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

Posts tagged ‘sweet valley high’

Sweet Valley High graphic novel: #1 Academic All-Star?

At long last, the first Sweet Valley High graphic novel (published by Dynamite Entertainment) is here! I enjoy reading comics and graphic novels, so I was excited to see the twins in this format. (By the way: may I give your local comic shop a plug? If you haven’t yet purchased this volume and would like to, and you have a nearby comic shop, try calling them up and asking them if they have it. If they don’t, see if they will order it for you and then go pick it up and pay when it’s ready. You’ll get your book quickly and give them some much-needed business! Check out Dynamite’s site for a comic shop locator.) Because this is my first graphic novel review, I want to be sure and give a shout-out to the folks behind this volume: Cover/artwork/inks by: Devaki Neogi, Writer: Katy Rex, Colors: Pippa Mather, Letters: Cardinal Rae.

So what we have here is a line of brand new stories set in the present day, rather than a full re-do of the original series. I think I prefer it that way. There’s only so many times you can re-tell the original stories before it gets old (literally AND figuratively!). With that said, I think you’re going to recognize some classic SVH tropes here … lol. To give a quick spoiler-free review, while I wasn’t blown away by this story or by the art, I did like both of those things well enough. Initially, I found the story a little “eh”, especially because the storyline didn’t flow well between panels in some cases (and I have a funny example of this below). But then it picked up and I ended up finding it cute and funny, if hardly earth-shatteringly original. I also thought it brought the twins into the current era effectively while sneaking in clever little throw-backs to the original series that made me chuckle. The art was good overall, although in places it looked a bit wonky to me (most noticeably, eyes not aligned, and this one guy’s muscles looked “baggy” to me). It did work for me as a whole, and was generally fun to look at and illustrated the story well. I especially liked the expressiveness of each character; I thought that was well-done, and I also enjoyed looking for the little details in each scene (such as all the little things in each twin’s room that illustrate the individual personalities).

Here’s a quick synopsis of the plot from the back cover: “When Jessica falls in love with her poetry 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 [sic] well – but with Jessica playing her role, will anyone be able to tell which twin is which?”

Let’s take another look at the front cover.

IMG_20190813_172310

The title of this book is a bit awkward, but I like the cover art. I especially dig the throw-back to the original SVH cover layout, with the flag in the upper left and the circular design. There are some random fall leaves here and there drifting down the cover, even though this story takes place in the summer, so I find that … super random. Maybe this story was originally supposed to take place in autumn. Across the top of the cover, we have Roy Marlowe, who is Jessica’s teacher, at left, followed by everyone’s favorite Todd Wilkins. Todd doesn’t really look the way he was described in the original series. Below Todd and Roy are close-up face shots of our twins as well as full length portraits. Interesting clothing choices for the two girls. The shoes make me feel like I’m headed straight back to the 1990s, but then again, some of these things are coming back in style. (The story is set in the present day.)

Also, remember how I had seen an alternate cover posted somewhere but couldn’t find it? When I opened the book to the title page, there it was:

I believe I read that this image appeared as the cover on a version given away at a comic con. Which cover do you prefer? I’m neutral on this one.

Warning: THE SPOILERS WILL NOW BEGIN. If you haven’t read my blog before, I do FULL recaps with complete spoilers. If you don’t want to know everything that happens, STOP HERE!

This story opens with the twins and their friends enjoying the summer before their junior year at Sweet Valley High. We start with an unseen narrator telling us about how Sweet Valley is idyllic and perfect. We get a view of the beach, which has no “Beach Disco” but does have a “tiki zone.” We cut to the Wakefields’ house, where Liz is trying to read while Jessica blasts music at top volume.

Four of Jessica’s friends come over. There’s Lila Fowler, still rich and bragging:

I honestly don’t like the way she is drawn at all.

This is Amy Sutton (on the right):

As you can see, Amy now has short brown hair. But as shown in other panels, she still loves to talk about diets!

The redhead in the panel above is Ellen (!). They don’t give her last name, but I’m wondering if this is Ellen Riteman from the Sweet Valley Twins series. Ellen never showed up in SVH that I’m aware of, but that would rule if they added her here and kept her original personality. Ellen was hilarious (although she wasn’t a redhead). I like the way she is drawn.

I have no idea who the person on the right in this panel is:

She’s drawn about the way I would expect Amy to be drawn, except that she looks like someone’s mom, but Amy is definitely the brunette on the left. Maybe this other girl is supposed to be Cara or even Caroline? They haven’t named her yet, so stay tuned.

Jess and her girls watch the latest episode of a soap opera called Young & Beautiful, starring apparent twins who look just like the Wakefield twins. We get two pages of scenes from the soap opera which seems a little unnecessary, but entertaining enough. Lila mentions Jessica won’t be able to come to Bruce Patman’s barbecue because of her summer school class, in a typical Lila Fowler “rubbing it in” way. Jessica starts cooing about the hot T.A. (teaching assistant), Roy Marlowe, who instructs this class. Why is she having to take the class to begin with? Well, it seems she missed a lot of English classes during her sophomore year (because of cheerleading practice or something?), so Mr. Collins kindly set up a transfer credit from Sweet Valley University. Wow, that’s nice of him. Jessica is all aglow about Roy and how she’s sure he likes her. Then Ellen expresses doubt that Jessica’s TA would be interested in her, because she’s not studious enough. Womp womp! Jessica’s mood shifts way down. Then Lila says she has to go because her online followers are expecting to see her latest makeup tutorial streamed that night. Mysterious blond girl reminds the others that Lila is their ride home, so Jessica’s friends are all shown on their way out of Casa Wakefield. Then Liz shows up and finds Jessica sitting alone, looking sad because she’s thinking about what Ellen said, and asks her what’s wrong. Jessica mumbles that everything’s fine.

Here’s an interesting face Jessica makes when Ellen says that college boys without a car and muscles are not worth someone’s time.

Looks like she’s practicing for Miller’s Point

We cut to the Sweet Valley “municipal” pool, where Liz is lifeguarding while also reading a book. Uh … are lifeguards allowed to do that? LOL. Liz tells a kid to stop running and then a lady comes over to yell at Liz for yelling at her dumb ass kid. Then Todd shows up and tells the lady off for yelling at Liz, and Liz gets upset that Todd is interfering with her job. Then Todd and Liz get into a mini-argument about how busy Liz is these days with all her extracurriculars and volunteer work, and how Todd doesn’t get to see her much anymore. Liz says it’s important to her to get into a good college and Todd pulls a douchey old “More important than me?” Same old same old!

After that scene, we cut back to the main story with Jessica, and a scene with Jess and all of the girls back at her house, even though they just left for the night, and are wearing the same clothes they were just shown leaving in. There’s no explanation, so I’m confused. Did they leave and come back? Had they not actually left yet when Liz came into the room to find Jessica by herself and staring into space? What? Yo, this is bothering me!

Anyway, the girls help Jess pick out clothes from Liz’s closet, that she can supposedly wear to impress Roy and make him think she’s studious and serious like Liz. We get a fun couple of panels of Jessica modeling. But can I just say the clothes the girls pick for Jessica from Liz’s closet largely seem like things Jessica could’ve had in her own closet? I don’t think there’s that much of a difference in how the girls dress so far, other than Liz occasionally looks more sporty.

Jessica goes to class in one of Liz’s outfits, looking straight out of the 90s with a mint green and black striped off the shoulder dress, which has a big black belt, plus black boots and a big black floppy hat. She makes sure to sit in the front row and give long, rambling answers to Roy the TA’s questions about Twelfth Night. I like that nobody is complaining about her big hat blocking their view. After Roy praises her answers and moves on with the reading, she daydreams and starts making up a list of “Smart Clothes” which apparently includes things like “shoulder pads” “satchels” and “Burberry”. Haha! After class, Roy asks Jessica to stay after for a minute and tells her he was impressed with her answer. Jessica does some babbling about how much she loves poetry, so Roy invites her to bring some friends with her to an upcoming poetry reading while Jessica chews on her lip and tries to look sexy or something.

Back to Liz and Todd’s boring bickering! Todd comes to Liz’s model United Nations meeting to pick her up for their weekly Wednesday date. Liz has to drop some extra food off at the local shelter, so she tells him she’ll drive over to the shelter in her own car and then meet him at the park. Then when she does show up at the park, she’s wearing a different outfit than she just was! Did she go home and change? Todd has prepared a picnic with his mom’s rosemary chicken and some pie, but Liz spends the first several minutes wrapping up loose ends and answering messages related to her extracurriculars on her phone. By the time she’s done, Todd is pissed and they have another mini-spat. They’re both annoying, so this is definitely true to the original series. Todd stomps off soon afterward to make an early basketball practice that Liz forgot about. We learn that Liz and Todd share an iCalendar and these kids are definitely more organized than me and my husband, two late-thirty-somethings.

That night, Jessica and Liz watch TV and Liz has a mini breakdown and starts bawling about how busy she is and how Todd just doesn’t understand. Jessica comforts her and tells her she should date an older man. She then starts bragging about her upcoming “date” with Roy (the poetry reading that Roy obviously didn’t think was a date). Jess is acting like they’re already an item, so that’s pretty true to her character, lol. Liz gets very concerned because Roy is an adult and Jessica is only 16, and seems like she might be about to tell Steven and their parents, who have just arrived home. So Jessica backs down and tells Liz she was just exaggerating.

By the way, here’s Steven Wakefield:

The way they have him walking in reminds me of a sitcom where A.C. Slater or somebody would walk in and everyone in the audience would yell, “WOOOOOOOOO!”

And here are Ned and Alice Wakefield:

They look … older than I was expecting? (Note: They’re dressed up because they’re coming back from a play or some such.)

After her conversation with Liz, Jessica goes upstairs to sprawl on her bed and text Lila about how annoying it is that Liz almost ratted her out. Jessica’s bedroom is purple, just like it is in the later SVH books. Meanwhile, Liz is texting with Todd, who’s trying to set up a Saturday date with her. Liz reminds him that her iCal says she’s busy that day “teaching blind children to ride horses rescued from circuses and factories.” HAHAHA. I LOVE how this book riffs on the Liz character like this. She’s not just a do-gooder, she’s an impossibly do-goody do-gooder.

Saturday arrives and Todd goes out shopping with his mother and mopes around while she shows off how rich they are. For a late lunch, they go to “La Rotonde des Expatriates”. I love that they’re still putting French restaurants and names in these books. (Francine Pascal has a house in the south of France and reportedly loves all things French.) The restaurant just happens to be the same one where the poetry reading is being held. Jessica is there, only she’s dressed like Liz (and how we might actually expect Liz to be dressed this time – cardigan, buttoned-up blouse and headband). Jessica doesn’t see Todd, but he sees her, and he thinks she’s Liz. Todd starts texting Liz to see if she will admit to not being at the horseback riding lesson. He sees Jessica pick up her phone at the same time, so when Liz texts Todd back about the trails she’s riding and how things are going, he thinks he is seeing Liz sitting there in the restaurant texting back lies. Instead, it’s really Jessica texting Lila about the poetry reading. Roy Marlowe comes on the stage and reads a poem while Jessica moons over him and then yells “Woo hoo! Poetry!” (No, really!) Todd is outraged and storms out of the restaurant with his mom without Jess (or Liz, obviously) having a clue.

Jessica then goes to class the next week looking all Lizzed out again, and takes a selfie of herself with Roy teaching in the background and posts it to her freakin’ Instagram with the hashtag #MrsJessicaMarlowe. Lila catches up with her later and brings her a unicorn frappucino that she says Winston Egbert made (because he works at Starbucks) but Jessica turns her nose up at it. Then Lila starts planning a pool party for her house that weekend, but Jessica makes it clear she thinks that’s childish.

 Todd takes Liz out on a surprise date to La Rotonde. She is delighted because she hasn’t gotten a chance to go there yet. He tries to get her to say she’s been there before and she doesn’t get what the fuck is going on. Todd confronts her about what he saw. She tells him the obvious, that he’s stupid for not realizing that was Jessica, especially since in this book he’s known Liz her entire life. He doesn’t believe her and storms out, leaving her to find her own way back from the restaurant. Oh my god, he’s such a jerk. Liz texts Jess to come pick her up, but Jessica says she can’t because she’s on a “date.” By that she means she went to the local art gallery to stalk Roy, then ran into him and made sure to snap a selfie. She then gets stuck in an awkward conversation with Roy and his adult friends about art and picking up kids from daycare.

Jessica comes home and starts talking about her supposed relationship with Roy and freaking Liz out again. She assures Liz that they just have a special understanding and Roy is perfectly willing to wait until she turns 18 to make their relationship “official”. Then Liz has a Skype call or something with Amy Sutton about some letter of recommendation thing, and I guess Liz and Amy are kinda friends in this one, and maybe Amy is a tad less boy crazy. Liz asks Amy what she knows about Jess and Roy, and Amy says Jessica and Roy are serious and it’s all over Jessica’s Insta. Liz is upset because she’s worried Roy is pressuring Jessica to sleep with him, and Jessica has never done that before. Amy does some babbling about how that’s probably what he expects but that she doesn’t KNOW that’s what’s happening. Liz checks Jessica’s Instagram for the first time in the past few days, and sees lots of posts about supposed dates she’s been on with Roy. There’s even a #winegram post where Jessica posts a close up of two glasses of wine and alludes to being on a dinner and drinks date with Roy. #scandalous

Liz decides to take things into her own hands. She dresses up as, well, as herself, and then goes over to SVU to talk to Roy in his office, posing as “Jess”. The ruse works because Roy doesn’t know Jessica has a twin. Roy is obviously uncomfortable about being alone with Jessica, especially after “Jess” mentions she wants to take a “romantic” walk. Then “Jess” alludes to their dinner date and he is confused and asks her if she’s referring to the alumni party that she helped with, that he actually couldn’t make it to. Liz quickly realizes that Jessica was exaggerating everything. As she goes to leave, she hears Roy on the phone with a wife or girlfriend, talking about the baby they’re expecting! She overhears Roy set up a plan to make a trip to Sunnyside Bay beach as a mini-babymoon.

Unbeknownst to Liz, Todd was at SVU at the same time for “SVU Orientation” (what? Is he supposed to be older in this book?) and he sees Liz giggling at Roy. Of course, this time he can actually tell the twins apart and knows it’s Liz. He leaves without confronting her.

That night, Jess and Liz are hanging out on the couch where Jess paints Liz’s toenails as Liz knits. This is actually a really cute sisterly scene. Then Todd barrels in and ruins it. He starts hollering at Liz about seeing her around with another man. Liz doesn’t want to expose what she did to Jessica, so she starts making up some obvious bullshit and begging Todd to trust her. He doesn’t, and barrels out. Liz breaks down, and to make her feel better, Jessica offers to help her do something Liz-like … like help organize canned goods at the shelter or go brush the shelter dogs. Wow, this Jessica is definitely much better than the original series’ Jessica! But Liz tells Jess she would rather go to the beach in the morning.

The next morning, Liz wakes Jess up. Jess then snaps an Instagram of herself lounging in bed for her Insta, looking off at an unknown something to one side, and she captions it “Lazy mornings with bae.” Bruce Patman has this to say in response: “OMFG jessica are you SLEEPING with him?! seriously?!” Damn girl, you’re gonna get someone arrested.

