[slow clap]

Thanks to everyone who contacted me about this. You all know me so well! People magazine has revealed the cover to Sweet Valley Confidential. I have to say, I like it. And St. Martin’s Press didn’t even have to bribe me to say that. I think it is a good combination of modern graphic design with a vintage look, and not such a literal translation. But great iconography representing the original series.

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updates

I’m excited for these two updates:

I was lucky enough to be interviewed for the Fully Engaged Feminism Podcast. Check out the other episodes, it’s really fantastic.

I’m still living the dream by revisiting the late 80s/early 90s. I hope you all will follow me over at my new blog Down on Jump Street where I will be watching and recapping 21 Jump Street, a shining gem in the history of television. I actually never watched it when it was on (and I have no idea why- I used to read all about the stars in Dynamite magazine.). Here’s the thing about it: it’s actually a pretty entertaining show. Sure, it’s also horrifically cheesy at times so there is never a shortage of things to make fun of, but there is something endearing about it.  You can also find all the episodes for free online, so I hope you will watch along with me. And crush on Peter DeLuise along with me. And envy Holly Robinson’s wardrobe with me.

Excuse me while I get self-referential for a bit.

Thanks Serena for leaving this comment, and it really made me think and want to give a direct response. I really appreciate you posting this- and I don’t know what sort of trouble you could get in (maybe I’d spike your punch with vodka?) and I’ve actually only deleted one comment in this blog’s lifespan…because it contained really hateful and racist language for the sake of being hurtful. And along with all the porn spam. But anyway, essentially:

Because Francine’s publishers are contacting all the Sweet Valley recap blogs and treating them like straightforward “fanpages” (instead of mockery done by critical readers who may remember the series with some fondness as a part of their childhood but aren’t blind to it’s faults) and giving bloggers free swag to give away in contests/asking them to promote her upcoming book…

You guys are gonna lose your edge! Please don’t sell out and cut back on the snark, especially when it comes to the new book (which the majority of first-chapter-readers seem to think is crap…except for people who were invited to meet the publishers — ooh, ahh! – to get a sneak peek and not-so-surprisingly only have positive things to say.)

I understand bloggers may be excited to be in touch with an author/publisher, and get free merch, yada yada. But the danger is that you’ll start thinking, “oh, they’ve been so nice to me…I don’t want to not-be-nice back! I’ll cut them some slack and give their product a more favorable review.”

That is a totally valid and astute observation. I was contacted by St. Martin’s press and asked to link to the Sweet Valley Confidential Website, which I did (and just did again). I wrote back when they asked me and said “Have you actually read my blog? Are you sure you want me to be associated with your product?” She wrote back and essentially said what Serena mentioned- they are considering these blogs as fanpages. To be fair to the publisher, it is their job to promote this book and get publicity- maybe even going with the idea that “any press is good press.” I can see why they are going with the plan to connect with people’s childhood memories instead of social commentary… ultimately, they need to sell books, right?  I’ve also spoken to many people about SVH (I’m often introduced to friends of friends as “someone who blogs about Sweet Valley High”) and most people remember it, but not everyone wants to talk smack about it. Legit. They would rather have it as a piece of childhood nostalgia and not deconstruct it for its social implications. Totally legit, although it does frustrate me. But I’m someone who alienates 85% of the population because I’m always looking at pop culture through a sociological lens instead of “just stop taking everything so seriously….and just enjoy it”. The way I do enjoy things IS looking at it through a critical lens and understanding the social implications. Don’t get me started on Avatar. However, it makes sense for the publisher to go this route because their goal is to sell the book. Which, last I checked, is the goal of a publishing company. So I’m at peace with that.

Did I agree to link to the first Chapter? Sure, because it was of great interest to me and to my readers. Am I grateful that this blog is linked on the website? Sure, but it’s not like it has brought me a plethora of new readership. In fact, to demonstrate my own free will to be critical: wtf is with that “website”? Can it even be called that? St. Martin’s press, please splurge for a web designer. Or a class in Dream Weaver.

