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.