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

Why "Long-Lost"? It's not like he was MISSING ...

We’re getting closer and closer to the “great change” – no, not menopause, the time when the SVH books switched from their usual format, to a neverending loop of soap opera-ish miniseries. In the meantime, the books are getting worse and worse. I really think it’s all downhill from here till we reach the infamous A Night to Remember Magna Edition, at which point I can only hope this trend will reverse course.

So yeah … that was a lengthy way of saying – surprise! – this book was boring. In fact, I’ve spent over a week trying to figure out what to say about it. Let’s see … we’ll start with the random new characters that have been thrown at us.

Sara Osborne is a relatively new student at Sweet Valley High. She moved to California from Connecticut … it’s a small world in these books; I’m surprised they didn’t have her come in as an old friend of Amy Sutton’s. Sara lives with her mom, who is divorced from her father. Sara has fond memories of her dad from before her parents split, but now they rarely talk.

Tim Osborne is Sara’s “handsome” and friendly older brother who just moved to Sweet Valley from his dad’s house back east. Everyone loves Tim right off the bat, but Sara hates him because she knows he just got out of reform school in Connecticut. He’s moved to California to make a fresh new start away from drinking, drugging, and stealing cars. He’s even joined Alcoholics Anonymous at the Project Youth center. But Sara had already been telling everyone she knows that her brother made straight A’s and was a track team star back east, so now she’s constantly yelling at Tim to back up her lies, and giving him the cold shoulder the rest of the time. It seems that Sara had a best friend back east named Darlene who ditched her once Tim started stealing cars and shit, so rather than blame Darlene for being an asshat about something Sara has no control over, Sara blames Tim for taking her friends away. Tim adores his sister and wants to rebuild the bond they once shared, but Sara would rather sit around brooding about how much he sucks all the time. Their mom starts heading to Al-Anon meetings to help her deal with her son’s alcoholism and encourages Sara to visit the teen counterpart (Alateen), but Sara is all, “NO MOM! GOSH!” and sometimes talks to her in a way that may have gotten me backhanded at her age. Of course, Tim instantly crushes on Elizabeth when he first meets her and they become fast friends.

Amanda Hayes is Sara’s pretty best friend. Sara and Amanda enjoy a popular social status, despite the fact that 1) we’ve never heard of them before and 2) Sara has ZERO personality. Sara spends most of her time sitting around pouting, acting weird and withdrawn around her friends, and being a real pain-in-the-ass. Amanda is peppy and friendly and puts up with most of Sara’s bullshit. I don’t know why.

Bob Hillman is Sara’s boyfriend, from a well-to-do family, which of course means he spends all his time at the country club with his parents, who of course as rich people in Sweet Valley are required to be snooty and to hate their son’s girlfriend because she doesn’t have an opinion on the health implications of tanning. No, really, Sara is so busy brooding that she misses Mrs. Hillman’s question about Sara’s thoughts on tanning and that ruins the whole dinner. Because Bob is wealthy, it should go without saying that he cares very much about his parents’ absolute approval of the chicks he dates, so he seems ready to dump Sara over that perceived slight. You know, Bob and his parents could seriously be Gordon Stoddard (from Rumors) and his ‘rents all over again. They should’ve just brought back Gordon and saved the ghostwriter the trouble of coming up with new names.

Stupid Jerry “Crunch” McAllister has a huge crush on Amanda and follows her around, but she has some sense and doesn’t like him. When Tim comes to town, he and Amanda start hanging out, since Sara won’t have anything to do with him and Sara isn’t explaining to Amanda what the hell her problem is. Tim and Amanda soon fall for each other. Sara gets pissed off, of course, but won’t say why, and her relationship with Amanda is fractured. Then Crunch notices Tim checking out his hideous van – a purple van with a fucking lion on the side – and after it goes missing, decides that Tim must’ve stolen it. The useless Sweet Valley police decide that Crunch’s seeing Tim checking out the van must mean that he stole it, so they come and arrest Tim just because, you know, there’s nothing else going on around here. Tim’s history comes out and the whole school is appalled. Sara is humiliated and I kind of think she deserves it. Amanda dumps Tim and bitches out Sara for not telling her the truth about her brother. Crunch confronts Tim in the school parking lot and punches him out for supposedly stealing his van. The Osborne twins’ father flies to Sweet Valley to re-establish a bond with Sara and to help out Tim, who decides he wants to move back to Connecticut again since the school is treating him like a pariah.

