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

Archive for February, 2019

Now available for pre-order: Sweet Valley High graphic novel

Thanks to reader twihardpotterfan for commenting to let me know the Dynamite Sweet Valley High graphic novel is now available for (pre-)order on the Dynamite site and off of Amazon.com! The book is apparently called “Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High: Academic All-Star?”. Awkward title but ok.

On the Dynamite site, the book has a ship date of May 2019 and a release date of June 2019. On Amazon, it has a “usually ships within 1-2 months” message and says it will show up between March 22 and April 12, but a release date of February 26 (as in, two days ago my time). It’s currently priced at $14.99 on both sites.

The book’s synopsis, per Dynamite:

When Jessica falls in love with her Shakespeare teacher, she begins to act like her studious twin sister Elizabeth to impress him. Now it’s up to Elizabeth to make sure that all’s well that end well – but with Jessica playing her role, will anyone be able to tell which twin is which?

I’m happy that they have a new story (unless I’m forgetting this one or it shows up later on in the original series), but I kinda hope to see some of the ones we know and love, too. I guess I’ll pre-order one for myself, and see what happens! (Hop on over to one of the sites above to check out the cover art!)

 

#102 Almost Married

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Jessica is not impressed with Todd’s junk!

Woo! I remember when this book came out. I saw it on the racks at Waldenbooks in 1994 and was so confused about Liz and Todd moving in together and if that meant there was sex in this book. SPOILER ALERT – nope! Of course not!

We open on a Saturday night after spring break at Miller’s Point, where Liz and Todd are exchanging chaste kisses since Liz keeps saying it’s too hot to kiss and I guess Todd’s luxury car has no A/C. He has the car turned on with the radio on too. WTF! The Sweet Valley heat wave is ongoing, so yes, that’s definitely going to be a theme of this whole mini-series. Liz keeps wanting to talk to Todd about that whole Alice-and-Henry Wilson Patman-thing, but keeps not doing it for some reason. The reason is “The plot won’t work if she actually talks to him.” Then “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys comes on and Todd gets a wild hair up his ass. He starts talking about how much he missed Liz on his family camping trip – you know, the one she was invited on but turned down so she could do unnecessary extra credit homework instead – and how great it would be if he and Liz could move in together. Then, BAM! It turns out both sets of Wilkins and Wakefield parents will be away for the upcoming week. How convenient! The Wilkins parents are spending another week camping in Yosemite without their son. Haha, they sent his ass back to school so they could have some alone time in their tent. Alice is headed back to Chicago to work with ol’ Henry Wilson “Hank” Patman on that whole office redesign bullshit, and Ned has to attend some American Bar Association seminar. And they’re just nonchalantly taking off, leaving their twin daughters who were recently targeted by a serial killer alone in the house! No big deal! No really, they don’t care. They’re all, “Oh yeah, I’m sure you’ll be okay … this time.” Alice’s running off with Hank again naturally raises Liz’s anxiety levels and she finally explains the whole Alice-Hank thing to Jessica in private.

On Monday morning, Todd immediately starts making plans to move into the Wakefield house for the week. He’s actually pretty pushy about “moving in”, to the point the natural assumption here is that he’s trying to get in Liz’s bed, but don’t worry! He assures her he’ll stay in Steven’s room or on the couch in the den. Right! But Liz agrees he can stay, or moreover doesn’t disagree since I don’t think Todd really asks her. I can’t believe we’re supposed to think these two goody-two-shoes would actually go for deceiving their parents like this. Or that if they did, that two sixteen-year-olds could “live together” without once even trying to share the same bed.

Liz appeals to Jessica about having Todd come over and Jessica tells her she’ll only keep it a secret if Liz and Todd agree to do all her chores and make her dinner each night. Liz tells her to forget it, but Todd is like, “Oh yeah, we can totally do that,” so Liz relents and agrees. Jessica then promptly goes and tells Lila about their little plan, causing Lila to remark that living together is so “out of style.” Haha! You know, I keep waiting for these kids to start discussing the obvious which is that this makes it look like Todd and Liz are doin’ it, but nobody is! We just get a couple of raised eyebrows and a remark from Jessica that this could ruin Liz’s “reputation.”

So Todd takes Liz home from school on Monday after stopping to pack a duffel bag, and he tries to carry her over the threshold so they can officially “move in”, only it’s a disaster because he can’t get the key in the lock and hold Liz up at the same time and then he basically drops her once he gets inside, and she has to run off to answer the phone anyway. Hey, it’s Bruce! He wants to talk to Liz about that whole affair thing that Liz still hasn’t clued in Todd about. So Liz borrows Todd’s BMW and drives off as soon as she gets off the phone, leaving Todd behind to hang out with Jessica when she comes home from cheerleading practice. Jess then spills the beans about the “affair thing” and implies that Liz and Bruce might be “comforting” each other’s misery, because she thinks it would be fun to stir up some drama for Liz and Todd. Because they haven’t already had enough drama! This bitch doesn’t know when to quit! This after we just had a flashback explanation of the whole Jungle Prom shit and how Todd was subsequently involved with Jessica. Of course Todd falls for Jessica’s Bruce babbling. He’s so stupid. I can’t stand him and I wish he’d move away again. I much prefer Liz and Jeffrey.

It turns out Bruce called Liz and asked her to come over because he wanted to apologize for being an ass to her about their parents’ drama in person, or at least, that’s what he claimed. So Liz drove all the way over there just for that. Great! Bruce then suggests they look for more evidence to try and figure out what’s going on with their parents and the fact they were apparently married once. This would be an ideal time for Liz to volunteer to march to the library and scroll through microfilms, but this would be too convenient to the plot, as would just fucking asking their parents. So instead they march up to the Patman attic to root through Bruce’s parents things. Yes, they march up into the attic when Sweet Valley is having what is apparently the heat wave of the century (because it’s been mentioned on pretty much every page of the last two books). Have y’all ever been in an attic on a regularly hot day? That shit is like an OVEN. I’m just going to assume that the Patmans have a fully finished and air conditioned attic or I’ll go crazy, and I’m already crazy for reviewing this series.

