The one where Jeffrey French moves to town and everyone wants a piece, or #31 Taking Sides

I especially hate this cover. Elizabeth’s yellow barettes match her yellow shirt. Jessica’s hair irritates me. She is really balding, it seems. And it’s all feathered. It looks like what happens when I leave my hair wet and unbrushed and let it airdry. Ick.

Jeffrey French is making a big splash- Enid and Lila both like him. So Liz helps Enid get with him and Jessica helps Lila get with him because she can’t stand to see a hottie like Jeffrey with a drip like Enid. Kind of have to agree with her. So Lila turns on the usual charm and Enid acts like an ass and whines and never does anything to approach Jeffrey, she relies on Liz to set things up. Lila does what a usual 16 year old would do, which is a have a pool party and invite Jeffrey and purposely not invite Liz and Enid. Liz decides to get to know Jeffrey more so she can help him get with Enid. He works on the Oracle as a photographer so they chat a lot and of course like each other because if you don’t want to date a Wakefield twin, there is obviously something wrong with you.

Ok, stupid school event: a charity auction that students use canned food to bet and then the proceeds go to charity. I am not sure what they will do with all the food, the one poor person in Sweet Valley just became a Patman. Maybe give it to Betsey Martin’s drunk father? Or Jade Wu’s friend with the single Mom who we never hear from again? Guess who is the chair of the auction? Fucking Elizabeth. So Enid convinces Liz to make Jeffrey auction off himself so Enid can bid on him. Great idea Enid, pay to go out with him. Fucking idiot. The auction is for services, and here are the things being auctioned off.

  • A tape of the Droids playing live (barf)
  • A home made dinner cooked by Mr. Collins (please help this man set professional boundaries)
  • A pen that the history teacher used to mark papers (I’ll bet Liz bet a million cans on that)
  • A candid pic of Bruce in his bathing suit (BWAH!)

Again, WHERE ARE THE ADULTS? That is so not appropriate to do. Seriously, I am sure Bruce loved the attention, but I small a lawsuit.

Subplot: The Wakefield’s “little” cousin Jenny comes to visit. She is fifteen, a year younger, and they make her act like a mentally challenged eight year old. Guess why she’s annoying? Sigh. I can’t even say it. Because she’s a few lbs overweight, which is the kiss of death in Sweet Valley. And wears glasses. OH MY GOD DOES SHE HAVE NO SHAME? She clings to Jessica because obvs Jessica is the epitome of what every teen should be like. She tags along with Jessica on some dates with this guy Eddie, and Jessica gets annoyed that Eddie seems to be polite to Jenny and talking to her, but it turns out he likes Jenny because they like “stupid” things, like books, old movies and classical music. Yea, that’s bullshit, real people just like cheerleading, Pi Beta Alpha, and shopping at Lisette’s. HATE! At least Jessica didn’t get the guy.

Thoughts:

This time when describing the twins, ghost writer adds: “they had the kind of looks that make California girls famous around the world”. First of all, HATE! Second, I believe David Lee Roth gets the credit for that.

Oh, and throughout this thing, Liz HAD NO IDEA why she felt weird around Jeffrey. How in the hell did she not realize she liked him? They’re sixteen, hormones are raging.

Well, we do learn some things about Jeffrey- he is from Oregon (woot!), likes soccer and photogaphy. That description alone makes him about 100% more complex than all the characters combined. Also, he’s kind of a tool. And probably gay.

Alice actually acted like a parent and told Jess to stfu when she was complaining about Jenny. Thank you for finally disciplining your spoiled, sociopath daughter.

Grade: C-

Poll: which one of the auction items would you take? They are all pretty bad. Sadly, I’d take the pic of Bruce.

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The one with the crash landing or #20 Crash Landing!

Ok, when I say this one was bad, I don’t mean like so bad it was good, I mean so fucking stupid. George Warren, Enid’s boyf, has fallen in love with former fatty Robin Wilson while they are taking flying classes. [cue needle scratching across record]

Um, what? Flying lessons? The last I heard of any teenagers taking flying lessons was when Theo and Cockroach convinced their parents to let them do it and then decided it was too expensive. Why the fuck is Robin taking flying classes? Isn’t she too busy cheerleading and losing weight at explosive rates? I know they are rich kids, but please.

