If book covers could talk: #61 Boy Trouble

Elizabeth: Oh Patty[pat, pat] I’m so sorry that you are black.

Patty: That’s ok- wait, WHAT? That’s not why I’m upset. Why would you say that?

Elizabeth: well, you know…uh…. I mean, you’re not blue eyed and blond-haired. Isn’t that what your trouble is all about?

Patty: [SIGH] GEESH! Don’t you know this useless and uneventful book was created for the sole purpose of the creators to say that they did have positive black characters? And to say that they even HAVE black characters? So after this book they can go back to you crazy bitches going to dances and being chased by serial killers and feel okay about themselves.

Elizabeth: Oh, yea! That makes sense. So that’s why I am conveniently doing student profiles for The Oracle and I picked you to write it on, so I can conveniently be part of the plot even though this book is really about you.

Patty: Yea, so anyway, do you want to hear about my boy trouble?

E: Yes, wait. Let me get into position. My hand should go riiiiigghhhht here. Ok.

P: So, my boyfriend is supposed to come home last weekend, but my sister came home and announced she is getting married. So I called my boyfriend Jim to see if he could come home another weekend and he got mad and we had a big fight. So then I was at the movies the next night and saw him with some girl and then I got mad. And then my sister got all bridezilla on me and I yelled at her and then she was mad at me. It was all a big mess but it all worked out in the end.

E: Really? No dance was involved? No serial killers? No cults, vampires, or cheerleading competitions?

P: Um, no.

E: Wow, I can’t believe that was it! And you got a whole book out of it? Soooo, what does this have to do with you being black?

P: Dammit Liz! Nothing! The authors wanted to show that black people are just like white people and have the same petty issues! In fact, we ourselves don’t even seem to realize we are black!

E: Yea, but it did mention your “pretty dark eyes” and “dark hair” and called you a “pretty black girl” every other paragraph.

P: I know, but I don’t write the thing.

E: True…uh, I guess I gotta go, Mr. Collins called me and asked me to wash his car for him, and he asked me to wear a white t-shirt, and I gotta swing by home to get it. This was a great interview! I’m so glad we will finally have a picture of a black person in The Oracle! Btw, I love your pearls. Very country club.

P: Yea, love your barrettes, I guess. I am really unsure why our breasts have disappeared.

Elizabeth: Kay, bye! Here’s my card, call me if you need to talk.

Patty: Good riddance. I REALLY need to ask my parents if we can move.

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39 comments

  1. Diana · October 6, 2008

    “Let me get into position. My hand should go riiiiigghhhht here. Ok.”

    Bwah! This recap is one of my new favorites.

  2. The Kuus · October 6, 2008

    Is it me, or does Patty on the cover look…not black?

  3. Sarah C. · October 6, 2008

    I actually just scored this book from a library sale (or rather my amazing father did–how many men buy SV for their adult daughters?). At one point Patty thinks something like “Elizabeth Wakefield was known for being a really good listener–maybe talking to her would help.” ugh.

    In terms of the cover shot, Patty’s crossed arms seem to signal a lack of receptiveness to Elizabeth’s meddling.

    Also, regarding the above comment about whether Patty looks black or not, can we address this topic, since at bottom it might imply that there is a particular way black people should look? I’m not attacking The Kuus– the question is aimed at myself as well, since the same thought crosssed my mind. I immediately noticed Patty’s long straight (straightened?) hair. The artist also seems to be doing a little of the doe-eyed ambiguous exotic routine. He also seems to have made Elizabeth’s skin whiter than usual and sharpened her features (that jaw line could filet a catfish). I know this is a fun blog, but our critiques do touch on some real issues, which is one reason I keep visiting. Any thoughts?

  4. Rio · October 6, 2008

    CHRIST! Was the cover artist unable to go five books without giving Liz Fakefield that saintly concerned face? For that matter, are the students of SVU unable to go five books without asking her to solve their problems? They should have included a book involving a cruise missile strike just to keep it interesting,

  5. Enid Rollins · October 6, 2008

    Could the ghosties come up with some other plot than “OMG, boy trouble?” and isn’t there anyone who can help others besides Liz? I swear, that girl has a book labeled “People to Help”…and she works on someone new every week. It’s like this (hypothetical charries)

    555. Mary Anderson. Is happy without a guy. She must be lying.

    556. Anna Smith. Is going to the dance with her girl friends instead of a guy. That’s socially unacceptable, and she needs to realize that.

