A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some

Archive for January, 2011

#66 Who’s to Blame?

Who's to Blame for what? Me ruining this book with involuntarily-expelled vomit? That would be your fault Liz, yes.

When this book came out, I laughed at the cover because it was so ridiculous looking, not to mention such an obvious rip-off of Runaway. Liz looks rather pretty here, which I HATE to admit, but she definitely lacks Jessica’s runaway chic look. A real runaway wouldn’t wear dumb white plastic barrettes from 1983. Come on, those things HAVE to be out of style by this point.

Anyway, my used, first printing (July 1990) copy of this book still looks brand new, as in, just pulled off the store shelf new. So that should tell you right away that this is going to be shit, if the original owner couldn’t even be bothered to read this.

When we left off, Alice had left the family’s Lake Tahoe weekend vacation a few hours early, despite Ned’s threats of divorce and aspiring mayor-dom. Now it’s fast forward a few weeks or something. Ned is packing his shit and moving out. He’s got an apartment of his own, and yep, he’s really running for mayor of Sweet Valley. Liz thinks this must be some kind of nightmare. Well, it definitely is.

As soon as Ned leaves, the whole family gets thrown into complete chaos. Just trying to recap it all makes me get a migraine, so I’m going to try to break it down by family member. So let’s start with Mrs. Alice Wakefield. She keeps blaming herself for what happened because she’s been working too much on her big mall expansion project. SO FUCKING WHAT? Are people not allowed to take on major work projects every once in a while? Your douche husband could have been a wee tad more supportive and not moved out on you in retaliation!

Ned is … suddenly calmer and more rational and logical, and less poutyish and babyish than he was in the last book. You know, I think this trial separation is doing him good. Oh, but he’s still being a shit parent, and still running for mayor. There’s almost zero talk of how that’s going in this book and I couldn’t really give much of a fuck, so let’s move on.

Steven starts coming home from college all the time. Jessica makes a lot of snide remarks about it and they get into huge fights. Jessica blames Alice for the separation and Steve seems to think it’s Ned’s fault, or something, and whenever Liz tries to referee everything explodes. I have to say reading dozens of pages comprised solely of Wakefield arguments is not very fun for me.

Elizabeth is convinced the separation is really her fault. If only she hadn’t given Julia the number of the inn at Lake Tahoe! Yes, because they were getting along so well before that shit went down. But of course “sensitive” Liz gets extremely depressed over what’s happened to her family and turns into a whiny “oh, nothing’s wrong” type chick. She keeps fucking up her school and homework assignments, royally. But about that whole family splitting apart at the seams thing that she’s going through – no one cares … seriously, no one. Okay, well Enid is only too happy to take Liz into her room and shut the door and snuggle her real close while she cries, but Enid exists only to worship Liz anyway so that doesn’t count. Seriously, there’s a scene in here where Enid wraps her arms around Liz and gets real close to her soft, wet … tear-ridden face! What did you think I was going to say, you sickos! Get your minds out of the gutter! So that’s Enid, but everyone else? Don’t give a shit. Everyone seems to already know that the Wakefields split up, and you think that would be the hot topic at school especially with gossipymouth bitches like Caroline and Amy lurking about, but I guess not. Todd keeps asking Liz what’s wrong even though he can easily guess, then he gets mad when Liz would rather chill with her mom than go see one of her favorite singers at the Palace nightclub downtown. Todd is seriously mad for most of the book because Liz is sad about her family, but never offers to talk to her about it or anything. Finally, Liz decides she and Todd would be better off breaking up. The fact that her family is having a trial separation means that true love can’t possibly exist and she should just dump Todd and get it over with now. Well Liz, yes you should, but that’s not why. It’s because the two of you cause me and my remaining brain cells much despair. So Liz breaks up with Todd and he is completely dumbfounded and shocked that they are really ending things over this. Wow, you guys never broke up before? I could’ve sworn you had. Crazy. The second Amy Sutton hears Todd is single, she orgasms all over herself and bugs him to go out with her. Thinking of his personal health, he turns her down and hangs out with some sophomore named Allison instead.

Liz starts dressing and acting more like Jessica because somehow playing the field is going to help her get over Todd and learn not to love anyone. Cry me a river Liz. I know this has to be a really scary time, but I can’t feel any sympathy for her at all. Anyway, this time around, being like Jessica means wearing miniskirts to school and dating three boys in one week, none of which we have ever heard of before that I can think of: a hot senior named Paul Jeffries with a bad reputation, a junior named Steve Anderson, and a cute new redhead from Texas, John Campbell. I think she should really liven shit up and go after Jeffrey and A.J. Morgan!!! We don’t get to see her on the dates, thank God. I don’t really want to read a scene of Liz bawling about her parents in the backseat while giving Paul Jeffries a handjob although I guess all those tears make convenient lube. Yes, I just said that. Jessica is concerned about Liz getting a “reputation” because she went on four dates in one week or something. Privately she’s just jealous because her own dating life sucks ass lately, and she’s angry that Liz is dressing like her and getting all the hot single boys. She points out to Liz that even Amy Sutton thinks she’s dating too much and you know it’s bad when AMY thinks you’re easy. BURN.

Eventually Jessica totally loses her shit because she’s tired of Liz being “preachy” (nailed it) and trying to moderate fights between her and Steven. It doesn’t help that Jess thought Paul Jeffries was going to ask her out when he really just thought she was Liz because they were dressed the same. So Jess exposes the truth about how Liz gave Alice’s work the Lake Tahoe number, right in the middle of a sibling screaming fight. Steven is appalled at Liz but still insists that the split is not her fault. Liz doesn’t believe him, and here we have our breaking point where “Elizabeth is running away!” Are you ready for this?

She meets Enid at Box Tree Cafe with a duffel bag and says she’d heading to either her cousin Jenny’s in Dallas or her grandparents’ house in Michigan, but she has no set plan for how to do this. Enid convinces her to come stay with her instead. Enid and her mom cajole her into telling her family where she is, but she doesn’t want to call them, nor does she want them to know that she’s at Enid’s specifically, because then they might come get her. So she types out a letter saying she’s at a nameless friend’s house for a while, and has Enid drop a copy off at both her father’s pad and at Ye Olde Wakefield Homestead on Calico Drive and basically do a ring-the-doorbell and run away. Man, Liz can make Enid do ANYTHING for her. Everyone gets the letters just as they’re starting to wonder what’s taking Liz so long to get home. Then they run around trying to figure out which friend she’s with … gee, think real hard, which one could it possibly be? Alice and Ned act remarkably calm about the whole thing compared to the juvenile arguments they were having in the last book. Enid’s line is busy because Liz deliberately left it off the hook, but they figure out she’s there anyway, and Liz goes home the next day … some runaway. Jessica sort-of apologizes for being a bitch to her sister, and that’s that. But the parents still aren’t together although now they’re talking like they separated to work things out calmly rather than um, because Ned threatened Alice with divorce if she left their family vacation to do work. Liz and Todd aren’t together yet either, so Jess decides to fix things before he gives up and goes ahead and catches VD from Amy. Jess dresses at Liz, gets Todd to meet her at Secca Lake, apologies for breaking up with him, has Steve bring Liz to listen in, and then has them switch places as Liz cries with relief at hearing Todd say he loves her … because fucking wimp Liz couldn’t just go tell him she was sorry herself, so a typical stupid twin switch plot had to be involved.

Jessica’s runaway story was a thousand times better than this bullshit.

The sub-plot is about what a scandalous bitch Jessica Wakefield is and how horrible she is to her family. I guess we’re supposed to think this is her way of coping with the separation. Give me a break. First of all, she’s really happy about her parents’ split because she has all these fantasies of her dad becoming mayor and being away all the time and leaving her alone in the mayoral mansion to throw parties, and buying her lots of shit like Lila Fowler’s dad. And she also couldn’t care less that the rest of the family is generally miserable and upset. Mememe, all the time.

Alice finds out about the huge bill Jess ran up on the teen party line in the last book and tries to discipline her for it and so Jessica runs off crying to Ned about how she had to use the line because they were fighting and it made her upset, which of course is a carefully rehearsed lie. So Ned says that’s too harsh and yells at Alice for daring to make Jessica pay the 300+ dollars herself and they fight about that. Then Jessica further guilt-trips her father into handing her a bunch of money to buy herself an expensive new outfit to wear on her first date with Charlie Ryan, the kid from the party line in the last book. Jessica is terrible, I hate her. But yeah, Charlie Ryan meets Jessica at the roller skating rink (haha) and is horribly boring, not at all like the Charlie she knows from over the phone. But hey, he is really cute. After the disastrously boring date she’s ready to forget about him though, until he calls and is his normal dynamic self over the phone again. So they go on date #2, to eat sushi and he is a dour windbag again. Jessica refuses to see him again knowing that it will take her a full year to even get to first base with this dude, but winds up calling the teen party line to ask the kids on there what’s going on with Charlie, because she thinks he’s hot enough that it would be a shame not to figure out what’s going on. Sara is on the teen line but Charlie isn’t. Sara says that she and Charlie have been making nice since Jessica stopped talking to him, finally. She tells Jessica that Charlie told her he had his cute friend Brook Atkins impersonate him in person because he was sure Jessica wouldn’t think the real Charlie was attractive enough. So how does Jessica resolve all this? Well, she needs a date for the upcoming Pi Beta Alpha costume party, and so does Amy since she can’t get her mitts on Todd, and so she offers to set both Brook and Charlie up for dates. She’ll take Brook to the costume party, and Amy will go with the real Charlie who’s not so hot, but both boys will be so infatuated with Jessica anyway that Amy will be totally humiliated. That’s right, Jessica thinks Brook is horribly dull (and well, he really is) and stodgy but hey he’s hot so he’ll do for her date. And Charlie is witty and funny but already said he’s not as attractive as Brook, so she’d rather Charlie go with Amy, whom she’s mad at for trying to date Todd so soon after Liz broke up with him.

Jess dresses as an intergalatic princess or something for the party, and puts tinfoil in her hair and wears a silver cape. Amy is such a dumbass she wears her own cheerleader outfit to the party and walks around with her pom-poms giggling. Okay I’m sorry, does Amy not sound like a perfect porn star or what? Look out Bree Olsen, Amy Sutton is here. But surprise! Charlie isn’t really that bad looking, and he’s hilarious. And he thinks Amy’s costume is supposed to be some kind of satirical take on cheerleading or something? Even Brook is more interested in stupid Amy. So Jessica’s plan backfires as both boys spend the evening ogling Amy and she vows to make them sorry when her dad is mayor. I despise both girls so much at this point that I don’t care about any of this shit or who wronged who.

Seriously, this book was awful. All the books lately are. This book made me think fondly of The New Elizabeth for fuck’s sake. So Who’s really to Blame? Me, for doing this to myself.

