A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some

Archive for July, 2011

#83 Steven’s Bride

Cara Walker makes my neck and eyes hurt

The legend of reading continues! Cara is going to London for a week on her mother’s business trip, but instead of being excited, she keeps bitching about it and acting moody at a barbecue the Wakefields host in their backyard. When she comes back from the trip, she gets even weirder, being unusually affectionate with Steven and then demanding that he let her drive up to see him while he’s trying to study to get into a special law program at college. (Cara, if he’s actually staying at school for a change, leave him alone.) Then she lets the ball drop: her mother went to London to interview for a promotion. She got the new job, and Cara and her mom will be moving to London in three weeks. Steven is devastated and suddenly acts like he gives a crap about his girlfriend.

Jessica is watching a movie with Sam Woodruff in the Wakefield den one night (Love Story) when the characters’ marriage suddenly gives her the idea that Steven and Cara should marry so that Cara can stay in Sweet Valley. She runs upstairs to tell Steven and he immediately thinks that’s the best idea ever. He drives right over to Cara’s apartment, where she’s by herself packing and cleaning, and asks her. She is startled and asks him a couple of pages of questions before saying yes. One of the things she considers is how with her own apartment with Steven, she’ll be able to throw all the loud parties she wants. Hahaha. Steven and Cara set the date for the Saturday before Cara moves (three days ahead of time) and vow to keep it a secret until then. They won’t tell anyone else (other than Jess, since she already knows). Steven makes Jessica swear not to tell anyone, and “Definitely not Liz!” I’m glad to see Steven has some sense about that at least. But obviously, since it’s Jessica, it’s going to get out.

Steven and Cara get busy with details. They decide to look for apartments in San Fernando, which is “between Sweet Valley and the university.” I love how vague they are ever since they stopped saying that Steven goes to Sweet Valley College and put him at “the local state university” instead. Steven orders some rings while Jessica looks up the closest chapels in Nevada that they can escape to and the marriage requirements. Meanwhile, at school, Jessica does that whole thing people do where they know a huge secret and have promised they won’t tell, so instead they drop huge hints in front of other people to try and get them to either guess what it is, or to get the original secret-holder to just give up and spill it. I hate when people do that. Everyone gets suspicious about what’s going on with Cara and Jess, and Cara keeps yelling at Jess about it. Jessica being Jessica, she acts innocent, then goes and does it again. The beans finally get spilled to Lila and Amy when they eat at Guido’s with Cara and Jess and Jessica loudly whispers about the wedding behind a menu to Cara. Everyone acts excited, but then the other three girls start making remarks about how they can’t imagine being tied down “for the rest of my life” and Cara starts to feel weird.

In the kitchen at home, Liz tries to bully Jess into telling her what’s going on and Jessica refuses to tell, surprise surprise. But then North’s Jewelry Store at the Valley Mall calls the house about the engravings on the rings, because Steven is a moron and gave them his family’s house number rather than his dorm room number. Liz answers the phone and is left in complete shock. She drives to Steven’s school to ask him about it in person, and he gives her a rude brush-off, so she leaves without saying anything else.

Lila throws Cara a wedding shower at Fowler Crest. Of course, she runs her big mouth to some of their other friends, so Robin, Maria, Rose, Sandy, and Jean all show up. Where’s Annie? She’s seriously never around. The shower is catered by Palomar House. Cara thinks about how old and weird she feels having a wedding shower. She opens up her presents and is totally embarrassed when Lila gives her a negligee “for the wedding night.” We learn that Cara had never considered that she and Steven would be having sex as a married couple. Um, you didn’t? They haven’t slept together in the past because Cara doesn’t think they are ready and doesn’t want to. Now she’s going to be expected to. She feels almost nauseous over it. Let me add that I think this is the first Sweet Valley book I’ve read that came out and used the word “sex”. Even Playing with Fire and All Night Long didn’t come out and say that word. As Cara tries to hurriedly open other gifts and avoid thinking about the negligee, she finds that of course Amy’s shower gift is also some lingerie, a lacy black teddy. Cara’s face is flaming. Haha, leave it to Lila and Amy to give her gifts like those. Cara realizes she has major misgivings about getting married at age 16, but she doesn’t want to move to London either. You know, I’m surprised Maria Santelli didn’t have any advice for her, or that Cara didn’t think to ask for any, after her own disastrous engagement to Michael Harris. You’d think Maria would be all about telling Cara to think twice.

Back at home, Cara’s father calls from Chicago, where he lives with Cara’s younger brother Charlie. He and Charlie are coming to visit Cara and her mom before their London move, and Mr. Walker has a surprise for Cara. He and Cara’s mom both say that Cara’s mom has an idea what it is or something like that, so Cara’s imagination runs wild. She figures her father is planning to make up with her mother and that they can all live in Sweet Valley as one big happy family together, and then Cara won’t have to marry Steve to stay with him. Cara is so excited to get her life back to the way it was before, you know, when she was a normal teenager and all that. Meanwhile, Steve is also having second thoughts. He turns down a game of football on the quad with his roommate Bob and their friends Ted and Eve and they tell him he’s no fun. But he seems more determined to forge ahead with the wedding then Cara is.

When Cara’s dad shows up, he’s brought his new fiancee, Julia, with him. Cara is horrified and really rude to both her dad and Julia, and everyone else all through dinner. Then she locks herself in her room sulking for the rest of the weekend. She bitches her own mom out for “letting” her father re-marry. Nice girl, that Cara. Cara decides she will go ahead with the wedding and show her parents she doesn’t need them in her life, or some bullshit like that.

Meanwhile, Steven is busy checking out apartments and looking for part-time jobs. He winds up taking on a position as a waiter part-time. This is supposed to be enough to pay the rent and utilities on their crappy apartment all by itself, as Cara won’t be working. RIGHT. Then Steven finds out that he got into a pre-law program he’d been studying really hard for. He decides he’ll have to turn it down because he’ll be too busy working, studying, and spending time with Cara. He lies and tells his family and Cara that he didn’t get in the program and they’re all really understanding, except the twins, who suspect something is up. Well yeah, he’s a Wakefield. He always gets what he wants out of life. There’s no way in hell he WOULDN’T be accepted into the program unless it was run by someone corrupt and evil. Sure enough, Jessica later finds the acceptance letter lying on the floor of Steven’s room. It’s then she realizes what a mistake she made suggesting that they marry … not that she forced them to agree to it or anything. She launches a classic Jessica scheme to make Cara re-think the wedding rather than just, you know, tell their parents. I am really surprised Liz hasn’t stomped off to tell them by now.

