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.