Seriously, this one was frakking awesome.

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Again, kidnapping warrants an exclamation point. And high wasted jeans. I am not sure what the cover is supposed to depict. Is the guy on the right supposed to be Adam Marvel? And that would make the one on the left Sam? If so, I am thoroughly disappointed.

AWESOME! Cults are like my third favorite cultural phenomenon, after serial killers and child beauty pageants. Sweet Valley is home to vampires, rapists, bombers and killers, so why not a cult?

We open with Jessica being grounded for failing math by Nalice (that’s short for Ned and Alice, I just coined it) and my god! Life isn’t fair! She has to say home and study! And her friends are out doing things without her! Of course if she is grounded then the world should stop. I’m surprised school isn’t canceled. Amy and Lila and the gang actually seem like they are having a great time. They have a super-mega weekend where they have a sleepover Friday night, a party Saturday night, and then a BBQ on Sunday afternoon. Ah, to be that social- I miss my early 20s. I am sure they are glad that Jessica is not around, for once. I’ll bet Lila is pretty fun when Jessica is not around. To top it all off, her boyf Sam is being a total jerk-off. He is riding in a huge race, which has been planned forever, and is totally his passion, but how DARE he not cancel because Jessica wants to go to the DB and show off her new outfit! What an ASSHOLE!

I am not sure if the writers want us to feel bad for Jessica or if they want the readers to see what a brat she is. I don’t think they are doing a great job of either.

Jessica is at the mall and sees two girls shopping together and breaks down because it reminds her when she used to have friends! Oh the agony! Some guy sees her crying and invites her to the Good Friends house, where people are generally characterized by their bad fashion: “The members of the good friends were, in looks at least, a pretty dowdy bunch. The boys mostly wore faded jeans and old plaid shirts. The girls wore clothes that hadn’t been in fashionable in at least a year. There was only one blonde in the room, and she didn’t even have a tan.”

Jessica decides to go and notices that the house is in a pretty bad neighbrohood, probably by Tricia Martin’s house. The house seems like every liberal-recent-college-grad group house in Mount Pleasant in Washington, DC, so if this is a cult, I am guilty. Jessica is all judgy of the people there, but of course is convinced when she meets Adam Marvel, their leader. Of course, he is the most gorgeous! guy! she’s Ever! Seen! and he totally plays into her narcissism.

Jessica gets sucked in and in typical Jessica fashion, she totally throws herself into it, dressing like, well, Liz, and spouting Good Friends rhetoric, which consists “being good” and not frivilous. It’s pretty fucking hilarious. “The Good Friends are good friends to everyone. Don’t forget that . Instead of shrinking inside of themselves, they reach out and help. Helping others is the only way we can help ourselves.” Isn’t that the girl scout mission statement? At the dinner table Ned talks about a case he is working on, involving a young teen who has been kidnapped by a local cult. Jeez, what the hell kind of superhero lawyer is Ned? He does family law, criminal law, propoerty law and now does investigative work?

Honestly, the cult doesn’t seem all that culty, most of what they do is collect money for “charity” in malls and shopping centers. Jessica gets a clue that Adam is evil when he dips into the charity money to buy groceries for the house. That makes the cult evil? Maybe if they were sacrificing children in the basement I would believe it, but dipping in to keep the cult running…that makes sense to me! You have to spend money to make money right? Wow, you’d think I have an M.B.A.

Liz infiltrates the group and pretends to be Jessica to see what the cult does and finds the cult to be…incredibly boring.

Liz confront Jess aboutn the cult, but lets Jessica continue, as long as nothing dangerous happens, but then Adam decides he wants the cult to leave SV, Jessica decides to go with them (jeez, how many times has Jessica run away? Do your homework, ghostwriters!) and Liz and Todd save the day! Turns out someone in the cult was really an undercover reporter and Adam found out so they tied her up and were going to skip town. It also turns out that Adam Marvel has been setting up Good Friends cults all over the country. Hey, he’s franchsing! Can’t blame a guy for using good business acumen.

Jessica is reprogrammed in about five minutes and the Wakefield fam all have a big laugh about it.

Someone should hook up Carl the Orderly with the Good Friends group- seems like he could use the company.

Oh and yes, the most boring subplot ever. Todd and Liz join the school’s bowling team. Except that there is not even any scenes at the bowling alley. Justin Silver (a Jew?), the coach, has the hots for Liz because obviously the twins are so gorgeous no one can resist them. Liz tries to act like she is offended but in reality she acts like a total cock tease because she loves the attention. Todd gets angry or something, and then she tells Justin to back off, and that’s it, if you could even call it a subplot.