What the fuck? Here are the costumes Todd thought he and Liz should wear to the costume party: Batman and Cat Woman, King and Queen of Hearts, a set of bookends. One of these things is not like the other, because one of these things should by all rights get someone’s ass beat after school.

Jessica snidely asks Steven, “Don’t you have a dorm room anymore? I thought you were supposed to be so big and grown-up now.” and a couple of chapters later, “Aren’t you getting kind of worried they might kick you out of school if you don’t spend time there?” Wow Jess, way to catch up to the rest of us.

Can I say, it’s awfully funny how Ned thought it was a good idea to walk out on his wife, just as he declared his candidacy for mayor. And he’s already got close connections to the disgraced candidate who supposedly took bribes. Yep, this race is just a shoo-in.

Coming up next … Will Mr. Wakefield win the mayoral race? Will he and Alice get back together? Will I survive the suspense? Unfortunately, the answer to the last question is yes! See you then.


Super Star #2 Bruce’s Story

Bruce's Story? More like Bruce's BORE-Y! HAAAAAAAA

This book was such a huge letdown! I was hoping it would perk me back up after the horrible experience of suffering through Trouble at Home, but nope, even Bruce’s story was shockingly boring! And half the time it centered on Roger anyway! I’m almost looking forward to reading about Liz running away in Who’s to Blame? … now, please pretend I didn’t just admit that.

So I know everyone is wondering what happened to Roger Barrett Patman since he and Olivia broke up almost 20 books ago and he dropped off the face of the earth. Well, he’s STILL adjusting to life in the Patman mansion, even though he’s been there since book 16, but he and Bruce are getting along better since the days of Perfect Summer. He’s still smarting a bit from his painful breakup with Olivia and it looks like they don’t talk anymore. Instead, he hangs around with his “old friend” Ken Matthews (what? since when are they good friends at all let alone “old friends”. Remember when Olivia was his only friend?). He also has a new “just friends” chick, a sophomore girl named Lisa DePaul. Hey hey hey, it’s our fifth individual chick named Lisa in this series! I’m sorry, y’all know how I am about name redundancy.

Bruce is still convinced he is the best thing on planet Earth and Roger is in reluctant awe of him. Groan. The boys’ Grandfather Patman, Alexander, is coming to visit soon for his 70th birthday party. This is apparently the man who made the Patman fortune and he is supposed to be terrifying. Roger has never met Grandfather Patman, but Bruce is doing an excellent job getting him super nervous about it. When Grandfather Patman arrives – can I just call him Alexander? – he gets to work giving all kinds of lectures about working out, getting up early, making good grades, paying attention to business trends, and not taking all their riches for granted. Bruce catches hell for running into something and scratching the Porsche (while craning his neck to look at a girl he likes), breaking a glass, and hinting that he wants a new Windsurfer, and Roger catches hell for not knowing what’s going on in the Patmans’ business. Alexander tells Roger all about his late father Paul and how great he was, which makes Bruce mad because he thinks hearing about his dead uncle is boring and they should talk about him instead. This in turn sparks arguments and resentment between the cousins about who’s getting yelled at for what, or something. This part of the book isn’t terribly interesting, but at least it’s peppered with hysterical Bruce quotes like, For just a minute, he was reminded that there was nothing better in the world than being Bruce Patman, and “You’re wounding me, wounding me deeply. But if you have to put things in such crude terms, the truth is I wouldn’t mind asking you a tiny favor.” That last one comes about because Bruce has become obsessed with a girl in his class named Tracy Atkins. He’s been basically stalking her and when he figures out that Tracy is best friends with Lisa, he gets Roger to have Lisa invite Tracy to Alexander’s party. What the fuck, this 70 year old really wants all these young chicks he doesn’t know at his family birthday party? Is he Hugh Hefner?

The PTA asks Sweet Valley High to elect a representative from each class to help raise the money to save the Nicholson School for special needs kids. Wait, isn’t Bruce the student council president who works directly with the PTA? Why didn’t he know about this SAVE shit ahead of time? Maybe he was impeached. Anyway, I’ll give you one guess who is elected the junior class rep! That’s right, we’re going to be hearing more from Liz than we bargained for in this book. And Liz is, of course, completely shocked she’s been elected to do this job. Are you kidding me? First of all, who the hell else would want to do it and second of all, she’s an idiot if she really thought she wouldn’t get it. She’s like a beauty queen pretending to be surprised and bawling at winning the the pageant when her competition is hideous. Then the other SAVE reps elect Liz to lead their whole committee. Oh, Lisa is the sophomore rep and Tracy is the senior rep. Talk about your convenient plot devices.

Bruce starts trying to impress Tracy. She has no clue who he is and when he explains he’s Bruce Patman, she’s like, “Oh. Gotta run.” I’m delighted by this until it turns out that Tracy is secretly in awe that Bruce likes her. Oh, for fuck’s sake. Bruce and Roger start hanging out at all the SAVE meetings. Then Henry and Marie Patman announce they’re going to Japan for a month (or “the Far East” as they put it) and leaving the boys behind to be watched by Grandfather Patman. Poor Alexander, I am sure he doesn’t want to babysit two bratty spoiled teenage boys, but he goes for it. And, as a revenge tactic (or so I believe), he decides to set up a little competition between Roger and Bruce. Each boy has to turn in all their credit cards, checkbooks, and cash and they’ll get 2000 bucks from Alexander in return. The boys have a month to make the most of the cash and whoever has more at the end of the month is the winner – of the Patman Corporation, in Alexander’s will, which will go to the winner after his son Henry dies. WHOA WHOA, stop – isn’t it up to Henry then, to decide who gets the corporation after he dies? What the fuck? Can you dictate the will that far down the line? (I don’t know anything about wills – maybe it’s like a condition you can include in there – good to know I can dictate what happens to something for eons after I’m dead if I feel like it!) Each boy must swear to keep the competition a secret from everyone else until the night of the “big reveal” which just makes it all the easier for Bruce to manipulate it to his advantage.

The rest of the book is a total snoozefest! Bruce continues to stalk Tracy. He spends all his money taking Tracy out. At one point he buys some tickets for a band called “Starfest” for 50 bucks each – a bargain today if you ask me – only to find Tracy can’t go. Oh, and he has to fix his Porsche after he runs it into some lady’s Camaro. Yes, that means he wrecks his car twice in this book. He’s thinking about Tracy each time. Then he ends up pissing several hundred dollars away at his friend Judd Phipps’ poker game. Roger, meanwhile, decides the key to success is to invest 15 grand in the stock market. The stock broker is Lisa’s dad and so he does a couple of things for Roger he wouldn’t normally do for anyone else. Now, I know jack shit about stocks but I think both of these actions are illegal or at least highly unethical. First Mr. DePaul agrees to buy Roger’s stock for him since Roger isn’t 18. That’s right, the stockbroker bought the stock for his underage client. Then he gets information that the company in question is going to crash so he calls Roger to let him in on it … not any of his other clients, just Roger. Wow … Roger, the next Martha Stewart?

Both boys are hurting bad with all the money they lost until Harbor Days comes around. You see, Sweet Valley has a harbor! And the SAVE kids are going to set up booths with things to sell to raise money for the Nicholson School. Each booth gets to keep 50 percent of the profits with the other 50 percent going to the school. Tracy is very excited because it’s personal for her: her little brother Jeremy is a student at the school. Tracy actually thinks Bruce gives a shit and doesn’t get why everyone keeps warning her away from him. So Tracy is an idiot. Oh, and there’s a gag-inducing makeout scene with them at Miller’s Point. You know, at first I thought Tracy was cool for making Bruce wait to take her out for so long, but then it turns out she just had never had a boyfriend. Why is it that every chick who’s never dated before in these books is made out to be a complete naive idiot? Regina, Julie, Tracy … I could go on.

Roger decides to sell plain white baseball caps at his booth, which he will spray paint to your specifications. That sounds … hideous. Roger is keeping his plan of action a secret from everyone but Lisa. But Bruce gets Tracy to ask Lisa about Roger’s plan so that he can “help” him out, and Tracy asks and Lisa tells her and … bluuuuugh. These girls are complete morons. Bruce switches Roger’s waterproof paint with water-soluble paint, then pays some little kid from the country club to start a water balloon fight near the booth. Haha, stupid Ronnie “Smallfry” Edwards gets his hat ruined and paint drips all over him. All the other kids are then mad about their own caps and they all come back to the booth demanding their money back. Meanwhile, Bruce is selling his own book, The Bruce Patman Guide to Dating which is full of his totally arrogant dating tips and stories about chicks he’s been with. It’s a hit! Get this, Tracy helped him put it together after he initially thought he should sell the names and phone numbers of chicks he’s gone out with. And she still thinks he’s a nice guy.

The second day of Harbor Days is coming and the boys have a chance to make more money. Bruce gets a homemade ice cream recipe from Tracy’s grandma and makes tons of it, which he stores in the Patmans’ basement freezer. He’s so afraid Roger will ruin it in retaliation that he sleeps in the basement with it. Roger does sneak downstairs and Bruce sees him, but instead of hurting it Roger walks away because his mama always told him not to play dirty. Bruce is stunned that Roger didn’t do anything to the ice cream when he had the chance.

Tracy finally gets a clue about Bruce when Lisa tells her about Bruce fucking up Roger’s caps in order to win the competition. Tracy is pissed but still needs to verify that Bruce is an asshole for herself … um, well just do a survey of every other girl in the school. So the second day of Harbor Days is coming up and Tracy knows that Roger is working with Jim Roberts (Shelly Novak’s boyfriend) to sell some portraits of kids in school and shit like that. She told Bruce about it before she realized what a dick he is. She follows Bruce around and listens to him ask a clerk at the store about how photo paper works. Then she trails him onto the Patman estate – I guess they don’t have guard dogs or security systems – and spies as he goes into the gardener’s shed and prepares to rip open Roger’s stacks of photo paper, which would of course expose them to the light and ruin them. Instead of stopping Bruce, she runs off crying. She realizes Bruce was using her to get information out of Roger. Duh. Meanwhile, Bruce can’t bring himself to ruin the photo paper and so he walks out of the shed, but Tracy doesn’t see that part, if you still give a crap.

