Here’s the deal. Olivia Davidson is dating Rod Sullivan, the kinda namby-pamby dweeb from Teacher Crush, and graphics editor for the Oracle (read: one of the legions of Oracle staffers who is barely ever mentioned except when it’s convenient to the plot). Supposedly they had started dating around that time, but then when Olivia’s Story came about, Rod was nowhere to be seen and she fell for older boy James “I’m a Martyr for My Art” Yates. Now, like so many Sweet Valley significant others before him, James has vanished into the ether with his paintbrushes and his murals of Olivia, never to be seen again. Rod is back without explanation and he’s worse than ever. He’s so awful that he spends probably a bare minimum of 90 percent of his Olivia-time babbling about how great Elizabeth Wakefield is. Oh, you heard me right! This book opens with Rod and Olivia riding to school together, and Rod going on and on about how Elizabeth is the best writer ever and how she’s destined for a Pulitzer. When Olivia tries to talk about her own literary endeavors (her magazine, Visions), Rod tells her that stories, art, and poetry aren’t “as real to me as news articles” and soon goes back to fantasizing about Liz jerking him off with a pot of ink, or whatever it is that has him going. Olivia puts up with it. Typical Sweet Valley girl … I hate it.
Penny Ayala gets accepted to a special program that allows her to follow a Washington, D.C. senator around for two weeks and report on his doings. Do they really have those types of programs for kids? And if they do, do they really get to literally follow them around? What if the senator has to go to the bathroom, do they get to write about that? Anyway, since Penny just gets to up and leave high school for two whole weeks, she needs to appoint someone to take her place as editor-in-chief at the Oracle. Obviously it’s going to be Elizabeth, because Elizabeth gets everything, but for some reason Olivia thinks she might have a chance. Rod laughs in her face when she confesses this to him at lunch and to my surprise, she doesn’t tell him to shove his school lunch tray where the sun don’t shine. Needless to say, Rod is correct. Olivia is really upset that she wasn’t chosen but tries her hardest to get over it. (She doesn’t realize that Penny and Liz have been talking about how Penny didn’t choose Olivia because she’s so busy with Visions lately, not because they think Liz would do a better job.)
Olivia throws herself into the latest issue of Visions and illustrates a special poster asking for submissions for the upcoming Earth issue. Elizabeth submits a few poems and is happy that they are good because she doesn’t write much poetry. You know Liz, there are only so many books in which you can make this claim before it ceases to be accurate. There is a hysterical scene where Elizabeth reads one of her poems to her mother and sister at breakfast, and Jessica doesn’t hold back about how shitty it is. (I’ll laugh about this in greater detail when I get to the sub-plot.) Liz also reviews some of Olivia’s poems. She thinks they’re awesome and encourages her to submit them to the Sweet Valley News, which apparently wants to run some poetry. Olivia tells Rod about how elated she is by Elizabeth’s opinion of her poetry. I like how Olivia thinks Elizabeth, who supposedly knows nothing about poetry, is a qualified judge of other people’s poems. But maybe I’m just being a bitch here. Why not? Being bitchy about these books is great fun. Well, Olivia tells Rod that she was hanging out with Elizabeth and he interrupts her to freak out that she was hanging out with Liz without telling him, because he would’ve loved to be there … what the fuck? Olivia wonders why Mr. “I Hate Poetry” here gives so much of a damn, but brushes it aside, and agrees that going on a double date with Liz and Todd soon would be a lot of fun. Rod is fucking annoying as all hell. Oh, God. Where’s Bruce when you need him? He could “accidentally” run him over with 1BRUCE1 and have that be the talk of the series for the next two books, then we can forget Rod ever existed unless there’s some kind of foundation his parents want to randomly establish in his name 50 books after the fact, or a camera they want to gift someone because it turned out he had a love of photography that nobody ever heard about, until it was convenient to the plot.
