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

Archive for October, 2011

#86 Jessica Against Bruce

Bruce only has one expression in life

Okay kids. This has been the workweek from HELL. And in the midst of it all, I get to read about Jessica and how all of her dumb problems just magically melt away. So this entry is going to be quite short, not because I resent Jessica (okay! so I do!), but because I don’t have much time and I’m … exhausted. Waaaaaah, woe is me, bla bla.

Sam Woodruff is away for a whole month at some special program in Colorado for college seniors. Have you guys noticed there is always some “special program” going on? And it’s often one that allows kids to just take off from school or cut class or basically dick around for a lengthy period of time? Jessica is, of course, sad that her man is gone, but rather than pull a Two Boy Weekend like she did on poor AJ when he was away for four whopping days, she just sits around talking about how bored she is. At the Dairi Burger, Bruce agrees that he too is bored because everyone else is boring. No girls around to drive to the cocaine these days, Bruce? OHHHH I went there.

At school, Bruce shows up wearing a black leather jacket with a big white “X” on the back. He shows it off and claims that he’s started a club for “real men” and it’s called Club X. I don’t know why, but this seems too gimmicky or something for the Bruce Patman that we know. Wait, is this a date rape club? God I’m sorry, I’m so not classy this evening (am I ever? … bar har har).

Bruce gets Jess, Lila, and Amy all fired up about his new club and the fact that he thinks girls aren’t tough or daring enough to join. The trio decides they are going to show Bruce that girls can do anything guys can. (Didn’t we already have this argument in Ms. Quarterback? Terri even has to remind her stupid boyfriend Ken that girls can be good at football too, because he’s already forgotten about that whole Claire Middleton thang.)

Fuckin’ Ronnie Edwards is the first person to join Bruce’s club. Ugh! I hate him. It makes sense that he would be the first to join. Everyone goes nuts trying to figure out how he got in. I have some ideas and they are definitely X-rated! See what I did there? HAHAHA oh god. Bruce continues to crow about how girls can’t handle the excitement of his club. Jessica is more determined than ever to join to prove Bruce and his sexist attitude wrong. Liz disapproves because Jessica’s joining the club does not fit Liz’s definition of how to be a feminist, but their parents don’t really give a flying fuck! In fact, Ned is all, “I think this is a good idea for you to join” or something. I can’t believe it. They’re all, “You go prove him wrong, Jessica” without even worrying about what the club is about. This is bullshit. Why didn’t I have parents like this as a teen? I would’ve gotten away with everything. Meanwhile, Amy and Lila back down from their vow to make Bruce let them in and piss Jessica off, who now feels even more obligated to become a member. She finally succeeds by leading the cafeteria in a giant shouting match against Bruce. By this time, football player Tad Johnson has also joined.

It turns out that once you join, your name goes on a cardboard wedge which is then stuck to a roulette wheel in Bruce’s private basement. The wheel is spun at every meeting, and whomever’s name it lands on has to do a dare made up by somebody else (anybody really … it’s totally random). If you refuse to do the dare or if you fail at the dare, the wedge with your name on it gets one space bigger. And, you’re supposedly just not allowed to ever leave the club, but Bruce won’t say what happens to you if you do. I guess he’ll hire a hit man to take you out? So it’s like a rich boy gang? Ooooo, how scary. As a member, you’re also supposed to take up any opportunity to cause mischief, whenever the mood strikes you, just to keep Sweet Valley interesting. I think Bruce should dare Amy Sutton to do five times as many lines of cocaine as Regina did to see what happens.

Sexual tension flares between Jessica and Bruce as Jessica keeps getting the dares (because Bruce is obviously rigging the wheel, because he’s mad Jessica had the gall to force her way into the club) and Jess keeps forcing herself to prove herself to Bruce. Bruce thinks he can make Jessica quit, but she keeps succeeding at her dares, and the boys in the club are totally bowled over with how awesome she is.

Meanwhile, Liz freaks out because she knows what the club is about (because of course Jess gives her the gist of it, even though club members are forbidden to talk about it at all) and is worried about Jess. Jessica won’t tell Liz what the dares are (other than the first couple). And Jess doesn’t tell Sam about the club because she knows he’ll be both mad at and worried about her while he studies in his fucking special program Colorado dormitory.

So let’s get to the juicy part; here are the dares:

-Either Ronnie or Tad (or maybe it’s both of them) pull the fire alarm at school. This happens right before Jessica joins the club.
-Jessica’s first dare is to drive all the way down the hill from Bruce’s house, in the pitch darkness, with her headlights off. You know, I laughed at this, but then I thought about it and realized that is a little scary. But Jess does fine, and she feels a rush like you might after you go skydiving.
-Next, the wheel lands on Ronnie, but just barely. Bruce looks shocked it didn’t hit Jessica’s name again, and Jess starts thinking the wheel might be rigged. The dare is that Ronnie has to dive into the SV community pool from the high dive at night. Jessica watches Ronnie do it and decides she will show Bruce that she can, too. (Conveniently, she already has her bikini on under her clothes from a beach trip earlier in the day.) Jessica feels totally exhilarated and loves the idea of dares … at this point.
-On a whim, Tad fills the locks on an entire wing of lockers with glue. Didn’t someone also do that in Troublemaker?
-The electricity goes off three different times in three different parts of the school in the same day. This time that’s Ronnie’s doing, again, on a whim, not on a dare.
-Michael Harris joins, but Jessica gets the next dare anyway. By now she’s gotten really suspicious, and the other club members have noticed something is up as well, but are too stupid to realize it’s Bruce doing it. Jess just goes ahead and does the dare. She has to smoke a cigarette in Principal Chrome Dome Cooper’s office while Tad and Michael have him out in the parking lot, claiming they think they hit his car. Jessica hates smoking but still thinks she’s proving something to Bruce by having a cigarette even though she’s tried them before and can’t stand them.
-Ronnie shows the group how to hot wire a car and then they spin the wheel. It lands on Jess again and everyone freaks out. Jessica could just demand that Bruce remove the cardboard from the wheel and prove to them it isn’t rigged, but instead, she agrees to hot wire a car and steal it … and the car she chooses is Bruce’s Porsche! She drives it off to the Dairi Burger while he runs screaming after her. Liz is all, Oh my god, what are you doing driving Bruce’s Porsche? and Jess goes, “Oh. That. I stole it.” Ha ha ha, okay, that’s pretty fucking funny!
-On a whim, Jessica has all of the teachers in the school get notes to come to the principal’s office at the same time … okay … all of them?
-Jim Sturbridge and Charlie fucking violent racist thug Cashman join the club. At their first meeting, Bruce has apparently decided not to rig the wheel because he’s sick of Jessica being such a smashing success with every dare she attempts. Michael gets that night’s dare, which is to put up a list of “10 Hottest Babes of Sweet Valley High” (or something) in the teacher’s lounge. That’s not even half as crazy as the stuff Jessica has been asked to do.
-Someone hangs up a flag in the trees outside the school that says “Rock n Roll 4-EVER” or something. Gee, how scandalous. Everyone is shocked and appalled at it however. I’d hate to see the exciting senior pranks this high school must come up with each year if that’s supposed to be shocking.
-Charlie Cashman is supposed to stick a picture of a baboon on the back of a policeman at the station, but they know him so well already that they pretty much kick him out of there the second they see him. How did they know he wasn’t there to turn himself in for something, lol. Charlie’s cardboard wedge on the roulette wheel takes up one extra space as a result of his cowardice, but …
-The next dare STILL goes to Jess. Jessica, just call Bruce on his bullshit already! This time Bruce dares Jessica to walk across the tracks of a train trestle over a monstrous gorge. I didn’t know they had that shit in Sweet Valley. Is there ANY convenient setting for a plot that Sweet Valley doesn’t have? (And if there is one we can rest assured the twins will suddenly have scads of money to fly to it.) Bruce claims that no trains are coming that day, but as Jessica walks across the tracks, what do you think starts coming up behind her? CHOO CHOOOOOOOOOOOO! It’s the pseudo-feminism train, coming to run your ass right over. She just barely runs to the end and leaps off the trestle in time, giving the poor conductor a heart attack in the process, I’m sure. The club is stunned and shaken … Jess probably peed in her size 6 jeans. I know I would. But she STILL doesn’t quit because she hasn’t found a way to get even with Bruce yet. I would think humiliating him by making him show everyone how the wheel is rigged would do it, but no …
-At the next meeting, Jessica tells the club she saw a huge crack in Bruce’s Porsche’s windshield. Everyone runs outside to look while Jessica pries up the cardboard on the wheel and finds magnets in place to make the wheel stop on her name every time. She moves a magnet from her wedge to Bruce’s wedge and puts it back just in time. Bruce gets the dare and Jessica dares him to rig the school loudspeaker system so that a loud rock station called KZZP plays in the middle of the next important assembly (see sub-plot). That’s the best you could come up with to get back at him? I would’ve dared him to blow Charlie Cashman on the front lawn of the school in front of everyone, and take it up the ass from Jim Sturbridge for good measure, but I guess I’m just more creative than Jessica is.

Liz bugs Jess plenty of times to quit the club, and Jessica refuses. Each girl calls the Teen Hotline looking for help and gets some brief answers that are supposed to be brilliant or something. What would’ve happened if Amy or Barry picked up the phone? Jessica keeps telling Liz she’s quitting the club soon, and she will, once Bruce gets caught doing his dare, which is supposed to automatically disband the club. How so? Won’t he wear that as a badge of honor; woo look at me I got caught? Then Liz announces that she is supposed to give a speech during the assembly (to thank a group of foreign teachers for visiting Sweet Valley) and she’s really nervous about it. Jessica freaks out and tries to stop Bruce from playing KZZP during the assembly, but Mr. Collins is no fool. He knows Club X is up to something, and he refuses to let her leave the assembly and makes her sit by him. That’s right, exercise that discipline Mr. C.! Jessica grits her teeth and waits and sure enough, Bruce’s dare kicks in just as Elizabeth starts speaking. Liz is enraged. She knows Jess and her stupid club had something to do with it. Bruce does get caught, and he proves his true nature by spilling the beans on everyone else. And what happens to these kids for causing this mayhem? Bruce gets two weeks DETENTION and everyone else gets one week DETENTION. DETENTION?! That’s IT? These kids made the school look utterly fucking stupid multiple times in front of some visiting teachers from other countries and the principal’s like, oh, you have to stay after school for a couple hours doing homework. What the fuck?

And don’t worry, Liz forgives Jessica for fucking up her speech almost as soon as she comes pouting about it, and the book just gives up on even trying to make Liz drag out any kind of grudge and even admits she’s a total weakling in that arena. Liz even agrees to pose as Jess one night so that the grounded Jess (yes – her parents fucking grounded her) can pretend to be Liz to get out of the house, only to go meet Sam when he comes back from Colorado. You know, I think Liz has just fucking given up.

I like how Ned endorsed Jess joining the club without knowing what it was and then when he finds out what it was he’s all pissed off. Chump.

This story kind of sucked because it made Bruce look far less mysterious and ruthless than he looked in the past. Also, some of these dares are nothing compared to what the kids had to do in Rosa’s Lie for Phi Epsilon. So I don’t get the big deal, or why everyone is suddenly so scandalized that pranks are being pulled.

