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.
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.