The Fresh Prince of Sweet Valley, or #16 Rags to Riches

Just a warning, this one is so beyond ridiculous. Everyone’s annoying personality traits are magnified by about a thousand. And I want to fucking kill them all.

Jessica’s boobs look really weird. And Roger looks…not right. Like he has the smirk of an annoying sitcom little brother. On the body of a 35 year old. If his collar was popped anymore, it would turn into a display rack at Hollister.

If you remember, Roger is so poor that -gasp!- he has to work as a janitor after school to support his single mother. Apparently, at the end of the past book, Roger’s mother dies of cancer. After she dies he finds out he is part of the Patman family and heir to the Patman inheritance- his father was actually Bruce’s dad’s brother. So now he is living in the Patman estate. And the patmans are planning on throwing a big party at the Sweet Valley country club to instroduce Roger as a patman into a society. Almost like a debutante coming out thing, I guess.

How convenient that at the beginning of the book Roger is recapping the last few weeks’ events to his girlfriend Olivia. Ok,so his mother worked for Henry (Bruce’s dad) and Paul, his brother. Paul had an affair with Mama Barrett, got her knocked up and then died in a fiery crash. Unbeknownst to everyone, he left his inheritance to Rog. As he tells it,

“I guess my mother fell in love with Paul Patman, and they spent more and more time together, and-” Roger stopped, his face turning red. “I understand, Roger” Olivia said softly.

Mama Barrett was fooling around with Patman and gets knocked up. AND ROGER IS TOO EMBARASSED TO TALK ABOUT IT. Like 16 year old boys are embarassed to talk about sex. I swear, everyone in Sweet Valley has no genitals, like Alan Rickman in Dogma.

Jessica feels she lost her chance to hang around the Patman family when she struck out with Bruce, so she decides she wants to be Roger’s date to the big party, not Olivia. So they are at a BBQ at the patman’s and she sucks up to Mrs. Patman, Bruce’s mom and Roger’s aunt. Mama Patman likes Jessica’s je ne sais quoi (i.e., her Aryan good looks) and helps Jessica plot to get Olivia out of the picture. See, the Patmans don’t approve of Olivia, because-gasp!- she has frizzy hair! And wears flowy skirts and sandals! And likes poetry! How is she not stoned on the streets of Sweet Valley?

Meanwhile, Roger is having a hard time living at the Patman’s. Bruce is being a big dick to him, and Mama Patman hates him. Because he likes to run and not play tennis. Or some other dumb reason. He feels out of place at the Patman estate. His bedroom is large and wooden and has a large four poster bed. What? They don’t let him decorate? He has to live in a replica of a Tudor’s bedroom? He is at a dinner party for the Patman’s friends and he spills wine or something and Bruce and mama P act as if he killed someone. Papa Patman (who we are told is called Henry Wilson Patman) is the only one that is nice to Roger and tried to make him feel welcome. How is he not aware that his wife is a wicked old harpy and his son is a date rapist?

Meanwhile, Jess starts sucking up to Olivia and pretends to help her become someone the patmans would approve of. Liv continually feels like an ass and assumes she is embarassing Roger. For one, at a BBQ she feels like an ass because…she has a full plate of food. Yup, that makes her an ass because she eats more than 400 calories a day.

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE.

This is incredibly infuriating. If Olivia is supposed to be all independent and free spiritied, why should she care about changing her image and fall for Jessica’s manipulations? And if she and Rog are supposed to be so close, WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST TALK TO HIM ABOUT IT? Ugh. Way to make your semi-respectable characters act like shitheads.

Oh wait, it gets worse. Olivia is supposedly one of Elizabeth’s bffs, so you would think she would get suspicious of Jessica’s interest and I don’t know, maybe defend Olivia? But no, Liz decides she should just mind her own business and let Olivia suffer alone. What an asshole.

Jessica takes Olivia shopping at a trendy boutique, and Olivia remarks that she can’t tell which are the salesgirls and which are the mannequins. Apparently, she’s retarded.

Liz is busy being a total douche to another friend- Reginia Morrow, the rich deaf girl, has been leaving early from school. So, instead of just, oh, I don’t know, asking her friend if she is okay, she and Todd gossip like little girls about it and sneak around and follow her when she leaves after school. They see her with an older ma downtown. Lila is totes jealz of Regina because Regina usurped her position as the only rich brunette teenager in Sweet Valley, and also sees Regina with the older guy and spreads the rumor round that Regina has a sugar daddy. Obvs, this is juicy news over in SVH because they give a shit about the dumbest things.

Oh, so it turns out the older guy is the editor of Ingenue magazine (I guess it is like Cosmo?) and his job is to scout out young teenage girls to profile and model for the cover. Yup, that’s his job. Also, how convenient that the headquarters of a major mag is in SVH.

