Thursday, October 06, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - On The Edge

Hi! I'm back! So Dubai was tremendous fun while also being kinda bananas and like a futuristic colony on Mars with the HOTTEST AND HUMIDIEST HEAT OF ALL TIME. Then when we got back there was a bit of that aimless newly unemployed dawdling where the days just sort of went in amongst endless Friends repeats and reading books and catching some Pokemon and getting into Grace & Frankie on Netflix. Anyway, here we are. Oh wait, HAVE YOU SEEN they're going to make Sweet Valley High graphic novels? SO MANY FEELINGS.

Okay. It's here. IT'S TIME.

Sweet Valley High #40: On The Edge

Jessica Wakefield is admiring her reflection in the locker room before cheerleading practice (because she's basically Alyssa Edwards when it comes to mirrors - and HOW GOOD is Drag Race Allstars this year you guys? KATYA FTW) when the rest of the squad come tumbling in, led by Amy Sutton. Amy's buzzing because she's convinced that Bruce Patman is crazy about her and even Jessica thinks she's particularly "boy crazy" lately, which is the pot calling the kettle a ho, but there you have it. Maria Santelli chimes in to say that it really did seem like Bruce was into Amy when they all ran into him in the hall on their way to the locker room just now, though. Jessica's not convinced that Bruce will dump Regina for Amy, but decides it's been a while since there was any proper drama so maybe someone shaking things up a bit won't be any harm.

Amy and Bruce have been doing a project together for their health class about DRUGS in Sweet Valley. Gasp! DRUGS? YES, DRUGS! Anyway, she's over at the Patman mansion to work on it with Bruce and purrs at him and touches his hand and acts all coy while telling him about a dream she had where they made out until Bruce gives in and kisses her. Dammit Bruce! He pretty much immediately reverts back to obnoxious would-be rapist Bruce, giving Amy a cocky smile and saying he'd forgotten how much fun it was to spread around "the old Bruce magic with more than one girl" and insists that he'll be able to convince Regina to let him do what he wants. Eugh and boo. Also, it's kinda gas that Amy is presented as a villain here for plotting to score with Bruce when stealing boyfriends is just a regular Tuesday afternoon for Jessica.

At school, Regina is feeling like there's something up with Bruce, since he's now cancelled on her for two Friday nights in a row to work on the longest project in the world with Amy and now he's stood her up for lunch in the cafeteria. A dude called Justin Belson asks Regina if he can sit with her when he sees that she's on her own and Regina says yes despite the fact that she doesn't know him at all, because she hates eating alone. Justin is cute and tall and chiselled but has an air of danger about him too because he was recently on academic probation and hangs out with Molly Hecht and Jan Brown, who are apparently Bad News. Justin and Regina chat over lunch and he reveals that he has three copies of the Ingenue magazine that she was on the cover of, which is totally normal and not alarming. Why three? Why could he possibly need that many? Regina. You in danger, girl. He asks her out to a game in LA that night, but Regina turns him down because she reckons Bruce wouldn't like it, but agrees to have lunch with him again the following week.

Jessica and Elizabeth are planning a barbeque for Saturday evening and Elizabeth is apprehensive about the fact that Regina, Bruce and Amy will all be there, now that she knows Amy and Bruce shifted, but Jessica is excited at the prospect of a bit of scandal. Elizabeth feels like she should give Regina a heads up, particularly since the whole cheer squad knows that something is going on too and it seems unfair to leave poor (not actually literally poor though), beautiful, formerly deaf Regina in the dark. Jessica is horrified and pleads with her not to, as it'll be obvious that Regina will have found out via Jessica and Amy will be mad at her. Elizabeth isn't convinced until she talks it over with her boyfriend Jeffrey, who advises her to stay out of it as it could easily come to nothing and just be a load of big talk from Amy. Shockingly, Elizabeth actually minds her own beeswax for once in her life, but during the barbeque Bruce and Amy sneak off to shift each other behind a tree and Elizabeth sends Jeffrey over to tell them to cop on while she distracts Regina who is sitting alone by the pool. However, Regina sees them emerging from the dark behind Jeffrey looking all sheepish and blows up at everyone for making a fool of her, including Elizabeth and then demands the keys to Bruce's Porsche so she can drive herself home and storms out, but not before telling Amy that she hates her. Ha, fuck you Amy! But seriously, the moral of the story here is that you better let Elizabeth Wakefield meddle in your life when she wants to unless you want everything to go to shit.

The following day, Regina thinks about her relationship with Bruce and decides that they had been drifting apart anyway and she could sense that he was getting bored now that everything was normal with them and there was no transatlantic romance like when she had to go to Switzerland for a series of treatments to regain her hearing and like when she came home to Sweet Valley only to be held hostage by armed and disgruntled former employees from her father's company. I love this series, you guys. She avoids Bruce's calls all day and decides to go out with Justin Belson to take her mind off things. He takes her out to notoriously shady spot Kelly's for some reason and tells her about how his father was stabbed to death when his liqour store was robbed two years ago and that his mother checked out has been on pills since then. Y'know, date-type chat. He also tells her about his ex-girlfriend Molly Hecht who got him through all these troubled times but who is now hanging out with people in the "real hardcore drug set" and how worried he is about her. Regina finds all his tragedy just ~fascinating~ and decides to do her best to be a good friend to him and fix him or whatever.