Okay, here’s the end because even though I have a giant mug of coffee right next to me, I feel like I need a nap. Bruce and Roger sell tons of photos and ice cream at the fair, but Bruce doesn’t turn in his 50 percent right away which further pisses Tracy off. Tracy avoids Bruce for days and finally tells him off. He explains the competition to her, and says that although he wanted to ruin Roger’s photos, he just couldn’t because he realized it was wrong (especially after Roger wouldn’t ruin his ice cream) and he’d just have to lose out on the will to Roger. Tracy accepts his explanation but says that her perception of him is still forever changed, and she just wants to be friends now. Bruce is sad but agrees. Then the SAVE committee find two envelopes full of cash anonymously donated at two different places. Each envelope has almost a thousand dollars in it and it’s enough to save the Nicholson School. Neither has any idea who it could be … gee, I wonder who donated that much money. Marie and Henry Patman return from Japan (or “the Orient” or “the Far East” hahaha … why do they keep calling Japan by these names in the Super Star books) and throw a big party to announce the winner of the inheritance. Bruce and Roger hand their envelopes over to Alexander on stage and they are both empty. They explain they donated all the money to the school, and at first Alexander is enraged but then Henry points out the wonderful lesson the boys have learned. Yes, I’m sure Bruce is forever changed by this. The Patman Corporation becomes the benefactor of the Nicholson School to ensure it will never close. Tracy is delighted that Bruce donated one of the envelopes of money but keeps on calling him “friend” because now she knows what type of guy Bruce is. Attagirl, Tracy. And Roger and Lisa do NOT get together which I think is noteworthy because the second Lisa showed up, I assumed that’s what would happen. Nope, they really are just friends. I kind of want to applaud the ghost writers for allowing people to stay single without inferring that something is wrong with them. Needless to say, Roger and Bruce are friends again. They even challenge each other to a friendly swimming race and the book ends on the corniest note possible with them fake-arguing about who’s better or some shit. Hurrrrrrrr

I do have to say one thing about this book. It doesn’t try to shy away from the fact that Bruce is an ass, like the first Super Star didn’t try to make us think that Lila was really a saint just suffering from Absent Daddy Syndrome. Bruce isn’t really redeemed in the end, he just gives his money over to the school in an “oh fuck it all” gesture. Or at least that’s what I got out of it. At this point I was racing to finish it as fast as I could because I was very very bored. Oh, and in the end I think Alexander tries to say that he hopes Bruce will share the inheritance with Roger or something. Yeah, okay, that’s going to happen.

I don’t get how a book about Bruce wound up being so unbearable. His thoughts still amuse me, especially since he’s every bit as egotistical as you would think; he’s genuinely surprised each time Tracy doesn’t seem impressed with him. But I think if we really got inside his head this would end up being an adult novel in the Black Lace line (UK erotica) rather than a YA series book. And I would’ve really liked to hear some of his thoughts about the girls he’s hurt in the past … Lila, Liz, Jess, Amy, REGINA anyone? But his meanness and seduction techniques are on mute really. I don’t know if we’re supposed to think he’s come a long way since he used his strong tennis wrists in an attempt to threaten Liz into giving it up to him … or if the ghostwriter just didn’t want to get into it. Either way, it doesn’t make for good reading.

Finally, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would LOVE to read the real Bruce Patman Guide to Dating!!!

This cover: Bruce is wearing eyeliner. I believe he’s also tweezed a uni-brow and perhaps gotten some mascara on his upper eyelids. He is apparently doing a modeling shoot for GQ. He is the spitting image of a young Patrick Muldoon, I swear! If you guys don’t remember who that is, just think of him as the older dude on Saved by the Bell who stole Kelly away from Zack!

What the fuck? This book wouldn’t be complete without some gag-inducing stuff about how perfect the Wakefield twins are! “Tracy had always admired the Wakefield twins. They were a legend at Sweet Valley High because of the contrast between their identical appearance and their vastly different personalities.” Yes, I know it’s such a shock that people actually have individual traits, get over it already! And then this: “Tracy had always wanted to get to know the twins better. She hoped that being a rep for the SAVE fund would make that possible.” SAVE fund, making dreams come true every day – not for special needs kids, but for your desire to befriend the goddesses of Sweet Valley High. Well Tracy, here is my guide to being permanent friends with a Wakefield: 1) Join Pi Beta Alpha, become a cheerleader, and turn into a complete catty bitch who will go along with any of Jessica Wakefield’s schemes. 2) Develop a problem that needs solving in the near future. It should be too complex for you to discuss with any adults or your friends, but simple enough for a 16-year-old to solve, ideally by telling your parents how to parent you. Walk around Liz Wakefield looking sad and/or run into the nearest bathroom crying whenever you see her looking in your general direction. Be prepared for her to forget you exist once your problem is solved.

Speaking of Wakefields … here’s the obligatory Liz holier-than-thou bullshit for us to rag on. On the first day of Harbor Days, Tracy runs into the twins and Jessica tries to tell her about what a fucker Bruce is. Liz is appalled and apologizes to Tracy for how blunt her sister is. I want to smack Liz over the head with a Bruce Patman Guide to Dating and remind her of all the bullshit Bruce has done to her, her sister, and pretty much all their friends. That’s Liz … refusing to meddle when it would actually help somebody.

There’s also some shit in here about how Tracy thinks of Liz and Todd as the perfect couple (or maybe it’s that the whole high school thinks of them as the perfect couple). Dude, WE ARE BEING LIED TO. WHERE’S THE OUTRAGE? WHERE’S THE ACCOUNTABILITY? WHERE’S THE … *thunk* (That’s the sound of my head hitting the table because I just fell asleep trying to give a shit)

In the last few books Jessica has been described as “an active member” of Pi Beta Alpha rather than “the president.” Did something change somewhere and I missed it? I’m confused.

Near the big reveal, Henry Patman’s name abruptly changes to “George.” In fact, Alexander calls him “George” – his own son! Did he get confused and think he was speaking to Mr. Fowler? You’re older than I thought, Alexander.

Amy is still smarting over her former relationship with Bruce. We’re told she feels bad because she was “part of” the reason that Bruce broke up with Regina – you mean all of? And you mean Regina dumped him when she found out by having you two make out pretty much in front of her, right? And also, fuck Amy’s feeling bad. She felt so bad, she kept banging Bruce for like 20 books past the time Regina died.

I’m really curious to know what SAVE stands for. And if it’s not an acronym, why is it in all-caps? Maybe the editor was trying to come up with a clever acronym but was ultimately just like, “Fuck it.”

Cara runs a booth at Harbor Days where you can pay to throw a pie in Steven Wakefield’s face. SIGN ME UP.

New character round-up: Dirk Pierce, the freshman rep for SAVE who somehow appears to be completely absent from the meetings. Judd’s friends at the poker game: Marshall, Rod, Arthur Marks, and Tony Dent (these kids are all from another high school, but it doesn’t say which one).

In the back of the book:COULD YOU BE THE NEXT SWEET VALLEY READER OF THE MONTH? […] Calling all Sweet Valley Fans! Here’s a chance to appear in a Sweet Valley book! We know how important Sweet Valley is to you. That’s why we’ve come up with a Sweet Valley celebration offering exciting opportunities to have YOUR thoughts printed in a Sweet Valley book!” Alright! It’s time to start that awesome new phase in Sweet Valley History, that of the Sweet Valley Reader of the Month! Every month for maybe a year, each new book in the Sweet Valley series (at this point, just High, Twins, and Kids) featured the photo of a Sweet Valley reader on the inside front cover, and a book-report-like essay about how much they love the series in the back. According to this ad, one grand prize winner would be chosen from all the published essayists for a five-day all expenses trip to L.A. Hey, that sounds pretty cool to me. I secretly wanted to enter the contest but wouldn’t have dared because my love of reading was very uncool at the time, and I would’ve been teased mercilessly. What a wimp I was! I wish I had worn my nerd colors loud and proud! (I still haven’t been to L.A., by the way.) Anyway, if you are reading this and you had your essay published or you WON that awesome trip, please contact me! I love hearing from people who won a contest or got to do something really cool like that. I would like to interview the essayists and the ultimate winner by email and publish them on the blog. And of course, if you won any of the other numerous Sweet Valley contests over the years please also contact me! I know I sound mean and possibly loony in this blog but I promise I’m a nice girl in real life so don’t be afraid! You can leave a comment or you can drop me a line at snark.valley AT gmail DOT com.

Coming up next: We find out what’s happened since Alice left the fam, since they had to drag out the suspense and all. I wonder how Liz held up at Harbor Days without bawling all over everyone. Maybe she kept a 40 or two behind her booth.

Enid and Jessica

I was trying to re-organize my SV books last night because they keep falling all over the place. This inevitably lead to me poring over the first 10 or so books all over again. And I happened to flip through some of book 2, Secrets, and came across a tidbit I don’t think I mentioned before. For starters, Jessica has been calling Enid “Eeny Rollins” (the fuck?) and making fun of her right from the get-go in book 1. But in a conversation with Alice in book 2, we learn that Jessica was the one who tried to be Enid’s friend first. But Enid clearly preferred Liz’s company, and Jessica has never gotten over it … hence the real reason for her hatred of “Eeny.” Wow, is this ever mentioned again? In every other book that talks about how Liz and Enid became best friends, I read that Liz met Enid in English class and they instantly bonded. The thought of Jessica trying to be friends with a loser like Enid is hysterical!

Anyway, that’s what’s cool about skimming back through the original books, almost 2 years after I first started this Snark Valley project. Those books mention all kinds of goodies that will later be discounted like they never happened. Some of them really surprised me when I read back over them. Like the following (most of which I already covered in previous entries):

*Lila and Cara both dated Bruce before Jessica, and he dumped them. Lila and Bruce were serious enough that she considers herself an “expert” on him.
*Bruce chose Lila over Jessica in tenth grade!
*Lila once dated Aaron Dallas.
*Winston has known George Warren forever and they’re really good friends.
*John Pfeifer considered taking Annie Whitman out and got ragged on for it by the rest of the track team.
*Liz notes that Cara Walker and John Pfeifer look awfully cozy at the Dairi Burger one day … they’re sharing the “clam special.” LMFAO
*People used to call Ken Matthews “Kenny” – like, on a regular basis. And people called Jessica “Jessie.”
*Lila’s date at Enid’s Sweet 16 was Tom McKay. Cara’s was Ken Matthews. And Jessica decides to set Julie Porter up with Danny Stauffer for same party because they will be “perfect” for each other … what? Really? Is this the same nerdy ass Julie from book 47 who had never even kissed a boy? I seem to recall Jessica had to promise Danny a little somethin’-somethin’ to get him to go out with her even though she had her babysitting charges in tow.
*AND in book 5, Julie Porter goes to a surfing competition with Ken as her date! That is SO weird. I bet Bruce ragged on Ken like crazy for that one.
*Olivia has a cousin named Amy, or something. And she (Olivia) had an unnamed boyfriend who believed in offshore drilling and that pissed her off.
*Other areas around Sweet Valley include Sand Pines and Castle Cove, where all the “college kids” hang out … oooooooh. (That’s where Jess goes with that Scott dude.)
*Annie Whitman used to model. Oh, who hasn’t in this town.
*There is a chick named Heather Morgan in the earliest books who sounds very popular but never has any speaking lines (that I could find) or is mentioned ever again. (Or is she? Maybe she will suddenly reappear many books from now?)
*Enid is the youngest kid in the 11th grade because she skipped a year of high school.
*Enid and Todd had siblings that have since disappeared.
*Steven is named after his father’s dead friend and couldn’t give any less of a shit.
*The Wakefields had just put the pool in the backyard in Double Love, but it exists in all the other earlier SV series, does it not?
*The twins and their friends used to drink alcohol, not soda and orange juice, at their parties. No, really, they did!!!