So Liz and Bruce dig around and find a love letter from Alice Robertson (Liz’s mom’s maiden name) to Henry Patman, and a ring box with Alice’s engraved engagement ring and wedding band inside. Liz and Bruce start doing some awkward bonding over what they found and their shared misery because they obviously can’t do anything about this shit, then Liz remembers Todd is waiting for her and takes off, after inviting Bruce to call her anytime. Pamela shows up at the Patman manse soon after and Bruce isn’t really focused on her because he keeps thinking about Liz. Spoiler alert, that will be the case throughout this whole book. Okay, so maybe Jess was doing a good deed by warning Todd, not that Todd’s going to do much about it other than pout and stomp around.

We continue on with the whole cutesy main plot of Liz and Todd playing house together and what an inevitable disaster it is. (That’s the main plot, and the sub-plot is Liz and Bruce playing detective, but that story is so tightly wound with the main plot that I don’t think I can separate them out in this review like I usually do.) Liz comes home from the Patman estate on Monday to find Todd waiting for her, demanding to know why she didn’t tell him about the whole Alice-Hank thing. They make up and then they stay up late doing homework and making out on the couch. Jessica interrupts them to place her breakfast order for the next day. That’s right, she’s demanding breakfast now too. Liz and Todd grudgingly agree because otherwise Jess is going to tattle to their parents. Liz goes to bed super late even though she has an early newspaper meeting the next morning, but has difficulty falling asleep because she’s suddenly freaked out that she could feel the way about Bruce that her mom apparently once felt about his father. She dashes off to school super early for her meeting the next morning, leaving Todd to struggle through making Jessica’s breakfast by himself. He burns her bacon and makes a huge mess of the French toast, and he leaves pulp and seeds in her fresh-squeezed OJ. Haha, I hate pulp in my OJ too! Though I can’t remember the last time someone other than a restaurant actually made it for me FRESH-SQUEEZED. Maybe I should haul out that damn juicer that’s been sitting in my cupboard unopened for 6 years. Jessica just sits there observing his mess and laughs her ass off like a boss, having learned a thing or two from Lila, and Todd winds up tossing money at her so she can go buy her own breakfast before dashing off to make it to school on time. Meanwhile, Liz chats with Enid and lets her in on the secret that Todd is staying over.

Todd decides to get romantic and also wants to get away from Jessica, so Tuesday night he invites Liz on … a date to the Laundromat. Haha! To be exact, it’s the “Videomat” with a combination laundromat, video rental place, and coffee bar. There are even tables and chairs where you can watch your rented movie while your laundry spins. Was this a thing in the 90s? I’ve only seen arcade games in laundromats. Jessica thinks this date is hilarious and calls Lila, who calls Pamela and Amy, and they all meet at the Videomat to watch the fun. Haha, but their date is a total trainwreck. They haul two tons of Jessica’s laundry in there since they’re doing her damn chores for her (this week and, for Liz, every week, let’s be real). First they have a dumb argument over which movie to watch. Then Liz, exhausted from her lack of sleep the night before, goes and gets them espresso from the coffee bar. Todd thinks his is gross and refuses to drink the rest of it, so Liz keeps ordering more for herself and drinks six total, transforming her into a perky sprite from soap bubble hell. Finally, Todd puts too much soap in one of the washers and it busts open and overflows everywhere just as Jessica and the gang come sailing in to see him standing in a giant tower of bubbles, and they all promptly explode with laughter. Now this book isn’t one of my favorites, but this scene was pretty gold. Afterwards, Jess and crew head to the Dairi Burger, and Amy and Pamela try to get Jess and Li to tell them why Liz and Todd were at the fucking laundromat to begin with.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Patman announces to Bruce and Roger at dinner that she’s moving out tonight, and then runs out of the room crying. Bruce goes upstairs and instinctively calls Liz (who’s not there) for help rather than Pamela, then does a mild flip-out over this fact. He goes to the Dairi Burger and finds Pamela to make himself feel better.

The next morning, Liz and Todd oversleep since Liz was up late on too much caffeine, and Todd apparently chucked the den alarm clock across the room when it went off. Now he’s mad Liz didn’t wake him up. Then they realize they are late sorting and putting out the recycling for Jessica. Bruce shows up in the middle of their frantic sorting, wanting to talk to Liz about his mom. So Liz just rides off in 1BRUCE1 leaving Todd in a big pile of bottles and cans, just clap your hands. He kicks the recycling bin in anger. Can someone send Todd an anger management manual?

Liz and Todd realize they’re having problems getting along with this dumbass scheme of theirs, independently of course, since they each think the other has ESP in every fucking book. Liz wants more time to herself but won’t just say so, and Todd feels like he needs more time with Liz but won’t just say so. Liz asks Enid for advice and is told to, duh, fucking tell him you want time to yourself. Or you know, just swap out all the time you spend with Bruce for time to yourself! Instead of taking Enid’s advice, Liz spends the school day hiding from Todd. Todd on the other hand, gets advice from Ken and Winston who tell him to sweep Liz off her feet with a candlelit diner and roses and shit. Oh, and Winston is apparently on the basketball team now. His clumsy ass is the last person I’d expect to be on there, or did I forget a plot point? After school, Liz sits outside writing on the lawn and passes out from exhaustion for an hour and a half since she’s into overcaffeinating herself now. I’m really disappointed they didn’t do more with that storyline; I was hoping Liz was going to turn into Jessie from Saved by the Bell.

