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

#97 The Verdict


I got nothing

Oh lawdy lawd, these kids! What will they get up to now? Let’s venture between the Pepto-Bismol pink covers of this book and find out! Warning: I’m not feeling very good tonight, so this is going to be the grouchiest entry ever – like my readers mind, heh.

Let’s just check out this cover first. First we have what I guess is the Sweet Valley Courthouse in the background, with Alice Wakefield – oh wait, that’s Liz Wakefield on the cover. She’s obviously borrowed Alice’s Easter dress jacket and she’s styled her hair like Jessica for some reason, and if you look all the way to the right you can just make out the judge’s hand slamming down a gavel, hahahahaha. Above the gavel, we finally see a photo of psychotic Margo, heading resolutely toward Sweet Valley with a death glare going on. I guess I kind of see the resemblance to Liz and Jess … *tilts head at odd angle to see* *pinches nerve in neck, curses the name of the cover artist*

SPOILER ALERT! There’s zero mention of Nicholas Morrow and his newfound love from the dating show or whatever in this tome. I for one am relieved. Nicholas Morrow is a total asshat. Grab a hatchet and get him, Margo.

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of other asshattery to go around. I’ll start with our main story, that of Elizabeth’s ongoing … trials. It seems the ordeal of poor Liz’s trial has made her entire family a mess. Ned the Wonder Lawyer is frantically trying to get Liz to remember something, anything, about the night of the accident and is so frustrated she just can’t. What the fuck is wrong with these people? If she was drunk, how would she remember? Plus she probably had a head injury from the accident, plus she had a past head injury from her motorcycle accident with Todd way back in the day, plus she is a dumbass anyway. Yet everyone expects her to just magically remember through the alcoholic haze, and that’s going to be the key to her case. Also, I feel like everyone just keeps conveniently glossing over the fact that LIZ WAS DRUNK. It’s like Liz is a visiting queen you don’t want to offend somehow, so when she does something all gauche you just smile and act like it’s cute. No one wants to question anyone else about where Liz might have gotten the hooch from. No one considers that, gee, maybe some of those Big Mesa assholes spiked some drinks (or you know, maybe Liz’s shitty sister did). It’s all up to Liz’s lightweight ass to remember!

Meanwhile, the rest of the family is just crazy. Jessica is pretty much being ignored in her pain for her lost love, which she deserves if you ask me, but the rest of the fam doesn’t know that she deserves it and they kind of treat her like she does anyway. I guess they’re just treating Jessica like they usually treat her. Steven comes home from college each weekend, which we’re supposed to think is unusual now, and he does it mainly just to get in the way and act like his mom is weird for bringing them snacks and cleaning windows. Seriously, Alice keeps cleaning everything and smiling oddly, so we’re supposed to think she’s “lost her marbles.” Isn’t that what she does anyway? she cleans and cooks! Ned sure as fuck isn’t cleaning and cooking anything, old Leave It to Beaver ass. Funny how no one talks about how crazy Jessica’s marbles have always been lost. This bitch is still over here blaming Liz for Sam’s death. Ned asks her to testify in the trial, and she outright refuses. Can’t she be subpoenaed for that shit? She’s the one who witnessed them driving off! If they were smart they would check that shit out, but everyone who ever said the Wakefields are smart was lying to us. So Jessica refuses to go to Liz’s trial and secretly hopes to see Liz convicted, but we’ll get more into that later. Liz is miserable; there’s a kind of disturbing scene where she rides a bus to the beach, wades way out in the water, and it seems like she’s considering continuing to wade out so she will drown and find out “what it’s like” where Sam is. Then she snaps back to herself and wades back out of the water. This book is getting dark! If it was a little less boring and drawn out, I might be more astounded by this.

The trial is a joke. And I’m pretty sure it has no relevance whatsoever to actual courtroom proceedings, but that’s to be expected. Also, the state prosecutor’s name is … get ready for it! you’re not ready for it! … HEMPSTEAD DILWORTH. Hempstead! Like a cannabis farm! Dilworth! Like a creative nickname some came up with for a budding pornstar’s huge wang! They just had to put those two names together! I guess that is their idea of a mega-lawyerly name. And the questioning basically goes like this: “Where’d ya get the alcohol, Liz?” Liz: “I don’t know.” And it drags on like that for four whole days (with a weekend break after three, if I’m remembering what I just slogged through right). The Wakefields and a bunch of the twins’ friends, including Enid, Olivia, Lila, Amy, and sad sack Todd, all take off from school and work to cram into the courtroom and watch. Jessica remains conspicuously absent,  and uh, we don’t hear anything about, you know, SAM’S PARENTS. I assume they care about this case, but if we inserted them into the book, that might remind us that there are people more important on the planet than the Wakefield family. All we know is that it’s totally unfair Liz has to answer for her DUI that killed a person and that Mr. Hemprancher Wangsworth is so mean to ask her questions at trial about it and it makes Steven clench his fists in anger!

