This wasn’t a fun one to read. We have hits and misses in this series, some that I bash but really love reading, and then we have books like this one, books I barely have the energy to bash because it dragged so badly. The book didn’t really start to get interesting until five sixths of the way in, and even then, it ultimately fell short. It’s the same old formula. I can see now why Bantam/Francine/both decided to switch it up and change directions after #94 with that whole A Night to Remember thing.
It’s summer, again, and Todd has been having problems with his dad lately. This book is written like they just moved back to Sweet Valley from Burlington, Vermont, like a month ago, by the way. I guess that would make sense in a normal timeframe sort of way, you know, the way normal people only have one junior year in high school and it only lasts about 9 or 10 months, and they only have one summer vacation, and they don’t stay 16 forever. But in the Sweet Valley timeline, Todd came back in book 59 and that was years ago. So kinda weird.
Todd’s issue with his father is that his dad is eager for him to take on an internship at Varitronics. Old Bert Wilkins figures he’ll just use his new President title at the company to get some good old nepotism going on! Todd would rather study sports management in college and go on to be a coach or something. Mr. Wilkins thinks that’s not a real job. Mrs. Wilkins, like most of the mother figures in these books, is all opinionless and servin’ up food in every appearance like a good wifey should.
Todd is also having problems with Elizabeth, which is the way it’s been since they started dating, so if they really want to spice things up, I think they should stop having problems for a change and see how exciting that is. Instead they decide the best way to feel closer is supervise 100 screaming brats at a Secca Lake day camp. What in hell? Cara is also present at this day camp! Jessica is also present at this day camp beacause it’s been a while since she got any and she wants to meet hot male counselors! What in hell?
The whole day camp idea doesn’t work as far as bringing Liz and Todd back together goes … gee, color me shocked. It turns out Todd has a big secret. Oh, jeez, here we go. HE NEVER TOLD ANYONE, BUT … when he still lived in Vermont, Todd came across a young dude beating up some poor old man. Todd was sure if he stopped the beating of the man, the perpetrator would just get away, so instead he raced to a pay phone to call the police while the perp continued beating the man. Then Todd waited for the cops to come so he could provide eyewitness account, while the perp still continued beating the man. Wait, so it’s better for the man to suffer more during the 2-3 minutes *or more* it could take for the cops to get there, because at least MAYBE the attacker will get caught? AND we’re really supposed to believe that punch-happy Todd wouldn’t just jump right in and kick that bitch ass? WHATEVER.
It turned out the attacker is Kevin Holmes, son of the powerful Holmes family! He was arrested and put on trial and his dad tried to bribe Todd not to testify! But Todd did anyway, and Kevin was sent to prison for a while! But now he’s out! And looking for revenge! And in Sweet Valley! And one of Liz and Todd’s fellow day camp counselors! Oh God!
Todd never bothered to tell Liz or anybody the story of how Kevin, who’s a year older than Todd, threatened him as he was being lead away in cuffs, swearing he would get Todd back for putting him away. And he still won’t tell. Then Kevin threatens Todd, saying if he ever lets anyone know the truth about him, he will hurt Liz. Todd believes it enough that he refuses to say anything throughout pretty much the entire book, until Kevin’s about to hurt Liz anyway. Oh, did I spoil it for you? Post’s over, everyone go home …
Gah, okay. So Todd and Liz start working at their stupid day camp and – gasp! – one of the counselors is Kevin Holmes! Todd kept thinking he’d seen him around Sweet Valley but was sure he was just going crazy. Now Kevin is back, and he’s charming, handsome, and laid-back. He’s also a killer basketball player … way better than Todd, who’s clearly too busy clenching his jaw to really make a good jump shot. He also rocks at volleyball, making kids love him, and flirting with Jessica.
The other counselors at the camp from Sweet Valley are Aaron, Winston, Enid, Jessica (who only came along to meet boys, of course), and Cara (yes, that Cara). We can’t have it be completely SV people, so they add in Jill Blake and Kyle O’Brien from Big Mesa and Ed Ambrose and Melissa Milliken from Fort Carroll. Isn’t Fort Carroll way out there? That’s that town from Hostage! that the crazy kidnapper man lived in, right? What the hell are they doing all the way out here?
Right away everyone starts cooing over how great Kevin is while Todd keeps biting his lips and not saying anything. Kevin soon starts making threats that get more and more specific about how he’ll hurt Liz if Todd says anything to anyone about his past. Todd even stays quiet when he finds his car windshield busted. And the more Todd holds back, the more upset Liz gets because she’s hurt he’s being distant. Meanwhile Todd starts snapping at Kevin and lashing out at him in front of people and they assume he just hates Kevin for no apparent reason and talk about what an ass he is. Todd even overhears Melissa, Ed, Jill, and Kyle discussing what a dick he is which only adds to his abject misery. Finally Todd grows a pair and tells his parents what’s been happening, but his dad is all, “Look son, people change” or some shit like that and bullies his son into befriending Kevin and helping him start over. WOW, nice, Dad.