Great quote:

“I mean, what if they have a crazy nickname for Jessica? These people do that a lot. You know, they might call her Shaheena or Bright Star or something.” Todd can be funny, on occasion.

Grade: A+

What’s your favorite cult? I am a fan of the Manson family, but am also preferable to the Blanetologists.

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57 thoughts on “Seriously, this one was frakking awesome.

  1. calico drive says:

    ‘Liz tries to act like she is offended but in reality she acts like a total cock tease because she loves the attention.’ LOL just like in THE NEW ELIZABETH when the surfing guy likes her. ah Liz ……

  2. Laura says:

    Oh man, I’ve been hoping to find this one because I really want to read it!

    “And that would make the one on the left Sam? If so, I am thoroughly disappointed.”

    Me too, I thought Sam would be hotter. Oh well, he’s better than Scott Daniels in All Night Long. Now there’s a pathetic book…

  3. BartTempleton says:

    “There was only one blonde in the room, and she didn’t even have a tan.”

    CLASSIC. I’d like to be offended as a non-European, but I have to say, it’s a brilliant insight into Jessica’s psyche.

    This stuff is deep.

  4. BartTempleton says:

    No, Cheryl, you can’t make fun of Scientology now, it’s a religion.

    BTW, she’s right that C the O so should have had a cameo in this one.

    And, good job on the caps with Carl the Orderly.

    That phrase should be trademarked. Another stroke of brilliance on the ghostwriter’s part— he could have been given a stereotypically nerdy name like Seymour, but the g.w. chose Carl, a name just slightly “off” in the 80s, that could belong to a nice guy who’s just not that hip.

    That’s the phrase I’m going to apply to guys who seem creepily, passive-agressive, borderline psycho: “Don’t get all Carl-the-Orderly on me. “

  5. Ellen Riteman says:

    Because my brain has a hard time imagining what blonde guys look like I always pictured Sam as Bill Chase.
    Also why couldn’t this have been a cult that practices mass suicide? Can I pour you some cyanide kool-aid Jess?

  6. kate says:

    Now this is one of the SVH books I remember reading.

    Looking back on it I was seriously hoping for some in depth creepy cult shenanigans, but I guess cults in Sweet Valley are pretty vanilla.

    I wonder if Jessica got a pancake breakfast after she was reprogrammed?

  7. MaggieCat says:

    “There was only one blonde in the room, and she didn’t even have a tan.”

    CLASSIC. I’d like to be offended as a non-European, but I have to say, it’s a brilliant insight into Jessica’s psyche. ”

    I’m offended as someone so pale that I nearly spontaneously combusted when I was in Arizona.

    Mark my words, if that SV growups series ever gets off the ground, it’s going to hit the realm of sci-fi if half the cast doesn’t have skin resembling crocodile shoes.

  8. BartTempleton says:

    MaggieCat, i’m making a list of everything they’re (a) going to have to change (b) should change and will, and (c) will ignore when they should change.

    Falling under (c) will likely be tanning. When you look through those books, the UV-exposure is off the charts. I think I even remember one where Lila uses tin foil or something to reflect more sunlight onto her frying skin.

    Think the powers that be will change it? Nope, except to put them in tanning beds (yes, teens today use them).

  9. Rebecca says:

    I never read this one. I want to now, though.

    I like David Korresh’s lot, myself. Complete nutjob. I like the Jim Jones lot as well. Oh, and this obscure Sheffield cult called the Nine O’Clock Service where their leader Chris somebody was feeling up the girls in his spare time while having apocalyptic Christian raves. Goodtimes.

  10. Magpie says:

    BartTempleton, there’s also a book where Jessica decides that she’s going to allow her tan to fade. But not for any responsible, health-based reason, you understand. This was so that she could “cultivate a sophisticated European pallor”. Oh, and this was a book written in about 1994, when I’m pretty sure it was already considered dangerous to expose yourself to too many UV rays.

    I never noticed before exactly how unthreatening this cult is. Surely the reprogrammed, culty Jessica is better than the usual Jessica?

  11. kiwimusume says:

    The girls wore clothes that hadn’t been in fashionable in at least a year.

    GASP! A WHOLE YEAR!!!! Horrors!!!!

