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

Archive for March, 2011

#76 Miss Teen Sweet Valley

Jess checks out her pores, Liz scowls that Biore strips aren't invented yet

Sister vs. sister … says the back cover. Again? Believe it or not, I could not wait to review this one. I bought this book the second it popped up on the shelf at our local Waldenbooks. I loved Sweet Valley, and I loved YA novels about beauty pageants! I think one of my favorites was Merivale Mall:Never Stop Smiling. I loved all the backstage cattiness and bitchy backstabbing that inevitably popped up in a teenage beauty pageant tale! Now, this book is unique in that rather than having Jessica duke it out with Amy or Lila or whomever for the title of Miss Teen Sweet Valley, she dukes it out with Liz – for the right to participate in the pageant at all. So that’s a refreshing change from our normal beauty contest storylines … you know, like Jessica stomping on Enid for Miss Fall Ball, Jessica getting trounced by Robin for Miss Sweet Valley High, Jessica being tricked into losing Miss Christmastime to Lila (but getting her back in the end). Ohhh, but none of those are mentioned in this book.

Besides her desire to always be at the center of attention, and her delusional fantasies of attaining worldwide fame through winning a local competition, Jessica’s main wish this ‘go round is to make Steven’s college buddy Frazer McConnell want a piece of her. (What’s REALLY funny is that Jessica somehow thinks winning her local beauty pageant will bring her more fame than her stint on a national television show a few books back.) Frazer doesn’t seem too interested in Jess (or in anything else – he’s kind of boring – perfect friend for Steve!), so Jessica freaks and thinks she has lost her touch. She’s gotten so tired of high school boys and is ready to date older men. Wait, she’s just now ready to do that? Hasn’t she been dating older men since … well, since age 12? (Her first kiss was in Sweet Valley Twins’ The Older Boy!) Then Liz is all, “Oh Jess, the right college boy will come around when the time is right!” What in the hell? Jess has already dated pretty much everyone else at Steven’s school. Jessica also hears rumors that the winner gets a $500 shopping spree at Simple Splendor and many tens of thousands of dollars. The number keeps going up and rather than just checking the facts for herself, Jess is sure that whatever Lila Fowler is saying this week has to be correct. She and Amy sign up; Amy is worried that Jessica will win … well duh. A Wakefield entering a contest and not winning? What’s next, Amy spying fresh dick and not jumping on it?

But oh yes, Liz is super incensed about the pageant which she considers sexist due to the whole parading ’round in a suit for the judges’ approval part (the exact point of which has always confused me as well). She is determined to have it shut down. She wants all beauty pageants … outlawed. Yes, you heard me … OUTLAWED. That is the EXACT word she uses on multiple occasions. She even writes an article for the Oracle, the headline of which states as much. In the meantime, she’s also leading marches on City Hall with picket signs and confronting Valley Mall shoppers with pamphlets. Wow, when did Liz get this women’s lib? Oh well, good for her, I guess. (I’m like Marvin in Pulp Fiction … “Man, I don’t even have an opinion.”) Jessica is pissed as shit that her sister wants to ruin her shot at fame and new clothes, and I can’t blame her. I do get why Liz is against the pageant but why not just campaign to have the swimsuit portion removed? That would make a nice compromise right? And that’s what Ned and Alice keep pushing the twins toward, but neither one will give. So the twins have uncomfortable silent dinners and shoot icy glares in each other’s direction, and snap at each other in front of their friends. Even Amy and Jess are getting along relatively well considering that each is suspicious of what the other will do in the pageant’s talent competition. If Amy’s being nicer to someone than Liz is, then something’s wrong man.

Then the Sweet Valley News reads Liz’s article and runs it in their paper … and the local TV station puts the twins on TV because it’s oh-so-fascinating that two girls who look so much alike could have two different opinions on something. Liz comes off as composed and sure of herself while Jess babbles over and over about how many pageant winners have won scholarships and gone on to do great things. Color me surprised … right.

While Jessica secretly works her ass off at learning a dance routine and getting Simple Splendor to agree to loan her their best-looking pink ballgown for the pageant (in exchange for the free publicity), Liz lies in bed “heartbroken” and makes plans to see a movie with Todd on the night of the pageant. Oh, come on, Liz! Meanwhile, Enid, Dana, and Olivia (Liz’s partners-in-protest) grow weary of their losing battle to get the pageant shut down. Then Elizabeth finds a law on the books that says the school cannot host an outside event for profit unless the superintendent personally approves it – and he’s (get this) in the Soviet Union meeting with Soviet teachers. Liz meets with Chrome Dome Cooper, all ready to show him her findings, but her heart just isn’t in it, so she makes up a lame excuse for the meeting about the Oracle running low on funds.

The day of the pageant arrives and conditions are still frosty between the twins, but Liz decides she can’t miss the pageant and shows up to find her parents saved her a seat because they know their daughter pretty well. The pageant is pretty simple! Jessica is up against two other main contenders, a “professional actress” named Maggie Simmons and a fantastic piano player, a hearing-impaired girl named Sharon Jefferson. Amy is there all sure of winning the pageant with her baton routine but Jess has her dance number down pat and isn’t worried.

The pageant goes like this:
-The emcee (Mr. Cooper) asks each girl a question. Amy gets a question about which room in the house she would be, and answers that she would be the living room because it’s “the most fun room in the house”! Tee hee! What a dumb question. Jessica’s question is about what she would do as President of the United States; she says she’d make sure something would be done to help the homeless and the environment. Liz laughs to herself because she knows the first thing Jess would do is redecorate the White House. My thoughts exactly!
-After the questions comes the talent competition. Amy does her baton routine, which is professionally excellent but kind of bores people nonetheless. She should’ve used flaming batons like in Miss Congeniality. Maggie does a superb monologue from The Taming of the Shrew and Sharon blows everyone away on the baby grand piano. Jess is nervous but her dance routine is flawless … until she trips and falls onto her knees near the end. The audience gasps and Jess is humiliated but finishes the dance. As soon as she finishes, she changes into street clothes and prepares to escape out the backdoor and quit the pageant! What the hell! What kind of wussy behavior is that? Liz runs backstage and catches her but can’t convince Jess to change her mind, so you should already figure out how Liz will (reluctantly) save the day …
-The swimsuit competition is the final part of the pageant before the finalists are chosen. That’s right, Liz has to change into a swimsuit and heels and pretend to be Jessica. She strides the stage while everyone oohs and aahs and feels totally embarrassed. Jessica sees her do it and is delighted and ready to rock again, so she puts on her ball gown and runs back out.
-The finalists are chosen: Jess, Sharon, and Maggie. Maggie’s final question asks what she would do if she had to kiss the winner of a frog-jumping contest at a county fair. She says she’d “kiss him, of course, and hope he turns into a handsome prince.” Sharon’s question asks what she would do if she found out her engagement ring was a fake. She says she’d end the relationship because it would prove her fiance felt he couldn’t be honest with her. And Jessica gets the oh-so-convenient question of which person in all the world means the most to her … kill me.
-Jessica wins. Shock me shock me. First runner-up is Sharon and second runner-up is Maggie.