The subplot: So the International Federation of Teachers (what?) sends random teachers from all over the world to various California schools, so of course Sweet Valley is one of them, and they need students to show them around, and of course Liz is one of them. The other kids who get asked are Todd, Bill Chase, Penny Ayala, Enid Rollins, and Dan Scott (of The Droids). Wow, they’re all juniors, except for Penny. Shock me shock me! But Dan Scott? And Bill? Isn’t Bill too busy surfing to give a fuck? The teachers are from India, Japan, Russia, and the U.K. and they keep stumbling upon Club X debates at exactly the wrong time. Liz is horrified and embarrassed and keeps yelling at Jessica to get Club X under control. The teachers are all, “This would not be allowed in our school!” THANK YOU. It wouldn’t be allowed in most schools. Unlike in most books, there’s no redeeming Sweet Valley to them. The assembly is ruined by Bruce’s dare and that’s that.

This cover: Jessica’s hair (rarely) changes! Bruce’s face never changes! (Okay, he looked weird on Troublemaker) Why is Bruce wearing pinky purple like that? With a leather jacket? Why is his left eye all funky? Is it supposed to be in shadow from his greasy bangs hanging over it?

The title is Jessica Against Bruce … that’s what they should’ve called that book where they went out! HEY-O

Other stuff: “I knew it. I knew you all would be too scared to admit you need some danger in your lives. You’re all like a bunch of middle-aged bankers.” ~Bruce Patman … only Bruce

From the mouth of Lila Fowler:
Talking about Club X:
Amy – “He said it’s for men only.”
Lila -“I didn’t know Ronnie Edwards qualified.”

Rosa Jameson is finally being called Rosa by everybody, not Rose. I guess it took everyone a while to get used to it after she insisted her name was Rose to begin with.

Bruce laughs about how women aren’t allowed in combat in the Army. Welllll how timely, that is changing/has changed.

Amy Sutton is still being faithful to Barry, but she sounds like she might be getting tired of all that monogamy jazz, batting her eyelashes at other dudes.

How does it work that Sam can leave school for a full month and focus on one subject (in this case, biology)? Does he not have to make up the work for the rest of his classes when he comes back?

Elizabeth thinks disapprovingly about how the Club X stunts are so much more dangerous and disruptive than the ones Pi Beta Alpha and Phi Epsilon pull. Um, Liz, you were around for the events of the Rosa’s Lie subplot, right? Didn’t you get into a huge fight with Todd about it? Keep in mind Liz never even finds out about Jessica and the train trestle.

Jessica briefly considers hiding her detention from her parents and finding a reason to explain why she’s getting home after 5:30 every week day. Okay, 1) Jessica usually has umpteen activities after school anyway, including cheerleading practice, meetings, Dairi Burger, and dates with Sam, and her parents could really give a fuck, and 2) they’re never home! They always get home late from work! Unless they’ve changed their ways since they separated?

Reader of the Month … was this feature gone by this time? I thought it lasted longer than this but there’s nobody in this book. I’m kind of sick of looking at them, so good.

Coming up next … It’s our last Super Star and this time it’s about Todd. Will there be a fistfight involved?

PS That stuff about me writing a short entry? Yeah it’s not possible.


Magna Edition #2/Sweet Valley Saga #2 The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story

The second Sweet Valley Saga which is also the second Magna Edition ... is that confusing?

Here we are with the second Sweet Valley Saga, at long last. I feel like I’ve waded through an ocean of shitty stories to get to this one. This time, we’ll be following Ned Wakefield’s ancestors as part of the glorious story of the most important and perfect family on planet Earth. We’ve already met some of the Wakefield men who appear here in the previous Saga, because as we know, Ned and Alice were fated to be together!

1866. In Wakefield, England (yes, you read that correctly – Wakefield, England!), Theodore, the 16th Earl of Wakefield, and wife Lady Sarah Quinlan, Countess of Wakefield, live in Wakefield Manor with their two sons. Older son and heir James, the 15th Viscount Leslie, is 26 and set to marry a 16-year-old German girl he doesn’t love, Katerina von Alber, who is staying with the family up until the wedding. Younger son Lord Theodore “Theo” Wakefield resents the way James is openly disdainful to Katerina and ignores her, but also feels sad that James is being forced into the marriage. He is relieved he isn’t the heir. Theo and Katerina have a casual friendship that is her only source of comfort. Katerina has fallen kinda hard for Theo but he doesn’t appear to return her feelings beyond caring for her deeply as a friend. So, neither the brother Katerina has to marry, nor the one she wishes she could marry, love her. Well that’s gotta suck.

James, Theo, and Katerina are out riding one day when Theo confronts his brother about the way he treats Katerina and how he should just stand up to their parents and tell them he won’t be forced into marriage. James tells him off and then leaps onto Theo’s horse, Raven, and gallops away wildly. Raven throws James and he smashes against a stone wall and dies. After the funeral, the Earl announces that now Theo is the heir and as such, he must marry Katerina in James’s place. Theo refuses because he doesn’t love her and it’s wrong. Katerina secretly wishes Theo would marry her, but she knows his heart isn’t in it, so she encourages him to leave his family and go out to the plains of America, which he’s babbling about for weeks. So Theo disowns his family while Lady Sarah cries and begs him not to go. He takes off on Raven for London and Katerina presumably goes back to her family (in the Prussian part of Germany).

Theo sells Raven to get the money for a steamer for New York. While on board the steamer, he rescues Alice Larson from drowning after she falls overboard, and they fall in love, bla bla, just like we read about in the first Saga. We learn that Theo carved that famous Wakefield wooden rose for Alice because it was Wakefield tradition to propose to a woman by giving her a diamond-encrusted gold rose, but now this is the best he can do. Well isn’t that special. God, diamond-encrusted gold rose … are these the Wakefields or the Patmans? What in hell.

After they’re separated in NYC due to Theo’s suspected typhus and subsequent quarantine on Ward’s Island, Theo vows he will never rest until he’s found her. Good luck with that, Theo.

