from the blog of Claire Middleton

Cover Courtesy of The Closet

My first day at Sweet Valley High. Really? Really? This is a high school? I was enrolled in only three classes, French, English and History. The rest is lunch. Ugh. I am so sad that I transferred. The whole school seems to revolve around these obnoxious blond twins. One came up to me and wanted me to join some stupid sorority. I guess they have a quota for brunettes. Another one keeps bugging me for an interview and she keeps asking me all these personal questions and seems mad when I flinch away when she tries to put her hand on my shoulder.

I’ve realized what can make this school more bearable: I’ll join the football team. It’s the only thing I like and it seems like in this school everyone has a one-dimensional personality trait. I’ll be “the tomboy.” Plus, it seems that this high school has had every cliche possible except for the “girl tries to join the boy’s sports team.”

Hubba hubba! I met this guy Ken Matthews who is also trying out as quarterback for the team. He’s got a great ass and is total himbo, two things I love in a guy. He’s totally into me but he has this annoying girlfriend Terri, who apparently has his dick on a leash. She seems to get mad whenever we hang out, so I’ll just do it some more. Word on the street is that Ken was blind for a while and Terri led him around the halls and he figured he may as well hit that. I actually heard her wailing, “I wish Ken was still blind!” I think being here is punishment for that brief time when I gained five pounds.

Ok, not cool you guys. Someone found out that my brother died of cancer and he was the one who made me love football. The slutty Wakefield twin did a cheer that mentioned him during the tryouts. If that was not bad enough, once I went running off the field, the annoying Wakefield twin ran after me trying to comfort me. What the fuck is this place?

Ken got quarterback, I’m second string, and Terri got Ken back. Joke’s on her, I gave him an tug job behind the bleachers after school today. He sobbed during it. Weird. It’s amazing how all problems here wrap up by Friday afternoon, just in time for a dance. Well, at least now people will leave me alone, and I can just show up for random parties or talent shows and the like.

The Gangs of Sweet Valley, or #121 The High School Wars

I cannot tell a lie. I had to skim this one. I had to do this so I wouldn’t gouge my eyes out. Dreadful. Ok, remember all the gang stuff that started because someone insulted Ken? And Jessica fell madly and deeply in love like she’s never felt before and with the most gorgeous guy she’s ever seen? Yea, that happened. He’s the rival Palisades gang leader.

So really I’ll just say there’s lots of drama and Jess and Christian Gorman act like they are Romeo and Juliet.They’ve known each other a week, don’t even know anything about each other, and constantly talk about how they love each other. Let’s call it what it is, they are teenagers in lust. Oh, and Ken finds out when he catches them on a “real date”. That’s what the cover depicts. Ken is coming out of a restaurant, not a restroom. Jessica lies to the police about the brawl. And Todd gets arrested for beating the crap out of the Palisades guys. Liz blames the whole drama on herself.

Yeesh, so after the big warehouse dance brawl (which was really some skinny white guys throwing some punches at each other) Chrome Dome calls an assembly. He forbades anyone from wearing school colors or SVH paraphanelia. What if Liz wants to wear her “Oracle” press pass? Is that forbaden now? Wow, my father can relate. He taught at an inner-city school for 30 years where he watched gang fights going on in the hallways and he has had to confiscate razor blades from his students. I should totally tell him to read this, he could relate. The principal is putting together a task force of students to help assuage all the violence. Task force? Liz just had an orgasm. The task force is useless, duh. But it is like a halfway home for forgotten characters. Jade Wu and David Prentiss are on it, and off course, Jade is described as “exotic” and “almond-eyed”. Oh, and A.J. Morgan! He’s there too! He lives! It’s amazing when one of Jessica’s boyfriends gets out alive. I wonder why Jeffrey French is not there too.
Ken has a cell phone! They call Jessica from his car because she is afraid she drowned at the beach while surfing. “Drowned in Christian’s pool of love” is more like it.