Meanwhile, Kevin and Jessica have been hanging all over each other. Jessica is convinced Kevin is the (latest) guy for her. (Sam doesn’t exist yet, or something. Oh don’t worry, this will only get more confusing.) When Kevin asks Jess out, Kevin goes ahead and invites Liz and Todd along as a double date. They decide they’ll go eat at Tiberino’s and then go dancing, and then when Jessica hears that Kevin is interested in working for Varitronics (Mr. Wilkins’ company), she suggests they all meet at Todd’s house first so that Kevin can talk to Mr. Wilkins. This is going to go REAL well. Mr. Wilkins is just bowled over by how great Kevin is and goes ahead and offers this convicted violent criminal a job at his company, then scolds Todd for not being more interested, himself. Like, right in front of everybody. I feel like an embarrassed teenager all over again just reading this. The mortification is oozing out of the page.
It gets worse. Kevin threatens Todd again; this time he wants Todd to bring him over for dinner and act like they’re friends. Todd does, Kevin and Mr. Wilkins get on like Donkey Kong again, and then Todd delights in discovering Kevin going through Mr. Wilkins’ desk later that evening. He runs and tattles, and Mr. Wilkins is all, “Look, son, I told him to go get a report out of there.”
Oh don’t worry, we can’t hit rock bottom and reach a good resolution until everyone is utterly and thoroughly convinced that Todd is the worst human being on Earth. So we have a scene with Todd and Liz dancing at the Beach Disco and Kevin cutting in, and Todd angrily cutting back in after he’s sick of watching them together, and Liz bitching Todd out for being controlling and jealous. Then she starts bawling and dumps him because she thinks they’re just getting sick of each other and he doesn’t really want to be in a relationship anymore. What the fuck, didn’t they already have THAT breakup? Enid praises Liz for her wise decision and tells her it will all work out for the best one way or another, or something.
We’re back at day camp again for Todd’s next descent into madness. Kevin is now brazenly flirting with Liz rather than Jess to piss Todd off, which of course works well. Now that Liz is free, Kevin is going to pull out all the stops to get with her. But, just then! a boy! in the water! drowning! It’s one of Todd’s campers! Todd and Kevin both dash off in the water to save him, and of course Kevin gets to him first. Kevin demands to know why Todd wasn’t watching him and Todd makes a snarky remark about Kevin making it a competition, and everyone is like, “What is your fucking problem Todd? GOD” Todd stomps off and overhears Winston and Aaron talking about how much Todd has changed. I like the way they’re talking to Todd directly to find out how they can help … oh wait.
Meanwhile, stuff starts missing around camp. Cara loses her Lucite keychain that has a picture of Steven in it, Liz’s lavaliere vanishes, Ed can’t find his watch, and Winston pouts about losing his lucky ball cap. Gee, whoooooo do you think is taking it? (And why would he take Cara’s keys? Is he going to steal her car or break in her house, or does he just like Steven’s stern stick-up-the-ass face?) Then people start getting mugged around town, starting with poor old Mr. Caster of Caster’s Bakery … Todd could probably solve it, but HE STILL DOESN’T SAY A FUCKING WORD.
The whole gang minus Todd heads to Guido’s where everyone talks about what an ass he is. That Melissa girl really seems to hate him the most. The table is too crowded and Kevin maneuvers things so he can sit with Liz alone. Jessica is not at all pleased with how Kevin has shifted his attention from one twin to the other. Kevin asks Liz out for a meal sometime and she says that would be great.
Later, Jessica, Lila, Cara, Winston, Aaron, Kyle, and Melissa are at the Secca Lake beach on a lunch break from day camp. They ask Todd to join them but he walks away into the lodge, which leads into a discussion about how dodgy he is lately. Then Kevin comes over and starts telling them about his version of the real Todd and what an ass he was in Burlington. Even though these kids have known Todd forever, and just met Kevin, and their good buddy obviously had some kind of huge problem with Kevin the second they saw him, they all believe Kevin’s version of events. Kevin claims that Todd routinely beat up people on the basketball court in Burlington, even a member of his own team, and then implies he tried to rape a girl in his car later. Everyone is horrified and Jessica decides she’s got to do whatever it takes to keep her sister from getting back together with Todd. When Liz joins Cara and Jess for a game of racquetball, Jess lies and says Lila told her Todd has been trying to mess with some girl at her country club. Liz believes it because she never really remembers who her sister is. Then everyone claims Kyle has a crush on Liz and they should get together.