Reginia is profiled because of her ability to overcome the struggle of being deaf. Okay, no disrespect to the deaf community, but….has Reginia really struggled? her parents are loaded and therefore have been able to get her every treatment available and even had her in a special private school for the deaf her whole life. Not everyone deaf child has that luxury. Also, she is lauded for being able to lip-read perfectly and speak “perfectly”. Again, isn’t that conforming to dominant society and seeing her deafness as abnormal?

In reading this I was already up to my armpits in ridiculousness, but here is the kicker. We learn why Regina is deaf. Her mother used to be a famous model, and when she got preggers with Regina, she was going to quit, but she got one more offer to do a swimsuit shoot, but was told she needed to lose ten ponds, so she took a lot of diet pills which ruined Regina’s ears in the womb. THE FUCK? This made mama Morrow have to give up modeling, and ever since Regina was born, she also had hoped that Regina could model omeday. EVER SINCE SHE WAS BORN? Isn’t that the most awful expectation for a child? Francine thought she was making a tragic background story, I guess.

So back to the Patmans. Jessica tells Olivia the dress she made for herself is fugly, and embarasses her while playing tennis with Bruce and Roger, and other stuid manipulative stuff. Olivia finally breaks up with Roger over it. Both of them are so fucking stupid about it. Jessica convnces doormat Roger to take her to the country club. When they are there he realizes his mistake and declares his love for Olivia in front of everyone, much to Mama Patman’s chagrin. Papa Patman sets her straight and says that Roger is part of the family, so fucking deal with it. Papa patman is the only bearable person in the story.

Other thoughts:

Roger really doesn’t ever mention his grief over his dead mother…

Mama Patman walks around is silk loungewear holding a martini glass. What is this, Falcon Crest?

The SVH cafeteria serves Hungarian ghoulash, in case you cared. Why is Lila eating school lunch anyway?

In his free time, Bruce heads up to the university to cruise on college girls. Do they really want to hang around with a high school boy?

Also, Bruce apparently wears a teeny tiny speedo. Todd says it looks like a band-aid. Gay much?

Contiuity error: is this really the first time Jessica is meeting the Patmans? When she was dating Bruce, didn’t she hang around with them at the country club?

Do these kids ever go to a class?

In every book, one of the twins thinks about how lucky they are to live in Sweet Valley and how they couldn’t believe anyone would want to live anywhere else. Except for the racism, close-mindedness and lack of bars, it sounds like a dream.

Starting a new tradition: a poll with each entry. Today’s question:

Who is more of a DILF?

a. Ned Wakefield
b. Henry Wilson Patman
c. George Fowler
d. Roger Collins

The one where Amy Sutton returns a changed woman or #27 Bitter Rivals

Wow, I forgot what a disgusting waste of human space Amy Sutton was. So, here we head back to the pettiness and shallowness that is the hallmark af our beloved SVH. It was actually kind of refreshing since the last book was actually proactively positive. Anyway, Liz gets word that Amy Sutton in moving back to SV after she moved to CT fir a few years. Liz is stoked, but Enid starts getting jealous after hearing how fabulous Amy is. Because she feels soooo honored to have Liz as her best friend, and doesn’t want to lose her. Gag.

I love how in the BSC they often describe outfits, but they don’t do that much in SVH except say that Liz wears cardigans and jean skirts, and Jess wears low cut dresses and skimpy bikinis. But this cover alone makes up for it. Enid has a mega-perm! And belted pleated pants (could they be Z. Cavariicci?) Liz has some matching pants! I think the belt is attached to the pants!The polo isn’t bad, it looks kind of hispterish. Amy’s got a wicked pink dress with a matching belt. Sadly, this would pass as pretty retro-stylish right now. In fact, I’m wearing leggings right now. (Shut up! They’re from American Apparel!)

Amy comes back and is not the fun-loving, tomboy that Liz remembers, she is so stylish and pretty and of course, very skinny. She also won’t shut up about all her boyfriends. Amy also doesn’t give a shit about Enid and is mean to her, but Liz doesn’t notice. Finally, at school, Amy is all popular and shit and makes the cheerleading squad and is all bffs with Lila, Cara, and Jessica. She has an actual crowd of admirers that literally follow her around.

If my memory serves me correctly, those three were horrendous towards Amy in the Sweet Valley Twins series. But, just as we learned in Power Play, the best revenge on your enemies is to conform to them and gain their approval. Sigh. If Amy was so fantastic, she should have arrived and when Lila and all them kissed up to her, she could be all fuck off and start her own clique.