Jessica’s excitement over winning is dimmed as she realizes that she probably just won because she’s the prettiest girl on the stage. Um, duh? Then Jessica realizes that the crown being placed on her head isn’t up to the giant crown of her fantasies. Oh my lord, give me a fucking break woman!!! Worst of all, Frazer doesn’t seem to give a crap that she won. Then the Wakefields go out for pizza at Guido’s to celebrate and Jessica finally looks at the REAL list of prizes … here’s what she really gets:

  1. Haircut at the new styling salon at the mall
  2. One month’s free bowling at Al’s Alley (Ha! As we learned a couple of books ago, Jessica thinks bowling is ghetto or something)
  3. A set of encyclopedias
  4. $25 gift certificate to Things for Girls
  5. 10 free movie rentals at Quick-dash
  6. The big cash prize: $100

Jessica is really upset. Personally, I think those prizes are awesome, which goes to show how old I am. But I’m thinking $25 isn’t going to go very far at that store … whatever that is. Is that supposed to pay for clothes? I think I could buy two tank tops or maybe pay for most of one sweater at Target with that for God’s sake. Not that I’m going to complain if someone wants to give me $25 … *stretches out hand*

Now don’t worry, we can’t have the book end without giving Jessica what she wants. Frazer comes to the Wakefield house just to ask Jessica out. He had a hard time doing this before because she’s his buddy’s (um, UNDERAGE) little sister. Jessica floats on air all the way to the Dairi Burger! Better not eat too many sundaes Jess, you wouldn’t want to gain an extra four ounces. Oh, and Liz decides it’s okay she didn’t go through with getting the pageant canceled because she got people thinking about today’s modern standards of beauty, or at least that’s what she tells herself so she can sleep at night.

So, what have we learned, kids? That 1) Jessica always gets what she wants, ALWAYS, just because she decides she wants to have it, 2) Liz will get what she wants as long as it doesn’t mean preventing Jessica getting what she wants, and 3) Amy Sutton can’t entertain anyone unless she’s in their backseat at Miller’s Point.

The sub-plot: Jessica takes dance lessons at a studio run by a Mr. Krezenski and he is mean to her and much harder on her than the other girls. He tells her she dances like a drunken moose and it makes me laugh my ass off. She confronts him and he explains he is only being hard on her because she’s the best dancer in the class, or some shit. Um … okay? Then after she falls he tells her he is proud of her for “finishing the dance” after she fell. She comes to see him and says she’s quitting the lessons because she has no time for them now, and he tells her she has real talent and that it would be a shame if she gives up on dance permanently. I agree! Let’s get her to the Beach Disco, put a little liquor in her and see some of those drunken moose moves!

What the fuck? How much do you want to bet we hear nothing of Jessica’s supposed beauty pageant duties after this book? I bet she skips out on them and Sharon has to fill in for her all the time!

Enid update: It should come as a surprise to NO ONE that there has been zero mention so far of Enid and Jeffrey dating. I get it, whatever happens in the Super Star books stays in the Super Star books!

There’s a girl in Jessica’s dance class named Marlena who knows Jessica as “Elizabeth’s sister’ and views her like the Messiah because of this. Jessica and I both want to puke on Marlena’s toe shoes.

Cara has a cousin named Barbara, previously never mentioned, who is a junior at another area high school. Barbara is Frazer’s date for one evening and it makes Jess jealous, even though the “date” appears to just be a get-together at the Wakefield house … how lame. Frazer also has some kind of history with another chick named Monica Crane. You know, for someone who couldn’t get up the guts to ask Jess out, Frazer sure gets around.

There are two things I have to point out about this cover. First, no more classic circles! I still don’t know why that decision was made; I didn’t think they were that unfashionable at the time. These new covers are boring – and half the time it’s clear the picture was blown up from the original and it looks off and weird. The picture on this one seems grainy to me up close. Again, it seems readers in the UK, Australia, and who knows where else got to keep their circles. I’M JEALOUS OF ALL OF YOU. At least we got to hang on to our classic “number in a flag” 🙂

Second – if the twins’ facial expressions look overly familiar to you, that’s because these portraits are recycled in a way. Hmmm, where have we seen that smug expression on Jess before? Check it out …

The Parent Plot vs. Miss Teen Sweet Valley!

It’s not the exact same picture, but it’s pretty close. The new picture looks like it was painted using the older picture as a guide, with slight changes to style, and then flipped. Oh, and Liz’s judgmental face and stupid barrettes?

Love Letters vs. Miss Teen Sweet Valley!

They’re the same. Again, not the same image pasted onto one cover directly from the other, but same deal – Liz is even wearing the same outfit! Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that. If I had to guess, I’d say the cover model grew up and Mathewuse decided to use some of his original portraits for guidance instead.

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: “I’ve already lost interest in the whole silly idea. I mean, a shopping spree? Please. I can already buy whatever I want, so why should I go to all the trouble of walking down a runway for a few dumb prizes?”
-and-
“You, Jessica Wakefield, are getting to be a real bore. How long has it been since you’ve had a date, anyway?” *BURN*
-and-
*witnessing an argument between Jess and Liz at the Dairi Burger* “Let’s pull in our claws, Liz. No sense in making a public spectacle.”

I just realized that Lila talks to Liz the same way my sister and I have always spoken to each other. This must be where we got it from …

Yeah, so guess what it’s time for now? That’s right, our Sweet Valley Reader of the Month! This month’s SVH winner is Kari Capone from New York. Kari writes that she has a lot of interests but that she adores Sweet Valley books and they are “tops” with her. She first got hooked on the books when her mother bought a couple for a friend’s birthday and Kari begged her mom to let her have them instead (if she bought her friend something else). I like Kari’s essay except where she writes that although we “must think me a terrible bookworm” she doesn’t “look like a bookworm”. Well young lady, what does a bookworm look like? I guess like Lynne Herny on Alone in the Crowd, isn’t that right Kari? PC POLICE! ARREST THIS GIRL!

In the back of the book we have two fantastic new ads. Listen to me, I’m SUCH a dork. Hahaha. Anyway! One of these is for the Sweet Valley Sunglasses! Ohhhh, but they’re not just any sunglasses – they’re COLOR MAGIC SUNGLASSES. That’s right! This was at the height of Hypercolor T-shirt popularity in the U.S. Now you can step out on the beach and watch not only your shirt, but your “durable” glasses change color! PLEASE tell me at least one of you out there had these! Free to the first 10,000 readers to send in the coupon! (I didn’t send it in … I suck.) (You can see a terrible picture of these glasses right here at Sweet Valley Unlimited! Scroll down a little to find it.) Which reminds me, does anybody have that Sweet Valley camera they offered many books back? I want one of those cameras so I can be like Liz and take all kinds of nosy pictures of people, then run away screaming when they get mad at me.

