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

Archive for February, 2011

Super Star #3 Enid’s Story

That is totally a Lifetouch school portrait

Wow, Enid sucks. And we know this because a book that’s supposed to be all about her is at least half about Liz. Hell, the second page of this book tells us all about how wonderful Enid thinks Liz is. Keep in mind that the book has told us almost nothing about Enid yet, other than that she’s Liz’s best friend. And let’s not forget the back cover: “People who meet pretty, quiet Enid Rollins find it hard to believe that she ever ran with a wild crowd. She’s popular…” (among whom? she only has one fucking friend!) “…a straight-A student, and is best friends with Elizabeth Wakefield. Finally, Enid seems to have her life together.” Could this series possibly be more of an Elizabeth Wakefield propaganda machine? I feel like it’s Orwell’s 1984 and there are signs flashing in the alley: “FRANCINE IS WATCHING YOU. WORSHIP LIZ.”

Well, since there’s plenty of Liz in this book, we get all the horribly corny bad jokes throughout while they wrap presents, and all Enid’s inner thoughts about how great Liz is … blarrrrgh. Then the last day of school before winter vacation arrives. The book announces none of the teachers expect anyone to do any real work, which seems to be the case most of the time anyway, and so they have in-class parties all day and then head over to the Dairi Burger. Liz is sad because Todd is going on a ski vacation with his rich family in Utah over the entire break. I guess that’s better than the LASt Christmas in her junior year, or one of the last, in which Todd essentially left her for Suzanne Devlin. Sweet Valley is an endless time-loop of holiday disappointments. But when Liz comes into the Dairi Burger, she winds up getting stuck under the mistletoe with none other than the boy she dumped in order to get back together with Todd – Jeffrey French. See, I told you he’s only useful when he’s got something to do with Liz. Jeffrey and Liz jokingly kiss at everyone’s insistence, but it gets Liz all hot and bothered and she has to gulp Enid’s soda to calm down. Then Jessica comes in and stands under the mistletoe asking for kisses and Bruce takes her up on it while everyone hoots and hollers. Next Jessica runs around rubbing herself all over every boy in the room and making stupid “Have you been bad or good?”-type come-ons at them. She realizes she’s dated every last one of them except for Jeffrey, so she runs over and holds the mistletoe over his head. Jeffrey is all excited until he realizes it’s Jess, not Liz, but he gives her a quick kiss anyway. Jessica starts thinking about how she can help Jeffrey get over Liz by seducing him, or something. For fuck’s sake!

Enid has a friendly conversation with Jeffrey at the Dairi Burger about what to buy his mom for Christmas. He winds up asking her to go to the Sweet Valley High ice skating party with him. It’s supposed to be a friendly date, but Enid feels guilty about it and hides it from Liz. Liz says she isn’t going to the skating party because she’s too busy moping around about Todd being gone. Cry me a fucking river! But then on the morning of, Jessica drags Liz out of bed and convinces her to go, and then of course Liz sees Enid and Jeffrey skating together, figures out that Enid hid their date from her, and gets jealous. Enid tells her it’s not a big deal and Liz seems okay, but then she avoids Enid and Jeffrey for the whole rest of the skating party. Enid realizes she is crushing hard on Jeffrey and feels even guiltier. Then Jessica sees a hot boy skating by that Lila knows, named Brian Saunders. He graduated from Big Mesa High and is now at the University of Colorado. Jessica is apparently the best skater around, but she pretends to stumble into Brian and that she needs help getting around the rink. They are flirting when Enid skates right into them. Brian knows who Enid is and tries to talk to her, but Enid recognizes Brian as a “bad” guy from her past, and hightails it out of there while Brian stares after her in dismay and forgets Jessica exists. Ha ha ha! Jessica is such a bitch most of the time that it serves her right. That doesn’t stop her from grilling Enid about him later, though, but Enid won’t tell her shit about him because it’s none of her effing business.

That night, Jeffrey takes Enid to see a horror movie and they have a great time, but Enid thinks he still loves Liz because he keeps talking about her. So what? At least 80 percent of anything Enid talks about at any given moment has to do with Liz, too. Enid decides the best way to test Jeffrey’s feelings for her is to buy him a Christmas present and see what his reaction is. So she goes to the Valley Mall and buys him … a postcard and a pint of ice cream. No, really. Okay, so the postcard is a vintage picture of the ice skater/actress Sonja Henie, whom Jeffrey compared Enid to at the skating party, but it’s still … a postcard! That’ll show him you care. You know, there are so many references to classic movies and movie stars in these books that it’s hard to believe they are about 1980s/1990s teenagers. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE classic movies and movie stars, but I’m also not the entire population of a Southern California high school.

Hehehe, so Enid goes over to Jeffrey’s and gives him his presents and he gives her a book of poetry. Then Jeffrey tells Enid that he needs to ask her a question … Enid is sure he’s going to ask her out … but instead, Jeffrey asks Enid if she thinks Liz might still be interested in him! Why? Because Liz brought some homemade cookies over to him earlier that day (presumably after many books of not even talking to his ass) that she said she made ‘specially for him. Enid is devastated but succeeds in hiding it. Jeffrey is majorly confused and it’s obvious he still has feelings for Liz and kind of wants to do something about it, but he can’t be sure what Liz is thinking, and it’s unethical for him to steal Todd’s chick anyway. Why not? Didn’t Todd steal her from you? Just pass her back and forth, that’s what everyone does with the other twin.

Enid is really upset that Liz didn’t tell her she was baking Jeffrey cookies earlier when she talked to her on the phone, and thinks Liz might’ve done it deliberately to sabotage Enid’s potential relationship with him. “Elizabeth and her Christmas cookies had ruined everything.” Do you guys have ANY idea how hard I laughed when I read that quote? Seriously, I fucking died. HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAA! Enid goes home and Jeffrey tries to call and ask her out to drive go-carts or some shit, but she turns him down because she felt like he lead her on and she’s upset about it. She’s also mad that Liz is essentially leading Jeffrey on, because she kind of is. I hate Liz. But again, Jeffrey hasn’t a clue that Enid is upset with him, because Enid doesn’t exactly come out and say anything to him. She’s all passive-aggressive like that. Then Brian Saunders calls to ask her out and claims he has changed for the better and that he always liked her. Enid agrees to go out with him and then she just … goes. These kids seriously have no supervision at all. You’d think Enid’s mom would at least remember all the assholes Enid used to hang around with and monitor her daughter’s friendships at least a teeny tiny bit.

Brian takes Enid out for Thai food at Bangkok Palace, where he orders a beer and asks Enid if she wants one. Enid declines but isn’t offended that Brian is drinking because she “knew that it was possible to drink beer sensibly. And beer was probably refreshing with spicy food.” Uh, if you’re 21, I guess? Because the drinking age in California has been 21 since before December 1990 (when this was published). I’m confused. He just ordered beer in a restaurant and nobody carded him. Maybe he looks old. Or maybe he’s actually 21. You know those older men love them some Enid jailbait. That didn’t explain how he seemed to think he could get a 16-year-old a beer successfully. This isn’t the Shady Lady!

After dinner, Brian asks Enid if she wants to go say hi to some college friends of his who are having a Christmas gathering. Enid reluctantly says yes, and Brian suddenly seems intent on getting there and not on talking to her. He was really polite earlier! When they get there, the party is full of loud music, smoke (cigarettes and pot), free Dixie cups of beer, couples making out, and laughing drunk people. Okay, so it’s like a typical college party. Enid doesn’t want to be there, especially not after Brian almost immediately vanishes after introducing her to some chick named Jackie. Enid finally finds him in the basement, playing a drinking game I never heard of. You put a paper towel over a Dixie cup and then a quarter over that. Then you make holes in the paper towel with a cigarette until the quarter falls through. If you’re the one who makes the quarter fall, you have to chug the cup. Anyone ever play that one? Anyway, Brian loses, so he chugs the cup while Enid tries to get his attention so they can go home. But he’s already wasted and doesn’t give a shit about what Enid wants anymore, so he goes back to ignoring her and she calls herself a cab home. That Brian is a real ass. God, you know, I went on a date like that once in college, with this boy who had been begging me to go out with him all semester. We went to a party together that was supposed to be awesome, but it was boring, and he ignored me all fucking night, then didn’t get why I didn’t want to go out with him again. That boy sucks. Another time, this other boy asked me out and then brought his friend along and they proceeded to spend the whole evening babbling about girls they had slept with while my date occasionally ordered me some potato skins. I went back home super early. God! What the fuck is wrong with people! Enid, how dare you remind me of these injustices!

