You’ve got to make your own kind of music, sing your own special song

Is making fun of Olivia's receding hairline too easy?

Olivia’s an artist. Did you know that? She’s super artsy dresser too. And she’s an original. And she usually has paint splattered on her clothes. Because she’s an artist.
But for real you guys. Olivia has a studio in the garage that her parents set up for her. Which is pretty cool. Even the Kishis didn’t do that for Claudia. Also, why is it that the free spirits are always artists? I’m a mid-level manager in higher education administration, and I consider myself a free spirit. Aren’t I? Where’s my book? Liv is starting to experiment with Abstract Expressionism. You guys, I took 4 art history courses in college so I’m so the expert on this stuff.

Which, way to go ghost writers, for looking in an encyclopedia (that’s the written version of Wikipedia for those of you born after 1986) for things to include for her artwork. She’s trying to experiment with stuff but is nervous that other people won’t get it. Which, I’m just sayin’, is a valid concern, because I am sure in Sweet Valley, people’s houses are filled with pre-Raphaellite Ophelias and Van Goh’s “Starry Night”.

Olivia is also taking classes at the local college and meets fellow artist James. They never actually attend any classes, but that is where they meet. James, oh James. James is totally that douchebag artist who lives for nothing but his art. And lives in squalor because he loves his ART! Olivia has a total girlboner for James, but James is more interested in fondling his charcoal brushes than Olivia’s peasant skirts.

James shows Olivia his shiity artist loft, with his super high ceilings, concrete floors and cupboard of ramen noodles. James is SUCH the archetypal hipster in that he lives in a loft in a seedy part of town to gain “cred” while simultaneously gentrifying the area, and then acting all holier-than-though about it. Olivia gets her hemp underwear in a bunch because she is starting to think that she may not be making a lot of money as an artist and is she willing to give up everything to be a slave to her art like James? Surprisingly, James doesn’t make a move. James reminds me of Miles from Work of Art on Bravo, who is a total douche. (Are you watching that? It’s similar to Project Runway, except instead of Heidi’s German accent, we get China Chow’s Brooklyn accent and just as much crazy personalities).

Oh, James, that good looking guy that you just keep hanging on to every word and get excited to see him even if he treats you like shit every time but you think this is the time he will realize how awesome you are and you hate yourself for coming back for more because you consider yourself a total feminist and this isn’t you but you are just mesmerized by his skinny build and his tats and his ability to talk about deep things even though he can’t do simple things like do his dishes or his laundry and oh my god he is such an asshole but oh my god he is really hot. Not like I have experience with anyone like that or anything….

Coincidentally, because it helps the plot along, Olivia’s cousin Emily shows up for a visit because she wants to look at colleges in California. Emily is a professional college-applier, and it is all she talks about and thinks about. SERIOUSLY, WHY DOES E VERY CHARACTER HAVE ONE DIMENSIONAL IDENTITIES? Why can’t she like art AND college? Like parties AND be on the school newspaper. Ugh. ALSO, if Emily is really into getting into good schools, shouldn’t she be someone who is occupied with grades and extra-curriculars because that helps college? Her only activity is actually applying to colleges. A color coordinated Filofax organizing brochures and applications doesn’t impress the Ivies. I don’t get how this shit gets written.

Olivia doesn’t really like Emily and vice versa. Emily comes with Olivia to meet James and although she acts like a giant tool and annoyed that they taqlk about art, James’ douchey artist in peril charms works on Emily. So much that she borrows some of Olivia’s clothes and goes to see James on her own, trying to convince him that she is artier than he thinks. I don’t know folks, I just report what I read.

Olivia decides to quit art to be more practical and gets a job at her mother’s department store and starts hanging out with the owner’s son, who actually buys clothes for her. Emily reports to James that Olivia has given up art, and James suddenly realizes that Olivia probably won’t fall for his douchebag artist persona ANYMORE, and finally admits that he loves her. Olivia realizes that she should continue with art, because it’s what she loves! Besides, as we all know, she won’t live past high school anyway, so might as well makes some splatter drawings! Yes, I went there. Plus, her mother was an artist and gave up on her dream, and now she’s a measly manager at a dept store, and she doesn’t want Olivia to make a mistake. Yay, all is resolved! Who’s up for a triple bacon cheeseburger and lard fries at the DB?

