The one where Mr. Collins is actually being appropriate, or #11 Too Good to Be True

Firstly, thanks to all the new readers I’ve acquired lately. Please keep passing along the link. I want as many people to get the joy (i.e., pain) of remembering and reliving the oppressive, manipulative, shallow Sweet Valley World. It’s done wonders for my self-esteem. I hope it has helped yours too.

Damn, I did not realize that attempted sexual assault was one of Francine’s favorite topics. I am not sure if she is using it to exploit the problem and a serious social issues that utilize the fucked up gender dymanics in society. My guess is not.

Cover girls: Suzanne’s not all that. I love the “bitch please” look Elizabeth’s got going on.

Mr. Devlin is a lawyer friend of Ned’s who live in New York City, and suggests an exchange of his daughter Suzanne for one of the twins. They both want to go, so Ned ends up flipping a coin. Elizabeth wins, and because she is a total doormat and Jessica is a totally borderline sociopath, she guilts Elizabeth into letting her go.

Suzanne, apparently is a “knockout” and looks like a movie star/supermodel. We have to hear 100 times how skinny she is. And she’s nice and helpful and loves everyone and everyone loves her. There is a junior class picnic (i.e., I think the only people who go are our usual main characters) and everyone is all up on Suzy. Winston keeps serenading her with dumb songs. I’ll give you five guesses as to what teacher is chaperoning the picnic. Suzy supposedly almost drowns in the lake and Mr. Collins jumps in to save her and pparently tuches her chest a lot. I don’t know. That’ swhat is says. It seems fishy, but no one questions it because Suzy is so wonderful. And skinny.

Jess and the city. Cue the mention of every clichéd image of New York City in the eighties. They eat at Windows on the World, ride in a horse-frawn carriage around Central park, go shopping at Tiffany’s….Of course the Devlins are rich. Jess meets Suzanne’s boyf Pete, who is essentially an Upper East Side Bruce patman. She forces him to go out with her, and they go to a symphony and Jess is bored and tried every desperate way she can to hook up with Pete. He’s not having it. I love when Jessica is rejected. Jessica is also having a shitty time in nyc. She expected men to fall all over her, but she hangs out with Suzanne’s bitchy friends and gets drunk and passes out at their party. She also endures a boring dinner party thrown by Mrs. Devlin where the only teen there is a girl who plays to flute and -HEAVEN FORBID!- just got back from a camp for overweight kids. Holy shit, could she hammer in the message any further? Overweight people are gross. We get it. But you know what else is gross? Manipulative sociopath southern Californian teenagers ho base their self-worth on their attractiveness to men. HATE!

Just a side thought- since she hangs out with wealthy assholes in nyc in the eighties, I just imagined an American Psycho crossover, where Jess meets Patrick Bateman, who will kill/sleep with any woman he can find, and he finds her so repulsive even HE doesn’t want to be around her. Slash fiction writers, get going on that.

Ok, back at Sweet Valley, Liz lost her lavaliere, you know the one her parents gave her and Jess on their sixteenth birthdays. They only mention it in every single fucking book. It turns out that Suzy stole it! Because she’s mean!!! It turns out that Suzy is a bitter hag because her parents put her in boarding schools all her life and don’t care about her. So she lashes out by manipulating men and others around her. Sure, she’s fucked up, but finally an interesting character! Can we get a spin-off series please? And she has her sights set on Mr. Collins. So, when Liz has a job babysitting Teddy, his son, Todd gets Laker tickets for that night so Suzy glady steps in to cover for Liz. When she gets there, Mr. Collins is all back off girly, but she persists. After he gets home she tries to get him to give her some wine and to kiss her. They imply that Rog gets an erection, but at least he has some good sense to tell her to get the fuck out of his house. Suzy wants revenge, so she rips her shirt and tells Liz that Mr Collins attacked her. Liz, being the hue pushover, believes it, and has Ned and Alice tell the SVH principal.

Back over to attempted rape story #2, Jessica is out with Pete again in New York, and finally she invites him up to the Devlin’s apt. He gets kinda drunk and akes his move, and Jessica pushes him away, and he’s all “you’ve been begging me, you little cocktease” and the Devlin’s come home in time. Um, I am not sure what the message is here. Don’t lead men on? Is this supposed to parallel the other sexual assault storyline? I have no idea. I think when Francine doesn’t know where the plot is going she just throws sexual violence in.

Lila has a birfday party at Fowler Crest and on the way Todd and Liz drop by Mr. Collins’ to ask him his side and Liz realizes she’s been a fool. She goes to confront Suzy at the party and then Suzanne shows her true colors and everyone realizes what a faker she is. It’s all very Melrose place. Winston also accidentally on purpose spills punch on her white Hallston dress which enrages her. Well, at least she’s not fat.

