Because nothing is worse than having divorced parents.

There is a reason that I’m not all that keen on trenching through the books past 100. They text is longer, the covers are glossier, and the stories are blander. Not that they are better, but they lack that cringe-worthy crappy writing and storylines that we’ve come to love so much. It’s almost more of a form of Stockholm Syndrome, where I crave the crap that the older books give me, because I feel lost without them.

Waaaaayyyyyyy back when I read the previous book where Liz and Todd practice being married for real by having a strained, sexless relationship. Just like real marriage! Rim-shot! Meanwhile, Bruce and Liz got total boners out of investigating their parents ancient affair. After everyone in the school, including Todd saw them dry-humping in the Wakefield kitchen, the twins vowed to help Bruce get his parents back together.

The twins show off their prowess as comediennes by having goofy adventures and mishaps as they try different tactics to get Bruce’s parents to call off the divorce. The methods are pretty much as useful and realistic as Wile. E. Coyote’s. Highlights include krazy-gluing the ignition keyholes in their divorce lawyer’s cars so they miss the divorce proceedings, Jessica mailing a love letter, forgetting the stamp, sticking her hand in the mailbox and then getting arrested for it. And the police don’t seem to remember her from the time she witnessed several murders, spiked her twin’s punch thus killing her boyfriend, and almost being killed twice by an evil doppleganger. But, whatevs.

It’s all worth it just for this self-important journal entry from Liz:

Todd can’t understand why I want to help Bruce so much. I’ve explained to him that Bruce is my friend and that I know what he’s going through. Todd acts like he understands, but I know he is still sort of baffled. I guess I am not being completely honest with him. But how can I tell him that I need to know once and for all that Bruce and I are not meant to be with each other? The parallels between my relationship with Bruce and Mom’s relationship with Mr. Patman mskr me uncertain? After everything that has happened, how can i tell him that I am still plagued with doubt?

Because the marriage troubles of two adults is somehow all about her.

Er, maybe that little old incident where Bruce tried to get you drunk and take advantage if you while you had your personality transplant may help you clear up your doubt? Or when Bruce fucked over your friend Regina and drove her to her drug-induced death? Just sayin’.

As we’ve deduced so far, Bruce doesn’t really have any real friends. he mopes around all the time feeling sorry for himself over his parents’ impending divorce. I’m not sure why this is making him emotional- did he ever actually show any love for his parents before? Nevertheless, emo Bruce is almost as sexually alluring as asshole Bruce. His brooding and nasty remarks to the twins totally do it for me. I HATE MYSELF.

The B-story is supposed to be cute, but just further shows what a shallow witch Jessica is. Michael Hampton is new at school, and is shy and awkward, which Jessica reads as cool and a sexy loner. He always manages to be around when Jessica looks like a doofus, so she pretends to be Elizabeth. Michael declares he is in love with Elizabeth and gets total bone over the fact that he meets a girl who is as awkward and clumsy as he is. Elizabeth realizes this and makes him realize it’s Jessica he really wants (of course) and finally he asks Jessica out. Because it is inevitable- any guy will end up asking her out. We find out after the fact that the date was horrible because Michael was so nervous he spilled stuff all over Jessica. Instead of relating to him because she just went through a clumsy phrase herself, she dumps it and has a laugh about it with her friends. She also remarks that his famous movie director father already cast his movie, so there was no need to try to date Michael anyway! Meanwhile, Michael Hampton is crushed and is probably on the verge of suicide. That, or is being all emo with Bruce and/or writing I-hate-love songs with Dana Larson.

I want to make sure I mention that Winston Egbert hosts a cookout on the beach for the junior class. He runs around the party in some stupid apron/chef’s hat combo and yells ‘Boy-gers, get your boy-gers here!” like some New York Street vendor. What a chode. I’ll bet he grows up to be Jeff Dunham.

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Mean People Suck.