On the night before the last day of the trial, Jessica eavesdrops on her family preparing for the final day of testimony. She has some kind of strange out-of-body experience that makes her reconsider her attitude (for maybe a whole split second) and freak out about the secret she’s hiding (that she spiked Liz’s drink). Ned sees her watching them and begs her to join them, but she flees. The next day, however, she does appear at the trial with her mother and only then do things actually get interesting. When the lawyer questions Liz, AGAIN, about where she got the alcohol, because that’s all that ever happens, Jessica flips out and stands up in horror thinking Liz knows the truth, and her mother has to pull her back down into the seat. Just then, Ned calls his surprise witness. It’s a 20-year-old “chubby” guy named Gilbert Harding, from “Ramsbury” (isn’t that where that fair was that Liz was so intent on going to in one book?), and he’s a community college student who lives with his parents. I can’t help but feel like they’re trying to say he’s inferior for these things, like we’re supposed to think this means he is beneath the Wakefields or something. Jessica even compares Gilbert’s appearance to her brother’s when she sees him. Fuck that, not everyone lives like the Wakefields, all getting to grow up to practice law that they clearly know shit about. Anyway, Gilbert says he had a fight with his girlfriend at dinner that night and drove off after having a few beers. He drove on the wrong side of the road and then he sideswiped Liz’s Jeep and that’s what caused the crash. He claims Liz was driving fine before he hit her and the whole thing is his fault. Bam, trial over. The judge rules that Liz’s manslaughter charge is dismissed but that her license will remain suspended because of the whole DUI thing. Everyone celebrates wildly and I can’t help but feel like this is total bullshit. She was still drunk. How do they know she wouldn’t have been able to control the car better when Gilbert hit her, if she was sober? I don’t know how this shit works. Whatever, it’s good enough to get your charges dismissed in Sweet Valley. Jessica is momentarily elated her sister was freed, then she sees how much attention her sister is getting and almost instantly reverts back to “Fuck my sister, she deserves to rot.” She sidles up to Todd in the courtroom and is like, “It’s just you and me Todd, now, right?” She’s so creepy.

When the Wakefields have dinner that night, everyone is just like, Jessica, don’t you think you should help us celebrate your sister for getting away with killing your boyfriend? This does seem pretty fucked up man. Jessica screams at them and tears out of the room, and they’re all like, Gee, what I’d do? Margo, kill them all. I’M BEGGING YOU GIRL.

The sub-plots: Todd Wimpkins is a totally useless piece of shit who can’t stand up to Jessica about anything. He keeps thinking about how he really misses Liz, but then Jessica just throws herself on top of him and he’s all “Okay, I guess I have to make out with you.” He seems scared of her for some reason. I mean, I’m scared of her too because she’s clearly a fucking psychopath, but not enough to make out with the bitch. Jessica drags Todd out to the Beach Disco on a school night and he just goes along with it and makes out with her anyway. And then there are several more scenes like this. Whenever Todd protests, Jessica says the worst things about how Elizabeth deserves what’s coming to her and she’s dead to them and he just kind of lamely agrees like this: *Eeyore voice* “Okay Jess, whatever you say. I wish I could move my lips and make sound come out of them when I see Liz. Since the first 37 misunderstandings we had in this series didn’t teach me how to do that, I’ll just thrust my tongue down Jessica’s throat instead.” I mean, if Todd is too frightened to tell Jessica he doesn’t want her deranged twat in his life, he could at least fake like his dad is suddenly poor and he has to sell his BMW or something, and I’m sure that would take care of things there. Instead, Todd goes to see Steven to whine at him about what’s going on and ask his advice, and Steven is just like, You’re an asshole, son. He doesn’t really flip out as much as I was hoping he would. Seriously, someone needs to give Todd a good ass-beating. Todd finally decides that since his voice box doesn’t work around Liz anymore, he will write her a letter and slip it through the mail slot at the Wakefields’ house, and ask Liz to wear a turquoise bracelet he once gave her as a sign. He requests that she touch the bracelet when it’s okay for him to approach her. Jessica of course, finds the letter first, and she trashes it after a good crying bout for having lost Sam. She then lies to Todd and tells him she saw Liz ripping up a letter, and since we already know Todd is a stupid piece of shit who believes anything anybody tells him that’s negative about his own longtime girlfriend, he believes Jessica and mopes. You know what, Todd, I’m not sure why you would think Liz would want to talk to you anyway, though, when she knows you are clearly banging her SISTER, you presumptuous DICK. At the end of the book, there’s a disturbing scene where Jessica walks with Todd on the beach and waxes romantic about how the Jungle Prom showed her they were always meant to be together, and he’s all, “What’s wrong with you? That’s the night Sam died!” And she’s like, yeah well I don’t think of it that way, and starts making out with him again, and thankfully it cuts away before we’re treated to another nauseating beach make-out scene, but I hope Jessica gets sand up her crack that won’t come out, and I hope a big crab comes along and pinches off Todd’s limp ween … A crab with a magnifying glass that is, y’all know what I’m saying