Suzy goes home, Jess comes home and lies and says she had a wonderful time in nyc. Sweet Valley goes back to harmony.

Other thoughts:

Talk about appropriate. Liz babysits for Mr. Collins? Isn’t that a little weird? Plus, she kisses him on the cheek when she leaves his house.

Lila invites the whole junior class to her birthday, instead of just the people she likes. Still it seems as if the same ten or so people are there.

Suzanne tried to spread a rumor at the party that Liz hit her head and turned into slutty Elizabeth again. Bruce is around when they are talking about it. Uh, awkward? I wonder if she and Bruce have ever talked about it.

My grade: D-

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 that begs the question, just who really is Winston Egbert? or #56 Lost At Sea

SVH has Saved By the Bell syndrome. This is a syndrome that affects fictional high schools, where it seems the whole school is composed of 7-10 students, all whom would not actually hang out together in real life. I know you can’t focus a book on every student in the school, but doesn’t it seem the Wakefields and their crew are the only ones that go to the school? Supposedly they hate Bruce and find Winston irritating, but they are always there.

Case in point: they are going on a field trip to some island to study marine biology, and it says that 16 students are going to be attending. I don’t think I can name 16 people that go to SVH. So, I was kind of excited to see who else was there. They further divided into groups of four, and one group was Liz, Enid, Ken Matthews and Tom McKay (who seems to often play the dumb jock space-filler). The other group was Winston Egbert, some science wiz, and Lois Waller, who was “chubby and quiet”. Jaysus, Francine hates overweight people. They are also needy and desperate for friends and approval. And are only accepted when they conform (I’m looking at you, Robin Wilson.)

So, anyway, Jess is mad because she wanted to flirt with Ken Matthews, but Winston is all up in her grill being annoying. I actually think he seems kind of endearing. Trying too hard maybe, but at least as more of a personality than Ken “Ken Doll” Matthews. On their way back from the island, there is a big storm and the boat carrying their class capsizes, and Jessica ends up losing the lifeboat and swimming ashore a nearby island. Winston ends up there too. Winston basically saves Jessica’s ass because he knows survival skills. I am surprised he helped Jessica too because she was being such a cunt to him previously (and every book before this). She wants to sunbathe, but he insists they need to build shelter. Jess whines and whines, and finally he relents and gives her the task of “decorating” the shelter. She is happy, but I think (hope) he is secretly demeaning her.

Threy go off to forage for berries, and they run into a bear (on an island? idk) and Winston freaks out and Jessica actually saves them. Winston later feels like such a failure and is so embarassed and he and Jessica have a heart to heart where Winston reveals his insecurities and why he always needs to be the class clown, making others laugh so they will accept him. But Winston, who makes the clown laugh? He also is scared that his girlfriend, Maria Santelli, will dump him for a much better looking guy. Aw, Win. I think it is great that Winston is fun to be around, but my advice for him is to not be so much a gag-and-impressions guy. It’s like he brings props to school and uses pencils as cigars and breaks out into Groucho Marx impressions.

Meanwhile, Liz and the Wakefields are all worried, but they still go on with their lives. Liz even writes her fucking gossip column, Alice goes on interior-designing, and Ned goes on laywering. Seriously, Jessica could be dead. Finally, Bruce helps out by arranging for them to get on a yacht to go looking for Winston and Jessica. It’s great he cares, despite the fact that he has attempted to sexually assault both twins at one time or another.

Then they are saved, la la, and there are paparazzi everywhere and Jessica takes credit for everything and steals Winston’s thunder. And Winston just takes it. HATE!

Cover: nothing exciting. Jessica looks wet and tired and lost at sea. She looks more bratty than scared.

Other thoughts:

Jeffrey is such a nerd. Team Todd!

Lila gets very upset when she thinks Jessica is dead, and tries to reach out for Liz for comfort, but Liz totally blows her off. HATE! Liz thinks she is so caring. What a hypocrite.

Winston basically cooks some random fish and pusts them on a palm leaf with some sort of garnish. What is this, Top Chef?

In Sweet Valley world, you need to be blond, thin (women) and super buff (men). Winston, is decribed as “lanky”. Um, that seems kind of hot. In fact, I remember him being hot in the tv show.

Small pic, but he was played by Michael Perl, an obvi Jew. Which leads me to say: anyone get the feeling that Winston is Jewish? He has glasses, kinda nerdy…”Eggbert” is mildly Jewish, is pretty much the outsider in waspy Sweet Valley.