With Penny gone, Liz begins to fret endlessly about how she can possibly publish the newspaper without her. To make matters worse, the flu hits Sweet Valley High, and everyone who was supposed to assist – Robin Wilson, Jennifer Mitchell, Mr. Collins, and a whole THIRD of the school – goes out sick. Olivia mentions to Rod that Liz sure is busy, and he leaps at the chance to help. Olivia laughs because everyone knows writing and editing aren’t Rod’s strong suits, which pisses him off. Why? He certainly seems to think he can talk down to Olivia whenever he wants. I hate this fucker; somebody poison his school lunch already.
Rod begins popping up wherever Liz is, standing way too close to her, making jokes about how many hugs she needs to give him – in other words, being a serious creeper. UGH! He gives me the shudders, and not in a delicious way. But Liz does that thing she always does where she denies he could have any real interest in her because he’s dating Olivia and has become numb to the charms of other women. Gross! Can we just all make a pact, right here and now, that when someone gives us the genuine creeps we will all speak up and say, “You’re making me really uncomfortable. Back off.” Instead Liz brushes her feelings aside, which makes me both super annoyed with and sad for her at the same time, and accepts Rod’s help with the Oracle even though she thinks he’s a crappy writer. Rod writes a feature article that’s surprisingly good, AND that sounds awfully familiar to Liz, but not for an instant does she think to question its veracity. (The book tells us she “didn’t have the time” to think about it … right. Old Stodgy Pants Liz always lets a little thing like time loosen her rigid observation of everyone else’s morals.) Liz is so happy with the article that she kisses creepy Rod on the cheek – what? why? – and he almost kisses her for real, but she makes excuses for him again and tells herself she’s imagining things.
The night of the great double date with Liz and Todd arrives. Olivia takes special pains getting ready for the movie, and when Rod sees her he gives her a wolf whistle, tells her she looks great, then proceeds to say “Doesn’t Elizabeth have a dress like that?” HATE. HIM. Olivia pushes it aside (what the fuck else would she do?), then they go to the movie and Liz breezes in late, wearing an old sweatshirt, shorts, and sneakers, with her hair slicked back, and looking totally gorg regardless. Olivia’s self-esteem goes right down the shitter, especially when Rod jizzes all over his popcorn at the sight of her. “You look like Aphrodite just risen from the sea,” he tells Liz. WHO SAYS THAT? Liz rolls her eyes and says that she doesn’t think Aphrodite wore sweatshirts and sneakers, and Rod responds with, “She would have if she’d seen you.” Are you for real, Rod? After the movie, they go to the Dairi Burger where Todd and Rod talk about how great Liz is and Olivia is totally ignored. At the end of the night, she’s obviously pissed, but she does that whole “Oh, it’s nothing” when Rod asks. Girl, tell this little fucker he’s an asswipe for drooling all over your friend in front of you! Then tell him he has a tiny penis anyway and slam the door in his face! Be done with it!
Liz has an English essay due on painting or some shit, and Rod offers to help her figure out what to write. They meet at the Dairi Burger where Rod seems more interested in holding Liz’s hands and talking about how great she is. Oh, but he only likes her as a friend, right? Liz’s only reason for thinking this way, again, is that he’s Olivia’s boyfriend. I’m convinced at this point Rod could bend her over the table and take her to pound-me town, and Liz would think, “Oh, it’s just a friendly gesture! He’s dating Olivia!” Rod has only grabbed Liz’s hands to see if she bites her nails, but then he won’t let go of them until Liz jerks her hands away and knocks over his glass of water. But she lets him hold them long enough that Olivia shows up with that boring loser DeeDee Gordon, sees what’s going on, and freaks out and leaves in a hurry without saying anything to them. When Olivia explains to DeeDee what she saw, DeeDee just laughs that it’s not possible and Olivia had to be seeing things. Meanwhile, Liz finally gets Rod to give her his ideas for her paper. When she gets home, Olivia calls to ask her what was going on with that handholding shit. Finally the woman grows a pair of ovaries. I like how she confronts Liz and not her own boyfriend, though. Maybe she instinctively knew Rod would just lie to her. Liz explains to Olivia that Rod was just checking to see if she bit her nails like Olivia does, and Olivia’s nerves are instantly soothed.