    The Good Friends are good friends to everyone. Don’t forget that . Instead of shrinking inside of themselves, they reach out and help. Helping others is the only way we can help ourselves.

    Giggity!

  12. BadKat says:

    If you look up the definition of cult, here are 4(of the 7) definitions given:

    (1) religion: a system of religious or spiritual beliefs, especially an informal and transient belief system regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false, and directed by a charismatic, authoritarian leader.
    (2) religious group: a group of people who share religious or spiritual beliefs, especially beliefs regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false
    (3) idolization of somebody or something: an extreme or excessive admiration for a person, philosophy of life, or activity
    (4) fad: something popular or fashionable among a devoted group of enthusiasts

    Conclusions? Scientology would be considered a cult, so snark away…Second, obviously Liz and Jess should have their own (male) cult following. Who are tan and wear this year’s fashions.

  13. BadKat says:

    Oh! My favorite cult (I giggle everytime I read that) is The Order of the Solar Temple. Mass suicide, a child anti-christ, the French. Who couldn’t love that?!?

  14. Amber Tan says:

    “Nalice (that’s short for Ned and Alice, I just coined it)”

    Good one, ihatewheat! 🙂

    “The girls wore clothes that hadn’t been in fashionable in at least a year.”

    OMG — And no one got a makeover?!? 😉

    “Helping others is the only way we can help ourselves.” Isn’t that the girl scout mission statement?”

    Close. IIRC the GS oath is “On my honor I will try to serve God, my Country, and mankind. And to live by the Girl Scout law.” [usually uttered with right hand on heart and left hand raised with the three center fingers fully extended in upright position]

    Actually the Girl Scouts of America is one of my favorite cults in which I was an active participant (right behind Any and All Organized Religions). I even made it to second year Cadet until I decided that we GS members were being pimped out for the local Boy Scouts. No joke — we actually used to serve at the BS end of the year banquets which were held in large (for the area) venues while we GS were lucky if our leaders could scrape up enough money to throw us a pizza party at the end of the year.

    And of course the BS never reciprocated by helping at any GS events. Totes sexist and homophobic! Fortunately I hear things have improved since I did my time (70s & 80s) but I’d still never let my hypothetical kids join either group.

    “I like the Jim Jones lot as well.”

    Rebecca — The California Historical Society in San Francisco houses the Peoples Temple papers. I did an archives practicum at CHS which entailed sorting the passport photos of PT members who went to Guyana as well as recording the information written on the backs of said photos. The collection is pretty large and includes much more than just photos.

    Here’s the link in case you’re interested: http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/programs/peoplestemple.html

  15. nichole says:

    I don’t remember their name, but my favorite cult was the one that was going to hitch a ride on the hale-bopp comet. They were found with t he purple shrouds and the high top sneakers.

    I never read this one, but I totally want to now, just to see Todd’s sense of humor in action. Can we call Jessica “Bright Star” now?

  16. Becca says:

    I know the ridiculous cover clothes have been pointed out before, but my goodness, Jessica’s jeans are high-waisted! I think I saw Mischa Barton in those the other day.

  17. Jen S says:

    Yes, Heaven’s Gate! I thought of them right away. Now there’s a damn cult that knew how to be culty. Robes, poisoning and comets. I bet there hasn’t been another cult based on a comet since the ancient Aztecs.

  18. Comrade GoGo says:

    In the 80s, the Judy’s did a supremely catchy song on Jonestown called “Guyana Punch.” (“There’s a strange one in the jungle with a new and exciting drink”). Har. Jessica could have been in the music video.

  19. Amber Tan says:

    “Now there’s a damn cult that knew how to be culty. Robes, poisoning and comets. ”

    Darn tootin’ Jen S! If you’re gonna do ‘cult’ go big or stay the f*ck home.

    “In the 80s, the Judy’s did a supremely catchy song on Jonestown called “Guyana Punch.”

    Wow! Great memory, Comrade GoGo! Here’s the YouTube clip for those who haven’t heard/ seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdymY-XHKfQ

    No sign of Jessica though… . 😉

  20. upstatestruggler says:

    Shaheena thanks you for the excellent summary of this remarkable piece of shit. I mean book!

