Jessica fights for gender equity, or #86, Jessica Against Bruce

I truly believe that there was a meeting room where all the ghostwriters came together to throw ideas around. One late night, when they were all depressed and realizing that this was the only job their English lit degree from Harvard would get them, they started playing a drinking game. They had to go around the table and think of the most absurd storyline ever. On a dare, once of them submitted a manuscript and bam, it later lined the shelves of B. Dalton as glorius #86.

Bruce is super-bored and complains that there is nothing to do in Sweet Valley. And by that he means there are no more girls to forcibly dry hump or formerly poor cousins to demean. The Scooby gang goads him into actually doing something to make SV more interesting….

….meanwhile, the whole school has an assembly. Probably because one of the Wakefields deficated in the shape of an angel and they want to show it to everyone. Nope, it’s because the “International Federation of Teachers” is sending a delegation to the school for the next three days, to observe their school. They are going to choose a host committee and Elizabeth practically pees her pants with desire to be on the committee. Why are teachers traveling from all over the world to observe them? Do you think this is anyway connected to the superindendent’s super secret rendevouz with Soviet educators?

Meanwhile, Jessica is mooning over the fact that her boyf Sam is away for a bit. Apprently he is at a month-long class for high school seniors interested in environmental science, somewhere in Colorado. So he missed a month of regular school? How is that allowed? Why am I questioning? Better get used to missing him, Jess. In a few books we all know that Liz is gonna off him. Anyhoo…

Bruce shows up in school the next day with a leather jacket with an X on the back. How did he get those made so quick? Ronnie Edwards (‘member him? He used to date Enid a while back. Now THAT was a crazy thing to do.) is also in it. Everyone confronts them at lunchtime and Bruce declares it’s a club for REAL men. Jessica implies that that means they play GI Joes in the backyard. Heh, that was actually funny, Jess.

Jessica asks why girls can’t join, and what begins is the beginning of a perfect setup if this was to somehow be made into a movie musical, and I am crossing my fingers like crazy that it does. Maybe Bruce and Jess can break out into some verses of that Broadway ditty “Anything you can do, I can do better” . It’s all girls suck, blah blah. Bruce is quite the misogynist. Finally, Bruce DARES Jess to join and see if she can handle it. Jessica, drunk of the attention this is getting her, agrees. She is such a pioneer for the women’s movement, that Jess!

So it turns out the club is based on dares and someone thinks of a dare, and they spin a wheel to see who does it, and if they don’t do the dare, they get another spoke on the wheel and increase their chances. I am going to ruin the plot now and tell you that Bruce rigs the wheel so it always lands on Jess. Jessica’s first dare is to drive to the bottom of Bruce’s driveway with no headlights on. Snore. The club seems to be a wayward home for minor characters. some football player named Tad and some guy Michael Harris.

Meanwhile, Liz is chosen as the LEAD delegate for the international teachers, and when they arrive, it’s very Goblet of Fire-y. Each one embodies a total stereotype of their country. I think the teacher from France does a mime routine.

Liz is all strung up about Club X, mostly because she is acared how it will look to the international teachers. So, she calls this Project X hotline, that is used in every book since the one where Tom went gay. Yea, because having Amy Slutton on the other end of the line is going to help.

“I don’t want to butt into her life, but I want her to stop doing what’s she’s doing. Does that make sense?”

“I know what you mean. Does it involve drugs or alcohol? Because if it does, you should butt in, whether you want to or not.”

Talk about a non-judgemental hotline.

So, Club X’s dares include:

  • diving into a public pool after it is closed
  • cutting the electricity in the school
  • putting glue in the padlocks of the lockers
  • smoking a cigarette in the principal’s office
  • hotwiring a car (Jess ends up stealing Bruce’s Porsche)
  • Walking along train tracks on a bridge (Stand By Me called and wants their plot back)

Meanwhile, Jess wants out but doesn’t want to give Bruce satisfaction. So she ALSO calls Project Youth. They are unhelpful. Surprise.

Jess re-rigs the wheel o’ dares so it will land on Bruce so she can give him the ULTIMATE dare. Are you ready for this? So much buildup. They are having another school assembly for the international teachers and during the assembly, Bruce needs to rerig the PA system so the radio station KZZP plays in the auditorium. What’s so bad about KZZP? They play HARD ROCK music! OMG! The horror! Apparently it is banned in some parts of SV. I didn’t know this was also Footloose.

Of course Jess is torn because Liz will be speaking during the assembly and Liz doesn’t want to be embarassed (i.e., doesn’t want the spotlight on her to be taken away). It still happens, and Bruce is caught and they all get called into the principal’s office for all their stunts. And they get dention for one week. GROW A SPINE, SVH!

