I guess this makes Jessica “Deepthroat”

Cover Courtesy of The Closet

Ned Wake field is running for mayor of Sweet Valley! Here’s his campaign platform:

Qualifications: he’s handsome, dark and broad-shouldered. He’s a successful lawyer who practices all kinds of law: criminal, family, litigation, corporate, you name it!

He’s a family man- he’s so virile that he has identical twins! Oh, except for the fact that he is currently separated from his wife, Alice. Don’t let that get out to the press.

How does he stand on the issues?

ENVIRONMENT

We must protect the environment! Secca Lake must be kept to a standard! How else will the teens have a picnic! Miller’s Point must be registered in historical places so no mall will ever be built on them!

SAFETY

We really need to eamine our police department. We have the highest rate of murder, stalking, kidnapping, bombing per capita of any city on the world!

COMMERCE

We need to shut down all seedy bars, like Kelley’s. And open more joke shops whwere high school kids can get props for their comedy.

TOURSIM

We need to keep spreading the word that Sweet Valley is the best place to live in the world! We need more photo essays of this town! And for more teenagers to make documentaries about it!

Ok really folks, Ned is running for mayor but there  is no mention of his ideas, or even who he is running against. But anyway, who cares,right? it reminds me of when someone bought me the Barbie for president doll and her campaign platform was something like “kindness to animals, physical fitness, and world peace” or something like that.

Again, another misleading title and cover. It makes it seem as if the twins are hatching dueling schemes to get their parents back together. Really, it’s just Jessica being a selfish brat and seeing her parents’ separation as fullfilling her needs. In fact, she goes out of her way to try and set Alice up with men. One of them being Mr. Collins. He takes Alice out to dinner, probably to squint at her and pretend she’s Elizabeth. Elizabeth schemes to get her parents back together because…if they can’t be in love, THEN HOW CAN LOVE EXIST???

Oh yea, there’s a political scandal. If you were hoping for semen on a dress…come on this is Sweet Valley! You know better. Apparently some evil consultant, Mr. Knapp, framed Maria Santelli’s father, which is why he resigned as mayor. Now Mr. Knapp is helping Ned, and somehow tricking him into campaigning for a commercial development to be built on the beach. I don’t know, don’t ask. But, not their precious beach!!!! How will they still hold surf contests, have romantic strolls in the moonlight, and meet random men who turn out to be psychopaths??

But of course, Ned is clueless and the only ones that can help them are the Scooby gang. The twins and friends hideout in the campaign office and videotape Mr. Knapp or something. I’m being vague because I don’t really give a shit. Mr. Wakefield realizes that Peter Santelli was framed and should be reinstated as mayor.  Ned’s holier-than-thou behavior gets Alice all hot and bothered, and they get back together.

Oh, and Ned wants to better understand the plight of Sweet Valley’s homeless, so he wants to sleep out on the street for a night to understand. That’s right up there with blindfolding yourself so you know what it feels like to be blind.

I liked Robin Wilson better when she was fat.

Cover Courtesy of The Closet

I feel bad for Robin Wilson. Not only does she no longer remember what cheesecake tastes like, but she really is miserable all the time. So much for losing all that weight, winning Miss Slut Teen Valley or whatever, and being co-captain of the cheerleading team. And she doesn’t have those two candy bars smushed in her purse to look forward to as an afternoon snack. She must have lost her personality and backbone from dieting so much. All she does is mope around school with no true friends, and mope around until the weekend when she can see George Warren, and then mope when she’s out with him. This girl is just screaming for some Cymbalta, because her depression hurts everywhere. But she’s a cheerleader! And thin! Life should be perfect.

To make matters worse, her own mother sold her out for a new kitchen! Aunt Fiona, and it’s never explained whose aunt she is, has offered to pay for Robin to go to Sarah Lawrence College. If she enrolls, and a year early, not only will she pay, but she will also remodel the Wilson’s kitchen. Ms. Wilson already had her tiles picked out before she considered what Robin wanted. Robin has no backbone the entire book and misses out on every chance to stand up for herself. She is seething inside, and everyone talks about how Robin is independent and makes her own decisions…but Robin, you need to let people know what those are instead of just walking around, being all emo. Also, is Sarah Lawrence code for lesbian?

Well, Robin has a big diving match coming up, and everyone who’s anybody is going to be there, simply because Elizabeth wrote a feature on it in The Oracle. (Technically, shouldn’t John “Rapey” Pfeiffer be covering sports? Detail, details. ) Robin’s family and Aunt Fiona don’t come because they think it is a waste of time. And Robin’s mother is too excited on the plans for her new kitchen. Why don’t you take that money and get some psychotherapy for your daughter? George is at the match, and realizes that Robin’s family should be there, and goes home to get them. Robin, meanwhile, watching from the diving board, suspects that George is cheating on her and has a mini-mental breakdown. Yea, this girl’s self-esteem is through the roof! George brings her family back, Aunt Fiona has a change of heart, and Robin tells them that she doesn’t want to go to college early because she’s so happy in Sweet Valley. Really? All is well. Until Robin develops a raging case of anorexia.

Robin is Jo from The Facts of Life, and George is 39 years old.

This is definitely in the top 5 worst.

Oh yea, even the subplot is…what’s the word?…oh yea, FUCKING RETARDED. I hate to use that word, but nothing else really fits. Jessica has to make some money (I think to pay off a credit card debt or something) so she takes a babysitting job. A college guy who writes music needs someone to watch his sister so he can have time alone to compose music. Of course, this guy is the most!gorgeous!guy!Jessica’s!ever!seen! so she plots ways to be around him, and manipulating his sister to get his attention. When the guy seems annoyed by Jessica, she is dumbfounded- how is it possible that anyone can resist her? he must be faking it. Jessica tells him that she’s a master at the recorder* to impress him, so she figures she can learn to play the recorder in a day. She buys one, but of course gives up after five minutes because it’s not lip gloss or the local escaped mental patient she can flirt with.