…Oh, and Lila has a whole other history, don’t forget, with the mystery of her real father and her pining for the love of her life and deep desire to be a tennis pro and all that. I am SO curious if a book was ever written that explored this shit and it just wasn’t released for some reason. What happened to all the SV manuscripts that got rejected? You gotta tell me they’re still out there!

I’m thinkin’ I like the earlier books way better than the ones I’m reading now.

#65 Trouble at Home

Never before has Liz looked so repulsive. Should be called "Trouble at Liz's Face"

My friends, I’m having a hard time coming up with anything worthwhile to say about this book so please have pity on me. You see, this book is about Ned and Alice Wakefield fighting and that should be about all you need to consider when you wonder if you missed out on something big by not reading this back in the day. And if you did read it, and you got more value out of it than I did, then bless your soul because I am hopeless in that department.

See, I have no clue why Francine, or whomever, decided to make not one, but THREE (technically four!) whole books about friction in the Wakefield home. I wondered if it was perhaps to reassure teenagers that fighting and tension are normal in any family. But Francine and crew previously spent so much time showing us that the Wakefields are the gods and goddesses of family harmony that seeing them having so many problems feels really, really awkward, not to mention totally forced and fake. I feel like I did when I was 14 and started dating an older boy and my dad sat me down for a sex talk but couldn’t bring himself to use the word sex. In other words, I want to leave the table NOW and pretend we never had this conversation.

So here are the basics, because I honestly feel there isn’t much of a plotline to cover. Maria’s dad, Peter Santelli, is a respected local politician now running for mayor of Sweet Valley. Wow, that was fast! They just elected a new mayor back in Super Thriller #3! Mr. Santelli is supposed to be the epitome of a good guy while his opponent is portrayed as total slime, or something like that. We never have regular old politicians in Sweet Valley; it’s either super good honest people or total depraved corrupt assholes who will get theirs handed to them in the end, most likely by a 16-year-old blonde do-gooder. (Here I am, predicting how all this bullshit will end already when I don’t get the pleasure of finding out for sure until book 67.) You can’t get away with shit in this town!

Jessica is all about being Maria’s friend because she thinks it would be so cool to know the daughter of the mayor. She makes me sick. Liz does, too, because she’s all thinking about how she’s closer to Maria than Jess and what a fake Jess is. Um, is that true? What the fuck? Since when does Maria hang out with Liz that much except when Winston is around? Jessica is the one who has cheerleading practice with Maria all week! Liz is only interested in being friends with someone when she a) spies an opportunity to play Dr. Phil or b) needs someone other than Todd to talk to (exhibit A: Enid).

Suddenly, someone deposits a large amount of money into Mr. Santelli’s bank account! It came out of nowhere and he can’t explain it! SCANDAL! Everyone is convinced Mr. Santelli is accepting bribes! His good name is ruined and maybe two days later, he’s to stand trial. Things sure move fast in this town. I guess when you have 20 summers per year, it has to work that way. Against his better judgment, Ned takes the case for Peter; Peter is begging him since they’re such good friends (since when?). Ned has major concerns because that’s just not his type of law; he hasn’t done a criminal case in 15 years. Well Ned, thanks for attempting to clear up what type of law it is you do because I’ve been confused. Not that this really helps any. Ned starts working long hours on the case while Alice is already working long hours, trying to secure a contract to expand the Valley Mall. They both aren’t at home much and when they are they either snipe about how the other half shouldn’t be taking on so many hours, or they just privately stew about it. Ned in particular is just golden about storming out of the room and sulking in his room while Alice shakes her head and goes on about her day. You know, they aren’t even working THAT many extra hours that I can tell. Just wait till they enter the 21st century and BlackBerries come into the equation.

The judge dismisses the case against Mr. Santelli because there isn’t enough evidence either way. Peter is devastated that he can’t clear his good name, so he just goes and drops out of the race because his reputation is completely ruined for life. Seriously, what the fuck is going on in this damn town? I hate when these books try to tackle any adult issues like law, politics, catching criminals or marriages crumbling. It doesn’t work, just give up!

Ned mopes around feeling like a jackass because his inexperience let his buddy down, or something. Meanwhile, Alice and her team win the contract for the mall. Alice feels she has to downplay her enthusiasm for her huge monster win because it puts Ned in a funk. Meanwhile, Ned is pissed that she actually must continue to put in extra hours to you know, do her damn job. I guess it’s only okay when he’s the one working the overtime, but now that he doesn’t have an active case, she can’t leave him to his own devices. Who will cook dinner? It sure as hell won’t be Jessica. She’s delighted that her parents aren’t getting along because it means they are too busy to notice her blatantly breaking rules and running up outrageous charges on the phone. (See the sub-plot.) Yep, you read it right, she’s HAPPY that her parents and siblings are MISERABLE because it means she can do what she wants and sack Liz with all the chores and no one will yell at her for it. What a dumb bitch. This family is super messed up.

Liz tries to diffuse the situation by making a special spaghetti dinner, but when Ned suggests that they have iced tea on the patio and wait for Alice to get home, it all goes wrong. Alice takes too long to get home, so the spaghetti boils too long and turns all gluey. Ned is enraged because they have to eat TV dinners instead. How is that Alice’s fault? Tell your daughter to keep an eye on the damn stove! Or, here’s an idea: you do it. Then they go to a fancy lawyer dinner or something at a new Italian restaurant (another one!) called Tosca’s where Ned runs into this young dickhead assistant named Griffin Pierce. Griffin makes an utterly shitty statement about Ned and the Santelli case and you know what Ned’s reaction is? The older, supposedly more distinguished, wiser, classier, more experienced member of the law firm doesn’t say a word, he just up and STORMS OUT OF THE RESTAURANT shaking like a leaf and about to bawl with anger. Then he peals out of the parking lot blaming Alice for making him go to Tosca’s like she had a gun to his head. WOW. Real professional way to act at a stupid work happy hour (which I hate by the way – does anyone like work happy hours? I hate work happy hours.) Damn. He should’ve told that asshole to remember his place around you know, a senior at the firm who could probably get him fired, but he had to be a big moody baby and run away. Now you see where Steven gets his behavior from! Anyway, after Ned leaves Tosca, Alice forces the twins to stay at the restaurant with her to make a good impression … um, I don’t think there is any impression you and your teenaged daughters can give that will make up for your husband, but nice try. Maybe Jessica can suck the unpleasant nature out of Griffin in the men’s room?

All throughout the book, Liz is unusually cautious to stay out of everything … until it’s time for somebody to screw something up big time. Then Liz’s meddlesome ways come raring back to life! The family’s annual weekend vacation to Lake Tahoe (no clue if it’s the real Lake Tahoe or not) is coming up. Alice is so wrapped up in her contract that she is afraid to go. So Stupid Liz talks to her assistant, Julia, and asks Julia to convince Alice to go on the vacation. Julia reluctantly agrees but coaxes Liz into giving her the number of the main Inn at the lake in case they need Alice in an emergency. Gee, can you guess what’s going to happen? Around the same time, Jessica overhears Ned talking with Mr. Santelli’s former campaign backers, one of whom is Bruce’s dad Henry Patman. They want Ned to step up and run for mayor. Ned is really hesitant and says he will think about it. Jessica tells Liz what she overheard and of course Jess is freaking out with glee because she is desperate to be a mayor’s daughter and rub herself all over some hot interns. She thinks she’d be important enough to meet the President and rub herself all over his interns too. Liz makes Jess swear not to say anything to anyone else. Heh, fat chance.

Well, choo chooooooooo! The Wakefield family train is leaving the station for Lake Tahoe and is about to crash and we’re all going to have to suffer through it. The weekend starts off nice with everyone swimming and cooking out and having a good time. Alice even seems to be keeping to her promise not to do any work for a change. But then, Jessica of course blabs about the mayor shit by mistake. Alice is shocked and furious that Ned had never mentioned this to her. He weakly claims that he tried but there was never any time what with her working all the time. I call bullshit on this one. There is always time! I mean, how about at night before you go to bed? She’s coming home at 7:30 or 8 every day, not midnight! Things worsen when Ned catches Alice looking at work papers in their room while everyone else is waiting to play their annual game of charades. (They wind up not doing the charades due to the ensuing fight. My eyes stayed dry.) Then the next day, a boy from the Inn runs up out of nowhere a-heavin’ and a-puffin’ with a phone message for Alice. Ned is enraged that Alice gave it out, although of course she didn’t. Liz is forced to confess to Alice that she was the one who did it. Alice doesn’t think it’s a big deal and I don’t think she rats out Liz to Ned or the rest of the family. On Sunday, they all go horseback riding and the boy comes again with another message. It seems all the work Alice’s team had been doing has been lost and they must start over. You mean those fuckers didn’t think to back anything up on floppies or whatever they had back then? Assholes. So of course Alice must rush home from the vacation to fix things. Ned acts like a big dick about it and threatens her, first by saying he’s going to run for mayor, then by saying if she walks out on the vacation then she is walking out on the marriage and the family. Spare me your melodrama, fuckface. Alice leaves. And that’s the end of the book! Thank God.

So, who’s right? Who’s wrong? They both are if you ask me, but Ned is way worse in my opinion. Alice shouldn’t hide her successes from him or play them down because then he feels left out, and she should try to reassure him or do something special to help him feel better about the Santelli thing. And yeah, it wouldn’t hurt for her to keep her promises or at least keep better track of her schedule so she doesn’t double-book family and work obligations. But Ned is a DICK. First of all, Alice was working on winning the mall contract long before he even took on the Santelli case or any of that shit. But he acts like she should just give up her dream project and all that – in fact, he comes out and says so! – because it’s going to cause her to work past dinner every night. Oh gee, how rough, he might have to cook his own damn dinner for a change. Not to mention her project is TEMPORARY. Also, making threats and displaying childish behavior like sulking in your room and deciding to run for a major political office you don’t even want just to get back at your wife demonstrates that your young whippersnapper douchebag assistant (Griffin) is right on the money to expose you to the whole office at the company dinner. I’m starting to think Griffin merely sees Ned for who he is and wanted to show everyone else, too. Ned needs to realize his personal failures don’t mean the rest of the family should cease their daily lives until he feels better and can come out of his room and act like a grown man. And that’s my attempt at playing marriage counselor for the day.