Also … an ad announcing the impending arrival of SWEET VALLEY SAGA! YES! I have been waiting forever to get to this book! As I recall, that book wasn’t half bad. Of course, I was 10 or something when I read it, so who knows.

Until next time … when we learn how far Tony Esteban will go to win a race. Yeah, Tony Esteban, that kid who pops up whenever the story calls for an extra runner or soccer player. I couldn’t care less about this book because Sweet Valley Saga comes after it! Bite me Tony!

#75 Amy’s True Love

Amy and Tom (Barry?), celebrating successful back-to-back eyebrow-waxing appointments!

Everyone gather ’round the campfire for a tale about Amy Sutton! Prepare for this exciting journey to learn how mean bitches have feelings too! Ugh. (The sub-plot is at least marginally more interesting, and it gives us a major milestone for Sweet Valley.)

So we’ve finally got a book told from Amy’s point of view, and I couldn’t be less excited. This girl ain’t too bright. I cannot get over the difference between Amy now and Amy back in Sweet Valley Twins (which, now that I think about it, I probably read more, back in the day, than SVH). We get to see Amy here in all her boy-crazy, shallow glory, and it’s kind of … boring.

Amy has been longing for a boyfriend for a little while, and she’s feeling lonely, like none of her friends nor her family take her seriously. Can anyone blame them? When Amy hears Jean West dumped Tom McKay, she runs up to the cafeteria table while Jean’s sitting there bawling and loudly proclaims she’s about to chase after Tom for herself since Jean doesn’t want him. She also wants to know what’s wrong with Jean for breaking up with a fox like Tom. Everyone is appalled – Jean broke up with Tom because things had gotten boring and passionless between them, not because she doesn’t love him. Jean is so upset that she gets up from the table and runs off, with Sandra and then Cara chasing after her. Jessica is already pissed off that Amy has been so “boy-crazy” lately, but really she’s just mad because Amy started hitting on a hot boy named Dan at the Beach Disco before Jess could get to him. (Don’t worry, Liz calls her out on her hypocrisy.) Now Jess and Lila are so stunned at Amy’s insensitive treatment of Jean that they decide it’s time to teach Amy a lesson. They give her the cold shoulder for the rest of the book, not speaking to her, calling her, or inviting her anywhere. Amy doesn’t get it. HAha, I’ll bet she doesn’t.

Feeling rejected by her friends, Amy tries to find solace in her parents, but both of them are often too busy for her. If I was Amy’s mom, I’d make sure I was “too busy” for her too, bwa ha ha. Amy’s mom Dyan is a sportscaster, as is often mentioned, and Amy’s dad is a photographer on the brink of fame, or something like that. Amy makes grilled barbecue chicken breasts for dinner to show them she’s important too, but she doesn’t defrost them first, even after her dad reminds her to. Her parents don’t eat the chicken breast but remark that the salad is nice. Ha ha ha. Is anyone else sick of dumb hi-jinks revolving around how these kids can’t cook? Then Amy’s parents ask what’s going on in her world and the only thing she can come up with is a story about how Ralph Woodley and A.J. Morgan were arguing over who got to sit next to her in art class. She makes sure to note that A.J. is Jessica’s ex; I guess that gives her a thrill or something. At least we know A.J.’s still around. Her parents are annoyed that this is the only thing their daughter wants to talk about, and then her mom gives Amy a lecture later about taking life more seriously since she’ll be applying to college soon. Amy decides that if she gets a serious boyfriend, that will show her parents she is turning over a new leaf. No, really. That’s her plan. This chick is hopeless. I tried to think of what MY parents would do if, at 16, I announced I had decided to get a steady boytoy to show them how serious I am about my life and my future and I actually shuddered a little.

Amy’s sociology teacher Ms. Jacobi hands Amy a paper back on social work with an “F” on it. The teacher wants Amy to do some real social work and then write a paper about that to adjust her grade. Amy is volun-told for Project Youth, a center that caters to teens that need help. Amy has to serve as teen counselor on the hotline two afternoons each week. She’ll be working with Barry Rork, a kid on the tennis team who hangs out with Tom, Bruce, Kirk Anderson et. al. but whom Amy thinks is a “drip” because he wears glasses. Why all the hate for people who wear glasses in these books?!

Amy keeps her hotline stuff a secret from kids at school because she doesn’t want her reputation affected. And she hides it from her parents because she thinks Tom McKay will be more impressive than Amy doing something for the greater good. That should tell you all you need to know about Amy Sutton. She’s really good at answering the phones and talking to depressed people, much to my great surprise, but she makes Barry not tell Tom about what she’s doing … she doesn’t want people to think she’s … anything more than a boy-stealing cheerleader, I guess? I really hate her. Barry of course gets a huge crush on Amy almost immediately but Amy is always asking him to speak with Tom for her. And man, back to that – Amy is really chasing after Tom McKay everywhere she can find him, and I mean that “chasing” word very literally. She runs him down at the Beach Disco, at parties, the library, school, his tennis lessons, you name it. He doesn’t want anything to do with her and literally darts away when he sees her coming most of the time, but she DOES NOT GET IT. Meanwhile, Jessica overhears Barry and Tom talking at the Beach Disco about how Tom doesn’t like Amy at all and wants her to lay off, while Barry confesses he’s the one who has the crush on Amy. Jessica thinks it’s hilarious. Me? Getting bored!

Enid’s cousin Jake Farrell is in town from San Francisco, and she throws a big party for him at her house. Haha, ain’t no party like an Enid Rollins party, ’cause the Enid Rollins party…will definitely stop at some point, probably in an hour or so. Amy follows Tom around the party like a puppy dog while everyone else laughs about how ridiculous she is. It’s seriously embarrassing. In her last act of self-destruction, Amy buys the last two tickets to the Number One concert. She asks Tom to go at the lunch table in front of Jess, Lila, Barry, and Kirk Anderson and he says no. So what does Amy do next? She asks two more times!!! Then Kirk goes: “Tom, I think you’re going to have to spell it out for her. N O means no. You know, Amy’s not exactly a rocket scientist. What else can you expect from a dumb blonde.” Amy freaks out and runs off while Barry stays behind and tells off Kirk. Come on Amy, is that really the first time you had someone call you on your shit? Really? I think we’re supposed to feel sorry for her because no one deserves to be put down that way, but I can’t muster any sympathy. This bitch is hella mean to everyone else!