Jessica gets Cara to take over a babysitting job with the Millers down the street (that was originally Liz’s job). She reasons that it will prepare Cara for the babies she and Steven will be sure to have because “You know the facts of life as well as I do. Even when you use birth control, accidents can happen.” Cara has a hard time with the kids, of course, which gets her thinking about the realities of her future with Steven. Next Jessica gives her a lecture about the harsh realities of marriage today, citing statistics about the percentages of housework and childcare that married women are stuck with. Of course Jess frames it all matter-of-factly like that’s just the way it is, la-di-da! Cara fails to realize the ulterior motive going on here. Next Jess takes Cara shopping for boring stuff: housewares and books on plumbing and cooking on a budget, and tries to encourage her to take up a hobby like knitting since she’ll be spending a lot of time at home waiting on Steven and won’t be close enough to Sweet Valley to hang out with her friends anymore. Gee, maybe Cara should just take up macrame a la Jean West.

Jessica’s plans kind of work: Many of the things Cara had been trying hard not to think about surface in her thoughts after all, but she still doesn’t have the guts to call things off with Steven. There is a sad scene the night before the elopement where Jessica comes to Cara’s apartment to give her some things for the wedding: a blue ribbon for her hair, and her lavaliere (strictly on loan) as a symbol of their new sisterhood. Jessica is on her way to a party at Ken Matthews’ and Cara is sad she now feels too old to attend things like that. Then Jessica drops the bombshell that Steven did in fact get into the law program and he has been lying about it for the sake of his marriage to Cara. Cara is shell-shocked. She goes and talks to her mom about her father’s own impending nuptials and shit, and Cara realizes that she can’t carry off her crazy plan, but she still doesn’t tell Steven, or ask her mother for help. I smell a huge shitstorm on the horizon.

The morning of the wedding arrives. Cara and Steven tell their parents they are going on a “ski trip” with some of Steven’s friends. There is no way in hell my parents would let me go off on a vacation with my 18-year-old boyfriend and friends at 16 unless a couple of parents were along to “chaperon.” Of course, Cara and Steven are really headed to Red Canyon, Nevada to marry at the town hall and have their one night “honeymoon” in a hotel there. Cara gets all dressed up for the wedding and Steven gives her flowers. If Cara doesn’t think she can go through with it, then why is she putting on her “wedding gown” (an off-white tea-length dress she’s had for some time)? This is bullshit. I know it’s hard, but just tell him the truth, woman!

Of course, Cara can’t bring herself to say a word until they get to the town hall. They have a whole two hour or so drive to talk about it and Cara says nothing. Steven makes a vague reference to “tonight…” in the car, implying they don’t have to get busy that night if she still isn’t ready. Cara is relieved and says nothing about the fact that she can’t marry him anyway. She still doesn’t say anything until it’s time for the “I Do”s. Steven says “yes” he will take Cara as his bride, but then when it’s Cara’s turn, she says “no” just as the whole Wakefield family busts in with Cara’s mom with Mr. Wakefield yelling to stop the wedding. Yes, the twins have finally told their parents just in time for everyone to catch up to them. Everyone is astonished that Cara said no, most of all, Steven, who actually thinks Cara set it up to humiliate him or something. He throws the rings on the floor and runs away. He returns to college where he holes himself up in his room and refuses to talk to anyone, let alone Cara.

Lila throws a big going-away bash for Cara. Liz doesn’t attend because she has a self-righteous stick up her ass about witnessing Cara say “no” to Steve at the wedding THAT LIZ WANTED TO STOP ANYWAY. Didn’t you want her to say “no” all along, anyway, you hose-beast? I hate her. Finally, Cara calls Liz up and asks her to meet her at the Dairi Burger so she can explain. Liz is all “I don’t think I can do that” and all stiff-necked and disapproving at first. She reminds me of that mean old history teacher in Lois Duncan’s A Gift of Magic. That’s what Liz is going to be like in a few decades, and I don’t give a shit what any future Sweet Valley series says. Finally Liz agrees to meet with Cara, who pleads her case. Basically Cara says she knew it would ruin Steven’s future if they married, they were too young, it wouldn’t work, he’d have to give up his law program, bla bla bla. Judge Elizabeth approves and grants her forgiveness. OF COURSE you approve, you old hag – those are the reasons that YOU didn’t want Steven and Cara to marry!

Don’t worry, Liz won’t let Cara move to London without Steven knowing the truth, although if he really thought about it he could figure out for himself why Cara said “no.” Liz drives all the way to Steven’s dorm room and tells him what Cara said. Then Steven races out to the airport just in time to intercept Cara getting on the plane and telling her he understands and he will always love her. Dude, you used to be able to just get through security like that to watch people board? I really don’t remember that ever being the case. Cara gives Steven back the wedding rings and then *poof!* she’s gone. Oh well, she was getting boring anyway, but I’m still going to miss her.

Now the real question is, What is Steven going to do with those wedding rings? He had them engraved. Let’s hope he can return them, because he also has a new apartment that’s going to need a subletter real soon. I guess we won’t be hearing about THAT part of the aftermath.

I liked this book. For once I really enjoyed reading an SVH and didn’t feel like I was forcing myself to finish. Sure it was silly, they all are, but it was fun!

The cover: Steven looks the same as every other cover. He isn’t capable of making more than one expression. I like the shade of lip gloss he is wearing. I believe he has also had an eye lift done for the occasion. Cara’s dress is not attractive to me. Those shoulder pads are crazy. I am also not sure that was still the style back in 1992. She isn’t wearing Jessica’s lavaliere, either. The two tiny tendrils hanging down the back of her neck are making my own neck itch. My neck also hurts seeing the way she has it titled like that. In fact I just tried to twist my own neck to the side like that and it’s annoying. I think Cara looks much prettier than her previous covers, however.