The sub-plot: Jessica is super jealous when Lila’s father buys her a video camera for her “half-birthday.” That Lila! I remember trying to convince my mom to get me presents for my half-birthday years ago and she just rolled her eyes at me. To get back at her, Jess starts calling into a teen party line that Lila doesn’t know about, so she can get a hot new boyfriend that way. (Um wait a minute … party line … like the ones you see advertised on late night TV? Hahaha.) Right, she’s had so much success with anonymous flirtations and blind dates before. Great idea, this one. The party line costs a dollar an hour but Jess doesn’t pay any attention to the charges and takes it for granted that her parents will just pay the bill and shut up because they are too busy fighting. Her logic sucks. Jess starts calling in on the regular and falls for the voice of some dude named Charlie who tells her “you are poetry” and shit like that. Jess brags about Charlie to the other girls who are skeptical that he exists so Jess has to call in to the party line with Amy listening in to prove that Charlie is real. But Charlie always has a reason he can’t meet Jessica in person. How … creepy? He’s probably 50 years old in real life. In fact, when Jess calls his private number for the first time it’s answered by a much older man named Charlie who laughs and says he’s Charlie Junior’s dad … I’ll bet. The book ends without us finding out about the real Charlie so I guess this sub-plot will carry over to the next book along with the main one. Oh goody. I hope it’s way more exciting in that one then it is here, because I was falling asleep. Oh, as for Lila? She couldn’t give a fuck less that Jess found out about the party line before she did, or about the party line in general. Lila is so fucking awesome.

This cover is so weird. Jessica looks too wide-eyed and innocent to be Jessica, not to mention she’s happy her parents are fighting, not sad! Steven’s head is the exact same as it is on every cover. His expression NEVER CHANGES. And Liz is so fug. She looks nothing like her twin. Her face is weird and off and, truthfully, I’m wondering if she is in fact supposed to be Alice …? No, really … Does Alice also wear barrettes?

Let’s get into my WTFs. First of all, how about the latest “new” Italian restaurant in Sweet Valley? Small town my ass, I’ve never seen a small town with so many fancy Italian and French restaurants! I grew up in a small town and getting a McDonald’s was a huge big deal for fuck’s sake!

Alice has a car phone now … yet for some reason, she can’t even be bothered to call to say she’ll be late for dinner. Not that it should matter, because in every book before this one, it’s been underscored how both Alice and Ned are so successful that they must work long hours and that’s why the twins are responsible for cooking dinner. So who cares if Alice walks in 5 minutes late? Get the fuck over it!

Griffin Pierce reminds me a lot of Caroline Pearce, and if their last names weren’t spelled differently I’d swear they must be related! Although I’m always tripping up on how Caroline’s name is spelled. I know I have spelled it both ways at various points in this blog, but I think that’s because I was too lazy to check each time … or maybe the books can’t keep it straight either.

The plot on the back of the book doesn’t match what happens in the story! It claims that the major bone of contention throughout the book is Ned running for mayor and Alice not liking the people who support him. But Ned doesn’t decide to run for mayor till the very end of the book; in fact, in one of the last paragraphs. and he makes the decision solely to get back at Alice for having to go home and work.

The family has iced tea on the patio while they wait for Alice to get home for Liz’s gluey spaghetti, and it says “the sound of the clock ticking loudly didn’t help” the mood … um, they have a clock outside?

The other kids on the party line are: Nicola, Bea (yes, like Bea Arthur), Michael, Michelle, and a really annoying girl named Sara who keeps trying to “steal” Charlie away from Jessica.

Okay, speaking of the party line, there’s a part where Michael is flirting with Nicola and Bea with Sara cutting in, so Jessica and Charlie can just talk to each other apart from everyone else and have their own side conversation … on the same line … What the fuck? How does that work? How can you listen to someone else on a phone call when the other people’s voices are just as loud? Maybe there’s some weird way that this works that I’m not aware of.

The party line sounds like a boring piece of shit … everyone talks about shopping and crap like that … gee, how fun. I thought the whole point of these party lines was to have phone sex with anonymous people and then hook up with them in person later? Or at least, that’s what the local Quest ads would have you believe.

Two random boys named David and Ben leave messages for Jessica in the beginning of the book … no clue who they are.

Todd apologizes to Liz for having to eat Chinese because of his “tight budget” – since when does filthy rich BMW-drivin’ 12-bedroom mansion boy here have a “tight budget”?

Charlie is from Riverdale which is yet another town close to Sweet Valley. Okay, now there’s a Riverdale and a Riverside!

In the back of the book … is yet another ad/order form for those Caitlin books of Francine’s. They were really pushing those back in the day, but I don’t think I ever saw th,em displayed in my local Waldenbooks!

Coming up next … Oh don’t worry this story of disintegrating family life will continue, just in case you were concerned. But first … Bruce stars in his own Super Star!

#64 The Ghost of Tricia Martin

Oh, jeez. This book … I just … I feel like Samir in Office Space:

This should be the cover of a brochure about emotional and mental abuse in relationships.

Bear with me okay, because this is one of the most painful books I have had to review in recent memory. And it made me angry because I thought of young girls who read this and every other book Steven and Cara are in, and think this is a good way to behave in relationships. Maybe you think I take YA literature too seriously and maybe I do especially since I don’t think any girls are reading these books nowadays. But here’s what’s going on. Steven is a fucking idiot. In the last book, Elizabeth dragged him into Unique Boutique with her where they ran into a new salesgirl who looks – *gasp!* – just like Tricia Martin! Only her name is Andrea (no, it’s not Ferney again). Steven went straight home, dialed Cara and broke their date, then dialed Unique Boutique, asked for Andrea, and asked her out. He never even said much to Andrea other than asking her name, but she’s game. So when this book opens, they’re about to go out. Elizabeth figures it out and has to promise not to let it slip to Jessica since Cara is one of Jessica’s best friends. Personally, I think that friendship is doomed anyway.

Steven meets Andrea at a Pacific Shores restaurant called La Paloma. (That means “dove” in Spanish!) And here’s where he turns into a major creepazoid. He keeps calling Andrea “Tricia” and he pushes her to order the chef’s salad because that was Tricia’s favorite. When Andrea does, that’s proof enough for Steven that she’s “just like Tricia.” Oh, that and Andrea kind of liked La Paloma, which is “where Tricia and I used to go all the time” – I thought they went to Valley Inn all the time. Seriously, Steven takes chicks on the worst dates ever. He babbles about himself THE WHOLE TIME and we learn nothing about Andrea. She finally tells him he’s called her Tricia three times and he has to explain how she died, bla bla, but doesn’t bother to mention Cara. This should be the point where Andrea says “check please” but instead she feels sorry for him. I’d be ready to dash out the door already. I’m not trying to be insensitive, but if someone tells me they want to date me because I look just like their ex who recently passed away, I’m going to suggest they start seeing a good grief counselor instead. When he gets home, Liz tries to talk some sense into him, but he’s busy getting fixated on learning to hang glide because that’s going to take his mind off of Tricia/Andrea … sure it is. But Liz thinks she has the right to try and talk him out of it because it’s dangerous! even though SHE attempted to purchase a hang-glider on her own out of nowhere in the very last book, with no plans to take lessons or anything; she was just going to up and purchase the hang-glider and run around with it. I hate her.

Steven takes Cara out on a surprise hike to Castle Rock at Secca Lake because he thinks that getting sweaty and bug-bitten is a good way to revitalize his relationship with his prissy cheerleader girlfriend. Cara wears everyday sandals to the hike because well, it was a surprise and Steven didn’t bother to tell her she would need sturdier shoes for the surprise. But Steven has the gall to get all pissed off when Cara gets a blister. Then he mentions hang-gliding to her and she thinks it sounds dangerous and that gets his balls all in a bunch too. He is really rude to Cara all day long and I SO don’t get why she is still in this relationship. She even does that thing where you start apologizing to somebody when they’re the ones being rude to you for no reason. Cara, ditch this fucker, please? Steven goes home thinking Cara is silly and immature. Hello, she IS in high school while you’re in college, Steven. So that means that yes, your stupid law projects are boring for her to hear about. Date someone your own age if you can’t handle it. Asshole.

Steven gets all dolled up for another date, which Jessica assumes is with Cara. But then after he’s long gone, Cara calls the house to ask Jessica what’s up with Steve’s behavior. Jessica is such a self-absorbed bitch that all she can do is babble about her own drama. And it’s only when they hang up that Jessica realizes Steven is in fact not out with Cara. I hate everyone in this book.

Steven and Andrea continue to date. He takes her out to an aquarium and – God, this is SO creepy. First, he goes to the aquarium because Tricia liked it. Then, he suggests they look at the otters because Tricia loved seeing the otters. Of course, Andrea also likes the otters so that means she’s just like Tricia. Who the fuck doesn’t like otters? And hey, Andrea thinks hang-gliding sounds interesting although a bit dangerous. Her response isn’t much different than Cara’s, just worded differently. And Steven doesn’t even tell Andrea he wants to do it. But Andrea is somehow so much better than Cara because of this. Then Steven takes Andrea’s hair down out of nowhere because Tricia always wore hers down. He doesn’t even ask her, he just takes it down. Oh, God. I’m getting the chills, and not in a good way. Andrea tries to put it back up and he begs her to leave it down, so she does. RUN ANDREA RUN. Then, they go to get ice cream cones and Steven just assumes Andrea wants a chocolate cone, because – well, you know why. Andrea corrects him and tells the man she wants a vanilla cone and it nearly ruins Steven’s day. He comes home all elated about the rest of the date and asks his parents about hang-gliding and it sparks a fucking ridiculous argument between them. I hate Ned and Alice drama. Ned agrees to loan Steven the money for hang-gliding (without even hearing how much it is) and Alice is pissed.

Steven starts taking the lessons but doesn’t tell Cara. All he can think about is the second coming of Tricia. He is with her constantly but Andrea still has no idea that he has another girl already. Fucking cheater, get rid of Cara first before acting out your elaborate Ghost fantasies. Cara tries to ask Liz what’s up with Steven but Liz won’t tell her anything even though she knows. And Jessica couldn’t care less what the fuck is going on: There was no reason for Cara to make everyone else depressed just because she and Steven were having some lovers’ quarrel. Great friends. Lila and Jessica drag Cara to the mall with them where they see Andrea at Unique Boutique and freak out. Then Andrea takes a call that is obviously from Steve. Cara hears the whole thing and runs out of the store crying. Okay, so what would you do in this situation? Would you: a) break up with your cheating ass of a boyfriend and sob it out on your own or b) try to reason with him that you’re the best girl for him, beg him to stay with you, and basically just take it when he gets mad at you for daring to confront him about it? Well if you happen to be Cara, you already know what the correct answer is. Steven goes ahead and breaks up with Cara despite her pleas, then feels just a little bad about it after they hang up. Cry me a river, helmet-head Ken-doll douche.