1884. Theo is now an animal trainer and member of the traveling Bellamy Brothers Circus and friend to Dancing Wind, a 16-year-old part Awaswan Indian girl. Theo has named a new foal Raven after his beloved lost horse. When the circus is stopped in Pine Bluff, Illinois, the two get closer and began sharing more details of their lives with each other. Dancing Wind explains how she became a Montecatini, which she usually doesn’t share with people. She was adopted by the Flying Montecatinis Italian acrobat family at age 12. Her mother Owl Feather died of smallpox when she was very little, and her father was killed four years ago after being shot to death in a saloon brawl. Now Dancing Wind is an acrobat herself. She stays in a cabin on the circus train with her adopted sister Isabella, also 16, who has a huge crush on some circus muscle man named Henrik and is always cooing about him. Theo decides to trust his new friend as well, and he tells Dancing Wind about his long-lost love, Alice. Dancing Wind realizes she has major feelings for Theo. She decides not to tell Isabella about her crush because Isabella has a big mouth and will tell everyone else.

When the circus is stopped in Blackberry Hollow, Iowa, Theo almost kisses Dancing Wind after she tells him he should stop living in the past. But they are interrupted by Isabella calling for her. You know, at this point Theo has to be in his 40s or at the very youngest his late 30s. It’s been 18 years since he left England. It didn’t say how old he was there, but his brother was 26 and Theo was close to him, so he couldn’t have been THAT much younger.

When the circus stops in Prairie Lakes, Minnesota, little 7-year-old Jessamyn Johnson sneaks in to see the horses and ride one of them. When Theo learns that Jessamyn’s mother is Swedish, he becomes convinced that her mother must be Alice. Of course, he’s right, but he doesn’t know for sure. He becomes preoccupied with finding Alice. Dancing Wind’s heart is broken. Determined to get Theo’s attention back on her during the acrobats’ segment of the show, she performs a daring triple-somersault in the air, when she was only supposed to do a double-flip. Her adopted father Guillermo isn’t prepared for this and can’t catch her in time. Dancing Wind crashes through the safety net and badly breaks her hip. Theo rushes to her and thinks he sees Alice in the crowd, but is too busy looking after Dancing Wind to really look hard. He realizes he doesn’t really love Alice anymore, and even if he did, it’s too late. As Dancing Wind lies in bed recovering from her injury, he confesses he loves her, not Alice.

When the circus stops in Cottonwood Creek, Nebraska, some time later, we learn that Dancing Wind is still crippled. She will never be able to perform stunts again. Deciding she’s holding Theo back, she takes her stuff off the train and gets ready to leave. Theo catches her and throws his own bag off the train. He asks Dancing Wind to marry him and she happily accepts.

1888. Theo and Dancing Wind have settled in Cottonwood Creek and live on a farm, where she announces she’s pregnant. Theo is concerned because his wife is still so weak. On their fourth wedding anniversary, Dancing Wind has a very painful childbirth experience and has twins. (Of course!) She tells Theo to name them Sarah and James after his lost family members, and dies immediately afterwards. This is right after the doctor, Dr. Baker, and the midwife, Felicity, have packed up and left. What the hell? It seemed like as soon as the babies were born, they were all, “Okay, we’re out of here. Good luck with your wife, she might die.”

1905. Theo and the twins now live in Vista, California, in the Napa Valley, where Theo has made a fortune in the wine business. Their home is called Manor Farm in memory of Wakefield Manor, Theo’s original homestead in England.

James is the older twin and he’s supposed to be serious and responsible (like Liz) while Sarah is supposed to be the irresponsible, wild twin who’s always in trouble (like Jess). Yet Sarah likes to write and hates the thought of lying to her father; she just has occasional mishaps and is a little more free-spirited than James, so she’s not much like her future great-great-granddaughter Jessica (but she’s much more likable than Elizabeth). When Sarah falls in love with one of her father’s employees – a boy in her class named Edward Brooke – she brings him to the house to meet Theo and James so that she can formally introduce him as a suitor. But while James already thinks Edward is awesome, her father doesn’t approve and barely speaks to Edward. Theo thinks Edward’s lower class status makes him beneath his daughter. He wants Sarah to try to get snobby rich George LeMaitre to court her instead. But Sarah keeps on seeing Edward behind Theo’s back, and soon Edward gives her a promise ring with the idea that they will marry after they graduate from high school. James is the only person Sarah trusts with their secret. Inspired by the journal of her deceased mother, Dancing Wind, Sarah has been writing a lot of fiction in her own journal, but now that she’s fallen for Edward, she eagerly writes all about their romance and plans for the future. Mega-foreshadowing here …

That autumn, influenza comes to the town, and both James and Sarah are stricken with it. But while Sarah recovers in a few days, James’s condition worsens and turns into pneumonia, and he soon dies in front of Sarah. What’s with all the deaths so far this early in the novel? I don’t remember the last book being quite this bad. Theo has already lost his brother, his wife, and his son, damn.

1906. It’s now April, and Sarah and Theo have been recovering from their grief over James’s death. One day Sarah comes home from school to find Theo sitting with her journal, and he looks furious. Gasp! He’s read it! HE KNOWS! And he tells Sarah if she won’t stop seeing Edward Brooke, she’ll have to leave his house. Damn! Sarah reminds her father that he once left his own family so he wouldn’t have to marry a girl he didn’t love, but Theo isn’t swayed. He even implies Sarah might have been sleeping with Edward, which hasn’t happened. Theo has turned into his dad. And that night, after he’s gone to bed, Sarah packs a bag and heads to Edward’s house. When he hears what’s happened, they take off on a train for San Francisco to elope. They get there around 4 in the morning and check into a fancy hotel so that they have a place to stay for the wedding night. As they’re preparing to wash up and get ready to go see a justice of the peace as soon as daylight comes, the Great San Francisco Earthquake of April 18, 1906 strikes. The hotel falls down around Edward and Sarah and when it’s over, they’re trapped in a small area of the rubble. Sarah cries that they will die without ever having been married and Edward “marries” them in their own ceremony to make up for it. They even write their vows down on a piece of paper. Then they start kissing and he asks her if they should stop. She says no. We get a skip-ahead where Sarah is thankful they at least had “this moment” and then rescuers arrive and save them. Sarah and Edward are taken to a nearby park where Edward insists on leaving her to help the rescuers. Edward saves a baby from the collapsed hotel, but then an aftershock sends him tumbling down from the rubble onto his head. The baby is fine, but Edward is dead. Sarah cries as her husband’s body is lead away. What the hell is up with this book! It’s so sad!