Liz and Jess hit the beach where Liz makes sure they run into Roy Marlowe and his pregnant partner, Jennifer. Jessica is thoroughly embarrassed, and comes down off her Roy cloud – especially when Roy announces he’s coming to Sweet Valley High to teach in the fall – and everyone is bound to realize Jess wasn’t really dating him and had made a bunch of that shit up. Roy then introduces the twins to his nephew, Ben Marlowe, who’s their age, super muscular, and also coming to SVH. There’s a panel where Roy introduces Ben, and Roy suddenly looks like he’s about 50 years old and with no chin, like King of the Hill. I don’t know if they did that on purpose, but I think it’s hilarious. Compared to Ben, he no doubt suddenly DOES look way older to Jessica!

Liz and Ben take an interest in one another, and Ben starts texting Liz to ask her about the student newspaper. Meanwhile, Todd sends Liz a snapchat of himself in his swim trunks asking her to forgive him, but she ignores it. Jess barges into Liz’s room and expresses some mild shock that Ben is texting Liz and not her. Then Liz goes on a coffee date with Ben, and we have our set up for the next book.

Other stuff: Steven comes home from a date with Tricia Martin in this book and, just like in the original series, Jessica doesn’t approve because Tricia’s sister is “trouble” Betsy Martin. Oh boy, I guess we can look forward to that whole story again!

There’s a scene where Jessica is drawn in some panels without a headband, and in the following panels she suddenly has one on.

The SVH cheerleading team is now called the Boosters. This was originally the name of the cheerleading squad at Sweet Valley Middle School (from the Sweet Valley Twins series).

Roy Marlowe’s office door suddenly changes to say “Prof. Roy Malory” in one or two panels. Not only is the last name wrong, but he is supposed to be only a T.A., not a full fledged professor. I’m guessing he was originally a professor in the story and the editors didn’t update all of the original graphics by mistake.

Amy has a unicorn phone case with a horn coming out of it. Liz has a phone case with some kind of cat image on it.

Jessica’s Instagram name is DEVILINABLUEJESS. Amy’s is the totally boring BOOSTERAMY and Lila’s is LOVE.LILA.XO. Bruce’s is PATMAN.PLAYA.01. I’m DYING!!!

One of the twins mentions that they are going to help their mother make vegan sloppy joes for a conservation event.

Liz reads a book titled “Chicken Soup” something or other. Is it supposed to be one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books? I used to read those in high school, no joke. They had a couple for teenagers too. Do they still publish those?

In one panel it’s said that Liz and Todd have been dating since the second grade. In another panel that gets changed to the sixth grade (which would be Sweet Valley Twins). Maybe the first panel was an exaggeration / joke?

Coming up next: The ending makes clear that another graphic novel is planned, in which Liz will be caught between Ben and Todd. It implies that Ben is or will become Jessica’s crush. Hopefully Ben’s muscles will be drawn better in the next book. And speaking of the next book, I haven’t heard or seen anything on when book #2 is coming out or what it will be called. This may well depend on how well #1 sells. I think grown-up SVH fans will flock to it, perhaps not in droves as with Sweet Valley Confidential (partially because SVC seemed to have far more buzz), but the nostalgia will draw in many. Whether younger readers will pick up this new series, and feel they can relate to the stories, remains to be seen – and right now, I seriously have my doubts. What do you think?

Advertisements

Out now!

Look what Iiiiiiii have ….

img_20190813_172310.jpg

It is smaller than I was expecting. (Good thing I’m only talking about the book) It’s about the same size as a Sweet Valley Twins paperback.

I’ve also seen a photo floating around of an alternate cover, but of course I can’t find the damn thing now.

REVIEW COMING SOON!

Magna Edition #6 Jessica’s Secret Diary

It’s time to delve into Jessica’s secret diary! Let’s hope that this one will be more entertaining than Liz’s. Having just started the book and essentially blogging as I read, I can say that Jessica’s tone of voice in this one is definitely preferable to Liz’s.

The book follows the same format and sequence as Liz’s: Jessica, in the present day, gets upset about something, then decides to read back over her diaries for some past-events insight into her present-day woes. As before, the diary entries are relatively short, and are interspersed with Jessica’s first-person recap of what happened. Each chapter recaps a different SVH book. The back cover says this Diary covers books #30-40, but that’s wrong (again); it actually covers books #32-40. Not sure why they can’t keep that shit straight.

IMG_20190802_182252

BOR-ING

The cover is nothing to write home about (just to write in a blog!). It’s just Jessica’s smirking face from the same old “new” portraits of the twins done for the post-Night to Remember books. I’m really not certain why Jessica’s portrait has her wearing less makeup and more clothing than Liz’s. And here at least, Jessica looks almost wholesome and innocent in her portrait, whereas Liz looked kind of smirky and devious in hers.

IMG_20190802_180614

A “lesson in love”? I hope they’re not referencing Jessica. These twins can’t actually learn.

Normally I love stepback covers, but this stepback portrait here is even crappier than Liz’s (and so I didn’t give a crap about getting a decent scan or photo, sorry). We get retouched art featuring Liz and Jess from #32 The New Jessica, Maria and Michael from #34 Forbidden Love, and Regina awkwardly staring at Bruce’s photo from #40 On the Edge. I noticed that Jessica’s jacket from TNJ is changed from its original black to a dark violet color, and they made sure to cover up her totally 80s belt. These art clips seriously look like total dookie all spliced and stuck together like that. You can’t even really see Maria and Michael. Also (spoiler alert) they absolutely should’ve found a way to put a portrait of Jeffrey here. This whole thing looks so sloppy.

Our Prologue opens with Jessica, who’s hanging out with Amy and Lila at a fabulous party at Bruce’s beach house. Ew, is this the same house where he got all rapey with Liz in Dear Sister? Jessica is at the party with a college boy named Jack Wayland, whom she’s been casually seeing for about a month. (Amy is at the party with her main man Barry Rork, and Lila has brought Paul Sherwood as her date – a guy Jessica once dated and proclaimed a horrible kisser. I guess this is supposed to be pre-Lila and Robby Goodman. By the way, Lila thinks Paul is snobby and is not impressed.) Jessica is nuts about Jack and does her usual proclamation that he’s the only boy she’s loved since Sam W. I seriously think that’s what we’re going to hear about every boy of hers through the remainder of this series. Jessica and her friends speculate about when Jack will tell Jessica he loves her. Jessica goes to dance with Jack and reminds him it’s their 1-month anniversary. He takes her out onto the beach to tell her something important and she blurts out that she loves him. He awkwardly responds that he’s actually in love with Elizabeth, who barely knows he exists. That’s why he kept showing up at the Wakefield house when Jessica thought he was coming to see her, and I guess Jack just went with it because he’s a mealy-mouthed moron. Why am I having deja vu over this storyline?

Jessica flees from the party in tears. She decides she is sick of being second best to Liz all the time, and decides to run away. (Just like book #21, Runaway) As she packs her suitcase, she remembers to get her stack of purple notebooks out from under her bed – these are her secret diaries that not even Liz knows about (and, Jess makes fun of Liz all the time for keeping a diary, so Jessica can’t imagine letting on that she, too, has started keeping one). As Jessica is packing these books, one falls open to a certain page and she sits down and starts reading. On to endless recaps we go!

Book recapped: #32 The New Jessica
Events covered: Jessica gets tired of everyone mistaking her for Liz and drastically transforms her entire look and character, but it’s only temporary. Liz hates it and flips out, even dumping Jeffrey because she mistakenly believes he prefers the new Jess to Liz. Even worse, Liz misplaces her diary. Jess helps fix both issues.
Interesting insights: Jessica tells her diary that her day “blew chunks, as Bruce would say.” More like, as Wayne and Garth would say. I guess they are trying to 90s-ize the original story, which was first published in 1986. Jessica also confesses to her diary that she has always had a big crush on Jeffrey.
New scenes: In the original book: Before Jessica undergoes her transformation, she goes to school in Liz’s peach dress and a bunch of people thinks she’s Liz, outraging Jessica. This includes Jeffrey, who sat down with Jessica at lunch thinking she was Liz. Here, they’ve changed it so that Jeffrey French kissed Jessica at her locker because he thought she was Liz. Much smaller new event: after Jessica decides to go back to being herself, she tells her diary that she confessed to Liz that she read Liz’s diary and learned how upset she was over Jess’ transformation. According to Jessica, Liz forgave her. This wasn’t mentioned in the original story; in fact, Liz had believed she got her missing diary back “unread” (although she did not).
Also: In my original post about The New Jessica, I wondered if any of Liz’s diary entries might be reproduced again in the Secret Diary volumes, which I’d never read at that point. Well, Liz’s diary entry that Jessica read does indeed show up here, verbatim. Fun facts!

Skipped: Super Edition #5 Winter Carnival

Book recapped: #33 Starting Over
Events covered: Dana Larson’s cousin Sally transfers from foster care to the Larsons’ home; family drama ensues. This is neatly resolved in the usual way, by sticking everyone in a life-threatening situation. Thankfully (I guess), this Secret Diary focuses way more on the sub-plot, which was all about the twins secretly adopting their golden retriever, Prince Albert (also known as Penis Piercing) and hiding him from their parents.
Interesting insights: So far, Jessica actually sounds *nicer* in her Secret Diary than Liz did in hers. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she can be sassy and sarcastic (and it’s funny), but I thought she’d have all kinds of nasty things to say about people. I was expecting her to say something horrible about Sally Larson’s appearance, but the worst she had for us was that Sally was dressed “not badly, just a little dull” (which she also says is how Liz dresses! LOL!).
New scenes: None at all. What’s the point of this?

Book recapped: #34 Forbidden Love
Events covered: Maria Santelli and Michael Harris have been dating secretly because their families hate each other. They get engaged so they can elope and stay together, but then Maria realizes that Michael is a huge douche and that she actually loves Winston Egbert. Sub-plot: The Scooby Gang gets paired up with one another for one of those high school marriage projects.
Interesting insights: Jessica does just a little bit more mooning over Jeffrey in her diary. She thinks he’s the most perfect boyfriend ever and it’s not fair that he got stuck with someone as boring as Liz.
New scenes: None!

Book recapped: #35 Out of Control
Events covered: Aaron Dallas is having anger management problems. Thankfully, this book focuses far more on the sub-plot, which is Jessica’s delightful, disastrous attempt to get rich by selling Tofu-Glo soybean beauty products! That was one of my favorite sub-plots ever.
Interesting insights: Jessica uses more 90s slang (“Doesn’t that just bite?”) and ponders buying a new pair of Doc Martens. She also mentions in her diary that Robin Wilson is a “pain in the neck.” Hah – more like YOU were a pain in HER neck! Jessica writes about how nobody takes her seriously, but one day she’ll be an amazing businesswoman, traveling all over the world. (According to Sweet Valley Confidential, she’s correct!) Jessica confesses to her diary that she is secretly terrified of public speaking and battles stage fright every time. Finally, I have to note that I am really enjoying Jessica’s dramatics in diary form. It is funny how much more enjoyable her entries are compared to Liz’s, not that I am totally surprised. E.g., here’s Jessica writing in her diary after her Tofu-Glo products turn out to be a scam and everyone angrily demands their money back: “My life is over. I’m going into one of those witness-protection programs. I’m going to join a convent. No, I’m going to become a worm farmer in Utah.” And, after fantasizing in her diary that Jeffrey tells her she’s the one he’s always loved, she then admits he’ll never leave Liz and declares, “I think I’ll go downstairs and overdose on large quantities of chocolate.” There are a lot of witty gems in here like that. “So that’s over … so is my life among the soybeans.” Here’s another one I think everyone will appreciate: “I gave her a menacing glare I learned from Lila.” And after her dad calls to tell her she’s entitled to a big payment in the class action Tofu-Glo lawsuit: “Cancel my room at the convent.” Finally, Jessica calls something “totally rad.” Wasn’t that a dorky thing to say in the 90s? That is definitely more 80s slang. I know it came back into fashion starting in the early 2000s, but I feel like if I said “rad” in 1994 people would’ve made fun of me. So I can’t imagine 90s Jess saying that. Maybe it’s a California thing.
New scenes: ZERO. For fuck’s sake!

Skipped: Super Edition #6 Spring Fever

Book recapped: #36 Last Chance
Events covered: So I didn’t hate this story the first time, but I totally forgot about it. It’s the one in which Julie Porter’s older sister, high school dropout Johanna Porter, returns to school, gets made fun of, hooks up with Amy’s turd of a boyfriend, then finally claims her self-respect and tells everyone to F right off. Again, in this book there’s more focus on the sub-plot since that’s Jess’s story: She gets in a funk about seeing happy couples everywhere, so she tries to split up Steven and Cara, and momentarily succeeds because they’re both dumb as a pile of Prince Albert’s poo.
Interesting insights: Jessica’s opening diary entry in this chapter sounds like it’s trying to convince us she might be sick of seeing all the happy couples primarily because she can’t have Jeffrey. Clever plot tweak, that one. LOL. The Jessica breaking up Steve and Cara story is just as stupid the second time around. She’s horrible and they’re moronic. She’s also so pleased with her success breaking them up that she privately wonders if she might also be able to break up Jeffrey and Liz, an idea she soon abandons as completely unfeasible. Jessica privately admits to her diary that she actually feels shame for having been mean to Johanna in the past.
New scenes: None.

Book recapped: #37 Rumors
Events covered: Lila Fowler starts nasty rumors about Susan Stewart’s real mother because she wants Susan’s boyfriend as her date to the exclusive Bridgewater Ball. The sub-plot: The twins suspect Mrs. Wakefield is pregnant. She’s not, but we get to hear about it ad nauseam in Jessica’s diary.
Interesting insights: I’m definitely getting sick of Jessica making sure to slip in bits about how Jeffrey is the perfect hunk, boyfriend, etc. Foreshadowing is a hell of a literary device! Jessica sounds a little bit more like her normal bitchy self when she talks about Susan and “total drip” Allen Walters getting together. Also, I’m reminded of how crappy this whole story was the first time.
New scenes: Yawn, none, although there is a tiny change. In the original book, I’m quite certain that it was Liz who had the idea to spy on Mrs. Wakefield to figure out if she’s pregnant or not, instead of just coming out and asking her. I remember thinking that was unlike Liz at the time. In THIS book, they change it so spying was Jessica’s idea (which is admittedly more realistic – I think. One never knows with these girls anymore).

Book recapped: #38 Leaving Home
Events covered: Liz applies to a special writing school program that would send her away to a Swiss boarding school for her entire senior year (and the summer before). Jess and Steve freak out and scheme to make her stay in Sweet Valley by acting like complete and total assholes. Sub-plot: Winston wins the lottery, but with someone else’s ticket he took in a bizarre mix-up. He finally returns it and is hailed as a hero.
Interesting insights: The original story was yet another stinker that I’m just SO thrilled to relive! But, regarding Liz’s excitement about Switzerland, Jessica tells her diary “Gag me with a ski pole”. Her hilarious commentary on everything is the only thing saving this Secret Diary as far as I’m concerned. Jessica also admits to her diary that she is “DESPERATELY IN LOVE” with Jeffrey French. Yes, she put it in all caps! Gag me with a bad young adult novel.
New scenes: YES, finally. Jessica’s latest beau, Randy Lloyd, drops her off early from a date because he’s feeling sick (of her shit, probably). Jess changes into a casual outfit, then gets bored and drives out to the Beach Disco to see what’s going on out there, just in time to see Liz and Enid take a walk off down the beach because Liz is upset no one is enthused about her Switzerland plans. (The part about the Liz-Enid walk is from the original story.) Jessica just so happens to be wearing a very similar outfit to Liz’s, so when she walks into the Disco, Jeffrey spots her and thinks she’s Liz. They sit and have an intense Switzerland-centered talk, during which Jessica keeps up the charade, mainly because Jeffrey is stroking her hands and she likes it. She is tempted to take advantage of the situation to engineer a break-up, because maybe then Liz will really want to leave for Switzerland and that means Jeffrey will be left behind with Jessica. But her better angels win out and Jessica, as Liz, reassures Jeffrey that nothing is as important to Liz as him. She then says she’s upset and makes Jeffrey promise not to bring up this conversation again, then flees to “collect herself” before real Liz comes back and catches her frontin’. She then drives home sobbing to herself because she loves Jeffrey. The next day, she tells her diary she doesn’t know what got into her. I know what she wishes she got into her. (I can’t help myself)

Book recapped: #39 Secret Admirer
Events covered: Personal ads wreak havoc in the lives of Penny Ayala, Lila, and Jessica.
Interesting insights: Not many. Just that I’m even more horrified the second time by how mean Jessica is to “fat people” as I re-read the scene in which she’s on a date with a “fat, ugly” man. If there were any justice in the world, Sweet Valley Confidential would’ve shown what happened to Dairi Burger-diet Jessica once her metabolism slowed down.
New scenes: None. Just a recap of the original story that seems entirely too long.

