe 10 months after this book was released, West and East Germany became one, dating this book rather quickly. But West Germany is mostly referred to as just “Germany” in this book. At this time it was published, the Berlin Wall was already being torn down.

Jessica tries on some earrings at the crafts fair that sound exactly like the ones she used to make (in book 51, Against the Odds) but says they aren’t her style. I guess they brought back some bad memories for her!

Elizabeth totally misrepresents her past with Nicholas Morrow to Patty! She tells her about the date they went on (in book 14, Deceptions) like this: “[Todd] saw me in a restaurant with another guy, Nicholas Morrow. Nicholas and I are very close friends, and that’s it. Still, it looked suspicious to Todd, and he assumed the worst.” WOW. Love how she conveniently leaves out how she pretended to be Jessica when Todd saw them, because she’d been sneaking around on Todd for some time and hiding the date from him, and how they broke up over it later. And I wouldn’t say they are only “very close friends” seeing as how Liz ran right back to Nicholas the second she thought Todd had dumped her when he left for Vermont! Liz is so full of shit!

Elizabeth, of course, isn’t the only delusional twin although she usually takes the cake in that department. Jessica thinks to herself that she still dislikes DeeDee for “snapping up Bill Chase before she herself got a fair shot at him.” Um, if leading the poor lovelorn boy on for weeks on end while you date Tom McKay isn’t a fair shot then I don’t know what is.

Jessica turns down a date with Jim Daley. I think that’s really weird to have two different Jims in one book. (Jim was previously mentioned in #39, Secret Admirer, where Jessica initially broke their date for John Karger.) Here it says he took her to a dance “once” – it wasn’t that dance, because then Jessica found another college boy to go with after John was a no-go.

There is no mention of Ken Matthews or how his eyes are doing!

Lila is almost entirely absent from this book, so it sucks doubly bad for that.

Coming up next: Jessica is foaming at the mouth to find a man in this town she hasn’t already blown at Miller’s Point! Good luck with that!

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Comments on: "#61 Boy Trouble" (1)

  1. pibetaalpha said:

    Love the delicate dry-clean-only “blouses” that the girls were always wearing to school.

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