So George takes Enid up in his plane one last time before he plans on dumping her (uh, why?) but they crash land in the water. See how the book got its title? So Enid is now paralyzed and George feels guilty for wanting to dump her and reluctantly stays with her. Enid knows about him and Robin but manipulates George into staying with her. They even go to a dance (it is Friday, after all) and Enid really sees that George is really in love with Robin and needs to let go. Um, sad?

But, she still can’t walk and Liz thinks it’s psychosomatic. So she hatches a plan using Mr. Collins son Teddy. This is rull appropriate. She leaves him in the pool with Enid and Teddy pretends to drown and Enid is forced to jump up and save him. It was totally like when Nellie Olsen fell off Laura’s horse and pretended to be paralyzed but then Laura pushed her into a lake forcing her to stand up. Except that it wasn’t as cool.

And here’s the icing on the cake: Liz is a HERO after playing that trick on Enid. People at school run up to her and cheer. Errrrr, isn’t Enid the one who just became unparalyzed? Shouldn’t someone give a shit?

Um, the cover? It makes it look like Liz is saving Enid right after the crash. Or, if they are in the hospital, shouldn’t she not move Enid around like that?

Other thoughts:

Robin Wilson gets all stressed and guilty, so of course she starts stuffing her face. Eating is weakness. The book takes place over the span of a week, and she puts on ten pounds. And both Liz and Jessica both take notice in the form of condescending thoughts in italics.

So high school kids and their love lives can often be shallow, but I really don’t know why some of these kids are together. They never really talk about why why and how George and Robin fell in love. Their love of planes? Their burning desires for mainstream acceptance?

Sorry y’all, I couldn’t give you more. This one was dreadful.

My grade: F

Next time: Rags to Riches: it is so fucking ridiculous you won’t believe it.

The one where we learn that Ms. Dalton has a double identity, or Super Special: Perfect Summer

Perfect summer indeed! Wow, these kids must be left back a lot. Because this is about their eighth summer after their junior year in high school. So they are going on a bike trip up the coast of California, and camping out and staying out in hostels along the way. Actually, that does seem pretty cool. We get all Saved By the Bell style, and out of the twelve students who are on the trip, most of them our the Scooby gang: Jessica, Elizabeth, Lila, Bruce, Charlie something, Annie Whitman (former slut), Todd, Olivia Davidson, Roger Patman, and Chome Dome’s nephew, Barry from Ohio….uh, I don’t even know who the others are. They don’t even mention them. You’d think they could throw in a couple more names. I am surprised they don’t throw in Ken Matthews, he’s always a good placeholder. And guess who is chaperoning…none other than our favorite inappropriate teacher, Roger Collins. Oh, and Ms. Dalton. But it’s awkward between them! More on that later. Enid has to stay home for the summer and work at Casey’s. Hahahaha, fuck the poor kids.

Ok, first things first. Why would Bruce and Lila go on the trip? Wouldn’t they be going to Europe or something? Do they really want to rough it?

Second things second. I have phantom camel toe looking at Jessica’s shorts. Are those comfy for bike riding? Also, is Liz wearing a onesy?

Actually, this totally felt like a Baby-Sitters Club book because most of the chapters started with a letter the twins wrote to Cara and Enid. Elizabeth’s letters are annoying and she analyzes everyone on the trip and thinks she knows all and also assumes that Enid gives a shit. There are so many stories intersecting, I hope you’ll be able to follow. Their first stop is to some movie star producer that is a family friend of the Patmans. But get this….they set up tents and stay outside on the lawn. The fuck? They don’t have a guest house or something? The guys daugher, Courtney Thomas is a total beotch to everyone and is always sneaking off with her boyf, Nolan Ruggers. He has tats! And drives a motorcycle! And is bad news bears. To get his daughter away from him, the prducer guy makes Courtney go on the trip with them. How is that logistically possible? She doesn’t go to svh, so is she allowed? Are their liability issues? Also, Jessica is so judegmental about Nolan. Didn’t she whore it up with Rick Andover not so long ago? And stay out all night with a college guy? And dry hump Bruce Patman? I could go on and on…

Meanwhile at one of the hostels, Lila meets some boys who tell her Ms. Dalton is a former teacher of theirs from Arizona, who was called Beth Curtis. Lila uses this to blackmail Ms. Dalton into doing her chores and picking up her shit. She has it out for her because Ms. Dalton is dating her father. My god, Lila has massive daddy issues.

