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

#77 Cheating to Win

Sweet Valley Confidential review coming soon!

Cheating to SUCK AT LIFE. This book SUCKS.

Yawn! Color me as bored as that expression Tony’s wearing. Stories about kids trying to live up to their parents’ expectations make me need to take a nap. I still remember excitedly tuning in to my weekly Saturday morning Saved by the Bell and California Dreams double-dose only to find that each episode was about somebody worried about disappointing his father. Slater wanted his Army father to accept his wrestling and then Dreams kid (I think his name was also Tony?) wanted his dad to accept his totally 90s rapping. Now that somebody looking for acceptance is Tony Esteban, who doesn’t need his dad to accept his dreams of being an Olympic star … because his dad’s already all about it, and keeps pushing him to do his best. STOP PUSHING SO HARD DAD! GOSH! Tony’s been mentioned in SVH for a very long time. He’s always been a track star and um, I think he’s on the soccer team too, although that isn’t mentioned here. Now he’s dating Annie Whitman and they just had their first kiss. Annie is all shy about them being together and doesn’t want people knowing she’s dating a hot stud on the track team. Damn Annie, times sure have changed.

I’m afraid I’m going to fall asleep while typing up this shit so let’s get this over with. Tony is the best runner around, bla bla bla, and he’s destined for the Olympics. His father is supposed to be a stage dad, pushing his son to be the star he himself couldn’t be. You see, Tony’s dad had a chance to be a pro footballer until his mom got sick and he had to drop out of school and take care of her. So now Mr. Esteban lives his dreams through his son while Mrs. Esteban makes feeble attempts to be the voice of reason.

There’s a big meet coming up against Big Mesa (every big meet is against them, I swear!), where he is expected to defeat their star runner, Dean Maddingly. Instead, Tony falls down and tears his knee, and Dean wins. Tony’s ordered to stay off his knee for like … a whole fucking week. Tony and his dad both freak out and the dad is trying to tell Tony’s doctor to give different orders because I guess the doctor controls the human body and could just say Tony’s knee will heal tomorrow if he wanted to. Then Tony goes to the “upscale gym” his father pays for him to spend extra time working out at, because he wants to sit in the whirlpool and try swimming, and this college dude Lou Orton is there who hangs around acting like a big shot flexing his fucking muscles … I hate Lou. Lou’s friend Randy Olson has been using these “magic vitamins” that Lou sells, and he’s become an athletic machine. So Lou convinces Tony that these “vitamins” will help his knee heal super fast, and his speed increase even more. And how do these work exactly? Oh, Lou’s not saying. But Tony pays him $10 for a small amount of the “vitamins” and doesn’t ask what they are, or even guess that, you know, they might be steroids. He worries he might bulk up and Lou gives him some dumb reason that won’t happen to him, and Tony believes him, because he’s a fucking moron, and I hate him.

And guess what! Tony’s knee starts to feel better almost immediately! He can run far and fast! He’s doing so well with no pain! It’s a miracle thanks to these little green pills! But they can’t be steroids! Lou must have some other reason for not wanting to explain what’s in them. No really, that’s about the same as Tony’s reasoning. When the pills run out, he asks Lou for more and finds the price is now $100 for a month’s worth. He has to go a few days without the pills while Lou gets more in, and Tony acts nasty and mean to people. Annie feels distant from him but instead of just dumping his ass, she hangs around and looks for ways to help. If I had just started dating someone and they were acting like a jerk to me already, I’d just leave.

Meanwhile, Roger Patman’s dead mom’s friend Denise Ferguson has sent her 13-year-old son, Mitch, to live with the Patmans for six weeks because he got in trouble for drinking and has a bad attitude. Gee, I’m sure the Patman home will treat Mitch values such as abstaining from alcohol underage, not being a womanizer, and treating middle class and poor people with respect. What the hell? Now really Roger is supposed to be the role model for Mitch here, but instead Mitch winds up hanging around Tony and idolizing him. Mitch has a pierced ear, wears black T-shirts, listens to rock music and acts like a typical sullen teenager, but for some reason all the SV kids are suddenly age 40 and are all, “That teenager sure is rude! And he listens to crazy music!” Then Mrs. Patman finds an empty beer bottle in Mitch’s room, so Roger has Tony give Mitch a talking-to about not drinking. Mitch actually listens and agrees to quit. But then Tony makes Mitch feel like shit when he goes into ‘roid rage and yells at Mitch for stepping over the line at the bowling alley. Tony has another episode later when he shoves Roger after Roger passes him on the track. Tony’s losing his mind!

