Check out this cover. Steven is smiling for the first time in his grown-man life … no more helmet head and stern expression. Cheryl looks thrilled to be alive. I guess they decided to go get their portrait done at the mall since Annie and Cheryl were just there last book.
In our latest story, we have Steven and Cheryl hanging out all the time as he teaches her to drive and she confides in him. He’s easy to talk to and they make great buds, but the Sweet Valley Gossip Mill keeps churning out rumors that they are something more. Neither Cheryl nor Steven seems particularly interested in the other that way although they occasionally think about it. But then they take a fateful post-driving lesson trip to a restaurant we never heard of before, the Crooked Canyon Cafe. It’s good we never heard of it because now it will be forever tainted. As Cheryl and Steven walk in, everyone stares at them like an interracial couple is the weirdest thing they have ever seen. The two sit down to order and some chain-smoking skinheads in the corner see them and move to the adjacent table. They start staring and cracking racist jokes until Cheryl is so upset that they leave right when they’re about to order. Although Cheryl was starving before, the incident has apparently killed her appetite because Steven drives her straight to the beach where they walk, talk and then start making out as they deal with the emotions of the night. When they get home, they feel like they must be a couple now. Cheryl tells Annie, and Steven tells the twins, and there is much celebration at hand.
At school, everyone has differing opinions about this momentous and shocking news. All the SV kids can talk about is whether or not an interracial relationship is acceptable in today’s world and how people will view the new couple. Oh, fuck these people. (Most people seem generally accepting, but Suzanne Hanlon and Lila Fowler stick up their noses and seem sure people will ostracize the two.) Scott Frost goes on about how “they’re trailblazers, pioneers” and everyone is all “Yeah!” Scooby Doo style. Jessica especially makes a huge deal out of how amazing this is, and goes out of her way to show Cheryl how much she loves and adores her and welcomes her into their family and it’s really fake and weird. It’s so over the top that Cheryl privately wonders later if Jessica isn’t just trying to make up for her own uncomfortable reaction to Steven dating a black girl. I can’t say I blame Cheryl for feeling that way, but then again we all know Jessica is over the top by nature, period, no matter the occasion.
From then on, things get REALLY annoying. While everyone at school can’t shut up about the new couple, Cheryl and Steven spend a lot of time thinking about how they aren’t really attracted to each other, and how they don’t *want* to be more than friends, but they just won’t talk to each other about it … or anyone else, either. Their first weekend together as a couple, Steven is so freaked out at the idea of spending any time alone with Cheryl that he instead takes her to meet a ton of his friends at the Beach Disco. Cheryl dances with Steven’s (black) friend Martin Bell and finds they get along really well and she wants a piece of that, and that leaves her hemming and hawing even more. Seriously, nearly the entire rest of the book is like this. We finally get to see Cheryl’s thoughts, and they’re all about whether or not she should keep dating Steven even though she really just wants to be friends with him. Steven and Cheryl wonder (to themselves) if they’re not attracted to the other person because of the other person’s race. Then they start thinking they HAVE to make their relationship work even if they aren’t really attracted to each other, just to show that an interracial couple CAN make it. (Um, what about your dad and stepmom-to-be, Cheryl? Do they not exist?) Then they can’t stand the thought of hurting the other person after all they’ve been through together. So they just sit there mumbling and exchanging chaste pecks on the cheek and it’s so boring that this book successfully put me to sleep two nights in a row. Thank you Steven and Cheryl!
It doesn’t help that when they do get up the guts to have a chat about everything, they are constantly being interrupted by someone running up to them, cooing over them and talking about what a powerful statement their “love” is. Dude, they just started dating! Back the fuck off! Annie is the worst; she’s like somebody’s mom always butting in. Well, she looked like somebody’s mom on the cover of the last book so I guess that makes sense. Annie is always popping up where she’s not wanted and cutting people off. She reminds me of the Wakefields’ old neighbor Mr. Beckwith who was a real pain in the ass while fucking murders were going down in one of those detective books. Holy shit, Annie and Cheryl and their parents are living in the old Beckwith house! That’s right; it was the Beckwiths who “moved away”! They probably just got whacked because of all the nosing around Mr. Beckwith was doing! HOLY SHIT. ANNIE HAS BEEN POSSESSSED BY THE SPIRIT OF MR. BECKWITH!
