Lila clutches her pearls, literally.

Cover courtesy of The Closet

Truthfully, I’ve been avoiding writing about this one. I am unsure if the purpose of having a sexual assault storyline is to:

(a) bring awareness to the issue

(b) use it to make an interesting storyline

(c) a cautionary tale for teenage girls

For any of these, it still is pretty damn frustrating. Not much else to do but give you the deets:

Lila and John Pfeiffer, sports reporter, are starting to hang out. Lila is into John because he is really interesting and genuine, not like the rich dolts she usually dates. Also, he actually listens to her and cares what she has to say. So, since it is actual a somewhat interesting and actual less shallow relationmship, it has to be too good to be true.

They finally go out on a date, Lila wears a black spandex dress, and they go to Miller’s point. They start making out, and Lila enjoys it, but then he gets aggressive, and then…well, you can guess, it’s pretty scary. John tells her “you know you want it” and even unbuckles his belt. Which is ironically the most specific reference to someone’s actual anatomy in any book.

Lila manages to get away and is (obvi) very upset. She shuts herself in, and…gasp!…doesn’t care about her looks or makeup. Of course, Mr. Fowler is out of town. Many of Lila’s friends get annoyed by her sulking and depression. Really, she’s being such a buzzkill. Surprisingly, Lila completely rebuffs her housekeeper, Eva’s offers of support. It is pretty sad that Eva is the only parent-like figure that Lila has, and she doesn’t seem to realize it.

John suddenly turns from an interesting guy to an aggressive sociopath. He taunts Lila in the hall and threatens her if she tells anyone. Meanwhile, Lila has another one of her famous parties and John has the audacity to show up, and after he taunts Lila more she breaks down and yells at him for what happened. It’s all over school and the students are divided between believing Lila and believing she made it up. I think Caroline Pierce had an aneurysm when she heard this gossip.

Here’s the other surprising thing: Jessica seems to be the only one who cares that Lila is acting different. She claims it is because she misses having someone to go shopping with, but at least she gives Lila some tough love and is pretty assertive in supporting her and getting her help. It is maybe the one time where I don’t totally hate Jessica. I know, right?

Elizabeth, despite being the savior of the needy, is doubtful of Lila. The fuck? Suddenly she is not going to feel empathy for Lila because she thinks Lila is a snob and god forbid anyone special enough to work at The Oracle should dare do something like that? Or maybe she is just mad the attention is on someone she isn’t able to help.

Another student, Susan Wyler,  emerges from the character bermuda triangle, and admits to Lila that she went out with John and the same thing happened. (I feel like this is similar to an episode of 90210. Or something.) They both confront John in the Dairi Burger, stating that he needs help. Suddenly John’s friends realize what happen and leaving him sitting all along, to ponder the error of his ways. Lila suddenly feels a bit better, but isn’t totally cured by the end of the book, which is a bit more realistic. Although she does end up getting involved with the world’s most inappropriate therapist, but I’ll write about that later.

In the completely ridiculous subplot, Sam and Jessica are going through…the opposite of sexual assault, I think? As in, they can’t keep their hands off each other and they are afraid that they will let things go to far. Just get over it and wear a condom. What’s the big deal? They both seem to want it badly, and the only reason they find they want to stop is because of some uptight morals and not because of their own choice. So they both decide to engage in activities that won’t allow them to have too much physical contact, and hilarity ensues. And then they resolve it by just agreeing to trust each other.

Why was the sexual assault plotline juxtaposed with the ridiculous subplot? Anyone who has taken Intro to Women’s Studies knows that sexual assault is not about sex specifically. Was that trying to lighten the tone?