The sub-plot: Todd has his basketball shorts stuffed way far up his ass or something because he keeps getting huffy about how being tied down to one person is just horrible. Liz is worried he is sick of being with her. Wouldn’t anyone be by this point? Maybe Todd should go look up Courtney Kane and have a go at that again, or the other rich Courtney that he made out with at the campsite in Perfect Summer.

WTF? Amy says she was sad when her mom moved the family to California from Vermont, but they moved from Connecticut. Vermont was Todd’s domain.

Cara is really turned off by the fact that Steven lands a job at Pedro’s restaurant to help support them. She is so upset by it that she offers to work instead. Steven’s supposed to be a lawyer, not a waiter, she thinks. THE DUDE IS 18. Plenty of people work to support themselves prior to, you know, entering the real world and magically attaining instant success in their chosen high-powered field. Get over it, Cara. Someone in this marriage has to struggle to make the rent payment.

Speaking of making the rent payment – this book reminded me of One Tree Hill (horrible TV show I used to watch all the time on the CW) and how two of the main characters got married at the end of season 1 at age 16 or 17, and proceeded to become this 100 percent unrealistic portrait of teen marriage. The dude was emancipated from his parents and worked a night fast-food or janitor’s job or something and the girl worked as a high school tutor, yet even when they got pregnant they were still able to live in a fantastic spacious apartment with all kinds of nice decorations and have plenty of time for each other and going out with their friends and having crazy stripper post-wedding bachelorette/bachelor parties. RIGHT. And then when the girl wound up having a baby at their graduation they could still happily afford to live well and easy, no worries, and remained young-looking with oodles and oodles of time on their hands to do nothing, until of course the 5’9″ husband became an NBA superstar and they were fabulously rich for life.

How many of you have watched that Love Story movie that Jessica had on, or read the book? That always seemed like something I should watch, but I can’t stand movies that are too sad. I hate bawling at movies. I don’t want to sniffle over a book either.

Steven’s roommate is still Bob Rose from Jealous Lies. At least someone was paying attention to consistency. I wonder where Adam Maitland is.

Steven’s friend Eve is probably the same Eve that Steven took to a high school dance (yep) in an earlier book, after Jessica tried to break Steven and Cara up for good because she didn’t like how serious they were. MY, how times have changed. I guess it’s okay for other people to be in serious relationships as long as Jessica is in one herself.

Here are the other wedding shower gifts Cara receives, aside from the aforementioned lingerie. From Jessica: a Jane Fonda/Robert Redford movie called Barefoot in the Park about some newlyweds trying to get along amid funny situations. (I went and put it on my Netflix queue hahaha). From Sandy: some fluffy yellow bath towels. From Robin: some plastic tumblers and an ice bucket. (…An ice bucket? For entertaining?) It doesn’t say what the others are. I think it’s telling that I thought, “Hmmmm, that sounds useful” and “Man, we definitely need some new towels” while I was reading this part. HAHAHA. Of course, I also wouldn’t mind a negligee. Teddies look uncomfortable, not that they stay on for long.

This book gets mega points for using words like “birth control” and “sex”. Remember Rumors where the author couldn’t come out and say how babies were made? We’ve come a long way, baby.

This book underscores the oddness of this and so many other YA series, and the fact that we’re supposed to believe all of these things can take place in one nine-month school year. Cara’s parents just got divorced a few months ago (by the timeframe we’re supposed to follow) yet her dad is already remarrying. Tricia Martin’s death took “a long time” for Steven to get over. And Jessica considers her lavaliere “something old” even though it was a gift for her sixteen birthday, and she’s STILL sixteen.

The cheerleaders are getting new uniforms again. This is the third time since the series began they’ve needed new uniforms.

Reader of the Month: This one creeped me out. Alexandra says: “They also make me think about what it would be like if the things that happened in the books would happen to me when I am sixteen. For example, perhaps my best friend would be in a plane crash and I would help her get better.” WOW. Did you just WISH a horrible accident upon your best friend, Alexandra? Talk about your unfortunate wording there.

Coming up next … Liz and Todd break up. And this is unusual why?

#82 Kidnapped by the Cult!

...but who's been kidnapped?

Jessica is having the worst time ever, and although it’s entirely her fault, you wouldn’t know it by her attitude problem. Jessica’s failing math grades have resulted in her being grounded for three weeks. Jessica blames Liz, as usual, for her problems and spends her days stomping around complaining about everything. Jessica’s friends are very unsympathetic and go right on talking about all the fun things they’ve been doing right in front of Jess at the lunch table. They’re probably glad they don’t have to put up with her for a change. But Ned and Alice push Jess over the edge by making snotty remarks about Jessica’s grades right in front of Todd, who’s eating dinner with the Wakefields that night. As little sympathy as I have for Jess, I have to say – yikes, that IS embarrassing.

Finally, the Saturday comes when Jessica wakes up a free woman. She can hardly wait to spend the day with Sam. She meets him at the Dairi Burger and tells him all about how she wants to go shopping together, but she forgot that Sam has a dirt bike race that same day (even though he’s been talking about it for a while). Jessica doesn’t want to stand around watching Sam race, even though that’s what she loved to do a couple of books ago. She flips out on him and storms out of the Dairi Burger. She goes to the mall by herself and sits down in a bench bawling and thinking about how it’s not fair that Liz is so perfect and Jessica is the “bad twin” who messes up all the time. Oh, we’re on THAT again! A kid named Ted comes over and comforts Jessica, and tells her about his group, the Good Friends, and how they always look out for one another. Ted says his life was miserable too until he met the Good Friends and went to live with them. He invites her to come have dinner with them at their group house that night. Jessica drives over there and gets the shudders because the Good Friends house is in the same neighborhood as Tricia Martin’s old house. She’s about to turn around and go home when Ted comes out on his front porch and welcomes her. She goes on inside and is surprised to find that everyone is kind of cool and laid-back, albeit totally plain-looking and un-stylish for her taste. The Good Friends explain that they are run by a man named Adam Marvel who works really hard to help them raise lots of money for charities. Adam’s goal is to help everyone become a “total person.” Jessica is grossed out by the house and the associated chores schedule for the residents, until she runs into Adam as she’s leaving for the night. He’s close to 30, but totally handsome and charming. That’s all it takes with Jessica. She’s won over.