Bruce and Pamela … whanggggg, there go my eyes rolling into the back of my head. Whannnng, there goes Bruce’s penis of stone every time he spies Pamela, though he tries to hide it by being the biggest asshole you can possibly imagine. Yes, Pamela has transferred to SVH and is trying out for the tennis team and she’s also teaching little kids arts and crafts after school at Project Youth, trying to keep her mind off of the fact that Bruce is the only boy she will ever love, even though he’s busy making horrible remarks to her about what a slut he thinks she is. She even goes to the Dairi Burger by herself, and just sits there staring at her food and feeling sorry for herself because nobody will come to talk to her. And yes, this girl has zero self-respect. Every time Bruce makes her cry, she’s still just like, “Oh, if only I could make him see!” Girl, he’s a jerk, give up on him already. The worst part about this part of the book, is that it tries to convince us Bruce is only a jerk because Regina died and broke his heart. Bruce even thinks to himself about he’s only this way because his girlfriend died. This is so not correct. Bruce momentarily thought he was in love with Regina, but he then he decided to slide right into Amy Sutton’s outstretched beckoning vag, and basically made no effort to hide it from Regina, and Regina actually stood up to them and she dumped him. And then she decided to do some coke to feel better and she died suddenly. Oh, but let’s gloss all that over. Let’s act like Bruce is actually a good guy with a decent heart, and he just needs to heal from “his girlfriend’s death”, that’s all. And that’s all they have to say about that. And Pamela is the bad one in everyone’s eyes, because she is alleged to have a (male) harem of her own about a sixteenth of the size of Bruce’s. So basically she’s the straight female version of Bruce, or let’s be real, she’s Jessica, she’s Amy, she’s the original version of Annie Whitman or Betsy Martin. And that’s the part that is repeatedly shown as getting Bruce’s goat, not that he thinks Pamela cheated on him with Bobby/Jake/whatever his fucking name is, but that he thinks she likes to sleep with a lot of dudes and (supposedly) isn’t a virgin. Even Pamela knows that’s not fair. Don’t worry, they’ll work it out in dramatic fashion. Bruce actually thinks for a hot second about how this might be something of a double standard – after a talk from the second most horrible person on Earth, Amy Sutton, of all people – then he runs into Pamela being dragged off to a car by some guy yelling about how she has to come with him because he knows she isn’t a virgin. Straight-up caveman shit. Bruce knocks dude out with one punch – are we replacing Todd punches with Bruce punches? – and then grabs Pamela to tell her he loves her or something and of course she forgives him.

RANT: I don’t like this good guy Bruce shit. Bruce is one of the few characters who is interesting in these fucking books! Don’t let him get all soft again! Keep Bruce assholish. And, “nice guy” or not, he deserves to be fucked over hard (and not the way he wants) by Pamela, so I hope she’ll break his heart in a thousand pieces for real one of these days, and then laugh about it. Yeah, right, like THAT will ever happen because that would mean Pamela isn’t a good girl, because she’s not a pushover who just waits for her man to come apologize to her for all the awful shit he said! I’m so tired of these horrible female characters!