Andrea Slade throws a big fucking party that’s supposed to be the shit or something, and I really don’t care, but Lila sneers about how if Cheryl and Steven aren’t invited, then her prediction that nobody will accept an interracial couple at Sweet Valley High has come true. It looks like they aren’t invited until Elizabeth is suddenly all “Oh duh, I forgot to tell you Andrea called over here trying to make sure you guys could come because she only had your old number at Annie’s apartment!” The couple go and have a great time and everybody is thrilled with them, even Lila, which means more pages of hemming and hawing and bullshit like that. I’m guessing the only person who doesn’t like Cheryl now is Suzanne Hanlon but nobody cares about that bitch anyway, except when it is convenient to the plot.
Meanwhile, Steven has been helping Cheryl write her toast for Walter and Mona’s wedding. (She and Annie are the bridesmaids.) Every time she writes it, it comes out as a big statement about race and bravery and is all wrong, but Steven is no help at all. Everything Cheryl writes, he’s all, “Oh yeah, that’s good.” Steven is studying to be a lawyer and he can’t provide any constructive criticism, sad. Finally, the night before the big backyard wedding arrives. Cheryl is working on her toast in the kitchen and feeling sorry for herself when Mona comes up to chat with her. Cheryl talks about how great it is that Mona and Walter are getting married to prove something to everyone, and Mona is really offended and tells Cheryl that NO, they are marrying because they love each other as people and the appearance has nothing to do with what they feel for each other. Suddenly Cheryl gets it and feels brave and writes the best toast ever or some shit. But she still doesn’t call Steven to have the frank chat both of them have clearly been dying to have. She’ll save that for an overly dramatic scene AT THE WEDDING.
And then the wedding day is here. Everyone wears ugly clothes. Seriously. Elizabeth wears a pale yellow little-girl sounding dress with cap sleeves and a matching yellow bow. She borrowed it from Enid so even if I didn’t just give you that outfit description, you would still know it was ugly. The bridesmaids have to wear calf-length dresses with an ugly “dusky” tri-color floral pattern that sounds like something out of 1993 all right. When I tried to sketch out these dresses in my head I almost started crying.
When Cheryl stands up to give her toast, Steven is sitting there panicking because he now realizes going on and on about the races of the newlyweds is probably not very romantic. But Cheryl’s toast is all about love. She ends it by saying that she is feels “incredibly lucky this example of deep, true love right before me every day.” Steven understands immediately that Cheryl is talking to HIM and that they were meant to be friends and they have a good hug-it-out or whatever about it right afterwards. WOW HOW ROMANTIC, you used your parents’ wedding toast to break up with your boyfriend.
Cheryl laughs with Steven about how it’s a shame they aren’t really dating because now her parents are on their honeymoon and she and Annie have the house all to themselves. You know ol’ Annie Whitman will be taking full advantage of that. Cheryl and Steven come to the conclusion that their scene on the beach was a good thing and it helped them out at the time, but they’re better off as friends and that has nothing to do with what race they are. I’m glad it took you guys a full 148 pages to come to this conclusion.
Later, Cheryl comes to visit Steven and tell him she got her license. She runs into Martin who, as soon as he learns she isn’t really dating Steven, asks if he can give her a call and she agrees.
The subplot: Jessica is so eager to show her support for interracial love that she demands Annie let her bake the wedding cake for Mona and Walter. Annie agrees because she apparently has the power to make these decisions for her mom. Her mom never protests about a 16 year old being responsible for a three-tiered cake for 60 guests (although I think it ultimately winds up being four-tiered)! Because this is Jessica, all sorts of yuks ensue about how she can’t cook. Actually, just a few yuks because not much time is spent on this subplot overall.
