Mean People Suck.

[Cover from The Closet]

So, Enid’s grandmother movies in with Enid and her mom and…

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Yea really, it’s that bad. There’s a reason that this was one of the first books I found but put off reading it. Grandma Rollins, who throughout the book is referred to as Mrs. Langeven, which really annoyed me, moves in after her husband dies, and proceeds to act like a manipulative self-centered wench. Enid feels bad and drops plans with her friends and her boyfriend Hugh to spend with her co-dependent grandmother. Gram, ehm, excuse me, Mrs. Langevin, sees the error of her ways after one outburst from Enid and decides to move back to Chicago. Case closed. The end. Whatever, I don’t even need to go into detail. (Although props to Ms. L for saying that Liz seems bossy.)

The subplot is infuriating. Susan Stewart’s famous director father (wow, she’s mentioned again?) has too much time on his hands, I guess, and sponsors a documentary film making contest. The Scooby gang decides to enter and make a documentary about…what else…. A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE TOWN OF SWEET VALLEY. We.get.it. You love it, it’s wonderful. Of course, Jessica is the host, and of course what’s featured is the beach and all the students of SVH. Of course, there’s no mention of the poor shitty area where Betsy Martin lives and where the Good Friends cult house is, or the Shady Lady. During one taping, Winston Egbert comes out of a joke shop (yes, in Sweet Valley it is possible for a joke shop to thrive) wearing an arrow through his head and follows Jessica around and stands behind her in the shots. Omg, he is HILARioius! He should be a comedian! They have a world premiere at the Wakefield’s split-level house, but then…the winner is never announced? This writing is so sloppy.

What I want to talk about is the very weird friendship between Liz and Enid. I know people have joked that they are lesbionic for each other, but I’m not really referring to that. Best friends in high school, no matter what “type” you are, share private jokes and laugh a lot. I mean, at any age, that’s what a best friend is. They just don’t do that. Enid’s whole world revolves around Liz, and doesn’t really have any other friends. They go to craft fairs and play recorders together. Whenever Enid is upset I half expect Liz to run over, whip out a boob, and start nursing Enid. Check out this exchange.

Elizabeth and Enid found an empty table [at the Dairi Burger] across the room and sat down gracefully. “You stay here,” Enid suggested, instantly rising to her feet, “and I’ll go get us some sodas. It’s so crowded today we’d probably lose the table if we both went. ” Elizabeth grinned up at her friend. “Ok- make it my usual, bartender. ” “One root beer, coming up!” With a salute, Enid turned and picked her way across the popular after-school hangout.

Shut up. Just shut up.

In other news, please read my column in the Oakland Examiner.

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80 thoughts on “Mean People Suck.

  1. Becca says:

    I recently found this at a used book store and I was so excited to find an SVH I hadn’t read but then it was so awful – Mrs. Langevan really is horrible and Enid ends up being such a doormat. I did feel a little bad for her.

    I’m glad that they let us know that Enid and Liz sat down “gracefully”. I’m trying to imagine what that would look like. And yeah – they definitely don’t talk like normal teenagers do.

  2. Donna says:

    I never read this one, but I totally want to, just for how amazingly awful the sub-plot sounds.

    Enid looks awful on this cover, her eyes are a little scary…for Australian readers, she looks a little like Pauline Hanson?

    Thanks for the recap!

  3. Mrs Dallas says:

    For all you people NOT from Australia – Pauline Hanson was a skanky racist HOE BAG in politics. Caused a big stir back in the 90s on her stance on anyone who wasn’t white. Yeah. Obviously a lovely lady. Please don’t judge all Australians from her – we all HATED her!!

  4. Magpie says:

    Wow. So, a whole team of writers and editors sat down to discuss possible storylines for the next SVH book, and this is seriously the best idea they could produce? Ihatewheat, I love how you managed to summarise it exactly in one neat paragraph!

    Ugh, the “let’s make a movie about Sweet Valley” plot has been used in at least one other book. Is it normal to be so self-congratulatory about one’s hometown? Or at least for there to be NO disaffected, non-perky teenagers living there?

    You’re totally right that Liz and Enid have a creepy friendship. Quite a lot of the time I picture Enid as an eager little puppy, tail wagging, following Liz around.

  5. Rio says:

    “Enid’s whole world revolves around Liz, and doesn’t really have any other friends. They go to craft fairs and play recorders together. Whenever Enid is upset I half expect Liz to run over, whip out a boob, and start nursing Enid.”