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So because she was knocked out on the lawn, Liz misses her ride home with Todd and of course Bruce is there to conveniently drive her home instead. Liz shows Bruce the Alice-Hank stuff she found in the Wakefield attic, and they discover that the old newspaper used to pack these items away in the trunk, has an article about Hank Patman air-dropping supplies to Alice and her friends while they did a sit-in protest at the college. By the way, Liz was totally gonna not even look at those newspapers until Bruce suggested it. YOU’RE SLIPPIN’ LIZ

Then Todd comes “home” to the Wakefield house doing some cheesy fake French accent, waving roses around, and talking about how he’s gonna make Liz dinner, only to find Liz and Bruce sitting at the kitchen table eatin’ cookies and shit following their hot attic dig. Liz already invited Bruce to stay for dinner so now Todd has to cook for him too .. and Jessica. And Lila, whom Jessica brings over so they can laugh at Todd and Liz some more. Oh and Liz has told Bruce about her and Todd “living together.” Todd is so pissed. He bought Liz some turquoise earrings, but he’s so mad he lets Jessica have them instead (especially since she’s getting his goat further with more remarks about Liz and Bruce). And what’s this dinner Todd whips up for everyone? Why, it’s shish kebab, pasta salad, and strawberry shortcake, all homemade! WTF! Why the hell weren’t my high school boyfriends making me this shit? I really doubt fucking Todd Wilkins could do this crap. Seriously! This dude doesn’t even know how to do laundry or keep bacon edible, but we’re supposed to believe he can prepare and cook full-course meals. The night ends with the following drama: Liz and Todd fight over how much Bruce is hanging around, Bruce hangs around even longer to watch a movie, and Mrs. Wakefield calls from Chicago but she’s using the same hotel room number that Mr. Patman previously told Bruce was HIS hotel room number. And everyone is convinced that cinches it. Liz tries to call the hotel to double check the room numbers, but of course that’s too sensible so Jessica stops her. Then again, hotels shouldn’t be telling random callers which rooms people are staying in.

Thursday at school, everyone is gossiping about A) what’s going on between Bruce and Liz and B) how Todd is “camping out” at Liz’s. It’s not really a secret anymore but surprisingly, Liz’s “reputation” isn’t compromised at all. After school, Liz suddenly remembers how to research, so she and Bruce decide to head over to Sweet Valley University to go through the school newspaper microfilm files in the campus library. I always loved scenes in old books where someone had to use a microfilm machine (and I’m not being sarcastic! I really did!). Liz and Bruce find the engagement announcement for Alice and Hank, then they give themselves a self-guided tour of all the spots on campus that their parents must have hung out. They just butt on in some random girl’s dorm room and everything. By the time they leave a sexual tension has built between them that’s ready to pop, but neither admits it out loud, they just drive home making goo goo eyes at one another. When they arrive back at the Wakefield homestead, Todd is upset because he didn’t know where Liz was and she lies about it for no fucking reason, saying she and Bruce were getting a library book.

The twins, Todd, and Bruce decide to go out dancing at the Beach Disco that night, even though it’s a “school night”, to take advantage of the Wilkins and Wakefield parents not being there. Bruce has to be reminded to invite Pamela along because he’s obsessed with Liz. A bunch of Jessica’s other friends manage to lie to their parents and sneak out as well and it actually sounds pretty fun. I just can’t believe goody goody Liz is acting this way. She also spends the night dancing the rumba with Bruce whenever a fast song comes on, then grudgingly dancing with Todd during the slow songs while making eyes at the Patman from across the floor. Pamela realizes something is up and gets really upset, but Bruce claims nothing’s wrong.

The twins decide to throw a pool party on Friday night and once again I can’t believe Liz is down with this. The twins make a grocery list with Todd and plan to go shopping, but then Todd learns they’re going to pick up Bruce “on the way” and he pitches a fit and refuses to go. Then when the others come back from shopping, Liz and Bruce just go ahead and flirt wildly in the pool while Todd stands by glaring and knocking over his iced tea.

The party is a hit and nobody trashes the place, but the night predictably goes wrong because it’s no fun if it doesn’t. First, Pamela confronts Bruce about Liz and he bluntly admits he does have feelings for her, but says he still loves Pamela. Pamela cries, breaks up with him and runs off. RUN, PAMELA, RUN. Bruce then finds Liz in the kitchen and starts kissing her and then Todd walks in and catches them making out. (And Caroline Pearce was apparently spying through the kitchen window too so now the whole damn party knows.) Liz starts trying to claim “it wasn’t like that” and sounds like a dipshit. Todd speeds off in his BMW angrily, where he zooms around Secca Lake before deciding this is all his fault and heading back to the Wakefield house to apologize to Liz. What? How the fuck is this your fault? Yes you’re an idiot, but Liz is the one who kept running off with Bruce from the second she let you move into the Wakefield den! Now she’s in the kitchen getting that Patman tongue while you’re moping around looking like Eeyore.