Ok, now I shall step onto my soapbox. John seemed to be angry because he broke up with Jennifer Mitchell, who was being distant and wishy-washy with him. It got him annoyed and of the “you girls are all alike, you seem to want one thing, and then say another! No means yes!” mentality. So really, it’s not John’s fault that he tried to assault Lila? It’s because his girlfriend dumped him? THE FUCK??!?##

It seems that these teen stories of sexual assault seem to follow the same pattern: Girl likes guy, they go out, guy attacks, girl sinks into deep depression and blames herself, guy manipulates situation and terrorizes girl, only with the assistance of a savior helping them, confronts boy and shall overcome. Sure, it may help in giving some PSA about assault, but it doesn’t always happen this way. There are a HUGE array of emotions that happen after an assault, and all of them are valid. Some girls may not get upset, they may channel it in other ways or report it right away. Some girls often stay in a relationship with the guy. I just don’t remember seeing any deviation from the standard plot. And the “I Spit On Your Grave’s are few and far between. Even Thelma and Louise was a unique take on it.

I didn’t read this one the first time around (probably because it didn’t include a party, a makeover or a Slam Book) so I am not sure what I would have got from it the first time. Never trust guys? Be careful who you date, they might rape you? If it happens, it will ruin your life? If it happens, there is hope? I’m not sure.

Despite my annoyance for the expected story arc involving sexual assault, this recalls one of my favorite made for tv-movies, When He’s Not A Stranger, starring the always lovely Annabeth Gish. The assault scene is actually very hard to watch, but it’s very compelling, and she does triumph in the end, with the help of the less significant Dillon brother. Also, in a very odd way, this made me excited to go to college. NOT because of the assault, but it portrayed college not as a wild party with crazy shenanigans, but as a serene place where a gal can just spend her time quietly studying and befriending a nice, non-macho guy in her science class. (Dammit, it’s not on Netflix).

On a completely different note, I must insist that everyone drop what they are doing immediately and read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the sequel, Catching Fire. It is an example of young adult fiction that is amazing and compelling, and appeals to adults as well. I read both books with a 72 hour period. As fellow book lovers I know you can relate to this experience; it was the kind of book that caused me to lay in bed awake and think about for hours. It haunted me as I went through my day. I loved the sci-fi element, the writing style, the premise, and the fact that the characters were set in a world where modern day standards of attractiveness and social norms did not exist. It had just enough of a love triangle to be enticing and not ridiculous and irritating.  I am counting the days until the third book is released in August. Grab a copy and clear your schedule.

Steven’s Bride: The Condensed Version

[Cover courtesy of The Closet]

Steven: Oh noes! Cara is moving to London!

Jessica: Why don’t you marry her? That way she won’t have to move.

Steven: What a great idea! Jess, your ideas always work, so I will do it!

Steven: Cara, will you marry me?

Cara: Marriage! That means my own apartment, I can have parites when I want and stay up as late as I want! Why yes Steven!

Lila: Cara, we are throwing you a bridal shower. Any excuse to throw a party at my house. My housekeeper gets bored so I have to give her stuff do do.

Amy: Here, I got you a sexy negligeee!

Cara: Gulp. Oh yea, I guess if we are married, I have to have sex with Steven. I had not thought of that until just now.

Jessica: Here! I got you dishes!

Cara: Gulp. Oh yea, I guess if I get married I have to have responsibilities and do housework. I hadn’t thought of that until now.

Steven: Whoa is me. I just got into a the pre-law program at college but I can’t do it because I have to get a part time job to support Cara and our shitty apartment. I really think this marriage is a bad idea but I’m just not going to say anything.

Cara: Yikes. I’m afraid to get married because I’m young and it is pretty much a felony so I am just not going to say anything.

Jessica and Elizabeth: We are going to do something we never do: go to our parents when we need help.

[The Wakefield fam stop the wedding just in time for Cara to get cold feet at the altar.]

Cara: Apparently, I do have to move to London because my character is probably too boring for this series.

Jessica: I am a sociopath devoid of all human empathy so I’m actually not that sad that my supposed best friend is moving.

Elizabeth: I am awesome because I totally know what’s right for everyone.

Steven: I’m a massive tool.

The End.

Single mothers are chased out of Sweet Valley with torches and pitchforks, apparently

[cover courtesy of The Closet]

Sometimes it is ridiculous how convoluted and complicated these plots are. They’re like the Rube-Goldberg of plots. There’s a completely obvious way to simplify the story, but they decide to take the dubest, most unlikely route. Isn’t there some Occam’s razor theory that the simplest explanation is the best? I think Matthew McConaughey taught me that.