Elizabeth wanders into her room one day (but how can she find anything? It’s like a TORNADO struck Jessica’s bedroom!) and picks up the recorder and plays it a little. Turns out she’s FANTASTIC at it, and loves it. However, she doesn’t want to tell Jessica, because she knows that she is always better than Jessica at everything and doesn’t want to make her feel bad once again. Chyah. So she sneaks around with the recorder while Jessica is not home. She shows more guilt over the recorder than she does when she cheats on her boyfriend of the moment. To not keep you in suspense, Jessica finds out, doesn’t give a shit, and Liz becomes a recorder virtuoso. Fuck a duck.

Oh yea, Jessica and her soulful musician. Finally, she resorts to fainting in front of him to get his attention. Musician guy is so upset that he reveals that all along he’s secretly liked Jessica (DAMMIT! Can anyone please reject Jessica? And not validate her selfish behavior?) and asks her out, although he’s off to Julliard in a few weeks. Jessica loses her boner because she doesn’t do long distance relationships. Well, at least she’s aware of it, considering she threatened suicide when her boyfriend was away for the weekend.

*Before you make fun of the recorder, I’ll have you know it’s way more than the plastic instrument you played “Hot Cross Buns” on in grade school. My mother is quite the accomplished player and performs with legit ensembles (and sometimes at Renaissance faires, to her chagrin). Shout out to my Mom! [waves].

Mean People Suck.

[Cover from The Closet]

So, Enid’s grandmother movies in with Enid and her mom and…

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Yea really, it’s that bad. There’s a reason that this was one of the first books I found but put off reading it. Grandma Rollins, who throughout the book is referred to as Mrs. Langeven, which really annoyed me, moves in after her husband dies, and proceeds to act like a manipulative self-centered wench. Enid feels bad and drops plans with her friends and her boyfriend Hugh to spend with her co-dependent grandmother. Gram, ehm, excuse me, Mrs. Langevin, sees the error of her ways after one outburst from Enid and decides to move back to Chicago. Case closed. The end. Whatever, I don’t even need to go into detail. (Although props to Ms. L for saying that Liz seems bossy.)

The subplot is infuriating. Susan Stewart’s famous director father (wow, she’s mentioned again?) has too much time on his hands, I guess, and sponsors a documentary film making contest. The Scooby gang decides to enter and make a documentary about…what else…. A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE TOWN OF SWEET VALLEY. We.get.it. You love it, it’s wonderful. Of course, Jessica is the host, and of course what’s featured is the beach and all the students of SVH. Of course, there’s no mention of the poor shitty area where Betsy Martin lives and where the Good Friends cult house is, or the Shady Lady. During one taping, Winston Egbert comes out of a joke shop (yes, in Sweet Valley it is possible for a joke shop to thrive) wearing an arrow through his head and follows Jessica around and stands behind her in the shots. Omg, he is HILARioius! He should be a comedian! They have a world premiere at the Wakefield’s split-level house, but then…the winner is never announced? This writing is so sloppy.

What I want to talk about is the very weird friendship between Liz and Enid. I know people have joked that they are lesbionic for each other, but I’m not really referring to that. Best friends in high school, no matter what “type” you are, share private jokes and laugh a lot. I mean, at any age, that’s what a best friend is. They just don’t do that. Enid’s whole world revolves around Liz, and doesn’t really have any other friends. They go to craft fairs and play recorders together. Whenever Enid is upset I half expect Liz to run over, whip out a boob, and start nursing Enid. Check out this exchange.

Elizabeth and Enid found an empty table [at the Dairi Burger] across the room and sat down gracefully. “You stay here,” Enid suggested, instantly rising to her feet, “and I’ll go get us some sodas. It’s so crowded today we’d probably lose the table if we both went. ” Elizabeth grinned up at her friend. “Ok- make it my usual, bartender. ” “One root beer, coming up!” With a salute, Enid turned and picked her way across the popular after-school hangout.

Shut up. Just shut up.

In other news, please read my column in the Oakland Examiner.

“Bruce Patman’s Advice for Dating”

Actual product sold at the fund raiser*.

I find it interesting, since the last post about Lila’s Story, all the love for Lila coming through. I’m not excluding myself from this, you all know my love for Lila. In fact, so much that I role play Lila (halp!) I also know a good chunk of us would consider giving it up for Bruce Patman in the backseat of 1BruCE1 (again, myself included, god help me).

The question is, even today, as adult, smart, strong, independent women, we still find Lila and Bruce to be the “favorites.” Why is that? Shouldn’t we, looking back, realize that the characters we should like the most are, say, Olivia Davidson? She’s smart, artsy, independent and likes to go against the crowd? What about Liz, who is loyal to her friends, likes to write, and is passionate about issues? We still find them irritating. Yet we find a gal who is essentially a spoiled brat who gets her rocks off putting down others. (Sorry Lila, you know it’s true girl)

It makes sense for us as pre-teens to love them because as pre-teens we are told through peers and media that money and looks are what matters. True, that message is still around us all the time, but as adults, shouldn’t we have a better time seeing through that? I think it is that Francine (aka ghostwriters) did such a good job of consciously AND unconsciously validating the characteristics of the rich, good looking characters and making them the protagonists, and having the other characters always ruining their fun. So much to the point that even today, we as adults rereading them root for the Bruces and the Lilas of the story.

I’m not calling anyone else about that, because I consider myself one of these people. I find myself cheering when Lila makes a snarky comment or devises an evil plan and rolling my eyes whenever Liz brings up some issue about basic human goodwill. If all of us smart women of today are buying into that, what hope was there for us as awkward tweens?