Book recapped: #40 On the Edge
Events covered: Bruce, who has been dating the beloved Regina Morrow, starts having an affair with Amy Sutton. Regina finds out and hates them and everyone else for not telling her. She attends a drug party where she tries cocaine and dies instantly, breaking millions of young readers’ hearts.
Interesting insights: I know I said this before, but everyone is such an ass for enabling Amy and Bruce’s affair and working so hard to keep Regina from finding out because they didn’t want to hurt her. She had a right to know! Jessica writes about her frustration that Liz blames her for Regina’s misery over losing Bruce, when Liz is also to blame. She confesses to her diary that she has never done any drugs, but that she is sometimes curious about what it’s like. Her curiosity is ended when, in the next entry, she writes “Oh God, Diary. OH GOD! Regina Morrow is dead.”
New scenes: In a scene I already reviewed from the Meet Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield book, Liz asks Jessica to kindly break her date with Jeffrey due to her newspaper obligations and explain Liz would see him later. Instead, Jessica, both pissy with Liz about the Regina stuff and also secretly in love with Jeffrey, pretends to be Liz and goes out with Jeffrey. They wind up making out on the beach, where Jeffrey quickly realizes “Liz” is really the other twin, but keeps kissing her anyway. The pair soon break apart realizing what they’re doing is wrong. They say not a word about it, to each other or anyone else, and Liz is none the wiser. We’re supposed to think that now that she’s finally made out with Jeff, Jessica is satisfied and is able to leave it alone and go on with her life. Good for her? My God, Jessica really is a horrible person. Oh yeah, and we learn Jessica’s make-out session with her sister’s boyfriend, is what delayed Jessica from telling Liz about how much trouble Regina is in! At the end of the chapter, right after Regina has died, she and Jeffrey look at each other over a crying Liz, and Jess realizes there is no way they will ever let Liz know about their make-out session, because they can’t bear to hurt her. This seems … ironic?

And that (finally) brings us to our Epilogue, which is very short. After reading her diary entries about Regina, Jessica is crying. She realizes life is precious and that you have to cherish every moment, so she gets up and carefully unpacks her bag and puts her things away, “handling each item as if it were heavy, and very, very fragile.” Damn, that’s deep.

So what did I get out of this book? Nothing, other than the odd laugh over Jessica’s funny commentary. Okay, and I was oddly touched by how much Jessica really does care about Liz and her best buddy Lila, even though Jessica still does awful things. For a horrible person, she’s not all bad, just mostly. Was her Secret Diary better than Liz’s? For me, it’s a toss-up. Jessica’s tone of voice and narrative style is far better than Liz’s, but as far as the newly revealed “secrets” go, I went WAY too many pages in Jessica’s before I got to anything even slightly juicy. Liz’s “secrets” in her Diary were ridiculous, but the tea being spilled was hotter. I might be more shocked at Jess very briefly making out with Jeffrey if she hadn’t JUST pulled a similar stunt with Todd (and then some!) post-Jungle Prom!

Now that I’m through with both of the first two Secret Diaries, I want to be absolutely serious. I have read some tedious books in this series. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you surely know that. In fact, there are times where if I didn’t have this blog, which I very much enjoy writing, I would’ve just stopped rather than drag myself through some crap story. (I really do love writing this blog. I tend to take a too-long break every now and again when life gets in the way, but I love my readers and the whole “Sweet Valley nostalgia” community, if that’s what we should call ourselves.) But yeah – these two books were the biggest drag of all of the ones I’ve read. I understand why some love these so much, but for me as a first-time, much-older reader, there’s very little that’s new and fun here. It’s just the same old stories newly redone in the first person, cleverly tweaked to fit in some character assassination. It wouldn’t be quite as bad if they weren’t so damned long.

I know we have Volumes II and III coming up in the future. I will see them through, but take my word, I will have an unusually stiff margarita in hand!

In the back of the book: Nothing new or different, except that there are two different ads begging you to buy Sweet Valley University.

Coming up next: We return to the whole Sue-Jeremy-Jessica scandal with the next regular series “mini-series”. That crap almost looks good again.

Magna Edition #5 Elizabeth’s Secret Diary

Throughout my re-read of this series (which has now been going on for ten years! Good God), there have been numerous books I was super excited to finally get to. This was one of them. I heard so much about the Secret Diaries when they first came out in 1994, but by then I was way more into horror novels and had mostly abandoned Sweet Valley. Right before I decided to start this blog, a friend purchased the first two Secret Diary volumes at a used bookshop and started talking about how much she had loved them back in the day. As I’ve mentioned before, prior to starting this blog I had never read A Night to Remember or any SVH books released past that, and this was one of the “unknowns” I was looking forward to reaching.

Well, before I give you my recap, let me give it to y’all straight: HUGE. LET. DOWN. Have you ever seen one of those clip shows that sitcoms air from time to time? Yeah, this book is 323 pages of that. Oh, with a couple of “scandals” thrown in here and there, except I couldn’t be arsed to give half a fuck. What did I expect? I don’t know, just … something else!

IMG_20190612_123530 (1)

Liz looks oddly scary when she’s enlarged to show detail.

The cover, at least, is uh … interesting. We get a huge blown-up portrait of Liz’s sanctimonious face, wearing her famous lavalier. It’s the same portrait of her that’s appeared at the top of every SVH cover (with Jess’s) since #95.

IMG_20190613_140519

When you open up the cover, you can see the stepback art, which isn’t that great, but here’s my crappy photo of it anyway. It’s just the same Liz portrait, plus recycled, touched-up cover art of Liz and Todd from #23 Say Goodbye, Steven and Cara from #24 Memories, and Liz, Enid, and Amy from #29 Bitter Rivals. They also took Ken’s face from #27 Lovestruck, and stuck it there on its own so it looks like he’s staring back longingly at Liz, instead of rolling his eyes at Suzanne Hanlon like he originally was. Or at least that’s what they hope it looks like. Notice they re-did his eyes to make him look extra soulful … as much as Ken Matthews can.

This book is written in the first person from Liz’s point of view. It threw me off because she doesn’t sound like I would expect her to sound. She kind of sounds like how I would expect Jessica to sound, other than the parts where she makes sure to tell us she’s a writer and knows lots of synonyms. Good for you, Lizzie, I’m glad you know how to use a thesaurus.

We open in the Prologue, with a present-day scene. Liz is over at Todd’s house studying, and she tells us how Todd is totally hot, doesn’t have an ounce of fat anywhere on his body, and “turns my bones to butter.” Ew, girl. They start making out on his desk on top of their science project. Liz makes sure to tell us that they usually don’t hang out in their bedrooms alone because it’s too “dangerous”. Sure, Liz. They’re interrupted by the phone ringing. It’s Todd’s “best friend”, Ken Matthews. I’m confused. I knew they were good friends, but isn’t Todd’s best friend Winston or somebody? Todd happily stops feeling up his girlfriend to shoot the shit with ol’ Kenny for a bit. Meanwhile, Liz spies a letter and starts reading it. The letter is on pink, perfumed stationery (of course) from a Michelle Thomas in Todd’s old home of Burlington, Vermont. Michelle’s cooing about how much she misses Todd and calling him “Cute-Buns” and sending him “a thousand kisses”. When Todd gets off the phone, he’s confronted by a furious Liz who is convinced he has a thing going with Michelle. Oh my god, this shit again. Todd claims nothing is going on and Michelle was just joking around, but true to her usual behavior, Liz makes a bunch of dramatic statements about how he should go back to his “real love”, and runs out of his house crying. We just had this fucking scene last book/mini-series over some other girl, FUCK. The most hilarious part is that Liz tries to tell Todd he would never find her doing anything like this. What? She just confessed to having a summer-long affair with a werewolf impostor!  You know if Luke hadn’t turned out to be a wannabe lycanthrope, she’d still be asking him to send her his best howl-at-the-full-moon poetry and cooing at him on the phone in a soulful fake British accent and shit. I guess we are supposed to think that this book takes place before all that happened. It definitely takes place post-A Night to Remember debacle, because Bruce and Pamela are mentioned as being together in the next scene.

Jessica catches Liz spending her Friday night bawling in bed and makes her go out to the Beach Disco with her. Todd isn’t there. Liz has some kind of breakdown and flees off down the beach. Jeffrey French of all people follows her and tries to comfort her and then he confesses he never stopped loving her. Barf, Jeffrey! You can do so much better than Liz! Although truth be told, I much prefer Liz and Jeffrey to Liz and Todd. The former couple makes out on the beach to get our hopes up, then go back to Jeffrey’s car and make out and “talk” some more. Liz goes home unable to sleep, “my lips burning from Jeffrey’s kisses” and questioning if she made the right choice last time when she chose Todd over Jeffrey (after Todd moved back to Sweet Valley from Vermont). She decides to read through her old diaries to figure it out.

Now for Chapter 1 and the kick-off of the diary entries. Each chapter covers the events of a previous book in the SVH series. The back cover says this book will cover books #20-30, but it’s actually #23-31. It also skips the three Super Editions published during this time. We get to read some of Liz’s diary entries about the events of these previous books, then we get Liz’s first person narration of those same events “as they’re happening.” The original scenes are mostly the same, just in first person, and even the dialogue is about the same (albeit updated to be more exciting and “90s”, but it’s the same discussion). Occasionally there’s some new tidbit. Liz is definitely overly melodramatic about everything in her diary and in her thoughts, and you know she’s just patting herself on the back for her amazing writing. Here’s a rundown of this crap so you don’t have to read all 323 pages of it like I did:

Book recapped: #23 Say Goodbye (and the end of #22 Too Much in Love)
Previous events covered: Todd Wilkins moves to Burlington, Vermont, & he and Liz pledge their long-distance love. As soon as he leaves, Jessica schemes to get Liz and Nicholas Morrow together. Because everyone is stupid, it works. A couple of weeks later, surprise! Todd comes back for a visit and sees Liz and Nicholas dancing together. Liz admits to Nicholas that she was just using him (although of course she doesn’t put it that way), and he tells Liz this is the last time he will pursue her, which is bullshit. Liz and Todd pledge their love to one another and agree to stay open to what the future could hold. The sub-plot also gets a mention: Jess takes a job at a matchmaking service and sets Steven up with disastrous dates.
Interesting insights: Liz snarkily tells us that Lila Fowler “has never and will never be” one of her favorite people, but that she does throw a good party, which Liz is happy to show up and take full advantage of. She tells her diary that sometimes her sister can be so shallow and looks down on her for not having long-term relationships. Liz pens a sad poem in her diary about a sailor’s wife waiting for her husband to come home.
New scenes: During Todd’s visit back to Sweet Valley and after he and Liz have made up over the Nicholas thing, he “scales Mount Wakefield.” LOL, that sounds dirty as fuck. He actually just uses her dad’s ladder to climb up into Liz’s window at night, and no one wakes up and catches him. Liz is wearing a flimsy nightgown and she makes sure to tell him she’s not going to sleep with him just because he’s about to go back to Vermont. She doesn’t say that outright, because this is Sweet Valley, so they cut her off before she can get the full sentence out. Todd assures her he’s not going to try anything and they kiss on her bed while Liz thinks about how she is tempted to go under the covers but had better not ’cause she’ll end up gettin’ that Wilkins ween.

Book recapped: #24 Memories
Events covered: Steven hangs around his dead girlfriend Tricia’s sister, Betsy; Steve gets interested in Jessica’s friend Cara but Betsy doesn’t approve because she thinks he’s cheating on his ghost girlfriend; Steve acts like a dick to Cara multiple times; Liz finally interferes and convinces Betsy to let Steve move on. The sub-plots get a lot of mention: charity volleyball game against Big Mesa; Liz gets salty that Todd has a new girl-space-friend named Gina; Liz becomes obsessed with a Todd lookalike from Big Mesa – turns out he’s an ass; Jessica starts sucking up to Winston because she thinks his movie director uncle is in town – it’s actually his other uncle, who’s a civil engineer specializing in trash removal.
Interesting insights: Liz expresses surprise that Lila is a pretty good athlete for someone who spends a lot of time at the mall, and looks down on Cara for her old “kiss and tell” ways. When Todd tells Liz that Gina is a cheerleader, she thinks to herself that Gina must be a “peppy, miniskirted bimbo.” Is that what you think of your cheerleader friends, Liz? While moping about the future with Todd, she also writes another poem in her diary that I think I should share:
I walk forward.
“Life goes on” – that’s what everyone says.
I walk forward, my steps slow,
Looking over my shoulder into the past.
Waiting by phones and at airports,
My steps halt.
Frozen in time.
New scenes: None

The diary skips any mention of the Special Christmas Super Edition, which is when Todd and Liz officially end their long-distance relationship after Todd and Suzanne Devlin fall in love. Although the book was a Super Edition, it was treated as canon, so it’s odd to see them ignore it.

Book recapped: #25 Nowhere to Run
Events covered: The drummer for The Droids, Emily Mayer, is having family problems with her wicked stepmom and new baby half-sister; Liz steps in and plays the therapist. Then Emily saves her baby sister from choking to death and her dad comes home and misinterprets the situation as Emily tried to hurt the baby and throws her out of the house. Damn, that’s harsh. Stepmom apologizes and everyone makes up awful quick. Emily gets together with her Droids bandmate Dan. Sub-plot: Grandma and Grandpa Wakefield come to visit and Alice feels left out and pouts; the twins ask for her help with planning a going-away party to soothe her jangled nerves.
Interesting insights: None really. Liz starts dropping heavy hints that she’s moving on from Todd and getting stronger without him. She doesn’t say a word about him dating Suzanne Devlin. Reading about the original storyline again reminded me what a huge B Emily’s stepmom was, and how insane it is that Emily’s dad just assumed she must’ve done something to hurt the baby and THREW HER OUT.
New scenes: None. That’s right, they made us read that recap for no real reason.

Book recapped: #26 Hostage!
Events covered: Ugh, the book I wanted to forget, one of the worst books in the whole series so far, and that’s really saying something. Regina Morrow and her parents are being held hostage; the twins, Regina’s brother Nicholas, and Regina’s boyfriend Bruce Patman figure it out and play detective. Shenanigans abound and the kids save the Morrows and are proclaimed heroes. Just kill me.
Interesting insights: My only insight is that I still hate book #26.
New scenes: In the original book, Nicholas and Liz are almost caught staking out the Morrows’ house and Nicholas starts kissing Liz instead so that it looks like they’re actually just making out … next to someone’s driveway, lol. In this book, that scene is still there, but they make the kiss seem more serious. Then Liz confesses to her diary that she and Nicholas shared another, far more serious kiss the night of the Morrows’ celebratory party for “the heroes.” Liz is sure that nothing will come of it because Liz isn’t ready for “another boyfriend” yet.