    I especially liked this one for the fact that the ‘reporter’ uncovering the ‘cult’ was way hateful of jessica. she hisses at her to fuck off and stay away, and of course jessica writes this off to jealousy. I remember being supremely disappointed that she was trying to save jessica’s life. As opposed to trying to end it.

    and goddamn if you didn’t help me find a new favorite cult! this one is just making the news today!
    http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=ca04c031-4382-4532-b5e1-348d7766ee75&k=95083

    ihatewheat, you are my oracle.

  21. Tiny Pants says:

    I’ve been away for a week and didn’t have time to read the entire post or the comments (doh!) but I had to laugh at the title to this post — back in the day, the crappiness of this book was what made me STOP reading Sweet Valley High.

    Also, Jessica’s outfit is definitely from American Apparel. They may be known mostly for their cotton separates, but have totally now branched out into shit like high-waisted gray/black jeans.

  22. Amy Slutton says:

    Nalice, LMAO!! I literally had to keep myself from laughing out loud at that! It makes me envision the twins being raised by a pair of robots… which they may as well have been…

    This is one of those later books that I haven’t read. Interesting to see that Jessica must have the flattest ass in 137 states. Then again, with those jeans practically up to her armpits…

  23. BadKat says:

    “Interesting to see that Jessica must have the flattest ass in 137 states”

    Hehehehe! That cracks my ass up!!
    And I thought the twins were supposed to be shapely! Flat Ass!!
    Thanks Amy Sutton, this will make me giggle the rest of the evening!

  24. Magenta Galaxy says:

    I think this one was great too. The only way it could’ve been better is if they didn’t get to Jess in time and she did run off with the cult. Now THAT would be a great ending to the series!

  25. Erin says:

    awwww…ihatewheat! I live in Mt. Pleasant in Washington, DC! I agree though…we are a bunch of liberal recent college grad hippies, although I no longer live in a group house and smoke pot, I know who you are talking about. Funny! 🙂

  26. BartTempleton says:

    Magpie, might you be referring to that classic of the Western canon, _The New Jessica_? But recall the fact that Liz’s golden tan ends up winning the modeling job over Jessa F’s pale Eurotrash beauty–thereby perpetuating the subliminal message that tan=beautiful. (Yet more proof that Francine Pascal=The Man).

    Merrie, I do my part to keep up the lexicon. My sister and I quote so many SVH trademarks to each other, people could start a drinking game off us. Our younger sister was past the SVH heyday (she was more of the SV Kids generation, but never cottoned to them) and has long looked at us like “WTF?” when we start saying things like “I know better of course–because I’m FOUR MINUTES OLDER.”

  27. Genevieve says:

    “AWESOME! Cults are like my third favorite cultural phenomenon, after serial killers and child beauty pageants. ”

    bwahahahha

    What a perfect way to express something I agree with TOTALLY.

  28. aaaames says:

    I too love cults, and I think for me they actually BEAT OUT serial killers and child beauty pageants. Also interesting to me: disappearances, hoaxes, feral children.

  29. Fraser says:

    Kids today! There hasn’t been a decent cult since the Church wiped out the Cathars! So there!

    The Heaven’s Gate cult inspired one interesting movie, The Mysterious Two (from several years before the suicide), which ran on TV in the early eighties (I think).

    Using charity money for groceries could theoretically cross a legal line, I think, but yeah, it’s hard to see it as terribly evil–why not have him hire hookers (if they have those in SV) or siphon it to his offshore account? Or have Jessica steal money from her parents to give to the cult?

    Adam Marvel. Sounds like someone who should be clad in a skintight costume and shrugging off bullets.

    And was Jessica actually kidnapped at all? It sounds like she did everything voluntarily.

    Jim Jones would have had these guys for lunch.

  30. Amber Tan says:

    “I too love cults, and I think for me they actually BEAT OUT serial killers and child beauty pageants. Also interesting to me: disappearances, hoaxes, feral children.”

    I concur, aaaames. And let’s not forget freaks! Do y’all remember Bat Boy? Wikipedia entry:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_Boy

    Sometimes I miss the Weekly World News. 😉

  31. Merrie says:

    I DID IT! It was the beginning of a staff meeting and one of my colleagues was going on and on about how it didn’t have time for it, and I said “Don’t go all Carl-the-orderly on us!” The intern was too young to get it, but another reporter laughed. She remembers the frozen pancakes, too! Even better, when I was talking about house-hunting, she asked if my kitchen would have Spanish tiles.
    Awesome.