Christmas Eve rolls around and Liz is still whining to herself about how her Christmas is useless without Todd, or something. God, I just want to puke! We learn that Liz basically DID make those cookies just to lead Jeffrey on! Liz makes herself feel better by talking on the phone all lovey-dovey to her main man. Gee, it must be nice for you to be reassured you still have Todd while the boy you dumped for him sits at home pining for your ass. Meanwhile, Enid is having family problems on top of everything else. Her father is in town on business and is supposed to meet her for lunch on Christmas Eve at the Sweet Valley Regency, but when she gets there, she finds him drunk off his ass in the hotel’s Oak Room bar. What really sucks about this is that Mrs. Rollins and Enid had been fighting about Enid ditching other family plans so that she could see her dad. Man, Enid’s Christmas sucks a dick. She gets home in despair and then Jeffrey calls to ask her to attend George Warren’s Christmas Eve party with him, and she says okay. Almost as soon as they get there, Jeffrey and Liz go into a den to have a private talk about Elizabeth and her Christmas cookies ruining everything. They agree the past is past or something, but that they’ll always be friends, which is bullshit I’m sure, and then when they come out of the den they’re under mistletoe again. They do another kiss for old times’ sake (right) and embrace. Enid sees them from across the room and is miserable, so she goes to sit on the patio and feel sorry for herself. Then there’s a funny scene where Jessica runs into Brian and tries to flirt with him, but he just asks her if she’s seen Enid. Then she runs into Jeffrey and tries to flirt with him, but he also just asks her if she’s seen Enid. HAHAHA! Then she runs into Liz but Liz just wants to know if she has seen Enid! Jessica is confused and pissed. Ha ha ha!

Brian Saunders finds Enid first, and he apologizes to her for the way he behaved on their date, and they wind up slow dancing together because Enid wants to show Liz she doesn’t give a fuck about her smoochin’ on Jeffrey. Both Liz and Jeffrey try to interrupt Enid and Brian, which really annoys me. They remind me of hovering parents. Then Brian and Enid leave the party together for Miller’s Point. They run into George on the way out, who gives Enid a “do you know what you’re doing?” look. Okay, first of all, what the fuck is Brian doing at George’s party anyway? We heard so much about how bad “the old crowd” that Enid and George used to hang with is, so why would George even let Brian in the door since Brian clearly hasn’t changed? I think old Georgie still likes hittin’ the bong every now and again.

On the way to Miller’s Point, Enid thinks about whether a relationship with Brian could work even though he’d be off at college in Colorado. Are you joking me? What the hell Enid? You just broke up with Hugh at the end of the very last book and here you are desperately trying to latch onto a new man already. I guess that’s the way it works when you have no real friends except for Elizabeth Wakefield and whatever boy you are dating at the time. When they get to the Point, Brian kisses Enid but she doesn’t feel excited by it or anything. Then Brian whips out a joint and convinces Enid to smoke it with him. They also pass around a bottle of bourbon. This scene is hilarious, with them attempting to sing the “12 Days of Christmas” and slurring shit, calling turtle doves “turldoves” and pear trees “bear trees”. Then Brian wants to know what a bear tree is. (Answer: According to Enid, it’s a tree with bears in it. Thanks for clearing that up, Enid.)

Meanwhile, Jessica has finally met an eligible bachelor at the party, Steve’s college buddy Michael. Within about 5 to 10 minutes of being introduced, they’re headed off to the Point. What the fuck is up with Jessica in this book? She’s seriously flirting with EVERY boy she comes across, even Winston, whom she can’t stand, and George, because she thinks it’s funny to get a boy with a girlfriend all hot and bothered. And she had the audacity to criticize Annie Whitman back in the day?

At the Point, Jess and Michael don’t get to make out because the car next to them starts blaring really loud music. Jessica storms over there and raps on the window, but the occupants don’t answer, so she throws open the car door to find … Enid and Brian, lost in a haze of smoke and with the bourbon bottle sitting between them. Jessica is stunned and asks Enid if she’s drunk, but Enid can’t really answer. Jessica rushes right back to the car and gets Michael to take her back to George’s party … not because she’s concerned, but because she can’t wait to spread the juicy gossip. Meanwhile, Liz has called Mrs. Rollins to say she’s worried about Enid because she left with Brian and no one knows where they went. Take a wild guess, woman. Mrs. Rollins freaks out because she knows Brian was a bad boy … so why did you let your daughter go out with him the other night? WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THIS DAMN TOWN! Then Mr. Rollins shows up, hungover yet sober, looking to apologize to Enid. When he hears she’s missing with Brian, he drives to Kelly’s to look for her, or maybe it was the Shady Lady. (Mrs. Rollins calls it “the Pink Lady, or something like that.”) When he gets there, he sees all the drunks at the bar and realizes that’s going to be him someday, so he throws out a bottle of gin that was in his glove compartment and swears, “No more.” Then he peels off for George’s party, where he asks all the kids if they’ve seen Enid. Jessica arrives with Michael at the same time, so she takes a moment to step forward and dramatically proclaim that she saw Enid wasted at the Point. Rather than praising her as she had hoped, everyone jumps all over her for not giving Enid a ride back to the party. What the fuck was Jessica supposed to do, drag her out of the car? How fucking stupid. Jeffrey, Liz, Lila, and Jessica all run around with Mr. Rollins looking for Brian and Enid. This is at least the second Christmas in which everyone is furious with Jessica and she gets driven around to look for some poor girl she wronged.

While Scooby and friends are sniffing out Enid’s whereabouts, Brian is driving all over town at high speeds, cackling like a maniac while Enid screams hysterically. This is so much like the Rick Andover car chase scene from Double Love. Enid is so embarrassed that Jessica saw them, because she knows Jessica will tell everyone. Enid wants to be taken home, but Brian thinks she lead him on and is refusing. He sideswipes two cars, yells about what a drag Enid is a couple of times, and finally speeds back up to the Point, where Brian tries to play chicken with Mr. Rollins’ car (which is coming back down after looking for Enid). Brian loses the game, so to speak. He smashes through a guardrail and flips the car. Mr. Rollins saves both Enid and Brian from the car, but it explodes and he and Brian are badly burned. How dramatic. Would you expect anything less?

The wrap-up, ’cause I’m starting to not care anymore: Enid wakes up to a Christmas in the hospital. Jeffrey, Lila, Liz, and Jess all come to her room to give her presents and whatnot. Jessica is only there because she feels guilty, I’m sure, and Lila is probably just there because she’s already spending Christmas with the Wakefields since Mr. Fowler is away on business again. Mrs. Rollins gives Enid an update on her father and Enid goes to see him and he says he’s checking into rehab right after he’s released from the hospital. Brian is going to do the same because now he realizes he needs help. How nice. Then Lila Fowler throws a big New Year’s party. She tries to flirt with Jeffrey (Lila, please give up on him already. He only likes boring chicks) but he’s intent on finding Enid. Jessica intends to get Michael to fall in love with her at the party. Enid and Jeffrey talk on the balcony about how the time isn’t right for a relationship, but they’ll take it slow and see what happens. That doesn’t stop them from sharing a New Year’s kiss. So are they going to be the next hot Sweet Valley item? I read several books after this one, but I don’t recall them ever being together.

What the fuck? For starters, I’m wondering if it’s even possible for a Sweet Valley Christmas book to be published without all the horribly cheesy jokes. You should hear all the ridiculous Christmasy shit Jessica says while trying to flirt with dudes at the Dairi Burger.

Enid gives Liz a satin, heart-shaped box that she bought for her at a specialty store for Christmas. It must have cost at least a decent amount of her allowance. And what does Liz give Enid? A picture of the two of them in a frame. Never before have presents so accurately represented each girl’s view of the friendship.

Neil Freemount is still an active part of the regular Sweet Valley gang, but Andy Jenkins is nowhere to be found or even mentioned! There are SO many things I could say about this that I just can’t even …

This book talks about how Jessica once spread a rumor that Bruce kisses like a jellyfish (but he really doesn’t), but that incident doesn’t happen until a book published AFTER this one. I double-checked!

Liz gives Jessica bright pink hoop earrings for Christmas. Jessica was going to give Liz a pair of bright green sunglasses with hot pink flamingoes on them. (She gives them to Enid in the hospital instead.) How typical of Jessica to give Liz something Liz would never wear, but Jessica could “borrow” for herself later.

We’re told that “as far as Jessica was concerned” her relationship with Bruce was a disaster because “Jessica didn’t like going out with anyone who demanded more attention than she did.” Gee, that’s a good way to sum up that Bruce was emotionally abusive and cheated on her all the time, and she put up with it until she saw for herself that he was cheating on her with that Aline girl.

Enid’s cousin is also named Brian. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then you should know what this name repetition does to me. I was working on a new page that lists all of the characters so you can see how often basic names are repeated, but typing out “Tim” something like eight times was irritating the stick I have up my ass just a little too much. I don’t want to get hemorrhoids.