Book recapped: #27 Lovestruck
Events covered: Ken Matthews is gonna be benched for the upcoming football game if he can’t pass English class; his new girlfriend Suzanne Hanlon (another Suzanne) is busy trying to change him into somebody else than the jock he is; he gets Liz to help him with class, then tries to turn in her English story as his own; the truth comes out when the Oracle wants to publish “Ken’s” story on its front page because it’s just so great. Ken finally writes his own original story confessing the truth and has Liz publish that instead; Suzanne dumps Ken, but the school forgives Ken and he wins the big game for SVH. The sub-plot about Jessica helping plan the Centennial Celebration is also included.
Interesting insights: Liz thinks about what a hot bod Ken has. She’s talking about dudes’ bods an awful lot in this book, yet she normally acts like only Jessica cares about shallow shit like that. Liz tells her diary that she’s sad that she and Todd only seem to talk for short periods of time now instead of the long calls they used to have. She also writes snarky remarks about how she can’t believe Bruce asked Jessica and Lila to help him with the Sweet Valley Centennial Celebration. This bitch is just jealous. She also has plenty to say about Suzanne. She thinks Suzanne is the worst for thinking she’s better than everybody else (true), but then Liz goes to a poetry reading that Suzanne organizes and laughs with Ken at the “pretentious” poems everyone has written because I guess Liz’s are so much better. Liz writes that her lips are “puffy” from running the kissing booth at the Centennial carnival … gross.
New scenes: None

The book skips Super Edition #3, Spring Break, where Liz meets Rene Glize (who will be featured again much later on as a prominent part of the werewolf books). This skip makes more sense, and it means that we’re saved from having to re-read about Steven ditching Cara for his dead girlfriend’s French doppelganger (not to be confused with the American doppelganger who comes along later). We can be thankful for small miracles.

Book recapped: #28 Alone in the Crowd
Events covered: Lynne Henry feels lonely and sad and copes by writing and singing songs; she submits tape of a song anonymously to a contest the Droids are holding and wins the contest. But then they don’t know who she is and she refuses to out herself. Liz finds out and Lynne begs her not to tell, but Droid band member Guy Chesney has “fallen in love” with Lynne’s voice and eventually figures it out. Blah blah, Lynne overcomes her shyness and sings her song to the entire cafeteria with the Droids. Sub-plot: The cheerleaders hold a rocking chair marathon to raise funds. Oh god, I forgot about that mess. It’s still a better plot than Hostage!
Interesting insights: Liz remembers flirting with Todd last year at the sophomore picnic, but the SVH canon is that she didn’t know him until their junior year. (I know that they later ignored that for all of the “younger years” Sweet Valley series.) Liz writes that her family always tells her that her singing sounds like a seagull squawking. Here is a poem Liz wrote that she wishes she could set to music:
Rainy Sunday,
Foggy Monday,
Closely creeping fears,
Can’t take much more of this.
Drive east, drive fast,
Until at last
Desert rainbows dry my tears
Like a kiss.
New scenes: Pretty much none. Liz tells her diary about how “this relationship” with Todd is “worth it” in one diary entry, then in another, she writes about how she’s now single and doesn’t have a boyfriend. Confusing much? She’s still looking forward to hopefully flying out to see Todd the next summer. (Ken is about to go visit him for a long weekend because they’re best buds and all.) I don’t remember that being talked about at all in Alone in the Crowd. I think the ghostwriters inserted that stuff in this book to help make an upcoming new scene (keep reading) more scandalous than it would typically be.

Book recapped: #29 Bitter Rivals
Events covered: Liz’s childhood best friend, Amy Sutton (prominently featured in Sweet Valley Twins) moves back to Sweet Valley; she’s definitely more like Jessica now but Liz refuses to see it; Enid and Amy hate each other; Amy and Enid fight over Lila’s cousin and both of them fight with Liz; Liz makes up with Enid and accepts that Amy is now a better fit for Jessica’s crowd. The sub-plot: Jessica and Cara start an advice column in the Oracle and Jessica uses it to steal Jay whatever-his-name-was from Denise Hadley.
Interesting insights: Apparently Amy was “buck-toothed” back in the sixth grade. Also, Ken and Liz reminisce about one time when they went snorkeling at “Turquoise Bay” with Jessica and Todd and saw a shark – what is Turquoise Bay? Liz sketches out a story idea in her diary about a Seattle teen named Colleen O’Hara whose miserable existence is saved when her childhood best friend Camilla comes back into her life again. Liz is sad that she and Amy don’t seem to be turning out like Colleen and Camilla. Waaaah.
New scenes: There are plenty and they kind of rewrite the previous history, since in the regular series Liz and Todd were through at this point. Liz helps send Ken off on his long weekend in Burlington, with a care package for Todd. She writes “I wish I could put myself right into the package.” She should’ve taken advantage of that time he climbed into her window then. She also says that Todd has admitted he did go on a couple of dates with Gina the cheerleader, but now they’re “platonic” again. She’s relieved he hasn’t found anyone else yet. When Ken gets back from his trip, Liz goes over to see him and retrieve some presents Todd sent back for her and her parents. Ken says that Todd wants him to “take care” of Liz now that Todd isn’t there to do it anymore, because I guess Liz can’t handle herself. He assures Liz there’s definitely nothing between Gina and Todd now, as Gina is dating some other dude. Liz and Ken seem like they keep finding excuses to touch each other! FORESHADOWING! Later on, Liz calls Todd and someone named Donna picks up the phone and hands it to him. Liz is jealous again and bitches at Ken about “Donna the Bimbo” and he reassures her that Todd doesn’t have a new girlfriend. I mean, are Liz and Todd done or not? Liz is talking about being single, but then acting like she still has a right to control Todd’s love life. You can’t blame her for still having feelings, but for someone who acts like she’s the model of kindness and goodness others should follow (and lately, feminism!), she sure loves to call any female friend of her ex’s nasty names.

Once again, a Super Edition is skipped – Malibu Summer, where Liz falls in love with a pop star. It definitely made sense to skip that one too since I don’t think Liz can explain how the seasons repeat so often in these books any better than we can.

Book recapped: #30 Jealous Lies
Events covered: Sandy Bacon tries to stop her best friend Jean West from joining Pi Beta Alpha, because she’s jealous that Jean is so fabulous. They make up and Jean starts dating Tom McKay. The sub-plot is about Steven Wakefield getting a wild hair up his ass that he wants to leave college for a job on an ocean liner, and the Wakefield family plotting to keep him in Sweet Valley.
Interesting insights: None, other than there’s way more focus on the sub-plot than the main plot. Steven comes off like the ultimate baby, yelling at his family and leaving the table the second they express concern about his leaving school. So business as usual, I’m just more embarrassed for Steven the second time around.
New scenes: Ken shows up at Liz’s house and takes her out to Casey’s Ice Cream Parlor. She tells him how much better off he is without Suzanne and he agrees. He asks her if she’s interested in dating anyone new since Todd, and she claims she’s happier being single. When she talks to Todd later though, he mentions he’s going to a dance with a girl named Diane and Liz is hoping Diane is a total drip. Ken takes Liz out on a date to a horror movie and to get pizza at Guido’s … it’s supposed to be because he’s just “taking care” of Liz. Cool story bro. Liz gets goosebumps at the end of the night and realizes she might be falling for Ken. Then Ken takes her to the big Friday-the-thirteenth dance and they dance together all night. Liz tries to get him to dance with other girls, but he implies he only wants to dance with her. At Steven’s big surprise “Bon Voyage!” party, Ken pulls Liz outside and they start kissing. Then Liz freaks out and runs back inside the house, because Ken is Todd’s best friend and it feels wrong to her.

Book recapped: #31 Taking Sides
Events covered: New boy Jeffrey French moves to town; Enid and Lila are both hot for him; Liz and Jessica battle it out and scheme to get Jeffrey with their respective best friends; in the end, Jeff actually prefers Liz, and now they’re together. The sub-plot: the twins’ annoying cousin Jenny visits, and Jessica’s love interest Eddie Winters ends up preferring Jenny to Jessica.
Interesting insights: Liz opens this chapter by calling herself Todd’s girlfriend. Several pages later, Jeffrey asks her if she has a boyfriend and she says no. Make up your god-derned mind, Liz.
New scenes: Liz and Ken start seeing each other on the regular, but hide it from everyone because they don’t want word to get back to Todd. They meet on the beach at night and make out on a blanket. They go on dates to places no one will see them. This goes on for a couple of weeks. They try to break up a couple of times, because this is just so wrong to do this to Todd! But they just can’t! Their feelings are too strong and every serious chat ends with a torrid make-out session. Then, just as Liz is starting to get interested in Jeffrey French, they tearfully decide they can’t continue and that they were just trying to fill the void of being single, or something. Okay. They both agree neither of them will EVER, EVER breathe a word of this to anyone. Okay. I’m bored. A few days later, the original series plot line picks back up and Liz gets with Jeffrey. There’s zero mention of how, if Liz still has some kind of relationship understanding with Todd, she broke that news to him. I guess it’s okay for Liz to roll around with other dudes, but how dare Todd be interested in other girls.

In the Epilogue, it’s now morning back in the present time, and Liz is finishing reading that volume of her diary. She sees the light. She’s had such a great, fulfilling life! She will always, always love Todd. She goes downstairs to the kitchen to make some coffee and spies Todd moping around outside. That’s creepy. She lets him in and they cry and make up. Todd explains Michelle was just a friend he used to joke around with but nothing ever happened, and Liz believes him this time. She doesn’t say anything about her wildin’ out the night before, or her whole history of wildin’ out.

This book seemed pointless to me. I can see what they were trying to do: Lure new readers to the series while entertaining longer-term fans with some juicy new bits. Except those bits aren’t that juicy, and they aren’t believable. At this point in the original books, Liz and Todd weren’t together anymore, at all. If they wanna do some awkward rewrite, they can at least get the new story straight. Instead we get these vague statements calling Liz “single” one minute and being Todd’s girlfriend the next. It makes no sense to re-write history and then jam in some dumb affair and make us think that Liz and Ken would really be able to keep it a secret from everyone.

I also think it’s dumb to insinuate that Jeffrey still has feelings that strong for Liz at this time. Hope he’s okay with her using him to help her get over fight #137 with Todd. Guess we’re supposed to think Todd will never find out and Jeffrey will just quietly fade into the background and not say a word.

What this book really taught me is that I’m correct that Liz is the ultimate hypocrite. While she spends a good amount of her time looking down on other people (namely, her sister), for seeing lots of guys and playing with people’s hearts, Liz does the same thing behind closed doors – as soon as she has a fight or some kind of doubt about her long-term man, she runs off to somebody else. As soon as long-term man is back or someone better comes along, she forgets all about the other dude. It’s ironic that the recap of Bitter Rivals includes the bit where Liz is horrified that Amy would string along her old boyfriend in her old town, while pursuing other guys in Sweet Valley. Liz is pretty much doing the SAME THING. Oh but Liz is just “confused.” For someone so smart, she’s confused a lot. And she doesn’t learn and grow. She remains the same person making the same mistakes over and over with near zero levels of self-awareness or lessons learned.

Also, it is totally weird to get a re-cap of all these old books with all these old characters nobody cares about, that newer readers joining the series at this point had likely never heard of. I was happy to move on past some of these; now they’re back like the undead, but with zero thrill.

PS Where the hell is Prince Albert the dog?

Coming up next: I have to do another one of these with Jessica’s Secret Diary. Fab.

 

#108 Left at the Altar!

I picked up this book and thought, “What the fuck? This title obviously spoils everything.” But whatever, let’s get going with the second (and last … I think?) book in the “Sweet Valley Scandal” mini-series!

IMG_20190525_130152

Hahaha, I can’t get over this cover. As you can see here, Sue the bride just crop-dusted everybody with the stinky fart of the century and is smiling on, obliviously thinking that nobody can pin it on her. Unfortunately for her, it was an emission of the silent but deadly variety. It was so deadly, in fact, that Jessica’s bouquet fucking wilted and now she wants to shove it down Sue’s throat while her sister tries to hold her back. Completing the line of people giving Sue the ultimate grossed-out side-eye is Sue’s own groom, Jeremy, who not only uses too much hair gel but knows damn well from whose ass the stench is emanating. The officiant even looks like he paused to choke a little bit.

I hate the bridesmaids’ dresses. Not crazy about the bride’s gown either. And heels in the sand? Wouldn’t that shit be hard to walk in?

When we left off in our last book, Jessica had finally succeeded in (at least temporarily) tearing away the heart of Jeremy Randall, a 23-year-old man she barely knows, from his fiancee, Sue Gibbons. Sue is the eighteen-year-old surviving daughter of Alice Wakefield’s dead college roommate who Alice believes is marrying Jeremy to help her get over her grief, and that’s supposed to be something everyone approves of. That last installment ended with Jessica and Jeremy frantically making out behind the bushes at the Wakefield house during Jeremy and Sue’s engagement party, as the guests try to find them so they can start the toasts. Gee, Jeremy and Jessica missing at the same time, not suspicious at all! When this installment opens, Liz finds them and is pissed, but Jess doesn’t care because her life’s goal is to make as big an ass out of herself as possible over the biggest lunkhead men she can find. Liz  stands there lecturing these two lust-birds, and I’m reminded of that scene in SVH #3, Playing with Fire, where Liz stomps into the woods to find Jessica and Bruce rolling around in the leaves and starts acting like Jessica’s mom. Now, as Liz stands there reaming the couple out for their behavior while fixing Jessica’s dress (which is falling off of her on one side because maybe Jeremy got a little boob action), Sue pops up and is like, “Oh! Golly gee whiz! What are you all doing in here?”. Gee, I don’t know why your fiance and the hot girl that keeps making doe eyes at him vanished at the same time and were found in some bushes, Sue! Sue needs help that no one is getting her to get over the death of her mom, and Liz certainly isn’t going to speak the fuck up and help Sue realize she’s being cheated on and deserves better than to settle for this bullSHIT at age 18. No, she’s just going to spend the rest of the book trying to control her dumb ass sister.

The twins march inside for the toasts, which Alice starts before saying that now her daughters will make a toast. Jessica says loudly, “Not this daughter”, then runs upstairs bawling while everyone else wonders what’s wrong with that bitch while simultaneously not really caring. Liz slogs through the toast herself with an excuse that Jessica is drunk on the champagne or something. Then she goes outside and bitches about the situation to Steven, who basically throws his hands up and is all, eh, nothing you can do about it. STEVEN WAKEFIELD doesn’t think she should do anything about it? Who wrote this and how much research did they do on these characters? And Enid is of the same opinion. Of course, the focus of Liz’s dilemma is Jessica’s welfare; nobody gives a shit about Sue and the horrid mistake she’s about to make – marrying this fool during a time of immense grief. I hate Liz for not being honest and exposing what she’s just seen while acting like she thinks it’s so wrong for Jessica to be carrying on this affair. And of course, I reallllly hate Jessica. I swear to god, each new mini-series is just an exercise in “Which twin should readers hate the most this time?”

