The one where Mr. Collins is actually being appropriate, or #11 Too Good to Be True

Firstly, thanks to all the new readers I’ve acquired lately. Please keep passing along the link. I want as many people to get the joy (i.e., pain) of remembering and reliving the oppressive, manipulative, shallow Sweet Valley World. It’s done wonders for my self-esteem. I hope it has helped yours too.

Damn, I did not realize that attempted sexual assault was one of Francine’s favorite topics. I am not sure if she is using it to exploit the problem and a serious social issues that utilize the fucked up gender dymanics in society. My guess is not.

Cover girls: Suzanne’s not all that. I love the “bitch please” look Elizabeth’s got going on.

Mr. Devlin is a lawyer friend of Ned’s who live in New York City, and suggests an exchange of his daughter Suzanne for one of the twins. They both want to go, so Ned ends up flipping a coin. Elizabeth wins, and because she is a total doormat and Jessica is a totally borderline sociopath, she guilts Elizabeth into letting her go.

Suzanne, apparently is a “knockout” and looks like a movie star/supermodel. We have to hear 100 times how skinny she is. And she’s nice and helpful and loves everyone and everyone loves her. There is a junior class picnic (i.e., I think the only people who go are our usual main characters) and everyone is all up on Suzy. Winston keeps serenading her with dumb songs. I’ll give you five guesses as to what teacher is chaperoning the picnic. Suzy supposedly almost drowns in the lake and Mr. Collins jumps in to save her and pparently tuches her chest a lot. I don’t know. That’ swhat is says. It seems fishy, but no one questions it because Suzy is so wonderful. And skinny.

Jess and the city. Cue the mention of every clichéd image of New York City in the eighties. They eat at Windows on the World, ride in a horse-frawn carriage around Central park, go shopping at Tiffany’s….Of course the Devlins are rich. Jess meets Suzanne’s boyf Pete, who is essentially an Upper East Side Bruce patman. She forces him to go out with her, and they go to a symphony and Jess is bored and tried every desperate way she can to hook up with Pete. He’s not having it. I love when Jessica is rejected. Jessica is also having a shitty time in nyc. She expected men to fall all over her, but she hangs out with Suzanne’s bitchy friends and gets drunk and passes out at their party. She also endures a boring dinner party thrown by Mrs. Devlin where the only teen there is a girl who plays to flute and -HEAVEN FORBID!- just got back from a camp for overweight kids. Holy shit, could she hammer in the message any further? Overweight people are gross. We get it. But you know what else is gross? Manipulative sociopath southern Californian teenagers ho base their self-worth on their attractiveness to men. HATE!

Just a side thought- since she hangs out with wealthy assholes in nyc in the eighties, I just imagined an American Psycho crossover, where Jess meets Patrick Bateman, who will kill/sleep with any woman he can find, and he finds her so repulsive even HE doesn’t want to be around her. Slash fiction writers, get going on that.

Ok, back at Sweet Valley, Liz lost her lavaliere, you know the one her parents gave her and Jess on their sixteenth birthdays. They only mention it in every single fucking book. It turns out that Suzy stole it! Because she’s mean!!! It turns out that Suzy is a bitter hag because her parents put her in boarding schools all her life and don’t care about her. So she lashes out by manipulating men and others around her. Sure, she’s fucked up, but finally an interesting character! Can we get a spin-off series please? And she has her sights set on Mr. Collins. So, when Liz has a job babysitting Teddy, his son, Todd gets Laker tickets for that night so Suzy glady steps in to cover for Liz. When she gets there, Mr. Collins is all back off girly, but she persists. After he gets home she tries to get him to give her some wine and to kiss her. They imply that Rog gets an erection, but at least he has some good sense to tell her to get the fuck out of his house. Suzy wants revenge, so she rips her shirt and tells Liz that Mr Collins attacked her. Liz, being the hue pushover, believes it, and has Ned and Alice tell the SVH principal.

Back over to attempted rape story #2, Jessica is out with Pete again in New York, and finally she invites him up to the Devlin’s apt. He gets kinda drunk and akes his move, and Jessica pushes him away, and he’s all “you’ve been begging me, you little cocktease” and the Devlin’s come home in time. Um, I am not sure what the message is here. Don’t lead men on? Is this supposed to parallel the other sexual assault storyline? I have no idea. I think when Francine doesn’t know where the plot is going she just throws sexual violence in.