Barry Cooper, Chrome Dome’s son is overweight…so you know what that means….he’s a disgusting, lazy, idiotic awkward person desperate for approval. And the kids make fun of him the whole time. And he has a crush on Jessica. Because she’s sooooo beautiful. She’s a perfect size six, you know. Because they never mention it.

Courtney does a 180 and acts totally nice and everyone loves her, except Elizabeth, mostly because Todd is friendly with her. Courtney’s plan is to steal Todd away from Liz and bring him home with her to give her Dad the illusion that she’s reformed so she can keep sneaking off with Nolan Ruggers. I don’t know how that will work exactly. She concocts this story that her dad is an alcoloholic and she’s had a terrible childhood, blah blah. Elizabeth doesn’t buy it and Todd basically calls her a heartless bitch. It’s kind of one of the best fights they’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot because they fight every five seconds. They actual break up and Liz mopes around. Todd is such a gullible prick. Finally he agrees to go home with Courtney for the rest of the summer.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets an older guy, Robbie October, at one of the hostels and is in love with him. He is totally not interested, and Jessica keeps trying. I loved seeing Jessica rejected and embarassed. Bruce cock blocks her a couple of times, and it’s awesome. Finally they meet up at a campsite and Jessica plans to sneak out of her tent at midnight to go into the woods with him. And we are supposed to believe that she has no intention of giving it up. Pshahhhh.

They get caught in a cave with a bear and her cubs and are on the brink of death. The crew starts a search party and Courtney says she wants to stop because she doesn’t feel well. Todd takes her back to the campsite, obviously not caring that Jessica could be dead. Frankly, I don’t blame him. Finally….duhn duhn duhn…Barry saves the day! Now everyone accepts him and is nice to him and he feels like a winner. Bar, these people were mean to you not so long ago. Fuck ’em! They are not your friends! But asw Francine has taught us, the best revenge is to be accepted by your tormentors.

Ms. Dalton comes clean and explains that she was married to a schizophrenic man who killed himself after she left him and his family blames her for his death, and were stalking her, so she had to create a new identity. Um, WHAT? That is heavy shit. This is a teen novel, people.

Other stuff:

Once in a while, there is maaayyyybe a funny line that is actually funny. When they were visiting the estate of a historical figure, Bruce and Lila were competing over who seemed the most unimpressed. Heeee!

Oh also, Charlie, who is Bruce’s friend, starts up with Annie Whitman, but Bruce keeps telling him about Annie’s slutty past (double standards much?) but love prevails. They also mention every line that Annie is “thin”, “slender” or some derivative. We get it. THIN IS IN! OK! STOP SHOVING IT DOWN OUR THROATS!

Every place they visit, they hang with some locals and tell them how awesome Sweet Valley is. Uh, really? A waspy town with one bar and judgemental residents?

Apparently Todd’s eyes crinkle when he smiles. Swoon!

They make a stop in Anaheim and Disneyland, and this ghostwriter actually stops to explain what Disneyland is. Wtf.

Robbie October was kicked out of a hostel for throwing a beer bottle out the window! The horror!

There’s a really cringe-worthy chapter that is written from Mr. Collin’s POV and then Ms. Dalton’s where they make up. He saves her from a jellyfish. It’s just bad, having these writers trying to take an adult perspective.

Todd and Liz make up, Jessica lives, Roger and Nora get back together, Courtney is exposed as a fake. Whatever, just another day in Sweet Valley world.

My grade: B

Next up: #27 Lovestruck, and then Francine’s attempt at diversity, #50 Out of Reach. I’m doing that one for you, Onnie.

The one where Bruce touches Jessica’s boobs, or #3 Playing With Fire

With some consutation of my peers, this was considered one of the more “racier” ones, and the one we all felt we had to hide from our parents. I found it to be the most damaging to young girls (i.e. me) about their perceptions of self (i.e. my perception of my self).

So it starts out at – SHOCKER! – a school dance, this time a Sweet Valley High dance contest (wtf?) and Jessica was voted skankiest of the dance or something, and she finally gets Bruce Patman to notice her. Bruce, if you didn’t know, duh, is allegedly the hottest guy at school, he’s also the richest. And the cockiest. And the preppiest. And the one most likely to date rape. I envision him somehow as James Marsden, but not X-Men Marsden, more like Sugar and Spice Marsden, with dockers and lots of Izod. However, the cover makes him look about 46.