We learn that Enid was 14 when she ran with “the old crowd.”

The ghostwriter says that “just about the worst thing that had ever happened to Elizabeth” was Todd moving to Vermont. Are. you. fucking. joking.

At the New Year’s party, Liz and Jeffrey smile at each other knowing their time together is up and their confused feelings were just that, confusion, because Liz loves Todd and Jeffrey kind of likes Enid. Then Liz exchanges a look with Todd that shows her feelings and she knows he understands perfectly. What? So did Liz tell Todd everything that happened? Just try to tell me that Todd wouldn’t have punched Jeffrey in the jaw if he knew what went on while he was away!

Jess and Liz eat all the shitty candy and Christmas snacks they want and don’t gain a pound. I hate them.

The cover: Enid looks really pretty if you ask me. I like her hair better that way then I do on her other covers, that’s for sure!

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: “Humble is for other people. I have a reputation to maintain, you know.”
-and-
(in her underwear, preparing for the party) “Think anyone would notice if I went downstairs like this?”
-and-
(in response to Jessica saying she’s so mad she could just bite someone) “That sounds like fun. Did you have anyone particular in mind?”

Coming up next: Jessica vies for a shot at fame. Business as usual.

#70 Ms. Quarterback

I think you're mean, Claire

I was so expecting another heavy hitter in the SVH series when I saw that this book was about a girl who wanted to join the Sweet Valley High football team. But it was surprisingly light and gave me no food for thought … other than Liz is a self-righteous, nosy-ass hypocrite, who is somehow completely unaware of her shortcomings … yes, yes, that’s what we learn in every book, I know.

By now everyone reading this blog should be well aware that I have a tendency to over-analyze things, and be anal about minor details. And why not? It’s fun to be anal. 😉 So it should come as no surprise that this book pissed me off almost immediately by talking about the football team’s upcoming playoff series, including big games against Palisades and Big Mesa. Holy moly, HOW many times has this school played Big Mesa? Weren’t we just in the playoffs, or similar important games, ten books ago when Ken (temporarily) lost his sight? I could’ve sworn they played Big Mesa back then! I think Francine and friends just gave up and said, Fuck this, we’re going to openly repeat the fall semester twenty times.

So here’s the deal. The current Gladiators quarterback, Scott Trost is failing two of his classes and that means he’s getting suspended from the football team. The whole school expects Ken Matthews to take back his old position, but his girlfriend Terri Adams is secretly very apprehensive about it. She knows that Ken still suffers from vision problems sometimes, and she worries about what could happen to him. Ken seems to think her subtle attempts at getting him to discuss this a little further mean she’s an awful girlfriend, or something. Ken even bitches at her in front of John Pfeifer and Jennifer Mitchell at the Dairi Burger. Wow, way to belittle your girl in front of her friends, dick. Of course, another more private concern of Terri’s is that Ken will ditch her once he’s Mr. High School Football Hero again. Hey, it could happen. Only in Sweet Valley can someone nearly lose his eyesight in a serious car accident, then come back with flying colors in the same football season.

Then the new girl, Claire Middleton, announces her intentions to try out for quarterback, too. Ken is nice about it, but Claire gets a lot of heckling from everyone else. Or at least, that’s what we’re told. We aren’t really exposed to said heckling very much. We’ll just take the ghostwriter’s word for it. Terri becomes jealous of Claire because Ken is always talking about how great she is, and John is always going on about how hot she is. Meanwhile, Ken continues to ignore Terri and act like she’s a bitch for being concerned about him, even asking Terri why she can’t be more like Claire. DAYAAAM. Ken is not exactly warming me to his predicament. He sounds like a dickhole. And Claire is no peach either. She’s kind of rude and abrupt to everyone who dares ask her more than one question about herself, as evidenced when Jessica approaches Claire about joining Pi Beta Alpha. Yes, you read that right! Even though all the cheerleaders et. al. don’t approve of Claire trying to join the football team, Jessica thinks they ought to get her in PBA anyway, to prove they aren’t really as close-minded as the last issue of the Oracle alleged. But when she wanders over to Claire to say hi, Claire makes a couple of kinda shitty comments about how sexist cheerleading is and asks Jessica why she does it. I chuckled at that scene, but it didn’t make me happy with Claire, either. Jessica is so enraged at Claire’s crap comments that she has the football team play dumb pranks on Claire, like fill her football helmet with water, stealing her vitamin drink, filling her shoes with toothpaste, and putting hate notes in her locker. I know you’re mad, but way to stand up for Team Girl, Jessica.

Liz is her usual annoying self throughout this whole damn book. First she interviews Claire for the Oracle and then thinks her investigative journalism skills are floundering beyond all hope, just because Claire doesn’t want to talk at length about herself and her background. Get over yourself Liz, it’s a high school paper. You’re lucky if more than 10 people read the damn thing. Then Steven appears out of nowhere at home and everyone’s all, “Steve! What are you doing home!” It should be “Steve! What are you doing back at college? Going to class?” *everyone laughs at this idea, runs off to the Dairi Burger* Steven is conveniently just there to help Liz figure out that Claire had an older brother named Ted Middleton, a freshman at Steve’s school, and a big shot on the college JV team (huh. what.) who died of cancer.

Jessica’s fury at Claire doesn’t get any better when she hears Claire has been talking a lot with Danny Porter, the Gladiators’ wide receiver and Jessica’s latest love interest, who doesn’t seem all that enthralled with her. Jessica and Amy decide to get back at Claire by – are you ready for this? – making up a cheer to intimidate her on the day of the final tryouts for quarterback. Ooooh, that’ll get her. Then Terri, still stinging over her belief that Ken and Claire are secretly in love since Ken is constantly ignoring Terri and praising Claire to the high heavens, sees Claire crying in front of an autographed picture of a handsome older boy in her locker. The picture is signed “With all my love, Ted” and Claire tries to hide it from Terri. Terri figures this is some lost love she had to leave behind when she moved to Sweet Valley from Palisades. So she goes and tells Jess, Amy, and the team about Ted. Jessica convinces the rest of the cheerleaders to do a stupid cheer at the final tryouts for quarterback, which the entire damn town is attending, about Claire to piss her off. The cheer ends with “We know about Ted!” What the fuck? Here, read this and tell me if this is over-the-top dumb or if it’s just me:

“Who wants a guy
when a girl like Claire
can throw the ball
from here to there?

“Who needs a guy
when a girl gives more?
She steals the ball,
she makes the score!

“Who needs a guy
when a girl instead
can play like Claire?-
We know about Ted!”

RAH!

I’ve had better poetry come flying out of my ass.

The crowd is confused, but Claire walks off the field. Jessica is delighted because not even in her wildest dreams could she have imagined that her cheer would work so well as to not only make Claire mad, but to convince her to quit the tryouts. Liz explains to the cheerleaders that Ted is Claire’s dead brother in her usual stern 45-year-old way. Jessica and Amy furiously blame the cheer on Terri saying she told them about Ted and put them up to cheering about him. Liz tracks down Terri to ask her if she knew who Ted was. Terri had no idea and is horrified to know what an ass she was, bla bla blaaaaaaa. Liz is like, “Well now that you’ve learned your lesson, don’t you think we should go over to Claire’s house so that you can explain yourself, young lady?” Seriously, that’s probably almost verbatim what she actually says in the book. She is so much like someone’s fucking parent! Terri tells Liz she’s going to go by herself and Liz nods her approval. I hate Liz so much. Yeah, yeah, Terri goes over to Claire’s house to apologize, Claire forgives her very easily, Claire talks to Coach Schultz and he agrees she can go ahead and be second string, and then Ken forgives Terri and tells her how much he loves her and isn’t she crazy to think otherwise? and then they tearfully make out on his couch. Once again, a guy acts like a distant, snippy douchebag to his chick, chick thinks he doesn’t care about her and then he’s all “Ohhhhhh silly, I love you, you were so crazy to think my neglecting you and snapping at you in front of our friends, while telling you that you should be more like this bitchy chick meant otherwise!” Oh, that silly Terri! Finally, Sweet Valley has their 99th game against Big Mesa. Ken’s sight fails him partway through and Claire goes in and saves the day and wins the game, wooooooooo, story over, thank God.

The sub-plot: Jessica gets bored with the existing cheers and launches a competition among the cheerleaders to come up with a new one. Cara makes up a cheer about Ken that wins. It’s almost as bad as the “We know about Ted” cheer.

The cover does not show a pretty girl, so I don’t know what the fuck John Pfeifer is talking about.