Ma and Pa Wakefield grow a tiny spine and also ground Jessica for a week. That’s nothing. Although Sam is coming home that night and she can’t see him. So she convinces pushover Liz to switch places so she can sneak out and see him. She comes clean to him about what she’s been doing and all is well and they smooch.

Grade: B

Kind of a letdown. I thought the dares would be…well, a bit more daring. I can think of dares that would shake them to the core. How about Jessica step inside a synagogue? Or they send Jessica to downtown LA?

Let’s but Bruce under the microscope, shall we? He doesn’t really seem to have any real friends. Maybe his cold, mean exterior is for protection. I am sure he is incredibly insecure. It makes me feel bad for him, and maybe even want to make out with him for little bit. Is that wrong? I am a bad feminist.

32 thoughts on “Jessica fights for gender equity, or #86, Jessica Against Bruce

  1. Count Tisiano says:

    This was the book that brought me back to reading SVH after a couple years of thinking that I was too old/mature to read such crap. (I was 12 when this was published.) I absolutely LOVED it.

    However, based on this recap, perhaps I had more exciting memories of this book than I should have (though I stlll cheer when Jess steals 1bruce1).

    To be honest, it was probably the Danny Zucco/Sandy Olsson cover look that sucked me in.

    (Btw, Bruce…a purple shirt under shiny leather jacket? Really? I realize that it was 1992, but even Steve Sanders wouldn’t wear this….)

  2. Diane says:

    I loved this one because Jessica and Bruce had all kinds of inappropriate sexual tension. Like when she’s smoking the cig in the principle’s office. Not gonna lie, it was kind of hot.

  3. kiwimusume says:

    Oooh, this was one of the first SVH books I ever owned. I remember thinking their dares (don’t forget the one where one of them has to stick a picture of a baboon to the back of a police officer) were sooooo daring at the time. But then, I was 13 and a total wimp, so.

    I really want to reread this to remind myself what sterotypes they had for the Japanese teacher (whose name sounds made-up, but I could be wrong) but it’s back in NZ. *makes note to reread when I go home for Christmas*

    And OMG Count Tisiano, I never noticed their resemblance to Danny and Sandy before! XD You just made me start playing You’re The One That I Want. ^_^;;

  4. gretchen says:

    I hereby revoke your feminist card for wanting to make out with Bruce Patman. =-)

    Michael Harris was Maria Santelli’s one-time fiance, before her relationship with Winston. It’s not really a surprise that he would want to be in Bruce’s sexist club, because in “Forbidden Love” he pretty much tells Maria that he wants his wife (i.e., her) to stay home and raise the children, and that he’ll smack any child of his who steps out of line. What a charmer.

  5. Shannon River says:

    Heh. Can you imagine having identical twin children? You ground one, but can you be sure that the correct one is actually in their room?

  6. Magenta Galaxy says:

    ^ Well, when one twin is Jessica, Queen of Inappropriate Behavior, and the other is Liz, Doormat Extrordinaire, no, you probably can’t be sure the correct one is in her room 🙂

    As for the dare about the radio station in the assembly…even when I read that as a NEW book when I was 11, I thought it was lame, and it actually kinda confused me…and if I recall, Liz got all embarassed? Come on Lizzie! Laugh a little!

  7. Amy Slutton says:

    I actually have never read this one… I always preferred the older ones that are like super 80s’ed out… so with the exception of some later atrocities like The Evil Twin/Return of the Evil Twin/Deadly Christmas, I stopped reading after Against the Odds… the recaps still kill me though, I love this site XD

  8. Kimberly says:

    If you’re a bad feminist, then so am I, because I would totally make out with Bruce and let him take me for a spin in the old 1bruce1. He at least seems like he’d be more skilled than any of the other SVH boys. Can making out with Todd really be any fun?

    I never read this one, but I enjoyed the recap. I would think teens with money and privilege would have better dares than hard rock music over the PA system. No drugs, no sex, no stripping? Come on!

    The Wakefields need to tag Jessica somehow so they can tell their daughters apart. It seems like in every other book Jessica and Elizabeth swap identities so Jessica can avoid punishment. Wake up, Wakefields!

  9. erin says:

    ha ha haha you want to make out with Bruce. That’s hilarious. Other than Bruce being a smarmy asshole, he really reminds me of a certain ex-co-worker who hid in the refrigerator and wore red pants. Who I think we would ALL make out with.

  10. Merrie says:

    I read this book recently and the one thing that sticks with me is a visual of a leather jackets with a white X on it. LAME! And fugly. Speaking of fugly, Jessica looks horrible on the cover. Hee, hee.

