Stepsisters: A Dramatic Reading

Cover courtesy of The Closet

MRS. WHITMAN: Annie, I’m back from another modeling gig in New York! Nevermind a boozy, single mother in a small town in California works as a model in New York, but I have some wonderful news!

ANNIE: You’ve found me a new Daddy? Because being from a single-parent household caused me to become a slutty suicidal basket case.

MS. WHITMAN: That’s right! He’s a famous fashion photographer!

ANNIE: YAY! How sophisticated!

MS. WHITMAN: But there’s just one thing…..he and his daughter are…black.

ANNIE: OH NO! WHAT WILL EVERYONE SAY?

MS. WHITMAN: Don’t worry kitten. They are totally and intentionally not at all stereotypical! They live on the Upper West Side! Cheryl loves opera! Everyone will love them! Plus, I just bought a house next to the Wakefields! What can be more perfect than living next to that wonderful family?

ANNIE: Probably not having a black stepsister. What will I tell everyone! Wow, this is going to be so hard for ME!

—–
ELIZABETH: Hi Cheryl! Welcome to Sweet Valley! I’m Liz, I write for the school newspaper, wear sensible skirts, and I am so welcoming and inclusive of all races.

JESSICA: Hi Cheryl, I’m Jessica, I am a cheerleader, I like headbands and lip gloss, and I am not even noticing that you are black! Wakefields are so open and welcoming of all races.

CHERYL: Hey, hi guys. Wow, people in Sweet Valley are so nice. Sweet Valley is the most beautiful place ever, even though I grew up in New York City. I’m not at all bitter for my father dragging me out of NY to live in a small, all-white town. I look forward to getting to know more kids.

—-

CHERYL! OMG! I have to throw a party for Cheryl. Let me invite all our token students of colors Cheryl will feel better. Let’s pull Manuel Lopez and Jade Wu out of hiding. And, thank god Patty Gilbert was recently introduced in a previous book. And maybe some others that were never mentioned before.

ELIZABETH: Steven! You’ll be home that weekend! Why don’t you invite some college friends!

STEVEN: Good idea, I need to make some first. Plus, I’ll put an ad on the dorm bulletin board advertising for a black friend.

ANNIE: PERFECT! I am so glad we are neighbors. Nevermind that Jessica drove me to a suicide attempt once.

(At the party)

CHERYL: Why are there so many students of color here, Annie? And why do most of them say they don’t know you?

ANNIE: I, well, I just thought…it would make you feel more comfortable…I’m sorry…WAAAAHHHHHHHH (goes crying out of the room)

ELIZABETH: Oh Cheryl, you should not be so mad at Annie. I mean, this has been really hard for HER. She didn’t know how to make you comfortable, and was worried that other kids would be mean to you. Your move has been really stressful on HER. Come on, everyone, let’s go comfort Annie. Oh, but by the way, I am tolerant of all races. (They all leave)

CHERYL: Really? Really? Dad wanting a piece of ass from that model, and I have to live in crazy WASP town?

[At the football game]

STEVEN: So Cheryl, how are you liking your first football game??

CHERYL: I thought I’d miss New York City, but this is way better than all the museums, shows, culture, and shopping combined! I see why you all like it here! It’s the best place ever! It looks like things are going to be ok. Sweet Valley really seems to have a handle on this racism thing.

STEVEN: Well, get used to it, soon your days will be filled with football games, picnics at Secca Lake, and food binges at the Dairi Burger. And if your lucky, you may even be struck by a rare disease or attacked by a sociopath.

CHERYL: Gee, I hope so! Except that…I can’t drive!

STEVEN: What? You can’t drive? Let me withdraw from my college classes this semester so I can hang around here and teach you to drive.

CHERYL: Great! Our driving lessons will be a metaphor for the struggles we will have as Sweet Valley’s most famous interracial couple.

ANNIE: Cheryl, I’m really sorry. I just wanted to make things welcoming for you here. You don’t know how stressful you being black has been for ME.

CHERYL: That’s okay. I’m sorry I am black and this was stressful for you. Will you ever forgive me?

ANNIE: Sure. To show how much our friendship means to you, let’s go get our picture taken. I’ll wear stripes, you’ll wear polka-dots, and we’ll make ourselves look like a mid-40s lesbian couple.

CHERYL: It’s a deal! Then I’ll take you out for a double-scoop Sundae at Casey’s!