    I now refer to you from a quote from SVU #57, “Who Knew?”:

    “Nina [Harper, another token black character, for those who don’t know her] knew perfectly well that most of the time their relationship was really more about Elizabeth. Nina had an important role to play, but everyone knew that Elizabeth was the star.”

    melody_powers at 1bruce1 adds: “Somewhere, AlexEnid just yelled out, ‘Can I get an amen?'”

  6. maybeimamazed02 says:

    You know, when I was the age of the SVH crowd, I HATED my hometown. If I had made a movie about it, it wouldn’t have won any contests, that’s for sure.

    And shouldn’t “class clowns” be, I don’t know, funny?

    Love your Examiner column. I’m going to be writing for the Chicago Examiner!

    • Magpie says:

      I’ve never met anyone under the age of 80 named Enid (and always found it a strange choice for a YA series, given that fact), but I’ve never considered Hugh a weird name!

      • Anonymous says:

        I totally agree, Magpie. Ihatewheat pointed out before that these books seem written for a generation older than us. I also think Annie, Jean, Betsy, Bruce and some of the other names seem old-fashioned, too. It reminds me of the newer generation Nancy Drew books I grew up with. If you’ve read that series, it’s weird that 18-yr-olds have names like Bess and Ned, but of course, back when Nancy Drew was originally written, those names would have sounded current. I don’t know what Fran and Co. were thinking with the SVH series though, because these books were written in the 80s and for an 80s audience, you’d think they’d be more up to date.
        On the subject of names, I always thought Lila Fowler, Nicholas Morrow and Regina Morrow had the best sounding names. I hate the name Winston Eggbert, and can anyone tell me why Charlie Cashman had the nickname ‘Crunch?’

      • Annie says:

        “I also think Annie, Jean, Betsy, Bruce and some of the other names seem old-fashioned, too.”

        While I totally agree, I also just have to add that I bought my first SVH book (circa 1988) because it featured a character with my name, Annie. 🙂

      • Magpie says:

        Anonymous – I was just thinking about this, and I think SVH has totally desensitized me to the name Bruce. When I first read these books, I thought it was an unusual/old-fashioned name, but years later I met a guy named Bruce and immediately thought, “oh right, just like Bruce Patman”. JK Rowling has done a similar thing with names like Ron and Hermione, which now sound perfectly normal to me. “Enid” still feels weird, though.

  7. Whallie says:

    The cover drawings of Enid actually make her look very pretty compared to the show version. If any of you ever watched SVH the TV series, then you know that the Enid they had on there was always felt sorry for. She was a boobless, had bad hair, a shorty (compared to Liz) that wasn’t very attractive at all. And if she wasn’t kissing Liz’s ass then she may as well jump in front of Mr. Collins’ car. They made her out like a total freak.

    • Rio says:

      For real, Whallie. In the first ep, they dressed her in a long, shapeless flowered dress for homecoming, then they gave her only two topics of conversation: her desperate “need” for a boyfriend, and Liz and Todd’s relationship. I thought Amy Danles was relatively pretty with straight hair, though.

  8. Vanessa Saxton says:

    What the hell is she wearing? It’s like a short sleeved sweatshirt under a pinafore. She’s 16 for crying out loud. Jimmy, what were you thinking?

  9. IWantYourSass says:

    Liz pulling out her boob and nursing Enid? Now that’s a plot! (Seriously. I laughed so hard)

    At least Enid’s Super Star had drugs, car crashes, mistletoe, peppermint ice cream (yum) and crushes on best friends ex boyfriends. This one sounds like a total bore.

  10. Emily says:

    Wasn’t Enid supposedly part of a “fast crowd” before Elizabeth saved her life and soul?

    I don’t think we ever actually found out how and when Enid hooked up with Hugh. He just sort of appeared, then abruptly left. But, I suppose his existence wasn’t all that important, since he was really just Enid’s beard. Girlfriend was obviously hot for Liz.

    • Miss Moppet says:

      Maybe…Liz kidnapped Enid from the fast crowd and held her captive, for her own good, of course, and now Enid suffers from Stockholm Syndrome, which is about the only thing that would explain her slavish devotion to Liz.

  11. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen says:

    Thank you for not divulging this plot further….I’ve read this one and it was excruciating. Liz’s ‘humourous’ exchanges with people are so strange.

    Checked out your column – laughed SO hard at the heavy breathing/hair-playing montage.

  12. BartTempleton says:

    Hold up, seriously, that’s NOT a picture of Enid walking down the nuptial aisle?

    I don’t get the surprise over their friendship. First off, this is Elizabeth we’re talking about. Other characters exist in order to be her foil. Second, I think the “superstar– wingwoman” duo is actually pretty common in high school, especially between two friends who started out on the same wavelength and then one of them grows more confident or popular while the other’s self-esteem goes south.