Ok, so here’s the ridiculousness. Susun Stewart, who we are hearing about for the first time in this book, is pretty and sophisticated and mostly hangs out with the rich kids from Bridgewater. Her boyfriend is Gordon somebody, a lesser version of B-Pat.  Also, Susan doesn’t have am mother, but lives with a “guardian” she calls her Aunt Helen. Aunt Helen has promised to let Susan know who her real parents are when she turns eighteen. It may seem like a mere two years away, but in this world, it’s more like 20 years, so Iunderstand Susan’s frustration. Susan’s mysterious guardian also supplies her with money so she can have fancy clothes and hang with the rich kids. Susan is going with Gordon to the Bridgewater Ball, which is THE event of the season for white people. Lila is super jealous that Susan gets to go, and goes all psychopath and starts a rumor that Susan’s mother is really in a mental hospital, and Gordon breaks up with her because he can’t stand the shame. Why do these kids care so much about people’s parents anyway? I never really knew that much about my friend’s parents’ repuations. I’m pretty sure my friend’s father was a mob boss, but I didn’t care because she had her own tv and vcr in her room, so she was like a goddess to me.

Anyhow, there’s also a famous movie director coming to Sweet Valley to cast his movie. Because everywhere else the shit stinks, and the sewers of Sweet Valley smell like roses. Turns out he is really Susan’s father, and he wanted an excuse to come to Sweet Valley and see her. So why not get on his fucking private jet and just go? And the rumor makes Aunt Helen tell Susan the truth- she’s really Susan’s mother! She had a baby with Mr. movie director before she was married and then he left her, and when she moved to Sweet Valley, she was afraid of what PEOPLE WOULD THINK OF HER IF SHE HAD NO HUSBAND. So, the solution is, lie to your child her whole life! And then, poor Aunt Helen worked a waitressing job so Susan would think she was rich! And Susan of course, forgives her in a heartbeat. Because teenage girls are so rational.So, that adds the the list of people that are not allowed to live in Sweet Valley, including black people, overweight people, divorcees, kids without fathers, poor people, and now, single mothers. Got it. Check.

Meanwhile, Susan starts going out with Allen Waters, a shy guy. If it weren’t for Elizabeth’s help, he never would have the courage! Another poor piece of shit saved by Liz! Gordon wants Susan back, but she’s having none of it. She’s just a plebian now!

Having babies out of wedlock is the them here. The twins think Alice is pregnant but afraid to announce it to the family. So they come up with the brilliant plan to talk awkwardly about how much they love babies. Meanwhile, Alice and Ned think it’s because of the the twins is knocked up and get mad. Hilarity ensues! Alice isn’t pregnany, because she and Ned sleep in single beds in the same room like on old 50s sitcoms. I’m just so glad they acknowledge the concept of sex. Also, it’s a relief when the twins are only the subplot, because it means some sort of wacky Brady-Bunch hikinks, instead of rape and werewolves.

In other news, I watched The House Bunny [please don’t ask why. It was an abomination of a movie.] But the screenplay read like the ghostwriters wrote it. It was like a Super Special, “Jessica runs a Sorority”. With the same dumb plot twists.

And if you are feeling Christmasy, feel free to reminisce about Sweet Valley Christmases past, with grossly misdiagnosed diseases, and almost being murdered by your lookalike…and again.

Yea, because that’s the most logical explanation.

[photo from The Closet]

Andrea Slade is the new girl, that’s who. Instead of Liz putting her hand on her shoulder, we have the other option, Jessica looking with such hatred that it may cause the person to try to kill themselves. However, love Andrea’s “bish plz” look.

So Andrea Slade is the new girl, and her appearance causes many an internal monologue.