Jessica begins spending all her spare time with the Good Friends. When she’s at their house, she participates in group book studies, helps make dinner, and helps Adam out with organizational and handy chores Jess wouldn’t be caught dead doing around the Wakefield house. Adam compliments and praises Jessica for the littlest things so that she feels special. She makes good friends with a girl who lives at the GF house named Annie (no, not Annie Whitman). Another girl named Susan (no, not Susan Stewart) is another newer member who has some kind of problem with Jessica and is always scowling and glaring at her. Adam lets Jessica think Susan has a crush on Adam and doesn’t like the attention he’s paying to Jess as a new member.

Jessica goes out on door-to-door money-soliciting runs with the rest of the group. They’re supposed to give the money for charities, but on their way back home from Jessica’s first run, Adam surprises her by using some of the money they just raised to buy food. He assures her he has to take a little to support the group house and feed them, but the rest is used for the charities. Jessica accepts this explanation. I have to wonder how she thought the Friends supported themselves otherwise. I mean, they’re a bunch of teenagers living in a house all day playing guitar and talking about great Adam is.

Even though Jessica is always off at the Good Friends house, no one figures it out. They believe her when she says she’s going to the library to study. Sam confronts Jessica after he goes to the library to surprise her and she isn’t there, but Jess just yells at him that she was actually at the Cold Springs library because the Sweet Valley one didn’t have the books she needed. Isn’t Cold Springs two hours away??? Then Todd sees Jessica collecting money at the mall and tells Liz. Liz is sure that couldn’t have been Jessica because she doesn’t do stuff like that, hahaha.

Back at home, Jessica is blowing off Sam and her friends, picking weird fights with Sam, and telling Liz to mind her own business. She’s also started dressing very conservatively, cleaning and organizing her room, and doing her homework and studying on time. Liz figures the changes in Jess aren’t ALL bad, haha. But then Ned mentions to Alice and Liz that he’s learned about a cult called the Good Friends that takes money from people claiming it’s for charity but doesn’t actually hand the money over. The Good Friends are developing groups all over the country and worrying the authorities. Ned the Wonder Lawyer is helping to “investigate” them to bring charges or something. When Liz mentions this news to Jessica, Jessica flips out and defends the group. Liz then sits around trying to figure out what the connection is between Jessica’s recent strange behavior like money-collecting and random disappearances and her defense of this cult. …Is she for real?

Sam starts trying to track where Jessica goes all the time. He trails her to the Good Friends house and freaks out; he tells Todd and Liz, and Liz confronts Jessica. Jessica explains that Adam Marvel is basically the most fantastic human being ever made and their dad doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So Liz crafts a plan to infiltrate the cult and prove that it’s not what Jessica thinks it is. She manages to blackmail Jessica into going on a date with Sam. While Jessica acts like a condescending ass to Sam all night (just like Liz), Liz dresses as New Jessica (so she dresses like herself? Ba ha ha) and heads to the Good Friends house, where Todd waits in a car in case Liz gets in trouble.

At the group house, Elizabeth-as-Jessica joins in a discussion with everyone else, which consists of Adam expressing an idea, asking the group for their thoughts and then standing there and listening while everyone goes around the room to agree with him. Then a kid named Daryl bursts into the room to say that another member named Brian Carotin disappeared while the Friends were collecting money at the mall. Adam orders everyone in the cult to go back to the mall to look for him, except for Susan and “Jessica” who will stay at the house with him. As Adam ushers the group out the door, Susan frantically urges “Jessica” to leave the house NOW. Adam catches them talking and “Jess” lies and says she was just teasing Susan about having a crush on Brian. Adam scolds them because real Good Friends don’t get crushes on people. Why is Jessica in this group again? “Jessica” goes home soon afterwards.

At the Wakefield dinner table, Ned reveals what happened to Brian. He had been working with Brian’s parents and they had kidnapped their son back from the mall and put him in recovery. Eventually, they’ll have Brian testify against the cult. Even though Ned has no idea his daughters have anything to do with this cult, it still strikes me as odd that he would just sit there and spill such sensitive information to them. Come on, Jessica has the biggest mouth in the whole town (for two reasons). Jessica immediately goes and tells Adam that Ned has been working with the Carotins. Adam forms a plan for the group to save Brian back from his parents’ “prison” and recruits Jessica to steal his family’s address from Ned’s desk, which she does. Then she heads to the Good Friends house to run away with them since the police will try to find them after they grab Brian. Susan has also left the group because her grandmother was sick, but Adam doesn’t seem to care about her. As Jessica is about to leave with Ted, Annie, and Adam, a car pulls up with Elizabeth, Sam, and Todd. Elizabeth screams at Adam and Jessica while Sam runs inside the house to … look around? Todd runs off and calls the police. I was looking forward to a Todd-punch, but we didn’t get one. Dammit! Then Sam comes out of the house with Susan in his arms; she was bound and gagged and left for dead inside the house. Adam hurriedly tries to force Jessica into the van but Sam tackles him. The police come and Adam is arrested. Yay. Susan explains she was a reporter infiltrating the cult. Jessica magically recovers from her cult obsession. I don’t think her parents have anything to say about it. In fact, I’m not sure they’re ever even aware of what happened.

I wonder how they came up with the idea for this book. Cults and teens must have been in the news a lot. This book was published over a year before the Branch Davidian raid took place in Texas.

This book was a lot like Runaway, only much crappier.