Tom does feel bad about the scene Kirk made, so he tapes an apology note about the concert to Amy’s letter. Don’t apologize to her Tom! You’ll egg her on! Then Amy is volunteering at Project Youth when Liz comes in there to do a report for the Oracle. Amy’s secret is out! She does something worthwhile with her life! Liz is surprised but learns all about Project Youth from Amy and Barry. Amy even tells her parents and Jess about what she’s doing and everyone starts to see her in a new light. Whatever. Oh oh oh, and as for Barry? Well, Amy learns he stood up for her and then Jessica tells her she thinks Barry’s kind of cute underneath it all, and funny too. Almost immediately, “a warm feeling” comes over Amy and she realizes she likes Barry after all. He sends her flowers, she takes him to the Number One concert and their “first real date” at the Dairi Burger. How nice. Have I mentioned how much I hate Amy Sutton?

The sub-plot is way more important than Amy finding herself, or whatever that was. Tom McKay feels confused as to why he can’t make himself feel any real passion for Jean. Then he meets Enid’s fashionable cousin Jake Farrell who is visiting from San Francisco. Jake is very handsome, a well-known local tennis champ, and he and Tom get along really well. When it’s time for Jake to leave, Tom feels unusually sad and down about him going on his way. Then Jake tells Enid in private, before his grand party, that he’s gay. We don’t get to see Enid’s reaction, but she doesn’t handle it super well, and feels bad. Later she tells Jake she loves him the way he is, but in the meantime Jake is having a sad time. He goes for a walk to think about it (and to get away from Jessica and Lila who are throwing themselves at him nonstop) and Tom sees him leave, and asks to come with him. Jake tells Tom he’s gay and that a lot of people stopped liking him or being his friend when they found out. Tom tries to act like he’s okay with this revelation, but in reality he’s stunned because he suddenly realizes that’s what’s been bothering him … he’s (probably) gay. He doesn’t say it out loud, but Jake’s not an idiot, so he can pick up on Tom’s growing discomfort and they head back to the party. Tom decides to talk to Mr. Collins about his feelings and Mr. Collins suggests he go to Project Youth. OF COURSE, the day Tom is waiting to speak to the head counselor lady (Kathy Henry) is the same day that Elizabeth is over there to talk to Kathy and interview Amy and Barry. Liz catches Tom sitting in the waiting room reading a pamphlet titled “Teens and Homosexuality.” Oh, lord! Liz feels she has to break the uncomfortable silence so she sits down and slowly gets Tom to talk to her about his feelings. Why is it always Liz? WHY? Why does everyone just readily tell her everything about themselves when they barely know her? I’d like to smack her in her face. Anyway, after coming out to Liz (sort of), Tom has a good talk with Kathy, then he tells Barry he thinks he might be gay but he’s not sure, and Barry’s like, “Okay cool, glad you don’t want a piece of Amy, now let’s play some tennis.” And I guess that’s it. Lord, it must be especially tough to come out in SWEET VALLEY of all places. But it must be even tougher with freakin’ Amy Sutton trying to insert herself in your pants all the time. Oh yeah, and Tom feels bad about the way he acted to Jake (kinda standoffish) when Jake came out to him, but Jake seems to understand and wants Enid to help him stay in touch, and there’s the possibility of Tom going to visit Jake in San Fran. Hmmm, will they become a couple or just stay good friends? You know, I’d much rather read about Jake and Tom at Miller’s Point than Liz and Todd. … I’m just sayin’!

Amy looks terrible on this cover. She needs to stick with her pouty-faced poses like on Last Chance and Bitter Rivals. Seriously, I don’t know what the hell happened. I never thought she was THAT hot, but apparently when she smiles, all hell breaks loose. Also, the kid on the right is a major source of confusion for me. First of all, he’s wearing mascara and eyeliner. He sure has a purty mouth. Hahahahaha I could go on, but I won’t. But is it Barry or Tom? I had assumed Tom, but reading the book, Tom has blond hair and Barry has dark hair (not that these books gives a damn about getting cover images lined up with the text). Also, Amy never has a chance at hugging up on Tom like that, and if she did he certainly wouldn’t be smiling about it (although it is kind of forced … like, get this bitch off me before I catch something aaaaaaah). Third, the Sweet Valley Confidential Facebook page displays that character in their Sweet Valley High Characters photo album as Barry Rork. So who is it? (Any SVC people reading this want to help me out?) If it’s not Tom, are there any pics of Tom on later covers? He was kind of a major-ish character for a while. The only book cover I can think of is Sweet Valley Twins #16, Second Best:

That's Tom McKay on the left, Liz in the middle (SHOCKER), and Tom's older brother Dylan (not mentioned in SVH) on the right. Hehehe ... Dylan McKay ... any 90210 fans in the house?

Yep, he’s blonde there, and looks way different than pretty boy floyd here.

On a sadder note, this book represents the very last of the classic circle covers. Our next book displays the SVH early 90s redesign. Although I think British readers still got circle covers up through book 94, and Especially for Girls book club readers got those funky hardcover versions that always had the circle, we were not so lucky in the U.S.

WTF? Jessica’s diet of the week is a liquid diet. But, as she explains to Liz, she’s decided not to follow it because it’s “unhealthy.” Is this a coincidence, or a sign of respect for the previous storyline? I don’t know if I have that much faith in the ghostwriters.

Speaking of the previous book, Robin Wilson is back and she’s helping coach the cheerleaders, but not moving around as much because she’s still weak.

Amy catches hell from Jessica and Lila for the time she made an ass out of herself chasing Lila’s hot cousin Christopher around when he was really interested in Enid. “Hey, remember what happened when my cousin came to town?” says Lila. Love how she and Jess suddenly can’t remember how they egged Amy on and bitched at Enid for “stealing” Christopher. Amy should’ve snapped, “Hey Jess, remember what happened Enid’s other cousin came to town?” BURN. (That would be Brian, the one Jessica was making out with when she was supposed to be giving Liz a ride, prompting Liz to ride on Todd’s bike and almost die in an accident)

All those jokes way back about Jessica turning Tom off to the female sex for good are hysterically funny right now.

Reader of the Month: YES! It’s our first one! Shannon Allison from Hawaii has a very well-written little essay on the inside of the back cover about how much she loves Sweet Valley. She had me going until I started reading her last paragraph: “I really think that the Sweet Valley High series is the best series in the nation today and Francine Pascal is the best writer.” Hehehehehehehehe. Shannon, don’t kill me if you are reading this! By the way, her picture is on the inside cover and I have to say she looks way more fashionable for the time period than I did at that age. I looked like a dork in 1991. Hey, I was only 9 years old when this book came out; leave me alone!

Coming up next … Yet another beauty pageant is coming to Sweet Valley, and everyone is acting like this is something to be shocked by. Liz is all fired up … you’re a little late there Skippy.