That night, Liz is so busy she winds up writing her English paper in a sleep-deprived haze, and never really developing it into anything final. She is forced to turn in what she has. The next thing she knows, Mr. Collins is handing her the paper back with a big red “F” on the front, accusing her of plagiarism, and practically weeping with despair over Liz’s sudden turn into bad character. It turns out the ideas Rod gave Liz are the same ideas used by some famous art critic named Archie Fox, and Liz was so tired she typed up the ideas as though they were her own and … and that’s it. She didn’t take the time to put her own words in, but so what? She didn’t come up with the idea anyway. The morning after writing the paper, Liz woke up, out of time, and decided what she had typed up “would have to do.” Liz is so determined not to bring Rod into the whole debacle that she refuses to out him as the person who gave her all these plagiarized ideas, which he put forth as his own … jeez. Don’t be such a fucking martyr, Liz! Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that Liz was perfectly willing to use everything he gave her as her own. She might not have known that the ideas were actually some famous art critic’s and not Rod’s, but she still USED ROD’S IDEAS LIKE THEY WERE HERS. Oh, but she was sleep-deprived and typing stuff without realizing! She couldn’t help it! She was sleep-typing! Sorry Liz dearie, but Ambien won’t come along for at least another 10 years.
Since Liz refuses to explain to Mr. Collins why she plagiarized, he kicks her off the school paper! Everyone is horrified, but Mr. Collins won’t explain to the staff what happened. Jessica gets the real story out of Liz and is pissed as hell. She convinces Liz to talk to Rod about why he pretended someone else’s ideas were his – even though Jessica thinks it’s obvious: duh! he had a mad crush on Liz and was trying to impress her with his worldliness! – but when Liz tries, Rod brushes her off. He tells her it’s not his fault if she decided to use the info he gave her as her own. I HATE to agree with anything this little weasel has to say, but he’s right on that point. However, he’s not right when he tries to say he was just “being a friend”, acting like he had her best interests at heart and really wanted to help her. He’s so gross, I hate him. Someone put arsenic in his hoagie already! Liz resigns herself to a life of never writing again, tries to think of what other careers she could try, then suffers a totally humiliating incident when she goes to clean her desk out at the exact same time the rest of the Oracle staff is having some kind of meeting without her. Everyone pretends not to see her or looks at her sadly as she puts her stuff away, and she leaves the scene red-faced.
Olivia talks to Rod about what could possibly have gotten Liz kicked off the staff, but Rod is all “not my problem” about it. Olivia is taken aback by his behavior, especially since he’s been on the Liz bandwagon so much lately, but doesn’t question it further because she’s a fucking doormat and I want to stomp all over her. Then Elizabeth meets Olivia at Casey’s Place and tells her the truth about why she was kicked off of the staff and asks her to talk to Rod, but Olivia says she’s not sure she believes Liz’s story and walks away. Todd encourages Liz not to give up, but he has the flu and can’t really do anything to help. Enid chats with Liz about the situation, but is as useless as she always is. Why didn’t someone kill HER off in the series? You could’ve done it at the end of Enid’s Story and no one would give a damn. Jessica, meanwhile, is pissed as hell at Olivia for not supporting Elizabeth, and it’s clear she’s the one who will take some action.
Rod gets mad at Olivia for asking him if he had feelings for Liz, saying he never did, then makes up for his crap behavior by taking her out on a fancy date to the Box Tree Cafe, and not mentioning Elizabeth once all night. After a goodnight kiss that leaves her breathless, Olivia drifts upstairs to her bedroom dreaming of him. I have a picture in my mind of Rod looking like a hopeless, useless dork, and not in a sexy-smart way, so I’m kind of grossed out by the idea of him kissing anyone. The next day, one of Olivia’s poems is published in the Sweet Valley News. Olivia remembers that she has Liz to thank for encouraging her to submit them, and feels bad. Well, wah wah wah ya fucking crybaby.