Edward’s parents come to get his body and take Sarah back with them. They are totally understanding of what happened and accept Sarah as Edward’s widow. When Sarah heads back to her home at Manor Farm, Theo even appears not to hold their elopement against Sarah, although he doesn’t apologize for essentially kicking his daughter out of his house.

Two months later, Sarah is still feeling sick and dizzy and having nightmares of the earthquake. Her father takes her to see Dr. Daly, who informs Sarah she’s pregnant with her late husband’s child. When Sarah tells Theo, he’s delighted and says Sarah will have to try and get the marriage certificate from San Francisco if it wasn’t destroyed in the quake. But then she confesses that she and Edward were never legally married, only by their own little “ceremony.” Theo flies into a rage. He says now the child will have neither the Brooke name nor the Wakefield name because of this. He seriously implies she is some kind of slut. What the fuck Theo! The next day, he orders his daughter to pack her bags and sends her off to a maternity home for unwed mothers in the town of Mendocino. There she will pick up a key for a house he has rented for her overlooking the cliffs. A doctor will tend to Sarah until after her baby is born. Theo will tell everyone at home that Sarah went away to get rest and therapy for her earthquake trauma. He will explain to the ladies at the maternity home that Sarah is a young traumatized widow. It’s too shameful for Sarah to have the baby at home in Vista. I don’t get it. Hey Theo, here’s an idea – why not just tell everyone that the baby is the child of Sarah’s deceased husband if you’re so worried about it? What in hell? Tell them the marriage certificate was in fact lost in the fucking earthquake! You big asshole! God, it’s too bad Dancing Wind isn’t still around. I bet she wouldn’t stand for this.

1907. Sarah gives birth to her son, Edward “Teddy” Wakefield, on New Year’s Day. She writes to Theo and tells him, and he shows up and isn’t happy that Teddy is short for Edward and not Theodore. Cry me a fucking river dude. Theo won’t look at or acknowledge the baby, and he announces that he will take Sarah home with him, but she’ll have to leave Teddy behind. Theo will arrange to have Teddy adopted. Sarah refuses, and he says that’s fine but she can never set foot in Manor Farm again, and he will just make sure they have all the money they need for the rest of their lives. Sarah tells him she doesn’t want his stinkin’ money if he won’t accept either of them into his life. Theo walks away and that’s the last they ever see of him. That’s right, he basically learned nothing from his past. He wants nothing to do with his daughter and grandson, the last remaining pieces of his family, after all the other family members he had are all dead. Holy crap. Theo is such a fucking jackass. So Sarah resolves to raise her baby under the lie that she is his Aunt Sarah, in order to spare him the pain of being an illegitimate child. I don’t get it. Can’t you just tell him the truth, that your “husband” was killed in the earthquake? You can leave out the whole “not legally binding” part if you’re so worried about it. It’s not like the people he meets later in life will go rummaging around for his parents’ marriage certificate before they agree to hang out with him.

1924. It’s the 1920s and Prohibition is in full effect. Ted Wakefield is now in high school and living with his “Aunt Sarah” in Chicago. He’s a successful writer for his school paper and college-bound. He believes that his grandfather is dead, and that his parents were named James and Edwina Wakefield, and that they died in a train crash and James’s sister Sarah decided to raise him. Sarah works really hard to make ends meet, so Ted takes on a job as a waiter at the Black Cat Cafe, a jazz club, to pay his way into college. Sarah has reservations about the job, but lets him take it.

At the club, Ted makes friends with jazz saxophonist Emmet “Slim” Stark and his daughter, vocalist Tina Stark. Ted and Tina are soon hopping all over town together, but there isn’t anything romantic between them. They make good friends and Tina teaches Ted all about the jazz scene. Ted loves it. Tina is African American, but there is no mention of the pair encountering any trouble or discrimination in the segregated 1920s when they go out in public together. Tina encourages Ted to write articles about the jazz world and submit them to the Chicago Post, and the paper accepts one of his pieces for publication. Ted decides to blow off his acceptance into Rosse College in Ohio and become a jazz writer instead, living the clubbin’ life. His “Aunt Sarah” is not pleased. Ted snaps at her that she isn’t his mother and shouldn’t act like it. WHOA DAMN.

Ted comes home from a jazz club one night to find Aunt Sarah holding a letter and obviously upset. She explains to Ted that his grandfather has died, and he’s left the two of them all his money in his will. Ted is confused because he thought his grandfather was already dead. Sarah is forced to confess the truth. She gives stunned Ted Theo’s family crest ring, which he’d saved from his days at Wakefield Manor, and Dancing Wind’s journal. Ted is furious and blames Sarah for keeping his grandfather from him all his life. He decides to leave for college after all, packs his things, and leaves.