#74 The Perfect Girl

Oh, Robin ... *shaking head*

I’ve had a really hard time getting this post done, as evidenced by my big fat lie yesterday that it would be done last night. I’ve been kind of stressed out lately trying to get too much done in too little time, so my attention has been all OVER the place! Oh damn, we really need to clean our fish tank … wait, what? Oh yes, Sweet Valley High …

In truth, this book was sadder than I was expecting. That seems to be the case with SVH lately, and I feel like I’ve been stuck in an endless loop of After-School Specials. This time, our character in dire need of help is Robin Wilson, the cheerleading co-captain who was once overweight but magically lost all of it in a matter of like, two weeks, back in book 4. Now Robin pretty much lives and breathes to see her college boyfriend, George Warren, who left his girlfriend Enid Rollins for Robin after they met taking flying lessons. And what do you know, now George is planning on taking flying lessons yet again. He feels he’s ready to re-try flying after you know, the last time he flew ended in a near-death disaster (Crash Landing!). But this means he won’t be spending much time with Robin anymore. Although Robin can occasionally be found having lunch with Annie or the other cheerleaders, she doesn’t have any close girlfriends. Come on, Liz doesn’t count. Of course, the book never makes any references to Robin’s lack of friends that I can tell. Robin and co-captain Jessica still have a rivalry between them ever since Jessica treated Robin like dirt back when she was fat. So it should come as no surprise that when the cheerleaders need a fundraiser to help replace the SVH gym floor and Robin comes up with the best ideas, Jessica is not pleased. Go shove a fork in it, Jessica.

Robin misses George, but throws herself into helping organize her great fundraiser idea – a “Super Sundae” – that is, a giant ice cream sundae. At first the cheerleaders want to make the world’s largest, but then that idea kind of goes by the wayside and becomes just well, a really big sundae. They sell tickets to the public to get a piece of the sundae and convince local vendors to donate ice cream and supplies. And the basic shape of the sundae is to be … a big pyramid made out of kiddie pools and filled with the ingredients. I’m trying to picture how this works and I’m very confused. How is that a Sundae shape? What? How is that even supposed to look like a sundae?

Then George brings home one of his flying lesson friends, Vicky Carter, a blond, skinny chick who’s described as totally gorgeous. Robin is immediately jealous that George is spending so much time with Vicky because hey, that’s how he wound up leaving Enid for Robin. Karma poliiiiiiice! George and Robin are supposed to double date with Vicky and George’s friend Hal, but then Hal bails on them at the last minute. And so where does this potential love triangle wind up going for the night? Dancing at the Beach Disco! Hahahaa. I’m really surprised the Beach Disco hasn’t been renamed something else by now. Robin is really upset that she has to share what little time she and George have while he’s home with Vicky, and that George keeps prattling on and on about how great Vicky is. I can’t say I blame her. Her reaction’s pretty extreme, however: she sits in a corner all night pouting while insisting that George and Vicky dance with each other. I guess she figures she might as well push them together since they’re probably headed in that direction anyway. She also acts pretty snippy and bitchy to Vicky. I have to say it’s kind of funny! Ha ha! For example, when they head back to Robin’s house, Vicky picks up a picture of old fat Robin and asks if that’s a cousin of hers. Robin tells her it was her and snatches the pic away, Vicky congratulations her for losing “so much weight” and says she’s impressed, and Robin snaps, “Gee, thanks. I know I used to be fat, Vicky.” There’s a dead silence. Hehehe. The next morning, George comes over and admonishes Robin for being mean to Vicky. After George leaves, Robin goes to weigh herself and panics. She’s gained three pounds. She immediately decides to change her way of eating to help her stay skinny and glamorous like Vicky so that George might not leave her. Here’s Robin’s diet (paraphrased from the book):

WATER
No breakfast
Plain salad for lunch
A very light dinner
No snacks

My stomach is growling just looking at that. But it’s also got pangs of a different kind which I’ll explain more in a bit.

Everything quickly goes downhill for poor Robin. People make comments about the plain salad she’s having for lunch and she reacts by mentally calculating the calories in their own food choices. Jessica, who saw George and Vicky dancing at the Beach Disco, prods at Robin about their relationship because she’s an ass. (Jessica is such a bitch, by the way, that she tried to get Liz to give her all the credit for the Super Sundae idea in her Oracle article about it!) Robin gets super bossy with the other cheerleaders about how the Super Sundae efforts should go and how much they should work out at their practices, and they find themselves walking on eggshells to avoid pissing her off. They get Izzy’s Incredible Ice Cream (…the fuck? No Casey’s Place?) to donate the ice cream to the Super Sundae effort, but then while the other cheerleaders get a cone for themselves at Izzy’s, Robin refuses to have any. Robin eats only a tiny bit of her dinner at home and snaps at her mother for putting butter on the carrots and trying to give her a glass of milk, which Robin hands off to one of her brothers. She starts dropping pounds QUICK which should come as no surprise to anyone who read Power Play and recalls how fast she lost weight in that book. People start noticing how skinny and tired Robin looks all the time and how she yells at anyone who offers her a french fry. Robin’s mom notices her skipping meals but believes her when Robin insists she already ate something at school.

George comes back in town and apologizes to Robin for trying to push Vicky on her. Well, it’s about time! He takes her out to a restaurant called Villa Marino and Robin orders lasagna and a Caesar salad, but then Robin freaks out at the thought of eating all that food after a few weeks of disciplining herself not to. She also gets nervous every time George mentions Vicky’s name and quickly changes the subject. But of course stupid George keeps babbling about Vicky this, Vicky that, and so Robin loses her resolve to eat something for a change. She refuses to eat the salad and gets totally bitchy with George, who is mega-confused. Methinks George is kind of stupid. Quit talking about Vicky, George!!!! Finally, the waiter brings Robin’s lasagna and she says she doesn’t want it and makes him take it back before even setting it all the way down on the table. So he has to take it away along with Robin’s virtually untouched salad. George is embarrassed and confused. This scene seriously breaks my heart. When Robin gets home she finds her mom has made a small adjustment to her perfectly organized closet and freaks the fuck out.

Robin’s mom tries to get her to eat some breakfast, and Robin refuses, reducing her mom to tears. Robin has essentially stopped eating anything but diet soda. Then she goes to diving practice and her coach Dina pulls her aside for a lecture and reminds her she needs more calories since she is athletic. Every time Robin climbs out of the pool, she shivers ferociously, and of course her diving is off. Dina sends her home. At school, stupid Liz is always bitching about why everyone keeps talking about weight and dieting and how Lois Waller has a happy life even though she’s a little chunky. I’ll rip Liz apart in a bit. Robin starts feeling super sick and dizzy for lack of food, and she’s getting mega-gaunt. She forces herself to go through the cafeteria line and get a hamburger and a dish of corn, but when she tries to make herself eat it, she just can’t. She runs into the bathroom and throws water on her face and fucking Liz decides to be a friend and comes to check on her. Liz tries to make her go to the nurse’s office and Robin insists she’s fine. Fuck you Liz, nice of you to FINALLY notice how much weight your GOOD FRIEND has lost while you spend all your time babbling on about the importance of good body image!