Jessica and Christian spend much of their time on an infaltable mattress in the back of his van. Classy.

Todd lives at 1010 Country Club Drive, in case you were wondering. And lives in a mansion. Wtf, he’s rich now?

Yea so…these middle books in the trilogies blow. Just the same scene over and over again. But some good quotes:

“Jessica had kissed plenty of boys, and she’d been in love, seriously in love- but she’s never felt quite like this. It’s like we’ve always known each other somehow, and at the same time it’s so exciting , and brand-new, she thought, gazing deep into Christian’s soulful blue eyes. Like we’re meant to be together. He’s my destiny.” We’ve NEVER heard this before.

Todd calls Liz out on her shit and says “she’s …writing holier-than-thou editorials and campaigning for the Nobel Peach Prize.” Ha! Todd’s been reading this site.

We’re left with the cliffhanger, will the schools ever put their rivalry behind them? What will become of Christian and Jessica? I may never know because I don’t know if I can bear to read the next one in the series. Except that I do know what happens.

Grade: F

You could cut the sexual tension between Todd and Ken with a knife, or #114 “V” for Victory

I am doing this after watching Bring It On: In It to Win It on ABC Family this weekend. It was SO Sweet Valley High. Although it was very difficult for me to tell all the blond girls apart. The VERY blond girl was Jessica, and the other blond from California was so Eizabeth. And they stole the plot from this book. Although, I guess there is a finite amount of cheerleader plots one can think of. Anyway, it was often. Not only was there a cheer-off, but there was an honest-to-god cheer rumble. No joke.

Previously, Jessica quit the squad because Heather Mallone was a beotch, and then Jessica formed her own quad but then the squads combined and they won the state championships after most of the girls learned backflips within a span of a week. And Todd and Ken found out that Liz had an affair with Ken, so none of the four are speaking to each other.

So SVH has a huge sendoff for the team, which included the whole school at yet another pep rally with the marching band (SVH has a marching band?) and all the MEN’S sports teams sending them off. There is a big parade to lead them out to their bus where they will head to Yosemite for the competition. Who is driving the bus? Why aren’t they going with a chaperone? These kids are minors. They could have easily had Mr. Collins. I am sure he would love to be in the middle of a cheerleading competition. They also painted the bus. So they own it? The lowly copy editor who reviewed this book never caught these things?

So they get to the competition and are sharing a bunk with a team from Alabama, which you know talk in exaggerated accents and walk around with haystalks in their mouths. Because they’re not from California. There’s tons of combinations and cheerleading terminology are thrown around, and I’m convinced half of it is fake. Jess and Heath fight about what cheers they should do, because apparently at a National competition, you can do that last minute. Reason #345 that this teams needs ADULT SUPERVISION.

Heather’s old team is there, and the new captain Marissa James is an ass. Heather seems threatened by her and suddenly starts fucking up during the competition. Obvs because Marissa is blackmailing her to do so. So we are left with what Heather is trying to hide. I was thinking a coke habit or a lesbian love affair. Jessica boots her off the team (again, can you do this at a National Competition?) but Liz is all in a huff and gets sexually aroused about follow rules exactly, so she makes her put Heather on the squad. It turns out Heather cheated on a math test to be a part of the squad. Yea, that’s the big secret. The gals come through in the end and come in second overall.

Now that that is out of the way, on to the GOOD STUFF. Ken and Todd approach each other in the hallway and start to have words with each other. They get into a physical altercation, and Bruce walks by and says “hey, the Wakefield twins are not worth it”. Bruce, stop making me want to make out with you. So Todd and Ken jump him. There’s a lot of boys rolling around on each other, and it’s mega-gay. So the boys make up and realize what they really want are their girlfriends back. You know what this calls for..ROAD TRIP!

