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

#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.

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Comments on: "#86 Jessica Against Bruce" (7)

  1. aubynpeach said:

    This is the best summary i have read of this book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Todd’s story.

  2. aubynpeach said:

    So I have a funny story that I thought you would appreciate. I have a friend and we have so much in common that we joke we are twins. Naturally, this has led to a few Jessica and Elizabeth references. One day she stated that she was in a mood and expect her to be a bitch. So, I started calling her bitch twin. One day we were having banter and I said some zinger and her response was “so who is the bitch twin now, elizabeth”. She and i had never discussed a dislike for Elizabeth but I guess that is a generally mutual feeling. i thought of you when she said it. Hope your weeks are getting better. Mine are a little hectic.

    • Liz-haters unite … lol. I hope you are still friends now that she called you Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

      • aubynpeach said:

        Even better friends than before because I instantly knew what she meant. We pass it back and forth and are planning on going as the twins for halloween next year.

      • aubynpeach said:

        Hey there, just wanted to check on you. I am guessing work is truly sucking. I am sorry. My work has been crazy as well. I hope you are doing ok.

      • Thanks for checking on me ๐Ÿ™‚ Well yeah, it always kind of sucks … but I’m also suffering a lack of motivation here. The last book was truly awful and every time I go to write about it I’m like … oh god … it was awful. hahahaa I’ve been writing maybe one paragraph every day, so I figure by Friday it will be done ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. “CHOO CHOOOOOOOOOOOO! Itโ€™s the pseudo-feminism train, coming to run your ass right over.” Laughed my ass off. LOVE.

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