Back at the party, Liz wipes her tears and heads back outside where Pamela suddenly reappears and tells Liz that Bruce is in love with her, and that Pamela just dumped him, so now Liz can have him. Liz is all, “What? Bruce loves ME?” Liz is so upset that she goes to the pool to do a big dive to clear her head, only she bounces too high and gets knocked out on the bottom. Everyone stands around going, “durrr what do we do” until Todd shows up and saves Liz. Yes, it always takes a death or near-death for anyone to fucking just act right in these books. Todd and Liz make up and cry and all that and Jessica takes them upstairs to get them calmed down and cleaned up, then she turns around and bumps into Alice Wakefield who’s home early because she missed her family. Haha, real nice. Now Alice is outraged because her kids are partying and she forgot about that last giant party her kids threw while she and Ned were away in a previous SVH book. She says she had to park her car a half a mile away because of all the cars taking up space at their house and then adds she ran into Mr. Beckwith who told her about Todd staying there all week. (Note: Mr. Beckwith moved away in book #92 so what the fuck is he doing there!) I thought this was where Alice would ask if Liz and Todd are using protection but that just gets ignored because Alice apparently really believes Todd stayed on the couch the whole time. Alice lights into Liz about deceiving her (as much as a Wakefield parent ever will anyway) while Jessica watches with delight, and Liz sasses Alice by revealing she knows about her and Hank. Alice then gathers the twins and Bruce in the den and explains how she left Hank at the altar and how they are NOT having an affair and were never right for one another. Apparently that room they “shared” at the hotel was a big two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite with a giant living room for entertaining clients. Everyone believes her, and then decides, Alice included, that Jessica, the ultimate schemer, should put together a plan to help get Hank and Marie Patman back together. Because Jessica’s last big scheme didn’t end with a dead prom date and a DUI or anything, I’m sure this is totally safe.

So yeah … Liz is just not herself in this fucking book. Todd is a moron and a douche, but she’s an asshole to him. She’s also acting like Jessica in this book, although at least the other characters seem to realize this. But she’s dumber too. And I’m so sick of her horrendous relationship with Todd being glorified as “healthy” or whatever. I did like the funny scenes where shit went wrong, like when Todd tries to cook breakfast or do laundry. Haha! He can’t cook bacon, but he can make shish kebab y’all!

Also, Bruce is hardly the first character with divorced parents. Why isn’t Liz getting Enid or Aaron Dallas to help him if she cares so damned much?

Other bits and pieces:  It is so weird seeing these books try to go back to “normal” (hah!) storylines while having to explain that whole Jungle Prom/Margo thing in flashbacks.

There’s a whole weird scene where Ned Wakefield bitches about having to wear a suit and tie in the heat and gives that as an example of male oppression, because business women don’t wear suits I guess. I can’t tell if he thinks he’s being funny or not, but, waaaaaaaaah poor baby.

Liz’s gossip column is back to being called “Eyes and Ears” again.

Liz is STILL working on her stupid extra credit paper about her family! That shit’s not due yet? Then why the hell did she spend her spring break working on it? She can’t handle a simple paper about her mom, to whom she’s very close, and we’re supposed to believe Liz is the smartest girl in school.

The Chicago hotel Hank and Alice are staying at is called The Drake and it’s a real hotel, built in 1920 and now owned by Hilton. The way this book is written, I’m not sure if the ghostwriter realized it actually exists, or not.

Barry Rork’s name is spelled “Rourke” this time. It’s okay ghostwriter, I can’t keep that shit straight either.

Jessica thinks to herself that she occasionally considers dating Bruce again (after the events of #3 Playing with Fire) just so she can get showered with expensive gifts. She left out “…and total humiliation”, but then, we wouldn’t expect Jessica to actually learn anything.

Bruce tells Pamela he went on “a bunch of dates” with Jessica before they realized they couldn’t stand each other. I guess he didn’t want to give Pammy the real version which is: They dated seriously, Bruce was controlling and emotionally abusive, and it ended when Jessica caught him cheating on her and flung a drink all over him and made him fall backwards into the fountain at Guido’s Pizza while everyone laughed.

As previously noted: The Beckwiths moved to Washington, DC in book #92, allowing Annie and Cheryl’s fam to move into their old house. Guess that transfer didn’t work out for old Mr. Beckwith. If he’s around I can’t BELIEVE the twins thought they could get away with throwing a party – that man has always been nosy as shit.

We’re told Pamela is now SVH’s star tennis player. Did Kristin Thompson get Thanos‘ed, or did she drop out of school to train for the Olympics, or what?

This book is full of food. I mean, every other page has a description of some great-sounding snack or meal. Now I’m craving French toast, bacon, fresh-squeezed OJs, omelets, guacamole and chips, tortellini, burgers, chocolate ice cream, gazpacho, sundaes, and a bunch of other shit … shit the twins and their friends apparently eat all the time without gaining a single ounce. Bitches.

The cover: We get a scene of Todd in his boxers with the burned bacon, or whatever the fuck that square mess is, while Liz ostensibly tries to help and Jessica watches with annoyance because she wants her damn breakfast. Yeah, Liz wasn’t in that scene. Liz and Jess don’t look like their normal selves either, and that’s weird especially considering there’s a big painting of them looking totally different right above that whole painting. I like Jess’ bathrobe though. I’m sad they didn’t make Liz’s slippers into bunny slippers.

Quotes: Jessica to Liz on another heat wave day: “How can you look so cool when the rest of us are wilting like day-old prom corsages?” If I was the ghostwriter, I’d have made it say “Jungle prom corsages” to see if I could get it past the editors. LOL. Maybe even “bloody Jungle prom corsage on a dead boyfriend.” Shame? I have none.

In the back of the book: The usual ad for the fan club. Plus, the full listing of all SVH books, which of course now takes up two pages, so they had to stop putting it in the front of the books long ago.

Coming up next: The Scooby twins and Bruce work together to reunite Bruce’s parents “with disastrous results!” How could it be anything else?