    Why is the first time I’ve ever laid on this cover or heard the name of this title? It’s like a Pascalian conspiracy to hide away all the worst books. Oh, wait, then why does WHEN LOVE DIES get so much exposure, hmm…

  13. Whallie says:

    Rio, lol I can picture in my head right now. Plus, I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this or not, but they always made Enid look around all crazily for Liz or someone. Like, “holy shit, I better find her quick before someone sees me alone”. LOL Do you remember the ep where Enid is asked on a date over the phone by some football player from another hs, but she acts like a loser and asks Jessica to go talk to him and tell him that she’s really cool, ect. But instead Jess thinks the dude is cute and tells the dude she’s Enid and steals him. HA! Serves Enid right for that one.

  14. MT says:

    Ugh, I have this one too but have put off reading it because it’s about Enid. I bet the only Enid book that’s even remotely interesting is the Super Star one where she gets high and sings about partridges in “bear” trees at Christmas.

      • MT says:

        Oh yeah, Secrets! How could I have forgotten that one? That’s the one where her jerk boyfriend Ronnie decides, now that he knows she’s not “pure” that he can basically manhandle her during their previously “gentle” makeout sessions! Aha hahaha

  15. Whallie says:

    I bet Liz is friends with Enid and other “losers” like Olivia, ect because in a crowd of freaks, Liz would seem the besstest friend ever!

  16. Jen S says:

    Please, that “fast” crowd practically shoved Enid into Liz’s arms as soon as she came sniffing around, with that bloodhound nose of hers picking up the sweet, sweet odor of loser. ” God, yes! TAKE her! All she does is not put out and try to get us to move in with our grandmothers! Is she gone? Oh, thank sweet baby Jesus, now we can go back to our cocaine snorting!”

  17. Miss Moppet says:

    @anonymous comment 2: Don’t YA books often seem old fashioned in some ways because they reflect the author’s own experience which was probably at least 15 years earlier? I’m reading Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries now and I noticed how many of the pop culture references date from the 70s and 80s. Which I don’t mind because at least they’re familiar.

      • BartTempleton says:

        (or maybe children of the corn…)

        BWAHAHAHAHAH ahahahaha BWAHAHA

        — ahem—

        er, yes, Moppet, quite right indeed.

        I’m surprised books geared to contemporary 13 year olds would reference 30 year olds’ pop culture memories, but if that’s so, I’ll give Cabot a chance. I usually avoid contemporary YA like the Black Death (the Twilight covers give me a rash).

      • Janelle says:

        The Princess Diaries books are great! (My favorite is the last one.) Just be careful which editions you’re reading if you’re in it for the pop-culture references. My little sister bought some of the new paperbacks that are out and apparently they’ve “updated” some of the references. At one point they changed a reference to “Britney” to “Miley”- ew.

      • Miss Moppet says:

        Janelle, I think you’ve explained something. On one page Mia is explaining that embarrassingly enough she does own an Ashlee Simpson CD. On the next page, it says ‘Britney’ when it should say ‘Ashlee.’ My edition is a 2007 reprint, so obviously some updating was done and they missed a reference! Quite a few of the references are fairly timeless (James Bond films, Madonna). The most dated thing about the whole book is that everyone has dial-up internet access. I know some people still have it but these are very well-heeled families who would realistically have wi-fi by now. Oh, and Mia and her friends don’t seem to have cellphones, at least I don’t remember anyone using one.

  18. Vanessa Saxton says:

    Francie was in her 50’s when she created SVH, she already had a career writing for musicals and tv shows. She started SV to help cope with her husband (and writing partner’s) death. Or so I read somewhere. So maybe that is why her names were old fashioned, she was older! I agree, I never quite understood that, but using the names Jean, Annie, Patsy, Betsy, could have been a “shout out” to friends? One can only speculate.
    As far as Crunch McAllister, I think it was once referenced that before he dropped out of school he was a star football player, like a linebacker or something, not QB like Kenny. And he was able to “crunch” opponents or something like.