[Cover from The Closet]

So, Enid’s grandmother movies in with Enid and her mom and…

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Yea really, it’s that bad. There’s a reason that this was one of the first books I found but put off reading it. Grandma Rollins, who throughout the book is referred to as Mrs. Langeven, which really annoyed me, moves in after her husband dies, and proceeds to act like a manipulative self-centered wench. Enid feels bad and drops plans with her friends and her boyfriend Hugh to spend with her co-dependent grandmother. Gram, ehm, excuse me, Mrs. Langevin, sees the error of her ways after one outburst from Enid and decides to move back to Chicago. Case closed. The end. Whatever, I don’t even need to go into detail. (Although props to Ms. L for saying that Liz seems bossy.)

The subplot is infuriating. Susan Stewart’s famous director father (wow, she’s mentioned again?) has too much time on his hands, I guess, and sponsors a documentary film making contest. The Scooby gang decides to enter and make a documentary about…what else…. A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE TOWN OF SWEET VALLEY. We.get.it. You love it, it’s wonderful. Of course, Jessica is the host, and of course what’s featured is the beach and all the students of SVH. Of course, there’s no mention of the poor shitty area where Betsy Martin lives and where the Good Friends cult house is, or the Shady Lady. During one taping, Winston Egbert comes out of a joke shop (yes, in Sweet Valley it is possible for a joke shop to thrive) wearing an arrow through his head and follows Jessica around and stands behind her in the shots. Omg, he is HILARioius! He should be a comedian! They have a world premiere at the Wakefield’s split-level house, but then…the winner is never announced? This writing is so sloppy.

What I want to talk about is the very weird friendship between Liz and Enid. I know people have joked that they are lesbionic for each other, but I’m not really referring to that. Best friends in high school, no matter what “type” you are, share private jokes and laugh a lot. I mean, at any age, that’s what a best friend is. They just don’t do that. Enid’s whole world revolves around Liz, and doesn’t really have any other friends. They go to craft fairs and play recorders together. Whenever Enid is upset I half expect Liz to run over, whip out a boob, and start nursing Enid. Check out this exchange.

Elizabeth and Enid found an empty table [at the Dairi Burger] across the room and sat down gracefully. “You stay here,” Enid suggested, instantly rising to her feet, “and I’ll go get us some sodas. It’s so crowded today we’d probably lose the table if we both went. ” Elizabeth grinned up at her friend. “Ok- make it my usual, bartender. ” “One root beer, coming up!” With a salute, Enid turned and picked her way across the popular after-school hangout.

Shut up. Just shut up.

In other news, please read my column in the Oakland Examiner.

Don’t get our hopes up!

Don’t we wish that Liz left the country for a while and we didn’t have to deal with her barrettes and piousness? Regina Morrow apparently handed Liz one brochure about some school called Interlochen and Liz had dreams of wiring her amazing short stories overlooking the alps. Liz found out about this place too late after the deadline but fuck me gently with a chainsaw! There’s still a scholarship that she is eligible to apply for! The possibility of Sweet Valley without Liz is too much for her friends and family to imagine. It would kind of be like Jessica without a halter top. Or Robin Wilson without a cheesecake. Or Todd without cheating. You get the picture. She’s INTEGRAL! So everyone reacts to this in the most illogical, irrational, immature way ever. Did we expect anything less?

Q: Liz notices that Jeffrey seems kind of bummed and quiet when she talks about going away. Why do you think this is, Liz?
A: Well, he probably doesn’t realize how important this is to me! So I think the solution is to talk about how much fun I am going to have there nonstop! That will make him realize how much I want to go, and then of course he will support me!

Q: Well, Liz, Enid seems kind of bummed too. Do you think it is for the same reason?
A: Of course not, she doesn’t want to see me be happy! She’s just SO SELFISH! I am just going to not talk to her anymore. Screw any feelings she may be having about the matter! She’s supposed to be my best friend and worship me unconditionally!

Q: Jeffrey and Enid, what are you going to do to make sure Liz stays?
A: Well, instead of talking to her about how we feel, we are going to make her a super-secret but super-special scrapbook filled with pictures of her with us. And we’ll sneak around suspiciously together to get it complete. And in no way would it give her the idea that we are seeing each other.

Q: Jessica and Steven, how will you handle this.
A: Well, in the most mature and reasonably way possible- by sabotaging her interview! Jessica will wear a slutty outfit, and Steven will act like an imbecile. In other words, like ourselves.