The no-plot subplot involves Liz and Todd joining a bowling team where Liz meets a kid named Justin Silver. Justin becomes obsessed with her and begins following her around and trying to steal her from Todd. He’s a lot like Nicholas Morrow in Deceptions. And just like in that book, Liz feels obligated to go on a date with Justin just because he won’t back off otherwise. Which is called harassment right? Justin even follows Liz and Enid around Sweet Valley (in his silver Porsche) and interrupts them at the Dairi Burger to give Liz flowers in front of everybody. That’s called stalking right? Liz hides the whole thing from Todd because he’s already mad at her about all the attention Justin is paying her. She goes on a date with him to some cafe at the mall while thinking about how she could never date Justin. Why don’t you just tell him to fuck off then? Seriously? In the end realizes that Todd is better anyway and she doesn’t want Justin which she already KNEW. Todd finds out about their secret “friends only” date and blames himself. He tells Liz he clearly wasn’t flattering her vanity enough. That’s gold. And I have a really hard time imagining Todd not getting upset about that after the way he reacted to his girlfriend’s secret date with Nicholas Morrow in the past.

The cover: Here’s our first glimpse of Sam. Jessica looks at least 15 years younger and her jeans pain me. That’s Ted on the right, judging by the red hair and freckles. Ted has had Botox treatments recently. Oh, and this scene never happened by the way. The title is also a lie. No one was kidnapped by the cult. Brian ALMOST was, but that hardly counts. Where do they come up with these bullshit titles?

WTF? The other kids in the cult are Agnes, China, Sky (a shy boy), Anita, Doug, Brooke, Charles, Mick, David, Mary, and Lilly.

This quote should tell you all you need to know about Adam’s sheepfollowers. “Mary smiled shyly. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever known a cheerleader before.’ ‘Me, either,’ Sky said. ‘To tell you the truth, I never thought cheerleaders had problems like other people.'”

There doesn’t seem to be any religious aspect to the cult at all, just self-improvement.

Elizabeth panics when she and Enid notice what Liz thinks is Adam’s car following them all around town. (It’s actually Justin.) She’s convinced Adam knows she infiltrated the cult and is coming to get her. She scolds herself: Elizabeth Wakefield, you’re not in a mystery novel, you’re in Sweet Valley, California. Things like that don’t happen here!” Liz has the worst case of retrograde amnesia I’ve ever seen. A few minutes later, the car pulls around the back of the Dairi Burger and a figure comes through the kitchen carrying something behind his back. Before Liz can see that it’s Justin holding flowers, Enid screams that he has a gun and she and Liz dive underneath the table to hide. Two seconds later they’re laughing it off. This scene is so fucked up.

Liz gets called a genius at least twice … for two totally stupid things. First she calls herself a genius for deciding to pose as Jessica when she was sitting there scratching her head about how to find out what the cult is really like. Hello, you’ve done that way too many times in the past to not immediately have that idea this time, Liz. Then Enid calls Liz a genius for suggesting Enid get her mother scented bubble bath as a present. I think Enid would consider Liz a genius for remembering to wipe her ass, honestly.

Jessica gets mad at Sam for ordering popcorn for himself at the movies when he knows she doesn’t like it. She’s the worst girlfriend ever. I don’t know how Sam is still putting up with her. They just got together and already everything is forever going wrong in their dumb relationship. Maybe they’re basing their love on the Todd-Liz model.

In the last book, Jessica was supposed to be grounded until her math grades went up, here it’s a finite three weeks.

Rosa Jameson is called Rose in this book. After all the shit the last book put us through with her name and her decision to drop out of PBA because Lila wouldn’t get her name right, now it’s going to call her ROSE?

Reader of the Month: Jamie here claims that her mother passed down the SVH books to her, or at least, that’s what it sounds like she’s saying. But this series isn’t even a full nine years old at the time of publication, and Jamie looks at least 12. The essay starts out great but then I almost choked on my beer when I read the following: “…But what I’m really trying to say is that Sweet Valley books aren’t just a series of books, they are a legend of reading. They are what gave this era a great series of books. They are the best and surpass all the others, and I hope they grow into infinity.” A … LEGEND of READING????

A … legend of reading.

Coming up next: The legend of reading continues with a mystery trip to London for Cara.

#81 Rosa’s Lie

The one in which I ask TEN THOUSAND questions

Oh, god, this book was so painful to read and just recapping it makes me want to choke someone. This is also our first book of 1992 … what a way to start off a new year.

There’s a new girl at Sweet Valley High named Rose Jameson. All of our usual characters spend the first chapter of the book gossiping at lunch about how great she is (when they aren’t bragging to no one in particular about the unmatched Sweet Valley sunshine). Liz is pretty much foaming at the bit trying to make sure Rose writes for the Oracle. What is with Liz trying to get all the new kids to write for the school newspaper? Is there really that much news to cover? And how does Liz know Rose can even write well? There are also tons of boys asking Rose out, but she turns most of them down. The only one she seems to like is Eddie Strong, a sophomore, who does graphics work for the Oracle. (Does anyone in this school NOT have something to do with the Oracle in some way?) We last saw Eddie in Hostage! where he helped the Scooby Gang rescue Regina. Ah, the good old days … when Regina was still alive.

Rose is off to a great start at SVH. But all is not well in her world! (Can any new kid move here and just, I don’t know, not have a secret or anything weird about them?) Rose’s secret is that she is Mexican American. Her name at birth was Rosa Jimenez. Her parents moved the family to Texas from Mexico and became American citizens when Rosa was three, at which point they also changed the family name to Jameson. They felt they could get their business, Jameson Garden and Shed, really going this way. I’m a bit confused because we’re told that the Jamesons helped design farm tools that proved very effective in helping Mexican farmers, yet they run their business out of America. So they stopped marketing in Mexico? Or is it a chain/mail order business? I don’t know … let’s just continue, before I drive everyone crazy with my ten thousand questions.

So the Jamesons moved to Sweet Valley because they think they can expand the biz even further in California than they could in Texas. But Rose remembers how in her old town, she felt the only kids who ever wanted to talk to her were more Mexican or Mexican American kids. So now she’s going to reinvent herself and hide her background. She starts going by “Rose” rather than “Rosa” because she thinks the “fairy princesses” (her words) of SVH don’t want anything to do with Hispanic or Latino girls, even though no one has (yet) made any such remarks.