The day of the Super Sundae arrives. Robin shows up late for a group picture and everyone notices her uniform is three sizes too big now. Jessica tries to talk to Robin and Robin brushes her off. Robin is too weak to open the chocolate syrup cans at the Super Sundae event, which is out on the football field. Then she faints in front of everyone and Liz screams at Todd to catch her – how heroic. They have a hard time reviving her. Todd and Liz help the paramedics out with Robin while Jessica freaks out, but Liz tells her to go back to the cheerleaders, who are “reluctantly” finishing the sundae. Make sure you take some pictures of Robin passed out cold for the Oracle, Liz.

In the hospital, it turns out Robin has come down with pneumonia from not eating. The doctor gamely diagnoses her as anorexic and is all, “Eat if you want to, don’t eat if you don’t want, it’s up to you” or something. So Robin manages to eat a bit of hospital food. Vicky and George come by and Vicky tells Robin the sordid tale of how she used to be a drug addict. See! Not even Vicky is perfect! Harrr! But the point of her story is that you can’t control everything and you have to accept that. (Vicky thought she could use rebellious behavior and drugs to make her parents not divorce … because they told her they wouldn’t divorce until she was 14, so when she hit 14 she freaked out.) Vicky indicates she knows George was being kind of a dick to Robin but that there’s no way she could steal George even if she wanted to, because he is crazy about Robin. George, for his part, is relieved that Robin is okay and assures her he only loves HER and Vicky is not a threat. So quit talking about her 24-7 and making your girlfriend be friends with her then, Geo. GOD.

Robin comes back to school a week or so after being released from the hospital, but not for long. She’s gained a little bit of weight back, but she has a long way to go and is still learning how to eat properly and relinquish control. She also breaks up with George saying she needs the time to herself to heal on her own. George is upset but accepts her decision.

This book was a little hard for me to read in certain places because I struggled with eating problems myself when I was about Robin’s age. I was not anorexic but I definitely struggled with eating. I remember going out to eat at a restaurant with my family and refusing to eat anything but a little bit of salad. Even the waitress was alarmed and my family was embarrassed to hell. My parents were astonished and like, “What is wrong with you?” but I could not make myself eat anything and I resented them for even trying to make me. I ate almost nothing that whole weekend and felt really accomplished while my whole family was baffled. So obviously reading about Robin doing the same thing at Villa Marino brought me back to that and I felt really ashamed all over again. I lost something like 40 pounds in a very brief time frame that year and I definitely did not need to lose 40 pounds. So while I won’t pretend to be in Robin’s place – I never went days and days without eating anything at all, and I never had to be hospitalized – I do know what it’s like to see food as the enemy and feel desperate to have control. I daresay many young women know that feeling, the huge fear of being fat and losing control, because sometimes we grow up feeling like that’s the worst thing we could do to ourselves … gain three pounds. We should be learning to love healthy foods and to find exercise or active pursuits that we genuinely enjoy for our health’s sake as opposed to having to fit one specific body shape if you ask me. And no one should beat themselves up because they decided to enjoy a dish of ice cream or a brownie. Instead girls worry constantly about what other people think of their looks and if they have approval or not, if they are too skinny or too fat, or too tall or too short, or if they measure up to the standards set by all kinds of media, INCLUDING SVH BOOKS. And honestly, it breaks my heart right in two. The thought of a young girl growing up hating her body and herself and not realizing how awesome she is and all the great things she can do with her life is sad enough to make me cry.

And while I think this book is obviously unrealistic in its timeframe, for a series that runs on an infinite loop, I think they did the best they could at depicting how someone with serious disordered eating problems really feels and what they go through. Do you agree, or do you have a different standpoint? (By the way, I’m really healthy and fit now and I LOVE food, and don’t really think about those days much.) Although I have to say – I think they should’ve had Coach Dina call Robin’s mom to talk to her about what was going on. I think if all the kids were noticing how gaunt Robin was, then all the adults had to be, but no one seemed to take any concrete steps to help her until she passed out at the Super Sundae. Once again, the adults in these books fail to be adults.

The cover: Robin looks really pretty. I guess that baggy shirt is supposed to represent her normally tight-fitting cheerleading sweater?

WTF? Okay, first of all – LIZ. Liz spends a lot of time in this book running her mouth about why people can’t accept their bodies the way they are and accept that not everyone is a perfect size six! Lois Waller conveniently makes an appearance, simply because it’s good for the plot for us to hear about a fat girl who isn’t desperately trying to drop pounds. Lois is dating a boy named Gene White and is happy with herself. Liz and Jess spar back and forth about whether or not Lois is healthy. “So what difference did it make if she couldn’t wear size-six jeans? None at all, Elizabeth told herself confidently. None at all.” Right, that sounds great AFTER we’ve already had 73 books rattling on about your own perfect size six, model slim body, AND after I recall you had to keep yourself from making snitty comments to Robin back when she was fat about her food choices. And, who’s the one sitting there analyzing Lois’s weight over and over in her head, looking for proof that Lois isn’t miserable about her own weight? Well, that would be you, Liz. Jessica might be the one who makes shitty comments, but Liz genuinely thinks she’s better than everyone because her own thoughts about how fat Lois is, are buffered with “but that’s okay”. Yes, she’s fat and she’s happy. You’re still judging her by sitting there trying to figure out if this is a good thing or not, Liz. She doesn’t need you to analyze her weight over and over, let alone out loud with other people like Jessica! Get over yourself and get off your high horse.

Liz is supposed to be Robin’s great friend in this book. When do they ever talk? When is Liz ever there for her? Um, never. The last time they even spoke two words to one another had to be like, 30 books ago.

The cheerleaders raise a whopping $500 to replace the gym floor. Is that supposed to be enough?

The book implies that George is the only boy Robin has ever seriously dated which is not true at all. She dumped Allen Walters for George.

There’s some rambling somewhere about Jessica wanting to do a modeling portfolio and people reminding her it’s expensive. She acts like she doesn’t know. Well, she should know after her parents made her pay back that giant loan they gave her to get pics done in The New Jessica.

The cliff-hanger line, or whatever it’s called, for the next book says it’s called Amy’s First Love but it’s actually Amy’s True Love. Is this another case like book 9 (Love on the Run vs. Racing Hearts) or just sloppy copy-editing?

Favorite unintentionally dirty comment of the day: “Robin felt as though she were trying to hold on to a big, floppy package.”

Coming up next … Jean West and Tom McKay are still together, but Amy is determined to break them up. Fuck off Amy.

New Sweet Valley Confidential Quiz!

There’s a brand new quiz up right here at the Sweet Valley Confidential Tumblr! This time, the real question is “How well do you know Sweet Valley?”

Can I have a blue ribbon now?