Elizabeth to the rescue! She convinces Sara to go to an Alateen meeting with her, which she’s attending for a giant Oracle series she’s writing. Sara instantly starts bawling and realizing her mistakes once she receives that magic Liz touch. Suddenly Sara feels bad for the way she treated her brother and the lies she told about him and she rushes to the airport and stops Tim from getting on the plane with her dad just in time! Yay! It’s another everyday Sweet Valley miracle! The real van thief is caught and then Tim is cleared and Amanda starts dating him again. The twins hold a pool party and Bob tries to get Sara to go with him and she tells him to fuck off. Oh yeah, Sara and Tim’s dad is getting married or planning to get married or some shit; meanwhile, Sara’s mom has started dating someone new. Sara feels happy for them, but she never does find her personality lying around anywhere, so if you ask me this book does not have a happy ending at all.

This plot is so uncreative. I was hoping it would turn out Crunch had just hidden his van somewhere so he could accuse Tim of taking it and get back at him for dating Amanda, but nope. Someone really stole it. BLAAAAAAH.

The sub-plots … are kind of worthless. Liz visits a battered women’s shelter for her Oracle articles on community initiatives. The lady who runs the shelter just goes ahead and tells Liz where it’s located even thought it’s supposed to be top secret, and trusts this random teenager writing for a high school newspaper won’t tell anyone. She meets Tim at an AA meeting and he spills his life story to her. Of course. Meanwhile, Jessica continues to whine about her Miss Teen Sweet Valley duties while Liz preens over how right she was to protest the pageant. Didn’t we already have this sub-plot? But just when Liz gets especially holier-than-thou about it, Jessica yells at her saying that she should stop picking at her and understand what it’s like to be somebody. This is right after Penny congratulates Liz on her compassion or something, so Liz falls for it and takes over as Jessica for the day so that Jessica can go on a surfing date with Dennis Hanover. I’m pretty sure Jessica has already dated two other guys who were also named Dennis. Liz has to hand out cheese samples in the mall and comes home complaining that her feet hurt and having a better understanding of her sister’s incredibly horrible, backbreaking daily life!

WTF? This bit about Crunch being in the book blows my mind. This is the same Crunch who drunkenly hit Todd’s bike while he and Liz were riding on it, destroying the bike, almost killing Liz, and causing Liz to go apeshit and dump Todd for a while as she ran around dry-humping every other dude in school. This is ALSO the same Crunch who helped Charlie Cashman and friends beat Andy Jenkins within an inch of his LIFE because they are a bunch of violent racist thugs. Yet in this book, everyone’s like, “Oh, that Crunch! Ha ha!” Todd sees Crunch at the Dairi Burger when he walks in with Liz and waves at him like he’s a good guy! He almost killed the both of you Todd!!!!! People even make jokes about how Crunch and Tim might even become friends! Seriously, WHAT – THE – FUCK! This is definitely the part that blows me away the most about this book .. well, other than how much it sucks in general. God, I love how Tim stole a car a long time ago and gets treated like ass for it but people like Crunch who almost murder people are alright to say hey to at the fucking Dairi Burger!

Amanda of course gawks about how much Liz and Jess look alike. It wouldn’t be an SVH book without someone pointing that out somewhere.

I love the way Jessica has already dated every other available male in the whole school, so they’ve had to start making up new males.

Tim’s nickname for Sara is “Sari” I like it.

Additional note: What is up with the number “37” in these books? In almost every book, someone (usually Jessica, or in the case of Sweet Valley Saga, the Jessica-equivalent) says “a hundred and thirty-seven” or “thirty seven kinds of” or some variant thereof. In this book, it’s surprisingly Liz who says something about “a million and thirty-seven” at some point. Different ghostwriters put out different books, so it has to be some kind of inside joke, or perhaps Francine’s lucky number. Many blogs have talked about this, but I’m not sure anyone’s ever solved this puzzle. I just KNOW the answer lies within the Sweet Valley ghostwriters’ bible! Any SV ghostwriters reading this who can leave us a comment with what the deal is with 37?

This cover annoys me. Liz doesn’t even look like Liz. I hate her sweater and pants. Tim’s moody expression is supposed to make us think he’s a typical delinquent or something, I suppose. I don’t know. I hate this book you guys. Please let us never speak of it again.

It’s time for … *drumroll* … the Reader of the Month! Meet Brandy Denton. Her short essay mentions how she and her friends acted out a Sweet Valley story at a slumber party and filmed it, and how she writes SVH fan fiction. Okay, typical fan things to do (and my, how brave she is to admit such things in a public forum. These Readers of the Month are pretty ballsy). But then she goes on to talk about how realistic the SVH teens are, how morally correct the stories are, and what a good influence Francine Pascal is. Brandy, be honest … did Francine pay you to write this?

Coming up next … Two dudes we don’t care about fight over a chick we also don’t care about, and the chick has some crazy Aqua Net hairdo man.

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