That night, Jessica dreams that she’s the one marrying Jeremy. Then she wakes up to the sound of Jeremy tapping on her window. She gleefully tells him she was just dreaming about him, but leaves out that it was a marriage dream because that might be “pushing things a little too much”. Yeah okay, I guess that scene last book where she threw herself at Jeremy while wearing his fiancee’s wedding gown wasn’t “a little too much”. Jeremy happily tells her he’s going to take her out on a secret date to watch the sunrise at Secca Lake, and I want to puke. Just as they pull away from embracing each other, Sue also comes outside saying she couldn’t sleep. She is very excited to see Jeremy is in the driveway and assumes he must have come to see her. She’s not surprised at all to see Jessica out there with him, wearing a skimpy sundress, because she just assumes Jessica was “out all night” with her fake boyfriend, Bruce Patman. Sue then babbles on that the three of them should go watch the sunrise together so that Jeremy can get to know Jessica better. She even remarks that Jeremy and Jessica kind of look like brother and sister. I am way more squicked out by this than Jessica is, who seems to find it hot that Jeremy “could be her twin”. Of course, I believe Jessica was the one admiring her real brother’s physique in a previous book, so I guess that wouldn’t really disturb her that much.

The sunrise drive doesn’t go well. Jessica tries to provoke Jeremy into saying something about their affair to Sue, but it’s obvious he doesn’t want to. Sue keeps pissing Jessica off by smooching on Jeremy and chirping about how she can’t wait to marry him. When Sue suggests Jessica must not be feeling well because of the champagne she drank last night (assuming it’s Jessica’s first time drinking champagne and she can’t handle it), Jessica rolls with it and asks to go back home just as they arrive at the lake because she’s still hungover. Then she has to sit through a family breakfast at the house, during which the Wakefield parents chatter on about how Sue is like a sister to the twins now, and remarks are made about Sue and Jeremy sharing a bed in the future.

Jessica chats with Lila on the phone, who only furthers Jessica’s bad mood because she’s all happy she and Robby Goodman have gotten back together. (I keep having flashbacks to Robbie October from Perfect Summer.) Jessica tries to make trouble by implying that Robby only likes Lila for her money. Lila snaps back “I realized how lucky I am that my boyfriend is available and not about to marry someone else.” She then asks Jessica if she’s going to be Jeremy’s mistress, or will she be throwing Sue under a truck like she did her wedding dress? This is why I love Lila. Jessica swears she will do whatever it takes to ensure Jeremy never marries Sue. You know, one way she could do that would be to open her fucking mouth and say something, but I guess Jessica wants to let the man handle everything.

That night, Sue and Jeremy open their engagement presents at the Wakefield house. Jeremy’s parents sent them matching koala sweatshirts from Australia … how precious. They are busy traveling and can’t make the wedding. I feel like no one that this couple actually knows can make their wedding. From the Fowlers, there are pink satin sheets, which cause Jessica to think of Sue and Jeremy rolling around on them and feel sick again. I seriously wish Jessica a lifetime of nonstop vomiting at this point. Sue also opens a big serving platter, which Sue is disappointed is “only pewter” and not silver. Jeremy tries to reassure her that pewter is the better choice for the active lifestyle they will have tramping around rainforests and I’m really confused how a serving platter of any kind fits into that shit at all. Jessica storms off into the kitchen, where Jeremy creepily follows her and tells her that after he gets back from his movie date with Sue that night, he wants Jessica to come meet his car down the block so he can take her somewhere private and fuck her. Well, that’s not exactly what he says, but it might as well be. Liz, naturally, disapproves of this plan and tries to read to Jessica from her latest self-help book as Jessica gets ready for her clandestine fuck fest. Jessica points out that Liz has no room to talk because she was the one being dishonest in London by running around behind Todd’s back with a fake werewolf. Sick burn Jess. Liz still tries to keep Jessica from meeting Jeremy by locking her in her bedroom later. Of course, it takes Jessica maybe 5 minutes max to open the lock with a bobby pin and leave. I’m so confused how Jessica’s own bedroom doors lock from the outside but not the inside. I guess they’re Liz’s doors too since their rooms connect, but what the fuck? Anyway, Jessica escapes and dashes out of the house, leaving Sue to think Jessica is meeting Bruce. As Jessica climbs into Jeremy’s car, she insists they can’t keep up with this secret stuff and Jeremy tells her he has some kind of plan. Liz is left surprised her dumb plan to keep Jessica from leaving didn’t work, because she’s stupid. There’s also some shit about a letter for Sue that Sue doesn’t seem particularly thrilled to open and I guess that’s going to be relevant later.

Back to Jessica and Jeremy. They’re on their secret date, stargazing at Miller’s Point in an open convertible, which is hilarious because doesn’t everyone come out there? Wouldn’t Jeremy worry they’d be seen together? As Jessica hangs on his every word, Jeremy does some babbling about their place in the universe, then says he realizes he never loved Sue. He gave her an internship at his company because she was crying and he felt bad for her. And then, Sue fell in love with him and asked HIM to marry her (according to Jeremy), and he went with it because he thought he’d never love again. You see, when he was 17 he was in love with a girl named Justine, but it didn’t work out and they broke up, and Jeremy figured he would never love anyone like that again! OH I HAVE THE SADS NOW! Jeremy is a giant fucking man-baby, but Jessica is all about it because now he’s saying he realizes he’s madly in love with Jessica and can’t go through with marrying Sue. He claims he’s going to tell Sue the truth the following evening after his busy day of meetings is over. (He’s been working at the California branch of their company since he’s been in town for the wedding.) Jessica is deliriously happy because this sad sack sounds like the world’s greatest prize. They start making out with the fire of a thousand suns.

Back home on Calico Drive, Liz overhears Sue crying in Steven’s room (where she’s been staying). She assumes Sue knows about J and J, but then Sue tells her that the mysterious letter that arrived the other day confirmed Sue has this rare blood disease. The doctors don’t even know what it is, but they know it’s hereditary so they tested Sue for it, since it killed Sue’s mom. (I could’ve sworn that they said in the last book that Sue’s mom died of cancer. If this wasn’t Sweet Valley, I would think I’m imagining things.) Sue’s doctors have told her (apparently in a letter) that she only has 2-3 more years to live. Sue tells Liz she’s going to break her engagement to Jeremy tomorrow, so that he can be happy living the life of his dreams and not be bogged down by her impending doom. Liz tries to talk her out of it and assure Sue that she’s sure Jeremy loves her and will want to be with her in last days, even as Liz is fully aware that her twin is likely going down on Jeremy right this very minute. It’s clear that Jessica is the only one Liz blames for Jeremy’s indiscretion.

Jessica swoops home from her date, where Liz does a womp-womp on her mood by telling her about Sue. Jessica is initially upset and ashamed – she thinks to herself that maybe her “psychic powers” made Sue sick. Then Jessica starts wondering out loud if maybe Sue is lying so that she can keep Jeremy. Liz proclaims that Jessica is “about the most evil, selfish, unfeeling person in the world.” ACCURATE. Liz yells at Jessica that Sue is planning to call off the wedding and stomps out of the room slamming the door. Jessica thinks about how this situation probably won’t be too good for HER AND JEREMY because she’s, well, what Liz said a moment ago.

Jeremy comes over to break up with Sue, but she beats him to it by telling him all about her diagnosis and trying to end the engagement. As Jessica eavesdrops in horror, Jeremy pledges never to leave her and to make her dying days happy. That night at dinner, Jeremy and Sue hold hands and gross Jessica out. When J and J finally get to talk alone, Jeremy tells Jessica that Sue needs him now and he can’t leave her. He says he and Sue have a history and starts telling Jessica that he’s too old for her anyway. He also says that Sue’s wish is that the Wakefield parents not know about her disease yet, and he asks Jessica to honor that.

Liz works on planning Sue’s bridal shower with Enid and Olivia at the Dairi Burger. Liz has the bright idea to hold a book shower. Hahaha. That honestly sounds like a great party for someone to throw for me for no reason. Just shower my ass with all the damn books. Liz says a book shower will be more practical than “stuff the bride doesn’t need” like egg slicers and lemon zesters. Uh … I love to cook, and those exact items are two things I very literally received as Christmas presents this past December! Olivia and Enid tell Liz that she’s been reading way too much and her idea is boring, and then Liz tells them that their idea of doing a kitchen supplies shower is boring. Olivia and Enid order hot fudge sundaes, but Liz says she’s not getting one because she’s trying to practice self-control and she scared herself by eating a bunch of chocolate cake the other day. She then insults Olivia and Enid by telling them not to come crying to her when their lack of self-control gives them acne and weight gain. Enid pushes her half-eaten sundae away because Liz’s prattling made her lose her appetite. Finally, the three Stooges here decide they will give Sue a hot lingerie shower. Liz is weirded out because in her head she’s seeing “dying Sue in a red teddy” and I feel bad because I’m still cackling at that part. Liz doesn’t say that stuff out loud since most people aren’t supposed to know that Sue is dying, but she does some mild protesting, and Enid tells her not to be such a prude. Uh, is this book a portal into the Twilight Zone or what because I feel like no one in this scene acted like themselves. What the fuck is happening?

Sue and Jeremy go to Lytton & Brown department store at the mall to shop for a tent for their honeymoon. I don’t even know where the fuck they are supposed to be going but I guess it’s indeed camping in a rainforest. I hope Jeremy gets eaten by piranhas. Jessica shows up to interrupt their shopping reverie, and keeps suggesting they get tents that have separate sleeping compartments and shit like that. Sue just thinks Jessica is hilarious, as opposed to the dangerous stalker she actually is. Jessica makes up some lie that there is a giant rose-shaped soup bowl on another floor of the department store that would make a perfect thank-you gift for Alice, knowing that Sue will want to drop everything to go buy it. Sue sends Jeremy off to buy some jeans because getting the bowl is “a bride’s responsibility”. Jessica claims she can’t come with Sue to find the bowl, because she has to do some shopping of her own, then, as soon as the coast is clear, throws herself into the same elevator as Jeremy, pushes the elevator stop button, and literally backs him into the corner to make him kiss her. He protests like crazy, then finally kisses her just as the doors open on another floor in front of a crowd of amused shoppers. Sadly, Sue is not among them. Oh yeah, the soup bowl was totally fictional, so Sue couldn’t find it and is all sad.

That night, the twins and Sue hang out with Alice in the living room as she reminisces about her college days with Sue’s mom Nancy. We learn that when Alice and Nancy first started rooming together freshman year, they both had huge crushes on a guy named Peter Mallard. Peter started dating Alice, but she didn’t want to hurt Nancy’s feelings so she didn’t tell her. Unbeknownst to Alice, Peter was also dating Nancy, and Nancy was avoiding telling Alice so as not to hurt HER feelings. Everyone wants to know what ultimately happened, but they’re interrupted by Ned telling them dinner is ready. Yes, Ned actually made dinner for a change (due to the “family cookoff” they’re having, or whatever). But Sue takes off with Jeremy for a pizza and a movie date. Jessica the Stalker wastes no time finding out what movie they went to – a rainforest documentary, natch! all they do is talking about fucking rainforests – and then tears out of the house to go see the same movie. Liz tags along because she is afraid of what Jessica will do. I feel like if I was Liz, I would just let this train wreck go on and crash, but it’s Liz so that’s not happening. At the theater, Jessica sits right behind Sue and Jeremy. When they start to kiss, she spills popcorn all over them. I’m waiting for Sue to scream in terror, but instead she’s all like “Oh wow! Fancy seeing you here Jessica!” Jessica clambers over the seats and forces Sue to move over so Jessica can sit between her and Jeremy, and Sue thinks nothing of this. Liz just stays in her seat dying of embarrassment. After the movie is over, Jessica insists that everybody go to Casey’s for ice cream.

Sue goes shopping for bridal flowers with Alice and Liz, and chooses a “healthy and hopeful” bouquet which makes Liz want to bawl. At breakfast the next morning, Jessica acts like a rude ass once again by refusing to eat the special French toast Sue made, even though her family is all “But you love French toast.” Sue feels bad she made something Jessica hates. Then she brightly announces she and Jeremy are going on a hike up the coast to do trail clean-up, and Jessica invites herself along, and Sue doesn’t tell her to go fuck herself, so then Liz feels she also has to invite herself to keep Jessica out of trouble. Jessica puts on a ridiculous outfit with sandals and a silk blouse for this garbage pick-up. The hike turns out to be 6 miles long, and there are two separate trails, so Sue and Jeremy take one while the twins take the other. Jessica sulks and refuses to pick up any garbage, so Liz has to do all the work, so business as usual. By the last part of the hike, Jessica is mopey and bitchy and covered in dirt. Then she fakes injuring her ankle and cries so that Liz will believe she’s hurt and run to get Jeremy to carry Jessica to the end of trail. The plan works like clockwork because everyone in these books are morons and let Jessica run the show no matter what. As soon as Jeremy arrives, by himself, to rescue Jessica, she starts kissing him. I feel like, at this point Jeremy is realizing what a mistake he made and is just going along with Jessica’s dumb schemes because he’s terrified she’s going to expose him and probably get him in legal trouble for diddling a 16-year-old. As the full group leaves for home, Jessica’s foot is magically better and nobody’s suspicious because GOD THESE PEOPLE ARE STUPID AS FUCK. In my version, Sue would confront Jessica and a wild catfight would ensue that ends with both Jessica and Jeremy flying over a cliff. Then Liz would get bitten by a poisonous snake and drop dead. Then Sue would drive off laughing maniacally, hit a few choice other people with her car, then yell “I’m the dumb ass ghost of Margo” before driving off a cliff. But that’s not what we’re going to get so let me just keep on with this hot mess. Okay, so there’s a beach barbecue that night thrown by the “happy” engaged couple and Jessica’s ankle is magically fucking healed and all so she shows up in some gorgeous dress tossing her hair around in Jeremy’s general direction. Also, shocker, Sue and Jeremy do have grown-up friends of their own, and some of them have shown up from the East Coast for the wedding. There’s the “cool, sophisticated” Sally Haskins and a hippie-ish dude named Andy Green. Jeremy talks to Sally for a long time, and Jessica gets jealous. Sue introduces Sally and Andy to Jess with a remark that it’s “adorable” that Jessica’s still in high school. Then Bruce shows up to the barbecue with his real girlfriend Pam Robertson and Sue is sad for Jessica because she hasn’t figured out that whole fucking charade yet because she’s an idiot. Jessica pretends to be sad about Bruce and Pam so that she has an excuse to run off down the beach by herself, and Sue sends Jeremy after her because, like I said, she’s an IDIOT. Liz takes off after them and makes Enid go with her, and they interrupt J and J just as they’re about to make out again. Jess is pissed and yells at Liz, who says she’s just trying to protect Liz. Jessica snaps, “Protect me from what? A werewolf?” I am fucking dying. But if Liz didn’t learn her lesson in the last story arc, there’s no way she ever will.

By the Wakefield pool the next morning, Jessica suns herself because she’s given up on that whole “London pallor” bullshit. Liz lectures her about skin cancer and wrinkles, and Jessica says “Who are you? The surgeon general? You’re the one who’s going to end up with premature wrinkles from scrunching up your face and worrying about everybody else all the time.”  Jessica refuses to help Alice, Sue, and Liz write out place cards for the wedding, which is the next day, because she claims she hurt her hand hiking. Sue tells Jessica she thinks Andy has a crush on her, so even though “he’s a little old for you” she arranged to have them sit together at the wedding reception. Sue, you must not think very much of your old pal Andy. Next, everybody gets Alice to continue her story about her and Sue’s mom Nancy both dating the same dude at college. Alice says it ended when she and Nancy were out for dinner and saw the dude, Peter, at another table with another girl, Melody. Both got upset and revealed they’d both been secretly dating Peter to try and protect each other’s feelings. To get back at Peter, Alice and Nancy put on bright red lipstick, sat in his booth and smooched all over him in front of Melody, who left the restaurant with Alice and Nan and became their new friend. There’s definitely some foreshadowing here, I think, but Jessica is dumb and thinks Jeremy is “the victim of a terrible situation” and there’s no way he’s a “cad” like Peter was. Hah. At this point I wouldn’t be too shocked if Peter turned out to be Jeremy’s dad and the douchebagginess is hereditary.