Lila has a birfday party at Fowler Crest and on the way Todd and Liz drop by Mr. Collins’ to ask him his side and Liz realizes she’s been a fool. She goes to confront Suzy at the party and then Suzanne shows her true colors and everyone realizes what a faker she is. It’s all very Melrose place. Winston also accidentally on purpose spills punch on her white Hallston dress which enrages her. Well, at least she’s not fat.

Suzy goes home, Jess comes home and lies and says she had a wonderful time in nyc. Sweet Valley goes back to harmony.

Other thoughts:

Talk about appropriate. Liz babysits for Mr. Collins? Isn’t that a little weird? Plus, she kisses him on the cheek when she leaves his house.

Lila invites the whole junior class to her birthday, instead of just the people she likes. Still it seems as if the same ten or so people are there.

Suzanne tried to spread a rumor at the party that Liz hit her head and turned into slutty Elizabeth again. Bruce is around when they are talking about it. Uh, awkward? I wonder if she and Bruce have ever talked about it.

My grade: D-

32 thoughts on “The one where Mr. Collins is actually being appropriate, or #11 Too Good to Be True

  1. kiwimusume says:

    LOL @ Elizabeth’s overexaggerated “suspicious” look. She looks like she’s got something up her ass!

    And LOLOLOLOLOLOL at Jessica realising she’s not the hot shit she thought she was!!!! I fucking LOVE when that happens. And HOW MANY FUCKING TIMES DOES SHE HAVE TO LEARN that cockteasing way older guys is like playing on the freeway? Or leaving your door wide open when you go out? I mean come on, she’s already been nearly raped by that college guy, did she seriously not learn to be more careful? I can tell you right now that if I’d had the experience she had with that guy, you can bet that I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Stupid Jessica.

    And Mr Collins…oh GOD. I never realised how creepy his involvement with his students was until you pointed it out. Please, please, make some adult friends!!!!

  2. Laila says:

    I love, love, love this blog! I don’t have a copy of this book, and I don’t remember the part where they imply Mr. Collins has an erection? Love the idea of the American Psycho cross-over!

  3. ihatewheat says:

    what happened was that when Suzanne was all up on him, he turned away, red-facced, and Suzanne was all, I could tell he wanted me too.

    Then again, I could be putting too much faith into the writing.

  4. Onnie says:

    if anyone from sachem ever asked me to babysit, i probably would have freaked…collins is just a closet pedo i bet waiting to come out…

  5. Becca says:

    In Special Christmas…Suzanne insists on coming back to SV to appologize to everyone for her behavior last time. She thinks she has Multiple Sclerosis and is trying to make amends without letting everyone know she is ill (turns out to just be mono). It’s one of the books where Todd is in Vermont, and he comes to SV for the holidays, too. Turns out that Todd and Suzanne had run into each other while they were skiing at the same place in Vermont, and had sort of fallen for each other. Then, they meet up again in SV and are in loooooooove. Blech.

  6. Merrie says:

    A doctor misdiagnosed Suzanne with MS. Yeah, Pascal really has a lot of faith in the medical world.

    This was one of my favorite SVH books. I loved the character of Suzanne and was so pissed when they brought her back all nicey-nice. Not everyone who is exposed to the wonders that is Sweet Valley turn out to be great people!

  7. EnidRollins says:

    Ugh, so many times I’ve wanted to choke Lizzie for being such a doormat sister. She’s always talking about how lovable Jessie is. She walks all over you, Liz…I want to yell at her through the book and change the SVH future: “JESSICA WILL EVEN GET YOU DRUNK SO SHE CAN WIN A SHALLOW CONTEST, CAUSING YOU TO KILL YOUR BF!”

  8. Ben says:

    Want slashfic? Here ya go:
    Jessica is found tied and wrapped in plastic on the shore of Sweet Valley Lake. The otherwise quiet town is shaken to the core by the loss of the popular girl.
    Encyclopedia Brown, an investigator driven by his intuition and troubled by a dark secret (what’s his secret? turn to page 81 for the answer) is drawn to the case, which he believes is connected with a series of murders he’s investigating.
    In retracing Jessica’s steps, Enc. uncovers a labyrinthine underworld in the heart of Sweet Valley. Nothing is as it seems. The Babysitter’s club tug the sleeves of their cardigans down to cover needlemarks, Jessica’s father has a strange fixation on Huey Lewis, and girls who go for a Sleepover at the Black Lodge return quiet and withdrawn.
    When it looks like Encyclopedia is about to solve the case (again), a deeper pattern begins to emerge. Diabolic forces are at work in Sweet Valley, forces set in motion on that dark, unspoken night in the Little House on the Prairie. Enc finds that the closer he gets to the true source of this horrific pattern of pleasant artifice concealing desires twisted upon themselves, the harder it is to look away from the evil in his own past: his failed marriage to Nancy Drew, his hesitation at a crime scene that resulted in the death of the Hardy boys. Worse, the circumstances in Sweet Valley begin to parallel his own Dark Secret.