  11. Count Tisiano says:

    No, Elizabeth was a scullery maid when she ran away from SVU at the end of their sophomore after Jessica hooked up with her boyfriend, who was very much Conner McDermott at age 20 (i.e. incredibly annoying and w/out the retarded comic relief of Todd).

    She gave her employers the fake name of “Elizabeth Bennett” and was confused when she realized that these oh-so-stereotypical Brits had in fact read Pride & Prejudice. Oh Lizzie, you really are the dumbest “smart” girl …

    I believe that she was about to marry the Lord of the Manor (against his family’s wishes) when the Sweet Valley Gods decided to end the series altogether with no explanation.

    It was just as well.

  12. LucyLou says:

    (Stand By Me called and wants their plot back)

    hahahaha that’s so what I thought when I read it. I was really hoping Jess would get smushed by a train but then realised she must live to university at least. Damn.

    I’m actually very morbid, constantly wishing death and/or injury to one of the twins. But I want a Lila series. She is 137 different kinds of awesome.

  13. kiwimusume says:

    I believe that she was about to marry the Lord of the Manor (against his family’s wishes) when the Sweet Valley Gods decided to end the series altogether with no explanation.

    Dwanollah sums up pretty well why that was:

    Biggest Overuse of Wholesome Values
    There’s No Place Like Home. Liz can’t POSSIBLY achieve her dreams of studying in Switzerland in a top creative writing program! Jess can’t POSSIBLY go to private school or Hollywood! The twins can’t POSSIBLY graduate early and go to SVU! Steven can’t POSSIBLY take a job on a cruise ship! Robin Wilson can’t POSSIBLY graduate early and go to Sarah Lawrence! Why? BECAUSE THEY CAN’T POSSIBLY LEAVE SWEET VALLEY AND THEIR FRIENDS AND FAMILY!

    Ever notice that?

  14. Club X says:

    Ohhh I have been waiting for this one! This book is awesome lol.

    “It makes me feel bad for him, and maybe even want to make out with him for little bit. Is that wrong? I am a bad feminist.”

    Don’t worry…you’re not a bad feminist at all. I want to make out with him a little bit, too.

  15. Dragon says:

    Dear gawd, this site is brilliant. (Sorry, I’m late to the party. Just thought I’d say.)

    Last year, I found the books that detail Elizabeth’s adventures in England after she finally gets sick of Jessica’s shit and drops out. I’m still feeling guilty.

    I turn 33 next week, but something tells me I would get more out of SVH if I went back and read them now than I did 20 years ago.

  16. Amy Slutton says:

    This site has inspired me to go back and re-read them. There is so much that I never noticed before because I was too warped by the SVH world!

  17. Wakefield says:

    From the wikipedia, describing some of the more outlandish plots:
    * The twins battling a werewolf in London;
    * Margo, a psychotic young woman, and later, her own twin sister Nora, attempting to murder Elizabeth in a diabolical scheme to ‘replace’ her;
    * A former classmate of Alice Wakefield’s luring them to a beauty spa with the intention of stealing Alice’s face via a face transplant
    * Elizabeth and a Parisian prince falling in love; and
    * The twins and many of their classmates being unrealistically “beautiful” in a model-like way and never having acne, oiliness, pubertal awkwardness, bodily odors, or greasy hair the way most real-life teenagers have.

    So, clearly all of those are going to be necessary for you to read here. (And I was SO right about the second evil twin being named Nora!)
    But the one with Alice Wakefield looks goooood.

  18. Becci says:

    Oh my goodness, I love your blog. When I was growing up (maybe between the ages of 8 and 12?), my best friend was a huge fan of the SVT and SVH books and I thought they were dumb…but when I slept over I’d read her copies secretly. It was such a guilty pleasure. You’ve reminded me of how much I need to read these stupid things again. Thanks!

  19. christine says:

    It’s funny because reading them at age ten, they seemed so extremely the juicy. i didn’t know crap then. i mean i had ideas, but yeah.

    i should read them again, now that i know some crap.

    Reading your hilarious recaps, laughing (my girls keep asking me what’s so funny) i remember them. i feel old and duped and nostalgic.

  20. janeprimrose says:

    Whoa. Bruce has John Barrowman face.
    Next he will rig the wheel so that he gets the dare ‘Sing “Springtime For Hitler,” then snog Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston.’

  21. Rio says:

    “Can making out with Todd really be any fun?”

    Ugh. You know that he’d just be lightly pecking your lips and stroking your hair and telling you how much he loves you. WEAK. Bruce might be the King of Douchebags, but I bet he at least knows how to fuck like a man.

    On the other hand, there isn’t one guy in all of Sweet Valley that I’d ever want to fuck. I’ll stick with the guys in my hometown.

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