ANNIE: I hope it’s a vanilla AND chocolate sundae! Get it?

CHERYL: I think I do! It’s going to be all right after all.

A note: welcome to all new readers! I’m flattered that you all have been checking out the site. While you are at it, become a fan on facebook.

Bring It On! or #113 The Pom Pom Wars

So, last time we left the gals, Jessica quit the team and found out about Liz and Ken’s torrid affair. Which still totally infuriates me, because it was so thrown in there after the affect! And with Ken, of all people! And suddenly Liz’s obsession with ken comes out of the woodwork! Even last miniseries when she was all up in Bruce’s speedo!!!

Ken actually does something useful- suggests that Jessica start her own cheerleading squad. So Jess goes out and recruits good dancers and gymnasts, along with Lila and Maria and Jean, who Heather booted. And…Jade Wu! I totally thought she would never appear in the series again. I must eat my words. And some gal Patty Gilbert, who I am apparently supposed to know about.

Jessica also blackmails Liz to be on her team. Either she joins or Jess tells Todd about Ken. So, um, yeah.

Lots of pages that throw in some cheerleading terminology and how Jessica is getting frustrated with her team. Blah blah blah. Apparently one can learn to do backflips and extensive pyramids within two days practice. Including Liz.

Lots of instances where Liz is crazy jealous of Ken and Jessica and mean to Todd. Seriously, this needs to get resolved quick because these scenes are just the same things over and over again.

Heather’s squad only has four people: her, Annie Whitman, Amy Sutton, and Sandra Bacon. And she forbids them all from talking Jessica. Although that is mean, I love how Jessica has tasted her own medicine and IT IS BITTER! I would have loved for Annie Whitman to be all, “remember when you made me feel so horrible I tried to kill myself when you kept me out of the squad? Payback’s a bitch!”. And didn’t Jessica once keep Amy Sutton off their stupid fucking baton twirling team once in the twins series? Maybe I just dreamt that.

Ok, so a scout came to one of the games and wants Heather’s team to go to the nationals. Ooookaaaayyyy, I was not a cheerleader in high school (surprise) but I don’t think that is how the national cheerleading competition works. First of all, you need an ADULT SUPERVISOR which they clearly don’t have.

Jess wants to be recruited to the nationals too, so she has her squad show up to the scout’s house. Listen, i am sure his wife is pissed enough that her husband watches high school girls shake their asses all day, he doesn’t need them showing up at his house. So he loves them but tells them that Heather already has the team that is going. On the way back they decide to stop at the football game in progress and sabotage the halftime. Jess gives her cassette to the PA guy and they come out and do their thing before Heather’s squad can. And the crowd goes wild!! Also, every student is at the football game, apparently.

Jessica get a brilliant idea that the school should VOTE on who gets to go to nationals, and approaches Chrome Dome with the idea of a cheer-off. NOTE TO ADULTS: IT’S OK TO SAY NO TO JESSICA. Ignoring any type of precedents, respect for the National Cheerleading Association, or boundaries, agrees to it. I think he even cancels class. What the fuck. Does everyone in the school really care? I’ll bet Lois Waller throws up in her mouth when she realizes she’s required to go to this shit show.

So both teams kick ass, and it’s a dead tie! The other members hatch a plan to tell both Heather and Jessica that they will each be the sole captains and to join the teams. Of course their egos both agree. So then they go to the regionals and win. Because forming a team within the span of three weeks makes you the best. But, I guess if you have the Wakefield twins, you’re the best.

MIRACULOUSLY, Heather and Jessica now get along. Nice plot consistency. At point, Ken comes up to Liz thinking she’s Jess and invites her out that night. Liz plays along and tells Jess that Ken had to cancel so she can go out with him. So they go to Miller’s Point or whatever and start making out and BAM! Ken realizes it’s Liz and BAM! Liz realizes she’s suddenly over Ken. If she got over him that quickly, did we REALLY need to hear all the incessant whining over her feelings?

They go to tell Todd and Jessica to come clean but it turns out that Jess and Todd found out and are super-pissed. Todd and Liz cheating on each other? It must be a Tuesday.

Can we talk about the cover? There are too many fucking blondes, I can’t tell who is who. First i thought the girls in the bleachers with the stringy hair were Liz and Jess, spying and plotting on Heather’s team, but then I realized that must be Heather and someone else spying on Jess’ new team. And that must be Jessica doing that spazzy jump. Isn’t Jade Asian and Patty is black? Where are they?