Anyway, moving on to Bruce. I gotta say, I wanted more insight into Bruce’s mind. How does he feel about all the women he’s (supposedly) conquested? Does he keep a Barney Stinson-esque list? What are his techniques? How often does he look at himself naked in the mirror and talk to his cock? Does he even have any male friends? Does he actually talk to anyone in the senior class? Sorry, none of that. We get a watered down narrative about Bruce’s temper tantrums and his rich white man problems.

I want to take a swim in his chin cleft.

Furthermore, Bruce doesn’t even get the point of view narrative through the whole thing! The twins even get some screentime! And, as we are reminded for the gazillionth time, Roger has just moved in after he found out he is a Patman, and he is having a hard time adjusting to the new lifestyle. Ok, we get it. Just eat some caviar and enjoy it already. He is happy that Bruce is finally acting like a friend. The ice queen Marie Patman still hates him. Man, she is a piece of work.

Strangley, we get a Claudia Kishi-esque description of Bruce’s outfit:

Bruce was wearing a navy linen sports coat and an imported silk tie. The creases in his gray trousers looked as if they’d been cut with a knife. He had even slicked his hair back with a dab of gel. Bruce looked fantastic- his dark, chiseled good looks shown off to their best advantage.

Grandpa Patman is paying them all a visit, who started the big Patman fortune (I thought they were old money?) Gramps prides Bruce in being Bruce, and chides Roger for having his shirt untucked and not caring about the family business. Like Bruce does? He spends most of his time stroking 1BRUCE1, pressing pleats into his chinos and lightly brushing girls’ breasts.

A typical Friday night for Bruce.

Gramps proposes a contest between the two boys- he gives them two thousand dollars each, and gives them four weeks to see who can make the most profit off of it. What then ensues is some of the dumbest hijinks ever. Hold that thought.

Meanwhile, SVH has dopted project SAVE, and one member of each of the grades is selected to the committee. I’ll give you three guesses who the junior class rep is. Tracy Atkins is the senior class rep, and Bruce is getting a hard on for her because she just got a new haircut that according to him, makes her look like “a supermodel”. Bruce is obsessed with her, despite her disinterest in him. She’s got no personality, kind of a hybrid of Liz and pe-makeover Lynne Henry. Oh no wait, her “special needs” little brother goes to the Nicholson school that project SAVE is fund raising for. Apparently, the school needs five thousand dollars to stay open another year. Jeez. What sort of crap school is this? Taught out of a cardboard box? That pays for crayons, maybe.

Also, Regina is never mentioned by Bruce, nor is Bruce’s feelings about her death. Supposedly it happened during that school year, but either he is totally over it or the ghostwriters didn’t want to bother with that extremely important plot point. Also, he interacts with Liz, who finds him slightly annoying. Did he not remember the coma-date-rape incident? Tracy Atkins asks Liz for advice about Bruce, and Liz is all, “if you like him go for it!” What a friend.

Bruce has a 1BRUCE1 fender-bender and needs it fixed, so that’s $500. Then he decides to buy $100 concert tix to surprise Tracy with. Who declines him after Bruce shows up at her house unannounced expecting her to drop everything and go with him. The nerve of that girl! Bruce can hardly believe it either. Then Bruce plays poker with some guys from the country club, and loses seven hundred dollars. Roger meanwhile, is unsuccessfully at the stock market. Yes, this sounds riveting, doesn’t it?

Liz and her saint-in-training Tracy think of the perfect fund raising idea: Harbor Days! For two Saturdays, vendors will set up booths in the park and give half the profits to the charity. Any SVH student can also set up a booth. That is….not really a good fund raising idea. Plus, the four students seem to pull this together in about three days with no adult help. Chya right. Bruce first decides that he wants to sell copies of his black book of all hot girls’ phone numbers. For real, he really thinks this is a good idea. Luckily Tracy come up with the idea that Bruce should sell “Bruce Patman’s advice for Dating” books. So, he writes the book in like a day and they create copies and are ready to go. Here’s a sample:

What do you say to a girl you’ve just met who you want to go out with? A. You’re gorgeous, B. I dive a Porsche. Want a Ride? C. You’re in for the best night of your life now that you’ve met me. D. All of the above.

Roger decides to sell white caps that he will custom make for people. What? Who will buy those? Since when is he a good artist? Oh, it was the eighties. Bruce, being Bruce, sabotages his paint and trades the waterproof paint for water soluble paint and gets a kid to start throwing water balloons on them. Ruh-roh! For the second Harbor Days, Roger sells enlarged photographs taken by Jim, that guy who started the photography club. Bruce decides to sell homeade ice cream. Yes, it is that ridiculous. Bruce has a plan to once again sabotage Roger’s photo paper, but doesn’t at the last minute. That makes him think he is a hero.

Tracy finds out about Bruce’s antics and breaks it off with him, and Bruce gets a bit of a guilt complex and ends up just giving all his money to the SAVE charity. And, fior that matter, why is SAVE always capitalized? Is it an acronym? So, at his parents coming-home-from-vacation-surprise-party-that-for-some-reason-SVH-students-were-invited-to, Grandpa Patman wants to declare a winner of the contest. Turns out Roger also gave his profits to charity, so they are both broke. Grandpa Patman realizes the error of his ways and apologizes for the contest. Hank Patman also says that Patman industries will be the benefactor of the Nicholson school and it will never have to close. Seriously, he could have decided that sooner so the Project SAVE committee wouldn’t have to go through all the trouble. A tie is declared. Does that mean they will both run the company? Neither? Never really resolved. Are we surprised? Nope.

I wish this never existed. It didn’t do anything to redeem Bruce, and it didn’t to anything to make us hate Bruce, in a good way. Only when he is a secondary character in other books do we get his one-eyebrow-raised, smarmy remarks that we love so much. Here he seemed- developmentally challenged. And not just immature in the way he deals with girls, but seriously challenged socially and mentally. He is completely clueless on picking up the social cues of others, and not just because he was too confident. But because he just…couldn’t. And aside from a brief fling with Tracy and a poker game with someone he knew somewhat, no friends were mentioned. Really, Bruce? Is that why you try to fill that void in your soul with fast cars and innocent women? We can’t expect the ghostwriters to be that deep.