Steven goes on his first real hang-glide, I guess. I don’t know how these lessons work but wouldn’t you have a tandem dive first? Who cares. The important thing is that he’s so caught up in comparing Tricia, Andrea, and Cara to one another that he crashes. Good! That’s right, I just condoned terrible accidents for a fictional character. I think the book should end here. But don’t worry, we can’t have Cara and Steven stay apart. Steven wakes up in the hospital. He’s been in a mild coma, and his arm is broken. Jessica tells him she saw Andrea at Valley Cinema and Steven gets all upset. He stumbles out of his hospital bed and over to his window to think, and conveniently sees Andrea’s new man dropping her off at the hospital and giving her a big old smooch. Andrea comes upstairs and explains to Steven that she doesn’t want to date someone who is simply projecting the image of his dead girlfriend onto her. Well, why the hell did you go on so many dates with him then? Meanwhile, Liz’s ass is all chapped that Jess dared mention seeing Andrea with another guy to Steve. You know what, fuck you Liz. You meddle in everyone’s damn business but you can’t be bothered to let someone you supposedly care about see what a fucking dick he’s been/is.

Only after Steven hears that Andrea doesn’t want him – she doesn’t even want to be friends with him – does he decide he wants Cara back. You heard me. I’m not convinced in the slightest that he genuinely loves Cara. He just wants somebody, anybody and since all the Tricia Martin lookalikes in the world aren’t up for it, Cara will have to do. And what do the twins do about this? They insist that Cara go to Steve’s room at the hospital and she does. Oh yeah, she was there earlier and she heard Steven mumble Tricia’s name, then she ran out of the room just before he also mumbled Cara’s name. Whatever. Cara comes back to the hospital where she makes a sob speech about how she knows Steve’ll never love her as much as he did Tricia, but that’s okay! She still loves him! She can put up with all his crap! Just say that you love her too! And they get back together even though he clearly is just taking her back now that the Tricia Martin lookalike is out of the picture. FOR THE SECOND TIME.

So let’s review: Steven has used Cara as a bounce-back from Tricia, ruined her real birthday, ruined her fake birthday, and attempted to cheat on her with two Tricia lookalikes, and probably would’ve also done the same with Abbie Richardson (don’t tell me he wouldn’t have). He constantly bitches at Cara for everything, ignores her, keeps secrets from her, and every time she confronts him, he freaks out, yells at her, accuses her of being nosy or spying on him and tries to make Cara feel like the bad one. This isn’t a one-time occurrence, it happens in every single book that has any significant scenes with them. And it works. She apologizes, feels bad, and always always takes him back, every time. You guys, Steven Wakefield is an emotional abuser, I’m 100 percent serious, and the twins enable his behavior to the max, even encourage it. Cara should’ve let Jessica break them up for good that one time she convinced both of them that the other was cheating … at the time, I thought, yeah right, like Cara would ever leave Steve if it really happened. Hah, and this book was our proof of that. And we’re supposed to think this an example of a great couple whose love is everlasting (until one of them moves away).

I am totally fucking pissed at this book. I need to go find my sense of humor because I think Francine ate it.

This cover disgusts me. I hate any cover that has Steven on it because he always has that same stupid expression, every time. Here his skin looks plastic. I think the cover model was a Ken doll. Andrea looks ridiculous. That sweater is so fucking ugly with its giant droopy 3/4 sleeves and oddly-frilled high neckline. Did we really wear shit like that back in 1990? Her hair is fine for the time period I guess although it looks full of tangles, but she has no chest and her head looks way too big for her body. I’m going to have nightmares tonight.

The sub-plot is meant for comic relief. Lila’s friend Angie from Palisades High invites her and Jessica to a beach party. And Jessica meets a brand new dude there whom she hasn’t made out with before. I was getting worried about her for a while because she’s definitely run out of options at her own high school. The new guy’s name is Keith and he’s a total granola hippie. He’s the male version of Olivia Davidson. Now keep in mind that I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but he is so not Jessica’s type. But when has that stopped her before? God, the chick never learns shit. Keith takes Jessica to places like a trash incinerator information meeting and the Whole Earth Cafe. Jessica keeps thinking about how bored she is and how she’s sure she can get Keith to do things she likes to do, like shop, party, eat fatty decidedly non-whole food at the Dairi Burger, and maybe actually make out or something. But the only lady Keith is hot for is Mother Earth. Seriously, I can’t tell if he genuinely likes Jess or if he is just relieved to have a friend who supposedly supports the same causes that he does. But it’s all over when Jessica wants to go see a new thriller movie and he gives her a lecture about “Hollywood garbage” and wants to see a documentary about Laplanders and their reindeer. Jessica insists and gets her way, but then decides she’s going to have to dump him anyway after he asks her if she would consider doing a fast. (You mean she wouldn’t? You’d think she’d latch onto that as the newest way to lose 2.5 pounds.)

WTF? Where do I start?

Okay, okay, even if there was no Ferney, this would still be unbelievable. But there was a Ferney and ultimately that plotline was the same minus the life-threatening accident. I get that sometimes things that happen in Super Editions are supposed to magically not count in the “regular” books (although sometimes they do – it all depends on what the ghostwriter du jour feels like doing). But come on – it’s the same story!

Also, let’s think about what this series has taught us about “dangerous” hobbies. If you ride on a motorcycle, you’ll get in a life-threatening accident. If you learn to fly a plane, you will have to make an emergency crash landing in water. If you learn to surf, you’ll almost drown. If you take up hang-gliding, you will crash and break your arm and see the chick you are obsessed with making out with someone else. I will have to remember these things at my next scheduled skydive. I wonder if I’d read all of these books as a kid if I’d be too scared to try and take up things like this today as an adult.

Cara’s mother calls her cara mia.

Maria Santelli’s dad Peter is going to run for mayor of Sweet Valley. Was that his name in Forbidden Love?

Steven’s doctor at the hospital is a woman. I think this is notable because I couldn’t help but see how most of the authoritative figures of power in these books have been men, if not all of them, up to this point.

1990-tastic: a cordless phone is no longer a luxurious thing only the Patmans would own. The Wakefields now have one and we even get a description of Jessica pulling the antenna out of the handset to talk!

Lila allows Jessica to cajole her into letting her borrow her car to meet Keith. RIGHT, that would totally happen. I think Lila made like a rich friend of mine once did and let Jess borrow some old beat-up car they had hanging around in the garage instead and the ghostwriter just left that part of it out.

Is it possible to have a character interested in charitable causes and Earth Day and shit who isn’t portrayed as a loon or as someone who looks down on people who want to do anything “normal”? I’m just curious. Anyone with an interest that the Wakefields wouldn’t have is an automatic freak about it, apparently. It used to be funny to me but it’s starting to genuinely disgust me.

I don’t even know what to think about this title … actually, I guess it’s appropriate and I kind of like it. Hey, I have to find something positive.

Coming up next: Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield have been having dumb arguments about everything. Not only is this the main theme of the next book; it is also the main theme of the two books after that. I don’t know if I can do this. I may need to take a mental health break first!

#63 The New Elizabeth

Looks down on people? Check. Boring? Check. Meddles? Check. I'm sorry, what was new about her again?

Hi you guys. I’ve taken a little longer with this update than usual. There are some stupid books coming up in the series that I really, really, really do not want to read, about drama in the Wakefield family. And I think I’ve been subconsciously putting them off by trying to slow down my consumption of the preceding books, but the horror grows ever nearer. Yep, I’ve been reduced to talking like this.

So this book is all about Liz, obviously, and I figured that meant it would be a giant steaming heap of crap. Or not steaming so much since it was plopped out all the way back in March 1990. But it wasn’t so bad, or at least that was my initial opinion until the ending took a giant shit on it all. But we’ll get to that. So Liz’s dilemma is a common one: she’s tired of being teased for being a lame-o who likes to study, and she wants to play with a new personality and show everyone how she’s way more daring than they think. Okay, someone wants to make a change, I understand, especially because if I were Liz I’d have been bored with myself a long time ago. But Liz is so sensible and level-headed that even her way of becoming somebody else is sensible and level-headed … or at least, way more so than any similar scheme of Jessica’s, that’s for sure. Rather than becoming the opposite of herself, she’s going to take up a new daredevil sport – surfing. How is that daredevil, again? Sure, it’s definitely a courageous thing to try, but look – Jessica surfs (and was said to be “sensational” at it early on), fuckin’ DeeDee surfs, half these kids surf although there’s been less emphasis on it then there was in the earliest books. Even boring ass preppy Todd surfs. (He said he gave Bill Chase his old board in book 5, I think.) Are these kids really going to be that shocked out to learn that Liz can do it too? Even DeeDee became a surf master in like, two lessons.

Liz gets the idea after she sees an ad for surfing lessons at the Sports Shop at the Valley Mall. Can we please get a more creative name for some of the damn stores in these books? So she drives out to Moon Beach, which is apparently the spot all the Big Mesa kids hit up, and meets her instructor, a Big Mesa HS senior named Sean Blake, and his buddies. They all work at this surf shack but don’t seem to have any customers other than Liz. There’s also a chick, another senior named Laurie MacNeil, who works at the ice cream parlor in Moon Beach. She and Sean have known each other forever and she’s secretly infatuated with him. They went on one date not long ago and it went well although they didn’t make out or anything. But the second Sean lays eyes on Liz, he falls for her and forgets about Laurie. Typical.

Sean has a bet with his buddies Sammy and Dave, juniors at Big Mesa, that he can make the next person he teaches to surf place in the Moon Beach surfing competition at the end of the month. How convenient. Liz wants to keep the whole thing a secret from her friends and family so that she can surprise them on the day of the contest, so she tells everyone she is spending so much time out at Moon Beach working on a marine biology project instead. There are a couple of huge loopholes here that I probably don’t even have to call out. First of all, did her friends all drop out of her marine bio class? Is that why they don’t realize what a huge fat lie that is? Secondly, Enid’s boyfriend Hugh Grayson goes to Big Mesa. It seems kind of odd Liz wouldn’t worry that one of the Big Mesa kids would mention Liz and the surfing lessons offhandedly in his presence. Well, this is just more proof that Hugh is a needless character developed solely to convince us Enid isn’t madly in love with Liz. Oh, and to give Enid some extra drama when her dumb grandmother moved in.