It’s Pi Beta Alpha pledge season and Lila is made the pledgemaster. Everyone is super impressed with Rose, so they ask her to be a pledge. Rose thinks this is the best thing that’s ever happened to her. At her pledge interview at Fowler Crest, she just goes ahead and launches into this huge set of lies about her family being old Boston money. She says they frickin’ came over on the Mayflower. She then adds that she is a distant relative of Queen Elizabeth, and that she and her parents even went to London to trace their family heritage and got to hang out with Princesses Diana and Fergie. Rather than call her on her shit, everyone believes her, even Lila and the great all-knowing Elizabeth, and they all immediately decide that this alone makes Rose good enough to join the sorority with no hassle. Right away, Rose is given easy pledge tasks while the other girls have to do much harder things … because Rose is that special for being old money. You’d think Lila would be more pissed off at this old money thing given that her rivalry with Bruce largely stems from the fact that he picks on her for being “new money”. (Also, there’s that whole thing about Lila’s true love Ted Whitlock being unable to see her because the Whitlocks think that since they came over on the Mayflower, they are better than the Fowlers.) In the midst of all this, Rose gets to witness Lila being horribly patronizing to her new Spanish-speaking maid, Lucinda, and hear her call Manuel Lopez “so ethnic and working-class” when he comes to pick Sandy Bacon up from the interview. DAMN. I’m left scratching my head when we hear Amy defend Manuel to Lila, when I swear to God just 30 books ago, it was Lila defending Jade Wu against Amy’s shitty remarks about people who didn’t fit Amy’s definition of “All-American.” What the fuck is up with this book? This book makes me mad.

Rose still hangs in there with her ludicrous plan. And here are the pledges Rose has to go up against:

1) Stacie Cabot – a sophomore from Taking Sides who tried to win Jeffrey French in that stupid date auction that Enid won. That is SO random to put her in here!
2) Lisa Walton – Lisa is also a sophomore who competed against Winston Egbert for the student council title in Forbidden Love (which is the one where Maria and Winston got together).
3) NOW here’s where it gets weird … Aline Montgomery – the girl that JESSICA CAUGHT BRUCE CHEATING WITH in Playing with Fire. Yes, it was Aline that Bruce was with at his post-birthday party festivities, Aline who was in that scene where Jessica throws soda all over Bruce or whatever. Yet when the other PBAs stick their nose up and go, “We can’t ask Aline … she used to date Bruce!” Jessica’s all, “Oh ha ha, so did we all!” Holy crap … I think Sam Woodruff has really got Jessica’s head in the clouds. The Jess Wakefield WE know does not forget a grudge!
4) And finally … Lynne Jacobs. YES, that Lynne, from Alone in the Crowd! Her popularity status must have SKYROCKETED following her makeover and dating Guy Chesney. Oh oh oh, and she’s nominated by Elizabeth of all people. Elizabeth, the girl who’s always described as being a Pi Beta in name only, is suddenly present at all the meetings and nominating people and attending pledge interviews, and the other girls are all, “Oh cool.” What the fuck?! Even Enid is actually participating in meetings!

The pledges tasks begin! Stacie and Lynne have to team up to steal specific items from the boys’ locker room. There’s at least one item that can’t be mentioned and I’m guessing it’s a jockstrap. And Lisa has to hand Principal Chrome Dome Cooper a toupe while Aline films it. There is NO mention of how those last two got away with that without permanent detention. (Elizabeth seems to approve of these tasks – yeah, OKAY – but wait till you read about her self-righteous b.s. in the sub-plot.) For her own first task, Rose has to … write an anonymous love letter to a nerd named Elliott Marsh and put it in his locker, unsigned, when no one is around to see. Rose understands that the girls are going easy on her because they think she’s royalty. Surprisingly, none of the other pledges make any protest of this at all, and none of the adults protest all of the stupid pranks going on and you know, crack down with some discipline. What in the fuck is up with this school, seriously?

For the second pledge task, all the girls have to wear disguises and start a food fight in the cafeteria by spraying everyone with whipped cream. No one gets in any trouble, and no one faces any consequences for trashing the cafeteria. Now I see why sometimes people view Sweet Valley High as the best school in the world.

In the midst of all this, things get way complicated when Rose’s paternal grandmother, whom she calls Nana, shows up on an unexpected two week visit from Mexico. Oh no! Nana is totally Mexican-looking! Rose panics, deeply resents her grandmother, and starts canceling all her plans she’d made for her new PBA friends to come over because she knows if they see Nana, they’ll realize Rose is Mexican. But Rose hadn’t counted on Nana being totally awesome, because she’s too busy being self-absorbed and whining about her entirely self-imposed situation. Nana teaches Rose how to cook authentic Mexican meals based on old family recipes. She tells Rose stories about her own youth in Mexico and how she met Rose’s (deceased) grandfather. She reaches out to her even though Rose seriously acts like a spoiled, pouting, sullen child whenever she has to spend time with Nana. And Nana even makes Rose a gorgeous dress based on a pattern Nana had on her wedding dress, which Rose had admired. Rose adores the dress, but stuffs it under her bed and vows never to wear it. You’re annoying the living PISS out of me, Rose.

Then comes Rose’s third pledge task. She has to throw a party for PBA at her house, because Lila is getting pissed that Rose keeps refusing to let them come over. Rose panics but finds the perfect solution when she hears that Nana’s favorite singer, Roberto Martinez, is coming to nearby Tierra Verde for a concert the same night as Rose’s party. Rose buys Nana and her parents tickets to see him as a surprise. Nana is sad Rose can’t come with them because of the party, and probably that she can’t meet any of Rose’s friends, and Rose is just like, “Too bad, so sad, now get the fuck out of here before my friends see you”.

The party starts off well. Nana leaves just before the PBA girls arrive and Rose breathes a sigh of bratty relief. Everyone stands around eating hors d’oeuvres and being prissy. Stacie points out how easy Rose’s task (the party) is, and that for her own third pledge task, SHE had to run across the b-ball court at halftime with her phone number written on a sign. She doesn’t seem all that mad about it. Why not? Why do people want to join PBA so badly? They don’t even do anything but sit around, most of the time.