They head out and plan to surprise the girls at Yosemite. They pass Winston on the way and drag him along, although he really doesn’t want to go. They get there and there are no boys allowed inside. I am surprised that Jessica agreed to go. So as they turn around to drive back the six hours they came, they HAPPEN to stumble upon a cheerleading uniform store. What are the odds? So they decide to get costumes and go in drag to get into the competition.

Okay, Which commences my biggest pet peeves ever– men dressing in drag and acting “feminine” for comedy. I am not talking about an actual drag show, but taking supposed “manly men” and making them act “gay” or “girly” with the punchline being acting this way is so stupid and ridiculous because the irony being that “real” men don’t do this. When men act “like women” they usually act really dumb, shallow, week and stupid, which is pretty sexist. I am not sure if I am explaining it well. but the end result is some massive transphobia and homophobia. Like men who act “feminine” are ones to be laughed at. Also, several people are killed and tortured and ridiculed each year fro acting or appearing different from the gender they are “supposed” to act like, so no, it’s not really that funny to me.

However, this is the most personality that Ken has shown-ever. Even when he was blind for a while. I just really need to quote this verbatim.

“Ken!” called Todd. “Can I borrow your blue eyeshadow?”

“Coming!” Ken called in a falsetto voice. A moment later he sashayed into the bathroom like a runway model, adorned in a classic cheerleader costume. “How do I look, dah-lings?” Ken drawled, his hands on his hips. He pirouetted slowly, pausing to exhibit the cheerleading costume from a variety of angles…Ken whirled in a circle, displaying the flare of his skirt.

Todd put his fingers to his lips and let out an approving whistle.

“Hubba hubba!” said Winston, twisting around to watch the show.

“I always know you’d make a great girl,” said Todd with a grin.

Here’s your eyeshadow, honey,” said Ken, batting his eyelashes at Todd, “but make sure to return it.”

Ugh. See what I mean? Furthermore, I think that Ken and Todd have been dying to do this and flirt with each other, but haven’t had an excuse.

So they sneak into the competition and apparently all the officials are idiots and believe they are women, but everyone else knows that they are men and think it’s a big joke. Jessica gets onstage and makes them do a routine, which includes a lot of “gay” type dancing and “flitting around” which makes me ill. I can’t even talk about it. By being onstage, the guys realize that Marissa’s team slicked the stage with baby oil so SVH would fuck up. Thus, her team is disqualified.

Finally, I HAVE to share all the dumb cheerleading stuff. Could the ghostwriter PLEASE do some research?

There are some triple herkies, Y-split, a “funky monkey” routine where they wear sunglasses and try to act like gangsta rappers, a cheer where they spell “R-O-W-D-I-E” (isn’t it”rowdy”), of course the twin factor “mirror-imaging” .

This was one of the most unbelievable plots ever. And that is saying a lot.

Grade: A

The Bloods and the Crips have nothing on SVH and Palisades; or In Love With the Enemy, #120

As I was reading every word of this, I felt like this book was written to be ridiculed. Like the ghostwriters were giving me a big wink with every inane pararaph. Yes, I know this was written in 1998, but let’s just pretend that they came into the future and knew I would one day be embarking on this project. Also, this convinced me that the ghostwriters were about 67 years old, from another country, or raised in a cave by wolves because their depictions of teenagers and high school is so fucking off-base.

Oh my god. Head spinning. So much to cover. So, the book opens at the big Palisades v. SVH football game. (Isn’t every one of their games the big game?) and Jessica is leading the cheerleaders in a super-amazing, awesome routine. Ready for this? It’s a rap routine and Amy puts on a backwards baseball cap and they point their fingers at the audience like “rappers”. WTF???? So bad I cringed when I read that. I think Heather stole this routine from the East Compton Clovers.

Well, Greg McMullen, a Palisades player, knocks Ken over and he gets all huffy about it. Isn’t that what football is? Get over yourself, pretty boy. After the game Greg and his neanderthalls rough Ken up in the parking lot.