I don’t even have to tell that Liz is a “natural” at surfing and picks it up immediately. On her very first lesson she’s able to easily climb onto the board and catch a wave while kneeling. In no time flat she’s standing and catching perfect waves and is even able to do a hang ten without wiping out. This is bullshit. I’m not a regular surfer myself, but I am friends with surfers, I’m related to surfers, and I’ve even tried it myself. It’s not easy. It’s hard. Even climbing onto the board and staying on it is hard let alone standing on the damn thing. The first wave I ever caught was on my belly and I didn’t even catch it myself – someone had to push me off into the waves! So it pisses me off that perfect ass Liz almost instantly masters it when Sean doesn’t even have her practice balance or anything with the board on dry land first!

So Liz catches perfect waves and Sean is really impressed and falls hard for her. Liz can tell he is attracted to her, but does she do anything to dissuade him? Say it with me: OF COURSE NOT. All she has to do is make a little mention of Todd, but she never does. Well, why not? Because when she asks Laurie if she and Sean are dating, Laurie fumbles out a weird “Uh, kind of ” answer, but Liz somehow hears: “Yes, we are dating seriously, and Sean is so in love with me that even though he keeps flirting with you, trying to hold your hand, inviting you to go parking at Jefferson’s Bluff (the Big Mesa Miller’s Point), asking you on dates, and babbling about how hot you are, he doesn’t like you like that, Liz! He can’t possibly because he’s got a girlfriend. Because boys with girlfriends never ever try to cheat on them with a hot blonde that never mentions she has a boyfriend and goes ahead and flirts back.” This is fucking dumb. Just mention Todd, Liz! Eventually, Sean gives Liz a charm shaped like a silver surfboard, confesses his feelings, and tries to kiss her. Liz pulls away and only then does she mention Todd. Then she is shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that Sean isn’t dating Laurie. Sean tells Liz she should keep the charm and they agree to keep doing their lessons. Sean promises he won’t keep trying to flirt with Liz, but it quickly becomes clear that’s a lie. Then Liz wipes out pretty bad one day while surfing in especially large waves and almost drowns in a riptide. Sean saves her and she cries and he hugs her forever and then she realizes something has changed between them but STILL does not address it. She just keeps ignoring the issue.

Meanwhile, Liz has been catching shit from Todd about her marine bio project because she keeps blowing him off and spacing out when he’s trying to make nice in the front seat of his BMW. Now, Liz is lying to him and all, and she is acting crazy, but he makes the worst comments about her “boring” presentation that he has to sit through and how she spends too much time studying. It’s her schoolwork, fuck off! I really like Sean Blake to tell you the truth, and I think Liz should ditch coffee-brown-eyed loser here and go for it, but of course she isn’t going to do that.

Then one day Liz is coming back late from a surf lesson for dinner out with Todd, so Sean gives her a ride. She doesn’t want Todd seeing Sean with her because then she would have to explain the surf thing, but she has never just told Sean she wants it to be a secret up till the big day. (Why she hasn’t is beyond me.) So instead of getting Sean to drop her off at the bus stop or something, she tells him her neighbor’s house is her own. Ha ha, that’s gonna be hilarious when he shows up drunkenly singing you a love song at 3 AM Liz. Liz pretends to go up her neighbor’s driveway like it’s her own and waves at Sean, then runs down to her own house. Todd sees the whole thing and man is he pissed. He thinks Liz is cheating on him, and with behavior like that, who wouldn’t? See, now he has a reason to be upset. He breaks their date abruptly and takes off. Liz swears the marine bio project will make it all worthwhile and explain everything and he’s like, It better.

Liz invites everyone to come watch her give her big “marine bio presentation” out at Moon Beach and all the kids are rolling their eyes and talking about how boring it’s going to be and trying to get out of it. Liz’s friends SUCK. Even Todd is acting that way. Jesus, way to support your girlfriend! I hate him! So they all go to the surfing competition ahead of time because Liz told them it’s taking place ahead of her presentation and they should all watch it and then meet up with her at the Marine Bio Center. And here’s where I want to reach through the page and strangle somebody. Liz and Sean have both gone to a lot of trouble and Liz has found that she genuinely enjoys surfing – like, a lot. Sean even lends Liz his prized Bob Simmons original board to use in the competition. (Bob Simmons was a real surfer/board-pioneer like the book says, by the way.) But then Liz overhears Laurie talking to a friend at the contest about how she’s been secretly teaching herself to surf behind Sean’s back to impress him. She, too, has found she enjoys it more than she thought she would. And now this is her last chance to impress him and steal him away from Liz, or something. Liz realizes she can solve the problem of Sean continuing to throw himself at her, and Laurie pining for him all in one clean sweep. So Liz surfs on her old board and Laurie surfs on the Simmons board. And then Liz, with all of her stunned friends watching and yelling her name and cheering her own, does the worst wipe out she possibly can, on purpose, and THROWS THE WHOLE COMPETITION. She basically says “fuck you” to all that work and all the lies she told and all those times she realized she really did enjoy surfing and couldn’t wait to get back to the waves, literally walking away from her newfound hobby. She doesn’t place in the contest, and Sean loses his bet with Sammy and Dave, but it’s all good because of course Laurie surfs like a pro in the contest, and Sean sees her do it, and falls for her instead. Right. Meanwhile, Liz goes back to her normal life of being boring and meddlesome, everyone laughs their ass off about her clumsy ass wipeout, and Todd is relieved his old Scrabble-playing, History of Communications museum exhibit-touring girl is back to boss around and takes her out to Mario’s. Only Bill Chase can tell that Liz’s wipeout was deliberate, so everyone goes on thinking Liz is the shittiest surfer on planet Earth – but they give her points for trying. But at least Liz can pat herself on the back for making Sean see Laurie as more than a friend and for conveniently getting him to stop asking her out at the same time. That’s nice. Fuck you Liz.

This cover is so appropriate. Look at Liz fucking preening with her ugly perm, and that suit that looks too big for her. No lavaliere?

The sub-plot: Caroline Pearce spills the beans to the whole school about Jessica’s little Who’s Who? scheme which I guess either Suzanne or Dana let slip to begin with. Everyone starts teasing Jess and calling her Magenta Galaxy. Jess is pissed so she has Amy and Lila help her humiliate Caroline in return. (Why is Cara never around these days?) Caroline’s parents have forced her to get a job at Unique Boutique in the mall to pay off some damage she did to their car while they were away. (Um, her parents are divorced. Did they get back together?) So Jessica and her friends keep going into the store, throwing clothes everywhere that Caroline has just folded, spilling drinks on her, and getting her bitch manager to scream at her. But eventually Caroline gets to a point where she’s made all the money she needs to pay for the repairs, so she isn’t going to put up with this shit forever. One day when Jess goes in there by herself, she acts super sweet to Jessica, and helps her bring two tons of clothes to the dressing room. Then she brings some more while Jessica is changing and is standing there in her underwear. She offers to take all the extra clothes away and clears out everything but the shoes. When Jessica realizes it, it’s too late. She hears Caroline gets into a screaming match with her manager and yell at her that she quits. Jessica pokes her head out to tell Caroline she needs to give her clothes back, but Caroline just smirks at her and goes, “Oh, thanks for stopping by, Magenta. Bye, now.” Then she walks out of the store with Jessica’s clothes in her hands or something. Jessica is stuck in the store with only her underwear! Ha ha! So how did she get out of it? There are some ideas of course, but we never find out which sucks because it’s about time Jess got served her fucking comeuppance and I’d like to know how that shit ultimately went down. But at least the whole school has something else to make fun of Jessica for, and they do and she is mortified. That part is awesome!

What the fuck? Enid is the one friend who doesn’t care that Liz is hardly spending any time with her anymore, and still literally jumps at the chance to run and sit with her at the Dairi Burger. Tell me you’re surprised.

Is it Sweet Valley Mall or just Valley Mall? I thought it was just Valley Mall but this book keeps calling it Sweet Valley Mall.

So is Big Mesa another town or just a different part of Sweet Valley? Has this question ever been answered? We know Sweet Valley is a town with its own mayor and its own downtown area with giant buildings and its own mall, and its own university that is anywhere from a mile to two hours away. So I’m guessing Sweet Valley the town is part of Sweet Valley the giant county that has umpteen smaller towns or suburbs too.

When Liz first goes to check out different types of “daredevil” sporting equipment in the first chapter, she tries to just blindly purchase scuba gear and a fucking hang-glider without knowing anything about how to use either! And she’s supposed to be the smart twin?

Liz’s parents don’t come to the surfing competition or seem to give a shit about her marine bio presentation! But they’re such great parents!

Diet reference of the day: Liz thinks about rewarding herself after a super long lesson with a big triple scoop of her favorite with sprinkles at the Moon Beach Ice Cream Parlor, but gets a little one scoop cone instead. Why? “She didn’t want to surprise everyone with how fat she could get!” Well gee Liz, you can normally eat Alice’s huge dinners and breakfasts and giant Dairi Burger fast food meals with abandon, so what’s changed? And did you not just burn umpteen calories surfing anyway? Eat the big cone dammit!

Here are the other Big Mesa kids in case they ever show their faces again: Laurie’s friends Phil Carter and John Monroe.

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: Amy jokes how chaotic a world full of Jessica Wakefields would be. Lila responds: “But imagine a world full of Elizabeth Wakefields. Can you imagine a duller, more predictable place? I think I’d go crazy.”

Coming up next: Stupid Steven is home from college again for eternity, and he’s met a chick that looks just like Tricia Martin, so he immediately starts breaking dates with Cara to date this girl behind Cara’s back … Huh, I thought I already reviewed this exact same storyline in a book called Spring Break. There must be some mistake, because it would just be so crazy and out of place for an SV book to repeat a storyline.

#62 Who’s Who?

Nice necklace, Magenta! That's February 1990 for you!

Um, so I’m really at a loss for what to say about this one. It wasn’t as fun as I thought it might be, but it was still way better than some of the more recent offerings I’ve had to slog through. Here’s the deal. Jessica is bored with dating because she’s already completed her collection of Sweet Valley High senior and junior boy bodily fluids (which can be found on the backseat of the Fiat). At the mall shopping for Valentine’s Day dresses with Liz, she sees a new computer dating service store called Lovestruck with a sign that reads “Teens Our Specialty” (kinda sketchy) which makes her think it will somehow give her different results than the last matchmaking service she hit up. Jess drags Liz in there and fills out two applications for two different made-up personalities. The first one is “Daniella Fromage” who enjoys world travel, art, opera, and speaking French. Fromage is the French word for cheese which is deliciously appropriate for Jessica’s scheme, and really the whole series in general. The second personality is “Magenta Galaxy”, and no that’s not a character from Jem and the Holograms, she’s “a wild rocker with a passion for anything hot.” What the fuck does that mean? Anything hot? Man, that would have a whole different connotation today, wouldn’t it. Liz is dubious about Jess pretending to be someone she’s not, and so am I. Jessica changed her personality in The New Jessica, realized she wanted to be herself, then she changed it again in Playing for Keeps, then she realized she wanted to be herself, and rinse, repeat.