Other shit: There are a ton of newly mentioned kids who are on the football team. We have Tim Nelson, who seems to have the most problems with Claire, Stan Skinner, Dave Pollock, who’s almost as good as Claire but not quite, senior linebacker Tad “Blubber” Johnson (Terri’s friend Zack’s older brother), Patrick Reeve, Robbie Hendricks, Bryce Fisherman, Ricky Ordway (the second string to Scott Trost’s first string, who had to drop out due to an injured hamstring), Greg Herly, and Don Cavendish. And the big rival players on the Big Mesa team are Peter Straus and Matt Ambers.

Enid and Hugh are having problems near the beginning of the book and break up by the end. Yeah, I forgot she was dating anyone, too, and it’s only mentioned in like five sentences total. I think they just snuck a couple of paragraphs about this in the final draft of this book, to make sure the next book (our third Super Star) makes some sense.

In Chapter 2, Liz is “troubled” by how she’s been late on recent Oracle assignments, and how it’s not the first time. No, more like the 500th time! Kick this uppity bitch off the staff!

Amy is still dating Scott Trost and in the beginning of the book Jessica teases her about how weird it will be if Scott loses his quarterback position to Ken, whom Amy previously ditched for Scott after Ken lost his eyesight. Haha! You’re such a bitch, Amy!

Major props for the writer not ignoring what happened in the previous book. We get some shit about how the quarterback tryouts are bringing the town’s spirits back up after all the shit that went down in the last book. And there’s a split-second reference to a “racial awareness program” that several people, including Jess and Liz, are working on. But Andy makes no appearance at all, not that I can think of, even though he’s in the marching band. And Neil Freemount is described as a friend of Liz’s rather than Jessica’s old casual boyfriend or as Andy’s best friend. And after these first few mentions, the subject is dropped. NOW it’s over and done with, Sweet Valley style.

Terri and Ken go on a date to … are you ready for this? … the Dairi Burger, and then the library. It’s put out there like a real date and Terri resents Ken for trying to invite Claire along with them to the library. What in the hell? This relationship sucks.

“Listen, I’m probably running the risk of stepping into something that isn’t any of my business, but …” ~That would be Liz speaking. You dumbass, just stop talking.

Coming up next: Enid flirts with her dirty past! Yay, something scandalous! Oh, and Jessica and Lila are going to compete to get on a TV show.

#69 Friend Against Friend

Don't even try to say you aren't thinking what I'm thinking about this cover!

Well damn, after the super cheese-laden story of The Love Bet, Francine decides to wallop us with this tale of racism suddenly rearing its ugly head in Sweet Valley. (I say “suddenly” because that’s exactly the way it is presented.)

So let’s start this thing off a little lighthearted, at least, by discussing this cover. I have a confession to make. I never read this one as a kid. A few years after its release, I heard that there had been an SVH book about gay teenagers. I didn’t know which one it was, but my mind automatically flipped to this cover. For years, I assumed that Friend Against Friend was about the two cover boys finding out they really love one another and searching for acceptance from their friends. I’m 100 percent not making this up. Only in the past couple of years did I read that this was a book about racism and that it’s another SVH book that covers acceptance of gay teenagers. So, yeah!

The super dark blue cover of this book seems appropriate for the seriousness of this tale. I had to take some time after I read it to sort my feelings out and decide what I wanted to say. I’m going to do something similar to my post about Regina Morrow in On the Edge. I’ll tell you what happens and then tell you what I liked and didn’t like about this story.

Neil Freemount, whom we last heard anything major about in Secret Admirer, is the kid on the left. His best friend, Andy Jenkins, is on the right. (Oh, before we go any further, that scene? Didn’t happen. Not really. You’ll see.) Neil and Andy have bonded over their lab partnership in marine bio class. Andy is a science whiz, plays the French horn in the school band, and he also is a member of a new rock band called Baja Beat, which we hear almost nothing about, including who the other members are, what songs they play, or which clubs you can find them at. As for Neil, he doesn’t really do much of anything except complain inwardly to himself about shit. Neil and Andy often double date with their respective girlfriends, senior Penny Ayala (editor-in-chief of the Oracle) and junior Tracy Gilbert (Patty’s cousin). Neil’s dad works for Patman Canning along with that boozer Charlie Cashman’s dad. We haven’t really heard much from Charlie since the earlier books when he and Jim Sturbridge were famous for double-teaming Betsy Martin at Miller’s Point.

Neil doesn’t like Charlie and is not pleased when his parents have the Cashmans over for a backyard barbecue. Thankfully, Charlie is unable to attend. At the barbecue, Neil is stunned to hear Mr. Cashman bitch about how he thinks the new foreman, Mr. Willis, was given the position because he’s black. Mr. Cashman makes a comment about South Americans and a few statements about black people thinking “they” are better than everyone else and expecting handouts all the time. Neil is even more shocked when his own dad seems to agree with him. Mrs. Freemount is angered and reacts sharply to the statements as does Neil, whereas Mrs. Cashman is a timid little shrew.

Around the same time, Andy starts getting harassed for his race. First his locker is filled with gross cafeteria trash, and “Go back to Africa where you belong” is written on the inside of the door. (How did the person get into his locker?) Neil is horrified, but Andy just shrugs it off and declines to tell Principal “Chrome Dome” Cooper as Neil suggests. (Neil later suspects Charlie of being the perpetrator.) But things just start getting worse. After Andy wins a spot in a special marine bio summer program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Neil fears Charlie will target him for more harassment … and he’s right. When Neil and Andy double date with Penny and Tracy at the Dairi Burger, Charlie and his friends surround Andy in the parking lot, and only back off after Neil asks them to. But then Tracy comes outside and finds that they have slashed all four of her tires. Andy is really upset, of course, but still doesn’t want to let the school (or Tracy!) know what’s gong on. Neil tries to help by saying the following: “Think – think of how Martin Luther King, Jr. would react to a situation like this-”

*facepalm*

Awk-ward. Andy doesn’t react favorably to that at all; in fact, he even tells Neil he doesn’t need help from “any white person.” Yikes! Next, Charlie randomly shows up at Neil’s house, upset about something, and asks him to take a ride around town. And stupid Neil goes with him! Here’s Charlie’s idea of a good time: laying on the horn in front of Principal Cooper’s house for a good 30 seconds and then speeding away laughing. Fun times. Neil finds himself feeling bad for Charlie because he’s sure Charlie’s dad must be taking his work problems out on his son. Cry me a fucking river. Neil also fails to take advantage of a perfect situation to talk to Charlie about Andy. Not that you can magically turn a racist into a non-racist, but this is an utter failure to stand up for a friend.

Charlie sees Neil talking to Andy at school, and he and his friends make comments about Neil’s “black buddy”, upsetting Andy again, who demands to know why Neil is friends with Charlie now. They have a miniature tiff after Andy gives Neil an ultimatum: Charlie or him. Neil already knows he was an idiot to go out with Charlie, but he doesn’t like being confronted about it, so he tells Andy he’ll be friends with him if he wants and Andy just shrugs and walks away. Somewhere around this point, we learn that Mr. Willis fired Mr. Cashman. Neil’s dad automatically assumes this was a show of power by Mr. Willis because he is black, or something like that, whereas Mrs. Freemount and Neil think it’s because Mr. Cashman is an asshole who didn’t want to work under a black man. In response to this mess, Charlie escalates his harassment of Andy to a violent level. Charlie trips Andy in the hallway and stomps on his books, and Andy tackles him in response. Mr. Collins breaks up the fight and sends Charlie to the office, then asks Neil what’s going on. Neil doesn’t want to say anything, but Mr. Collins gathers that Charlie is picking on Andy for being black. Yet he seems to have the attitude that he can’t help if Neil won’t explain what’s going on.

Neil and Penny see a movie at the Valley Mall movie theater. On the way out, they spy Charlie and his cronies rocking Andy’s car back and forth, then they somehow get the car door open and pull him out and jump him. Penny runs off to get help while Neil runs over to stop them. But then Charlie reminds Neil how Andy has been treating him, and offers Neil a chance to punch the unconscious Andy. And Neil does it! Holy fuck! What the hell is wrong with him? Oh, he “realized with horror what he was doing” and attempted to stop the punch, but his fist still connects with Andy’s solar plexus. Just then the police show up, and Charlie and his friends scatter while Neil gets all the credit for stopping the fight. I’m going to throw up.

Everyone praises Neil for saving Andy while he lives in fear that Charlie will let his secret out. Neil goes to see Andy at his house, where he’s in bed recovering from his injuries. Neil thinks to himself that he will tell Andy that he hit him, but Andy is so grateful to see him and ready to repair their friendship that Neil doesn’t do it. Andy apologizes for avoiding Neil and his “white person” comment, and he wants to start their friendship over with no “black-white crap”. Then Mr. Freemount takes Neil to a USC basketball game where he tells his son he knows the truth (I guess from Mr. Cashman?) and PRAISES him for doing it, because it wasn’t right for Andy to treat Neil the way he did, and “[Andy] had it coming”. Neil realizes he’s never going to see his father the same way ever again.