Was the first chapter “good”? HELLS NO. It was a living cliche of bad romance novels and trite writing. Did I enjoy it? Yes. In much of the same way I enjoy Dear Sister (not that they are even in the SAME LEAGUE of badness (goodness)). And this opinion had nothing to do with any freebies (I’ve also yet to see any freebies). A “Team Elizabeth” or “Team Jessica” t-shirt which probably doesn’t fit my body type anyhow doesn’t impress me much anyway. I actually think that is trite, overdone marketing idea. I promise you all that I’m still thinking for myself….OR AM I? I mean, I once fell for the allure of a shitty co-op and a hot cult leader from Good Friends after the tragic occurrence of my family making fun of my cooking skills. So, you never know.

And let this be considered an OPEN INVITATION TO FRANCINE PASCAL if she ever was willing to do some sort of interview or something. I’d of course be nice to her as a person (maybe), but feel no hesitation in offering a “critical response” to her life’s work. Francine, BRING IT ON!

Serena, you rock, thanks for bringing this up, and making me think more about my motivations. I am so going to nominate you for Pi Beta Alpha.

Thanks to Sweet Valley Confidential’s tumblr, I was reminded of the awesome commercial for the board game:

Mini-Enid: “Jessica, you stole my boyfriend!”

Mini-Jessica: [Shrug] “Just like in the books! Which is reinforcing that stealing boyfriends and a disregard for any decent behavior towards friends makes me a winner!”

Also, good job on the depiction of the school. And how I pictured the twins. And the school  Students busting down the halls skipping at smiling at all times. Lots of high wasted pants and feathered hair. Gazing into each others eyes over a large popcorn at the movies. High school parties where a card table is set up for  a punch bowl. But wait, why are Liz and Jess both cheerleaders? Didn’t anyone involved with the production of Sweet Valley actually read the books?

Chapter One

In case you didn’t know, sign up on The Sweet Valley Confidential site, and you will get a (not so) secret link to read Chapter One of the book, coming out in March.

The way I am approaching SVC is similar to the way in which many Star Wars fans approached Episodes I-III. I am happy to have more of the Sweet Valley story fed to me by its creators, but it is not the same canon as the first few. They are Star Wars movies, but they are not STAR WARS movies. It’s too far removed from the originals to be considered part of the series. Similar to Confidential, there has been too much social commentary, too much fandom (and criticism) for it to be considered an “untainted” and a true part of the series.

I am certainly not denouncing St. Martin’s Press or Francine’s choice to write it (did I just defend Francine?). Clearly, I am looking forward to it. I am just considering it a novel based on the characters of Sweet Valley, not a book that continues the series. As we know, the twins are frozen in time, both in our childhood experiences and both because they were juniors in Sweet Valley High for infinite amounts of time (and similarly in college for SVU, and in some weird alternate-universe for the Senior Year series). Wouldn’t advancing them in time totally negate the whole idea that these twins are timeless and really exist not to tell a chronological story, but to be put in differing situations for our own amusement (and snark?) No matter what Francine writes, it can’t change this; this is not her fault. The time and era that the originals came out, and the subsequent nostalgia will forever prevent this from being a true continuation.

But shall we get to the chapter? I want to say….fantastic. Fantastic! Yes, I liked it! I was thinking the worst: Liz waking up in Sweet Valley next to her hunky husband Todd, looking at the Pulitzer prizes for journalism, living right next door to Jessica, and still hanging out with the same exact people she did in high school. ugh. UGH! Can you imagine? But no, Liz has been humbled. She’s moved away from Sweet Valley, IS working in writing, but not at the dream job she suspected she would; she’s at a measly periodical. Guys aren’t falling at her feet. And god, it is so cheesy! And just like a so-good-it’s bad romance novel! And using BEYONCE as the most current cultural reference? It’s so trademark Francine to be out of touch with current pop culture references. The jury is still out on if Francine is in on the joke.

Ok, Ok, there’s the bit about Bruce suddenly being Liz’s best bff. I’m not happy about that. And of course she is having a fight with Jessica. I’ll bet you dinner at Cote D’Or that they are fighting over a guy. Is it Todd? Jeffrey? Ken? Some new character they are throwing in?

We can only just wait until March, I guess.

In which I Give Away a Prize and also review The Summer of Skinny Dipping

Glad you all liked the interview with Amanda Howells, I think you are all going to like her book too. And you know I wouldn’t just say that if I didn’t mean it!