Olivia and her friends all seem content to just step back and let Liz ride out the storm, but there’s one person who isn’t having it … Jessica to the rescue! She barges into the Davidson house and confronts Olivia about what’s been going on and Olivia researches Rod’s Oracle article and finds out that it was obviously plagiarized. She talks to Mr. Collins who calls Rod and Liz into his office to discuss the matter. He gets Rod to admit that he copied the article from several very famous works by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin fucking Franklin, and that he also presented some of his ideas to Liz as his own. Rod is punished and Liz is allowed back onto the Oracle staff, AND allowed to rewrite her paper. WHAT? Liz STILL USED SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEAS AS HER OWN. It doesn’t matter that Rod pretended they were his ideas … Liz still used them!!!!! LIZ IS A PLAGIARIST!
Olivia confronts Rod outside the Oracle office after he’s been beaten back into his place, and she breaks up with him with the classic “We have to talk” line. Rod still can’t openly admit that he wanted to bang Liz, trying to pass it off as “I thought I was being a good friend” and the whole I-couldn’t-admit-it-to-myself-I-swear-I-didn’t-realize-what-I-was-doing bullshit, then strolls off into the halls of SVH, (hopefully) never to be heard from again.
A somewhat-interesting story, with a lackluster (and unfair) resolution. What do you think? Do you think it was right for Liz to be let off so easy?
The sub-plot: Jessica goes on an honesty kick with hilarious results! It all begins when Annie Whitman bitches her out for not telling her that her boyfriend (but they broke up in the last book!) Tony Esteban has been seeing another girl. Because Tony knew that Jessica knew, he just assumed that Annie also knew and “didn’t mind.” What the fuck kind of logic is that? Annie says if Jessica was a real friend, she would’ve told her rather than make her look like an idiot in front of everyone. Um, since when is Jessica your friend, Annie? Remember when she drove you to attempted suicide, that whole bit? Annie tells Jessica she’s never speaking to her again and Jessica is left upset and wondering if it was wrong of her to not say anything to Annie, because she didn’t want to upset her. Jess tells Liz what happened, and Liz gives Jessica one of her fucking lectures, about the importance of honesty, because she can really talk in that department … ESPECIALLY IN THIS BOOK.
Next, Jessica lies to Sam that she has to help her mom shop one Saturday, when really she’s going shopping with Lila, so that she won’t have to watch Sam’s latest dirt bike race. When Lila shows up at the Wakefield homestead to pick Jessica up for their shopping date, everyone is shocked to see that Lila’s hairdo has changed: it’s gone from light brown and wavy to black and straightened, with purple streaks throughout. Ned, Alice, and Liz all lie about liking her hair, then joke about how it makes her look like a “Transylvanian” and a “zombie” after she leaves. I’m sorry, what was that shit you were lecturing your sister about … honesty, was it Liz?
Jess lies and tells Lila she likes her new style, then suffers through a horribly awkward afternoon in which everyone at the mall pretty much openly laughs at how Lila looks. Lila keeps thinking people are looking at her because they love her hair, and Jess lets her keep up this impression for some time. When Lila figures out that everyone is staring at her because they think she’s ridiculous – she overhears a shitty comment – she tells Jessica off for not letting her know the truth, then drives off and leaves her to find her own way home from the Valley Mall. Atta girl, Fowler! When Jessica finally arrives back home, Mr. Wakefield is showing off an ugly crystal statue of some meerkats that he bought that day and going off about how great it will look on their mantel, while everyone pretends it’s not hideous.