    557. Taryn Nicole…

  6. The Kuus · October 6, 2008

    There’s not so much a particular way black people should look, exactly, as there is a general way people of certain ethnicities don’t look. The chick on the cover looks like a white girl with olive skin, which seems fitting for the overall nature of the Sweet Valley books. It brings to mind the casting of Natalie Wood with self-tanner as Maria in West Side Story.

  7. ihatewheat · October 6, 2008

    Sarah, I think you have a totally valid point. I can see the publishers giver her “white” features [whatever that means, I don't know] because that means she’s just like the other [white] kids. I think it’s no secret that at times lighter-skinned people of color gain more acceptance among whites. Also, standards of beauty in Western society also are often set by white standards, so maybe to make her appear “beautiful” to the readers?

    I appreciate you bringing this stuff up, it doesn’t ruin the fun. It’s looking at this stuff through a critical eye.

  8. ihatewheat · October 6, 2008

    Sarah, I totally gagged at that quote. I’ll find it later and put it on here.

  9. annakelly · October 6, 2008

    That tagline makes me want to fucking scream. Or pull out Liz’s hair.

  10. JordanBaker · October 6, 2008

    Patty has clearly had extensive plastic surgery and destructive hair straightening treatments in order to approximate the uber WASP standard of beauty that permeates Sweet Valley.

    Fight the power, Patty.

  11. Lauren · October 6, 2008

    I actually did not find the way the cover artists portrayed Patty as offensive or trying to make her appear more “white”. However, I do agree that is a very valid point tho, because it happens a lot in books, advertisements, television etc. But, when I saw Patty, for a split second, I thought she reminded me of one of my sisters (which was scary lol). My sisters and I are African American but one is Patty’s complexion, one is browner and I’m even a bit lighter. We also don’t have what I guess are considered typical “Afro-centric” facial features and we can either wear our hair curly or long and straight (And black people’s hair can be straightened with a blow dryer like most people and does not always require chemicals etc.) I guess my issue with the entire subject is that when I was younger I never questioned that I was black, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager and encountered other people who said I didn’t “look black” that I became aware and self-conscious about the whole crazy concept of “blackness”.

    In a way, the picture of Patty is a catch 22 of sorts b/c personally, I appreciated that they didn’t stereotype her and act as if black people can ONLY have curly/kinky hair, dark skin, and full noses and lips. And please understand, it’s not as if those features are less beautiful, they’re wonderful! My point is that people of color DO NOT have ONE look. However, the idea that mainstream America has set a standard of beauty that usually favors “whiter” features is very true. Which is why it’s totally possible that the cover artist was simply trying to portray her with less typically ethnic features in order to appeal to white readers. I don’t know the answer, but the subject makes you think. I will say though that I didn’t look at Patty and think “she looks white”. I thought, “Hey, she looks like me”.

  12. Lauren · October 6, 2008

    Oops, sorry that post was so long guys, wow…

    Also, not trying to get too deep and ruin the fun, this subject just hit a nerve I guess lol :)

  13. BartTempleton · October 6, 2008

    When I see this cover, when I read this recap, I begin mentally revising the lyrics to “Just You Wyte, ‘Enry ‘Iggins” of MY FAIR LADY.

    Just you White, Lizzie Wakefield, just you White.
    You’ll be cooing,
    But your tears’ll be too fyke.
    You’ll be pert and condescendin’
    Well, damn, there is no endin’
    Just you White, Lizzie Wakefield, just you White.

  14. BartTempleton · October 6, 2008

    I’d like to start in on a ’70s-style rant about how Patty’s SOLD OUT TO THE MAN, OMG with her African-hating permed hair…but, er, yeah, this is the time to second Lauren’s screed that there’s no Black Look (TM). Patty looks like the many Black American women whose hair is not permed and has just been brushed out or put in a wrap overnight. She looks like a straight-haired and thin version of my cousin.

    Well, but minus the lazy eye.

    I don’t think The Kuus was trying to say “you all look the same, right?” and it is true that artists and photo eds like to go Halle-crazy with the photoshop skin lightening and nose-narrowing, BUT, yup, African people come in as many different varieties as Europeans. Actually, in more varieties, since if you’ve ever been to a few African countries, you’ll notice the skin tones range from very light to almost black, with all hair and body types in between.