A few minutes into the party, just when Rose is all relaxed and putting out food, BOOM! Nana shows back up at the house and comes in speaking Spanish, telling Rose that she had to let her know she made her and her friends a special cake for the party. Nana runs back out to make it to the show, and Rose’s friends ask who that was. Does Rose finally collapse and say, “That was my loving, special, amazing grandmother, actually, and I’ve been lying to all of you”? No. She tells them IT WAS THE CLEANING LADY coming to get her paycheck, speaks of her in a derisive manner, and bitches about how she refuses to speak English while Lila nods in sympathy. She also goes in the kitchen and dumps the ENTIRE beautifully decorated cake Nana spent hours baking, complete with inscription “To Rosa and all her friends” IN THE TRASH so her friends won’t see the Spanish writing and “Mexican design”. I HATE YOU ROSE. I’d like to smash that cake right in your prissy face.

Nana leaves to go back to Mexico, and Rose breathes a sigh of relief while also feeling sad. Cry me a river, you little twat. Seriously, I hate her. The PBAs have a prissy ass picnic by Secca Lake where the pledges fan the other girls and bring them iced tea and magazines. Then the girls see a lost little girl fall in a nearby well (after they ignore Rose’s concern that a 5-year-old is walking around by herself). The girls run over there and try to help, but the little girl only knows Spanish and doesn’t understand their directions not to try and use an old piece of wood down there to climb out because it could collapse. Only Rose knows enough Spanish to calm the girl down until her parents arrive. But Rose STILL hesitates a good long time to say anything at all while the little girl keeps wailing and trying to climb out, while all the other girls fret about what to do. I hate you Rose. FINALLY Rose summons up the courage to speak the fucking Spanish and show off that she is fluent in it and the little girl stays happy and calm until her parents arrive with a park ranger and the girl is rescued. Everyone’s like, “Wow, great Spanish, Rose!” and she admits she’s Mexican and then she runs home bawling. The girls come over later and tell her they don’t care that she is Mexican and they really like her. They’re not even mad that she totally made a fool out of PBA by making up all these stories about the Mayflower and shit. They think Rosa is a hero for what she did, and they want her to just be whomever she is. There is a moment of craziness where Lila totally doesn’t get it, and she promises Rose that her secret ethnicity is safe with PBA. Rose explains she doesn’t care who knows if she is Mexican now and that she will be going by Rosa. Lila’s like “Well, we’re still going to call you Rose, not Rosa, even though you just told us you prefer to go by Rosa.” What the fuck, Lila?

The PBA and PE induction ceremonies are coming up next. Rose is very excited, but she also somehow thinks that if she joins PBA she’s denying her heritage. I really don’t get her. First she wants to join and deny her heritage; now she thinks if she joins she’ll have to keep denying her heritage even though she already “outed” herself to them. “The Pi Betas had accepted the fact that Rose was Mexican, but it was obvious they would just as soon ignore it. And they seemed to assume Rose wanted to do that, too.” Um, YEAH – because that’s what you have been doing. Give them a break if they don’t catch on to your abrupt change in presentation all of a sudden, Rose, and tell Lila to F off if she keeps calling you by the wrong name. She’s not the president of PBA, Jessica is. So Rose denies the membership but promises that she will still stay friends with everyone, including Lila, and have them over to play tennis and go out to eat Mexican food. Okay … so why not just join the sorority then? I’m really confused.

This book pissed me off. Rose/Rosa could’ve been presented as a likable character and instead she comes off as spoiled, whiny, and totally disrespectful of her parents and her grandmother. I had no sympathy for her plight at all because she was such a brat. I could not BELIEVE she just dumped that whole cake in the trash! And I felt really sorry for Nana for coming all that way from Mexico to see her granddaughter, only to have ridiculous Rosa show off what little respect she has for both her and their family history, sitting around pouting about how Nana ruins everything while her grandmother makes her fresh food and pretty dresses. Then when she finally spilled the truth to her friends she just assumed they would never want to have anything to do with her as a Mexican American. After spending weeks and weeks not letting them see who she was whatsover – even hiding the homemade salsa in the fridge and pretending the Mexican music on the stereo is “the cleaning lady’s”, she missed a grand opportunity to teach them more about her culture and background and share some of the recipes, stories, etc. and let them get to know the REAL Rosa. Even Lila could’ve learned something. I feel like Rosa never gave her friends a fair chance at all.

But hey, they’re apparently still good enough to play tennis with.

Verdict: A really crap book if you ask me.

Here are the stupid sub-plots for the twins. Elizabeth’s sub-plot is about her dumb fights with Todd over the way he and Bruce are running the fucking Phi Epsilon fraternity, which has pretty much every major or minor character you could imagine in it. Bruce and Todd disagree about who should be brought into the frat and everyone takes a side. Good, let the dumb thing break up, who cares? At one point these 16, 17, 18 year old guys all sit around on a patio talking about the future of the fraternity, and they seriously sound just like a group of 40 year olds. Whoever wrote this book is so not “with” the way teenagers are. Whatever. Todd and Bruce finally agree that they can each nominate two pledges and then each will give the other guy’s pledges the three pledge tasks. This is juvenile and stupid, but hey, so is everyone else in this book. So here are the new Phi Epsilon pledges:

Todd’s pledges are:
-Jim Daley, a basketball player. Jessica was kind of involved with him previously but thought he was boring and I think he got stood up a lot. Only his last name was spelled Daly in those previous books.
-Tom Hackett, also a basketball player … no clue who this guy is or where he came from or even why we need ANOTHER character named Tom.
And Bruce’s pledges are:
-Paul Sherwood, who’s on the tennis team with Bruce. The biggest mention of Paul that I can recall is Jessica saying he kissed like a dead jellyfish (in Promises). Yes, I know that’s similar to what she said about Bruce many books later.
-RON fucking REESE who is one of the guys who almost beat Andy Jenkins to death for being black in Friend Against Friend. Everyone’s all, haha! Ron Reese! That guy sure is snooty! Well sure we’ll let him in. WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THAT.