*Cover done by my amazing friend John who has an uncanny talent for creating fake album/book covers.

Project Youth: solving your teen’s problems, one condescending phone call at a time

I don’t think I even need to describe the plot of this. If you’ve seen The Truth About Cats and Dogs, you are all set. Denise and Ginny are best friends who obviously don’t matter because this is the first time they are mentioned. Ginny is shy and mousy, Denise is popular and pretty. Denise is tired of Ginny being such a sack of pathetic shit, so she convinces her to volunteer at Project Youth, where local teens call in the get help with their problems, like which silk jumpsuit to where to Lila’s party. On her shift, Ginny talks to Mike, who is having problems with his new stepdad, and wants to run away from home. Ginny talks him out of it, and Mike is in love with her. He asks to meet in person, and since Ginny is a brunette and “mousy”, knows he will vomit when he sees her. So she convinces Denise to meet him instead and pretend to be her. Mike is really hot and Denise gets all hot for him, so she continues to date him. Mike is a moron and can’t tell that it’s not really Ginny. Denise brings Ginny along for a date, and she and Mike hit it off. Okay, some mixups and tears happen, and Mike figures out what happened and he and Ginny fall in love and suddenly all of Ginny’s self-esteem issues are solved, natch. Also, Mike is not really all that (see cover pic). Also, did you know that Denise Hadley sits with Lila and Jess and the crowd at lunch? Yea, me neither until now.

Meanwhile, Amy Sutton shares with the twins that a girl called the PY hotline complaining that she was being sexually harassed by a teacher. (This is at a school other than SVH. Let’s say it’s Big Mesa. They’ve got all sorts of fucked up stuff going on there, like making the kids go to eight periods a day). Liz gets all in a huff and decides she MUST write an expose on this. Yea, of course Mr. Collins is a bit uncomfortable, but probably thinks it’s some sort of hint from Liz, and goes on and supports it. Liz goes off and makes love to her typewriter, meanwhile Chrome Dome gets word of it and decides to forbif it because…well, he’s the fucking principal and it’s a dinky student newspaper. Liz gets all huffy and claimes that the way the admin is shutting her down is akin to how some girls are shit down by being sexually harassed. Surprisingly, Bruce Patman and Rick Andover were not contacted for a counter-point editorial. Liz decides to print it anyway, on separate paper that she hads out. Ah, the world before blogs. Obvs, the article is so amazing and she is so strong in her convinctions that Chrome Dome backs down and apologizes to Liz profusely.

Let’s get back to Project Youth. What the fuck? Are they really that busy that they have like 5 volunteers at a time manning the phones? Also, they let Amy Sutton answer the phone. That should tell you something. It is also revealed that the Morrows gave a generous donation to Project Youth in memory of Regina. Because “If a teen line had existed sooner, Regina would have had someplace to turn when she was in trouble.” Uhhuh. Also, didn’t the Morrows contribute to the new darkroom? What’s next? A new hamburger at the DB named for Regina?

Some quotes too good to ignore:

Lila being awesome:

“It’s not nothing” Penny cut in. “I’m taking this very seriously.” “So am I,” Elizabeth said. “OK, now we’re all curious,” Enid said with a smile. “What are you two getting so worked up about?” Lila yawned. “Probably something like whether or not to change the typeface in the newspaper.”

Make sure you haven’t eaten anything for the last four hours before reading this.

Todd leaned against the wall and folded his arms. “Sometimes I get the sneaking suspicion that you care more bout your word processor than you do about me.” “Don’t  say that!” Elizabeth smiled. “My word processor doesn’t kisss the way you do.” “Yeah, but it’s better at spelling,” Todd murmured,pulling her close for a kiss.

Loser Hippies need love too

Guess what, SVH administrators have found a way for students to spend even less time in classes; each period is shortened by 5 minutes so they can have a special two-week workshops. The big thing on everyone’s mind is which class should they take? Lila’s doing dressmaking, and Elizabeth is taking painting, so Enid bribed the principal to also put her in painting. And Olivia decides to take painting because she appreciates art but never really took the time to create it. WHAT? This is blowing my mind! Isn’t Olivia’s whole identity based on her being artsy fartsy and folksy? Really? I’m not going to let this bother me, because barely through Chapter One and Olivia is whining to Liz that she really wishes she had a boyfriend and how her life would be better if she had someone.

Liz takes this opportunity to pity Olivia while simultaneously being smug about how awesome it is that she has a boyfriend like Jeffrey. Liz iof course is preoccupied with Olivia’s need for a boyfriend, and talks about it with whomever would listen. Because she’s such a good friend and cares about her well-being. Excuse me, I meant HAS TO PITY THOSE THAT ARE NOT HER.

Enter Stuart Bachman, the art teacher for the workshop. He’s a local artist. Hold up here- is Sweet Valley REALLY where he wants to live? If he’s such an up and coming artist, why doesn’t he move to LA? He probably is hypnotized by the perfect beaches and the existence of one mall and the five restaurants, and two nightclubs in Sweet Valley. Olivia goes bananas over Stuart. Batshit insane. Really. She drools when she looks at him, always offers to clean up and set up, and constantly asks him to critique her work. She also manages to snag his address from the alumni origination from where he went to school (well done for a pre-google world) and stops by his house. Yikes! He is really patient with her and even lets her hang around in his house for a bit. He asks her to come to his gallery opening on Friday and says he has a big surprise for her. It’s also Olivia’s birthday on Friday, so she is stoked, and thinks his surprise is either (a) his dick (b) a date to the Box Tree Cafe (c) his declaration of his love for her and (d) all of the above.