At school, Andy gets a standing ovation from everyone at a special assembly where he (and others) receive the science awards. Then Charlie reminds Neil that he hit Andy, too. (That reminds me: no one will come out and say who beat on Andy! Andy knows and Neil knows but neither of them will say.) Charlie thinks Andy needs to be taught a lesson (for being black) and wants Neil to help him jump him again. If Neil refuses, Charlie will tell everyone that Neil is not the great hero they think he is. Neil finally gets his guts together and tells Andy the truth, right in front of Penny. Penny is horrified and walks away and Andy pretty much ends their friendship for good and also walks away. Neil goes out to the parking lot to sit in his car and think. And who does do-gooder Liz decide to go help following this scene? NEIL. Aw, poor Neil, he’s having the roughest time of all, huh Liz? Kill me.

The book ends with the following: Neil drives by the football field where he sees Charlie’s gang approaching Andy, who’s walking out there by himself. Neil drives over and stands with his former friend, ready to defend him. Charlie and crew leave and Andy tells him this changes nothing. Neil says he knows but that he will always stand in his defense anyway. They part ways and I guess that’s the last we will hear of Andy, and probably of prejudice against African Americans, ever again in this series. Then finally, Penny decides she might be somewhat responsible for the fact that Neil hit Andy. What, are you fucking kidding me?! She calls Neil up and says she’s ready to try again, or some bullshit. Elizabeth stands by silently nodding and approving. Why isn’t Liz trying to talk to Andy?! Isn’t he the one who really needs someone to talk to? I hate her.

The sub-plot is all about how the Wakefield twins react to racism, right here in otherwise sunny Sweet Valley! First, in the beginning of the book, Liz decides to ask people to write to the Oracle about things they would change about Sweet Valley High. Her prissy ass expects everyone to put things like “better cafeteria food”, shorter school days, etc. Instead, someone writes in with this gem: “I think they should kick out anyone from this school who isn’t a real American. Like blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. They always get advantages over us.” (Penny reads that one and is appalled.) The new Oracle project also sparks a couple of heated discussions at the lunch table. These are probably the most serious conversations anyone in these books has had for a long time. Manuel Lopez says he doesn’t like how the school skips over the part of history in which Mexicans settled Southern California and Sandra Bacon is surprised because she didn’t know that they did (proving his point). Other people don’t like the Pi Beta Alpha sorority because they’re a bunch of snobs who get to exclude people they don’t like yet get special privileges. And after Penny reads a submission from someone who thinks girls should be allowed to play football, the girls and guys spar over whether girls’ sports get as much attention as guys’ sports and whether they should. (Aaron gets offended when Dana calls boys’ sports “primitive macho competitions.” Dana! Didn’t you learn anything from watching your man play soccer in the last book? I thought that was your great revelation! :)) Elizabeth seems disturbed by all the arguments. She and Penny also talk about how they are shocked, shocked I tell you, that racism could happen in little old Sweet Valley. Penny in particular only thought racist people existed in big cities. Oh, kids. I’m sorry to say you got a lot to learn. 😦 Then Liz tries to ask Jessica some vague questions about privilege and prejudice, only to find that Jessica thinks it’s just natural that rich, good-looking people like Bruce Patman get all the benefits over everyone else. (Shouldn’t Jessica be including the Wakefield family in that equation? She seems to think she isn’t a member of the “privileged” set because her family doesn’t live in a mansion … well I got news for you woman.) So then Liz shares Andy’s harassment with Jess and Jessica is horrified but thinks that Andy should just ignore him and it will go away. That seems to be the predominant attitude of most people in this book (to this point – this discussion happens prior to Andy’s getting jumped), including Andy.

It takes Andy’s getting seriously hurt to wake everyone up a bit. Jessica circulates a petition at school for people to sign in order to form a united front against racism and behind Andy. I think that might have about as much effect as one of those online petitions people randomly create, but whatever. Elizabeth runs an editorial about the incident in the Oracle, and then the sociology teacher, Ms. Jacobi, does an exercise with her class about prejudice. The class is divided into Light-eyes and Dark-eyes, and since the Light-eyes are the minority, the Dark-eyes are allowed to treat them like crap and demand special privileges from them. Jessica and Amy are forbidden to speak. Amy has to give up her seat to Cara and Jessica is forced to pick up Maria’s books after Maria claims Jessica knocked them over (which she didn’t). Kirk Anderson makes Ken sharpen his pencil. Jessica is enraged and decides to try to do more to stop prejudice but I don’t think we really see what she does. Following the end of class, Ms. Jacobi leads the class in a five-minute discussion about what they did. Winston admits he kind of liked the power he was given while the Light-Eyes talk about how awful they felt. Oh, and if you recognize the exercise in question – that’s because it’s a famous one. We learned about it in 8th grade government class (but didn’t replicate it ourselves). You can learn more about it at this Smithsonian magazine article or at this PBS info page.

So here’s my own white girl perspective, as promised. Make no mistake, obviously I don’t know everything and I won’t claim to. But I do try not to walk around with my head jammed in the sand, pretending that just because something doesn’t affect me personally that it doesn’t exist or that I shouldn’t try to learn more about it.

First of all, I AM glad for a few things. Okay, so we got to see several kinds of racism/racists. There are people who are violently and outspokenly racist like Charlie, the ones who are easy to spot. Then there are people like Mr. Cashman and Mr. Freemount, who are much more subtle and think “some of them are okay” or who make jokes about Mexicans: people who honestly believe that statements like that are okay and protest that they are not racist, people who will only make such statements when they think they are in like-minded company. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered like this myself, who think I will agree with them just because I also happen to be white. When I tell them I don’t agree with them and why, they get offended and act like I’M the jackass. So whomever wrote this book does deserve points for showing that racism is not always glaringly obvious to the whole world, because there are many who, like Penny and Liz, think that it doesn’t exist in their town just because it’s not in their faces. It’s true that Penny and Liz are only teenagers, so I’m willing to cut them a little slack – but not much, especially not Liz, since she professes to be such a know-it-all!

I’m also glad not everything ended perfectly for Neil in the end (more on him in a bit). He acted like a jerk again and again, and he deserved to lose his friends if you ask me. It’s perfectly understandable that Andy doesn’t want to be his friend anymore. I was truly expecting the ghostwriter to have Andy make up with Neil, just because that’s usually the way things end in these books. I could see the two of them skipping off to the Dairi Burger in the sunset. But that didn’t happen. So, in some respects, there were consequences to Neil’s actions.

So what didn’t I like? Oh man, where do I start?

I am iffy about this scene: Andy and Tracy get invited to sit with the rest of the gang at lunchtime. Liz thinks to herself how everyone likes Andy, not because he’s black, but because he is a good guy; she recognizes that if everyone tried to treat Andy extra special because he’s black, then that would just as bad. Okay, so I think that’s an important thing to touch on. You don’t have to pat yourself on the back and say “I have black friends!” You just need to look at people by their character, not by the color of their skin. I’m iffy about it because I still feel like the sentiment rings false in a series where we hardly ever hear about any minority characters unless they are going to be part of some minority-focused story (more on that later).

Neil is a wuss, just like in Secret Admirer, yet we’re supposed to feel sorry for him. He can’t stand up to people until major damage has already been done. Previously, he couldn’t stand up to Kirk Anderson and friends until Penny had already been terribly hurt. And here, he couldn’t stand up to Mr. Cashman, his dad, or to Charlie and his ass friends until Andy had already been severely beaten. He couldn’t ask Charlie what his fucking deal was when he had the chance, failing again and again to take a really firm stand. He couldn’t even bring himself to just tell Mr. Collins or any other adults the truth when asked. And when offered a chance to hit Andy, he took it! It doesn’t matter that he “tried” to stop himself from punching Andy at the last possible nanosecond, because violence was still his initial reaction. He makes horrible decisions and then makes excuses for himself, or worse, acts first then thinks later, time and time again. So did he really learn his lesson? Who knows, he’s a character in a book. But I’m really disgusted with him. His actions and thoughts do not do anything to solve the problems, in fact, they just exacerbate it. Despite all of this, we have Liz and Penny making excuses for him. Penny even (briefly) wonders if maybe she helped contribute to the problem by not being there and decides she’ll try to forgive him in the end. But she was there, trying to get him to talk about it and calling him all the time. Not only that, she is not responsible for Neil’s actions, Neil is. He made his choices and ran away from his feelings time and time again without trying to do anything productive about him. He’s responsible for that. Just the way Charlie is responsible for his own actions, not his old man. Yet I feel like the ghostwriter wants us to sympathize with Neil more than Andy. Stupid Liz sure does. Not once do we get Andy’s point of view that’s happening. Which brings me to another point …

I feel like none of the adults in this book really wanted to help until Andy was seriously hurt. I know, I know, none of the kids wanted to spill the beans about Charlie, especially since Andy didn’t want them to. But couldn’t they have done a little more pushing to find out who was responsible? It was like their attitude was, “Huh, no one knows who did it … okay. Let’s give Andy a standing ovation for surviving the attack!” and then moved on. (And aren’t there security cameras at the mall?)