  • Liz: Oooooo!!! A new girl! I must insert myself directly up my ass and help her! New girls are usually a pathetic mess, so it can be a project for me! Plus, I am getting bored of this Enid girl who keeps following me around.
  • Nicholas Morrow: Thank god there’s a new girl in the junior class! I’ve dated my way through all the high school girls, and I thought for a minute there I would have to date someone my age.
  • Andrea: Oh my god, thank god I moved to Sweet Valley from New York City. I mean, Sweet Valley is so damn perfect people who don’t live here must be jealous!
  • Jessica: Ugh, any new girl is bound to take any attention away from me. I’m going to completely ignore her. Besides, anyone Liz likes must be boring.

Conveniently, this is then first book we hear about Jame Peters, the hunky rock star that makes Lila, Amy and Jessica squirm in their panties. Conveniently, hmmm, Andrea is secretive about her father…and conveniently, Jamie Peters mentions that he’s going to move to a small town in Southern California.

If you are not a complete moron, you’ll figure out that Jamie is Andrea’s father. She wants to keep it a secret because people will treat her differently when they know her father is famous. I’ve learned this lesson from watching numerous episodes of Hannah Montana. Not only that, it must be weird and icky to hear people mention all the time that they find your father hot. However, from the way he is described, Jamie Peters appeared in my mind as the douchey singer of Puddle of Mudd.

After spying on Jamie Peters’ backyard, the bitch trifecta (Lila, Jessica, Amy) see Andrea hanging out at the house and jump to the conclusion that Andrea is Jamie’s underage girlfriend. Yea, because that makes the most sense? You’d think that being his gf would make Andrea more popular and the envy of the other girls, but in bizarro Sweet Valley World, this makes her someone worthy of being burned at the stake. Because she is judged for supposedly having sex.

So everyone finds out, and Andrea runs away to sit forlornly at the marina, and then who does Jamie call for help- ELIZABETH! Because he’s heard Andrea talk about her new friend Elizabeth a lot. Barf. Nicholas ans Liz find her, bring her back and they all hang out at Casa Peters and make nicey nice with Jamie.

is Andrea never mentioned again? She is another blond, pretty nice girl, who in my mind is played by the same actress as Heather Sanford. She really should tell people Jamie Peters is her father, because really there’s nothing else about her that screams interesting personality.

Also, a funny secondary storyline, and I mean for real ha ha funny, is that Lila decides she’s going to be a musician and is working with a hippy drippy music teacher who tries to find an instrument that speaks to her, which is the marimba. Lila gets all into it and forces Jessica and Amy into listening to her play all the time, and they give her shit for it. I know it doesn’t seem funny when I write it, but seriously, it’s nice to see some scathing humor make into these books.

And do we ever hear about Jamie Peters again? I am surprised he doesn’t write a song dedicated to Elizabeth and her kind heart. Maybe he can perform at a school dance and give the Droids the night off for once.

The Morning After…Pill that I need to take to expunge this horrid mess from my memory.

Yup, I went there. Because this was SVH horribleness at its…best. So, it seems that the Pascal empire probably brought in some consultants because their series was getting dated and the kids wanted something more! They needed more scandal, more serial killers, more cheating! So then they stopped everything, whipped out the super special “A Night to Remember” with the Jungle Prom. And then the covers got more modern and the birth of the minseries happened. Apparently Liz and Jess were vying to be the Queen on the Jungle Prom, and Jessica wanted to humiliate Elizabeth, so she spikes her punch. However, Liz runs off with Sam and kills him. You know, the usual teen fare.

Well, barely anything happens plot-wise, because they gotta stretch it out over six books. We meet Margo, who begins to run from her foster home on Long Island (repreSENT!) and the raspy voice in her head tells her to head to Southern California. Meanwhile, she leaves her foster sister in a kerosene-soaked kitchen and tells her to stick a knife in the toaster. Wow, that’s great. Didn’t the ghosties worry that someone would imitate it? Like when Marylin Manson told kids to bring guns to school?

Apparently at the dance, there was a big showdown with Big Mesa. And apparently no one reads anything because we have the same plotline later on, with no reference to a previous school rivalry brawl. During the fight, Bruce falls for Pamela Robertson, but apparently she is the biggest slut since…Bruce. Double standard much? That’s Brucie on the left bottom of the cover watching Pammy being dropped off for a night of sexin’.