Elizabeth is…wait for it….concerned about Olivia. She thinks Olivia is acting way crazy, and that she should know that Stuart is out of her league…woops, she means too old for Olivia. At first Enid doesn’t believe Liz and thinks she’s overreacting. Then Liz pulls Enid into her plan to spy on them, and Enid sees what a douche Olivia is being, and swears she’ll never doubt Liz again. And then goes home and shoves bamboo strips under her fingernails.

Stuart Bachman

Olivia goes to the gallery opening all a-flutter. She even bought a new purple silk jumpsuit for the occasion (Cameltoe city). She sees Stuart with his fiance, and freaks out and runs out of the room. There she sees that Stuart included one of her paintings in the gallery, which was his surprise. Luckily Olivia bucks up, and realizes what a shithead she’s been. In a split second, she gets over her lust for Stuart and thanks him for including her. He tells her she has “promise” as an artist. Except until she gets crushed by a fridge. Oops, did I spoil that for you? Too bad.

Let’s go back to this workshop thing for a quick sec, mmkay? Jessica gets STUCK in an electronics workshop. Mind you, she put that as her second choice, because she assumed it would be mostly boys. Well, it is, but it’s nerds like Winston (natch) and computer geek Randy Mason. Oh the horror! Jessica is trying hard not to cry. Poor Jessica. This may actually be worse than the time she was almost killed several times and all her boyfriends were murdered. However, the thing that is most horrid about this whole thing is that it is an ELECTRONICS workshop. What does that even MEAN? Each student has to work on their own project. Jeffrey is designing a computer game, Winston is building a singing toaster, and Randy is making a spaceship or something. How are those even related? Are these students just supposed to know how to do this? With no prior experience? Or even a concept of how circuits work” Christ, this irks me. One of my per peeves (are you keeping count?) is when in movies are shows, technology, computers and electronics are oversimplified. The first Mission Impossible movie is the worst offender. The Ving Rhames character is at a computer to help Tom Cruise, break into the supercomputer, and he types in “overide security system” and presses “ENTER”. THE FUCK? Did he design that program? How did he format it to make sure it worked? That drives me crazy!

Little known fact: the character of Don Draper is based on George Fowler.

Jessica has no idea what to make because electronics are for nerds and she’s just a GIRL. Meanwhile, Lila is flapping at the mouth about how her father is currently dating a famous movie star. Jessica doesn’t believe her and thinks Lila is doing it for attention. Wow, George Fowler gets around. I’ll bet he met her at a party celebrating a new microchip he just invented. So, with about three days left of the workshop, Jess decides to build a lie detector. Because it’s just that easy! Well, our Jess has a plan. She’ll flirt with Randy Mason and convince him to do it for her. Did I just eat a brain tumor for breakfast, or was this a plot line from another book? Where she convinces Randy to do her schoolwork for her? Oh, Randy.

White Teen’s Burden

I take back everything I’ve ever said about others being the worst SVH ever. This one is beyond infuriatingly awful. Let me also say right up front the the strong upchuck reaction I had from this book are from my own personal thoughts on racism. So I’m totally using “I” statements here. I can imagine many will disagree, but let’s me respectful, eh? I’m taking about with each other. Feel free to belittle, insult, and rip all the characters to shreds. Photobucket The really really sad thing here is that some ghostwriter perhaps really thought they were doing a good thing. That in one book, they would nip the moral problem of racism in the bud. Some editor probably told Francine that she needed to address the race issue again, she argued that she already had an interracial romance and a Mexican Festivals, and some compromise was reached where they would release a book that would solve racism.

Some of you may say “but at least it was addressed, and may have got some people who read this thinking about it”. I argue that this makes it worse. This book includes some of my major pet peeves about how white people deal with racism. Look, as a white person, I am FAR from perfect in this arena. I do not claim to have the answers, but I know what this book shows ain’t the answers either.”But they are only teenagers!” you night say. Yea, well, for teenagers that solve crimes, and generally in other instances act like they think they’re 30, I’d expect more. And if the author(s) were seriously really trying to send a message about overcoming racism, they did a piss poor job.

Enough of my soap box (sorry I got all Liz on you) let’s get into it.

Pet Peeve #1: White people think that racism doesn’t exist if they don’t directly seeing it play out in their own lives.

We know trouble is brewing because Liz decides to do a survey for the Oracle on what people would change about Sweet Valley High….Liz is all stoked to write about how people would prefer  “more soft drink machines in the cafeteria and shorter classes”  but is all taken aback that some people at SVH think the school has issues. Liz gets all pissy when Penny suggests that the school get rid of Pi Beta Alpha. I hope that Lois Walker knows about this survey and that she goes to town with it. Also, shut up Liz.

Pet Peeve #2 White people pat themselves on the back when they have a friend of a different race.

Neil Fremount (who used to dry hump Jessica at the drive-in, and is now dating Penny Ayala) has a bff Andy Jenkins. Andy is really good at science, and is just like a regular guy! Neil loves talking to him! And it doesn’t even bother him that Andy is black! isn’t Neil so progressive? He has a black friend! He can’t be racist! And, Andy is just a “regular” guy, and is just like all the other white people!

Meanwhile, Neil’s dad works for Andy Jenkins’ Dad at some power plant or something. Mr. Freemount insinuates that Mr. Jenkins got the job because he’s black. Mr. F also works with Mr. Cashman, who is lucky enough to have that outstanding Charlie Cashman as a son. Mr. C is totally spouting off to everyone, and Charlie also gets these ideas from his dad and decides to give Andy a hard time because their dads are having a work feud.

Pet Peeve #3 White people get annoyed when people of color won’t accept their help.

Neil is pissed that Charlie’s crowd is giving Andy a hard time, and what makes him even madder is that Andy doesn’t want to do anything about it. Andy’s locker gets defaced and his tires slashed and wants to just ignore it.