Oh yeah, and Pamela is friends with Lila and Amy now. They see her at the Project Youth Center and realized she isn’t all bad and draw her into their dwindling circle of friendship hell, and then Amy takes the blame for repeating what she heard about Pamela to Bruce when it wasn’t true, so she tells Bruce it’s not true and THAT’S why he starts to change his mind. Let’s think about this for a minute. Bruce is in love with Pamela but when SHE explains the situation, he doesn’t believe her. Amy, horrible foul-breathed demon from the most fiery corner of Dante’s Inferno, says “Oh, tee hee, I am not sure that what I said about your girl was correct!” and Bruce is like, “Oh, gee.” FUUUUCKED UP

On to Steven … god, Steven is boring. He hangs out with his starry-eyed roommate Billie all the time, who’s the perfect demure female, and it’s obvious they are falling in love. He confides in her about the trouble at home, including that his mom seems kind of crazy. Then he runs into this dude Bart Lloyd that he doesn’t really like. Bart graduated from SVH a year ahead of him and is now in his poly sci class, and Bart is all, “Yo, I heard your mom is in the nuthouse dude!” or something like that and Steven flips out and decides Billie must have spilled the secret. He goes off on her at dinner, and she’s just like, “You’re wrong, but I’m sorry and I’ll move out.” DON’T APOLOGIZE TO THIS ASSHOLE, BILLIE! GOD! She moves out, and Steven later finds out that it was Jessica who spilled the shit about Alice cleaning too much or whatever, like anybody is going to do anything productive about Alice’s “problems,” anyway, so the fact that someone said something about it is the least of your worries, Steven. But Steven goes to Billie’s house and gives her some flowers and she forgives him instantly for his little outburst, because that’s what good ladies do. And there’s no smooching or anything, but I guess Billie will wind up being the next dull as dirt Steven girlfriend. Oh, Billie, pro tip … if you have any friends that look like Tricia Martin, give their names to Margo now.

Lila’s mother Grace is still in town, and thankfully there’s zero mention of her shitty heavily stereotyped French “lover” Pierre. Lila and Grace are getting along swimmingly now and they tend to hang out by the pool brunching a lot. Grace shares the story of how she met and married George Fowler when she was 19 and he was 27. Grace came from old money, and George was new money, and Grace’s family didn’t really approve .There were a lot of dumb fights because of this, what with George feeling like he needed to make more money to impress Grace and her family. Finally, Grace told George she was leaving and taking Lila with her. George told her if she did, he’d make sure he used his influence or something with all the powerful people in Sweet Valley to have Grace declared an unfit mother and win full custody of Lila in the divorce proceedings. Grace left anyway, George made good on his threat, and Grace fled for Paris after losing Lila. Daaaaaayaaaaam. George is cold! Despite this, Lila decides all is good between them now and she’s going to make them love one another again. I don’t know about that Li. If I were you, I’d blow this sickeningly sweet popsicle stand and head for Paris with mom. Fuck these douchenozzles.

Saving the best for last – Margo! She is on her way to LA! She earns money on the bus by lying to a little old man about her life story and the mother who abandoned her on Christmas Eve on some church steps but continued to send the church an anonymous donation each year at Christmas in Margo’s honor and bla bla bla and the man gives her a fiver in sympathy. At a rest stop, Margo earns herself some free snacks and a magazine from a teenage boy who feels bad for Margo for having recently lost her grandmother (another story, of course). What the fuck? I want to go into a store and go “*sniff* My grandma died” and have someone just shovel magazine and food into a bag and toss it at me! Seriously, what voodoo is this girl dealing in? From LA, Margo has a ticket for a train to Sweet Valley. She goes to eat in a diner and is enjoying having all the dudes stare at her, when suddenly she spies JOSH SMITH! That’s the older brother of little Georgie, the one whose picture Margo saw and thought he was hot in The Morning After. He’s on to Margo’s whole gig, and he is PISSED. He confronts her as she’s trying to eat, and Margo creates a huge scene, yelling that a strange man is bothering her. As the other guys in the diner leap to Margo’s defense and hold Josh back, Margo makes a run for it. She does the quickest train ticket exchange I’ve ever seen in my life, swapping her ticket for San Diego in order to throw Josh off the trail in case he saw her. She makes it to Sweet Valley from San Diego and rents a room in a boardinghouse with some money she earned pawning jewelry she stole from the Valley Mall. Also in the mall, she spies Pamela, Lila, and Amy coming out of Casey’s and follows them. She overhears them talking about how Liz has gone free. Remember Margo knows all about who Liz is and wants to be her or something, so she is all excited over this. Then she eyes the girls, thinks about how she could be their friend, but then thinks about how Amy might be too gorgeous to live. First of all, now I really do feel sorry for Margo because I didn’t realize she qualified as legally blind. Second of all, if I’m supposed to feel scared for Amy, I don’t. I feel excited and hope Margo can carry out her threat successfully. Might I suggest Margo avenge Regina’s death by forcing a verifiable fuckton of cocaine up Amy’s nose? Yeah, you heard me. I WANT JUSTICE.

Oh yeah, Margo also steals a blond wig from the mall which she tries on, laughing gleefully because she looks just like Elizabeth, and now she knows she’s ready to impersonate her. Margo always wanted a twin sister …

If this book taught me anything, it’s that I want to make a hit list for Margo.