And obvs the brunette is Lila, we know this because of the preppy scarf over the sweater look. She is running from Nathan Pritchard, the school counselor who tried to take advantage of her at the dance. Only he didn’t really, she just thought that up. Stupid Lila! Doesn’t she know rape is usually something women cry when they are confused? Lila goes totally emo and George doesn’t know what to do so he calls Lila’s heathen mother, who ran off to Paris with her boyf a while back.

And then we have an Olivia storyline, which is even painful to have to go over again. She is taking art classes at a special arts and farts and craft school, and some guy wants to buy her painting for a thousand bucks. He tricks her into thinking she will be making a speech at an arts foundation, but really its his house and he tells her to trick her there to be alone with her. Instead of not trusting him, she falls in lurve because he’s rich. In Sweet Valley world, stalking is a huge turn-on, bonus points if its a rich guy (ain’t that right, Nicholas?)

And then there is the sob story with the twins. Yikes. Can’t even bring myself to summarize. Better to relive some of the craptastic quotes.

[Bruce on the rivalry with Big Mesa] For several weeks tension had been building between the two schools. A few weiners like Todd Wilkins had tried to diffuse the situation. Yup, he called Todd a weiner. Good insult, Bruce.

[Alice talking about her latest interior degin job] “You’ll love the plans for the new wing of the city building,” Alice Wakefield was saying as she drove toward the school. “We’re going with a Spanish-style look, with lots of sunlight.” Why wouldn’t she go with Spanish-style? It’s the only style she knows.

Amy was used to talking with people about their problems. She was a volunteer on the Project Youth Hotline after school. But it was different when the people in trouble were your own best friends, Amy had discovered. I bring this up because I can’t fucking stand how after like two hours of hotline work, Amy has become a saint. And seriously, are there that many people calling the hotline? And once people realize they are talking to Amy, wouldn’t they hang the fuck up?

[Bruce again, on the prowl for Pamela] He stepped out of the Porsche, patted the hood protectively, and walked up to two girls who wee passing by. Normally he wouldn’t bother with girls as plain as these two- the heavyset one had thick glasses, and her friend was mousy looking. Good lord, she has glasses! How do they even let her out of the house? Also, note they go to Big Mesa, because SVH would never let these girls roam their halls.

“I was flipping the channels on the TV late last night and I saw the strangest program” Mr. Wakefield began…”It’s a brand new show. Has anyone heard of Hunks?” Wow, totally early 90s reference, probably written because of the popularity of Studs. Wait a minute, why the fuck was Ned watching this? This leads into a future plot where everyone feels bad for Nicholas Morrow and gets him on the show. I can’t wait to read that plotline. Except that I can.

[Margo at a job interview] She smiled broadly. “You know how active teenage boys are!” What I know about teenage boys could curl your hair, lady, Margo bragged silently. Wait, hold up! Now Margo is a slutty McSlutterson? That was never mentioned again. Of course, Margo the serial killer is a non-virgin, because girls who have sex are evil. And if you have sex before the age of 18 in Sweet Valley, your fate is apparently to be pushed out of a window and murdered.

[Winston talking to Bruce] “I heard you were chasing after some new woman- did you finally catch her? That would explain all the extreme happiness”. “Either that or the Dow Jones is up,” Maria said dryly. Sorry, I just had to include this one because it is a rare occasion that one of these alleged teens says something remotely witty.

[When the police finally show up to question Elizabeth about the accident]. “Elizabeth, we’re trying to be patient with you, but you’ve already been given a lot more breaks than you know about. Normally, in a case like this, we would have pulled you in weeks ago.””Frankly, I’ve been wondering why you didn’t,” Ned Wakefield admitted. AAARRRRGGHHHHH! The twins are so fucking perfect that even the police give them special treatment? Questioning my ass, Elizabeth would have been HANDCUFFED AND DRAGGED AWAY at the scene of the crime. AND Jessica hides the fact that she spiked the drink, and lets Elizabeth go through the whole trial? And Jessica isn’t arrested for withholding that? Ugh. Why am I even surprised?