My grade: A-

The one where Jessica gets a taste of her own medicine or #112 Jessica Quits the squad

Oh great. Another one about fucking cheerleading. Apparently these gals get into motorcycle accidents often because they are always forgetting the way they act. I am glad that I just read#10 recently for a compare/contrast.

I also want to say that I like the pic of the twins on top of these later miniseries ones, I think they actually looks pretty. But, of course, the pics on the main cover look nothing like that. Continuity errors are kind of a theme though.

Yes, that’s Ken Matthews that Jessica is kissing. And he is a hot commodity in this book. They actually ran out of guys to dry hump, so they got back to Ken. And the title totally gives away the ending, because Jessica quits at the last chapter. But I am getting ahead of myself.

So after the Jeremy Randall fiasco, Jessica is feeling mistrustful of love, until she realizes she has feelings for Ken. Weird! You can be friends with a boy before dating him!

Heather Mallone moves to town, and she is totally the Regina George of SVH. She’s super gorge, and everyone falls all over her. Jessica hates her on sight. Mostly because she is jealous. Thanks for perpetuating this mean-girl mentality. Everyone is all up in Heather and the boys in the school actually pant over her. Literally. I really don’t blame Heather for being a total beotch right back to Jessica, because Jessica is hate-worthy. If they had made friends right at the start, they’d be bffs and doing lines of coke off Bruce Patman’s crotch together. But Heather is a total asshole. She points out how much fat is in Jessica’s lunch. oooo, burn!

Heather was also a cheerleader at her old school, and so good that the squad, with the exception of Jessica, decide they want her on the team. Uh, don’t they have a process? Anyone can walk on? Can someone please get these girls an adult to coach them and supervise them?

So Jessica, being Jessica, decides to put Heather through a series of tests to see if she’s “fit” to be a cheerleader. Um, HAZING? ADULT SUPERVISION, PLEASE? One is to be seen talking to the chess club. Heather does it and has no qualms about it. Jessica is miffed. She makes Heather wear a hideous outfit to school, consisting of patchwork overalls and an orange cowboy hat. Everyone ooohs and aaahhhs over her, claiming that grunge is so in right now. [Checked the publish date. 1994. Yup, that sounds about right]. Finally, Jessica makes Heather sing the national anthem during homeroom. She does and makes it jazzy and rappy. Whatever that means. HAH! I love seeing Jessica defeated. Everyone, inclusing Lila, seems to love Heather.

Suddenly, Robin Wilson learns that she has to move away to Denver. Everyone is all sad and Robin is crying over missing all her best friends on the team. Robin, are you really that upset? Are these really your friends? Amy throws a going away party for her and Heather arrives and flirts with Ken Matthews. Jessica accidentally on purpose pushes her in the pool. Yea, that’s an original storyline.

For real, Jessica is a sociopath. And not in the she-s just such a bitch way, but in the actual clinical way. I know she may have secretly always hated Robin, but her first thought was when she heard Robin was moving away was, good, I get to be the sole captain of the team, and her second thought was great, I get to buy a new sexy dress for Robin’s going away party. Jeez. So the gals on the team totally drank Heather’s Kool-Aid, and automatically make Heather the other co-captain.

Now, Heather starts beating Jessica at her own game. I have to say, it makes me like Heather, even if she is supposed to be the enemy. She keeps showing up Jessica at practice and showing the gals cooler moves that are more dance-y hip-hoppy than Jessica’s stuff. Jessica is sick for a meeting and kicks Maria Santinelli and Jean West off the team. Heather also institutes a new diet, which consists of:

You can start with one half a grapefruit for breakfast and a big glass of water. For lunch you can have any kind of vegetables you want as long as you don’t put anything on them. You can even eat rice with your vegetables as long as it’s brown rice. For dinner you can have a salad, but you have to use lemon juice for your dressing. Oh, and in the afternoon, you can have a piece of fruit OR a carrot stick.”

Uh, how many girls followed that diet after reading this? And subsequently started growing fine hair all over their bodies and stopped mentruating?