 

#101 The Boyfriend War

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What the fuck is going on with Lila’s right leg

Woooo! So glad Margo’s evil reign of terror is over (for now!) so we can get back to some good old boy-chasin’ shit. It’s the first book in the “Sweet Valley Passion” three-book mini-series, and we’ve fast-forwarded from the disastrous Christmas of The Evil Twin to spring break. I guess this was necessary to make sure everyone had enough time to get over the fact that Jessica is a far worse sociopath than any of us thought. Oh yeah, and the whole thing where a serial killer who looked just like the twins tried to stab them to death and shit. Not to worry, this book tells us the twins are now “the best of friends” once again! I know y’all were really worried.

We open in the Sweet Valley High cafeteria, where Caroline Pearce is now welcome to sit with the popular bitches. She will pop up a few other times in this book hanging out with Amy, which still strikes me as bizarre. Jessica is eagerly telling everyone about how she and Lila are headed to Club Paradise, Lila’s uncle Jimmo’s fabulous Jamaican resort, which is apparently a Sandals-knock-off. And I’m already annoyed because it took me a few pages to learn the resort is in Jamaica, because Jess just keeps saying “the Caribbean”! You’re not visiting the whole region Jess! Or maybe she thinks her friends don’t know where Jamaica is … it wouldn’t surprise me, actually, since I’m not sure SVH actually teaches these kids shit.

Anyway, Jessica is busy thinking about how great her life is and babbling about it to anyone who’s breathing, which excludes the last two loves of her life, and thinking about “her own wonderful life.” Damn, she really did forget about Sam quick! She’s not the only one with spring break plans, though. Bruce’s girlfriend Pamela is going on a trip to the Grand Canyon, Amy’s boyfriend Barry is headed to Palm Springs, and Todd Wilkins is going camping in Yosemite. These are trips that Enid has declared make the junior class “old and boring.” And what is Enid up to for spring break? Oh, just hanging around Sweet Valley with Olivia and Liz. Who’s boring now, bitch?

Jessica spends another glorious day gloating at her family and borrowing half of Liz’s shit to pack. Liz wants to know which Club Paradise Jess is going to, exactly, and is shocked to hear it’s the Montego Bay one because Liz heard that’s the “Kiddie Club Paradise” aimed at families. Love how dorkus Liz, who was just bashing all-inclusive resorts a few pages ago, knows this shit and Jess doesn’t. Jess just laughs because there’s no way Lila would go someplace like that, although Lila has been acting awfully strange lately – not excited at all. Jessica just figures Lila has gotten too used to these kinds of trips. The girls fly first class into Montego Bay on Lila’s family’s dime, where they find Jess’ luggage is delayed and Lila’s Uncle Jimmo jovially tells her she won’t need all that stuff anyway. It turns out ol’ Jimmo had two Kiddie Club camp counselors quit and needed some last minute help, so Lila’s parents agreed to send her and a friend to work there for a week (how they actually made Lila do this, I have no idea), and then Lila tricked Jessica into coming with her so she wouldn’t have to endure it alone. Now Jessica is furious and so am I because I can see the bratty kid antics I’ll be subjected to coming a mile away. Lila tries to appeal to Jessica by saying she couldn’t bear to deal with this situation on her own, and she knows Jessica wouldn’t voluntarily sign up for this situation (Jessica agrees), but Jessica isn’t having it. She tells Lila their friendship is over. (Note – I actually doubt that Jessica wouldn’t have agreed to go if she knew. I think she’d just figure she could slack off and get out of watching the kids.)

With their friendship splintered, the girls mopily report to their bunk, then get up for orientation the next morning with the rest of the new counselors. I’m really confused how this works. Does the resort just bring in a new slew of counselors each week instead of bringing on full-time staff? (This means Jessica is getting paid, right? It’s never mentioned.) Where do they find this many qualified teenagers to babysit? I think we’re supposed to believe it’s a special Spring Break deal, but not every school has spring break the same week y’all. And what do they do with Kiddie Club Paradise when it’s not spring break, just leave it sitting there? Anyway, the head counselor is a overly perky lady named Trixie Nash, who is straight out of Disneyland or something. The other counselors are: Marcy, a repeat camp counselor and a tall “senior” (I assume they mean senior as in high school senior, not as in a Golden Girl) who reminds Jessica of Enid Rollins, Anne, a tall, black girl with short hair who’s “shy”, and Julia, a “heavyset” blonde who already hates Jessica’s guts because Jessica just went ahead and let her know that she thinks she’s fat. There are also three male counselors: a tall dweeby guy with big ears named Charles Grogan who crushes hard on Jessica (while Julia appears to be crushing on Charles), and two short, “anemic-looking” dudes named Harold and Howard. Hey, did I mention that Julia is overweight? Because this book does in every scene she’s in, and makes sure it’s basically her defining personality trait. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from an SVH book! And don’t worry, Jessica proves she’s still the same bitch she was waaaaay back in Power Play by treating Julia like dirt about her weight as much as possible.

The girls get assigned their groups of kids. Lila gets a super sweet and polite gang of kids who do her every bidding, while Jessica has the rowdiest, most abominable group of children ever who basically act rabid with no one even attempting to stop them other than Jessica. Jessica starts screaming at them as soon as she meets them (literally), so she probably deserves it.  (Actually that’s the least of what she deserves!) It’s implied that the kids stay at the Kiddie Club Paradise and never see their parents until the week is out. So these parents just entrust their kids with these random teenagers all week? Although if Jessica’s “kiddies” always act this way, I don’t blame them. Even worse, at the beginning of each day the counselors are required to put on special acts to amuse the kids. Jessica does a cheerleading routine that bores everyone, whereas Lila bribes the resort band into playing the newest Jamie Peters (!) song for her act. I was going to make a joke that maybe Lila can play her marimba for everyone, but then she actually whips out a marimba and plays it along with the band! The next day, Jessica tries a new act by doing a modern dance routine, but one of her bratty kids rolls a marble out onto the stage to make her fall, and she goes flying up into the air while everyone, including lead counselor Trixie, laughs hysterically. Seriously, discipline does not exist in this place. There’s a later scene where Jessica’s kiddos steal the swim lane rope out of the swimming pool and use it to tie up Lila’s kids, and Larry the lifeguard basically just stands there yelling at Jessica to do something about it while she just stands there yelling at her kids.