Q: Liz, how do you feel about the way everyone is acting?
A: Well, in the last minute, I decided that I don’t want to go anyway. I thought Switzerland was magical. but what could be more magical than Sweet Valley and all of my friends?  The people are too snotty and judgmental. However, I’ll just forgive everyone for the way they are acting! What? of course I won’t hold Jessica accountable for her hideous actions! I’ll just hig her and tell her that I’m so glad she’s my sister, thus enabling her selfish behavior! Yay for friends! let’s all get triple scoop Sundaes at Casey’s!

BUT! ALICE WAKEFIELD ACTS LIKE A PARENT!:

You seem to be asking an awful lot of [Jeffrey]. You suddenly announce that what you want more than anything in the entire world is to move to Switzerland for an entire year and study creative writing. The way you put it, Jeffrey would be a real chauvinist if he didn’t back you on the whole project. You keep emphasizing how important it will be for your development, your writing, your future. Have you even asked Jeffrey how he feels about the whole thing? It seems you’ve done an awful lot of assuming for him. You’ve assumed he’s behind your plan. You’ve assumed that he is going to wait around for you. And now you’re assuming that he’s interested in your best friend! Don’t you think it’s time you two actually sat down and talked?

Then, in a plotline best suited for an ABC Family original movie, Winston has some shenanigans with a lottery ticket. Somehow he accidentally switches his coat with a poor old man’s, and the lottery ticket in the pocket is the winning ticket! Winston is so con sumed with guilt that he returns the coat and the money to the old man, and now his little granddaughter can go to riding camp. Wait, there’s a poor man in Sweet Valley? He must live next to the Martins.

The One with Todd’s Evil Twin, or #24 Memories

It’s a lucky day here at the Dairi Burger, because I recently uncovered a fantastic cultural artifact: an agenda from a Sweet Valley High PTA meeting.

SVH PROUD GLADIATOR PARENTS MEETING
October 25, 1993

1. Welcome!
2. Update on annual fundraiser: Father-Daughter Date Auction. Fathers, start prepping your daughters to auction off to the fathers! Highest bidder wins a free membership to the Country Club!
3. Beware of the town drunk. He’s been showing up at the school and peeing in our perfectly manicured, size-six bushes.
4. The vote was unanimous: Yom Kippur will be canceled this year, and we will have two Spring Breaks instead, so that our students can have more than one kooky vacation adventure.
5. Scoliosis screenings will begin this week. Mr. Collins has graciously volunteered to conduct the screenings.
6. The Wakefield twins took a shit this morning. It was so lovely and perfect and slender, we will have it on display at the school for all to admire.

My main motivation for reading this one is: what is the motivation for Cara to wear that sailor suit? Although it is kind of cute. Steven also looks like Christopher Reeve. And 37.

So Tricia died recently, aka about 20 books ago, and Steven is pretty crushed. He often gets together with Betsy, Tricia’s sister, to talk about Tricia and look at old pictures. If you remember, Betsy and Tricia’s dad is the town drunk. Recently, Steven has been having fun with Cara Walker, former gossip and Jessica’s friend. See, Cara has changed. Her parents got a divorce so she knows what it is like to lose someone. I don’t want to play who hurts more, but is a divorce the same as a teenager dying of cancer? I would say no. Stop making Cara out to be a saint.

Steven feels guilty for liking Cara because he feels he is being disloyal to Tricia. So he struggles with that and keeps being an ass to Cara. Cara takes it because she has always had a crush on Steve. They do date-y things like go on a picnic at the zoo (huh?) and go to the Village Inn and eat the early bird special and dance to the cheesy band. Meanwhile, Steven’s friend Artie Western(yes, his real name). And yay! We’ve identified another senior at SVH! So far he and Bruce are the only seniors at the school, apparently. Cara doesn’t want to compete with a ghost, she dumps Steven’s whiny ass.

Steven mopes around long enough for Jessica to spout the most insightful thing she has ever said. She tells him that he should go for Cara, because the advantage she has over Tricia is that “she’s still alive.” Steve gets super peeved, but that wakes him up. The twins trick them into meeting and he and Cara walk into the sunset together.