Woops, I gotta back up. So Ken and Jessica are totally hot and heavy. Problem Liz is SUPER JEALOUS because she once had a fling with Ken. We are told it was when Todd moved back to Vermont for a short time. Wasn’t that say…a hundred books or so ago? AND WE NEVER HEARD ABOUT IT??? And what about Jeffrey French? Did he just never exist!! ARRRGGHHHH continuity! Liz acts like a complete and total douchebag. Even worse that Jessica would. She mopes around and is totally rude to Todd, and tries to bring Jessica down and convinces her to be mistrustful of Todd. When Jessica is getting ready for her date with Ken, Liz tells her she looks fat. Nice. Real nice.

Apparently Ken and Liz would spend hours talking about books and movies. Ken? Ken Matthews? The same one who hated cultural stuff and only liked football? And were totally in love. Although, Ken seems to be in love with Jessica because he takes her to the Box Tree Cafe (natch) and makes a picnic for her with brie cheese. Who the fuck does that? If someone did that for me now, at my age, I’d laugh at them. But maybe that’s just me, and you could charm your way into my pants in about five minutes by talking about obscure British comedies. But I digress.

At the end, Jessica finds out about Liz and Ken because she finds a framed picture of Ken and Liz doing those stupid carnival photo booth things. And is peeved. Plus, Heather pulls the last straw at the big game by leading the girls in a cheer that Jessica never learned, leaving her lookin stupid. So Jessica quits and huffs off the field, thus fullfilling the title of the book. So really, the titles gave away what happens in the last chapter, so that was pretty dumb.

I also want to point out that Heather moves to town, joins the squad, Robin learns she is moving away, actually then moves away, and Jessica quits…all in the span of a week.

Oh, you can bet I’ll continue this miniseries. Seriously, caring about cheerleading issues is at the top if my list.

Other thoughts:

When Heather is announced as cocaptain, guys call out “Babe-ormama! What a dish!” Seriously, Francine. Have you ever actually heard teenagers talk?
Lila actually gives Jess a pep talk and tells her that Jessica is better than all this crap, and that Lila is on her side. Aw, see, Lila does come through sometimes.

Can Annie Whitman please run up to Jessica and say NOW YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS, BITCH!

Grade: A-

Poll: who is the blame? Jessica or Heather? Who is a more annoying couple? Jessica and Ken, Liz and Ken, or Liz and Todd?

The one where we learn that sluts don’t make good cheerleaders, or #10 Wrong Kind of Girl

Annie looks like Brittany Murphy, pre-anorexia and cocaine. Like in the Clueless days. Jessica’s smirk and stupid wavy bangs make me want to punch her directly in her size-six stomach. Ugh.

Okay, just a warning: I’ll be quoting verbatim from many parts of this one. Because it is so fucking horrible you won’t believe it. First:

The cheerleaders at Sweet Valley High were the cream of the crop- the prettiest, most sought after girls not only in the school but in the town of Sweet Valley, California. They included Robin Wilson, the current Miss Sweet Valley High; Helen Bradley, a stunning redhead, Jean West, a pixie brunette; and Maria Santinelli, who could do backflips that took everyone’s breath away. Finally, there was Jessica, who at five feet six, with a crown of glorious, sun-streaked blond hair, and sprakling blue-green eyes, was the envy of most of the girls in Sweet Valley High…..Of course, looks were only part of it. It took more than that to make the SVH cheering squad…you had to keep your grades up…and the cheerleaders had some indefinable style….above, all she had to have talent.

Great! If they are unique women, they shall only be known by hair color and looks. Second of all, there doesn’t seem to be an adult coach or anything overseeing the team, so wtf? Can a school really allow the students to pick their own members based on looks? ARRRGGGHHHH!!!

So Jessica labels Annie a slut because she has “dated” several different guys, including Rick Andover, Bruce Patman and others. As far as I know, Annie hasn’t slept with any of them, but gets the nickname “Easy Annie”. And she doesn’t want a tramp on her team, because others will start thinking they are tramps. Is it REALLY not possible that someone at SVH does not already think that Jessica is a slut? Can someone PLEASE call her out on her hypocracy? I think the real reason she doesn’t want her on the team is some jealousy thing, because Annie is really thin (we have to hear about it every page) and talented and may move in and steal the attention from guys.