“Listen,” Neil began hesitantly. “Try not to let it get yo you.” He groped for the right words but couldn’t find them. “Think-think of how Martin Luther King Jr would react to a situation like this.”

Yes, yes, Andy does give him shit for saying that, and explains how when something like this has happened before, a teacher told Andy just to ignore it. Neil, however, is pissed that Andy is pissed at him for trying to help. This makes Neil so pissed off!  He is trying to help out his black friend, don’t you see? He’s such a good guy! And Andy is making it so hard for him to be the progressive white guy! And it is just so hard for him! And we have to hear how hard it is for him for several chapters! You know who’s perspective I’d like to hear on this? Andy’s. But he is really just a contrived plot device so the school can learn about racism. We don’t have opne single chapter or paragraph told from Andy’s point of view. He’s not a character, he’s a plot device.

One day in the parking lot of the movie theater, Charlie and his gang  jump Andy and beat the crap out of him. Neil comes out and tries to stop them, but Charlie offers to let Neil have a swing at Andy. Neil looks at him and suddenly realizes how AWFUL Andy has been to him, and how Andy won’t take his sage white advice all the time, and decides he needs to take his advice out on Andy, and TAKES A SWING. Neil is all shocked at himself and calls the police after Charlie and his gang flee the scene.

So now Neil is the big hero, and the halls of SVH are buzzing because the school just had their first hate crime! Yay! Where’s the cheerleaders and the band? maybe Winston can do some stand-up to commemorate the occasion. Neil goes on for a while and lets people think he saved Andy, but is ALL TORN UP INSIDE about his secret. Yea, because NEIL is the true victim here, folks. Finally he goes over to Andy’s to tell him what he did (apparently Andy was beaten unconscious and didn’t know it was Neil that hit him) and Andy apologizes to him for being distant to him and not taking his advice and Andy tells Neil that HE’S THE RACIST FOR NOT LISTENING TO HIS WHITE FRIEND. And Neil still doesn’t tell him about what he did. God, this is sooooo hard for NEIL!

The twins get their airtime by having a serious discussion about inequity and privilege.  Liz is all torn up because she keeps getting answers to her “what would you change about SVH” survey and not every answer coming back is “Nothing! SVH is perfect! Except that we should have more dances!” and tries to engage Jessica in a powerful dialogue about privilege and system of oppression in America.

“So in other words, people who are good-looking and rich get extra, is that what you’re saying?” Elizabeth demanded hotly. “I know it’s not fair” Jessica said. “But hey, I don’t make the rules.” Elizabeth stood up, threw the pillow on the bed, and began to pace. “Then I want to talk to the person who made the rules,” she said fiercely. “We need some new ones.”

Ah, Jess, our very own Social Darwinist. And watch out entire system and history of oppression, Liz Wakefield wants to talk to you.

Pet Peeve #4 White people claim to know what discrimination and hate is like because of (what they think) are similar instances. AND Pet Peeve #5 Teachers/facilitators use trite and insulting exercises to simulate discrimination (see also: making people walk around with a blindfold all day so they can understand the plight of blind people)

After Andy’s beating, Jessica does get a bit pissed about inequities. So she decides to START A PETITION! Yea, that will show ’em. Meanwhile, in her sociology class (they take sociology in high school? as if that’s the most messed up thing in this book) and Mr. Jacobi tries to teach them a lesson about discrimination by dividing them into Light-Eyes and Dark-Eyes. And the Dark-Eyes get to treat the Light-Eyes like crap and there is nothing they can do about it. Oooooo, burn! Jessica gets all upset.

This is what is feels like, she told herself. This is what is feels like to be discriminated against.

Wow! In a 30 minute period Jessica is transformed and feels the entire plight of people of color! Thanks trivial exercise.  I also want to mention that people are talking about discrimination, but Andy’s situation is beyond discrimination. He was flat-out almost KILLED.

Oh yea, so what’s going on with Andy? He’s back at school and up for a prestigious science award/scholarship. The school has an assembly for it, and everyone rushes to be the first into the auditorium to show their un-racism. When Andy accepts the award there is thunderous applause and a standing ovation. I think it is great to support him and he had been through a lot, but before the “incident” did anyone even know who he is or give a shit that he was good at science?

See Pet Peeve #2

Elizabeth falls all over herself and makes a big show of inviting Andy and his girlfriend over to sit with the gang at lunch.Because, you know, she likes black people! And she can’t be racist, because she hangs out with black students in the cafeteria! Except that she never talked to Andy before this incident!

Elizabeth felt a surge of warmth when she looked at her friends. They all wanted to reassure Andy that they liked him. And it wasn’t just because of his race. That would be reverse discrimination, which was just as bad. They all genuinely liked him because he was a likable guy, and he seemed to recognize their friendship for what it was.

Sure, Liz. Inviting someone to eat with you because you want to get to know them better is JUST AS BAD as beating them in the parking lot. Also, Liz stop patting yourself on the back for being so accepting.

Charlie Cashman and his gang taunt Andy as he is walking across the football field and Neil sees this and stands up for him. Andy thanks him but tells him it doesn’t mean they are even, and walks away. The only redeeming thing about this book is that Andy doesn’t automatically forgive him. But he does, however, walk off alone. So Andy still feels isolated and alone in in uber white Sweet Valley, loses his only friend, but Neil makes up with his girlfriend and gets his friends back SO ALL IS WELL!  He does some serious soul searching and groveling, and finally Penny forgives him, and things seem to be back on track for him. For NEIL.  Thank god. What about Andy? Oh, there wasn’t enough time on the book to do his epilogue because the pages were needed for the contrived lead-up to the next book.

Pet Peeve #5 when someone tries to shove resources down your throat.