If you want readers to understand what discrimination might feel like, in some small way, why not offer us Andy’s point of view? Why not show us how Andy feels and juxtapose those feelings with Neil’s? Instead, we get Neil’s feeling sorry for himself throughout the entire book (when we’re not hearing about how Liz and Penny feel). And we get to read about poor Jessica and Amy and Ken getting treated like “second-class citizens” for a whopping fifty minutes. They’re about to cry because they don’t get to choose their own seats or giggle about boys back and forth, and they are outraged because the usual unbelievable life of privilege they have is suddenly reduced by a smidgen for that brief amount of time. They aren’t getting beaten up in the hallway or spat on when they walk by (and I’m not saying they should, so don’t freak out on me). They aren’t afraid to go to certain areas for fear someone will kick their asses just for having light eyes. Yet Jessica thinks: “This is what it feels like. This is what it feels like to be discriminated against.” Now, is it a bad thing that they did this exercise? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. But I think it is sad that it took this exercise to get them raring to go to take any real action, and even then, we don’t see where they did. And I have to wonder if this exercise made Jessica and Amy think a little harder about the shitty way they treat other people. Did Jessica suddenly feel bad about all the things she did to people she didn’t consider as good-looking and high-class as herself – people like Annie Whitman and Robin Wilson? Somehow, I doubt it.

And finally, you know what I really don’t like about this book? That a brand new black character had to be made up solely for a book about racism. That’s sad to me. They had to pull a brand new character out to showcase racism, because, as far as I can recall, there has never been a black male character in this entire series. And will we ever hear about Andy again after this? Probably not. Oh, maybe in passing here and there, but otherwise I can pretty much bet he will disappear. And that sucks, not just for the reasons I mentioned above, but also because Andy is a genuinely likable character. I dig him way more than Todd or Ken or all the rest of the males we are shown on a regular basis. So from an entirely non-racial standpoint, we once again lose a character that I really like just because he no longer serves a Wakefield-centric purpose. And we only got to meet him to begin with because someone felt it was time for a book about black-white race relations.

Charlie and his friends face no consequences for beating up and harassing Andy. Andy scares them off by threatening to sue the shit out of them if they don’t leave him alone, and Neil promises to always defend Andy against them in the future. But otherwise, Charlie gets off scot-free.

Agree with me, don’t agree with me, or somewhere in between; you’re all welcome to share your own thoughts in the comments.

Some other stuff: Charlie’s friends are Jim Sturbridge, Jerry “Crunch” McAllister, and Ron Reese. If Ron sounds familiar, it’s because he’s from Secret Admirer, where he was one of Kirk Anderson’s cronies and … guess what … a friend of Neil’s. (None of that stuff is mentioned in this book.)

The “N-word” is never used in this book, in case you were curious. That’s not very realistic, but I think the book was heavy and depressing enough without having Charlie and friends use it.

We finally hear more about Ken Matthews and his current eyesight status. He is recovered, but Scott Trost is still filling the quarterback position. No word on whether Scott is still dating Amy.

Jade Wu appears out of nowhere at the lunch table to try to make a joke about better cafeteria food during a heated discussion about SVH not teaching more about Mexican American history. (Manuel is not amused with her, but everyone else is.)

Why is everyone ragging on Pi Beta Alpha, and acting like it’s the only sorority? In the very beginning, all we heard about was that PBA was the “most exclusive” of all the sororities.

The back cover of this book says that Andy and Neil have been best friends for “years” and the last book gave that impression as well. But here we are told that Neil and Andy really only became friends recently when they got paired together in Marine Biology class.

Neil has an older brother named Gary who is a freshman at USC.

Jessica is on a diet on the first page of the book, skipping lunch so that she can fit into her cheerleading uniform. And Liz just laughs and thinks about how Jessica is very thin and this is just typical behavior. I don’t even need to comment, do I?

Set-up for next book: Scott flunks two classes and gets suspended from the football team, so it’s time for quarterback tryouts. Everyone expects Ken to take his old position back now that he’s recovered his eyesight, but Liz and Penny are wondering if a girl might try out instead … the one who sent in the note asking why girls aren’t allowed to play football. This is clearly already going to set off a book about sexism. Man, the series is suddenly going all ABC After-School Special on us and attempting to tackle (pun not intended, I swear) real issues.

#68 The Love Bet

"Hehe! So is this how Suzanne Devlin did it, Todd?"

Y’all need to get ready, because this grouch is about to rip the holy hell out of this unbearably cheesy piece of shit.

For starters, I could rag on this cover allllllll night. What the FUCK is going on here? Todd is pretending it’s Saturday Night Fever while Liz has the most obvious blowjob face I have ever seen! It took me a while to see that Todd does have a shirt on under that deep V-neck, and that it looks like it’s the same color as Liz’s fugly sweater and barrettes. When you start matching outfit colors, you’re officially a vomit-inducing couple that needs to break up to spare everyone else’s sense of well-being. But yeah, Liz’s face is what really blows me away … or blows Todd away. God! Someone please make a porno based on this cover. And, even the color of this book is ugly. It looks like someone puked up a whole vat of nacho cheese that they gorged themselves on at the Dairi Burger. It was probably Jessica so that she wouldn’t gain a fourth of a pound.

So WHY is Liz making her best oh-face at Todd? It seems these two douches are terribly saddened that both Aaron Dallas and Dana Larson have given up on love, which they announce at some lame-ass party that Patty Gilbert is throwing for her boyfriend Jim. Yeah, I’m sure Jim couldn’t wait to come home from college to stand around eating chips and dips with a bunch of kids who just recently got their drivers’ licenses. There’s a reason he’s never around, Patty dear. Anyway, we learn that Aaron’s girlfriend Heather Sanford moved away recently and Dana recently broke up with that kid she met through Jessica in Who’s Who? (Jessica is pissed off about it because she thanks herself for getting them together and doesn’t like this threat to her sense of high self-worth. Piss off Jess.) Dana even writes a song about it called “Fed Up with Love.” Fed up with love, or fed up with knowing your music career is over once you graduate?

So after Patty’s party, Todd and Liz are busy sucking face and, as usual, Liz is getting off on bemoaning the plight of every person in the world who doesn’t have a love as perfect and fight-ridden as the one she shares with Todd. I seem to recall her thinking the same lofty thoughts about her relationship with Jeffrey before she kicked him to the curb when Todd came back to town. What an uppity bitch. Okay sorry, I got stuck in my Liz hate again! It’s such an easy thing to do. Liz and Todd decide that they will launch “Operation Pair-up” (LAME) to get Dana and Aaron together. Why? Oh, no reason, but opposites have to attract and most everyone else that they give a tiny bit of a shit about is taken already. Todd thinks the plan won’t work and so he and Liz come up with a stupid bet to fuck this book up even further. If Dana and Aaron do fall in love, then Liz wins and Todd has to grant her three wishes. If Dana and Aaron wind up hating each other as they very well could with these two assholes mucking around in their business, then Liz loses and has to perform three tasks of Todd’s bidding. Heh heh! This could be totally awesome! From the look of the cover, we already know what one of Todd’s three wishes will be.

Todd and Liz start inviting Dana and Aaron along on double dates: first to a classic old movie and pizza at Guido’s, and then to some jazz concert in the park where they sit on blankets and talk about how interesting jazz is. I don’t mean to sound like an ass, but do these kids date like old people or what? Actually, I do mean to sound like an ass, who am I kidding. I mean, do these kids ever just go parking and drinking or anything like that? Dana and Aaron go out of their way to sound like neither has any interest in “romance” or “love” and talk about how over-rated it is, and it’s very forced and just stupid. Todd and Liz also tell each kid lies about the other, making it sound like Aaron talks about Dana all the time and Dana has a crush on Aaron. You see, Todd isn’t trying to keep Dana and Aaron apart, his part of the bet is just that it won’t work out between them. So in other words, Todd is willing to play with their feelings even though he thinks it might end badly. I told you guys this before, but he is a DICK.