WTF? I mentally calculated Lila’s mother’s probable age and if I’m doing it right, she’s only slighter older than me and I really, really shouldn’t have done these calculations.

Bruce makes a remark about how he already got what he wanted out of Pamela like everyone else did, so I guess we are supposed to think they already slept together.

Return of minor characters from the black hole: Wendy Jones from the Kristin Thompson tennis story plays tennis with Pamela. Chad Ticknor from the Penny Ayala Secret Admirer story plays tennis with Bruce.

Elizabeth taking the bus since her license is suspended: “It felt a little funny, taking public transportation, but these days, with her driver’s license suspended indefinitely, the bus was her only option.” Are you kidding me? Oh wah, the 16-year-old had to take the bus!

This book erroneously states that Roger Patman moved to Sweet Valley after his mother died. Uh no, he lived poor in Sweet Valley, worked as a janitor, was scorned by Lila but adored by Olivia, and then his mom died and it was revealed that he was Bruce’s cousin.

Amy talks to Bruce about how everyone thinks she’s an airhead but she really isn’t, right after she provides at least two glorious misuses of the word disfavor. I bet the ghostwriter did that on purpose.

Pamela sees lonely Liz picking up takeout from “the new takeout counter” at the Dairi Burger, and considers befriending her, but Liz walks away too fast. Even after she’s killed a dude via DUI, everyone still wants to be Liz’s best bud.

I don’t get how everyone just believes that there’s no way Liz could have been voluntarily drinking (except for the prosecutor). Liz just says “I don’t drink” and they’re all like, “Oh okay. Well do you remember anything about how the accident could have happened? No? God this is shocking. I know your blood alcohol level showed you were drunk, but it’s not like you had been drinking somehow.” Seriously, “Liz is a saint who can never do any wrong” is bonafide canon for this series.

I still can’t believe that NO ONE SAW Jessica spike those damn drinks! I have to believe mysterious Big Mesa boy is going to pop back up sometime later to expose her. Actually, what I really believe is that Jessica will have to save Liz from Margo or something, and then she’ll be moved to confess and cry, and Liz will forgive her in about two sentences, because that type of ending is too easy, so it’s perfect.

The judge in the book is actually a FEMALE judge! I would want to give Sweet Valley kudos for that if they didn’t set us back a century or so with most of the other female characters in this series (and don’t do justice to the rest).

In the back of the book: There’s an ad for the “I LUV BOOKS” hotline – 1-800 I LUV BKS. Please somebody tell me you called that hotline and tell me what it said. There’s also an excerpt from Sweet Valley University #2, Love, Lies and Jessica Wakefield! In this excerpt, we learn Todd has dumped Elizabeth for not wanting to sleep with him in his crusty old dormitory bunk bed. Elizabeth and Enid have also had some kind of fight recently, and Elizabeth has only made one friend on her hall, Nina Harper. Liz’s roommate is Celine Boudreaux, a Southern girl who drapes herself over people and drawls the most stereotypical Southern things you can think of, and wishes she could work witchcraft like her grandmother. What? For fuck’s sake. Celine parties a lot and she and Liz don’t get along for obvious reasons – 1) Celine parties and 2) Celine doesn’t worship the ground Liz walks on. A big dude named Steve Hawkins keeps trying to get Celine’s attention at one party, but Celine is more interested in his friend William White. She gives him a flower, and he takes it without a word and then abruptly vanishes. William is a creepy fuck who shows up at the library all night to stare at Elizabeth instead, each and every night, because you know Elizabeth is at the library each and every night. On the same night Celine gives him the flower, William pops up beside Liz, hands her the exact same flower, and vanishes. I think I read somewhere that William turns out to be a white supremacist (William WHITE get it? Oh, these clever names!) and then he kidnaps Liz later on in the series. I mean, somebody has to kidnap Liz at least a half dozen times, or it wouldn’t be a Sweet Valley series.

Coming up next: Lila attempts to pull a “Parent Trap” on her parents; some drama with Liz and Jess will surely also ensue.


Comments on: "#97 The Verdict" (3)

  1. Neidin Mccullough said:

    Your funniest recap yet! This book was a yawn why couldn’t Todd have died instead of Sam? Oh and hemprancher wangsworth! 😀

  2. O hai, Todd–I mean, Mark.

    • Damn it, I tried to post a gif of Mark, from The Room, being all confused by Jessica–I mean Lisa throwing herself at him, but apparently WordPress deleted it.

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