Amy keeps standing Liz up and taking her for granted, but Liz is a total pushover and takes it bending over. Seriously, Liz is supposed to be sooo sensitive and a good friend, but practically forgets Enid at the drop of a hat if Amy calls. She and Enid are trying to plan a magical skiing weekend, and Liz insits in inviting Amy, but Amy keeps making them reschedule and Enid is PIIIIIISSSSED. For once, I feel bad for Enid.

So, Lila is having a party (as she does every fucking day) to introduce her friends to her cousin Christopher. Based on pictures and stuff, Amy has declared that she is in LUUUUVVV with him, and Lila plays pimp and decides that Christopher will be Amy’s boyf. It’s a costume party (a-gain) and Liz and Enid both come as skiers…without each other knowing. Theis makes Liz realizes that Enid is her true best friend. Also, it turns out that Christopher and Enid were actually camp counselors together a while back, and hangs out with Enid the whole party. Amy gets mad and confronts Enid and is all, back off bitch, you can’t have Christopher or Liz, they’re both mine. Great, just what SVH needs, another borderline personality disordered evil blond cheerleader. Liz finds out and FINALLY realizes Amy isn’t who she used to be. The moral is…I don’t know.

Other thoughts:

Lila’s parties are always large, catered affairs with themes and like, small, cut-up cucumber sandwhiches and pastries. These sound pretty hot for a Bat Mitzvah, but do you really expect high school students to show up and be okay with the fact that there is no booze? Oh, and Jessica goes as a sexy Cleopatra.

Amy wears a black jumpsuit and black cowboy boots out to lunch. Hawt.

Amy no longer gives a shit about schoolwork, because it takes a lot of time being popular, pretty and thin. Great role modeling, Francine.

Liz is so excited and takes like months planning a brunch with her Amy and Enid….at the Pancake House. Real classy. But then Amy only orders a grapefruit and judges Enid for getting pancakes and bacon.

There is something off about Enid and Liz’ relationship. It’s true that it is great when you have a friend you can talk about your problems with or talk about your life goals or whatever, but that is all Liz and Enid do. Seriously, they could have a little fun sometimes. Or just laugh as stupid shit. They never do. Sounds kind of boring. I’m just sayin’ you need a little of both.

My grade: B

What’s next? I haven’t really decided yet. Maybe the one where the Morrows move to town. Or maybe the one where the two students are engaged. I kind of feel like ragging on Bruce Patman, so maybe one with him in the central story, Or maybe when Todd moves away. The possibilities are endless!

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 in which Elizabeth awakens from the coma to become a nymphomaniac, or #7, Dear Sister

First things first: I remember thinking that Jessica was sooooo pretty on this cover. It is one of the better pictures of her, but that hair! It’s the combover! That’s what my hair looks like if I wash it but let it air-dry.

Ok, so Liz is still in a coma at the Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital. I mention the hospital’s name because the name is mentioned every time they talk about the hospital. Obvi, it’s a relative of Lila’s.

So, Liz finally wakes up only she’s not Liz, she’s basically…Jessica. Or a selfish nymphomaniac. In other words, Jessica. Of course, first thing she does when she wakes up is flirt with her doctor at the Joshua Fowler memorial hospital. And the doctors and nurses can’t shut up about how gooooorgeous the twins are. Is it really appropriate for a neurosurgeon to comment on? Haven’t I learned suspension of belief yet?

Ooooo, clever literary device. The doctors had suggested that if Jessica talks to Liz, she may wake up. This allows Jess to recap everything that’s happened in the series so far.

So Liz returns to school and snubs both Enid and Todd and declares that she has no time for them. Todd thinks Liz is holding a grudge against him for almost killing him on the motorcycle. He mopes around a lot but accepts it. Oh, Todd, you are too good for this! Move on!

Ned and Alice let the gals have a pool party at their house, as a welcome back to the world for Elizabeth. Elizabeth wants to invite only boys. Hah! I knew someone who threw parties for guys only. Although it was in college. Elizabeth tricks Jessica into doing all the work for the party while she uses the “I’m tired and still recovering excuse.” Jessica, you have tasted your own medicine AND IT IS BITTER! Elizabeth spends the whole party amidst a gaggle of guys that seem to be encircling her and laughing at everything she is saying.. The ubiquitous Ken Matthews is there and she uses some sort of double enttendres to flirt.

Ok, some side story about some twin girls that stay with the Wakefields and Elizabeth always dumps the responsibility onto Jessica. She even is forced to take them on her date to the drive-in. Comic relief…I guess?

Elizabeth continues to do horrible things to good people- she writes something in Eyes and Ears about Ken cheating on his girlfriend in the hopes that they break up so she can have him. She even makes Winston do her homework for her. Nooooo, not Winston!