Jessica soon gets two letters in the mail, one for Daniella and one for Magenta, so she has to get to work cooking up her new personas. Her plan is to win both dudes over, dump the one she likes least, and take the other one to the Valentine’s Day dance. By that point he’ll be so in love with her he won’t care that she is a fake. Hey, it worked for Jess when Bill Chase initially thought she was Liz. That’s the magic of Sweet Valley.

Jess spends a lot of time in her room learning very simple French phrases and words – did she not pay ANY attention in Ms. Dalton’s class? Or learn anything from that spring break trip to France and the Frenchman she dated? Jeez. She also makes an appointment with her sorority sister Suzanne Hanlon to learn all about art and culture and Italy, and to borrow some expensive-ass clothing for Daniella to wear. Then Jess has Lila quiz her on some topics and Lila is really insulted that Jessica didn’t ask her for help instead of Suzanne. Jess dodges Lila’s anger by saying she could’ve asked Lila, but Suzanne is such a snob that it was best to ask her. I love the way only rich snooty people can possibly know anything about these topics.

Of course, we have to go to another extreme in order for Jessica to learn about rock music and clubs. Jess enlists the help of Dana Larson, who never really speaks to her much the rest of the time, but is just like, Oh sure, borrow a ton of my clothes so you can basically impersonate me for some dude. Dana tells her about clubs in the area that no one else knows anything about ’cause she’s hip like that. You know, Dana is pretty cool. Everyone else spends their weekends at the Beach Disco over and over while she actually has some fun in life. To Jessica and her friends, the very fact that Dana listens to bands like the “Blues Hogs” and knows about clubs like Jumping Jimmy’s in L.A. means she’s “out there”. And that pretty much sums up everything you need to know about life at Sweet Valley High.

Daniella’s dude is Pierre Du Lac, born in France and of course very sophisticated. And Magenta gets Brett S., another rocker with almost nothing to say. (See, he just uses his initial as his last name, so you know he’s too cool for school.) Right off the bat it’s clear that both of these dudes are also fakes. I mean, they would pretty much have to be not to see through the ruse of chicks with names like Fromage and Galaxy. Pierre takes Daniella to Chez Sam in Pacific Shores, where they have a boring conversation about things Jessica doesn’t even give a shit about. Pierre thinks Fellini is a type of pasta and doesn’t seem to understand what she says half the time, but Jess is so nervous about herself that she doesn’t realize he too is obviously a fake. At the end of the night he kisses her and all her worries that he saw through her melt away.

Jessica as Magenta goes to the Rock Spot with Brett. He picks her up in his “old man’s” brown Olds and Jessica decides he’s using that car only because it’s “so square, it was cool!” Give me a break. Not every teenager gets to pick how cool their wheels are, Jess. Of course Brett plays along with it. He also doesn’t want her to look at the pile of tapes on the floor, grabbing something else from the dashboard instead. Gee, is Brett possibly also a fake? Their date sounds terrible. A band called X-Press plays and Jessica wants to dance but has to pretend she isn’t a dancer after Brett clearly isn’t either. So they sit at a table all night not talking because the music is too loud. What a blast.

Jessica continues to keep up her ruse. Pierre takes her to the Odeon (Sweet Valley’s old school theatre) to watch an art film that sounds kind of interesting, actually. Pierre then makes another big mistake in conversation, mixing up Ingrid Bergman and Ingmar Bergman the same way that Ken did once when he was still dating Suzanne Hanlon. Jess thinks she sees Brett S. in line for the movie but decides she must be crazy because there’s no way Brett would see this movie … Earth to Jessica. Pierre takes Jess out for cappuccino after the movie, which she hates, but has to pretend she likes. Then on her next date with Brett, they go to another club called Jax, and then Jess hopes to take him out to Miller’s Point, although we don’t find out if she did or not.

Brett calls the house asking for Magenta and this time neither Jess nor Liz can grab the phone in time, so Alice picks up and tells Brett he has the wrong number. Alice is so not clued in to what her kids are up to. So Jess has to claim she has a new number and have Brett call Lila’s house so Lila can field the calls. Lila is of course not very enthused about this, especially since dudes keep calling her before 11:30 AM on a weekend and waking her up. I like sleeping that late too. I knew I liked Lila. So when Brett calls to say he’s going to come take Magenta out at 6:15 unless he hears from her ahead of time, and Lila can’t get through to Jess because she has a busy signal going on all day, she’s like, “Oh, fuck it.” At Lisette’s, Lila runs into Liz who’s buying a dress Jessica agreed to help her pay for half of. Jess agreed to do this because Liz was helping her out with her ruse so much, yet she still made Liz promise to “owe me one.” What the fuck? Only Jess would do something nice for you in return for the nice thing you’ve done for her and then insist that you still have to do something else nice for her … anyway, Lila tells Liz that Brett is coming by the house at 6:15 that night to take Jess out. A whole lot of freakin’ out goes on because Jessica already has a date scheduled with Pierre at 6 that same night. And she can’t find the number of either boy to tell them not to come by, or something dumb like that.

Hence, Liz’s favor that she owes Jess comes into play. Liz has to break a date with Todd so that she can play Daniella with Pierre while Jess plays Magenta with Brett. Since there’s no time for Jess to give Liz a crash course in being Daniella, they decide they’ll eat at the same restaurant, a giant Chinese place with two dining rooms called Lotus House, and simply switch places every 15 minutes, swapping costumes in the ladies’ room. This is the worst plan ever.

Needless to say, the evening is a disaster. Pierre spends the evening name-dropping and pissing Liz off, and then he dumbly gives himself away as he claims to have grown up in France, but thinks that Paris is on the Riviera. Then after the twins switch, Brett pretty much does the same thing as he thinks “Sympathy for the Devil” is a Doors song. Both guys are confused as to why each girl has to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes. Liz is enraged at having to do this dumb charade, but at least she orders her favorite entree, ginger chicken, for both tables (which Jessica hates … ha ha!). Liz finally tells both boys off as she rotates with each one because she thinks Jess is better off without either of them. I can’t blame her, but that’s just like Liz, to decide what to do for Jess. So the evening ends early and Jess is really mad. But then she goes to play tennis with Cara the next day and gets over it when she meets a hot tennis player, Tony Mangino. I guess Tony is supposed to be Jessica’s new date to the V-Day dance, though that’s never made clear.

So what ultimately happens to Brett and Pierre? Well, leave it to Liz to meddle once again. She takes it upon herself to invite both Brett and Pierre over at the same time to meet with Jessica and explain the truth to her, but doesn’t get to tell Jess in time … god. Pierre comes in and confesses to Jessica that his real name is Pete Lake and he was just faking to impress her. He’s actually more fond of the same things that Brett is. Then Brett S. shows up and Jess seats him elsewhere so he won’t run in to Pete/Pierre, and Brett says he was pretending to be a rocker to impress “Magenta.” Then Suzanne and Dana show up wanting to get that stuff they lent Jess. As Jess goes upstairs to get it … oh, I don’t even have to tell you, do I? The girls meet the guys; Suzanne and Brett get together and Dana and Pete do too, and when Jess comes back downstairs they are all out on the patio yacking at each other. The guys have figured out that Jessica’s name is really Jessica because the other chicks blew her cover, and they don’t care. Is there ever a time when Jessica gets away scot-free with all her shit because it just magically works out perfectly in the end? Must be nice!

So, let’s try to figure out who is who on this cover. I would guess Liz is Daniella and Jess is Magenta since Magenta appears far more gleeful about what is happening, while Daniella looks a little embarrassed.

The sub-plot: In what will develop into a full plot for the next book, Liz worries she is too predictable and dull and tries to make herself more like Jessica, more “different” and “spontaneous.” And here are the things that Liz considers spontaneous and different: painting her toenails red, getting a temporary perm (so it’s not really a perm, right?), accepting Jessica’s help in buying a dress she can’t really afford, sitting at a lunch table with just Enid rather than with all their usual crowd. Liz is fucking hopeless.

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: After Lila runs into Liz at Lisette’s and tells her about the date with Brett: Liz: “Lila, Jessica’s problems always have a way of turning into my problems.” Lila: “That’s true. Well, have fun telling Jess the good news.”

Some other bullshit: I’m just curious, do stores like Lovestruck and Perfect Match exist today, now that we have Match.com and eHarmony?

This book mistakenly calls Jess’s sorority Phi Beta Alpha.

Liz is such a square! When she hears that Brett is taking “Magenta” to Jax, she goes, “Isn’t that one of those places where people throw themselves off the stage into the crowd?” She sounds like my mom!

We never learn where “Pierre” or “Brett” are from. Obviously they aren’t from Sweet Valley, or Jess would likely know them already.

There’s little to no interaction with the typical Sweet Valley kids in the book. It’s almost entirely Liz and Jess, and Jess on her dates. It’s tedious.

Lila randomly asks Jessica what she thinks about David Hockney’s artwork … flashback to Teacher Crush! (That was Stuart Bachman’s favorite artist.)

1990-tastic: Lila brings up Abbie Hoffman, a real life Vietnam War protester who “died in 1989.” (I did have to Google him to find out that he was real, and that he was a he.) This is the first mention of an actual year in these books that I can recall.

We have a new restaurant said to be the most expensive in the area: Le Chou Farci! Which means “stuffed cabbage” so I’m about to die here. Apparently Suzanne and her family eat there once a week.

I find it SO weird that Jessica can just yell at her parents that she’s going on a date and then tear out of the house. And that she can go on umpteen dates with the same guy and her dad never demands to meet him or anything.

The art film “Daniella” and “Pierre” watch intrigued me because it sounded like it could be a real film. So I did some sleuthing – commenter goldray at Shannon’s Sweet Valley High Blog thought the film might be Sartre’s Huis Clois (No Exit) . Here is a scene of a stage production of it that someone posted on YouTube. The film Jessica and Pete saw was described as having characters sitting in a purgatory that looks like a hospital waiting room, talking about how they go there, with a little red ball that occasionally rolls by on the floor. Anyone else think No Exit‘s the one? (I’ve never seen it myself.)

In case you care, Liz is still playing the recorder. And Prince Albert is definitely not a puppy anymore. At one point Prince Albert keeps jumping on Jessica, and she yells at him to get down, and the stupid Lovestruck lady asks her why she needs to use Lovestruck if she has a prince after her. *tiddy-boom*

In the back of the book: an order form for you to use for all three Caitlin trilogies. I’ve never bothered with any of those.

Coming up next: Elizabeth changes her personality in The New Elizabeth. I thought we already had this book and it was called Dear Sister (and it was awesome).

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