Sue’s lingerie shower is that night. Jessica sits there “sick to her stomach” watching Sue open up her naughty things while everyone makes jokes. Sue gets to Jessica’s present last and it’s three big pairs of granny panties. You know I couldn’t make this shit up. Jessica claims she just wanted to get Sue something practical while everyone cracks the fuck up and makes jokes and Sue tries to make Jessica feel better. After the shower, the girls sit out by the pool where Liz starts harshing Sue’s pre-nuptial buzz by going on and on about how sexist she finds wedding traditions that Sue is taking part in. One of the things she names is the bride’s father giving her away. Sue responds that her stepfather is able to come to the wedding after all and he’s going to give her away and she’s glad. WOMP WOMP, fuck you Liz.

That night is also Jeremy’s bachelor’s party, and Jeremy, Robby, Andy, Steven, Bruce, and Todd are all over at the mansion that poor little Robby’s been housesitting for the summer. Why the fuck is Todd there? He just got back from his grandma’s house and barely even knows these cats. Plus, he’s only 16. You really want some underage kid at your bachelor party? As it turns out, it’s a lame-o party anyway. Robby decided to just host a dinner party with his special homemade food. The guys wanted to at least go out dancing or bowling or something so they’re bored as hell. Jeremy is being a sad ballsack over his general situation so Robby takes him into the kitchen for a heart-to-heart, but Robby doesn’t offer any advice so it is about as useless as Liz at an Anti-Busybodies’ Convention. When the guys come back out of the kitchen, Steven is asleep, Todd has pulled out a book, and Andy and Bruce are playing tic-tac-toe.

Meanwhile, the girls are sure the guys are having a strippers-and-coke blow-out, so Liz, Enid, Lila, Jessica, Olivia, and Amy dress up like London bobbies (for real) and “raid” the party. (Sue and Sally obviously think that sounds like kid stuff so they decline to join in.) The bobby chicks are stunned when they can’t find any evidence of anything fun happening. Liz is in disbelief because she was eager to find girls in bikinis at the house and give the guys a lecture about how looking at girls in bikinis is sexist. The guys are relieved to see the girls because they were passing out in their salmon mousse, and they start a dance party in the house. Robby encourages Jeremy to take advantage of the situation and run off with Jessica, which Jeremy does. Real nice, Robby. I hope your salmon mousse gives everyone the shits.

Liz gets home from the bachelor party and tells Sue it was lame. She also lies to Sue that Jessica isn’t home because she and Bruce made up and went out to the Dairi Burger; meanwhile, Jessica stays out all night with Jeremy. They watch the sun come up at Secca Lake at long last.

The next day is the wedding. Sue takes her bridesmaids for manis/pedis and Jessica tries to convince her that black nail polish would be a great choice. The nail tech accidentally pokes Sue’s hand or something and Sue yells at her, shocking the twins. Then they go to the mall where Sue tries on and apparently buys a $1,000 going-away dress suit and a $700 silk dress for the honeymoon. Can y’all just come out with it and tell us that Sue Gibbons is the new Suzanne Devlin or something?

At the ceremony, Liz has to kick Jessica’s shins to make her start walking down the aisle. Jessica stands there and gives Sue a shit face as the beaming bride follows. Meanwhile, Jeremy is standing there looking miserable and Sue thinks nothing of it. Sis, put the whole man in the trash. When the priest, Father Bishop, asks if anyone knows a reason why Jeremy and Sue should not be married and that whole jam, Jessica shouts that she does. She tells the whole crowd that Jeremy doesn’t love Sue, he loves her. Poor Father Bishop is about to have a coronary. He asks Jeremy if this is true and Jeremy admits that it is, so Father Bishop declares the wedding ceremony over. Sue faints and Robby catches her. Alice is furious and about to cry, and asks Jessica how she could do this. Father Bishop takes Jeremy off down the beach for a little chat. Liz is also furious and marches Jessica away from the wedding to their Jeep. Liz thinks this is the worst thing Jessica has ever done. I don’t even need to comment.

The sub-plots: On the day before Todd gets back in town from his family trip, Liz frets about whether to tell Todd about the affair she had with Luke in London. She talks to Sue about it over chocolate mousse cake and Sue insists that there’s no room for dishonesty in a relationship. When Todd comes back, he takes Liz to the beach where they walk and talk. Just as Liz is about to tell Todd about all the fake werewolf dick she got in London, Todd suddenly tells Liz that he has a confession to make: He also had an affair. He had a fling with someone he met while he was staying at his grandmother’s over the past couple of weeks. The other girl reminded him a lot of Liz and he spent loads of time with her, then realized she was faking her interest in books and shit so that Todd would like her. He pulls that whole “I only did it ’cause I missed you” bullshit. Liz gets upset and fails to tell Todd that she, too, “met someone.” In fact, she lies and claims she only thought about Todd while in London! She demands Todd tell her the other girl’s name, but he won’t because he thinks she should get over it already and do an insta-forgive. He goes, “Liz, please try to calm down and see how silly the whole thing is.” What a condescending piece of shit. I can see why Liz was attracted to him since she, too, is a condescending piece of shit. Anyway, Liz tells him their being together is what’s silly and runs away from him. She’s right. They’ve cheated on each other numerous times before – Todd with Jessica, then Liz with Bruce, then Liz with Luke and now Todd with this random chick. I’m tempted to say Todd cheating is Liz getting her just deserts and laugh, but at this point, there’s seriously a whole chain of just deserts and I can’t remember who started it anymore. (And yes, the correct phrase is “just deserts”, not “just desserts”!) I was gonna say it was Liz with Nicholas Morrow, but even in Double Love Todd couldn’t make his fucking mind up which twin he wanted half the time. It’s like they’re all sixteen years old or something.

Not to worry, everything is resolved at Jeremy’s fucking bachelor party. First Todd has a heart-to-heart with Steven who’s all like, “Oh don’t worry, I only ran around on Cara with girls who looked just like my dead ex-girlfriend a couple of times. Just help Liz deal.” Okay, that’s not exactly what he said but he may as well have. Then when the girls crash the party, Steven convinces Liz to dance with Todd. She does, and then confesses that she, too, cheated and Liz and Todd kiss and make up and agree it was normal for them to have these flings, or something. I don’t even give a fuck.

The other sub-plot is about Lila and Robby. After Jessica plants the seed in Lila’s mind that Robby only cares about her money, Lila starts worrying. The couple eats at La Maison Blanche, Lila’s treat, and Lila is taken aback when Robby orders not only a chef’s salad, but a filet mignon as well. (The filet mignon is described as being $20 which has gotta be pocket change for Lila.) Lila gets even more suspicious when Robby cheerfully admits he has no plans to try and sell his art and seems happy to be a starving artist forever. She decides to test him by tricking him into thinking she is also poor. She lies and tells him she is an orphan that the Fowlers took into their home as a young companion to their real daughter, Venice. She tells him a whole Cinderella-style sob story about how she was made to clean up after Venice starting at age 8, was always treated second best to Venice, and ended up taking the blame for a lot of Venice’s bad behavior. Now Venice is away at boarding school while Lila continues to live with Venice’s parents. She says she’s been paying for their dates with the few hundred dollars she managed to squirrel away. Haha! Robby buys her story and tells her what a strong and beautiful woman she is. Lila is disappointed that she may have just made all this shit up for no reason, and is now fearful that Robby likes her more because he thinks she’s such a strong woman for being lifelong servant to the fictional Venice. If this story line didn’t involve Lila, it would be totally boring. And you know, I’m pretty sure Lila dated some other dude who was broke before but I can’t put my finger on it. (Maybe I am thinking of Evan from Lila’s Story, who was always borrowing her money for his drag races.)

Lila keeps up her bullshit for no apparent reason and I’m annoyed they have Lila Fowler acting this way over a dude. She lies and tells Robby she loves poetry, and then she lies and tells him she loves to cook. He’s all excited and has her come over to cook brunch for him the day of the wedding. She tries to make waffles but they come out totally inedible. Robby tries to act like they’re good, but then winds up running off to spit them out in the trash. Instead of owning up to everything, which would be more than a good idea at this point, Lila claims she has no idea why the waffles came out so badly. Robby thinks it’s because she tried a new recipe because he’s a dumbass and says he can’t wait for them to have fun cooking together. This BS drags on for a bit, then finally, on the day of Sue and Jeremy’s wedding, Lila admits to him that she’s the richest girl in town, by showing him her massive closet. Robby couldn’t care less and tells her he loves her no matter what. He says he only ordered filet mignon at La Maison Blanche because he wanted to impress her with his good taste. What? They make out in the closet.

Oh, and Lila wears an ivory dress to the wedding. Hello, FAUX PAS!

Other stuff: Liz’s latest self-help books: First, we have Love: Addiction and Obsession and How to Overcome It. What is the “it” in the title referring to: addiction or obsession? Anyway, this book convinces Liz that Jessica has a “love addiction”. I don’t disagree but I think it’s more like Jessica is addicted to loving herself. After Liz dumps Todd for cheating on her, she reads Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ten Steps to Surviving Your Breakup. Finally, Liz reads Women as Seen Through the Eyes of Male Society and gets all fired up about the patriarchy. What’s especially weird to me is that Enid and Olivia act like she’s ridiculous for reading these books, but in the very last SVH book, they were ALL reading these types of books and gathering together to discuss them! Not only that, but Olivia at least is hardly the type of person to treat Liz like she’s weird for caring about sexism. It only makes sense to me when Liz is trying to piss all over somebody’s wedding joy, which by the way, further shows what a hypocrite Liz is. She won’t let Jess piss all over Sue’s wedding joy by telling the goddamn truth, but she sees nothing wrong with bitching about the evil of weddings to someone on the night of her freaking wedding!!!!

Jeremy is described as having “enormous coffee eyes.”

Jessica wants to learn about rain forests just because Jeremy cares about them (and conservation issues in general). She thinks to herself that maybe they’ll go on adventures to the Amazon “or wherever rain forests are.” Haha, maybe she can give Jeremy one of the “Save the Rain Forest” buttons she had made for the Jungle Prom Queen crown back in A Night to Remember. 

Throwback to earlier books: Jessica thinks about how she hates being called “cute” or “adorable”, yet one of the opening lines in the very first SVH book, Double Love, called her “adorable.” She also gets irked when Sue calls her by her nickname, Jessie, because Jessica doesn’t like for anyone but Liz to call her that. But “Jessie” was something she went by quite a bit in the earliest SVH books.

The Wakefield family does some kind of cook-off where each family member makes a favorite recipe each night of the week. This all started because Ned makes his “famous” blueberry waffles for breakfast. Here’s what each person makes: Liz – peach cobbler,  Sue – blueberry pie, Ned – his “famous chili” made with a secret recipe, Sue – French toast. Steven jokes he’s just going to nuke some frozen shit, and needless to say Jessica doesn’t make shit.

Jessica decides to wear less makeup because she thinks a guy like Jeremy likes the “natural look.”

One thing I recently found out is that Ingenue magazine, which the twins have been reading a looooong time, was a real magazine. Its last issue came out in the 1970s, so I guess Francine decided to just bring it back to life again. When I looked it up, I fell into a rabbit hole reading about some scandal with a sexually explicit article about heavy petting published at the end of its original run!

Coming up next: The book tells us that “Jeremy is back” (oh goody) in another “new” 3-part mini-series, which the book claims is also called “Sweet Valley Scandal” even though that’s also the name of the mini-series we just finished. I think even the publisher was getting bored at this point. Before those next books were released, however, Bantam put out the first of the two “Secret Diaries” books where we get to hear the innermost thoughts of the twins. I’ve been really excited to read those, so I guess that’s where we will head next!

#107 Jessica’s Secret Love

HEY EVERYONE! Jessica Wakefield is TOTALLY EFFING BATSHIT CRAZY!

Now that I have your attention by just all-caps repeating what we already knew, it’s time for the next great Sweet Valley mini-series … *drumroll* … Sweet Valley Scandal! As the back of this book tells us, “Sweet Valley has never been so shocked!” I very much doubt that! This mini-series is mercifully only 2 books long, which is good because I’m still feeling like nothing’s going to top that silly-ass werewolf bullshit.

IMG_20190505_174431

This is some Fatal Attraction-style bullshit!

Our story opens after the twins have flown home from London. It’s still summertime, and they’re on the beach babbling about their wolf-man adventures with Lila and Enid. Since Jessica doesn’t really want to hang out with freakin’ Enid, she convinces Lila to go jogging on the beach with her so they can gossip. The girls are talking about how they need some new guys because it’s been a whole two days since Jessica was dating anyone, when just then! An errant Frisbee hits Jess in the head and knocks her ass over. Two hot men run over to apologize. The one who threw the Frisbee at Jessica introduces himself as Robby Goodman and offers to buy her a soda, which Jessica turns down. So he goes off with Lila (more about that later), and the older one takes one look at Jess, and they fall head over heels in love at first sight. No, seriously, that’s what we’re supposed to believe happens. They barely said one word to each other. They kiss, but then he flips out and says they can’t be doing this and runs away. Jessica goes back to Liz and Enid and cries she’s met the first man she ever loved since Sam. For fuck’s sake, it was quite literally the last book in which she told Liz the same thing about Robert Pembroke! Now she’s all, “Oh, Robert and I knew it would never last.” Haha, okay, that’s not what you were thinking while imagining yourself becoming Lady Pembroke, Jessica!

Back at the Wakefield house, the days go by and Jessica continues to obsess over her stupid mystery man whose name she doesn’t even know. But Alice Wakefield has some news. You see, apparently Alice’s college roommate, Nancy Marest Gibbons, passed away 3 months ago, devastating Alice. Now Nancy’s daughter, Sue Gibbons, is engaged to be married and she’s contacted Alice about having a California beach wedding or something. So Alice wants to invite Sue to live with them for the next month or so and plan the perfect Sweet Valley wedding, because in this world all weddings take only about a month tops to plan (and if you’re in London, it’s only a couple of days!). The twins think that sounds great and are eager to play wedding planner (again!). Liz even remarks on how of course she can help because she helped plan Mona Whitman’s wedding. So, Sue flies in from New York and moves into Steven’s room, because Steven is away at school. I guess he’s doing summer school. Now that he’s got Billie, maybe he actually doesn’t want to come home every weekend.

We learn that Sue’s only eighteen and her fiance, Jeremy Randall, is 23. Apparently Sue is taking a gap year between high school and college to work an internship in NYC at a conservation group called Project Nature, and that’s how she and Jeremy met. They worked a lot together and got close, so now they’ve decided they may as well tie the knot. Gee, how romantic. When the twins wonder why someone would want to get married so young, Alice does some babbling about how Sue is grieving her mother’s death and so getting married and having kids of her own is probably going to help her get over it. WTF? Anybody ever hear of grief counseling in this damn series? (No, unless the counseling is provided by teenagers at Project Youth) When Sue talks about being engaged, she hints at the twins that they had to get married before they ended up getting “in trouble.” If you’ve seen Dirty Dancing, you know she means “knocked up.” Jessica is jealous that Sue is only 18 and already planning a wedding. I’m having such a hard time buying that Jessica would act like this normally. I guess we could say it’s because she’s still suffering over Sam, but she’s had plenty of flighty adventures since then.