1925. One year later, Ted has forgiven his mother, pledged into a fraternity, pen pals with his old friend Tina, and best friends with wealthy, friendly Harry Watson. He still hides the truth of his birth from everyone to avoid being ostracized. Harry’s girlfriend Stella wants to know why Harry is still single since he’s such a big man on campus, and Harry thinks about how he just doesn’t want anyone to get too close and find out the truth. In Detroit, Ted meets Harry’s twin sisters Amanda and Samantha, and falls in love with Amanda even though everyone thinks it’s Sam Ted wants, including Sam herself. If you’ve read the first Saga or my recap of it, then you know how this goes down. The book skims over most of it but reminds us how Amanda told Ted she’d finally let Sam know about their secret love when she hadn’t. Then we get treated to the final showdown in which Sam, posing as Amanda, sets Ted up to get arrested by the Feds for bootlegging liquor, which he wasn’t really doing, of course. (Sam just wanted to get back at Ted for rejecting her and secretly seeing her sister instead.) Ted goes to jail and gets out thinking his true love Amanda planted the liquor because she thought Ted tried to seduce Sam, and when the Feds let him go because they figured out it was a setup, he leaves town thinking Amanda is the worst person ever. I can’t believe he never put two and two together. He drops out of school and takes off on a “find myself” kind of journey.

1926. Near the end of a lengthy road trip across the U.S., Ted arrives in Swift River, Oregon, where he crashes at a little run-down place called the Last Chance Lodge. He tells the owner, Dick Dawson, and some of his friends all about his journey to find his grandmother’s Awaswan family. He drinks some illegal beer that Dick offers him, although of course the book assures us that he hesitates before doing so, so that we won’t think Ted is in the habit of breaking the law or something. You’d think maybe he wouldn’t even want to look at it after that scare the Feds gave him. Anyway, Dick loans Ted his mule, Pete, and Ted takes off for the Awaswan reservation, where he meets the Chief, Ten Horses. Ten Horses is in the middle of an interview with a pretty blond journalist named Julia Marks. Ted asks Ten Horses for information on Dancing Wind’s mother, Owl Feather. It turns out that Ten Horses knows all about Owl Feather – in fact, the whole tribe does. She was born sometime in the 1840s to the Awaswan medicine man, Red Spirit. It was believed that if Red Spirit’s prettiest daughter married Chief Fist-of-Thunder, great luck would come to the Awaswan, who were at the time first starting to lose their land to whites. So Owl Feather was supposed to save her people, but then she fell in love with a white prospector named Jake Webster instead, and she ran away and married him and had Dancing Wind and the Awaswan lost most of their land and were forced onto a reservation. Ted is like, “Oh shit, sorry.”

Ten Horses tells Ted that maybe they can reverse their luck again now that Owl Feather’s descendant has come, along with the help of “Paper Voices” which is the name he’s given Julia. It turns out Julia is on a mission to find a missing treaty that shows the land does belong to the Awaswan and the neighboring Yakima Indians. Iron ore has been found in the land, and a company just went ahead and started mining for it. Ten Horses and the Yakima Chief, Bear Paw, protested this. But the representative for the U.S. Government, Frank Foster, claimed he couldn’t find the treaty even though there are supposed to be two copies, and therefore it never existed. Of course, that is bullshit. Ted and Julia go see Frank and bluff that they have a third copy and freak Frank out. He dumbly takes out a folder and says they can look at what’s in there if he can look at the third copy that they have. Instead, Ted and Julia run off with the real treaty. Frank and another crony chase them and try to run their car off of a cliff, but the bad guys wind up going over instead. Ted pulls them out of the car just before it explodes, showing his good nature. Julia realizes she is in love with him and vows to win his heart.

Julia invites Ted to ride the train with her to D.C., where they will stay with friends of Julia’s rich family and go sightseeing. They have a good time, but when Ted realizes Julia has feelings for him, he tells her the story of stupid Amanda, who made him decide love’s not worth it or something. Oh, for fuck’s sake! The Vaughns have a dance and Ted and Julia wind up kissing in the backyard, but he kind of freaks out. Julia isn’t having it. She yells at him and tells him she would make the perfect wife and he knows it, and that it’s time for him to get over Amanda and stop giving up on life. You tell ‘im Jules! Ted realizes he loves her.

1927. Ted and Julia are married and they buy a brownstone in New York City, where Julia is employed as the “Citywatch” columnist for the New York Chronicle newspaper and Ted writes for the New Yorker magazine. While they’re looking at the house, Julia tells Ted she’s pregnant. Later that same year, she gives birth to their son, Robert. Julia shows Ted an article that says Samantha Watson, the up-and-coming Hollywood actress, has died in childbirth. Ted feels grateful that Julia’s birthing experience went just fine. He also feels terrible because he knew Sam, but he doesn’t “see any reason” to tell Julia that Samantha was Amanda’s twin and that he knew her. Why not? Is that not weird? Well, whatever.

1937. Robert “Bob” Wakefield is now nine and has a happy home life with his mother and father. Then Julia gets a major assignment to cover the rise of Nazi Germany from Berlin. Ted and Bob don’t want her to go and have bad feelings about it. I guess we can see where this is going. Julia thinks this will be her major big break. She starts sending Ted and Bob letters from Germany about some of the atrocities she has witnessed. Soon she writes that she can’t say much more because her letters are likely being read by government censors. Sure enough, her last letter that says she’s coming home has several areas blacked out. Ted and Bob go to meet Julia’s airship the Hindenberg coming in and watch as it explodes and disintegrates with Julia inside. Whoa, dude.

Julia’s journal survives the fire, and Ted reads it and learns about the horrors being committed against Jews and how Hitler has plans to take over Europe and build his “perfect Aryan race.” Not long after, Kristallnacht occurs and the world learns the truth. Ted realizes that Julia “would indeed have broken the big one.”

This book is so sad!

1943. Bob is now 16 and he lies about his age to enlist in the Navy and get shipped off to World War II. When he breaks the news to his dad, Ted is furious, but ultimately decides to let his son go because his stubbornness is “in the blood.”

Later that year, Bob is on the aircraft carrier Richmond in the South Pacific as a communications specialist. He’s assigned to communicate back and forth over the radio as “Sea Eagle” with an anonymous spy with alias “Pacific Star”. The spy is currently being held captive on the island of Mindanao.