And because she is Jessica, Elizabeth has to help her make the cake. They go to a bake shop in the mall (literally called The Bake Shop or something really obvious like that, I’m too lazy to go check) and Jessica buys a ton of cake pans plus every wedding cake cookbook she can find, because her allowance is apparently as limitless as Lila Fowler’s. The twins then run into Bruce Patman who makes racist remarks including that the cake should be “half chocolate” HURRRRRRR. Then the girls have a day where they make small “test cakes” for Cheryl, Sam, Todd, and Steve to taste-test. Each twin makes two cakes and of course Liz’s are a hit while Jessica’s get all kinds of snarky comments. It seems the first cake is really flat because Jessica beat the eggs for too long or used too many or something, and then the second cake has a really bitter frosting because Jessica grated ALL of the orange peel and not just some of it. Yuk! Yuk! Jessica is a terrible cook! Y’all better watch it or she’s going to join a cult or go run off with Nicky Shepard again. Sam and Cheryl are a little bit nice, at least. Ultimately the twins wind up making a different cake anyway. I just don’t get it. Mona Whitman’s fiance is a celebrity photographer; you can’t tell me he couldn’t afford to just hire someone to make that shit.
Random facts and crap: Jessica proclaims Steven and Cheryl Sweet Valley High’s “first interracial couple.” What? So Sandy dating Manuel, Rosa dating Eddie Strong or whomever, Annie dating Tony Esteban, and Jade Wu dating David Prentiss – none of that counts as interracial? I’m confused.
Bruce Patman is dating a girl “this week” named Chelsea. Last week he was dating somebody named Bettina. Then Andrea Slade and Nicholas Morrow break up, and Bruce starts trying to get with her next.
What the hell ever happened to Nicholas Morrow, anyway? I feel like some of our classic SV characters like Ken, Olivia, Bill, and Nicholas are getting buried in the slew of new characters we’ve seen over the past 20 or so books.
New area near Sweet Valley: Marpa Heights
Jessica makes all kinds of comments about the alone time she’s been spending with Sam lately and starts to tell Liz about a new freckle she found on his body. These books are starting to get randy again!
Lila is very cynical about love lately and that’s why she looks down on Cheryl and Steven so much. She thinks anyone in a couple sucks and is doomed to fail for any number of reasons. We’re told this is because she is still suffering from her near-rape at the hands of crazy what’s-his-face and that Jessica is getting bored hearing Lila talk about her counseling all the time. Fuck off Jessica, not everyone can bounce back from an assault the way you could back in the day.
Here are Steven’s college buds in this book. We have his roommate Bob Rose, who was also his roommate in Jealous Lies. Bob was the one who tried to convince Steven to drop out of college for nine months to become a crew member on a cruise ship. I guess Bob also decided not to go. Of course, when one year of your life actually equals 10 years and counting, what’s nine months on a ship? Then there’s their friend Frazer McConnell, who dated Jessica between books 76 and 77 after her whole beauty pageant stint. Sounds like Frazer is now dating this girl named Hillary because “Frazer and Hillary” is always said together just like that. Steve’s friend Eve is also in this book. She has been around for a while; he took her to a dance instead of Cara after they broke up briefly in book 36. Lastly we have Eve’s roommate, Beth Greenberg.
The night before the wedding, Liz and Jessica talk about their future weddings while they ice the cake. If you’ve read Sweet Valley Confidential, this scene is rich. Liz says she would like to marry Todd and her bridesmaids will be Olivia, Penny and of course Enid. Jessica would be the maid of honor, of course. Liz thinks Todd would have Aaron, Winston, Ken and Steven as his ushers. Liz would wear her mom’s wedding dress and the bridesmaids would be in “cornflower blue.” Jessica then says she would wear a white mini dress to her own wedding and that she probably wouldn’t get married for another 10 years.
Where is Prince Albert the dog?
In the back of the book … I think it’s worth noting that there is nothing at the end of this story leading up to the next book like usual. No setup or anything, which makes me think they had something else planned (probably something with Bruce and Andrea) and just dropped it in favor of the new SVH direction. So our “promo” for the next book goes like this: “After the next Sweet Valley High prom, life will never be the same … Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield have been planning a jungle-theme prom for weeks, but what should be a night of romance and fun turns into a tragic nightmare. Experience love, death, loyalty, and betrayal in one horrifying tale, starting with Sweet Valley High’s newest Magna Edition, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. Following this chilling seven-book mini-series:” (and then they list out books 95 through 99) “and the final terrifying conclusion in Sweet Valley High #100…”. I just want to know what kids thought when they read this and saw the title “#99, BEWARE THE BABY-SITTER” staring back at them. Well, we’re not too far away, folks. I’ve never read ANY of these funky ass “new” books although I know the gist of some of them, and I suspect I am in for a treat. I hope so, anyway. Bring me some crazy plotlines!