An old lady is hurt in another mugging. Todd freaks out but of course does nothing. I dislike him immensely. Kevin takes Liz on a date to the Box Tree Cafe. When he shows up to the house, Liz decides they are just being friends because she’s a fucking idiot, in case you didn’t already know that. Jessica sees who Liz is going out with and freaks out and calls her a boy stealer. Kevin acts weird and pushy all evening and Liz is really disturbed. Then he forces an uncomfortable kiss on her when he drops her off.
At the same time, Todd is yelling at his dad for not treating him like a son. He runs and heads off to the beach to think, where he runs into Melissa, the last person who probably wants to see him. Melissa doesn’t see him though, and before Todd can say hi to her, he sees someone attack her, show a knife, yank off her bag and knock her to the ground. Todd doesn’t even try to help, he just runs away! What a fucking dickhole! Instead, he goes home and cries about how he could’ve helped prevent the violence but didn’t. I feel like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer: “Again, things that COULD’VE BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION YESTERDAY!”
Melissa is really shaken up by what happened. Todd finally tells SOMEBODY what is going on. He talks to Aaron and Winston about it, who tell him they believe him, but don’t really act like they do. But then the police find Todd’s pen (with his initials) on the beach and conclude it must have been him. Todd realizes Kevin got it out of his car somehow and planted it there to frame him because he never left the grass that night he saw Melissa getting mugged. The police go ahead and question Todd in front of Melissa about what happened, which has got to be 137 kinds of not right, right? Melissa hates Todd’s guts anyway, but even she is like, “Um … I don’t know …” Todd is arrested because the police think on the basis of Melissa’s “It might have been” it was definitely Todd.
At day camp the next day, Jessica goes in Kevin’s car to get a Frisbee and finds Liz’s lavaliere in the backseat. She immediately thinks Kevin might’ve stolen it. Knowing my sister had gone on a date with this dude recently, that is not the first thought that would enter MY head. Jessica shows the necklace to everyone else who decides maybe Todd was telling the truth. I hate these kids.
Todd’s dad bails him out of jail and then takes him to Secca Lake to get his car. When Todd shows up, everyone is immediately a lot nicer to him and then they tell him that Kevin took Liz off in the woods for a walk. Yep, Kevin is out there trying to strangle Liz to death because, as he helpfully explains, he wants to take one more thing from Todd to get back at him for making him suffer through getting butt-raped in prison. Okay, so he didn’t say the butt-raped part. But he was in jail for what, one week in the Sweet Valley timeline? Stop crying, you’re like the male Lindsay Lohan.
Todd pulls Kevin off Liz and they all go to the police station and crowd into a room to hear Kevin confess to the cops. THIS IS SO NOT KOSHER. The judge is gonna throw this shit right out. Kevin admits he stole Liz’s necklace and even though Liz’s throat is probably still bruised from being choked half to death, she’s all, “YOU STOLE MY NECKLACE!!!” Who did you think stole it, Einstein?
Kevin says he only did what he did because his older brother Brent died … oh god. There’s a reason. THERE’S ALWAYS A REASON. When Kevin was 16, two years ago, Brent was 18 and was letting Kevin drive his car for him and Kevin wrecked it and killed Brent and destroyed the whole family. Todd and his dad learn a valuable lesson and make up. Todd comes to Liz’s house and they make up and make out and watch PBS and play Scrabble.
Welcome to Sweet Valley … where even the bad guys aren’t bad, they’re just … misguided.
WTF? The most fucked thing about this book is the insane timeline. Enid is back with Hugh, so this is after book 84 when they get back together. But then Jessica is not dating Sam, so we have to assume this is all the way before book 80, when Jessica met Sam. AND Cara’s still hanging around and still dating Steven, so this has to be before book 83 as well. BUT the twins are driving the Jeep, which sets this plot after book 85! ME. SO. CONFUSED. How do you explain this? Seriously? Somebody write to me and explain how giant errors like this (and the whole disappearing Annie Sue Sawyer sister bit) happened.
During a conversation between Ned and Steven, it’s helpfully explained that Ned is in corporate law while Steven is interested in environmental law. Corporate … until next book.
THE COVER: This is basically the same picture of Todd that was on the cover of Dangerous Love, repainted, but pretty much the same. It looks idiotic, especially because Todd is smiling, which I don’t think he does on a single page of this book. He’s even wearing the same shirt, and has the same windblown hair. See?
People in the UK got this cover, with Todd looking more like he does on The Love Bet:
Which cover do you like better? Personally, I think we American readers got robbed with our cover portrait. And I don’t know why they would do an entirely different portrait for you lucky UK kids. That’s not fair. I DEMAND ANSWERS.
… just kidding, all I demand is a good night’s sleep because I’m totally wrecked. NEXT UP: Some matchmaking is going on with some characters no one cares about anymore because they haven’t been mentioned in forever. It’s got to be better than this one!
EDIT: In case anyone was wondering … Todd’s initials are TPW.