  32. Magpie says:

    Good one, Merrie! I seriously don’t think I know a single person in the real, offline world who would get the reference… apart from my sister, but she tries her hardest to forget her SVH-ridden past 😉

    And BartTempleton, I was actually referring to “Jessica’s Secret Love”, which is considerably later in the series, when they should have been even more clued into the Ozone issue. But that’s very true about “The New Jessica”, I’d forgotten that one! 🙂

  33. Amber Tan says:

    “I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with this list.”

    No doubt, aaames! [surreptitiously looking around to see if any mental health professionals are observing]

    “my sister… tries her hardest to forget her SVH-ridden past”

    Tell your sis it’s too late, Magpie. “One of us! One of us!” 😉

  34. Eli says:

    Yay Jess is wearing a purple Tshirt on the color…clearly a homage to her last stint in a cult, aka the Unicorn Club 🙂

  35. patience says:

    “The members of the good friends were, in looks at least, a pretty dowdy bunch. The boys mostly wore faded jeans and old plaid shirts. The girls wore clothes that hadn’t been in fashionable in at least a year. There was only one blonde in the room, and she didn’t even have a tan.”

    Poor Jessica! Imagine having to share space with a group in which she is one of two blondes and the only one with a tan!

  36. Sarah C. says:

    I see from the cover that we have another reader of the month. Ihatewheat, please hook us up!

    Is it wrong that I love Jessica’s backpack (no doubt it’s full of tracts, flowers, and eyeshadow.)

  37. Winnie Egbert says:

    Gotta be Symbionese Liberation Army for me. They may not have been religious, but the batsh*t crazy name alone makes them really stand out. Way to take Stockholm Syndrome and really make it your own, guys.

    If I were to form or join a cult, it would have to be one based around the psyche of Jessica Wakefield. I mean,
    1 – gets made fun of for making a bad meal : runs away from home
    2 – gets mistaken for her identical twin sister twice in the same day : undergoes a massive makeover complete with accent change
    3 – gets grounded for failing math : joins a cult
    4 – gets competition for prom queen in the form of her (comparatively more deserving) sister : spikes her sister’s punch, leading to the death of her boyfriend
    5 – gets turned down for a date by a depressed loner who just might not be into her cheerleader bullsh*t : launches a campaign to psychologically destroy him and stomps all over another girl in the process
    6 – gets rejected by ToddPunch : accuses him of attempted rape

    If anyone has a history of getting all Carl-the-Orderly (I love you Bart!!!), it’s Jessica Wakefield.

  38. Amy Slutton says:

    He’s the creepy orderly that we are introduced to in When Love Dies when the twins are working as candy stripers at the local hospital. He becomes obsessed with Liz and in the following book he kidnaps her and pets her hair and feeds her frozen pancakes 🙂 I’m actually about to re-read that one today.

    P.S. Glad I made you LOL BadKat 😀

  39. Amber Tan says:

    He. Y’all are cracking me up! 🙂

    “Gotta be Symbionese Liberation Army for me.”

    Ooooo! Good one, Winnie Egbert! 🙂

  40. Stasia says:

    I disagree about the high-waisted jeans – I think they look great on this cover. Of course, how high is high? My favorite pants (Banana Republic, Harrison fit, size 6) go up to the belly button, which is perfect for my build.

  41. Naomi says:

    This should be in a textbook somewhere, The Psychology of Cults chapter 5–How to identify a cult in relation to the Sweet Valley High complex:

    “The members of the good friends were, in looks at least, a pretty dowdy bunch. The boys mostly wore faded jeans and old plaid shirts. The girls wore clothes that hadn’t been in fashionable in at least a year. There was only one blonde in the room, and she didn’t even have a tan.”

    It sound like everyone everywhere in the year of 1994 was in the cult–the grunge fashion look.

  42. Rio says:

    Best fictional cult ever: The Conservatory, from the now-defunct Canadian TV show “Godiva’s.” It fronted as a meditation group. It had a leader named Sam, an organic farmer who, during meditations, made everyone imagine themselves in a garden and used a bunch of crappy horticultural metaphors to describe life’s struggles. He hooked up with a pastry chef named Daisy and renamed her Savitri (Sanskrit for “daughter of the sun”). Later the two of them had a threesome with some emotionally wrecked chick in an attempt at “healing.”

  43. Karla Keffer says:

    Jim Jones and the People’s Temple is my favorite cult ever, but the Manson girls have great style. Yes. I know. But they do.

    I’d like to see a Dream Date board game based on the Manson family. Again, yes. I know.

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