Jessica is determined to get back at Lila for this bullshit. One afternoon, Lila pays the resort’s formal clothing shop worker, Renata, to watch her kids for her while she takes off on a sightseeing tour with Mick Myers, the resort’s windsurfing instructor who all the kid’s moms salivate over. (There’s a funny part where one of Lila’s children explains to her that his mom said she likes to windsurf with a “fox” at the resort, and the kid is confused because he didn’t think foxes lived in the ocean.) Jessica decides the ultimate revenge would be to steal Mick from Lila. Meanwhile, Julia is trying to think of a way to get back at Jessica because Jessica told her she was too fat to attract any boys. Oh my god, somebody please drown Jessica. Julia is also jealous because Charles keeps panting after Jessica and Julia wishes she could get guys to look at her that way, but she’s just not as perfect-looking as Jessica and Lila. Yeah, this wouldn’t be an SVH book if they let us see Julia’s POV without some remarks about how perfect the nearest Wakefield is.

All the campers and counselors (except Lila, who’s still on her tour with Mick) are gathered in the “Kiddie Kabana” for a fingerpainting exercise when Mick suddenly pops up and hits on Jessica. I guess he just got back from taking Lila out? In the meantime, Julia has faked being sick so that Charles will watch her kids while she wanders off to think about how she can have a romance of her very own this spring break! It’s just so hard when the one guy who’s “in her league” (Charles, of course) is busy chasing Jessica.  Just then, Julia spies Mick and Jessica standing nearby talking, so she hides behind a bush to listen. Mick is explaining to Jessica that he only took Lila out because he had to, since she’s his boss’s niece, and that he’d rather be with Jessica. He wants to take Jessica windsurfing this afternoon, if she can manage to pawn her brats off on somebody else. After Jessica agrees and leaves, Julia pops out from the bush to chat with Mick herself and, I guess, try to steal him from Jessica. “Julia knew that her voice was her only asset, so she concentrated on putting as much sexiness into it as she could muster.” I just rolled my eyes so hard my contacts fell out.

Jessica gets Charles to watch her kids while she goes windsurfing with Mick, then out to an early dinner with him to some special bistro. He really lays it on thick, telling her how special she is and how he much prefers his “golden goddess” to a “mousy brunette” like Lila. After dropping Jessica off, he then takes Lila out dancing and tells her he prefers his “brown-eyed goddess” to a “dumb blonde” like Jessica. He claims he totally didn’t just have his tongue down Jessica’s throat or anything, he just had no choice but to hang out with her because she is so pushy and he didn’t want to upset a fellow co-worker, or something like that. OK. After finishing his dancing date with Lila, Mick then meets back up with Jessica to take her to his “secret lagoon”. He then takes Lila there the next day, as well as for a moonlight swim off the pier. The girls just vanish at any time they please while whomever watches their kids. I love how Trixie the Pixie (as they call her) seriously gives no fucks about which camp counselors are actually doing their jobs. Also, didn’t we already do a similar plot like this with these girls fighting over the same dude in Showdown?

Meanwhile, Mick loved Julia’s “voice” and he has started taking her out on lunch dates. He tells her he thinks she is “voluptuous” and that he doesn’t want to date Jessica and Lila anymore because they are “too thin.” Julia has decided that the perfect way to get back at Jessica for (repeatedly!) calling her fat is to show off her new relationship with Mick at the right time. This book is getting sad. In other news, Marcy, the supposedly sensible counselor, has already implied that she was involved with Mick previously and that he isn’t a good guy, but of course nobody wanted to listen to her. Did I mention Mick is a total egomaniac who constantly talks about how hot he thinks he is? He’s the Bruce Patman of the Caribbean. I guess it would make sense that Jessica would go for that.

On Thursday afternoon, Mick asks Jessica to come out with him again, but she can’t get away. Then Marcy and Charles suddenly agree to watch the kids, which is described as “unexpected.” Is it though? Since Jessica’s luggage has finally arrived, she puts on one of her hot new bikinis and then strolls the beach by herself hoping to run into Mick. Instead, Larry the lifeguard comes running up, all excited to see her. He tells her he’s basically been too wimpy to talk to her before because he’s scared of her kids. How is this guy a lifeguard again? They hang out on the beach where Larry rubs suntan lotion on her and then runs off to bring her a drink, where he sees Mick smooching on Lila. Since Larry had no idea Jessica and Mick were also seeing each other, he brings Mick and Lila over to hang with him and Jessica because he wants Mick to see how hot his girl is. Of course, this means everybody but Larry gets a big surprise. Jessica is still too dim to tell that she’s being two-timed. Jess thinks Lila must have found a way to make Mick hang out with her again and is eager to tell him it’s okay and to make sure Mick knows she’s not interested in Larry (even though she is, haha). Lila also has no idea what’s going on, of course, she just thinks Jessica’s still salty over the whole lying-to-her-face-about-babysitting thing. The scene ends with a stupid chickenfight in the ocean where Jessica and Lila pretty much try to beat each other up while atop Larry and Mick’s shoulders.