Sue is obnoxiously sweet and, of course, loves everything about Sweet Valley and the twins. However, I feel like we’re supposed to pick up on some kind of hint that Sue isn’t what she seems. Several such “hints” are dropped when the twins show Sue the Sweet Valley Mall and start talking about shopping for the wedding. First of all, Sue is delighted that they can just drive everywhere, which is so un-environmentally friendly for someone working for a conservation org. Then the girls discuss where Sue should register for wedding gifts. As Jessica and Liz are arguing whether Sue will want practical gifts or expensive gifts like china, crystal, and silver – in front of Sue, like she’s not there! – Sue shocks both of them by saying she wants the expensive stuff and Jeremy can have the practical stuff and that she can’t wait to “make out like a bandit.” When they discuss where the couple should go for their honeymoon, Jessica says Paris would be romantic, and Sue agrees. Then Liz barks at Jess – again, in front of Sue, like Sue’s not there – that because Jeremy and Sue work for a conservation non-profit, she’s sure they would rather go somewhere that they can work, like Costa Rica, even though Sue LITERALLY JUST SAID she loves the idea of Paris! Sue meekly agrees that maybe Liz is right. You know, because people who work for non-profits are supposed to be complete martyrs and ignore self-care in favor of working every chance they get. Shut the fuck up, Liz! This is one of many hints that we receive that Sue has no real sense of self. Either that, or she’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Since it’s Sweet Valley, I really have no idea which one it is. Or, you know, she could just be a typical 18-year-old. I know some people mature fast at 18, but I also know we’re not about to find any real-to-life examples of such folks in a Sweet Valley High book.

As the last stop on their mall sojourn, the twins head to the jewelry counter so Sue can look at engagement rings. It seems Jeremy didn’t have time to get her one yet, so Liz wants to see what Sue likes so she can make a mental note to tell Jeremy later. The three girls decide to have some fun by each picking out the engagement ring they would want and showing it to the others. Liz picks a pearl ring, Jessica picks a sapphire ring, and Sue picks a giant diamond solitaire. Of course, there’s a lot of talk about how ostentatious this ring is and more utter shock on the part of Liz at how Sue seems to have expensive tastes. Liz is just dying to find things to look down her nose at people for, without actually offering any real assistance, like talking about a budget. Later on, Sue tells Liz that her father was never able to give her mother a proper ring, so that’s why the ring is so important to her. Now Liz feels (mildly) ashamed.

Jeremy flies into town from New York and comes over to the Wakefield house to have dinner … and surprise, Jeremy Randall is the same guy that Jess kissed on the beach. Jessica is shocked out of her gourd as Sue screams with glee at the sight of him and throws herself into his arms. Jessica runs off to the bathroom to throw water on her face and have a minor breakdown. At the dinner table, she has to listen to them excitedly talk about wedding plans, of course, egged on by everyone else. It seems Sue wanted to get married at a big cathedral in town or something, but Jeremy wants to do a beach wedding so that’s what they’re doing. After dinner, the couple leave to go make out at the beach (that’s basically what they tell everyone they’re doing), and Jessica breaks down and tearfully tells Liz that Jeremy is the guy who kissed her. Liz says maybe Jeremy was just sowing one last wild oat and is moving on now and that Jess should too. She also blames Sue for the incident: “If Sue were really strong within herself, maybe Jeremy wouldn’t be attracted to other women.” She’s on some dumb kick about self-empowerment for women, and I guess self-empowerment for women means blaming yourself when your partner can’t stay faithful to you. Liz then starts preaching about Jessica being attracted to men who are already taken because Jessica is also not “strong within herself”. So Jessica throws Liz’s bullshit right back in her face by reminding her of how she went after Bruce Patman even though he was dating Pamela. Liz starts making stupid excuses about how that was DIFFERENT. Hahahaha, hypocrite Liz is not strong within herself. (Wait till we get to the sub-plot!)

Jessica can’t get over this dude to whom she’s barely spoken two whole sentences, so she launches a plan to steal him from Sue. The morning after the dinner, Jessica wakes up to find a note on the kitchen table from Liz, who says she’s taken Sue to the “Fern Street Bookshop” to buy a wedding planner, and she’ll be back later to pick her up and then go get Jeremy. But when Jeremy calls, Jessica lies and says that Liz is going to meet them at the mall so they can show him the ring Sue liked and tells him to come over so she can take him there. On the way to the mall, Jeremy tries to talk to her about their kiss on the beach, but Jessica plays dumb. When they get to the jewelry store, she has Jeremy guess which ring Sue wanted and he chooses the one Jessica liked. The saleslady, assuming Jessica is Jeremy’s fiancee, then has Jessica try it on. Awkward! I like the way there wasn’t a salesperson to be found when the three girls were in there earlier. Jessica shows Jeremy the ring Sue really chose and he buys it, with his “eyes widening at the price.”  Jessica then admits that she lied to Jeremy about Liz meeting them, because she wanted them to be alone together. Oh yeah, they also run into Bruce Patman and Jessica tells him to get lost.

Back at the Wakefield homestead, Sue mentions that she and Jeremy are going to eat dinner at the Carousel restaurant that night, so Jessica quickly starts calling up random guys to take her there so she can attempt to make Jeremy jealous. Aaron, A.J., and Winston all turn her down, but she manages to convince Bruce Patman of all people, even though he mentions he’s got to be careful because he nearly lost Pamela after he was running around with the other Wakefield. (And even though Jessica was just super rude to him in front of Jeremy at the mall.) Bruce tells Jessica she’ll have to pay for the dinner herself even though he’s filthy rich. For the date, Jessica borrows Liz’s aquamarine silk sheath with a matching bolero jacket with “white piping.” That’s a uh, interesting picture. At the restaurant, Bruce pisses Jessica off by ordering all sorts of expensive shit off the menu. They argue at the table while simultaneously trying to fake looking romantic because Sue and Jeremy are watching them (with great interest, since Jessica was just rude to Bruce at the mall earlier). It’s actually pretty funny. When Jessica realizes Jeremy is about to present Sue with the engagement ring over at their table, she runs over to interrupt them. Sue invites them to sit down and have dessert with them, and Jeremy starts getting pissy at Bruce and making dumb threats about how he’d better treat Jessica right. Jessica loves it, of course. Jeremy and Bruce act like they’re about to come to blows, so Jessica and Bruce leave without ordering dessert and it’s not even clear Jessica paid for their meal. Sue doesn’t seem super disturbed by the fact her fiance was about to punch out some guy he just met.

Jessica finishes the night off by giving Bruce a kiss on the mouth for no apparent reason. I guess she either forgot nosy Caroline Pearce lives in her neighborhood, or she thought it would be cool if Pamela had another Wakefield-twin related reason to dump Bruce again.

The next morning at breakfast, Sue gleefully shows off her engagement ring while Jessica searches for some cereal that “isn’t good for you” to get over her pain. Haha! A couple days previous, she was eating “medicinal ice cream”. Isn’t this the type of eating that Liz and Jess were always looking down their noses at Robin Wilson and Lois Waller for doing? Liz and Jess then take Sue out shopping for bridal gowns. They end up at a shop called Bridal Glory where Jess tries to push the ugliest dresses she can find on Sue, while Liz gives Jess the evil eye. Sue finally finds a great dress that looks good on her. She also exposes that Jessica was with Bruce at the restaurant last night by trying to gossip about it with the twins. Liz figures out what Jessica was up to and is pissed as hell that Jess was obviously trying to mess shit up – especially because Sue just asked both twins to be her bridesmaids, because of course she did!

Liz takes Sue to look at possible beaches for the wedding site, where Sue frets about what will happen if it rains on her wedding day, and mentions maybe the cathedral wedding she wanted with the country club reception would be better. Liz encourages Sue to do what she wants, but then Sue relents and reiterates that she wants whatever type of wedding Jeremy wants. OK, I’m confused.  So Sue voices that she wants more expensive options for the ring, the honeymoon, the registry, etc. and Liz looks down on her for that and pushes more economical options, but then when Sue starts talking about wanting a wedding that’s probably going to cost more, Liz is all about how Sue should do what she wants. What? I like how Liz is mad that Jess is trying to interfere with the wedding and can’t just mind her own business, while Liz herself has her own special brand of interference. Although, I gotta say, apparently Jeremy is paying for everything. What kind of non-profit does this man work at?

Meanwhile, Jessica gets a manicure and then comes home to take a swim, which is interrupted by Alice Wakefield and Jeremy. Alice is fretting because she was supposed to take Jeremy to the caterers to meet Sue and Liz for an appointment, but now she has to go do some other shit and needs Jessica to take him. Jess is only too happy. Jeremy drives, and she “accidentally” directs him to Miller’s Point instead. Jeremy is a moron and/or a total cad, so he, a full-grown man, starts wheedling at this 16-year-old girl about how he can’t stand the way she looks at him, then starts kissing her, while babbling about how he’s supposed to marry Sue. I guess we’re supposed to see Jessica as the femme fatale here, but Jeremy is no better. Jessica starts playing hard-to-get again and directs him to leave and gets them to the caterers, late of course. Liz gives Jessica the side-eye because she knows there’s no way Jessica was really “lost”. Liz and Jess listen to Sue and Jeremy argue about what to serve at the wedding. Sue wants lobster, but she also wants champagne, and Jeremy says their budget can’t cover both. He suggests they have chicken if champagne is important to Sue, even though she’s not of age to drink (as he points out, most guests won’t be). Haha, I don’t think anyone really monitors your age at a wedding. Sue finally agrees that chicken and champagne makes sense, and they seem happy.

After the catering meeting, the gang goes to the Dairi Burger where they sit with Robby and Lila, and Jeremy salivates over Jessica licking strawberry milkshake off of her mouth. Then everyone sees Bruce come in with Pamela which raises the ire of Jeremy and Sue since they still think Bruce is Jessica’s steady man. Jessica tries to keep Jeremy and Sue from calling Bruce over to their table, and claims Bruce and Pam are just friends, but then Bruce kisses Pammy. Sue and Jeremy are upset & Jeremy wants to go over and punch Bruce in the face or something because he has some kind of anger management problem. He makes a big deal out of how Jessica doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. Jessica snaps at him and makes a dramatic statement that she does in fact deserve to be loved by someone who loves her and her alone, but that Jeremy is hardly the person to teach Bruce that lesson. Sue looks on with bewilderment, totally confused but ultimately suspecting nothing. EARTH TO SUE. YOU ARE NOT “STRONG WITHIN YOURSELF.”

The next day, Sue takes Liz and Jess bridesmaids’ dress shopping. I should note that Sue does have girl friends flying in from NYC for the wedding, but she’d still rather have the twins stand up for her. She also wastes no time talking about how the twins’ coloring means they’ll end up looking good in anything. It wouldn’t be an SVH book without some kind of reminder that the twins look perfect. Sue picks peach bridesmaids’ dresses, which Jessica starts to insult, until Liz takes her aside and gives her a talking-to. She threatens Jessica by saying if she doesn’t start behaving, Liz will convince Sue that she and Jeremy should elope, and I guess it goes without saying that Sue will be convinced. Oh my god, there’s so much wrong with this fucking story. Run, Sue, run.

Liz’s threats scare Jessica, so she agrees to get the peach bridesmaid’s dress. The ladies then pick up Sue’s dress along with a heap of other accessories. As they walk back to the Jeep, Sue makes a remark about hoping Jeremy likes her bridal underthings, reminding Jessica that newlyweds do often have sex on the wedding night. Jessica flips the fuck out and reacts by deliberately TOSSING SUE’S WEDDING DRESS RIGHT IN THE PATH OF A PICK-UP TRUCK, AND WATCHING IT GET RUN OVER. Oh my GOD. Jessica needs HELP. Sue flips out screaming while Jessica pretends it was an accident, that her arms just magically sprung outward and flung a dress for no real reason. Back home, Alice determines the dress is actually not ruined, just really dirty. Yeah, okay. Alice makes Jessica pay to have the dress dry-cleaned herself, and Jessica pouts because she’s already broke from buying Bruce dinner. But if you think Jessica has hit rock bottom … oh wait, it gets worse!

Sue and Jeremy go to the mall to register for wedding gifts. Recounting this trip to the twins and Alice later, Sue later gets upset because Jeremy thought the china pattern she picked out was “tacky” and he didn’t want any crystal on the registry at all. She starts bawling over it, and Alice reassures her it’s “cold feet.” Alice, Sue, and Liz then leave the house to go run wedding errands while Jessica makes excuses to stay at home. Jeremy is supposed to call later when he’s able to meet up with the others, and Jessica promises to direct him to meet the others when he calls, and once again no one but Liz is suspicious of Jessica’s shit. So Jeremy calls and Jessica tells him to come on over because the others will be back soon. Jeremy is all like “Huh that’s not what Sue said earlier, but I’m sure this isn’t suspicious at all, either that or I just really want to hop in Jessica’s pants.” He shows up with his tux because he wanted to try it on and see how it looks with Sue’s dress – is that really necessary? Jess has him try it on, claiming that this way Sue can see it as soon as she gets back to the house. Jessica then runs upstairs and puts on Sue’s bridal outfit – headpiece, dress, everything – and comes downstairs in it! OH MY GOD THIS IS SOME STALKER BULLSHIT. She then throws herself at Jeremy telling him she knows he loves her and starts kissing him. When he seems less than enthusiastic, she starts bawling hysterically. They end up having a heartfelt talk on the couch and snuggling in Sue’s fucking wedding dress while Jeremy admits he does love Jessica but insists he’s got to marry Sue and begs Jessica to forget him. Jessica reluctantly goes upstairs and tries to get the dress off before the others come back, but the zipper is stuck because, get this, the dress is too small for her! Too small for a Wakefield? Never in a million years did I think these books would actually admit that someone is more petite than a Wakefield twin. Ultimately, Liz has to help Jessica out of the dress, and the zipper sticks and tears so now Liz has to mend it for her pathetic ass sister. It’s times like these that I can either totally see why I’m still doing this SVH series project, or don’t understand why I’m doing it at all!

To help Jessica get over Jeremy, Liz goes to the library, finds a research paper that Jeremy and Sue worked on together, photocopies it, then comes home and shoves the photocopied papers in her sister’s face. She tells Jessica that while Jeremy may not be that crazy about Sue, they obviously have a great deal in common! Yes, that’s a great reason to MARRY SOMEBODY. I HATE YOU LIZ. Somebody PLEASE tell Sue about her damn fiance already!

The Wakefields host an engagement party for Sue and Jeremy at their house, and Jessica puts on some dress that’s supposed to make her look super hot. It’s the one that’s on the cover … not impressed. At the party, Jessica dances with Bruce while Winston dances with Pam, and Jeremy gets jealous. Then Sue stupidly suggests that Jessica should dance with Jeremy. Sue, please make like Sherlock Holmes and get a clue. As they dance, Jeremy tells Jessica how jealous he is of Bruce, and Jessica finally admits they aren’t really dating. Jeremy then moans that he wants to be alone with Jess, so she takes him to some tall hedge on the Wakefield property that we’re just now hearing about. They make out while listening to the partygoers run around trying to find Jeremy for some toast they’re about to have for Sue and Jeremy. Nice!

The sub-plots: There are two. In the first one, Lila gets involved with Jeremy’s friend Robby Goodman (the one who threw the Frisbee at Jessica). He’s 20 and an artist, and supposedly super wealthy. He’s staying at his parents’ mansion for the summer and driving their Lambo … or so he says. Lila and Robby fall in love, but then Lila learns he’s not at all wealthy; in fact he’s really struggling financially as an artist, trying to put himself through school, and just house-sitting for some rich family, or something like that. Lila can’t stand the thought of dating someone who’s not rich, so she dumps Robby. I think she should be more concerned that he lied to her and only revealed the truth once she loved him. Not to worry, Jessica helps get them back together at the engagement party. How nice of her, I guess?