The spy’s real name is Hannah Weiss, an American, Jewish nurse whose family was originally from Austria. When she was 16, she lied about her age to join the Army as a nurse. Sound familiar? Now she’s actually 18, and she lives in the POW camp with her fellow nurses, Debbie Houghton, Joan Madden, Pam Baird, and Nettie MacAllister. Hannah keeps her radio buried under some reeds near a stream that the nurses are allowed to swim in on washday, which is once a week. Debbie, who’s one flirty girl, distracts the Japanese guard while Hannah gets her radio and broadcasts to Robert. It’s his first day as her new contact. Hannah introduces herself and explains that she’s been a POW since May 1942.

I love war stories, especially WWII stories, which is odd because I hate war.

1944. The Richmond begins a liberation mission against another Japanese-occupied island. Japanese pilots kamikaze the Richmond and sister ship the Springfield, which sinks. After a pilot hits the Richmond, shrapnel flies everywhere and Bob’s best friend, Jason Carter, is killed. Bob’s spirits sink low, but he is later revived by the news that the liberation of Nazi-occupied France has begun.

Hannah hears the Japanese guards talking about how they plan to leave the Philippines less guarded while they beef up enforcements at Mindanao, because they think the U.S. is going to strike there first. This time on wash day, it’s Pam’s turn to distract the guards. She does so by falling flat on her face in the water and having the other girls run around screaming that she’s drowning. Hannah rushes to relay the information to Sea Eagle and she almost gets caught with the radio before she can rebury it. The guard tells her she’s “too much trouble” and “no more walks by the stream.”

It is interesting that this book talks about how the nurses were treated so well by the Japanese soldiers. In reality, Japan treated its POWs absolutely horrid during World War II. I’m not a WWII expert (so if you are, please weigh in), but the Palawan Massacre and the Bataan Death March are just a few of the more famous examples. Japan (at the time) was also notorious for starvation and horrendous forced labor conditions. These atrocities were well-known. But who knows, maybe women were treated differently …? I can only hope so. Today, of course, Japan and the United States are allies and friends.

1945. The Allies attack Mindanao and the Japanese guards drag Hannah and her fellow nurses into the jungle on an exhausting journey. A firefight and shelling breaks out all around them and Hannah sees Marines coming at her and her friends and thinks they’re going to shoot her. The Marines save the nurses and take them back to the ship where Hannah finally meets Bob in person. They are already in love from having chatted over the airwaves. They get engaged on the same day that the war ends.

Some years later. It’s the holidays in Sweet Valley. Hannah and Bob are now married and have a son, Edward, whom they call Ned for short. They live in Sweet Valley near Hannah’s parents, Larry and Lise Weiss, and Hannah’s older brother, Sam, and his wife Ruth, who have a daughter Ned’s age, named Rachel. Sarah, Ted’s mother, still lives in Chicago and has married a man named Joe Mayne. Ted has never remarried and is still in New York.

We learn Hannah’s family lost her cousins in the concentration camps in Austria during the war. The cousins’ parents, Hannah’s Uncle Karl and Aunt Berthe, survived the camps and still live in Austria.

Early 1960s. Ned and Rachel are 16 and students at Sweet Valley High along with Hank Patman, whom nobody can stand. Hank keeps harassing Rachel and trying to get her to go out with him. He’s just like his future son Bruce. Rachel hangs out with her cousin Ned and his friend Seth. Both boys love to surf and listen to the Beach Boys. On their way home from the beach, Ned meets a migrant worker his age named Salvador who says he doesn’t go to school. Ned is horrified and soon learns that migrant workers’ children are in fact not allowed to attend public school alongside the year-round residents’ students. Ned and Rachel are both on the student council, so they try to get the other student council members – Hank Patman, Mary Baker, Shirley, Kent, and Stan – to agree with them so they can present something formal to the Board of Education asking to change the law. Mary agrees with them, but Hank doesn’t, and he sways the rest of the group to his side. Ned is enraged and inspired to continue to fight injustice, encouraged by his dad Bob.

Rachel, Seth, Hank, and Ned all graduate and head off to the College of Southern California later on in the 60s. I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t just all go to Sweet Valley College, haha. Rachel rooms with two girls named Barbara and Judy her freshman year. They have a nice suite in the dorms. What is up with all these kids getting nice suites and giant dorm rooms in books and on TV shows? I definitely didn’t have that! Is this some norm I just don’t know about? Luxurious dormitory conditions?

A snotty judge’s daughter named Becky Foster used to be friends with Rachel, but she dropped her early in the semester when she realized Rachel wasn’t going to help her go out with Ned. Suddenly Becky reappears calling herself “Rainbow”, dressing as a flower child, and caring about social issues. She organizes protests and leads students in a group called SPAN, and whatnot and catches Ned’s eye easily. Oh, and it turns out she’s also got Awaswan Indian blood. Ned and Rainbow start dating seriously and he helps her with her difficult pre-law homework. Rachel is sure Rainbow is a big fake, but Ned won’t listen and gives her the whole “I’m disappointed in you” speech for daring to question Rainbow’s integrity. That’s so annoying.

But then the day comes when SPAN holds a huge protest outside the president’s office at the school, demanding that he formally denounce the developing war in Vietnam. Ned takes Rainbow to the protest but she seems less than enthused. Fights break out between cops and students and the cops tear gas the crowd. As Ned and Rainbow are coughing and hacking, police officers randomly arrest them and throw them in a van. Rainbow bitches him out and blames him for getting them arrested. She exposes her true self – she only wanted to date Ned because she was hoping he’d help her become an honors student or some bullshit – and Ned is devastated. When they arrive at the police station, Rainbow yells that she’s Judge Foster’s daughter and the police immediately apologize and take her to a phone to call her dad, who comes and takes her home. Ned vows never to trust love again. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Why don’t you time-travel to the ’00s and listen to some emo music?

Can you tell I’m not feeling particularly sympathetic this week?

A few years later, Ned still hasn’t given anyone else a chance as far as romance is concerned, and Rachel is worried. It turns out Rachel spent her junior year in Austria studying abroad and learning about the family’s Austrian background, and she met a college kid named Paul there and they are in love. So now she thinks everyone else should be too. Sounds like Liz.

Ned lives in an off-campus house with Seth and their friends Vince and Danny. From here, the story gets boring fast. Ned rescues Alice from drowning, tries to date her, learns she’s marrying Hank Patman, and finally gets the girl when she shows up at his house one day after having run off from her wedding. It’s the exact same story as before and it’s not suddenly more interesting because it’s being told from Ned’s point of view.

Ned and Alice marry in the Robertsons’ backyard. Later on, Ned and Alice share a little about their family history and note the similarity of the rose on the Wakefield family crest ring and the carved wooden rose passed down through Alice’s family. They wonder if it might be a coincidence … Wait, they really don’t know by now that their families have met repeatedly through the ages? How is that not possible? I guess it kind of makes sense, I don’t know. I’m too lazy to think about it that hard.

Ned and Alice have their son Steven. When he is a toddler, Alice tells Ned she’s pregnant again and they talk about whether they’ll have another son or a daughter, and what a daughter might be like. Ned hopes she’s just like Alice!

Verdict: This book wasn’t as good as the first Saga. I still liked it, but it could’ve been better. It also seemed like it had more deaths and despair than the first one. I hate the parts that are just rehashes of what we already learned in the first Saga. I know what happened already; you don’t need to tell me all over again. I also don’t care what Ned’s view is of the Alice story because well … it’s not any different!

(I also hated all those various TV show episodes that were just flashback episodes … you know the type, every sitcom and mainstream drama seemed to have one back in the day, with the characters reminiscing about stuff that already happened. I mean, who cares? We already watched it once; bring us something new and exciting.)

WTF? Katerina tells Theo about how she read Wuthering Heights and wants to know about the ghosts that roam the moors. Theo basically laughs in her face and admonishes her that she shouldn’t read romantic novels. He then starts babbling about how she needs to read about the American prairie landscape instead. He also makes a remark about how the Indians in America would probably scare her. Is this where Liz gets her condescension from?

Each Saga edition has a Wakefield family tree in the front of the book. The family tree in this one shows that Theodore’s father’s name is also Theodore, yet in the very first chapter, Theo’s mother calls his father “George”. Man, come on, get it right.

When the little boy falls overboard on the steamer, and Alice Larson goes to save him, it’s said the rocking of the ship tears him out of his mother’s arms and flings him overboard. But in the first Saga, he ran from his mother of his own free will, and was looking over the railing when he fell.

I tried to find some information about the Awaswan Indians online, but it looks like the author made them up.

As with the last book in the Saga series, we can’t have a history of the Wakefield twins without a reassurance that their ancestors were perfect, too, and that California is absolutely the best place on Earth. Here, Dancing Wind thinks about how Isabella has always been jealous of her perfect figure, and Sarah thinks to herself about how there’s no better place in the world than California (despite never having been anywhere else).

Theo is said to be only middle-aged when Sarah is 16, but how old was he when he was married to Dancing Wind? I’m so confused!

During the Prohibition days, Ted and his friends drink “near-beer”. That’s a type of nearly zero alcohol “beer” made by the big brewing companies to stay alive after alcohol was outlawed. Everything I read about it seemed to emphasize how terrible it tasted and how people would spike it under the table! Ha ha ha!

In book 25, Nowhere to Run, Grandma Wakefield (who I guess is Hannah) told Emily Mayer that Ned has a half-brother named Louis from Bob’s first marriage and that Bob’s first wife was killed in a train accident. Louis is 11.5 years older than Ned. Obviously that isn’t the case so far as this book is concerned. I guess Grandma just made that up to try and make Emily feel better. (Unless Bob married before he joined the service at 16, haha)

Ned also told his son Steven in an earlier SVH book that he is named after his college best friend who was killed in a car accident. Obviously that’s also bullshit.

Let’s look at this cover.

Here it is again so you don't have to scroll all the way back up to the top.

Nice satiny blue sheen … is that pink rose supposed to be the wooden Alice Larson rose? But it’s pink! The book says it’s made of white wood. On the right side, we have Theodore Wakefield at the top. Damn, he looks cold and menacing! Next comes his daughter Sarah, who is very pretty. Then of course Elizabeth and Jessica take up the bottom two tiers there. I kind of wish we had Ted and Bob there instead. I guess the twins are supposed to look like they do on the cover of Double Love, but there’s something off about it. It seems to have a liberal use of white paint around their eyes and hair. Maybe I’m just picky.

As with the previous Saga, this cover wasn’t done by veteran Sweet Valley cover artist James Mathewuse for some reason. This one was done by someone named Bruce Emmett.

Here’s the full stepback:

There’s the Hindenberg disaster with Ted in the foreground screaming at it … God, how traumatizing. To the right, Theodore cries out in horror and reaches out to Dancing Wind as she does her crazy flip and falls, with Guillermo trying to catch her. The picture makes it look like she just slipped and fell off the trapeze without doing the flip, however. Below that, we have Bob frantically shouting into the radio and it looks like the battle is raging behind him. Finally, there’s the protest at the College of Southern California with Ted casually holding onto .. Rainbow? Rainbow’s supposed to have black hair, but this girl’s hair is blond. But Ned hadn’t met Alice yet and he wasn’t with her at the protest. I’m fucking confused.

In the back of the book is a really unimaginative ad, telling you to pick up some other books in the series. It has a list of the Super Editions, Super Stars, Super Thrillers, Magna Editions, and a list of the upcoming six-book miniseries that occurs after A Night to Remember. Obviously, this edition was printed a while after the original release date, since at the time it originally came out, none of that post-Jungle Prom business was out yet.

No Reader of the Month this time. Wah.

Coming up next, it’s back to the original series with Jessica and Bruce having some kind of fight over something.

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