Oh yea. Elizabeth, as the fucking patron saint, pays a visit to Betsy and asks her to let Steven go and to let him have a life. Because Liz has wisdom far beyond her years. It is so fucking condescending and classist, because as Liz travels to Betsy’s house on “the wrong side of town”:, suddenly the streets are lined with filth. Wasn’t Sweet Valley supposed to be perfect? I’ll bet there is one street where the Martins, David Prentiss, and Roger Barrett’s mom lives. Because if you don’t live the typical waspy, rich lifestyle in Sweet Valley, you live in squalor and filth. No in-between.

Secondary story: Jess hears that Winston’s cousin is coming to visit and is a big time Hollywood producer. So she signs up to do a project with him so she can meet this visiting cousin. It is uber creepy how she keeps inviting herself over to hang around with him and the adults are okay with that. Turns out Jess heard wrong and he is a really a civil engineer working on waste disposal. Hahaha, how hilarious, Jessica is once again a manipulative sociopath with no regard for anyone’s feelings but her own. I feel like this storyline has been used a dozen times already. And how when the twins are secondary characters, there always seem to be a really bad attempt at a humorous storyline.

Oh, and this one got really Saved By the Bell on us. SVH is playing a charity volleyball game with another school, and of course the team to represent is Liz, Jess, Ken, Bruce, Lila and some others. Isn’t that basically the whole school? The opposing team has a Todd lokkalike that Liz goes gaga for but it turns out he’s pretty chauvinist and nothing like Todd. The moral? Stop living in the past and move on! Also, Todd’s a tool!

Steven reeeeaaaaallllyyy needs to not hang out with high school students anymore. It’s becoming borderline pathetic.

The one with the star-crossed lovers or #34, Forbidden Love

Ok, I want t get through this one quickly, because I just got a whole new batch of SVHs in the early 100s and am anxious to do those. Like when they get chased by werewolves and shit. Someone gave me an ebay gift certificate from my birthday and I was in a major biddng war for a set of books. You’d think at age thirty I’d be, I don’t know, buying property, but no, I buy SVH books.

Enough about me, let’s talk about these two crazy kids, Michael and Maria. They get engaged. In high school. Everyone thinks its seeeewwww romantic. But wait! They are forboden to see each other because their parents hate each other. Not because of an old family fued or because they come from different sides of the tracks, but because their father got into a fight over a business merger. Only in Sweet Valley can capitalism tear lovers apart.

Conveniently, in one of heir classes, they are doing the whole thing where they are paired up in marriages and have to do budgets and shit. Did anyone ever do that in school? I had a home ec class where I baked muffins and sewed a pillow, but that was about it. Well, wouldn’t you know, Michael and maria are paired up there too. They fight a lot about the budget and Michael wants Maria to stay home with the kids and wash his feet and be subserviant.

Meanwhile, in real life, they are having problems. Namely, Michael is a controlling, dominating sexist asshole. Maria wants to tell their parents but Michael doesn’t. Maria is Winston’s campaign manager for PTA representative and Michael is controlling and jealous and forbids her to do it.

Lila throws a surprise engagement party for them but M & M have a big fight in the middle and their parents find out about the party from aother SVH parent. When they arrive to confront their kids, they have a big laugh about their fight, and Maria makes out with Winston. The end.

The best part of this one: The cover. No way in hell these kids are sixteen. It looks like the cover to a shitty romance novel, you know the ones without the sex scenes. Or for an advertisement for Summer’s Eve. Michael looks like Ken Marino (go see The Ten if you can). Those are some serious pleats.

Other thoughts:

This was just overall dreadful.

Wow, apparently the campaign for the PTA rep is really huge, and I have no idea why. At least five people are running and candidates have actual speechwriters. it sounds like a shitty job to me. They have to attend PTA meetings and have no power in student governent. I really don’t get this school.

They do another chapter from the perspective of the adults- namely their parents. It is such bad writing, I can barely read it without cringing.

Winston was actually cute in this one and kind of makes a good boyfriend. I’m glad he gets some in this book.