Eventually some bullshit goes down where Todd leaves a nice secret admirer card in Dana’s locker, knowing she’ll think it was Aaron. Dana is really flattered and shows Liz the card. Liz recognizes Todd’s handwriting and realizes he sent it. She doesn’t tell Dana that but asks Dana not to say anything to Aaron since he’s probably too shy to talk about it, or something like that. Aaron asks Dana out on their first real date to see a play and then eat at the Box Tree Cafe, where she goes ahead and mentions the note to him. Aaron has no idea what Dana is talking about, and Dana realizes that Todd and Liz have been setting her up. By this time she’s developed real feelings for Aaron and had thought he felt the same, and now she thinks he only wants to be friends even though he’s holding her hands and about to tell her something. So she starts crying and runs out of the restaurant. What a baby! Hahaha! Back at home, Todd and Liz are enjoying some chaste stroking on the couch when Dana calls Liz and bitches her out. Then Liz gets mad at Todd and they have a huge fight and he leaves. Then Jessica comes in, already in a bad mood over her own drama (see the sub-plot), and bitches out Liz as well for setting Dana and Aaron up. She’s had a stick up her ass about the whole plan because she likes to date Aaron occasionally and thinks Liz should be setting her up with him. Or, you know, Liz could just mind her own damn business for a change. That would be good too.

Dana spends the next few days avoiding Aaron while Todd ignores Liz. So that last part is business as usual. Then the big Battle of the Bands rolls around (again, see the sub-plot) and Aaron finally gets Dana to talk to him. They go out to the soccer field and make out and then Dana feels energized and the Droids easily win the Battle. Shocker. Then Dana and Aaron realize they have to do something to get Todd and Liz to make up, because their undeniable immaturity even for teenagers is somehow not their own goddamned responsibility to get the fuck over, themselves! So Dana and Aaron each put a fake “let’s make up” card in Todd and Liz’s lockers to get them to meet and make up. And of course all is forgiven.

Yes, this means that Liz won the bet. So what are her three wishes? I’ll tell you if you promise not to comment-bomb this post demanding new keyboards because you all puked in yours.

Okay, so Liz was going to ask for a dozen roses, for Todd to carry her books all week, and for Todd to do all her chores for a week, but then the fucking chump decided she’d rather have the following instead:

1. “I wish you and I will never have such a pointless argument ever again …” (GOOD LUCK WITH THAT.)

2. “I wish we’ll always be together and as happy as we are right now …” (DITTO)

3. “I wish you’d give me the biggest, best kiss ever, right this very instant!” (HURRRRRRRRL)

And how does Todd respond? “One Todd Wilkins Deluxe Smooch, coming right up!”

Hey … I gave you fair warning with that one! And as for Dana and Aaron? I give it 10 books, tops. Okay, I’m cheating a bit because I know eventually there’s a book about Dana trying to hook up with some other dude … sue me why don’tcha.

It really twists my panties in a wad, how the twins get away with fucking with their friends like this. They can eff with them all they want and get people infuriated but it will all work out in the end. And I don’t get why on earth it is so unthinkable for someone to want to stay single for a change. Dana’s had like 50 random boyfriends since the start of the series. The girl can take a damn break if she wants to, leave her alone! Liz is such a fucking hypocrite too … remember how she used to get all mad when Jessica would try to hook her up with people after she and Todd broke up?

The sub-plot finds Jessica trying to cash in on fame … again. You see, the winner of the Battle of the Bands gets a trip to L.A. to play in some big concert or some shit. You know, I don’t think there’s even any mention of who’s hosting this Battle, but maybe there is and I forgot already. Jessica is desperate to meet famous people, so she decides to be a roadie for one of the competing bands, Baja Beat, so that if they win she can hitch a ride along to L.A. and cocktease famous dudes. But Baja Beat doesn’t need a roadie so they point Jessica to a dude named Spy Lazarus and his band, Spontaneous Combustion. Jessica ropes Lila into helping them out. All the members of Spontaneous Combustion are butt-ugly instead of gorgeous like Jess had stupidly assumed. Along with Spy, there’s Hal, Pete, Wheels, and Motorhead, or Motor for short. How original. And *gasp!* they smoke cigarettes! And blow the smoke in Jessica’s face. That’s rude as shit but I laughed my ass off when I read that, especially when Jessica sweetly agreed to be their roadie anyway simply because she hoped to eventually be able to suck some rock star dick because of it. Lila, meanwhile, immediately hates the gig and spends all her time filing her nails and sitting down complaining while Jessica hauls all the equipment and does all the work. You know, I think that’s her comeuppance considering all the work she usually hauls off on everyone else. Lila is probably just hanging around because it amuses her to see Jess get what she deserves. Spontaneous Combustion’s songs suck; they’re really loud and “scream” their lyrics. So what that means is they probably don’t sound like a pop band singing about how sunny Sweet Valley is. The band members call Jess and Li “chick” and “chicklet” and Jess just keeps on putting up with it. “Wheels” even asks Jess out and he even pinches her ass on stage at the Battle while she’s trying to set up all HIS shitty equipment! Jessica puts up with his sexual harassment, much to my shock, just because she’s so desperate to get to Hollywood since all her 137 other schemes have failed. I hate to think of the message this book sent to little girls that read it.

Lila meanwhile mysteriously turns up with a sprained wrist the day of the Battle and takes off, leaving Jess to set up the amps and instruments herself. Jess is so mad at Lila that she doesn’t pay attention to where she’s wiring everything and then when the band comes on, the speakers blow and set off a small fireworks display in the gym. Spontaneous Combustion’s shot at stardom is ruined! Ohhhhhh no! Jessica takes off running, but Spy finds her later and bitches her out and fires her.

WTF? Well, how about this book says the boy Dana dated previously was named Brent. His name was Brett. Come on editors, it’s not that difficult to fact-check these things so please try to pay attention.

The book introduces some new characters that will pop up later – Jamie Peters the rock star, Claire Middleton the shy new student, and Andy Jenkins, who is quite possibly the only black male at Sweet Valley High. We never heard of Andy before, but he’s Neil Freemount’s best friend and Patty Gilbert’s cousin Tracy’s boyfriend. And he’s in the band Baja Beat. And he’s easygoing and level-headed when Charlie Cashman the bully pushes him around in the lunch line. And speaking of Patty, she’s suddenly “one of the most popular students at Sweet Valley High” – when did that happen? Her best friend is that drip DeeDee Gordon for god’s sake.

Plus, a couple of old characters are brought back from Never-Never Land (Sally Larson and Lynne Henry). I think it is funny they will go out of their way to assure us these kids still exist while Abbie Richardson is just GONE. One book and she’s history. And where the hell are Jeffrey and A.J.? Isn’t Jeffrey Aaron’s best friend in all the world? With every new book that spotlights a Liz and Todd fight, I miss Jeffrey more and more. He would have never even agreed to participate in this fucking bet.

One of the things Dana and Aaron bond over is how a soccer team works similar to a band playing together. Their deep conversation makes Dana care about soccer, so she goes to see Aaron play in a championship game. That’s right, the soccer team is apparently back even though they won a championship already! And they’re playing Big Mesa AGAIN even though they already had to beat them in the last championship (way back when Aaron had his little rage problem in Out of Control). I think the book tries to explain it away by saying that this championship game is some special citizens’ center game, or some bullshit like that.

Here are some of Spontaneous Combustion’s songs: “Hold Me Till I Hate You” and “Just Call Me Mr. Zero”. So which do you like better, these song titles or the Droids’?

Oh, and the fourth and final band playing at the Battle is “the Suede Men” … the hell?

The Droids wear animal print shirts that DeeDee and Olivia painted for their Battle set and they have vines hung up in the background. Hot.

At one point Dana thinks about how she and her band mates socialize in different circles. Since when? Because last time I checked they were all great friends who hung out together all the time, outside of band practice. Now all of a sudden Dana is good friends with Liz. The last time Liz deigned to speak to Dana was when she was having problems at home with her cousin Sally. See? You can only stay friends with Liz if your life is very problematic. As soon as everything’s a-okay and she can pat herself on the back, she’s off to the next troubled soul. Even Enid is going missing these days.

Jessica sounds like she’s looking for “the one”. This book talks about how it’s impossible to find the right dude and Jessica is like, “Oh yeah I totally agree” Since when does she care about having one special dude? She had her chance with that and she didn’t want it!

What is the moral of this story? Well, here’s what Liz learned: “Never again would she interfere in someone else’s affairs, even if it was with the best of intentions.” BULL. SHIT.

On a side note, I HATE disgusting commercials about people’s mucus! There’s one on right now! I can’t tell which makes me sicker, that or every SVH book I’ve made myself read this new year!

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: Jessica, on the way to meet Spy: “I tell you what. I’ll be an incredibly generous, unselfish friend and give you first dibs on him!”
Lila: “Thanks, but if he has eyes, I won’t need your help.”

Coming up next: I guess The Love Bet was meant to give us a break after all the heavy-handedness of the Ned and Alice Separation. But now some serious shit is about to go down in a book about racism. I am almost afraid to see how Sweet Valley will handle this topic.