Meanwhile, Jessica and her witches are at the beach during a surf competition, and the winner of the contest gets a trip to Hawaii and a tv interview. So Jessica decides she has to win the trip and be on tv, so SHE DECIDES SHE WILL WIN THE SURF CONTEST. Lucky we have Lila who reminds Jessica that she is a stupid egomaniac. Rosie Shaw, the top female surger totally overhears this and laughs at Jess. I like this Rosie. Can we get a spin-off series please?

So Jess gets up at five every day to try surfing. Luckily, a hunk from the beach is there to help her and of course falls for her instantly. His name is Christian Gorman. He could be Jewish, no? Except for the first name. Of course.

h, backtrack a little. At the aformentioned game, Liz and Enid meet Marla and Caitlin, who are the editors for the Palisades newspaper. They decide they need to out-nerd each other and collaborate on an event that will foster teamwork between the schools. So they wrack their brains and come up with….I’ll let you guess what the event is…haven’t figured it out yet?…. a DANCE. Because they NEVER have the idea to do that. And, it must be a Friday coming up. Also, don’t they need permission from the school? Of course not, when Chrome Dome bends over and takes it in the ass whenever a Wakefield wants something. I’ll bet Mr. Collins will be there.

Meanwhile,the two schools start to prank each other, which includes stringing toilet paper all over Ken’s lawn, spray-painting the foo0tball field, and other hardcore gangsta stuff. It reminded me of the East-West Coast rap wars.

Bruce, Ronnie Edwards, Ken, Todd and others go really hardcore and show up in school wearing jean jackets and sunglasses. WATCH OUT! They may start…breaking out in song! To save money, I am surprised Bruce didn’t pull out his Club X leather jackets. Also, I wonder if they are also wearing jeans? Because that would be horrifying, a jean jacket with jeans, which I call a jean tuxedo. It’s a big no-no.

Liz is all pissy that Todd is involved and that Todd is thinking for himself, and Jess actually doesn’t care what Ken is doing because she is ducking face with her mysterious surf teacher. He doesn’t tell her anything about himself and that unbalance of power in the relationship only makes Jess want him more. They exchange I love you’s after two days together.

So the rumor is that a big throwdown is going to happen at the upcoming dance, which is now a masquerade ball and will take place at an abandoned warehouse. This sounds more like a rave to me…where are the glowsticks? Also, who is funding this? Liz and Enid and Caitlin and Marla consider cancelling it, but it turns out the rumble will happen anyway, so they figure it is better to have people around. I don’t even know why Enid is involved, it just seems she is doing it because Liz is. Enid needs to go back to crystal meth, she was way more interesting then.

So the dance happens and the SVH gang heads out back to start the rumble with the Palisades guys, who are in leather jackets and sunglasses. They start to fight and it like West Side Story, although more like the the Gap commercials than the real thing. Ken goes down and Jessica runs out to see….that the gang leader is none other than Christian Gorman! Gasp! Then she passes out for some reason. Cliffhanger!!!!

Grade: A+ for being a complete parody of itself.

At the dance Bruce tells Jessica she looks like a bruise because she is wearing blue and black. Love that Bruce.

Liz and Enid meet Caitline and Marla over brunch at a swanky place. Now, I brunched all the time when I lived in NY, but what teenagers do this? Liz is a fucking grandma.

Love is blind or #60, That Fatal Night

Whoa boy. What an SVH. It’s like a combo of every other SVH story: an accident, a handicap, an unpretty brunette. First of, what the hell was fatal about the night? No one died. Someone was just blinded, temporarily. But I am giving it away.

Jimmy really likes this pose. See exhibits A and B. Can Ken make any other expression?