Nice chokehold on Jessica. Well, this book does make Jessica the posterchild for dating violence. So, after the dance, they all go to a party and Bruce and Jessica are in the pool and he UNTIES HER BIKINI TOP! I just remember that being sooooo scandalous. To be honest, at the time I wasn’t even sure what he was untying for, but I knew Bruce was naaasssty. Also, that was about the most sexually explicit and SVH will go in about 80 books. So don’t expect anything else that’s above PG. Then they go to make out in the woods. Elizabeth is worried about Jessica so she goes to spy on them and confronts them basically while they are dry humping, but Jessica insists she knows what she is doing. Oh, and Francine (i.e. ghostwriters) deliver the most fabulous SVH writing ever: “He responded by turning his face to hers and kissing her hard, his arms crushing her against him, his mouth demanding what his body wanted to take.” Imagine my eight-year-old self trying to wrap my mind around that.

I have to hand it to Liz, she kind of handles this one alright. She wants Jessica to see what a douche Bruce is, but as soon as she confronts Jessica, she knows she will push her right into Bruce’s arms. So she just lets it ride and hope Jessica sees it. Which she doesn’t. She sits around waiting for Bruce to call, and will drop everything to do what he wants. They play tennis together and when she doesn’t let Bruce win, he throws a tantrum. It was awesome.

Yea, so they also make out all over the lawn in school everyday and Jessica skips classes and steals from tests so Bruce can cheat. Blah blah blah. You’s think that based on Bruce’s aversion to women wearing tops he would try to go further with Jessica, like cop an under-the-bra feel, but that doesn’t seem to happen, which I call bullshit on. So, finally Bruce has a birthday party of whatnot, and takes Jessica there and he tells her she needs to sit and wait for him to talk to her and for her not to talk to anyone else. Great. So then Bruce pretends the party is over and Elizabeth schemes to pretend to drive Jessica home but then pretends to forget something back at the party, and they go back so Jessica can see that Bruce is still at the party, but this time he brought another girl back with him. Jessica finally sees the light and throws pizza and soda on him. If my book had a tiny audio implant, Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” would play at that part.

What pisses me off is that it is that Bruce was not monogomous to her that breaks Jessica, and not the emotional manipulation. Cheating sucks, but the abuse was fine when Jessica was the only one he was manipulating. Sigh.

Oh, there is a subplot about how the Droids, a student band (they play at all the dances- the ones that happen three times a week) get noticed by a manager who promises to get them a record deal but the pressure almost breaks them up. I think this was added to send a message about being yourself is the best way to be. Sorry Francine, don’t even try to bring morals into this. Just stick to dry humping in the woods.

Oh, and here is the other subplot. There is a girl that follows Jessica around because she wants to pledge their sorority (don’t even get me started with that) but she is nerdy an socially awkward. And surprise, surprise- she’s overweight. Because that means she’s a total nerd and loser. Of course, I forgot Francine, thanks for teaching me about body image. Jessica promises to get her into the sorority if she does shit for her- like keep Winston occupied, and steal test answers. Of course, Robin agrees and Jessica gives her makeup and shopping lessons or some shit like that. But, and I quote, Jessica feels that “this girl can’t seriously believe that anyone would want a butterball like her for a sorority sister”. HATE!

Yea, so I am not sure if we learned any lessons, but we’ve now established Bruce as a a complete misogynist, capitalist. materialistic douche.

Can we talk about the gossip column that Elizabeth writes for the school paper:

The halls are buzzing with the news of a hot and heavy thing going on between Lila F. and a certain blond football player. Chalk up one more for Lila…Three cheers for Lois W. ! John P. showed up at her party. Guess sometimes dreams DO come true…Bill C.’s found another surf bunny…Enid R.’s packing her suitcases for another weekend visit with G.W.- fourth in a row, but who’s counting? …Cara W. has her eye on a basketball-playing senior. Maybe she can get him interested in something besides dribbling!…Danger: Toni J.s now on the roads. Pedestrians beware…

Firstly, she’s calling Lila a slut. And does anyone care if she went to visit her boyfiend? for the millionth time I ask, HOW IN THE HELL DOES THE SCHOOL ALLOW THIS?

My grade: B+