I’ll admit, I was very skeptical at first. I figured I had seen it all before: summer vacations, trying to fit in with the “in” crowd, arguing with mothers, summer romances…But familiarity is a comforting thing. The Summer of Skinny Dipping has all these familiar themes, but when it is done this well, familiar can be very satisfying.

The short of it is: Sixteen year-old Mia and her family are staying the summer with her cousin’s family in the Hamptons, just as they have every year since she can remember. Only this time, she comes to fin her cousin/best friend Corinne has changed dramatically. Now interested in running with the “it” crowd, Mia finds it harder to connect with her. At the same time, Mia is finding it harder and harder to be accepted by her mother and dealing with rising tensions between her parents. While staying at the beach, Mia meets and befriends Simon, whose family is renting the house next door. They become friends and later become involved. Simon and Mia connect because of their similar issues with parents, finding their place, and expectations of others around them. And then some other stuff happens, but if I told you, you wouldn’t need to read the book! Oh, and Snape kills Voldemort. Or something like that.

Simple enough right? However, the way Howells portrays these events is really smart and subtle. Things aren’t spelled out, we learn them gradually from Mia’s first person narrative. A lot of what Mia is going through has more depth than your run-of-the-mill coming of age story:

  • Mia is self-conscious, but she’s not a total sack sack of sh*t loser (i.e., Lynne Henry). She is unique- she’s smart and insightful, she likes science, she is just insecure about who she is, due to her high school boyfriend seemingly dumping her for no reason, and her mother constantly giving her “advice” in the hopes to “help her”; As in, which bathing suits would be more slimming on her. Most of the time, she has strong convictions, they just get muddled by insecurities.
  • Mia has never been jealous of her cousin Corinne, who has always been beautiful, talented, cultured, and wealthy. Mia has always just been grateful to have Corinne in her life, because she gets to be in the presence of her wonderful qualities, and Corinne has always given her unconditional friendship. We’ve all had a friend like that (haven’t we?)
  • When Mia firsts meets Simon, it’s not some dumb love-at-first-sight ridiculousness that Jessica Wakefield may have. She doesn’t even find him particularly attractive at first. They become friends and she comes to like him the more they talk about their interests, family and life. Although they get a bit mushy and makey-outy when they first get together, they do actually still have real conversations with each other. This is something that id often missing from teen romances (especially all the bs vampire romance stuff). I know I’ve mentioned before how the lack of meaningful conversations between dating couples has been one of my biggest beefs with SVH writing.
  • The author does an amazing job of conveying a feeling that prevails throughout teen-hood and never really goes away (at least for me); the desire to be accepted by the group you are not a part of, despite not even liking them. Mia is fully aware that her cousin and her friends are shallow, mean, and actually all not that interesting. yet shew still yearns for those fleeting moments of acceptance. Mia’s mother is super critical and wants Mia to be more into glamour and performance; despite Mia knowing that is not what she is interested in, she can’t help but wish she could be more like that to get her mother’s acceptance. It seems to be a simple enough concept, but I have seen many of past and recent young adult fiction depicting the “I just wanna be popular” character because popularity is the ultimate prize.
  • The depiction of the adults in Mia’s life (her parents and her aunt and uncle) are realistic and smart. Mia seeks to understand their behavior, and comes to realize they are not as idyllic as she thought when she was younger. Mia struggles with watching Corinne’s relationship dissolve with her aunt and uncle, again shattering her idyllic view of Corinne.

I really wish this book had been available to me in my teens, especially at the beginning of high school. Not to sound trite, but I could have used some validation that this book can bring to being sure of yourself and seeking out those friends that accept you for who you are.

And just to think, what Mia would have to say to Jessica Wakefield if they were ever to meet.

Amanda Howells

The best news is that Amanda Howells has provided a signed copy of this book and a signed copy of The Return of William White (a.k.a. the best Sweet Valley book cover ever) for a giveaway! Just leave a comment with a valid email address by Wednesday at midnight and I’ll pick someone at random as the winner.

And Amanda, hurry up and publish your next novel!

Read more about Amanda Howells here. And if you like the book, tell your friends.

