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.