Amy Sutton is vile. She has her sights set on Ken Mathews and is all up in him during the big game and the after party at her house. Meanwhile, shy Terri has a thang for Ken. We know that Terri is a sad sack of shit because she’s brunette and not a Wakefield. Actually, she seems to have an okay life. She’s a statistician for the football team, and has a solid group of friends including Jennifer Mitchell and John Pfeiffer (okay, so this was BEFORE he was a rapist). But, of course she pines for Ken because of his DYNAMIC personality. So Amy’s party winds down around midnight (wtf? these kids are losers) and situations make it so Ken ends up giving Winston, Maria and Terri a ride home. Terri is in the car alone with Ken, and they say two sentences each and it’s the greatest moment of Terri’s life. Ter, you need to get out more. It’s also raining pretty hard, and Terri asks Ken to wait until the rain stops, but Ken decides to go. On the way he is hit by a drunk driver. (Was it Mr. Martin? He is the official town drunk.)

Who of course notices that Terri is pining during the party and takes it upon herself to go solve her problems for her? I don’t even need to tell you. In fact, Liz is LISTENING outside the bathroom door as Terri is crying.

Liz, Todd and Jess see the accident on their way home. Liz doesn’t seem all that upset considering she supposedly just ended her secret affair with Ken. Oh right, that was added in later, randomly.

He wakes up at the Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital and it turns out he is blind, His life is over! God forbid you have to live differently-abled! Unless you’re attractive, of course. Amy freaks out and doesn’t want to see him. Ken goes to rehab and its a very Regarding Henry moment. In a month he is perfectly capable of anything and is ready to head back to school. No disrespect, but it prolly takes more than a month…but of course Ken has a magical rehab therapist that changes his life.

Terri wants to visit him while he is in rehab, but can’t decide what to do, so she decides to call Liz Wakefield, who practically wets her pants with the idea of helping Terri. So they go visit Ken at rehab. Later, Terri and Ken hang out and Terri helps him with everything. It’s all At First Sight, except this makes that look Oscar-winning. Ken doesn’t allow himself to feel things for Terri because…I don’t know. It’s not explained. Maybe because Ken is a complex guy. Pshaaaahh right.

So Terri wants to “see” what it is like to be blind, so she blindfolds herself for an hour in her house and stumbles around like a fool. ARGH. I hate this idea that visually impaired people are completely helpless and stumble around. In my work I do workshops on ableism and someone always suggests that we do an exercise where someone blindfolds someone and takes them around for a day, and I LOATHE the idea. Like if you are differently able, you are hopeless and not self-sufficient. What did Terri learn from the exercise? Being blind is HARD. And she appreciated the sound of chirping birds in her backyard, which she took for granted. Terri’s not too bright.

Then she and Ken have a random fight because Terri grows a spine and says she can’t do everything for Ken and then they realize they love each other and Ken takes the bus all by himself to their favorite beach and we get the magical end kiss that always closes a SVH dilemma. Just like Lynne, her self-esteem is restored by that one kiss. Oh, also, Ken starts to see the sunrise which indicated he is getting his sight back. They also never say what causes the blindness. Brain damage? Is it possible to be blind temporarily?

The whole storyline totally reminded me of my favorite Little House episodes. ‘Member when Mary goes blind and she sulks around and her parents are fed up and ship her off to a blind school in the city, where she still acts bratty but with the love and help of Adam Kendall, she takes over and helps run the blind school? The one that catches of fire and kills her baby? And then they have to move the blind school to Walnut Grove and Mrs. Olsen comes with them through the wilderness, hijinks ensue, and she learns to not be a racist? Then Mary thinks she can see light and dark and she thinks she is getting her sight back but she doesn’t? Damn, what a good show.

Oh, back to the point. What is the moral of this one? If you are not blond and beautiful, the only way your love will be requited is if the guy goes blind. Nice.

Here’s my favorite quote: Jessica says, “”I hate to admit it, but seeing Ken around school with his white cane makes me feel kind of strange.” Elizabeth didn’t know how to respond to her sister’s comment. It wasn’t like Jessica to be so insensitive.” Hello ghostwriters! Do you even READ each other’s books?

Grade: B-

next up: the return of Suzy D.