UPDATE: Congrats to Caitlin, our winner! (No not that Caitlin). Please go out and buy The Summer of Skinny Dipping. It’s a great read! You know I wouldn’t just say this if I didn’t mean it.

Dreams Do Come True: An Interview with a Sweet Valley Ghostwriter

When I mention dreams coming true, I meant for me, because in writing this blog, I constantly pull my hair out screaming “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING” and now my questions can be answered. Also, dreams do come true for Amanda Howells, who just published her first novel. Amanda (ghost)wrote the Sweet Valley University book Cyberstalker: The Return of William White Part 1. I haven’t read any SVU books, but I’m going to go ahead and declare that this may be the best book cover in the history of Sweet Valley. Maybe in the world.

Whoa. She’s like inside his head. Dear Christopher Nolan, we know where you get your ideas from. And what is she reaching for? Let’s get down to business.

Amanda Howells is a ghostwriter alum of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley University series, responsible for such titles as Killer party, Escape To New York, London Calling, and her personal favorite, Cyberstalker: The Return of William White, Part 1. Writing as Amanda Howells, she has just published her first original YA novel, The Summer of Skinny Dipping. Kirkus calls it “a realistic and satisfying chick-lit debut,” and School Library Journal says “With a lyrical yet straightforward voice and a layered plot, this novel will live on for more than a summer.” Amanda lives in Portland, Oregon, and as you can imagine, she is very excited to go from Cyberstalker to this:

SPOILER ALERT: It’s awesome. And awesome in an awesome way, not in an awesome like motorcycle crashes and comas kind of way. I’ll be reviewing it on here in a couple of days. Let’s talk about Amanda: she’s pretty awesome. You can read more about her here. Skinny Dipping is getting lots of press and great reviews, and I couldn’t be happier for her. Meanwhile, she was kind enough to answer my inane questions.

So how did you get the gig ghostwriting?
In the early ’90s I got an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University in NYC. After graduating, a fellow student put me on to 17th Street Productions (now Alloy) which was Francine Pascal’s own development company. My friend had done some ghostwriting for The Babysitters Club and I thought it sounded like tons more fun than waiting tables. So I did a test sample for the Sweet Valley University spinoff series and got picked to be in the pool of ghostwriters from there. I had a couple of friends who tried but failed to get picked for the jobs. Some of the best writers I know were, I think, just too good and too strong in their own right to mimic someone else and spit out formula. Not everyone can write SV novels (it’s a special and yes, dubious talent).

How did it work? Did you get a docket and all things Sweet Valley?
You got an SV “Bible” with character stats (Bruce Patman: blue eyes, black hair, etc.) and summaries of plotlines. Then you got a synopsis—a couple of paragraphs—of the book you were contracted to write, and you expanded it into a chapter-by-chapter outline. Once that was approved, you wrote the book.

Did you get to write your own ideas, or was the story already there?
The story was given to you, which suited me fine. I didn’t come to the series as a fan (I got my pulpy fix via VC Andrews when I was a teen); I came to the series for the professional experience and the paycheck. And while it was great fun writing SVU novels, I liked being told what to do and just doing it. But don’t get me wrong—I worked hard on these. I was a real perfectionist about my SVUs. There’s some skill involved.

What is with the insane book cover?
I’m so in love with that cover! Elizabeth is facing down her stalker, William White, who resurfaces in a “CyberDream” experience she has when The Virtual Reality Fair comes to Sweet Valley. The plot, like all my SVU plots, was supplied to me.

Did you ever get to meet Francine Pascal? What was she like?
We were very close. I spent a lot of time with her and she gave me a gold lavalier necklace when I retired as a ghost…Gotcha! Nope, I never met her. All I knew of FP was that she divided her time between NYC and a villa in the south of France. Sadly there was no Ghostwriter Appreciation Week held at the villa. And no retirement lavalier keepsake either.

How do you feel about having contributed to important pop culture nostalgia?
It was great fun to write for a series that produced both giggles and—often at the same time—culty, reverent praise whenever you mentioned it to people at parties. I appreciate the kitsch factor of the Wakefield universe and of course, in the age of irony, a person gets props for being associated with something like that. Mockery aside, there’s no doubt SV played a pivotal role in YA cultural history. It was around long before 90210, much less Gossip Girl etc. It entertained vast numbers of teen and tween girls for decades. And that is very cool.