That night, Jessica heads to the pier to meet Mick only to find Lila there instead, waiting on him as well. It quickly becomes obvious what’s going on, but they still refuse to believe it. They start arguing and accusing each other of trying to ruin their respective dates with Mick. Lila laughs and tells Jessica Mick could never like her because he thinks she’s a dumb blonde. The truth hurts so Jessica slaps Lila in the face and knocks her into the water, and Lila pulls her in with her and their dim bulbs slowly understand they’ve both been had. They make up and agree to find a way to get back at Mick.

Since Mick still hasn’t shown up to meet either of them on this mixed-up date of his, they head back to the cabin to appeal to Marcy for help since they actually care about her opinion now. Julia pretends to be asleep in her bunk, so she overhears everything. She decides to interrupt them to explain that, well, Mick likes her “best”. Oh come the fuck on, Julia. It turns out Mick even took Julia to his special secret lagoon. Lila has to tell Julia that Mick has been calling her a “fat blob” behind her back. As the girls are suddenly realizing they’ve been triple-timed and Mick has been using the same lines on all of them, Anne the “shy” counselor waltzes in declaring she’s in love. It turns out Mick didn’t show up for Jessica and Lila because he was out with her. Later on, we learn he has also been dating Renata as well.

The five girls all team up to get back at Mick at the big closing talent show the next night, which is Friday and their final night at the resort (I think). Jessica charms Mick into agreeing to come to the talent show, while the girls work with Jessica’s bratty kids to learn how one of them puts on such shitty magic tricks. (On Thursday morning, Jessica’s kids put on a big magic show as their special talent act, which went horribly but made the audience delighted because their screw-ups were so hilarious.) Jessica’s kids then teach Lila’s kids how to be brats. Thank god for both me and Lila that it’s the end of the fucking week in this book. At the magic show, Jessica acts as the magician while Lila is her assistant. They pick Mick as their volunteer, then proceed to “borrow” his expensive watch and smash it as part of a magic trick while Mick watches. They then pretend to pull various items out of the back of his head while also lopping off a bunch of his beautiful long blond hair that we keep hearing so much about. Mick has by now realized that Jess and Lila are fully aware they’ve been two-timed (or really, quintuple-timed) and is begging them to stop but has too much pride to just stand up and run off the stage. The girls douse him in some purple dye powder that one of Jessica’s bratty children used to die the hair of another bratty child earlier in the week, then make him “disappear” under the stage for the next trick. Julia is waiting for him underneath the stage where she pretends to be sympathetic and acts like she’s washing the purple dye powder out of his hair when she’s really just finishing the job. She then helps him come back up for the final trick where Mick “reappears”, popping back up on the stage under a purple spotlight, which then changes to a “regular” spotlight to reveal Mick’s newly dyed purple hair to the audience’s great amusement and Mick’s great shame.

After the show, Mick confronts the girls and tries to lunge at Jessica and Lila to beat or strangle them or something. Oh, so he’s violent too. He’s stopped and chased off by the crowd of angry kids. Jessica and Lila make up and decide they are best friends for life. They actually deign to invite Julia to come get a lemonade with them so that we can see Julia has no hard feelings over Jessica acting like ass to her all week, but she turns them down because she has a date with Charles. I wish Julia had gone with them because I wanted her to poison Jessica’s lemonade.

The sub-plots: Bruce’s parents are separating, so he’s stomping around Sweet Valley doing his best Bruce Banner impression, raging at his friends at the Dairi Burger for going on spring break trips with their families, and flinging his lunch tray into a tree! PATMAN SMASH! Don’t worry, Liz is nearby to do some condescending glares, or this wouldn’t really be Sweet Valley. Then Bruce and Roger overhear Marie Patman angrily accuse Henry of having an affair. Bruce is outraged and determined to discover who the other woman is.

Meanwhile, Liz is spending her spring break working on an honors English paper for extra credit that she doesn’t even need, because she already has an A! And what is the paper about? It’s a research paper on her mom, Alice – and Liz needs a WHOLE WEEK for that shit! She’s the smart one, y’all! And OH MY GOD – it turns out Todd’s parents invited Liz to come to Yosemite with them and she said NO because she WANTED to do schoolwork instead. Todd tells her he wouldn’t do a paper unless he had no choice and she tells him he sounds like Jessica. Well duh, he was just hearing an awful lot of what Jess “sounds like” a few months ago, Lizzie dear.

Henry Patman has hired Alice Wakefield to do some interior design work on the Patman plant in Chicago, so he and Alice head to Chicago over spring break week. This leaves Liz unable to interview her mom for her paper, so she starts picking through her mom’s old trunks in the attic instead. Before Henry and Alice leave, Bruce overhears his dad on the phone with Alice, talking about some roses he sent her. Bruce decides that Alice is his dad’s affair partner and flies into an absolute rage. He confronts Liz about it in the Dairi Burger, who insists that’s ridiculous and starts looking through her mother’s trunks for proof that her mom has never loved anyone but Ned. I’m not sure how evidence from the past is supposed to prove what’s happening in the present, but Liz is the smartest of all in Sweet Valley so we should just go with it right? Instead, Liz gets a shocker when she opens a trunk that contains an old wedding gown, veil, shoes, and a framed photo of Alice dressed in these things and standing next to a smiling, tuxedo’ed Henry Patman in an obvious wedding day photo. I mean, if you’ve read Sweet Valley Saga #2 then you already knew about this shit. But Liz is floored, and Bruce is convinced this old evidence that Alice and Henry are indeed having an affair in the present. Liz doesn’t want to believe it, but you know nobody can just ask anybody shit around here, so they suffer in silence. To add to Liz’s agony, she’s been spending every week watching old love movies at the downtown Plaza theater, which is doing some kind of “beat the heat” special because Sweet Valley is in the middle of a horrible heat wave, and to hear this book tell it, the movie theater is the only damn place in town with air conditioning. (Amy and Caroline even show up for a couple of movies!) And if you happen to like watching old movies, well this book just goes ahead and spoils the plots of several for us as Liz over-analyzes what happens in each movie because somehow movie plots tie to the present day situation. What the fuck? She reluctantly decides that Bruce might be right because in the movies, the characters always go back to their first love, and Henry was obviously Alice’s first love. I repeat, ladies and gentlemen, Liz is supposed to be the smart one. Oh yeah, and Liz also keeps conveniently going out with Bruce so they can talk about their parents, while Bruce privately thinks about how hot she is. Gee, I wonder where they’re going with this one.