Tricia, we hardly knew ya

Photobucket

So Tricia dies a dramatic death and of course the whole Wakefield family is present, because they are the only people that matter in thw world. Tricia makes Steven promise to take care of Betsy when she is gone, because as we know, their father is the town drunk. Meaning, the only one.

Betsy is a mess and the Wakefields demand that Bets come home with them. Liz is ecstatic to heal someone and Jess is mortified because Betsy is a walking STD. I can’t stand Jessica calling Betsey a whore, but seriously, hypocrite alert! What is it that Jess does that doesn’t make her a tramp?

And, apparently, Jess is mortified that Betsy is with with them because everyone at school is talking about it, like that’s what they fucking care about. But oh yea, the school is all in a tizzy when someone writes someone else a letter. She is also pissed that Betsy is getting more attention that her. Yawn.

Bets is a mess, but wouldn’t you know, is a fabulous artist. And conveeeeeeniently, Steven has a friend who is an art teacher. And conveeeeeeeeniently there’s a scholarship to an LA art school whose deadline is fast approaching. Besty considers herself nothing more than a drunk ho and thinks that Steven’s art teacher friend is complimenting her because he wants to fool around with her, so doesn’t enter. Really, don’t flatter yourself Betsy. You have the hairstyle of Mary Jo Buttafuco. So Liz, Steven and artteacherfriend secretly submit an application for her. Isn’t that illegal?

Betsy also hangs out with the town embarassment Jerry “Crunch” McAllistar, who we are told is the one that caused Liz’s motorcycle accident. Why isn’t he in jail? Even perfect Liz had a trial and hoopla after the magic jungle prom juice.

Oh yea, Betsy is in love with Steven but then finds out about Tricia’s promise and gets mad and falls off the wagon. Steven and artteacherfriend go to Kelly’s and she’s not there, so they are all “Let’s try the Shady Lady, duh” because we know there are only two bars.

Then Betsy gets in and is all happy. And everything is solved, for now, I guess.

Oh, another pointless subplot. Winston, because he is desperate for attention, decides to declare he can eat six cafeteria grilled cheese sandwhiches in like ten seconds or something. Really, WInston, stop trying to be the goofy guy. It’s so tiring. Then he decides to try for the world record in eating pizzas at Guido’s and the news channel is there to cover it. Aren’t there tons of kidnappings in Sweet Valley that they should be covering? He eats six pizzas and I want to barf, both because I don’t eat cheese and as you know I hate wheat so I am allergic to the crust. Most pointless subplot ever.

I am going to try to redeem this horrible review with some choice quotes.

[On when he saw Tricia for the first time] Steven hoisted himself up and moved over to the edge of Tricia’s bed. “I’ll never forget”, he told her, cupping his large hands around her pale face. “When I close my eyes, I can see exactly the way you looked, splashing your feet in the ocean and trying to catch raindrops on your tongue. While everyone else on the beach ran as fast as they could to get out of the rain, I joined you at the water’s edge.” [This sounds like a sixth grader trying to write a romance novel. Ugh. Hack.]

Ned and Alice Wakefield rushed to their son’s side, Elizabeth and Jessica at their heels. Gently Mr. Wakefield loosened Betsy’s grip on Steven and hugged her to his own powerful chest. “I think what this young lady needs right now is a warm bed and a solid night’s sleep.” [Ugh, inapprop much? Ned wants to git some.]

Jessica: “Did you hear who was [at Miller’s Point] with Betsy Martin last week?” “Jess, give her a break, won’t you?” Elizabeth’s light mood vanished instantly. “Charlie Cashman AND Jim Sturbridge, that’s who. Both of them at the same time. What do you think of that?” [Did they actually mean a THREESOME? If so, this is monumental.]