How did Sweet Valley affect your own writing?
Ghostwriting was really instructive for me as a young writer. It’s one thing to study creative writing, and I’d written and published a number of short stories by the time I wrote SVUs, but ghostwriting loosened me up. It taught me how to bang out a novel, work to a tight deadline, use a plot map and chapter outlines. Sure, the writing is formula, but it still works out your writing muscles. On the flip side, I had to work hard to detox the conventions of formula when writing my own YA novel. Aside from perhaps channeling a bit of Lila Fowler via a “bad girl” character, I don’t think The Summer of Skinny Dipping and the SV world have much in common. At least, I hope not.

Name your top 5 favorite young adult/teen books.
I have a hard time with top 5s as there are always more than 5… but okay, here, in no particular order:
A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry—classic oldie: timeless, thoughtful, bittersweet
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron—since it would be too boring for me to put Catcher in the Rye in this list, I’m instead calling out this excellent coming-of-age tale, a contemporary Catcher.
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen—she’s the reigning master of realistic YA romance. This one is a really well-told, subtle, moving love story, like all of hers.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend—my all-time favorite laugh-out-loud YA.
Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews—because I think I can be honest with The Dairiburger, and we all need some trash in our stash. Plus, repulsive as they were, I was completely captivated by the Dollengangers (who wasn’t?). It takes mad skillz (and, apparently, a dollop of incest) to create something that hideously memorable.

Share a little bit more about your new novel, and your process in developing and writing it.
The Summer of Skinny Dipping is a 100% incest-free teen romance! It is also vampire-free, werewolf-free and is basically an old-fashioned, realistic, and bittersweet love story. It’s about 16-year-old Mia, who is looking forward to a summer at her cousins’ glitzy beach house in the Hamptons. Except that nothing about her vacation goes as expected, in ways both thrilling and tragic.

The book came to me somewhere in between writing all those SVU books as well as several Fearless novels—Francine’s series about Gaia “the girl born without the fear gene. (Yes, I did just say “fear gene.”) I’d never seen myself as a YA author per se, but I just woke up one day with that title in my head. I’d always been drawn to summer-themed novels as a teen and once the title suggested itself, I decided I wanted to try and write a summery novel—but one that sticks with you after summer is over. The Summer of Skinny Dipping is very different from everything else I’d written under my own steam—I write mostly humor-driven short fiction and nonfiction under my real name, Amanda Gersh. But though I hadn’t written my own YA novel before, the story came to me quite quickly and I had a strong sense of the plot and themes even before I started writing. I have a very earnest, sentimental weepy-romantic side to me and I guess it was just ready to come out!

So, yes, the book didn’t take very long to write, but the journey to publication? Almost 10 years! More on that story here for those who are interested.

Next week I’ll be reviewing the book, and sponsoring a giveaway. Thanks again Amanda!

It’s all fun and games until someone flashes some vag. At the wrong guy.

There’s nothing worth recapping this week except for the most! shocking! thing! ever! to! happen! on The Bachelor. In fact, it wasn’t too shocking, and the producers milked it for high drama. Chris marches in doing his best “I’m still acting like I’m needed” face and pulls Rozlyn out of the COCKtail party, leaving the other fair maidens to gossip it up. Chris then condescendingly tells Rozlyn she had an “INAPPROPRIATE RELATIONSHIP” with a staffer on the show. So what do they define as inappropriate? Oral? Anal? And that she needs to leave. Roz actually handles herself well, not turning it into the high drama the producers want. She agrees to leave. Too bad, her hair looks super cute. And she flashed her vag during the photo shoot date. Do I not even have to rant about this disgusting double standard? Jake gets to date 37 women at once, but Rozlyn has to remain chaste? Is calling this show misogynist even possible? Is that like calling Gary Unmarried not funny? Sorry I just don’t even have the energy right now.