Did I mention that this one was fucking awful?

My grade: F

Next time: THE EVIL TWIN!

Poll: which is the lesser of evils?

a. being Lila’s maid for a day
b. listening to a story Liz wrote
c. having unprotected sex with Bruce Patman
d. being Jewish in Sweet Valley

The one that begs the question, just who really is Winston Egbert? or #56 Lost At Sea

SVH has Saved By the Bell syndrome. This is a syndrome that affects fictional high schools, where it seems the whole school is composed of 7-10 students, all whom would not actually hang out together in real life. I know you can’t focus a book on every student in the school, but doesn’t it seem the Wakefields and their crew are the only ones that go to the school? Supposedly they hate Bruce and find Winston irritating, but they are always there.

Case in point: they are going on a field trip to some island to study marine biology, and it says that 16 students are going to be attending. I don’t think I can name 16 people that go to SVH. So, I was kind of excited to see who else was there. They further divided into groups of four, and one group was Liz, Enid, Ken Matthews and Tom McKay (who seems to often play the dumb jock space-filler). The other group was Winston Egbert, some science wiz, and Lois Waller, who was “chubby and quiet”. Jaysus, Francine hates overweight people. They are also needy and desperate for friends and approval. And are only accepted when they conform (I’m looking at you, Robin Wilson.)

So, anyway, Jess is mad because she wanted to flirt with Ken Matthews, but Winston is all up in her grill being annoying. I actually think he seems kind of endearing. Trying too hard maybe, but at least as more of a personality than Ken “Ken Doll” Matthews. On their way back from the island, there is a big storm and the boat carrying their class capsizes, and Jessica ends up losing the lifeboat and swimming ashore a nearby island. Winston ends up there too. Winston basically saves Jessica’s ass because he knows survival skills. I am surprised he helped Jessica too because she was being such a cunt to him previously (and every book before this). She wants to sunbathe, but he insists they need to build shelter. Jess whines and whines, and finally he relents and gives her the task of “decorating” the shelter. She is happy, but I think (hope) he is secretly demeaning her.

Threy go off to forage for berries, and they run into a bear (on an island? idk) and Winston freaks out and Jessica actually saves them. Winston later feels like such a failure and is so embarassed and he and Jessica have a heart to heart where Winston reveals his insecurities and why he always needs to be the class clown, making others laugh so they will accept him. But Winston, who makes the clown laugh? He also is scared that his girlfriend, Maria Santelli, will dump him for a much better looking guy. Aw, Win. I think it is great that Winston is fun to be around, but my advice for him is to not be so much a gag-and-impressions guy. It’s like he brings props to school and uses pencils as cigars and breaks out into Groucho Marx impressions.

Meanwhile, Liz and the Wakefields are all worried, but they still go on with their lives. Liz even writes her fucking gossip column, Alice goes on interior-designing, and Ned goes on laywering. Seriously, Jessica could be dead. Finally, Bruce helps out by arranging for them to get on a yacht to go looking for Winston and Jessica. It’s great he cares, despite the fact that he has attempted to sexually assault both twins at one time or another.

Then they are saved, la la, and there are paparazzi everywhere and Jessica takes credit for everything and steals Winston’s thunder. And Winston just takes it. HATE!

Cover: nothing exciting. Jessica looks wet and tired and lost at sea. She looks more bratty than scared.

Other thoughts:

Jeffrey is such a nerd. Team Todd!

Lila gets very upset when she thinks Jessica is dead, and tries to reach out for Liz for comfort, but Liz totally blows her off. HATE! Liz thinks she is so caring. What a hypocrite.

Winston basically cooks some random fish and pusts them on a palm leaf with some sort of garnish. What is this, Top Chef?

In Sweet Valley world, you need to be blond, thin (women) and super buff (men). Winston, is decribed as “lanky”. Um, that seems kind of hot. In fact, I remember him being hot in the tv show.

Small pic, but he was played by Michael Perl, an obvi Jew. Which leads me to say: anyone get the feeling that Winston is Jewish? He has glasses, kinda nerdy…”Eggbert” is mildly Jewish, is pretty much the outsider in waspy Sweet Valley.