Poor Little Rich Girl

Courtesy of The Closet

Courtesy of The Closet

Oh Lila. Why do you have to be this way? We love your cool, snarky exterior but when you got your own Super Star, we thought we’d see the real Lila, one that was actually cool and smart and had it together. Unfortunately, it took for you to experience sexual assault until you had feelings and dealt with your problems and had emotions.

Mr. Fowler (who I imagine as John Hamm) has a new ladyfriend, Joan, who has a daughter Jacqueline. Fuck, I have to type that name every time. Lila suspects Joan is after her father’s money, because she never pays for anything and they always are staying at Fowler Crest (in the guest room of course!). Lila tries to tell her father but he won’t have it, he’s totally hot for Joan. Lila and her father have an odd relationship, but that’s the most obvious statement ever. Also, did you know that the Fowlers have a housekeeper named Eva? Who Lila has known since she was little? Not like we ever hear from her. And I hope Eva gets a good fucking salary, because you wouldn’t believe the crap she needs to do. Joan and Jacqueline are over for lunch, and Eva has to prepare lobster tails and shrimp cocktail, creme brulee and swan ice sculptures.

Meanwhile, Lila’s got problems of her own. She meets Evan Armstrong as a concert, and decides she’s in love. Evan is nuttin’ special. Kind of a cross between Todd and Ken Matthews, if you can imagine that snoozefest. Problem is, he’s dating some gal named Sonia. Lila enlists Bruce into luring Sonia away. And damn! The sexual tension between Lila and Bruce jumps out of the page. Bruce of course has Sonia dropping her panties at the first revving of 1BRUCE1, and Lila seduces Evan with her womanly wiles.

So, Lila’s scheming to get Evan is pretty much like Joan scheming to get George Fowler, amiryte? You’d think it was a parallel story, right? Let’s not give the ghost writers that much credit. Joan and George leave for the week and leave the gals at Fowler Crest. Jacqueline reveals herself to be a scheming shrew, and steals Lila’s car to go off and jaunt with Lila’s friends who love her.

Finally, Lila is able to reveal Joan’s true intentions by hiding microphones in her dressing room before the wedding, while she conveniently talks about her scheme to marry him and take his money. George apologizes profusely to Lila, and somehow is not too upset, and decides to make the wedding a party for Lila instead. Woopsies! No real adult reactions allowed in Sweet Valley. Meanwhiles, Lila finds out that Evan has been canoodling with Jacqueline, but dumps his ass before he can dump hers. So really, Lila didn’t really learn a lesson, she just got away with her bratty tactics. And the universe is aligned in the world of Sweet Valley.

You know what? I don’t even think Liz was in this book. So it had that going for it.

The Wakefields end racism, or #94 Are We in Love?

I should be careful what I wish for: I’ve complained that SVH does not even touch on issues of race in its WASPY world, and then we get one that touches on it directly and…I wish they just hadn’t even tried.

Some quick backstory: Cheryl Thomas’s Dad and Annie’s Whitman’s mom are getting married, and they just bought the house next to the Wakefields (also, their parents are living together BEFORE THEY ARE MARRIED!!! Oh my. And least someone’s having premarital sex in SV.) Cheryl and her dad moved from New York City. Oh, and also, she’s black. Because you may not infer this from the plot. She has recently become friends with Steven, who still insists on hanging out with high school kids.

Everyone acts overly friendly with Cheryl, I guess to assuage their guilt about their white privilege. And to prove that they are okay with black people. Also to say that some of their best friends are black, I guess. Steven is teaching Cheryl to drive, and one afternoon after a lesson they stop at a cafe and everyone is staring at them and some skinhead guys are giving them dirty looks. It’s pretty awful. They are both so upset that after they leave they take comfort in each other and make out. It was actually pretty horrifying, and it proves to me that SV is about as liberal as 1954 Alabama.

The next morning, both are kind of regretting making out, they are not sure if they really like each other or were in an emotional state. Meanwhile, rumors are all over everywhere that Steven and Cheryl are a couple. Like all the kids at SVH really give a shit about Steven, who doesn’t even go there. Wait, he’s a Wakefield, so every bowel movement is big news. Both Cheryl and Steven both know they are really not into each other, but keep going out to prove a point, and I think Steven feels guilty that he is thinking about Cheryl’s race and wants to convince himself it doesn’t matter to him. It makes him sound shitty, but for real it is actually nice to see an SVH character have an internal dialogue that is actually intriguing and realistic.

So, for the next 70 pages or so, Cheryl and Steven hang out and each want to tell each other they aren’t that into each other but are too afraid to do so or are conveniently interrupted. It goes on forever and it is ridiculous.

Steven doesn’t want to be alone with Cheryl so invites her out to the Beach Disco with his college friends (wait, he has college friends?) and she hits it off with some guy Martin Bell, who is also black. Cheryl plays it off like, I just happen to like him and he also happens to be black. Again, to me, this is totally skirting the issue. I really would have appreciated it more if Cheryl was thinking, “wow, I am a person of color in this incredibly white, ignorant and privileged place, and it is really nice to be with someone who can really understand where I am coming from.” But noooo, it has to totally ignore the issues that she is going through.

So Cheryl and Steven stay together to fight for the cause of interracial couples, as if they were the first ones in Sweet Valley. Hold up- are they really the first? What about Jade Wu and that David guy? Don’t Sandra and Manuel have a West Side Story thing going? So they are really viewing race as a black and white thing here. Argh.

Of course, our friendly residents are not as supportive as the perfect, liberal, and accepting Wakefields. Lila is kind of shitty about the whole thing, More that she is cynical about the whole thing and doesn’t think anyone will ever accept them, so why try? Oh Li, you are making it hard for me to like you. Bruce, surprise, is even worse. He runs into the twins at the mall getting supplies for the cake they are baking for the wedding and is all, “these black and white liaisons are quite the thing these days” and Cheryl and Steven are “making spectacles of themselves” and finally, “make sure the cake is half-chocolate”. Real cute, Bruce.

Finally, Cheryl talks to Mrs. Whitman and tells her she’s proud that she is marrying her father to fight a cause. Mrs. Whitman is all, wtf, that is not why I am getting married. Cheryl finally gets the balls to break up with Steven. And how does she do it? By the toast she gives her parents. She directs it at Steven. Because it’s always about a Wakefield, and no one else. Finally it ends with Cheryl setting up a date with Martin. Who, by the way, likes jazz music. Stereotype much?

I do like Cheryl, because she calls Jessica out on her shit. Jessica is being overly friendly to her, and Cheryl tells Steven it’s because Jessica is trying to prove that she is “okay” with them and not because she is sincere. See, I told you Cheryl was likeable!

Oh yea, secondary storyline: the twins bake the cake for the wedding after some mishaps. Jessica’s samples taste like ass and they make fun of her a lot. Last time someone made fun of Jessica’s cooking, she threw a shit fit and almost ran away to San Fran. Also, Sam, Tod, Liz and Jess hang around together a lot. I thought Todd hated Jess…and I couldn’t help thinking that Sam, you’re days are numbered (the next book is the infamous Jungle Prom.)

Som brief mentions of ugly outfits for the wedding: “Elizabeth had borrowed an outfit from Enid [bleccchhhh]- a pale yellow silk dress, and in her hair she wore a lace bow [she is dressed as me for my second grade school pictures]. Jessica, however, had splurged on a peacok-blue minidress with big black buttons all down the front.” Yarf.

Ugh, that just ended too easily! Suddenly Cheryl’s life is perfect, everyone accepts, blah blah blah. Also, this is infuriating: Cheryl decides how lucky she is to live in Sweet Valley because it is just so beautiful. Yes, I am SURE Cheryl wouldn’t rather have stayed in New York City, where there are actually more interesting people and she is not the only person of color and everyone is always gossiping about her business.

Well, it is good to see Annie’s mom settle down. Back in #10, we were given the impression she was a bit of a drunk and a tramp. Apparently she met Cheryl’s dad on assignment when she was doing a modeling shoot. The models per capita in Sweet Valley is pretty high, doncha think?

Argh! So frustrating! On the one hand, some ghostwriter tries to address issues of race, but then just when they touch on something that could be somewhat deep, it barely discusses the issues realistically. And everything ends well at the end of the book!!! It’s almost like it would have been better not to happen!!!

And how can I leave without making a comment on the cover? Cheryl looks 38. Steven ACTUALLY looks like a sixteen year old boy, although he is actually older. He looks dorkier than he did in earlier books. The whole Sears Portrait covers really bug me. Who are they posing for?

Grade: C