Rozlyn: a cautionary tale for women everywhere who are dating a guy who is also dating 15 other women

Chris goes to tell Jake, and Jake employs the Meisner method in his reaction. Wow, he shows range. We can now add “mildly irritated” to his range of emotions, added to the “golly gee!” we’ve seen so far. Jake dumbly asks “can I get my rose back?” Jake insists on marching right in there with Chris to lecture the harem. The harem, meanwhile, just heard what happened and are in shock! In fact, they all dismantle the set and create a makeshift pyre to burn the jezebel witch at the stake. Jake and Chris come back and Chris comes in and lectures the group about how they were all supposed to be there for one reason: to win Jake’s heart! Jake, nearly in tears (good acting?) asks anyone else if they want to leave now because this is real. And they should only be there for him! And they signed a contract! Meanwhile, we get five minutes of Rozlyn packing her stuff. She’s pretty straight-faced and won’t give into the drama. I like her! Can we make her the next Bachelorette? Subtitled “nail this one down before she seduces the entire production crew!” It will be like a Paradise Hotel Crossover!

So yea. Other stuff happened in this episode. And, after 34 seasons, you’d think the editors and producers would not use the same damn format. Thus presenting the rules of The Bachelor:

1. If one of the women in heavily featured early on in the episode, she will either be sent home or given the last rose to create dramatic tension. (Vag flashin, camerman seducin’ Roz)

2. One gal will proclaim herself “different from the other gals” and spend the episode feeling physically inferior to the others. (This Christina gal with the dark eyebrows.)

3. Once Jake takes some alone time on a group date, it is up to the others to “steal him away” as a method of courtship.

4. If the Bachelor is in the pool with some women, he must have a woman on his shoulders to play “chicken”.

5. The harem must screech every time the Bachelor enters a room.

6. If it is a large group date, the Bachelor must engage the women in a totally shallow activity based on their ability to gussy up and look sexy for him; i.e., a photo shoot, a shopping trip, a spa trip.

7. A one on one date must include a private performance from an artist featured on the adult contemporary charts (was that Peter Cetera?)

8. A woman who is too overdressed for the rose ceremony will be sent home. This isn’t a debutante ball, ladies.

9. The “date boxes” have the ability to ring doorbells.

10. A one on one date must include a diamond necklace.

11. A date must also include a helicopter or plane ride to induce bad metaphors about “hearts racing” and “taking a risk” for love.

12. If strawberries are anywhere in the vicinity, they must be fed to each other.

13. All conversations at the cocktail party are limited to talking about the extent of “feeling a connection.”

14. The woman that all the other hate is guaranteed a spot in the top three.

15. A woman suspected of having a boyfriend at home is guaranteed a spot in the top five.

16. The woman who is barely featured in the first three episodes will be the “winner.”

New Bachelor season begins: women to plotz, swoon.

Well, I didn’t even know this season was happening until about five hours ago. It just snuck up on me like…an irregular period? Garbage Day? I don’t know. So, for all of you who are second-class citizens and cannot marry your committed partner because of archaic, bigoted lawmakers, just sit back and watch how us straight folks throw the privilege of marriage around like it’s a prize on a game show! Yaaaayyyy!

I haven’t even turned on my Tivo yet, but here is what I predict:

Jake will look longingly into an ocean/field and “remember” back to his season via some slickly edited stock footage. Then we will see him in a plane, maybe washing a plane shirtless, make erotically stroking the plane controls. There will be so many metaphors about how love is like “taking off the ground” and “flying through the air” and that you can’t be “on auto-pilot” when it comes to love. And then my English teacher friend will have a brain embolism.

Then we’ll meet the fem-bots, er…”ladies”. They will all be dressed like its their 1997 sorority formal. They will exit a limo and greet Jake and it will give me douche chills. Someone will say they are already in love with him, someone will proclaim, “I’m not here to make friends”. Jake will marvel about how it is overwhelming to be on THIS SIDE of things and he didn’t realize how hard it was. The ladies look nicely photo shopped, and with ambiguous job titles like “entrepreneur” (got suckered into a pyramid scheme by her ex); “accounts manager” (books clients for an orthodontist); “spokesmodel” (I got nothing); “Wardrobe Consultant” (works at Forever 21); “Marketing Representative” (Telemarketer).

Ok, well here we go for real. Oh, Chris Harrison, you haven’t hung yourself yet. Fun fact: he was in an episode of Sabrina: The Teenage Witch.