Of course, it wouldn’t be an SV book if we didn’t include the inhaling and exhaling of the Wakefield twins. Because it is Christmastime again, they also gets jobs at Simpson’s Department Store. Liz does such a good job she gets medals for department store working, and Jessica is all set on nailing the son of the owner. She has never met him, but is convinced that once they meet he will ask her out- of course not even stopping to consider if she will like him, but he does have money and status, of course. The intense fixation on this just feeds into Jessica’s diagnosis of a Socipathic Narcassist, and is not at all charming, which I am sure the writers thought they were doing. So her plotline is the wacky hijinks that happen as she tries to be in the same place with him. Imagine her surprise when the guy chooses Olivia over her. Zing!

Oh yes. Important to mention that this is the book where Olivia wears a record in her hair. Prompting Lila to snark: “She thinks this is Greenwhich Village or something”. Oh, to remember the time when Greenwhich Village was actually Greenwhich Village. New Yorkers, are you with me?

Another Todd and Liz breakup and death threat for the twins; it must be a Tuesday.

Silly me for assuming that these Super Star Editions would give some insight on the characters that the regular series didn’t have time to do because they spent too many pages talking about sea-green eyes and lavalieres. So, class, what have we learned from this book? Todd is boring and has Daddy issues and spends most of his time playing basketball and thinking about how sweet and kind Liz Wakefield is.

It’s summer again. Again. Liz and Todd are feeling the fizzle go out of their relationship, so they decide to sign up to be camp counselors for a two-week camp run by the parks department or something. Yea, nothing says romance like working like crazy for two weeks running around chasing kids and the only time spent together is in the company of children. And also, this rekindling thing? Are they on Yes Dear? What teenagers talk about their relationships like that?

So, because Sweet Valley is the #1 vacation destination for sociopaths to move to so they can enact revenge, Kevin Holmes turns up as one of the counselors in the camp. The back story is that when Todd was “living” in “Vermont”, he witnessed this guy Kevin mugging someone, and Todd being Todd, pinned the guy down until the police came. Then Kevin’s father tried to bribe him to not testify, but Todd being Todd, did his civic duty and went ahead and testified and Kevin got a jail sentence. Kevin vowed to get back at Todd.

Margo should take pointers from this guy. Kevin manipulates everyone into liking him and hating Todd, and threatens Elizabeth’s life if Todd reveals his identity. Meanwhile, Kevin also starts working at Todd’s fathers’ firm, and take an interest in the business, something Todd never does. So now Kevin has turned Todd’s dad against him too. This Kevin guy is a really good sociopath! Which is no wonder why Jessica spends no time rubbing up his non-existence Ken Doll genitals.

So after about eight chapters of Todd being emo and he and Liz squabbling, they decide to break up. Then something not exciting enough to go into detail happens in which another female counselor is mugged, and Kevin frames Todd for it. Todd threatens to turn Kevin in and while Todd is in jail briefly, Kevin lures Elizabeth into the woods and starts to strangler her but Todd gets out of jail and there just in time! Lovers reunited, justice served, and another 45 minutes of my life I will never get back.

By now I am pretty sure that the publishers over at Bantam took the first draft of anything anyone wrote and released it in the series.

Here’s an excerpt of Kevin talking trash about Todd:

Kevin lowered his voice. “There was an…incident with a girl. Nobody knows exactly what happened.” Kevin paused significantly. “But she had to jump out of the car to get away from him. She walked home.” Jessica’s mouth went dry. At that moment, she was relieved that her sister had broke up with Todd.

I’ll tell you what happened. This girl was trying to get some action from Todd and all he wanted to do was give her butterfly kisses and make metaphors about the colors of her eyes. So she bailed. And is Jessica most appalled by the girl having to walk home? And listen Missy, let us not forget when you tried to claim that Todd attacked you. She was probably pissed that someone stole her scheme.

Friends, if you’ve been keeping track, I’ve only a few more recaps to finish the first hundred. The end is nigh…

“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.