Wedding Bells in Sweet Valley

Is everyone signed up with the Sweet Valley Confidential email list? (If not, you can do that super quick right here.) I just got an email a few seconds ago with a little puzzler for us:

“Something borrowed, something blue, there is going to be a wedding in Sweet Valley … but who will be saying ‘I do’?”

Yes, yes, who indeed? I think Liz and Todd is the obvious guess. But maybe Jessica will finally steal Todd for good? While Liz is left to cry on Bruce’s shoulder … Ew, what if it’s Liz and BRUCE? We know they are all BFF and shit now, after all! Oh, no! DON’T DO IT TO ME FRANCINE!

Your guesses?

PS Thank you readers for being so supportive of me! I see all of your comments and it means a lot that you dig following this blog so much. Stay tuned for The Perfect Girl sometime tonight! (No, I’m not just saying that!)

The Imperfect Girl

I have an update coming, I swear. I finished reading The Perfect Girl at least a week ago and have been really slow to update. For starters, I genuinely liked the book (for the most part) which is always weird for me … it’s so much more fun to tear ’em down 😉

But I’m also having some personal problems and under a ton of stress. I keep getting tension headaches and I hate those. I would really like to get to book 80 before Sweet Valley Confidential comes out. By the way, who’s secretly as excited as a girl playing her first Spin the Bottle game that it’s ALMOST HERE?

With any luck, I’ll get my new post up this weekend! Thanks to all my readers for egging me on 🙂

#73 Regina’s Legacy

You know, these books in the 70s so far aren’t half bad. They aren’t the best, but they aren’t making me want to vomit on myself either … not really. That’s even true of this one … a book all about Liz and her do-gooder ambitions, a book that reads like a miniature Super Thriller, which as you may know are not exactly my favorites.

So here we have Liz getting a present of a camera from Mrs. Morrow, who says her daughter had developed an interest in photography shortly before she died. She loved taking pictures. Who knew? Not I. It was never mentioned before. But we are told her parents got her the nicest Nikon camera that money can buy, according to Jim Roberts at least. (I know you guys probably can’t remember who that is because he’s nobody special … he’s Shelley Novak’s boyfriend in Perfect Shot … Shelley is a girls’ basketball player … hahaha, she’s also forgettable isn’t she?) Mrs. Morrow gives the camera to Liz, along with a picture of Regina and Liz, taken at Regina’s 16th birthday party. I don’t even remember Regina turning 16 in the course of the series. I thought she was 16 when she moved to Sweet Valley. Well, let me not get myself confused this early in the game. Mrs. Morrow wanted Liz to have the camera because she and Regina were such special friends. Stop, wait, hold up a minute. SINCE WHEN? Regina suddenly realizing Liz is her closest friend as she was dying doesn’t count. Because I recall Liz being much better friends with Nicholas than she ever was with Regina. The main people Liz seems to hang around throughout the entire series are Todd and/or Jeffrey, Enid, Jessica, Olivia sometimes, and whichever character currently needs a helping hand/judgmental ear at the moment. This is flat out bullshit.

Jim Roberts has started a photography club and there are a ton of kids in it. Neil Freemount and Andy Jenkins are even in there together and they are getting along okay. I do have to give the ghostwriter props for still mentioning this several books later rather than just dropping the topic like a hot potato. The club decides to do a giant photo mural on the wall of the school lobby in order to help foster a sense of unity among their classmates. They poll the club for suggestions and of course, Elizabeth has the winner: “life at Sweet Valley High.” GEE, how original! That’s what she suggests for EVERYTHING!

So they start working on the dumb mural and have to keep it a secret from everyone. Elizabeth doesn’t do much thinking about Regina as the book immediately goes into her hard at work on her latest obsession. She goes to the beach and sees three weird men she doesn’t know running with odd looks on their faces, so what does she do? She takes a picture of them! She’s so nosy! One of the men gets mad and tries to knock her camera out of her hand, and Prince Albert, who’s with her, jumps his ass, then leaps into the Fiat at the last minute as Liz drives away! That dog is cooler than I thought! Fuck, it’s like that dog in Independence Day that leaps into the shelter just as everything else explodes behind him or something.

Liz gets away and is shaken, but tries not to think about it and you know, doesn’t go to the police or anything to tell them that a strange bald man attempted to steal her camera. Jessica, meanwhile, is out driving to the beach with Lila when a man in a blue convertible starts tailgating them. Lila turns around and sees that he is hot, so she gets Jessica to pull over and the man walks up. His name is Chad, and he says he wants to apologize for the way his friend acted at the beach the other day. Hur! He thinks Jess is Liz. Jessica goes ahead and pretends she knows what he’s talking about, and gives him her phone number so he can call her for a date, even though he’s in his 20s. He wants to know where the picture is of him and his friends so he can take a look at it, and she says it’s in the darkroom at school. He thanks her and leaves. Jess never tells Liz about the encounter with Chad because when she tries, Liz is on her way to Todd’s for dinner and blows her off, and Jessica gets all huffy and refuses to tell Liz what she was talking about after that. Also, after Jessica told Chad the picture is in the darkroom … drumroll … the darkroom is trashed. All the photography club kids are horrified and their equipment is all gone to shit. Liz has a sneaking suspicion that it was the men from the beach looking for her photo of them! But she still has both the negative and the photo because she had an idea it wasn’t good to leave them in the darkroom, so she took them with her! She’s so intuitive! But does Liz even try to talk to her parents or Mr. Collins about it or anything? Nope! Not even when she sees a news report with Todd (yes, they’re watching the news together – right, two 16-year-olds have a dark rec room to themselves and they’re going to spend the time watching the news) about a former drug ring dude named Ron Hunter who was supposed to testify before Congress and name names, but has suddenly recanted his story out of nowhere. Liz is SURE Ron Hunter is one of the three dudes she saw on the beach! Todd tells her that’s impossible because how could he go from DC to Sweet Valley so quickly? Liz is positive it’s Ron, but she doesn’t tell the police or anything. I really hate her. And does she call the cops when, a few days later, she gets home and sees her room has been ransacked with shit thrown everywhere? Again, nope. Because her parents wouldn’t like to know that someone has been burglarizing their house that they keep up with their hard-earned money or anything like that, and do something to keep it secure. Instead Liz borrows Amy’s father’s darkroom to enlarge the photo of the men until she can read the shirt of the blond dude in the pic (the same as Jessica’s Chad). Because instead of being a clothing logo, it has to be a clue, right? Of course it does. It says “Rick’s Place” and they find out this is a restaurant in Big Mesa, so they go there and ask the waitress and the bartender if they recognize the blonde … they do, but they have no clue who he is.