    (Page 81, Mystery of the Stolen Skateboard)
    Solution: Bugs Meanie did it. Bugs Meanie ALWAYS does it. In a fit of passion, Encyclopedia pulls out a .38 and puts 2 in Bugs’ head. The town is never again plagued by petty mischief, Encyclopedia Brown gets an early acceptance into the New York Police Academy, and the whole town has sworn to keep the secret.

    Bugs rises from his vengeful grave, but death has not improved his competence. His attempts to inflict suffering on the living are, at best, minor inconveniences. He is immortalized in the shamefully insipid “Goosebumps” series.

  9. Molly says:

    I love it! I recently picked up a stack of SVHs at a used bookstore, and they are definitely causing as much brain damage the second time around.

    I have fond memories of furtively reading this one at the local bookstore, age 9, in between sneaking peeks at the Playboy greeting cards and the YOUR BODY IS CHANGING books. To this day I don’t know which of the three kick-started puberty.

  10. diana says:

    i don’t know, i actually think that jessica has competition in the sociopath department with the arrival of suzanne.

    love this blog by the way. love it.

  11. BurtonFanatic says:

    “Suzy wants revenge, so she rips her shirt and tells Liz that Mr Collins attacked her. Liz, being the huge pushover, believes it, and has Ned and Alice tell the SVH principal.”

    Do you think this is how the writer of “Wild Things” go their idea?

  12. JP says:

    I look forward to your review of books 104-106 where they get pursued around London by a werewolf AND a bad-boy aristocrat simultaneously

  13. RollingStone says:

    Wow, Suzanne’s hair is even higher than Jessica’s!

    By the way, did anyone else sense some foreshadowing in the name “Devlin”?

    And what the hell is a “Hallston” supposed to look like?

  14. Suzanne ROCKS! says:

    Ok. 1st of all. do people in NY really act like that!

    i mean i watch gossip girl and when i read this book i’m like”yeah right!”.

    but…….the ’80’s is very different from the ’08…
    OH WELL…

  15. heroine_tv says:

    “Sure, she’s fucked up, but finally an interesting character! Can we get a spin-off series please?” Ha ha! Great recap.

    • Neek1981 says:

      Cause she’s so perfect-looking that no one can keep their hands off of her. (gag me!!!) Did you read the SVU book called No Means No, where she is almost date raped and has to testify in court? They made a big deal about the fact that she was dressed so sexy. She wore a leather bustier on the date, if I remember correctly.

  16. Karla Keffer says:

    “It’s done wonders for my self-esteem. I hope it has helped yours too.”

    It really has. You can’t even imagine. Thanks, IHW!

  17. girlwiththeradio says:

    this is possibly the most awesome line in the series so far
    “She imagined herself whirling breathlessly beneath the flashing lights of some impossibly chic Manhattan disco. Suddenly, a hand touches her arm. She turns. ‘Pardon me,’ Mick Jagger says, ‘I believe this next dance is mine.“

    • BartTempleton says:

      Yeha, I just re-read this last night for the first time in like 15 years and that stood out to me. Not only is the sentence itself great, but I was thinking, “hmmm. I think this is the 20-30-something ghostie’s own fantasy.”

      In 1987, I think 16 year olds were getting caught up in the wonder and excitement of the MTV era, and stars of the previous decade would not have held as much luster as Duran Duran, Bruce Springsteen, , etc.

  18. Golden Lavaliere says:

    I loved how, in “Special Christmas”, Suzanne Devlin ended up just having mononucleosis the whole time instead of MS. They mention how much MS medication she was taking, but don’cha think all that medication would’ve f-ed her up for real??

    I also liked that the twins led her to a fake address for yet another party to get her back for being such a biatch in Too Good To Be True, and even though she almost dies in the car trying to find the place, everyone is great friends after she is safe & sound!

  19. Natalia says:

    I think Fran-Pasc must have had an enemy by the name of Susan/Suzanne somewhere along the line, I can think of 3 biatches in SVT/SVH by that name:
    1]Susan Devlin – above
    2]Suzanne Hanlon – Lila-esque snob who tries to change Ken Matthews circa book 27
    3]Susan Rainer, “The Twins go to college” [SVT super ed I think]
    I’m sure there are others..

    Golden Lavaliere – considering what they were treating MS with in the early 80s, she would most certainly be f-ed up for real

  20. BartTempleton says:

    I’m slowly re-reading the series on my own timeline (i.e. one every 4 months), and just read this one last night. The whole time I was reading I was remembering the classic IHW description of Elizabeth’s expression on the cover.

    So much to say.

    First let’s just get this out of the way:

    >>>>”They imply that Rog gets an erection.”

    Pretty much. We are told about how his “face flushes red” and he can’t look away from Suzanne as she attempts seduction. It’s quite clear our good Mr. Collins is fighting his “urges.”

    Suzanne’s seduction scenes were actually pretty racy for YA (she takes a bath in HIS home hoping he’ll find her in it; meaningfully and slowly drinks water directly from a garden hose he’s holding as she looks up at him; and purposely drips water onto her chest to make her shirt wet and bra show). It reminds me that between the mid-70s and mid-80s, YA fiction was actually pretty frank about sex, drugs, and booze. It was only later, towards the 90s, that it policed itself.

    Speaking of which, the book was saturated with references to unpunished teen drinking! Jessica alone drinks wine, champagne, and freaking brandy, all on separate occasions, and gets so drunk she “passes out” in the bathroom. I haven’t even gotten to the other characters’ drinking yet. Again, all of this would be a big no-no in the 90s culture of MADD, alarmist news reports about college drinking, etc.

    As usual, as IHW points out, there’s a date rape scene that has a vague whiff of victim-blaming about it. When Pete (who’s abuout 3x colder, arsehole-ier, and rapist-er than Bruce Patman)tells Jessica that because she kept trying to kiss him all night, she deserves to be raped by him, there’s pretty much no counter-argument offered by the ghostwriter. Maybe the ghostie’s literary integrity wouldn’t allow her to break into the third-person narration with an omniscent authorial statement…or….maybe Francine just doesn’t care about infecting young readers with retrogressive social ideas. I’ll take the second one for $5,000, Alex.

    But the real shocker of this book was that the ghostwriter was actually one of the better ones in the first half of the series. She was probably the ghostie from Double Love, because that one was better than others, too. Although Todd and Liz together were gagworthy as usual, their actual dialogue (and the dialogue in general) wasn’t impossibly stilted as in DECEPTIONS a few books later.
    This is all comparitive, mind you. “Good” SVH ghostwriting is not exactly Atwood or Nabokov.

    Anyway, I have to give this one a higher grade than IHW gave it. C+ at least.

    If you liked Suzanne, I recommend that you NOT read Special Christmas. Ever. Her transformation to ailing do-gooder who has an “emotional affair” with Todd under Liz’ nose is really too much to bear.

  21. BartTempleton says:

    Oh, and one more thing–IHW was completely right about the ghostwriter going WAY overboard with the sizeism/weight issues. In that respect, this book was probably the single worst I can remember in the whole series–I mean, worse than POWER PLAY, even.

    No less than half a dozen times, Liz compares her body size unfavorably to the thinness of Suzanne. There’s an acutal line that acknowledges how effed up that is. “Watching Suzanne’s impossibly thin form set off to perfection in her bikini, Elizabeth couldn’t help but feel self-conscious about EVEN her own lovely, size-six frame.” It actually said ‘even her own lovely, size-six.” Da hell?

    And Suzanne’s mother is described in the same sentence as having totally “hollow cheekbones” that Jessica tries to emulate by sucking her face in , and being “gloriously thin.” WTH? GLORIOUSLY thin, though?

    Thumbs down on the rampant sizeism, Francie! Reign your ghostwriter in.

  22. Goldray says:

    Okay, here’s my confusion about this book:
    Ned Wakefield is a LAWYER. His UNDER-AGED houseguest reports being assaulted by a TEACHER at his DAUGHTERS’ HIGH SCHOOL. Ned, the LAWYER, calls the school PRINCIPAL and not the POLICE! What the hell. My parents weren’t lawyers, but I promise if one of my friends came over with her shirt torn and said that a teacher assaulted her, the police would be called. There’d be hell to pay.

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