The second sub-plot is hysterical, and so appropriate for Liz. Due to Sweet Valley’s continuous efforts to show that people really do suffer following traumatic events, Liz is having difficulty getting over the fact that she cheated on Todd with a guy who turned out to be a serial killer. (Todd, by the way, is presently away for two weeks visiting his grandma.) Of course, they gloss over the whole “cheated on” part. To try to understand why she trusted a guy who believes in werewolves, Liz starts reading self-help books, and goes on a “self-realization” trip. She starts quoting the books at Jessica extensively, and encouraging her and Sue to get in touch with their “primal woman.” She invites Sue to a special gathering: “Some of my friends and I are going to get together for a girls-only evening to explore our relationships – not only with one another, but with our boyfriends, too.” When I first read that line I thought Liz was hosting an orgy, but the girls are actually just getting together to read from their self-empowerment books and encourage each other, or something. You know how Liz loves to lecture people, so this shit starts getting old real quick. Liz makes Jess so mad at one point that Jess snatches her book away and throws it down the staircase, accidentally (sure!) hitting Sue in the head.

The most hilarious scene occurs when, hoping to help Jessica get over Jeremy, Liz invites drags her to a “primal woman” session held at the local rec center, based off of the book Primal Woman, Woman of Strength. I think maybe they’re doing a parody of the Susan Powter book that was so popular around this time, but I’m really not sure. The Primal Woman session leader has everyone sit in a circle on the floor around a hibachi, which is supposed to represent an ancient fire circle, and everyone receives a fake animal fur to put on. The leader tells them they need to choose new names for themselves to take back their power from the patriarchy. The idea is that your last name, one way or the other, comes from a man’s last name, since last names are traditionally passed down from father to daughter, and never mother to daughter (or not in this group anyway). And so now you’re supposed to take back the power by picking your own name. The session leader calls on Jessica, who says she wants to be known as just “Jessica” a la Cher, Madonna, or Sade, and the session leader has some kind of problem with Jessica just dropping her last name, EVEN THOUGH THAT MATCHES THE WHOLE LINE OF THOUGHT THAT WAS JUST PRESENTED TO EVERYONE. OH MY GOD I’M SO CONFUSED. Liz, meanwhile, declares that her new name is Runs-with-the-Wind. Hahaha, I was about to Run-to-the-Toilet to pee myself laughing the first time I read that shit. Oh my lord, if Liz starts making people call her that in real life … please let this happen in the next book, or don’t, I don’t know if my wine budget (and bladder) are big enough to get me through this shit. The other ladies choose names like Shakara, Lion-Woman, Fire-Maker, Flower-in-the-Sun, and Kolanda and it feels like everyone is just doing some kind of weird pseudo-cultural appropriation. Finally, the session lady encourages everyone to stand up one by one, and unleash their best primal woman scream. When she calls on “Runs-with-the-Wind”, Liz ends up doing a super loud, long, ear piercing scream and I want to plug my ears just thinking about it. Seriously, she can run-to-the-garbage with that bullshit. Jessica renames her “Hurricane-Lungs”.

Sue later says she wishes she could have gone to the primal woman session, because it sounds “so interesting” and yeah, she’s definitely not sorry she couldn’t go. Later on, Enid and Liz lament that they might have to move one of their own “sessions” to accommodate hosting a surprise bridal shower for Sue, and I’m getting worried they might decide to combine the two and gift Sue with nothing but fake animal furs, primal woman books, and a hibachi.

So yeah, now we know what “female empowerment” Liz looks like and it’s utterly useless when it comes to truly helping women. Just stick my finger into an outlet and call me shocked. Oh yeah, and at one point Liz talks to Todd on the phone and tells him she’s been hanging out with her girlfriends and talking about female empowerment, and he gets THREATENED. He says she should be able to share all her problems with him alone, and not with her girlfriends, and tells her that if he wanted to talk to his guy friends about problems and not her, she’d call him sexist. Liz, just throw the whole man away.

On the cover: I had to read the book to understand who’s who. At first I thought that was Jessica plastering herself against the glass to glare at Sue and Jeremy making out, or maybe Sue glaring at Jessica and Jeremy. Nope! Based on the outfits and the hair, it’s Jessica and Jeremy kissing at the engagement party, while fuckin’ Liz is glaring at them through the glass and looks like she’s either plotting to strangle them with that string of lanterns, or maybe do a primal woman scream at them. But in the book itself, Liz doesn’t see them kissing (unless that’s going to be revealed in the next book) because they’re in a damn hedge, not out in the open on the patio!

Other stuff: The Beach Disco now seems to be called the Beach Cafe, or maybe those are two different things.

At the start of the book, Jessica is now big into using sunscreen because she likes the pale look she attained in London.

Lila calls Todd a “drip” and says that Liz’s problem is she’s been dating him for way too long. NAILED IT.

Bruce refers to Pamela as “the only sane girl I’ve ever dated.” Damn, he just slammed everyone on the planet, including his sweet dead girlfriend Regina, whom he totally fucked over. I’M STILL PISSED.

Books that Liz, Enid, Penny, and Cheryl consult to learn how to become empowered women include:

  • Real Women, Bad Men
  • Primal Woman, Woman of Strength
  • Attracting the Love You Want 
  • An unspecified book about African-American women’s issues.

The books with titles all seem to be fictional, which I wanted to check since the series  recently featured a real astrology book. The third book is probably based on the real-life book Getting the Love You Want.

When Jeremy and Sue argue at the caterer’s, the caterer tries to mediate by saying “Children, children.”

There’s a scene where Sue tells the Wakefields that Jeremy is helping Robby change the oil in a car, “or some manly thing like that.” I like how empowered woman Liz says nothing in return.

In one of the scenes where Jessica gets Jeremy to come to the Wakefield house while Jessica is there alone, she considers being out front soaping up the Jeep and dripping wet when he arrives.

We learn that the Carousel is Jessica’s favorite restaurant, despite the fact it’s so freakin’ expensive. I guess she never had to pay her own way there before.

In one of my favorite scenes in the whole book, Lila and Robby show up at the Carousel for dinner and unexpectedly run into Jessica and Bruce as they’re there trying to show off for Jeremy and Sue. Lila expresses shock at seeing the two of them together and remarks that if Bruce were there with Liz, she’d understand. OW, I felt the heat from that burn.

We also learn that Lila Fowler hates jogging which doesn’t surprise me at all.

Sue seems to have chosen Moon Beach as the wedding site. Moon Beach is the same one featured prominently in The New Elizabeth.

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: “Oh, shut up. You know I get plenty of exercise. I must have gone around the entire mall twice yesterday, looking for a new pair of sandals.”

Coming up next: We find out if this story ends with Jessica bringing a knife to Sue and Jeremy’s nuptials!

Fun fact: I marked my place in this book with a bookmark I’d saved from the copy of 1994 Hotscopes Leo I purchased at Waldenbooks 25 years ago, which would’ve been several months before this SVH book came out. Anyone remember the Hotscopes books? They had daily horoscopes for teens. I don’t have my copy anymore unless it’s hiding somewhere!

The World of Sweet Valley: Meet Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield (A free promotional book)

This next book that I’m going to recap is quite a bit different from the others. In truth, I didn’t even know it existed until someone sent it to me several years ago.

IMG_20190408_105056

As you can see from the cover, this book was a free promotional item handed out with purchase of any book in any Sweet Valley series. It’s not technically a Sweet Valley High book, although that is the series it talks about the most – it was released under the overarching brand “The World of Sweet Valley.” The copyright date is June 1994. The book is surprisingly easy to find online; you can order used copies from various vendors on Amazon.com, for example. Still, I don’t think it’s worth it for any but the most die-hard Sweet Valley fan as this is almost entirely content you can get elsewhere, as I’ll soon explain, since I’m recapping it anyway because it’s what I want to do with my life today.

The cover shows twin art from four of the series running at the time:

  • Sweet Valley High (debuted October 1983; twins age 16 and in grade 11)
    • See how they have the twins’ faces in a big neon heart? You could actually get that heart somehow as a light-up wall sign. I saw where someone posted a photo of hers once. When I think about seeing the twins staring down at me from within a glowing wall-heart, I feel frightened.
  • Sweet Valley Twins (debuted July 1986; twins age 12 and in grade 6 – something does not compute)
    • At the time this book was released, the series had been renamed “Sweet Valley Twins and Friends” (& I recall hating the new name)
    • The artwork (lower left corner) is from the SVT book The Great Boyfriend Switch
  • Sweet Valley Kids (debuted October 1989; twins age 7 and in grade 2)
    • I dislike this artwork, which is not what the twins originally looked like on the covers when the Kids series first debuted.
  • Sweet Valley University (debuted September 1993; twins age 18 and college freshmen)
    • The photo is from the first book in the series, College Girls. The cover models are pretty, but they look older than 18 to me.

The book contains samples from all four of these series. Interestingly, there’s no mention of The Unicorn Club, which was a new series out for just 6 months when this book came out. You’d think they’d want to promote the hell out of that!

On the back of the book, there’s a brief letter from Francine Pascal:

IMG_20190408_105110

The book opens with Elizabeth narrating (of course). She babbles on about herself and her twin, California girls bla bla, then gets into the theme of the excerpts, which is “twin switches”. Oddly, the book doesn’t tell us exactly which book each excerpt is from (or even which series, although that part is obvious for anyone who pays attention). Not sure this is the best way to promote the books to people who are reading this book because the promo attracted them to the series for the first time, but ok.

The first excerpt, from the Kids series, is supposedly how the twin switching “all started.” I don’t recognize this excerpt, but I think it’s from Sweet Valley Kids #16, Jessica the TV Star (1991). Todd’s house is being used to film some kind of TV special. Todd has a bit part and has been asked to find a girl to star with him in the brief clip, so he picks Elizabeth … only Liz is home sick from school that day, so he mistakenly asks Jessica instead. Jessica shows up for filming pretending to be her sister, but can’t handle that Todd has the only speaking part in the clip – answering a phone – and she’s supposed to just sit there, so she tries to grab the phone away from him and they have to keep re-shooting the scene. When Liz comes back to school the next day, she slowly figures out that Jessica is hiding something from her. She rides by Todd’s house on her bike and is surprised to see it packed full of people. It turns out Jessica blabbed about the special to her friends, and now the entire class has shown up to watch. Liz comes in and exposes Jessica’s twin switch to Todd who isn’t thrilled, but the director is delighted that there are twins and re-shoots the scene with both of them. What’s more, he loves how Jessica tried to grab the phone from Todd before, so he incorporates that into the scene – only he has Liz do it this time while Jessica continues to just sit there. Jessica is taught a lesson. Haha, psych! She’ll never learn any lesson.

Jessica introduces the next excerpt by explaining that Liz isn’t the goody-goody everyone thinks she is and that she has just as many faults as everyone else, but is better at hiding them. LOLLLL. The excerpt is from Sweet Valley Twins and Friends #66, The Great Boyfriend Switch (1993) which I remember buying and reading. The story in that book is that Liz is dating Todd and Jessica is dating Aaron Dallas. Then at the Valentine’s Day dance, Jessica abandons Aaron to dance with Bruce Patman, whom she starts kissing in front of everyone. Meanwhile, some biotch named Veronica Brooks is trying to steal Todd from Liz, and doing a great job at it because Liz and Todd are both wimps. Liz and Aaron wind up bonding over their shared misery, then they start kissing and dating. The twins end up outraged at one another, and the excerpt is about how Liz and Jessica independently decide to fix things with Todd and Aaron by impersonating one another at some big party someone is holding. Jessica, posing as Liz, is interrupted mid-make-up with Todd by an angry Veronica, and she confronts Veronica for stealing a locket that Todd had given Liz and they get in a shoving match at the party, which ends with “Liz” flying through a patio door at “Jessica’s” feet. The twins then realize what they were willing to do for one another to fix shit and make up. The plan also works on Todd and Aaron because those dummies are too dim to realize that Liz and Jess have switched, even though each girl keeps accidentally referring to “herself” in the third person, blatantly not acting right, and shit like that. When Todd and Aaron move in to kiss and make up with Liz and Jessica, the girls quickly make excuses and dash off to switch clothes, then run back outside to hook back up with their respective 12-year-old doofus beaus.

The third excerpt is from one of the SVH werewolf books I just recapped, A Date with a Werewolf. Liz introduces it by sheepishly explaining how she fell for Luke Shepherd (and totally glossing that shit over – she puts it as “we became close”). She also says that Joy Singleton’s throat had not only been ripped out, but “chewed on.” Haha, that’s a nasty detail that I am 99.9% positive was not actually in the werewolf books. The excerpt, which I think was altered slightly in the beginning to start less abruptly, covers how Liz impersonated her sister in order to prowl around Pembroke Manor looking for clues.

Finally, Jessica introduces an excerpt from one of the Sweet Valley University books (no clue which one). This is the only one of these four series that I never read any of, but I’ve heard a good amount about it. Basically, Jess and Liz are pledging the Thetas, a sorority that their mother was supposedly part of. (Hippie Alice was part of a sorority?)  Jessica dances with a black man and the president of a fraternity starts giving them shit over it because he’s a racist POS. Liz tells the frat prez off in front of everyone, and then she gets a note from the sorority president telling her she has to apologize to the president for offending him and go on a date with him to prove her loyalty to the Thetas. OK, so the Thetas are obviously garbage, and Liz refuses to do it.  Jessica is so afraid that Liz will get them blackballed that she impersonates Liz and goes on a date to the homecoming football game with racist frat boy, who predictably acts like a douche the entire time. Jessica as Liz even makes an impassioned plea for forgiveness. OMG, this is so gross. Liz skipped the game to study (of course), but Steven and girlfriend Billie are there and they see “Liz” with racist frat boy and are appalled. Steven confronts Liz after the game (which Billie has some kind of problem with because she thinks Steven is acting too much like an overbearing dad or something). Liz quickly realizes it was Jessica and pledges to get back at her. Jessica gleefully informs us that Liz forgave her later on, because she “has to.” And that pretty much sums up one of the main reasons why Jessica never learns.

Next, the book gives us special sneak previews of Elizabeth’s Secret Diary and Jessica’s Secret Diary, two Magna Editions that were released later that year. (It’s almost time for me to recap these.) The main purpose of the diaries is to further our understanding that Liz is a hypocrite and Jessica is a sociopath. Liz’s diary excerpt is about how she cheated on Todd with Ken Matthews when Todd first left for Vermont. I guess I’m supposed to be shocked, but Liz is always cheating on Todd with somebody so … Jessica’s diary excerpt is about how she impersonated Liz to go on a date with Jeffrey. During a romantic stroll on the beach, Jeffrey suddenly realizes “Liz” is Jessica, or that’s the impression Jess has, but he makes out with her anyway and then never breathes a word of the incident to Liz. Nice Jeffrey character assassination! And again, how shocking that Jessica would try to make out with her sister’s boyfriend, because she’s never done it before! The only thing that really raised my eyebrows was that they inserted racier language into these. E.g., Jessica thinks about “ripping off Jeffrey’s clothes.”

Lastly, there’s a Sweet Valley trivia quiz which covers all four series. At the end of the quiz, the book says: “To find out the answers, turn to the next page, hold the page up to a mirror, and read the reflection!” Then you turn the page and the print is just regular facing type and you definitely don’t need a stinkin’ mirror. Editing fail!

In the back of the book: There’s yet another Sweet Valley Fan Club ad, plus a promo advertising four upcoming Christmas books, one in each series.

Coming up next …: Now that we’ve finished our werewolf arc, it’s time for the next thrilling mini-series!

%d bloggers like this: