The one where we learn that Ms. Dalton has a double identity, or Super Special: Perfect Summer

Perfect summer indeed! Wow, these kids must be left back a lot. Because this is about their eighth summer after their junior year in high school. So they are going on a bike trip up the coast of California, and camping out and staying out in hostels along the way. Actually, that does seem pretty cool. We get all Saved By the Bell style, and out of the twelve students who are on the trip, most of them our the Scooby gang: Jessica, Elizabeth, Lila, Bruce, Charlie something, Annie Whitman (former slut), Todd, Olivia Davidson, Roger Patman, and Chome Dome’s nephew, Barry from Ohio….uh, I don’t even know who the others are. They don’t even mention them. You’d think they could throw in a couple more names. I am surprised they don’t throw in Ken Matthews, he’s always a good placeholder. And guess who is chaperoning…none other than our favorite inappropriate teacher, Roger Collins. Oh, and Ms. Dalton. But it’s awkward between them! More on that later. Enid has to stay home for the summer and work at Casey’s. Hahahaha, fuck the poor kids.

Ok, first things first. Why would Bruce and Lila go on the trip? Wouldn’t they be going to Europe or something? Do they really want to rough it?

Second things second. I have phantom camel toe looking at Jessica’s shorts. Are those comfy for bike riding? Also, is Liz wearing a onesy?

Actually, this totally felt like a Baby-Sitters Club book because most of the chapters started with a letter the twins wrote to Cara and Enid. Elizabeth’s letters are annoying and she analyzes everyone on the trip and thinks she knows all and also assumes that Enid gives a shit. There are so many stories intersecting, I hope you’ll be able to follow. Their first stop is to some movie star producer that is a family friend of the Patmans. But get this….they set up tents and stay outside on the lawn. The fuck? They don’t have a guest house or something? The guys daugher, Courtney Thomas is a total beotch to everyone and is always sneaking off with her boyf, Nolan Ruggers. He has tats! And drives a motorcycle! And is bad news bears. To get his daughter away from him, the prducer guy makes Courtney go on the trip with them. How is that logistically possible? She doesn’t go to svh, so is she allowed? Are their liability issues? Also, Jessica is so judegmental about Nolan. Didn’t she whore it up with Rick Andover not so long ago? And stay out all night with a college guy? And dry hump Bruce Patman? I could go on and on…

Meanwhile at one of the hostels, Lila meets some boys who tell her Ms. Dalton is a former teacher of theirs from Arizona, who was called Beth Curtis. Lila uses this to blackmail Ms. Dalton into doing her chores and picking up her shit. She has it out for her because Ms. Dalton is dating her father. My god, Lila has massive daddy issues.

Barry Cooper, Chrome Dome’s son is overweight…so you know what that means….he’s a disgusting, lazy, idiotic awkward person desperate for approval. And the kids make fun of him the whole time. And he has a crush on Jessica. Because she’s sooooo beautiful. She’s a perfect size six, you know. Because they never mention it.

Courtney does a 180 and acts totally nice and everyone loves her, except Elizabeth, mostly because Todd is friendly with her. Courtney’s plan is to steal Todd away from Liz and bring him home with her to give her Dad the illusion that she’s reformed so she can keep sneaking off with Nolan Ruggers. I don’t know how that will work exactly. She concocts this story that her dad is an alcoloholic and she’s had a terrible childhood, blah blah. Elizabeth doesn’t buy it and Todd basically calls her a heartless bitch. It’s kind of one of the best fights they’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot because they fight every five seconds. They actual break up and Liz mopes around. Todd is such a gullible prick. Finally he agrees to go home with Courtney for the rest of the summer.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets an older guy, Robbie October, at one of the hostels and is in love with him. He is totally not interested, and Jessica keeps trying. I loved seeing Jessica rejected and embarassed. Bruce cock blocks her a couple of times, and it’s awesome. Finally they meet up at a campsite and Jessica plans to sneak out of her tent at midnight to go into the woods with him. And we are supposed to believe that she has no intention of giving it up. Pshahhhh.

They get caught in a cave with a bear and her cubs and are on the brink of death. The crew starts a search party and Courtney says she wants to stop because she doesn’t feel well. Todd takes her back to the campsite, obviously not caring that Jessica could be dead. Frankly, I don’t blame him. Finally….duhn duhn duhn…Barry saves the day! Now everyone accepts him and is nice to him and he feels like a winner. Bar, these people were mean to you not so long ago. Fuck ’em! They are not your friends! But asw Francine has taught us, the best revenge is to be accepted by your tormentors.

Ms. Dalton comes clean and explains that she was married to a schizophrenic man who killed himself after she left him and his family blames her for his death, and were stalking her, so she had to create a new identity. Um, WHAT? That is heavy shit. This is a teen novel, people.

Other stuff:

Once in a while, there is maaayyyybe a funny line that is actually funny. When they were visiting the estate of a historical figure, Bruce and Lila were competing over who seemed the most unimpressed. Heeee!

Oh also, Charlie, who is Bruce’s friend, starts up with Annie Whitman, but Bruce keeps telling him about Annie’s slutty past (double standards much?) but love prevails. They also mention every line that Annie is “thin”, “slender” or some derivative. We get it. THIN IS IN! OK! STOP SHOVING IT DOWN OUR THROATS!

Every place they visit, they hang with some locals and tell them how awesome Sweet Valley is. Uh, really? A waspy town with one bar and judgemental residents?

Apparently Todd’s eyes crinkle when he smiles. Swoon!

They make a stop in Anaheim and Disneyland, and this ghostwriter actually stops to explain what Disneyland is. Wtf.

Robbie October was kicked out of a hostel for throwing a beer bottle out the window! The horror!

There’s a really cringe-worthy chapter that is written from Mr. Collin’s POV and then Ms. Dalton’s where they make up. He saves her from a jellyfish. It’s just bad, having these writers trying to take an adult perspective.

Todd and Liz make up, Jessica lives, Roger and Nora get back together, Courtney is exposed as a fake. Whatever, just another day in Sweet Valley world.

My grade: B

Next up: #27 Lovestruck, and then Francine’s attempt at diversity, #50 Out of Reach. I’m doing that one for you, Onnie.

The one where Robin Wilson loses 100 pounds and joins the cheerleading squad in a timespan of a week, or #4, Power Play

Jessica “I like gingham”.

Elizabeth: “I am going to give you an open-mouth kiss”.

Also, Elizabeth has a receding hairline.

I digress. Jayzuz, this one was disturbing. So many horrible messages sent to young impressionable minds. So let’s get into it. If you remember in book three, Jessica strung Robin Wilson along and took advanatage of her. She even told her she would nominate her to be a Pi Beta Alpha. Now that the whole thing with Bruce went haywire, she wants to forget it. Elizabeth thinks it is unfair and thinks Jessica should keep her promise. Okay, I’ll give her that. Jessica doesn’t want anyone fat in her sorority. So, you would think that Elizabeth would be on Robin’s side for Robin, but no, she just does it to prove a point to Jessica, Lila and Cara, the trifecta of c*nts. So to try to dissaude her, they give Robin these impossible hazing tasks, like running five miles around the track while people oink at her. And make her go to the beach in a bikini. Ok, everyone say it with me: WHY DOES THE SCHOOL ALLOW THIS? MR. COLLINS, DO SOMETHING!

Instead of telling Robin that she shouldn’t go through this, she helps her complete the tasks. I think she secretly wants to see Robin go through it. So Robin does do everything they ask, so they give her one final task: get Bruce Patman to ask her to the Discomarathon (another dance-a-thon?). That’s a punishment, he may try to touch her boob. Or drug her and date rape her. It could happen. So Elizabeth goes to him and promises to write a feature for him in the Oracle if he asks her to the dance. His ego wins out, and they go to the dance. Once they get there, he acts all Bruce Patman-y and says to everyone when he arrives, “Ok, that’s it. I brought you to the dance, Tubby. I’ve got better things to do now. Hey! Anyone want to steer the Queen Mary around the floor tonight?” Wow, real nice. So Robin is humiliated and finally realizes that everyone is having a laugh at her expense with this whole pledging thing. Just NOW she realizes it. So she runs out and after that withdraws from everyone and walks around not talking to anyone and all withdrawn. And acts pretty suicidal. Jessica and the Pi Betas blackball her.

So apparently, a few days go by and Elizabeth starts noticing that Robin is losing weight. Then, maybe another week goes by and suddenly she is a size zero. And BOOM everyone wants a piece. Even Patman. And get this…Elizabeth talks to Robin’s mother!!!! What a fucking tool. Ok, the nominations are heating up for the Miss Sweet Valley High title. Ok, what school sponsors a beauty pageant? WTF??? In what fucked up world is Francine in? Of course, Robin wins, which is a big fuck you to the Pi Betas, because Miss Sweet Valley High is ALWAYS a Pi Beta, doncha know. Then, Robin tried out for the cheerleading squad and is made co-captain with Jessica. Uh, Robin has never cheerled in her life, now co-captain? Apparenty the only requirement for the team is being skinny.

Ok, back it up. Apparently, Robin also happens to be one of the smartest students at Sweet Valley. But that doesn’t seem to matter here. Only when does she win Miss Sweet Valley does she get acceptance and self-confidence. Ugh. And she gets acceptance from the people that once mocked her. UGH! Seriously, if Robin is smart, just wait it out a year. She’ll go off to a good college and be successful and Jessica will have three kids by age 20. But no, being thin and popular is the ultimate success. Of course, how could I forget.

And obviously, since Robin is fat, she is a bumbling idiot as well. Don’t you know the two go hand in hand? When Liz is with her, she stuffs her face with candy bars all afternoon. When she gets the news she is pledging, she rushes to the fridge to eat an entire cheesecake. Francine really hates overweight people. According to her, they get what they deserve.

When Robin is losing weight, there is an obligatory scene where she explains to Liz that she is not starving herself. I think it is a little late for a public service announcement.

Oh yea. There is a side story about how Lila is shoplifting because she wants more attention from Daddy. Elizabeth forces her to confront the store and tell the truth. Because Elizabeth is full on Little House on the Prairie syndrome.

The moral of the story: thin is in.

Other tidbits:

Robin wears tent dresses everyday, because my god, no one must make clothes in her size, ANYWHERE. Actually, if she were around today, she’d be totally hip.

Omg, a really dumb Todd/Elizabeth moment: Liz won’t tell Todd why she is pissed at Jessica, so Todd apparently pretends to be a fortune teller: “Don’t tell me. Let me gaze into zee futur. Ziss beeg trouble starts with a J is look almost as bee-yoo-tiful as you.” I cringed when I read that.

We get a description of Fowler Crest (Lila’s estate): sculptures on the grounds, red brick courtyard with a big fountain filled with tropical fish. Francine has such a fetish for rich people.

During the campaign for Miss Sweet Valley, the football team has a sign that says “Robin has us Throbbin'”. Heh.

On another note, I sheepishly netflixed the first season of the Sweet Valley High tv show. Oh god, what a mistake. It was paaaaaaiiiiinful. Not funny and no matter what they were wearing or what they were doing, the twins looked like porn stars. And there was this horrendous scene at a dance (where else?) where Elizabeth and Winston do a choreographed dance (you can see a lil of it in the credits. And Todd is fugly (Ryan James Bittle) and Bruce looks about 50 (Brock Burnett). Full cringe factor in effect.

My grade: F

Next time: Perfect Summer and then Lovestruck, told from Ken Matthew’s perspective. Because he’s so insightful. Or something.