That tramp” Jessica moaned, “has moved into my house!” “No!” exclaimed Lila. How positively awful- having to share your home with such low-class trash. Why, are stable boy has more class than Betsy Martin.”[ Lila is so Nellie Olsen sometimes. ]

And now for more Todd gay talk: “Suit yourself,” Bruce shrugged. “And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bit of romancing to do myself.” He took off after a tall, statuesque brunette. “Poor girl” Elizabeth commented. “Oh, I wouldn’t necessarily feel sorry for her. Some people go for arrogance. And anyway, Bruce IS handsome.” [Show me teenage boys that use the worlds handsome and romancing, seriously.]

And this image just made me laugh: “Todd spun Elizabeth around in the air, putting her down with a flourish. They made a perfect team as they danced under the flashing strobe lights, Elizabeth’s smooth, graceful movements complementing Todd’s more playful style.”

The one where Liz and Todd go to the videomat, or #102 Almost Married

Alrghty, if you remember last time, Bruce’ Dad and Liz’s mom were supposedly having an affair. Liz’s Mom is jetting off again to Chicago to work for Hank “Hanky Panky” Patman and Ned is off in a lawyer business trip. I think these ghostwriters actually have no clue what lawyers/interior designers do. You’d think they wouldnt be so keen on leaving when last time, say, AN EVIL PSYCHOPATH TRIED TO KILL LIZ. Just a thought.

Todd’s parents are away too, so they decide to live together! Wh Wh Eh what? Don’ even worry, Todd is sleeping on the couch. What is the point? And they can’t tell anyone because it is seeewww scandalous! And we know that SVH loves meaningless, non-scandalous gossip!

So in order to keep Jess fom yapping, she has Todd do all her chores like cook her breakfast. You would think this is awkward, considering he and Jess had a thing. But hilarity ensues when Todd tried to make bacon and French Toast.

So Liz is a total BEAST this whole time. You would think I couldn’t hate her more. Oh, but wait. Liz is supposed to be all sensitive and shit, but she keeps running off with Bruce because they have a connection. And if Todd looks at her the wrong way, she has a hissy fit and the world stops, but she can blow off Todd while he is living at her house to go splash around with Bruce in the pool. Her parents aren’t here, and she can bone her boyfriend on the kitchen table whenever she wants, and she is running off to do research on her parents.

Bruce and Liz spend time on campus where her parents met and relive the memories. Alice was a activitst (read: dirty hippie) and Hank was a frat boy, but there ws a sit-in and and Hank drove a fucking helicopter and dropped some food for the activists. Uh, okay. Liz declares she’s in love with Bruce and its weird because they may be siblings. They really throw around the word love too much. I know they are teens, but come on here.

Finally there is a party and Bruce and Liz make out and Todd finds them and then Liz dives in the pool, hits her head and Todd relalizes he loves her and all is well.

Edited to add: the parents come home during the party and Liz gets in trouble for having a party and have Todd stay over. In yer FACE Liz! Also, the parents are not having an affair. Alice left Hanky at the altar. They are just friends now.

Bleccccchhhhh.

Thoughts:

Gradually people find out they are living together and it is the talk of the school! Because the Wakefields are always the center of attention.

Bruce is supposed to be in love with this Pamela gal, who- you won’t blieve this- ia actual nice and down to earth, and not annoying. Bruce dumps her ass.

I actually like the way the twins look at the top of the cover. They have some wicked bangs, the kind that start way far back. And actually their faces are round and full, which I am inclined to say look really great but we really know what it means…bulimia bloat. And Todd actually looks 16. He has an overbite, it’s kind of cute.

In the back of this book, there is the opportunity to join the SVH fancub! Here’s what you get for the low price of $6.25:

  • A membership card with your own personal Fan Club ID number
  • A Sweet Valley High Secret Treasure Box
  • Sweet Valley High Stationery
  • Official Fan Club Pencil (for secret note writing)
  • Three bookmarks
  • A “Members Only” Doorhanger
  • Teo Skeins of embroidery floss with flower barrette instruction leaflet
  • Two editions of The Oracle newsletter

Did anyone have this? Sounds like a fucking blast. Did it also come with a raging STI and some laxatives/diet pills?

Anyone join this?

My grade: C-

Next time: Jessa Fields, anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My grade: B+