Tony overhears some seniors on the track team, Dan Conway and Nick Hudson, discussing how a college swimmer they know named Don got caught with steroids and Tony is stunned to think the magic vitamins MIGHT BE STEROIDS. This kid is a bigger dumbass then Ken Matthews! Then Tony overhears Randy bitching out Lou because Randy got caught with the steroids and is in big trouble. Lou is only worried he will get in trouble for selling them. But Tony is so afraid he will let his dad down if he runs races without the ‘roids that he keeps taking them! Meanwhile, Annie finds the pills in Tony’s locker. They’ve been dating like two weeks and he’s already given her his locker combination. Annie has her lab tech cousin, Beth, analyze the pills and Beth confirms they are illegal steroids. Annie replaces the pills with carefully crafted placebos so that Annie can confront Tony later and show him that he doesn’t need them, he just needs to believe he can do anything … or something. This book blows. Jesus.

Here’s the end of this crap. Tony feels bad for yelling at Mitch, Annie tells Tony the truth about the pills, Tony realizes he needs help and he goes and confesses to Coach Featherston and to his dad who of course immediately realizes the errors of pushing his son so hard. Coach rats out Lou to the police and he is arrested and hauled away. Maybe Liz can go and sit in on the interview and write an article for the Oracle. All the county coaches have a big discussion about whether Tony can participate in the All-County meet and ultimately they decide that Tony wasn’t taking the pills long enough to have any real lasting effects. WHAT. THE. FUCK. GOD that’s just oh so convenient for old Tony isn’t it! Wow! He just believed they were working, so that’s why they worked! Wow, did he also believe he could get roid rage? HOLY SHIT. And can you even IMAGINE the total shitstorm that would cover all of Sweet Valley when everyone found out that a kid popping ‘roids was somehow allowed to compete anyway? And WIN THE MEET? Oh yes, Tony not only wins the meet, he magically beats the BEST RUNNER IN THE STATE, some dude from “Western High School” named Rex Olson. Tony has set a new state record! It’s a miracle! And it’s so good to know Olympic committees are so forgiving because a big shot scout named Burr Davidson is there and Tony will be sure to go on to Olympic stardom! I’m sure there won’t be any scandal when Lou Orton sells his story to CNN about how the great Tony Esteban once used steroids and should probably have his medals taken away.

Oh and don’t worry, Liz gets to stand around and act like she had a hand in saving Tony or something, just because she helped Annie switch the pills in Tony’s locker. That dumb bitch can kiss my ass.

Oh, and Tony makes up with Mitch Ferguson and Mitch comes back to Sweet Valley to watch him race and causes Tony’s heart to swell full of pride or something. What the FUCK ever. This book is god-awful! If you read it you will hate yourself.

The fucked-up sub-plot is such a piece of shit and seriously so out of place in a book about teenagers. Todd and Liz find they never spend any time alone anymore because Liz keeps bailing on their “just the two of us” dates to do saintly things like write sports articles for the Oracle (because some staff writers quit – they have more than two staff writers? – and John Pfeifer sucks a dick at his job), and go be an example of the Virgin Mary personified to little Mitch. Liz is sorry for making Todd pout, and tries to set up dates for the two of them, but Todd responds by getting moody and ignoring her. Gee, that will help the situation, Todd, you fucking douche. Instead of just talking to one another, Liz and Todd decide they need help putting the “spark” back into their relationship from their friends, you know, the ones who are always around too much anyway, the ones Todd is so mad about interrupting him and Liz. So unbeknownst to each other, they each come up with a top secret plot to rekindle that spark. Man, if 16-year-olds with raging hormones need help putting the “spark” back into their relationship then there is no hope for couples who have been married for decades.

Liz enlists the help of Enid and Annie, who’s suddenly Liz’s super friend again even though Liz has been ignoring her for like … 67 books. Annie and Enid will kidnap Todd and take him to meet Liz at some dumb castle called Castillo San Angelo for dinner. Where the fuck is that? Oh, it’s in the San Angelo mountains … past San Grandida and San Manuel. I’ll be sure to map that shit out so on my next tour of Sweet Valley, I can really get around and hopefully get away from these annoying ass kids who apparently know every hot spot within 500 miles of their hometown. Now Todd has the same idea as Liz… wow who’da thunk? He gets Winston to “kidnap” Liz and take her to meet him at same castle. Winston surprises Liz and blindfolds her and ties her hands. Liz protests because she knows she’s supposed to meet Todd and his kidnappers soon. So Winston gets Liz to cooperate by telling her Todd’s been in a motorcycle accident. Then Liz and Todd show up at the same castle and are so pleasantly surprised that they each had the same idea — WHOA WHOA WHOA BACK UP. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Todd thinks it’s a great idea to HAVE SOMEONE KIDNAP LIZ. And Winston thinks it’s a great idea to TELL LIZ TODD HAS BEEN IN A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT. I am NOT making this shit up.

This ghostwriter either was hired off the street and given NO history of this series whatsoever, or has a seriously sick sense of humor. I half expected Winston to drive Liz past a smashed Yamaha bike on the road with Crunch McAllister standing next to it, just to make sure she believed him, or to make her get in the trunk of his car, where he would have a selection of frozen pancakes and Carl the orderly (or maybe Jessica’s crazy ex-fling Christopher) waiting for her.