Jake. What is there to say about Jake? He’s genetically engineered. He’s also very…white. And male. Like he was made from an LL Bean catalog, veneers, a cover of a 99 cents romance novel, and Aryan genetics. I guess he is what is considered good looking. And he is someone that would never go for me, but if I did have him, I would fall asleep during the very generic, very vanilla sex. We get a Jake montage, of him strolling in Dallas in a fitted thermal tee, drilling some wood with no shirt, walking on the beach with no shirt, reciting Shakespeare with no shirt…sense a pattern? Jake’s got a body that I guess would be on a flier for a gym. Big biceps and pecs, and a waxed chest. I guess that’s attractive, right? To me it’s boooring. Then again, I go for the schlubby nerds, so I’m not the one to judge him. Then, Jake in his pilot’s uniform- uniforms do generally do it for me, but this one looks too fake. Like he’s a stripper dressed as a pilot and it’s just cheap tear-away polyester.

Yikes! Your teeth are blinding me!

And yes, there is the talk with Chris. I’m not getting into it. You can guess what is talked about. Jake believes he will find true love, despite the odds of this show. Jake is fairly polite and non- threatening, it’s hard to make fun of him. But not too hard. It hits him most “on rainy days, when you are at home alone on the couch, when you could be snuggled in bed with someone. That’s when the loneliness hits”. Silly Jake, that’s why you get a cat. Or validate yourself with a reality show.

The gals arrive at the mansion, or, the walk of shame out of the limo. The gals do some douchey stuff, most notable someone bringing him soil from Texas, and playing the old “look something on your tie- woop! hit you on the face!” and one gal comes running in, arms out and making airplane noises. I am so clenched with embarrassment for these people that my couch got sucked up my ass. One woman, who tells us is Cambodian, says something to Jake in Cambodian. Jake looks scared, he only thought women came in white I guess? Poor gal, dark skin= first to be eliminated.  Some crazy girl with obvs hair extensions gives him a paper plate with a spinner on it, all of pictures of the two of them photoshopped together. He’s supposed to spin it ….and???? Was that supposed to be endearing? God, I miss the Andrew Firestone days.

Ok, so the next part is blurry because there are too many women and I can’t remember their names. The girls are squealing over Jake like I squeal over Adam Lambert. One q1uite-confident gal brings in a box of jellybeans to give out “as a consolation prize”, because everyone is going home but me”. I think the object of the game is to get the most camera time, not Jake. One gal, I think the one with the paper plate thing, comes out dressed as a sexy flight attendant. The other gals rolls their eyes at this, but Jake seems to like it. Another gal proclaims, “god, how desperate do you have to be to get him to notice you, you have to bring a costume?” and then she comes walking over with a football and asks him to play. Yea, like bringing that prop wasn’t a cheap ploy either. What’s next, a girl wheels herself out on a table with stirrups and gives Jake a speculum? All the gals, not to lose Jake’s attention (or camera time) kick off their heels and play. In other words to say “look at me! I’m spunky and spontaneous! And I like sports like you do!”

Then comes the time when a producer tells Jake he has to take the girls and talk to them one on one. This is where instead of asking about things like, say… what movies they like, the gals launch into their hopes and fears about relationships. You know, typical stuff you tell someone you first met. Someone asks Jake what his top three priorities are, and he says “God, family, friends, in that order.” And what that means is “I’m a virgin.” Someone asks for a kiss, and she gets one, and I have to say, it wasn’t good. Here’s hoping he’s not a Jason Mesnick-esque kisser. One gal, Michelle, with the crazy eyes, proves herself to be the crazy one. She sulks alone and starts crying because “she deserves Jake” and she didn’t like seeing him around these other girls. Woh boy. Has she never watched this show? She corners Jake and pours her heart out. Jake looks scared. (Then again, Jake really only has one expression). Good thing Michelle is smokin’ hot. On Barney Stinson’s crazy/attractive scale, she is above the line.

And hey, look who’s back/didn’t get enough air time! It’s Jillian “I have a great personality” and Ed “Jeffrey Dean Morgan” from last season! Dammit why do I find Ed kind of cute! They are here to interview the women, and help Jake make his decision, because they are bffs. And they’ve been through this before so they know what it’s like. Or something. Jillian looks like she’s wearing aluminum foil. Oh, look Jillian has a notebook to take notes. Also, shut up. “What do you think aboooot Jake?