Wow, we get a whole chapter from Todd’s point of view. Usually there are side characters that get some perspective, but rarely Todd. My god, he is such a snore. No juicy tidbits about his kinky fantasies about dating a twin or descriptions of the guys in the locker room. Just more brooding about Elizabeth.

Lila has a theme party, with two themes, a costume theme and a “pickup party” theme. Where people pick each other up. Uh, as opposed to other kinds of theme parties? Jessica and Elizabeth go as sexy matadors. Don’t ask.

Elizabeth flirts with Bruce and he thinks it is Jessica wanting another chance (he wishes). When he finds out she is Elizabeth, he gets his designer boxer shorts in a twist with excitement because Elizabeth is the only girl he has yet to “conquer.” And by “conquer” he means forcibly have intercourse with. He starts getting her drunk on wine and before they are about to leave, Todd stops them and takes Liz home after she passes out. Because even though he treats her like crap, deep down he loves her and can’t wait to have another frivolous fight with her.

Meanwhile, Bill Chase, the Sweet Valley surfer/stoner, gets caught in Elizabeth’s whirlwind cock-teasing. He’s always been in love with her from afar but afraid to talk to her. So when she shows interest, he asks her out. Bruce also wants Liz to come to his private beach house, so she plans on blowing off Bill. Jessica apparently suddenly is in love with Bill so she poses as Elizabeth and goes out with him. They do stupid date things like walk on the beach and whisper sweet nothings and Bill confesses his love for Liz. Blech

Meanwhile, Liz snuck out with Bruce to his lair of seduction. They make out and shock!!! Bruce feels her boobs. That Bruce is such a boob-toucher. Finally they make it upstairs and to the bed. Bruce runs downstairs to get more wine (i.e. rufies) and Elizabeth gets up and hits her head on the table, suddenly turning back into the real Elizabeth, and does not remember anything from the time she woke up from the coma. Omg! Just like Kyle Baldwin on The 4400. Was Liz used as a vessel for the future humans to talk through also? Doubtful. Can I get a medical explanation for what happened? Anyway she does the requisite slap-Bruce-across-the-face ands runs out onto the beach where she finds Todd and instantly he knows she is now back to normal. Ah, young love reunited!

Seriously, this was a good one. I think this ghostwriter got a BA in creative writing from Harvard.

Other thoughts:

Francine continues to hate the fatties. When Jessica is getting ready for a date, she muses that she is glad she lost weight recently because Danny Stouffer would not want to date a “blimpo”. Uh, random and uneccesary.

What the hell is with all the dumb nicknames people have for each other? Elizabeth calls Ken Matthews “All-American.” Ugh. Mr. Collins calls Liz “Brenda Starr”. Ugh. Todd’s nickname on the basketball team is “Wizzer” Wilkins. Because he has to pee a lot? If so, that should be my nickname.

Are we really to believe that Bruce has actually slept with a lot of girls? People at Sweet Valley seem to have no genitals, they walk around with Barbie Doll crotches. None of the guys that Liz and Jess usually date ever MENTION sex. I’ll bet Bruce has slept with some MILF at his parents’ country club.

My grade: A

The one which is a public service announcement about the danger of motorcycles, or #6 Dangerous Love

So this is it. This is this blog’s raison d’etre. This is the most memorable storyline. Usually when you get into a plot this contrived, it is because you’ve run out of ideas. But Francine goes in for the kill and does this at book eight. Ok, here we go.

Cover!

Todd looks 47. But he has a good body. And Liz looks like Hayley Mills.

Todd wants a motorcycle, but Liz is forbidden to ride a motorcycle because her parents won’t let her because her cousin died on one. Liz is afraid to tell Todd this because….why? If he loves her that much, he’ll understand. I guess. I don’t know. I am not in the place to give Todd and Liz relationship advice.

Finally Tood gets the bike and everyone is all about it. He gets into a run in at The Dairi Burger with Jerry “Crunch” McAllistar and assuages the situation by letting his ride the bike. Oh yea, The Dairi Burder is having a grand reopening and is serving a clam special. As if that was integral to the plot.

Finally, Liz tells him about the rule and he goes on to this three-page diatribe about the wonders of riding a motorcycle, as if Francine was fucking one of the owners of Yamaha and had to put it in the book. He decides to keep the motorcycle. Meanwhile, he gives other girls rides and it makes Liz jealous. Finally, they all go to Enid’s Sweet Sixteen (which sounds about as cool as my BAt Mitzvah was) and Jessica was supposed to drive Liz to the afterparty spot, but of course is too busy sucking face at Millar’s Point and forgets. Tood shows up to tell Liz he sold his motorcycle, and she decides to take one chance to ride it for old times’ sake. Then “Crutch” hits them and they crash. Liz is in a coma….

Also? Mr. Collins chaperones Enid’s Sweet Sixteen. Creepy much?

My grade: B