The cover … oh, God. Those have to be the ugliest early 90s outfits I have seen in some time. Yeah yeah, I guess everyone in junior high when this came out was rocking the vests too. Gee, love how Annie’s vest and blouse match the rest of the cover’s color scheme. Tony’s shirt is … weird. That’s the ugliest muscle shirt I’ve ever seen. I hate muscle shirts anyway. I knew a kid who wore one all the time in college trying to show off, except he didn’t have any muscles! Ha ha!

WTF? Okay, now that I’ve picked my jaw back up off the floor about the whole sub-plot bullshit, let’s examine some of the things Winston says to Liz as he kidnaps her.

“Now turn around and let me tie up your hands. And if I were you, I wouldn’t bother to struggle.”
-and-
“Just lie back in the seat and moan every once in a while.”

HOLY ….. SHIT. Oh yeah, and Winston uses magenta pantyhose as a blindfold! I want to know who wrote this! Please God tell me it was someone with an evil sense of humor.

To convince Mitch that he shouldn’t be drinking, Tony tells him about how his friend Brian once took his girlfriend out on the road after a few beers and got in an accident. The girlfriend was seriously hurt and “will never be the same.” Kind of like how a kid named Brian once took Enid out on the road after drinking and got in an accident and Enid was seriously hurt … I hate redundancy. If there weren’t more details about who this Brian was to Tony or whatever, I’d think that might be the accident he was talking about.

Oh, and since we’re talking about redundancy … it’s time for I HATE NAME REDUNDANCY, part 564: There are TWO kids in this book with the last name of Olson who are not related to each other. And then there is a Dan and a Don. We’ve already had ten Dans, I swear.

And speaking of names, since when is Roger’s last name Barrett-Patman? What’s up with the hyphen?

And speaking of Roger, I seem to recall he is the best runner the town has ever seen. But suddenly Tony is better than he is. I distinctly recall Roger being the one to set all the records before. You’d think old Rog would kind of pissed off that Tony suddenly has all the spotlight on him.

Jessica’s fling with Frazer McConnell is already over! We’re told they lasted for a whole two dates.

Besides that, Jessica’s other duties as Miss Teen Sweet Valley are ruining her dreams of post-pageant glory. She has to keep giving speeches to junior high schools and rotary clubs and do ribbon cuttings, and shit like that. I’m getting major deja-vu right now. After all, the same thing happened when she won Queen of the Fall Ball and then had to perform duties she hated afterwards (like dancing with Winston … hahaha). Jessica is either an idiot or a true glutton for punishment. And it goes without saying that Liz is happy that Jess is UNhappy with the results of winning the beauty pageant, because it means Liz was right and won the battle for book 76. If I knew Liz in real life I would routinely do things like “accidentally” throw up on her shoes.

So is Sweet Valley in a county or city or what? I’m so confused. The meet Tony wins at the end is the All-County with a bunch of other high schools, but then Sweet Valley has its own City Hall like it’s independent. Oh, whatever.

I love how we’re supposed to think Liz is everybody’s best friend for all time, including Annie’s, but then Annie had to explain to her about how she and Charlie Markus broke up a while back … Liz really has her head stuck up her ass all the time doesn’t she?

I really seem to recall Tony making jokes with the boys in the locker room about Annie Whitman’s sluttiness back before she had a change of heart and became Wakefield-approved.

We are told that Annie and Robin Wilson are best friends. I figured as much, but love how Annie was never around when Robin could’ve needed her in The Perfect Girl! Instead we were told then that Liz was Robin’s close friend or some shit.

Winston’s in the book everywhere but Maria is nowhere to be found. Instead you have other girls giggling at his jokes. Weird.

Random characters: Tony gets mad when Kyle Young runs in his place against Palisades and loses both events. Roger is seeing some girl from Palisades named Sara now. And there is a senior on the track team named Carl Dreyfuss who has a big mouth.

Hey hey kids, it’s READER OF THE MONTH time again! This month’s winner is Jayme Forstrom of Minnesota. Jayme tells us she loves these books because they are “realistic” … oh, Jayme. *shakes head* I can’t go on any further with this, I’m currently fighting the urge to see if it is possible for me to throw this book far enough down the hall that it lands in the toilet, or perhaps my cats’ litter box.

Coming up next… At long last, SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL in which we get to see what these twats are up to 10 years later!

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Comments on: "#77 Cheating to Win" (2)

  1. aubynpeach said:

    So snark valley. I have completed the task of reading SVC. It was an odd book but I really want you to do your magic on the epilogue. Your WTF from that section alone is going to be epic. I feel like I have a fairly strong knowledge of what I missed by reading your ever wonderful reviews and after reading the final information on former SV folks I am totally perplexed. The missed continuity is astounding. I so can’t wait for your review. And I would also like to restate that the last line in chapter 14 is possibly the greatest line ever written in a SV book.

  2. pibetaalpha said:

    LOL!!!! This is the funniest Sweet Valley snark I’ve ever read!!

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