The rose ceremony. There’s tension. Jake hates having to do this. Blah blah blah. Chris announces that it’s the final rose of the night when one is left, because these women can’t count to one? There are tears, goodbyes, and everyone’s push up body tape starts to wilt. True to form, Cambodian woman is gone. Michelle is called last for dramatic affect. Of course, it also helps to be crazy so the producers will allow her to be on the show.

And then…previews of the season. No joke, Chris tells us “IT’S THE MOST DRAMATIC SEASON OF THE BACHELOR. EEEVVVVEEEEEEEERRRRRRR.” Montage of dates and kissing, jake’s pecs, planes, blue eyeshadow, and Forever 21 wardrobes. They go to San Francisco at some point and ride a trolley. Why did I not know they were filming here? And then, some big drama. Jake is in an interview and says “I can’t even talk about it. I’m done. Interview over.”  And kicks a lamp. He’s a horrible actor. And he’s crying on a balcony (or is that stock footage of Jason?). And then someone voiceovers “how can you do that? Be here but still pursue another relationship” and then they show two of the gals hugging on a couch and giggling. Oh PLEASE tell me two of these woman start a lesbian affair on the show. But, doubtful.

I gotta tell you, I don’t know if I can do this weekly. Especially if each episode is 2 hours long. But I’ll try.

Regarding Jake: Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be easy to make fun of him, other than he’s just kind of…boring and ordinary. At least Jason had the “I’m a fun-loving Dad” going for him. And wasn’t that one lumberjack guy secretly a criminal? And Bob Guiney was like a modern-day Winston Egbert. Jake really has nothing interesting about him. He’s no Andrew Firestone, I’ll tell ya that.

But, people seem to love Jake, because apparently, people thought he had one of the best dates ever on the show. If that includes trying on gay cowboy gear and looking up Jillian’s dress, then ok. See for yourself. (The date actually starts at 2:17).

An Open Letter to Diablo Cody

Hey Diablo! I hear you read this blog on occasion, so I thought I’d give this a try. A few days ago I posted my first reactions to the news that you are going to adapt Sweet Valley High into a movie.  I have to say I was premature in my judgement. I’m waving the white flag here (or a purple one, if The Unicorns designed it) As far as calling yo0u overrated, that was perhaps kind of hasty as well. I found Juno enjoyable, but I believe what made me kind of annoyed by it was all the hoopla around it- people were quoting it constantly who shouldn’t be quoting it, and it kind of became like Napoleon Dynamite, which is a good movie, but now seems kind of annoying because people quote it too much, you know? I haven’t seen Jennifer’s Body yet, and I do plan to- despite if I enjoy the movie or not, the whole concept is completely awesome.

And then my brain fart- I had totally forgot about United States of Tara, which is fantastic. How could I forget that? And then, reading your twitter posts, you get it. You are one of us! Not someone who will take our beloved book series and make it into some Hollywood rom com or typical teen comedy! You won me over when you told Bruce Patman: “Bruce, you’d better stop lightly touching breasts.” and then you told Liz: “You’ll need to suffer personality-changing skull trauma if you really want to be popular. Now get on that motorcycle.”

Many of us are still holding onto the dream that Sweet Valley Heights will still be published. [Damn you Francine!] I’ve already given up on that, but now I have the new hope that I will see Sweet Valley High on the screen as it should be! From someone who read all the books! From a quick imdb.com check, we are exactly the same age, so I’d imagine we first read the books around the same age, and possible had the same reactions.

I also want to give my support to a woman working in the film industry who doesn’t just write rom com vehicles for Katherine Heigl. Or whose female characters sole purpose is to have a happy ending with a guy. On a shallow note, who also wore leopard print to the Academy Awards, which was so Very.

I know as the writer you don’t have complete control over every aspect of the film, but I am sure the community here has some suggestions for you. I wrote up mine but I can’t publish it here because I’ve already published it at film.com so please check it out over there.

I know that other folks in this community are extremely excited and invested in the idea, and have suggestions as well, and I am sure will leave them in the comments.

Love,

Robin (aka ihatewheat)