    Odd how the same person who thinks minorities have a stock look takes offense if you suggest that their Italian and Romanian ancestors had something in common. The darkies are supposed to blend together, but heaven forbid Europeans not be special snowflakes to each other ;) .

    Except in Sweet Valley, obviously, where heaven really does forbid non-Aryan Europeans.

  15. Magpie · October 6, 2008

    Just to throw something else into the debate about the cover: the artist worked from real-life models when he painted these, so this is probably based on a real person.

    Which doesn’t necessarily mean, obviously, that he hasn’t altered her features (or made Elizabeth look even paler as a contrast). So, I guess I haven’t actually added anything whatsoever to the debate! ;)

  16. ihatewheat · October 6, 2008

    Can I also throw in there that patty doesn’t even look like a teenager? Pearls and a buttoned-up cardigan?

  17. Janelle · October 6, 2008

    Speaking of the covers being modeled on real people- does anyone know anything about the models? I would love to see what the “real” Jessica and Elizabeth really looked like!

  18. Magpie · October 6, 2008

    Janelle- I don’t know who modelled as the twins, though I am so curious to know! A real person who can reach the perfection of the Wakefields?? All I know is the Courteney Cox is apparently Annie Whitman on the cover of #11. I can’t find the link to the article about that now, though, unfortunately.

    Also, it is absolutely true that Patty doesn’t look like a teenager. She’s dressed exactly like Emily Gilmore!

  19. annakelly · October 6, 2008

    Brava, Lauren! You said exactly what I couldn’t put into words – and then some.

    How many people have seen 16 Candles? I mention it b/c I think Jake’s girlfriend Caroline is a dead ringer for the twins (I am so serious, you guys).

  20. BartTempleton · October 6, 2008

    No love for my Song of Lizzie?

    Fine, let’s see what others can come up with.

    Criteria: must encapsulate the horror that is Caring, Concern, and Condescension.

    your muse: any and every cover featuring (a) Liz AND (b) another person who is not Jessica.

    Exhibit A: #61, Boy Trouble

  21. Amy Slutton · October 6, 2008

    LMAO! I haven’t read this book, but that recap was pure gold!!

    Janelle – I don’t know who the model really was, but the actress that played the main sorority girl character in the first Revenge of the Nerds looks EXACTLY like Jessica Wakefield. If it really was her, it wouldn’t surprise me at all!

  22. Tannaqui · October 6, 2008

    Magpie, good call! She is so Emily Gilmore, right down to the slight sneer.

    Following the Boyfriends post, I really hope we can have a ‘Bad Boys’ post soon, featuring Bruce Patman and Zabka, etc…….

    Who doesn’t love a bad boy?
    I’m looking at you Liz Wakefield, and your 1Bruce1 backseat shenanigans…

  23. Sarah C. · October 6, 2008

    This is for you Bart Templeton. The Kuus brought up Westside Story and I was inspired.

    Robin Wilson’s Theme–to the tune of “I feel pretty”

    I feel lousy oh so lousy
    I feel lousy and not very thin
    Because Elizabeth pities
    Any fat girl who wears a size ten.

    Annie Whitman, she was slutty,
    She was trampy, but yes she was slim.
    And thus, finally, she became a cheerleader
    right after her botched suicide attempt.

    I’ll eat carrot sticks, yes, and celery
    and Liz Hurley’s rank watercress soup.
    And if I’m anorexic, maybe I’ll be able,
    to join Jessica’s dumbass Pi Beta group.

    I really appreciate everyone weighing in on the depiction of Patty’s ethnicity. I was reading Racialicious before I hit the Dairiburger, so identity/representation issues were on my mind.

  24. maybeimamazed02 · October 6, 2008

    Sarah C.–you just brightened my day! Thank you.

  25. Lauren · October 6, 2008

    Thanks annakelly :)

    Speaking of cover models, I read a gossip column of some sort over the weekend where Kirsten Dunst says she was the model for the cover of BSC Claudia and the Phantom Phone Caller (Where CLaud is holding a little blond girl). Im not sure if she was being sarcastic, and if she was I feel like an ass for being so gullible lol, but I couldn’t find a pic of the original cover online to see if it was true. Either way, I thought the idea was funny :) I didn’t know the cover artist based the pics on real people.