The boys give each other’s pledges the most outlandish tasks they can think while Liz stands by clucking her tongue and disapproving. She keeps bitching that Todd isn’t acting like himself and the tasks are impossible and mean. Oh yeah, but the ones the PBA girls had to do were super easy? Here are the dumb PE tasks:

1) Ron and Paul have to borrow a school bus, drive to a pizzeria and come back to school with a ton of pizzas. Tom and Jim have to change the time of the giant Romanesque clock on the school’s roof ahead one hour.
2) Ron and Paul: check 100 books out of the school library before the end of the school day without cutting class; all of the books must have the words “challenge” or “pressure” in the titles. Tom and Jim: Move the entire contents of Mrs. Green’s (guidance counselor) office outside on the lawn before the end of the school day, also without cutting class.
3) Ron and Paul: Steal rival tennis team’s rackets during a game. Tom and Jim: Steal rival team’s cheerleaders’ pom poms during a game. They can’t let their coaches see them doing this or they’ll be kicked off their respective teams since they’ve actually faced repercussions for some of their previous bullshit.

Liz finally gets so worked up that she refuses to go to the PBA/PE dance with Todd. But then the pledges get each other to help during the last tasks. It brings everyone together and all four boys including racist, violent Ron get accepted into the fraternity. Todd realizes the error of his ways, or something, and I guess he and Liz make up although I don’t recall there being any actual make-up scene. Well, who cares? They’ll just get into another fight in the next book, mark my words.

Jessica’s sub-plot: She blows off her math homework to spend time with Sam and fails a test. Her parents get a warning letter in the mail from her math teacher, but Jessica intercepts it and throws it away before they can see it. She then lies to her teacher about a study plan she and her parents are working on while she works to pull up her grade. But while Jess turns down dates with Sam in favor of “studying” or doing PBA stuff, he hangs out with a gorgeous blond dirtbike-racing friend of his named Lana. Lila keeps making smart remarks about the situation which only makes it worse. Then Jessica attends Lana’s birthday party with Sam and Lana keeps “throwing herself” at Sam (or so Jess says … we don’t get to see it). Jessica and Sam have a big fight over the phone about Lana where Sam repeatedly insists nothing funky is going on. Wow, they’re fighting already and they JUST started dating.

Jess is afraid she’s going to lose Sam, so she keeps ditching her homework and studying to go out with him. As a result, she fails a second math test. Her parents get a phone call from Mrs. Taylor, realize Jessica has been telling lots of lies, and are actually PISSED enough to ground their daughter until her grades go up. Jessica has to miss the PBA induction ceremony and party (which is moved from her house to Fowler Crest) and the big PBA/PE dance as well, and she can’t see Sam. She reacts by blaming Liz and screaming about how she hates everybody. Cry me a fucking river.

Addendum to earlier verdict: Everyone in this book is a spoiled brat.

The cover: Rose is very pretty and kind of looks like Shannen Doherty. I like her dress. I think she is obviously Chicana, but whatever. The way Jessica is leaning on Rose looks really uncomfortable. Wouldn’t Rose fall over with Jess hanging on her like that? The twins’ jeans also look uncomfortable. Liz’s are the worst. Ugh, I’d be pulling denim out of my crotch all day long if I wore those.

WTF? Name Redundancy Police: Don’t get me started.

I think it’s really funny how Lila is supposed to be the spoiled brat of the group, yet the twins and everyone else act just as spoiled. You don’t have to be rich to be an entitled know-it-all.

Jessica and Elizabeth have recently gotten their own private phone line. It was previously mentioned many, many books ago that the Wakefields had recently gotten a second phone line and then that fact was conveniently forgotten. Let’s see if it sticks this time around!

On a second note about that phone line, I guess Ned and Alice saw giving the twins their own line a suitable reward for Jess tying up THEIR line all the time and making the monthly phone bill skyrocket. Nice.

Jessica no longer has a phone in her room according to this book. She has to use the hall extension. What happened to the brown princess phone?

“Phi Epsilon shouldn’t hold rush if they can’t do it in the proper spirit of the fraternity.” Thank you for that public service announcement, Elizabeth.

Todd keeps calling Bruce an “elitist”

Why are LIZ and Enid involved with the sorority all of a sudden? Especially after the article Liz wrote for the Oracle about what they did to Robin? You’d think she’d be permanently banned.

There are way more chicks in the sorority than the ones mentioned in this book, but they have vanished.

Nana says there are no shopping malls in Mexico … excuse me? There most certainly are. You can’t tell me they didn’t start building malls in Mexico until way after this book was written. I guess Nana just meant rural Mexico, but this is still a ridiculous statement if you ask me. I swear to God, there are malls! I have seen them!

Gordon Stoddard from Rumors is a member of PBA. I never thought we’d hear from him again.

The ghostwriter clearly wanted to just put a bunch of old one- or two-shot characters in here. That person must’ve written a lot of the early books … which makes it all the more puzzling that this is the first book Aline has appeared in since Playing with Fire. The ghostwriter should’ve known better than to have Jessica defend Aline for dating Bruce Patman when it was Aline Bruce cheated on Jessica with.

It’s mentioned that Enid ditched Ronnie Edwards because he was a shitty boyfriend. No, Ronnie dumped her because he’s a shitty person in general.

I think it’s really funny that PBA and PE are supposed to be exclusive yet they clearly let any old fucker in there.

Reader of the Month: I’m having a hard time reviewing these without being really nasty, and I really don’t want to be because Lord knows I wrote all kinds of horrible b.s. as a kid. Like most of these readers, I LOVED to read (and still do) and for me, a trip to the bookstore was only a few rungs down from a trip to Disney World. But I can’t recall thinking SVH was anything other than enjoyable pseudo-realistic fiction, or idolizing the twins to an unhealthy level. I mean, to me they were just fictional human beings that happened to get kidnapped an awful lot and went on more cool vacations than the average bear. But I mean, Becky here writes SVH “furnished me with dreams and an attitude to do my best. After finishing a book I feel relaxed and ready to tackle more obstacles in my life.” Are we talking about SVH or a self-improvement seminar at the spa? She also credits SVH with giving her “insights on how to live my life.” Wow, so these are really self-improvement books in disguise. Come on now, Becky. I think some of these kids just knew how to suck up to Francine with words in order to win a contest.

Coming up next: Jessica thinks she has the worst life ever because her parents have dared to parent for a change. Aw, how sad.

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