On Monday morning, Lila has gotten her hair dyed back to its natural color and has told everyone about what a liar Jessica is. Jessica endures a lunch period full of snide remarks and Amy and Caroline (who is suddenly a good friend of theirs) agreeing that honesty is almost always the best policy. So when Liz asks Jessica to help her out with the Oracle by writing an article, Jessica whips up an essay examining whether honesty is always absolutely necessary. It’s a hit with the student body and she feels all full of herself until Lila hands her a magazine article about “how to unlock the totally honest you.” Jessica comes home from a party in deep thought about the topic of honesty, and falls asleep resolving “to put George Washington to shame.” This is going to be fun.
On her first day as a newfound honest person, Jessica goes downstairs to breakfast, where Liz announces that she’s written a poem called “The Last Days of the Amazon” that she’d like to read to them. Jess groans aloud and Liz snaps, “Do you have some kind of problem with the title?” Liz drones on and on with her poem and Mrs. Wakefield tells her it’s beautiful, then denies it’s too long even though it’s obvious she thinks it is. Liz is happy and tells her mom she thinks it’s “almost there.” Jessica goes, “Where, exactly, is ‘there’ supposed to be? It sounded like a nursery rhyme to me. A nursery rhyme about bugs.” Liz is enraged, but Jessica chides her that she thought all writers wanted constructive criticism. Liz stomps off in a huff and drives off to school without Jessica.
The rest of the morning is just as good. Jessica strolls through the hallway with pride thinking about how she told Amy she was wearing too much mascara, and Robin that her new cheer was “as exciting as a glass of water”. She also tattles on Kirk Anderson in the middle of history class, telling Mr. Jaworski that he’s actually at the beach rather than out sick with the flu. Hahaha, that one is pretty funny, because Kirk Anderson sucks. Then when she overhears John Pfeifer bragging to Artie Western that Jennifer Mitchell is crazy about him, she interrupts them to tell John that Jennifer is actually thinking of dumping him. When she comes home and sees her parents about to go out to an important business dinner, she tells Mrs. Wakefield that her beige dress makes her look like a graham cracker. Then she spills the beans that Mr. Wakefield’s meerkat statue is actually hideous.
Back in Mr. Jaworski’s history class, Bruce, Rosa, Winston, and Andrea Slade (remember her? where the hell did she go?) give a horribly boring presentation on the French revolution. After the presentation, Mr. Jaworski has volunteers critique the presentation. Everyone gives it great reviews even though Jessica could plainly tell they were all bored as hell and not paying attention. Jessica then raises her hand and gives her own opinion, which sadly, we don’t get to hear verbatim. But we do get to see the aftermath, which is the angry group stomping over to her to bitch her out. It turns out Jessica said that Andrea was boring, Bruce was superficial and monotonous, Rosa was the best cure for insomnia since counting sheep, Winston could make Disneyland seem dull, and that they should all get a “D”. When they point out that everyone else said they should get a ‘B”, Jessica airily informs them that everyone else was lying. At lunch, she talks to Lila and Amy, and Amy thinks maybe Jessica did them some good with her critique. But then Jessica says it would probably help Lila to know that no one understands her when she gives speeches because she talks so fast, and that Amy should know everyone laughs at the way she runs when she plays softball. Apparently people call Lila, Speedo and Amy, Clodhopper. This is gold! Tell us more about these people, Jess. Hahahaha!
At another gold lunch hour, Jessica laughs when Maria says she wants to try out for a new choral group, telling her everyone knows she can’t sing and is totally tone-deaf, and they all used to call her “One-Note Santelli” in middle school choir. Maria is so upset that she leaves the table. Then Jessica tells Claire that people always talk about her awful temper, and that Scott Trost likes to tell people about an argument they apparently had. All of these things rope people into discussions about how much honesty is TOO much, and everyone generally agrees that Jessica is going way overboard.