    • belledame222 says:

      I actually remember reading a pre SVH book that she’d written herself. It was a time travel thingie where the protagonist (in the 70’s) goes back to the 40’s. I can’t remember the details except that she eats a “chow mein sandwich.” As I recall it was somewhat better than the SVH books, which wouldn’t have been difficult. More interesting, anyway. I mean I think it actually passed the Bechdel test. (there was another girl back in the 40’s. possibly it was her own mother, now I’m thinking about it)

    • belledame222 says:

      and yes, they definitely feel quaint and antiquated even for the 80’s. On the other hand you have to remember the 80’s themselves were a severely reactionary period and there was a shitload of 50’s/early 60’s nostalgia going on-the SVh books debuted around when Back to the Future came out, frex, give or take a year or so. This was pre-irony, pre-Internet, and a lot of people either wanted to forget about the hippies and punk rock and alla that or it just passed them by in the first place. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pascal were one of them.

      and then people still like candy-colored suburb fantasies for whatever reason: any number of amateur original pr0n fics (koff not that I would know) will tell you that wayyyyy too many people still formulate their mental life, whatever their real life is like, around the staples of “classic” sitcoms. The office, the Avon lady, the dressing room, cheerleaders…

  19. anastasia says:

    Jerry “Crunch” McAllister is a different person to Charlie Cashman.

    From what I recall, Crunch is not at school, dropped out, and I think it was him that hit Todd & Elizabeth on the motorcycle. He was going to buy it from Todd? And yes, he was an ex-football player.

    Charlie Cashman was/is a bully and still at SVH.

    🙂

  20. Mary Anne Bruno says:

    Just read SVH #107 “Jessica’s Secret Love” and I want to know what happens next! Help??

    Also, aside from “In Love With a Prince” this was my first foray into the later SVH books. I had mostly read the one’s written in the 80’s. Its so wierd how Jessica actually seems nicer and more silly than bipolar bitch. There was a lot of snark worthy passages, but the characters are more realistic and not as foolish.

    • belledame222 says:

      Uhh. They get WORSE? well, at least that makes me feel somewhat better about liking the early ones…

      Yeah, I do remember Jessica occasionally having a moment of regret or spontaneous generosity, come to it. I guess that was too much nuance for the later ones. Well, when you have a cartoon to begin with…

  21. Julanar says:

    Where did the title come from? What the hell is the hard choice? Whether or not to kick her grandmother out? That one seems pretty obvious.

  22. MT says:

    So does anyone know where a copy of that rumored SVH “plot Bible” given to the ghostwriters can be found? I’d be willing to spend a lot of dough to get a copy of that. I have no shame. 🙂

      • MT says:

        That’s the rumor … I’ve seen several blogs where people mentioned she had one that she provided to the ghostwriters. I don’t know if it was a big guide or just some pages stapled together, but I really want to see it! Every now and again I check Ebay to see if some former writer put one up for sale …

  23. Neek1981 says:

    I wonder what this Bible would say? Here are my guesses:
    –Thou shalt never write a book with a character who is cuter than the twins
    –Thou shalt describe the twins physical appearance within the 1st chapter
    –Thou shalt not write a book with an unhappy ending
    –Thou characters must always comment on how great it is to live in SV
    –Thou shalt breathe the breath of co-dependence into Enid
    –Thou shalt put Liz and Todd on a pedestal as the perfect couple
    –Thou shalt encourage young girls to admire characters like Lila and Jess, despite their selfish bitchiness
    –Thou shalt stone any character who doesn’t live according to Sweet Valley law
    –Let there be rapists, murderers, kidnapping, but no sex
    –Honor the Wakefields, that they may have supreme power over the land

    And Francine saw what she had made, and it was good…

  24. Mary Anne Bruno says:

    Love it, Neek1981!

    Thou shalt ensure Liz is a meddling, self-rightous, tease and Jessica is a selfish, manipulative, bitch.

  25. Mary Anne Bruno says:

    Btw, has anyone read The Wakefields of Sweet Valley? In it, Jessica’s ancestor runs away to join the circus and Liz’s ancestor is killed after falling off a horse.
    Awesome.

    • Neek1981 says:

      Seems like I remember reading some of that saga. Didn’t they have a set of blonde haired twins in every single generation for like, the past two hundred years? WTF? Even as a kid, I didn’t understand the obsession with blonde hair. It was like they were trying to brainwash us or some shit. Why couldn’t I have been obsessed with a kids’ series that brainwashed me about things that mattered? Things like art and kindness and truth….I’m over-thinking this, aren’t I?

      • Magpie says:

        And one of the twins always dies tragically young, but it alternates as to whether it’s the ‘good’ or ‘evil’ twin. By my calculations, Liz’s days are numbered.

    • belledame222 says:

      You know what’s awesome/horrible: I have not, but on first reading automatically assumed it was yet another canon spinoff and not a fanfic. And, I’m still not sure. That IS a fanfic, right? Right?…

  26. belledame222 says:

    omg YES. Jessica IS a borderline/narcissist/possible budding sociopath. and Elizabeth is your classic codependent. Next up: Jessica decides to go on a tri-state killing spree, and Elizabeth faithfully takes the rap for her…

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