  26. Lila Fowler · October 6, 2008

    Omg annakelly, you’re right! Caroline from 16 Candles does look like a Wakefield twin! Lucky her.

  27. ADL · October 6, 2008

    I just found one of the original on eBay, but you don’t really get to see the little girl’s face because Claudia is facing out and has the little girl on her hip facing her… not sure if links are allowed here? If not I apologize in advance…

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Claudia-and-the-Phantom-Phone-Calls-by-Ann-M-Martin_W0QQitemZ270219815932QQcmdZViewItem?_trksid=p3286.m20.l1116#ebayphotohosting

  28. BartTempleton · October 6, 2008

    HAHAHAHA, Sarah C. “any fat girl who wears a size ten.”

    I would love a variety of ironic hipster-ish, 30-something bands to put out a CD anthology of parodies of our fave YA ’80s memories. SVH alone would be fodder for a double-CD.

  29. Janelle · October 6, 2008

    So I looked to see who played the girl in Revenge of the Nerds- her name is Julia Montgomery and if you look her up in google images there are definitely some Jessica and Elizabeth-like qualities about her! The timing is right, too, so I think she definitely could’ve been a model for the twins!

  30. Vanessa Saxton · October 6, 2008

    I don’t know, I really think the Wakefield cover model was Lorie Griffin (Pamela Wells in Teen Wolf). She’s a dead ringer for Jessica. She even has the “Jessica Bangs”
    Cut and paste it: what do you all think?

  31. Christopher · October 6, 2008

    OMG I so love reading these recaps!! I actually laughed out loud.

  32. BartTempleton · October 6, 2008

    Hmm, to me, from the still Vanessa Saxton provides compared to the Google search I did on Julia Montgomery, I’d pick the latter. JM is not a dead ringer, obviously, but the fullness of her cheeks when she smiles has a bit more of the original Wakefield images than Lorie Griffin.

    Remember, the original paintings had a bit of the lioness about them–high cheekbones, full cheeks, and a fair bit of space between the brows. This is what we need to look for when we do this important research. Oh, and my bet is it was an actress/model that was either on the obscure side of “up and coming” or who never hit big.

    If she later became semi-famous, it would surely have been routed by People, UsWeekly and all the other “before they were stars” featurettes.

  33. Cheryl · October 6, 2008

    iheatwheat, that re cap was brilliant! it’s one of my newer favourites! Lauren, Thanks for your post on how the artist depicted patty. You said that more eloquently.

  34. Pauline · October 6, 2008

    OMG. That is HILARIOUS.

    Screw dreams of journalism. (Really, what investigative pieces has Liz written anyway?)

    Liz should open her own therapy clinic – then all twenty people who reside in Sweet Valley would get to take turns sitting in the interrogation chair (pity pat on the back included).

  35. James · October 6, 2008

    wow I used to always say that Annie Whitman was a dead ringer for Courtney Cox! this was around the time she was on “Family Ties” (guess I showed my age there).

    Bruce Patman looks like someone famous too but i could never quite put my finger on it.

    and sandra bacon bore a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Shue

  36. Sharon · October 6, 2008

    I’ve just read Sarah C’s “Robin Wilson Theme”

    That made me laugh A LOT

  37. mickey mouse · October 6, 2008

    ok..my “boy trouble” books is in hardcover, so were my “crash landing” and On the edge”..
    did anyone else have them in paperback???

  38. katie · October 6, 2008

    I like SVH in a way where they dont stereotype the ethnic features. It shows how minorities can be beautiful too…patty..jade..cheryl…etc.

    Although, daaiimmnnn…I really hate liz’s sympathetic look, and her need to touch pattys shoulder. why cant she just butt out of peoples business?? Its nice to care for people, but that saintly look (because her life is utterly perfect) drives me bonkers.

    dont they offer counselling sessions at SVH? or friends to turn to? why only liz??!

  39. Tia Ramirez · October 6, 2008

    WOW. Just… WOW. Patty looks exactly like me when I was twelve years old, with the same features, the same lenght of hair… I brought an old photo of me and compared them. I’m completely struck.

    One of the best covers ever.

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