To get back at Jess, Lila organizes a Total Honesty for Jessica Day. Basically everyone just pays Jessica back for her big mouth by being 100 percent honest and nasty to HER. Lila calls Jessica out for going out with Bruce Patman when Jessica says someone would have to be “out of your mind” to date him. Amy interrupts Jessica’s conversation with a “cute mathematical genius” to tell him Jessica is lying when she claims to like algebra. Maria points out that Jessica is getting a pimple on her chin, and April says she thinks Jessica has gained weight. Careful there April, those are words that could turn a girl anorexic in this damn town, all by themselves. Robin tells Jessica her cheers suck, Lila criticizes her clothes, and Amy brings up all the worst memories Jessica wants to stay buried. Jessica finally tells everyone that she’s had enough, and they laugh and share their plan with her. So I guess she’s learned her lesson, but probably not.
I miss the old Jessica, from the earliest books … she didn’t give a crap if people thought she was being too honest. In fact, she didn’t even need an experiment to be “too honest”!
The cover: Elizabeth looks like a chipmunk, or maybe like someone who just had their wisdom teeth pulled and their cheeks are still all swollen. Olivia is clutching her pearls … hahaha. Olivia is very pretty even though I hate her schoolteacher outfit. Penny is also very pretty, but why the hell is she looking at Liz like that? I get that it makes for a dramatic cover, but couldn’t they have put Mr. Collins or Rod on there? Penny isn’t even in most of the book, and when she is, she’s not bent on murdering Liz like she is here. Nice headband.
WTF? New random characters: Hal Sylvester, Josh Brown.
Okay, so the deal with Lila’s purple hair, which literally makes a baby cry … I had a hard time understanding what’s wrong with these people. At this point in time we’re not far off from the whole belly-button-piercing/Manic-Panic-dying era, so when Lila’s stylist Davina told her it was cutting edge, she was probably right. But then again, I remember when Claire Danes dyed her hair red for My So-Called Life and it was a HUGE big deal, with shit tons of people – including many who didn’t even watch the show – offering their opinions about her oh-so-crazy unnaturally red color. Now a days I like to think most people wouldn’t even bat an eyelash. (Or maybe they would … I don’t know. I mean, it might look weird, but would you really go out of your way like, “OH MY GOD THAT GIRL’S HAIR HAS SOME PURPLE STREAKS IN IT”?)
Some choice quotes:
Jessica: “Lila, let me in. We can discuss this calmly.”
Lila: “You can walk back calmly. I don’t give rides to Benedict Arnolds.”
(When Mr. Wakefield tells Jessica he thinks Mrs. Wakefield’s ugly beige outfit looks just fine)
Jessica: “Well, you would, wouldn’t you? (points to meerkats) I mean, anybody who would buy a monstrosity like that … you wouldn’t notice if Mom was wearing a burlap sack.” HOLY CRAP. My dad would NEVER let me get away with talking to him like that, OR insulting my mom’s outfit!
(When the girls at the lunch table want to know why Andrea looks like she wants to kill Jessica)
Jessica: “We had a little argument in history today.”
Amy: “You argued about history? How can you argue about history? It’s been over for years.”
That, my friends, is all you need to know about Amy Sutton.
At the end of Total Honesty for Jessica Day, Annie walks up to Jessica and says, “Jessica, I was wondering if you knew what A.J. Morgan says about the way you-” About the way she WHAT? We never get to hear because that’s when Jess yells she’s had enough. I really want to know what A.J. said now … it must have been something dirty!
Why are Bruce and Kirk in Jessica’s history class? They’re seniors. Everyone else in there is a junior.
EDIT: I forgot to mention that Todd suggests a “Name the Flu” contest for the Oracle. Name the flu?? It doesn’t say what you get if you win.
Coming up next: Jennifer and John just broke up, and now it seems he and Lila have a thing for each other … a thing that will not end well. But before we can get to that story, we have our last detective-style Super Thriller … Murder on the Line! Yep, the twins are reverting back to the summer and they’re back at the Sweet Valley News again!