#67 The Parent Plot

The "I'm Running Out of Ideas for This Series" Plot

Welcome to the last in a trilogy about Wakefield family drama that no one cares about. In this installment, we can see by the cover that Liz has had some plastic surgery, and she is NOT happy about her new nose. Jess on the other hand is thrilled because this means no more identical twin jokes! (Have their lavalieres been missing on all the recent covers or just this one? I haven’t seen them in a while!)

Seriously, this book is well-written considering the terrible plot line the author had to work with. Ned Wakefield is still hard at work on his campaign for mayor. There’s no mention of his law firm so I guess he quit. I don’t know how this shit works. Liz and Jess start helping out with his campaign, which means stuffing envelopes, operating the phone bank, and all that jazz. Ned’s campaign staff includes his advisor, James Knapp, and his aides, Amanda Mason and Ramon Valdes. James’ nephew Terry also works there but it’s not clear how old he is. It’s also not clear what any of these people do all day other than sit around shooting the shit and conducting occasional door-to-door campaigns. James Knapp in particular only shows up when he wants to pressure Ned into changing his speeches to reflect more on the need for economic development, much to Liz’s ire. Meanwhile, Ned and Alice continue to live apart. Liz is still upset about it, but Jess is having the time of her life because she can’t wait to fix her parents up with anyone with a pulse that crosses their path. It figures.

Liz and Maria are suddenly close friends, and so Liz invites her to come help out with Ned’s campaign. Even though the only reason Ned is running is because Maria’s dad was the victim of a smear campaign, Maria is more than happy to do so. Whatever. There is zero mention of Enid in this book (I think). I was trying to read it as quickly as possible and get it over with.

So what is the whole Parent Plot? Well, there isn’t much of one. I guess we’re supposed to think that the twins are constantly battling each other over their parents, but it so doesn’t go down like that. Jessica does try to set her parents up with random people, while Liz gets mad and occasionally tries to get her parents to “accidentally” bump into each other so they can talk. Boring. No one Jess talks to is interested in Ned or Alice as anything more than friends, so I guess her parents aren’t as attractive as Jessica thinks. Or maybe they just aren’t raging to get with someone whose marriage just broke up (and not even legally). Jess wants to set Ned up with Amanda Mason, but she’s already engaged to someone else. Hurrrr. Next she decides it’s a good idea to get her mom and Mr. Collins together. Holy shit, isn’t Mr. Collins in his early-mid 20s while Alice is in her 40s? And isn’t Mr. Collins dating Ms. Dalton? Jessica doesn’t give a shit. She arranges a parent-teacher conference to talk about her crap grades, then spends the whole meeting just suggesting Mr. Collins and Alice hang out more, or something. She dashes out of the room, ostensibly to get something out of her locker, and guess what, Alice agrees to go out with Mr. Collins as “friends” for some fun to take her mind off the situation. Yet the narrator makes it clear that this is really a “non-romantic” date and that Jessica is disappointed about that. Okay, what the fuck is that? Fancy dinner and a movie, just you and a dude you barely know? That sounds like a date to me. I must be old-fashioned.

The twins go out with their dad that same night and it turns out he’s taking them to Chez Sam. Jessica freaks out and begs him to take them somewhere else because she knows Mr. Collins is taking their mom to Chez Sam too. Liz and Ned don’t get what Jessica’s damage is so they go ahead to Chez Sam where they see Alice and Mr. Collins. Liz is enraged that Jessica set them up and Jessica is terrified a huge fight will go down, but it works out fine. In fact, Mr. Collins and Alice wind up eating at the table with Ned and the twins and no one seems mad.

Seeing that the plan failed, Jess then idly tries to see if Ramon Valdes wants to date Alice, but he bores her with talk of his Siamese cats and how cool they are. Well, they are cool … not that I talk about my own cats all day or anything … ahem. *jumps through window and runs away*

Maria overhears Knapp talking with some man named Sy Robertson in a shady manor. They joke in a menacing movie villain tone about how they set up Mr. Santelli with the mysterious bank deposit because he wouldn’t do what they wanted. It seems there is a huge beachfront development planned for Sweet Valley that they know the town will oppose, so they’re looking for someone to run for mayor who will sneakily push it on the town after election. Why don’t Knapp or Robertson run then? This is SO fucking dumb. Maria tells Terry, Winston, and Liz and they resolve to find enough evidence to convict Knapp and I guess Robertson. They put together a dumb plan to get the kids in the office after hours to prowl around like Nancy Drew. Liz distracts the security guard, pretending she’s waiting on her mother to pick her up, while the other kids prowl around in Knapp’s office. Eventually Liz goes up there to see what’s going on and they all hear Knapp coming and hide in a closet. Through a crack in the door, they see him pull a folder out from a filing cabinet, make some copies and put it back. He leaves and they page through it and it’s, conveniently, the plans for the Sweet Valley beachfront development, along with a bank deposit slip for $10,000 with Mr. Santelli’s bank account # written on it. WOW, don’t make it easy for any nosy kids or, you know, the custodian who cleans your whole office to figure you out or anything, there, Knapp.

Liz shows the folder to Ned who’s furious and also frustrated because they can’t just take it to the police without getting a search warrant first, even though Liz the citizen is the one who came across it. And they don’t want to just go get a search warrant, I guess? They say everything Maria heard only amounts to hearsay. I have no idea what the fuck is happening. So Ned asks Alice to help and they work out a plan together. Then the day of the mayoral debates comes around, or something like that. Ned goes to make a big speech and announces that Mr. Santelli was set up, and that Ned is quitting the race to preserve his honor or some old bullshit like that! James Knapp tries to sneak away and the police get him and arrest him. So they got the search warrant after all? WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING? I think I’m confused about the way the law works. I feel stupid. Ned comes down from the stage to thunderous applause and hopes he still has his lawyer job. Alice meets him and they make out and Liz cries tears of joy while Jessica is enraged and catches the nearest bus off to San Fran to meet Nicky Shepherd. Well, I wish that’s what she did; instead she grudgingly joins in the group hug. Mr. Santelli runs for mayor again and is elected. Meanwhile, Ned and Alice reunite at home and instead of having hot reunited married couple sex Alice probably just made them all a huge fattening meal while Ned yelled “Where’s my dinner?” and got pissed off because it was 5 minutes late … the end.

I’m sorry you guys, this was SO terrible. And it ain’t getting any better. I’m already a third of the way into the next book, which I used to aid my insomnia the other night, and it worked like a charm. Right now my boyfriend is passed out on our couch snoring at the top of his lungs and it’s so appropriate for this plot line that it’s not even funny!

WTF is up with Alice not disciplining Jessica for her grades. When mine slipped my parents would get pissed and would threaten to ground me (or actually ground me) until I got my ass in gear. Alice is just cheerfully shaking her head at how little concern Jess has for her schoolwork.

Some other restaurants in Sweet Valley, if you care: the Carousel, and the Leeward Isles. Sweet Valley is just bustling with great places to eat!

We hear about how the current (nameless) mayor has held the office for many years and what a good man he is. Many years? What happened to the whole Russell Kincaid shit from No Place to Hide?

Jessica briefly considers setting Alice up with George Fowler – yes, Lila’s dad! Then she realizes it might suck to have Lila as a stepsister … so? Just live at the other end of the mansion and you’ll never have to see her!

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: Jessica: “There are other things in life besides money, you know.”
Lila: “Not that I’ve noticed”

Coming up next: Todd and Liz pity their single friends, seek to remedy their situation immediately. Oh, and there will be new Droids songs! Wait, where were the Droids in this Parent Plot? Shouldn’t they have been at the mayor debate playing a song called “Elect to Have Me Back” Or maybe set up in the Wakefields’ living room after they made up playing a song called “Vote for My Heart” GET IT? GET IT? ELECT, VOTE, IT’S AN ELECTION! SO CLEVER HAHAHA LOL!!!11!

I’m Working On It!

Not to worry everyone, I’m still dragging myself through the latest stack of SVHs. I will finish The Parent Plot soon. I have to say the books are really going downhill. The ones in the 60s have been terrible, for the most part. The storylines are wearing thin and are often repeats of previous stories. Even the titles are awful. Gone are the soap opera-ish names like Jealous Lies and Playing with Fire; instead we have obvious shit like The Parent Plot and The Love Bet that is better suited to Sweet Valley Kids if you ask me. Lame.

I have been on a major nostalgia trip lately … watching She-Ra (still awesome) and Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer (HORRIBLE – sorry! Hey, I loved it when I was 4!) and reading the Saved by the Bell beauty and fitness manual. I wish I could get a doctorate in retro pop culture. I totally would. (What would one do with a degree like that? Be a doctor of AWESOME?)

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