This one applies to me! No, seriously, as you all know, I love pop culture, and one of the reasons I love it is because it reflects the dynamics of society. I find it interesting to dissect pop culture in terms of its depiction of the the non-white, non-hetero, non-rich, non-able-bodied. I wouldn’t say I ENJOY it, because I wish I didn’t have to point out how it represents some fucked up stuff. Anyway, some great blogs I read and recommend are Stuff White People Do, not to be confused with the blog Stuff White People Like, which although is a humor site, is still a social commentary. And, one of my very favorites, Racialicious: the intersection of race and pop culture.

And special thanks to my friend John for making the book cover graphic above.

The Long Lost Brother, as performed by the cast of True Blood

Photobucket

Cast:

Sara Eastbourne….Tara Thornton

Tim Eastbourne….Jason Stackhouse

Liz Wakefield…Sookie Stackhouse

Enid Rollins…Jessica Hamby

Amanda Hayes…Arlene

Todd Wilkins…Bill Compton

Jerry “Crunch” McAllistar…Sam Merlotte

Photobucket Hey Amanda, I am so glad my life has become so perfect after moving to Sweet Valley! I have you as a bff, and a popular boyfriend! We don’t have anything in common, and I have zero personality, but he’s popular, so who cares.

Photobucket I know! So what’s this about your twin brother moving to Sweet Valley!

Photobucket OMG! How did you find out???I’m so ashamed of him. He used to…DRINK ALCOHOL! AND STEAL CARS! When everyone finds out, it will be the TALK OF THE SCHOOL! MY LIFE IS RUINED!

—-

Photobucket Hey Sara, how’s it going?

Photobucket How dare you talk to me Tim! Since you’ve been in jail, been an alcoholic and in reform school, you can’t imagine how hard I have it. Please pretend that you are normal so that you will not ruin my reputation at Sweet Valley. I’m five steps away from being spoken to by a Wakefield, don’t you ruin it for me.

Photobucket ok fine. I’ll do it if that will make you accept me into your perfect little world.

———-

Photobucket Hi, I’m Tim, and I’m an alcoholic. What’s a pretty girl like you doing at an AA meeting?

PhotobucketI am actually just sitting in on all the self-help meetings here to get a sense of what it is like not to be perfect.

Photobucket Well, I hope all the girls in Sweet Valley are as pretty as you.

Photobucket Haha, you are such a tease. But actually, the answer is no.

—-

Later, at school

Photobucket Tim, it’s you! Nevermind that AA is supposed to be confidential! Welcome to Sweet Valley! I didn’t knoe you were a student here! Let me tell you how perfect and wonderful it is. I’m Liz.

Photobucket I love it already if all the girls look like you!

Photobucket Hey, lay off my woman, Tim. Wanna shoot hoopies later?

Photobucket Sure! I’m just a regular, nice high school guy who has never committed any crime!

Photobucket Wow, what a swell guy!

Photobucket I know! Now if only he had a deep, dark problem I could help him solve…oh wait, I’m late to meet Enid!

Photobucket Hey Liz, I am so glad we are volunteering for the battered women’s shelter. Not only will it make a good article for the newspaper, but you can brag that you did it.

Photobucket that’s not why I’m doing it, Enid.

Photobucket Oh, so why again are we doing this?

Photobucket So I can spend my time doing something good. And to remind all the readers that I come from a perfect home that would never consist of domestic violence. And also, as a convenient plot device.

Photobucket Oh, right. Can I touch your hair?

Photobucket Check out my sweeeet new van. It’s purple and has a lion on it.

Photobucket Wow that IS sweet. Can I take a look?

PhotobucketSure thing man.

5 minutes later

PhotobucketHey, someone stole my van!

PhotobucketIt’s TIM! Of course, I’ll never forgive him! Once a car thief, always a car thief!

Photobucket I can’t believe it! He seemed like such a nice guy! He shot hoops with me for the love of Pete!

Photobucket[tripping over cafeteria tables] Susan you look like you need help!

Photobucket Oh god, it’s awful. Tim is ruining my life! Everyone will hate me because Tim is such a loser! Everyone will be talking about it! Remember when Enid had a pen pal? That was all the school could talk about!

Photobucket I know what you need. I’m going over to the community center where the support groups are held so I can go touch people’s shoulders. You should come along!

Photobucket Wow, after one meeting, I’ve seen the error of my ways. I should support you Tim! I’ve been horrible! Good thing I caught you last minute before you were going to fly back to Connecticut!

Photobucket Hey, great. Despite your extreme selfishness and brattiness, I’ll accept your forgiveness and come live with you!

Photobucket Ah, another life saved. I am damn good.

Photobucket Too bad we’ll never hear about these two in any future books.

——

Some notes:

Sara Eastbourne is the biggest brat ever. She is super moody and makes Tim’s problems all about her. God knows why anyone likes her.

Why is everyone from Connecticut? Does it seem like such a foreign land compared to Sweet Valley? Probably.

Jessica is still committed to doing appearasnces as Miss Teen Sweet Valley, including doing promotions for auto dealers and shops at the mall. She complains incessantly until Liz fills in for her- AGAIN! Liz seems to secretly enjoy it.

When Liz learns that many battered women don’t leave their abusers, she gets really mad and upset. Shut up Liz. Liz also thinks she is all saintly because she goes to the shelter and throws a whiffle ball around with the kids. After she comes home and sighs loudly, Alice tells her: “You may not believe it, but your helping in your own way by writing responsible articles. As long as society ignores such problems, very little progress will be made. The more people are forced to think about domestic violence, to face the fact that it is really happening, the sooner we’ll find lasting solutions.” THAT’S RIGHT.  LIZ IS SAVING THE WORLD BY WRITING FOR A CRAPPY HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER.

Did I mention: shut up, Susan. Shut up, Liz.

White Lies: If Book Covers Could Talk

Jennifer: Sigh.

John: Sigh.