In other news, right before spring break begins, Amy Sutton learns her English grade sucks – wow, there’s a shocker – and that she HAS to do the same extra credit paper that Liz is doing by choice, or else it’s curtains for Amy’s grade. I’m surprised Amy isn’t pulling a Suzanne Devlin and throwing herself at Mr. Collins to take care of that lil’ problem. Amy asks Jess if she can borrow any of her interesting relatives’ history, so Jess offers to let her write about her ancestors, twins Jessamyn and Elisabeth, as though they were Amy’s, and tells her to get some info from Liz. Oh, I’m sure this is going to turn out fine. Amy isn’t so dumb as to think that Liz would actually voluntarily let her cheat, so after Jess leaves for Jamaica, Amy starts showing up at Liz’s house uninvited on the regular, supposedly to ask Liz for advice on how to research family history. Is this paper really that difficult? Amy spends most of the time asking Liz (and Ned) about what Liz’s her great-great-grandmother Jessamyn was like rather than talking about her own family history. Because Liz is stupid whenever the plot calls for it, which is all the time, she just finds it kind of odd but doesn’t wonder why Amy might be spending more time researching Liz’s family than her own. Amy’s little plan blows up at the end of the week when, thanks to all the time she’s spent asking about Jessamyn, Liz decides she’s going to expand her paper to include Jessamyn. Now Amy is back to square one and has to write about her own boring mom, who’s just a local sportscaster, you know, totally not interesting at all! *eye roll*

TLDR: These sub-plots are basically one big add for the first two Sweet Valley Saga books.

On the cover: We have the chicken fight scene, illustrated. Jessica and Lila look a lot happier here than they do in the book. Interestingly, we were told in the book that Jessica brought Liz’s green bathing suit on vacation with her while Lila brought a pink bikini, but here Lila is wearing green while Jess is in pink. Lila is on Mick’s shoulders – that’s Mick? He is so not all that. And why is he wearing boxer briefs? Larry looks like all the other dark-haired guys that have been on the covers lately. He may as well be Bruce or Todd. Jessica’s left leg and Lila’s right leg are weirding me the fuck out, but I think that’s just the angle …

Quotes: Jessica explaining to Liz why she is bringing so many bikinis to Jamaica: “I don’t want to commit myself to any particular tan line.”

Ned Wakefield lectures Jessica after she jovially shares the news of the Patmans’ pending divorce: “Jessica! That’s not a very sensitive attitude.” She responds, “So? The Patmans are not a very sensitive family.”

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: After Julia asks Lila how she makes her hair look so perfect: “I suppose I was just born with perfect hair.”

Lila explaining how she keeps getting Renata to watch her kids for her: “Where there’s a bill, there’s a way. Especially when it’s a ten or twenty.”

Other stuff: In the book’s opener, Amy wants to know how Caroline can stand eating hot roast chicken when Sweet Valley is going through a heat wave … but they’re eating indoors in the cafeteria! Do they not have A/C now in that damn school?

The old movies that this book spoils are Casablanca, Adam’s Rib, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, and My Favorite Wife.

This book is notable for the number of past plots it recalls. I’m thinking the ghostwriter of this one paid careful attention to the Sweet Valley plot bible! It even mentions the time Elizabeth and Bruce had to work together as a pretend couple in the Sweet Valley Twins book The Middle School Gets Married.

Jessica pointedly makes a “fat chance” remark at Julia moments before Julia shows her up at the opening mini-talent show by showing off her wonderful singing voice.

Lila teaches her kids to sing “Row, row, row your yacht.” This is quite possibly the greatest scene in the entire story.

The new Jamie Peters song is called “I Just Want to Say Hello.”

Lila seems mildly revolted that Julia is from Wisconsin, and Julia thinks to herself that she’s “impressed with how Lila had conveyed her scorn in such a civilized manner.”

Bruce thinks about how he once tried to “take advantage” of Liz (see Dear Sister) but reasons any other guy would’ve done the same and is basically not at all sorry that you know, Liz wound up having to flee his house. Isn’t this supposed to be the dude that Pamela reformed, or some shit? I’m glad they keep making sure we know that stuff is only temporary.

When Bruce confronts Liz about their parents at the Dairi Burger, he yells that now everyone knows the Wakefields aren’t the moral family they claim to be. What the fuck is he talking about, NOW everyone knows? They didn’t realize this six books ago with the whole Jungle Prom fiasco?

There’s a hilarious scene where Liz and Bruce discuss Liz’s discovery that their parents must have been married before. Bruce starts panicking wondering if he and the twins are actually siblings. The book doesn’t mention that would mean he’s committed incest with both of them, but I think we know why he’s so fucking stunned. LOL!

In the back of the book: There’s an excerpt from Bridie of the Wild Rose Inn, the first book in the Wild Rose Inn historical romance series. Wow, I bought that book at Waldenbooks as a kid. (Let me pause while I pour one out to Waldenbooks.) The first copy came with a pull-out flap with a paper rose stencil on it. I never bothered to pick up any of the others.

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Coming up next: Bruce and Liz continue to dig into the truth about their parents, which also means I end up taking more naps than I was anticipating.

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