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

#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.

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Comments on: "#74 The Perfect Girl" (3)

  1. I never read this one, but judging by your recap, it sounds more convincing than most of the “Very Special Episodes” of SVH. Even the adults being clueless rings a little true to me, since in my experience, people with eating disorders are really good at covering up and deflecting, and the people around them usually try to convince themselves (even subconsciously) that problems that serious don’t really exist.

  2. Leslie Brooks said:

    As someone who was Anorexic/Bulemic I did have trouble with this one myself. I have spent many years working on a positive body image and it’s still a work in progress. I am plus size and I am a size 26 and I am very healthy. Now this book I think did the best it could though it isn’t easy to get over it that quickly but it is SVH.

  3. Neidin Mccullough said:

    This book resonated with me. Even rereading as an adult made me feel uncomfortable as I’m.constantly aware of my eating habits and weight. I’m by no means overweight, but since having my second child I have lost some body confidence. For an svh book I feel they did a reasonably good job. Some of the thoughts and feelings Robin had are things I think and feel on a regular basis. Loved your recap of this book. Your hatred for liz amuses me 🙂

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