Well, let me back up a little bit here, to earlier on the same day … While home by herself, Jessica is getting ready for a date with Chad with still no idea that he is the same man in Liz’s stupid fucking picture! I had to emphasize how much I hate hearing about the stupid fucking picture! First, Jessica tries to find the stupid fucking picture for Chad, who is still carping on about wanting to see it, so she goes through Liz’s room and throws shit everywhere. She can’t find it, so she leaves the room looking like a piece of shit and walks out to get ready for her date. That’s right, the ransacked room that Liz comes home to? Jess was the one who did it, and then just left it like that, and freaked Liz out thinking someone broke in. What a great sister. And this is how Jess dresses for her date with Chad: black miniskirt, flats, blue silk tank top, and HER CHEERLEADING JACKET. The book takes pains to tell us how Jessica had a hard time deciding what to wear, because she didn’t want him to think she’s too childish or something. Wow, that cheerleading jacket is really going to convince him you’re all grown up Jess.

The date sucks a bag of dicks. First of all, when Jess looks at Chad again she realizes he’s way older than she thought he was. Then he spends most of the date smoking cigarettes so that’s how we know he’s definitely a bad dude. Thanks for cluing us in Francine. Chad takes her to Valley Bowling which is apparently where all the hoods hang out or something. The hell? Jessica pretends to suck at bowling so he won’t want to stay; he doesn’t have much to say to her anyway. I have no idea why she is even continuing to hang out on this date. Remember how fast she left her blind matchmaking date with that one Paolo kid because he was fat? But she’s not going to run out on this dude? Next Chad takes her to Rick’s Place for dinner. Liz and Todd are eating at a booth in the back because they figured they might as well have dinner after they were done poking around and playing detective. I love how Liz thinks she’s the next Nancy Drew or something. The couple are shocked when Jessica and Chad (the man in the stupid fucking picture! oh my god!) come in and sit down across the room; neither of them see Liz and Todd, but Liz has a mirror next to the booth so she can keep tabs on them, and she does. Suddenly, Chad brings up what we’ve been waiting for him to bring up, you guessed it, the stupid fucking picture. Jessica still doesn’t know what the fuck the big deal is about the picture, so she says she forgot to bring it. Chad is enraged and grabs her arm hard and starts threatening her and Jess tells him it’s in her locker at school. Then she lets him drag her out of the restaurant without yelling for help or anything. Liz and Todd try to follow but get held up by a giant crowd of people who appear out of nowhere and Liz has to ram a little kid out of her way to get out. They come out in time to see Chad pulling away with Jessica. Jess sees Liz and frantically points at the logo on her dumb cheerleading jacket and Liz is confused. Don’t worry, many crucial minutes later she’ll suddenly have a revelation that the logo means they’re going to the high school. Todd’s brand new BMW keeps having trouble starting which is total bullshit. They get it on the road and catch up and a cop pulls Todd over for speeding. Liz cries and bawls about what’s happening and the police force arrive at Sweet Valley in time to stop Chad from murdering Jessica after he sees that the picture is NOT in the locker. Yay.

Here’s the stupid ending, where Chad gets taken to the police station and is questioned. Are Liz and the rest of the Scooby Gang allowed to sit in and watch him be questioned? Check. Does he immediately spill the whole story while glaring at Liz and Jess with dagger eyes? Check. And how was Ron Hunter able to recant his testimony in DC while also being in the Sweet Valley area at the same time? Gee, would it surprise you if I told you he had an evil twin named Rich who took his place while the two baddies chased him down on the beach and kept him from escaping just as Liz took that stupid fucking picture? And would it also surprise you that Liz and Jess make the national news for bringing down a huge drug ring and they sit around preening about it? And would you also feel some waves of nausea if I were to also tell you that Liz finally remembers to think about Regina after the Morrows announce they are paying to renovate and restore the dark room and photo club room? Oh, yeah, it was Regina’s camera! Awesome! And that Liz says, “Thanks, Regina” to the camera? Because it was like Regina was helping her to solve a major drug problem that I guess affects the entire United States of America and wins the war on drugs for all time. Yes, you see, Regina finally has her revenge on evil druglords from beyond the grave. WOOOOOOO-oooooooooooooooo! I’m the ghost of Regina Morrow! Ooooooooooooo! Eliiiiiizabeth! Avenge me! Praise for being the best citizen ever will follow! Ooooo! Yes, I really just did that, I really did.

I changed my mind. This wasn’t an “okay” book. It was a miniature Super Thriller. I hate it.

The sub-plot is about the forgotten couple du jour, Shelley Novak and Jim Roberts. Shelley gets mad because Jim is spending too much time with his camera and won’t tell her what the photography club special project is, and then she really loses it when he stays late to help clean up the ransacked club room and forgets about their Dairi Burger date. So Shelley starts hanging around with her old crush Greg Hilliard and sitting around moping. The photo club project is unveiled in the lobby and it’s a giant photo mural of the same people we always hear about. How … self-centered? Everyone has contributed different things, but for real, it’s all the same 20 kids. To win Shelley over, Jim has put the picture that got them together – the one she initially hated so much that he entered into a contest without her permission – front and center. Shelley realizes Jim still cares and they get back together and hug in front of the mural. Worst sub-plot ever.

Some other bullshit: Nicholas gets jealous when Andrea Slade takes a billion pictures of Max Dellon (the only remaining single Droid) for the photo club. I’m hoping Andrea will dump Nicholas for Max at some point; that would amuse me greatly.

Liz is secretly relieved that Jeffrey doesn’t join the photography club since he has other obligations. I’ll just bet you’re relieved after that whole Christmas cookies fiasco you pulled Liz! It ruined everything!

Normally Jessica is the one trying to get the keys from Liz; here Liz hogs the car for her stupid photo project and feels justified doing it, even when Jessica really needs it.

Andy’s contributions to the photo mural are portraits representing racial harmony and interracial friendships. Neil’s contributions are pictures of people standing in the lunch line making stupid faces. Let’s think about this for a moment and then decide what this says about each boy and what is most important to him following the events of Friend Against Friend … or let’s not, it’s too depressing.

Just in case you were wondering: the drug ring Regina’s camera helped ruin had nothing to do with the cocaine that killed her that I know of. They were based entirely in DC. I don’t even remember why Rich’s kidnappers were holding him in Southern California. (Wouldn’t they have just killed him? Isn’t that what real bad guys do when you betray them, rather than holding them captive and making a lot of mean faces?)

This cover shows Liz as very pretty but what’s with all the makeup? And that mini-black backpack? Is that supposed to be a camera case? And that weird droopy polo shirt/sweatshirt? Is she a professional Lifetouch school picture photog? I want to flush her fucking barrettes down the toilet. When I was in kindergarten I had My Little Pony barrettes. I wonder what happened to those.

Coming up next … Robin Wilson is having a heart attack about her weight after Amy brings a big box of Caster’s Bakery donuts to cheerleading practice. And of course Jessica eats two because she doesn’t have to do anything to maintain her weight, while at the same snidely thinking about how she wouldn’t want to eat any if she had a fat history like Robin.

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