Jennifer: Sigh….Wait, why are YOU upset? I’m the one who should be. I was going to run away with Rick Andover but SOMEBODY caught him stealing from a music store and he was put away. OBVS it was my father because he didn’t want me to see him anymore.

John: Well, it was actually me. See, I secretly love you and reported him so that you wouldn’t ruin your life with a shame on society  like Rick Andover.

Jennifer: WHAT? HOW DARE YOU-

John: Shhhhhhhhh, son’t get too mad. We shouldn’t break this pose. Let’s milk this cover as long as we can. You’ll never be heard of again after this book and the next time I appear, I’ll be a rapist.

Jennifer. True. Sigh. You lean real well.

John: Thanks, you- well, I am not sure what is so great about you. You aren’t depicted with any sort of personality. But you ARE blond.

Jennifer: Not true! I play the piano! And I make out with Rick Andover real well!

John: Speaking of, so what happens to him in this book?

Jennifer: No one cares. Because at the end you swoop in and rescue me so it’s a happy ending and tying up lose ends of the plot is irrelevant.

John: Yea, even though you thought it was your father that turned in Rick and then your father had a heart attack and you refused to see him in the hospital on his death bed.

Jennifer; Yea, I am a bit of a drama queen. See! There’s another facet of my personality!

John: Well, if it hadn’t been for Liz, I never would have cleared up everything.

Jennifer: Ugh, I was wondering how she would weasel her way into this plot.

John: Well, she kept showing up mysteriously at my locker and squeezing my scrotum until I would open up to her and tell me my problems.And then she actually showed up at the hospital and faked a card from me to you so we would make up. I think the hospital made her her an honorary surgeon for fixing the love lives of some self-absorbed teenagers.

Jennifer: And I supposed Jessica somehow got some plot in this one too?

John: Yea, something about how she is manipulating her boyfriend A.J. into doing whatever she wants him to and disregarding any of his feelings. You know, a typical weekday.

Jennifer: So what is a White Lie, anyway?

John: Well, we are very white, and lies were told. Maybe it is a play on words? I don’t know.

Jennifer: Well, don’t look at me, you are the Oracle reporter. You read gooder than I do.

Regina’s Legacy

Liz: Broad-shouldered and...constipated?

I was going to try to make this one into a one act play or some other format, but it is so goddamn horrible I have to spell it out for you. I couldn’t have made this worse if I tried.

Elizabeth is the center of everyone’s world. The Morrows are going through dead Regina’s stuff, trying to decide what to do with it. Her most prized possession is her camera, so instead of giving it to Nicholas, or, say, the doctor that cured her deafness, they give it to Liz because Regina liked her so much. Of course.

Sweet Valley High is the most unrealistic school in the world. Some guy Jim (who?) starts a photography club and it’s all the rage. BAM! Suddenly SVH has a state of the art darkroom. Wow, Liz, how convenient that you were just given a camera! The club decides to work on a project together. They could do anything in the world, like to a photo essay about the elderly, endangered species, still-lifes…Of course, what do they do? “I could be about life at Sweet Valley High”, Elizabeth suggested. “It could be aphoto essay. Barf! Vom! More navel gazing. And apparently the whole school is supposed to care about the activities of these kids. It’s almost like in High School Musical 3 when their school musical is based on the lives of the main characters, as if the whole school gives a crap. Or, even better, remember in their senior year, the kids of Beverly Hills 90210, had a senior breakfast, and they highlighted the activities of only Brenda and Brandon and their friends? As if West Beverly High cared about their camping trip? I digress.

The kids get entangled in a crime and seek no help from the authorities or their parents. Liz is out taking pics at the beach, and photographs some shady looking guys. They try to attack her to get the camera, and she doesn’t tell any adult. She decides to enlist Todd in investigating the crime, and Todd is happy to go along because it means no fighting and Liz gets all worked up about fighting crime he probably saw a chance to grab some boob. It’s like when Tobias and Lindsay rekindled their passion while spying on Michael’s blind girlfriend.

Jessica is a total idiot and will do anything for the attention from a guy. The creepy criminal who chased Liz sees Jess in her car, pulls her over, and asks about the photograph. Jessica pretends to be Liz because she thinks this creepy thirty-something guy, Chad, is in to her. They go out and Chad demands the picture, so she tells him its in the SVH darkroom. The darkroom gets trashed, and JESSICA TAKES NO RESPONSIBILITY.

Sweet Valley is in an alternate universe. The bad guys…get this… are into DRUGS! ZOMG! How can anyone be that horrible awful? Liz and Todd trail Chad as he tries to take Jessica captive, they get stopped by a cop for speeding, and…

“She’s in terrible trouble,” Elizabeth continued. “The man she is involved in may be involved with drugs!” Elizabeth had never been so serious in her life. The police officer must have sensed this.

After the bad guys are caught, their trial makes national news. Because selling drugs is so horrific! It almost never happens…IN THE FUCKING WORLD! I think the ghostwriters are raised in caves in isolation and have to write in order to be fed. That can be the only explanation for the fucked up, out of left field ways they view teenagers and the world.

Once again, the twins are the center of the universe. The photo club has been keeping their secret photo essay project a secret from anyone, all to the extent that their friends get mad and Jim’s girlfriend breaks up with him. All over this fucking stupid photo essay. Also, the Morrows decide to donate money to rebuild the darkroom so the twins and their friends can continue to have a photography club, and it’s something Regina would have enjoyed.

And here’s and ending that will bring tears to your eyes and chunks to your throat:

“Todd, do you think it might have been partly due to my memory of Regina, and the fact that I was using her camera, that I felt so driven to discover the connection between the photo and the three men on the beach and the news story about the drug ring?”

“You mean because drugs caused Regina’s death?

Elizabeth nodded. “It’s almost as if, in a weird sort of way, some justice has been done. With the help of Regina’s camera, a major drug ring was exposed! Who knows how many lives have been saved?”