Oh another reason Annie is a vile outcast: she lives in AN APARTMENT! AND HAS A SINGLE MOM! OMG! THE HORROR! Her mother had her at sixteen (wow, at least some teenagers in SVH are having sex) and kind of doesn’t act like a mom and I get the feeling this is why Annie gets her validation from male attention. Which, is a legit reason, but can we please have some characters with non-traditional family structures that are well-adjusted? Because, you know, it does happen. And by my calculations, Annie’s mother is my age. Wow. I need to sit with that thought for a while. Again, Francine implies that if you don’t grow up in a family with 2 straight parents, 2.5 kids and a dog, you are a ruined and tainted person.

Liz is tutoring Annie to get her grades up to she can be eligible to try out for the cheerleading team. And Liz can’t stick her nose out of people’s business and thinks that without her help people will fail.

Oh right, Annie and Jessica have a dance-off at the Beach Disco. How Britney and Justin of them.

Oh, Annie did some modeling when she was thirteen. Who HASN’T been a model in Sweet Valley? The hell? The writers need to understand that pretty people don’ t automatically become models. There is an in-between on the scale of attractiveness.

Annie makes it through the semi-finals and finals and impresses everyone, apparently she is good. And thin and pretty. But Jessica schemes and wines and bullies the rest of the team to pick Cara Walker and Sandra Bacon. I wish Robin Wilson, as co-captain, would stand up to Jessica. I wonder how she even puts up with her.

Also to mention that the team has a manager, Ricky Capuldo, who is shy and is afraid of dating girls, but loves to hang out with the cheerleaders. Um, gay much? But he does have a major thing for Annie. And calls Jessica out on her shit, so that put him on my short list of SVH characters that are bearable.

So Annie doesn’t make the squad, and she tried to kill herself. I guess I should feel bad, but I feel like this does not do justice to the notion of suicide, and glosses over it and suggests people try to kill themselves are just overreacting about an event, and ignores any deep-rooted depression and issues. But why would I even expect Francine to take this seriously? The doctors say she has “no will to live”. Jessica suddenly feels guilty and realizes what a cruel, heartless, selfish wench she’s been. However, that doesn’t carry past the last page of this book, so don’t get too excited.

The twins come in and explain the situation to her doctor, and

Dr. Hammond pressed his hands together and stared at Jessica for a long time. “Do you really want to help Annie?” he asked….”I don’t know” he said slowly, “Perhaps…it’s possible. Now Jessica, you must tell me something. Are you willing to have Annie on the cheerleading squad? If you aren’t, then please say so right now. It would be terrible to raise her hopes and then let her down again. That would be quite traumatic.”…

Wtf? Why does the doctor even entertain this thought? Seriously, if someone was brought in because of an intentional overdose, they would be sent to psych to be under observation for a few days, and here this doctor is prescribing a talk from a stupid teenager to help Annie. HE THINKS THAT BECOMING A CHEERLEADER WILL OVERCOME A SERIOUS MEDICAL CONDITION. Someone take his license away! ARRGGHHH! THE RAGE! So anyway, Jessica asks Annie to be on the team and that wakes her out of her coma or whatever. And all is happy and well. You’d think that maybe Jessica would learn something, but we have a hundred or so books after this that prove she learned nothing.

So…[taking deep breaths]…what is the moral of this one? If you want to change your life for the better, you need to be validated by an exclusive group that bases people on looks. That’s one. The other one is, just as we saw in the Robin Wilson weight-a-palooza, was that the best way to get revenge on those that are being mean and judgmental is to become just like them and be accepted. Seriously, if Robin and Annie are that talented and good looking, they could go off by themselves and make their own clique. Thirdly, if you are blond and pretty and come from an upper-middle class home, it is okay to date around. However, if you are poor and brunette and come from a single family home, it’s considered slutty. These are great messages, Francine. Thank you.

Other thoughts:

They mention that Mr. Collins is in his late-twenties. So, Mr. Collins is actually younger than I am. Yikes.

Want to hear some gross Lizz-Todd lovey dovey talk?

Elizbeth felt Todd as he put his strong arms around her, hugging her tightly. “When we hold each other like this, I believe you. But you had me scared.” “Scared? You? The star basketball player of Sweet Valley High is scared by little old me?” she teased. “I’d better run right down to the Oracle office and stop the presses.” Todd’s response was a tender kiss. “if the opposing team had five beautiful blondes exactly like you, I’d be helpless,” he confessed when they finished their embrace. “But that’s be impossible, because there is no one exactly like you, Liz”.

I threw up in my mouth when I read this. Also, what Todd says is actually kind of gay when you think about it.

Grade: B-

Rage factor: 146 million