At school, Regina and Justin start to hang out together and even Jessica is mildly worried about the development, wondering why Regina is getting friendly with someone who she'd have so little in common with. Regina and Justin have lunch together, when Molly Hecht shows up and is alternately mean and insincere and then friendly and nice to Regina, telling them that she's having an "anything-goes sort of party" when her mother is out of town that weekend and that some dude called Buzz is meant to show up and there's no way someone called Buzz in this series is anything but Big T Trouble. Later that day, Elizabeth tries to talk to Regina, who defiantly mentions that Justin is taking her out on his motorbike after school, so we get another great lil backstory recap of how motorbikes = DANGER after Elizabeth came off one in a crash and ended up in a coma. Liz wants to apologise for what happened at the barbeque but also ends up warning Regina about Justin and his friends and how "some of those kids are heavily into drugs. And not just marijuana either." Elizabeth is such a mam. Anyway all she ends up doing is pissing Regina off, who tells her to butt out and leave her alone and then Elizabeth starts crying. She's just not used to people telling her to stay the fuck out of their business, guys!

Aw Regina! :( Also, this black and white headshot of Bruce is kinda gas. Did he give it to her? Has he got a stack of them lying around? What's going on with his GIANT LIPS? I need answers, people!

Bruce and Amy are still working on this never ending, foreshadowy project and are meeting Amy's cousin Mimi who works in a drug rehabilitation centre for the lowdown on the Sweet Valley drug scene. Mimi mentions that she's heard about Molly Hecht's upcoming party and tells them that this dude Buzz who's rumoured to show up is the biggest coke dealer at her college and that if they know anyone going to it to warn them, because he's a "smooth operator" known for getting good kids to try "something dangerous". Bruce immediately jumps up to call Regina because he knows she'll be going and Amy barely contains her jealousy. However, like Liz, all Bruce ends up doing is annoying Regina by telling her to be careful at the party and she hangs up on him. On Saturday, Elizabeth hears about Mimi's warning from Jessica and calls Regina too, who is by now thoroughly and justifiably fed up of people being on her case, because she's also had her brother Nicholas badgering her about staying away from Justin all week. She starts to feel bad about being cold with Elizabeth on the phone (just Elizabeth though, obvs) and writes a mysterious letter before going to meet Justin. They head to Casey's Place for a soda before the party and Regina tries to talk him out of going because she's starting to feel uneasy about the whole thing when it seems like there'll inevitably be trouble there. Justin is adamant about going though because he's still in love with Molly and wants to keep her out of danger.

Elizabeth and Jessica are getting ready to go over to Lila's house to watch movies on the Fowler's big screen with a bunch of the other kids from school and Elizabeth is fretting about Regina and trying to think of some way of stopping her from going to Molly's party. Jessica is trying out a spray-on hair colour and putting streaks of red in her glorious Aryan mane and suggests that Liz calls Nicholas and makes it his problem instead. Liz thinks it's a genius idea and gets him on the phone to tell him about this dodgy party and Nicholas says he's going over there to take her home. Unfortunately, Nicholas is in such a hurry to get there that he runs out of the house without his wallet and then gets pulled over for speeding, but his licence is at home in the wallet so the cop takes him down to the station, which seems a bit unnecessary. Meanwhile, Regina and Justin arrive at the party and this ain't no Wakefield barbeque or Lila Fowler shindig with decorations and boardgames and the Droids, oh no. The house is dark and the music is loud and the whole place smells like beer and cigarettes and NO GOOD CAN COME OF THIS PRETTY REGULAR-SOUNDING PARTY. Someone hands her a beer and then Justin goes off to dance with Molly, so Molly's weird friend Jan Brown comes over and is mean to Regina, making fun of her for never having tried drugs before and accusing her of stealing Justin away from Molly. Then the doorbell rings and Molly leads the famous Buzz into the room, telling everyone to be quiet as she announces his arrival like it's Downton Abbey, rather than a house party. The music gets turned down and everything, it's exceedingly lame and these kids have no chill.

Regina is having a terrible time, feels woozy from the beer and wants to leave, but when she tries to sneak away, Justin spots her and brings her over to sit with the group circled around Buzz like he's Drug Santa, who reveals a bag of cocaine with a flourish and a "would you all just take a look at this!" because he's the lamest dealer of all time. Justin leans in to tell Regina that he doesn't want to leave Molly while Buzz is around because Buzz has apparently been trying to convince Molly to try heroin. When Buzz starts cutting up the coke, Regina asks what he's doing and everyone overhears and laughs at her. Then lousy Jan Brown makes another comment accusing Regina of stealing Molly's boyfriend and Regina decides she's had enough of everyone's bullshit and wants to do something out of character to shut everyone up so she tries a line. Molly and Jan think she needs another so Jan and Buzz sort of force her to do another one while she's too dazed to protest and lads, I didn't expect to be so affected by this but it's really sad, particularly when you know how it's all going to shake out. :((( Regina thinks she can hear drums, but it's actually her heartbeat going bananas and when she looks like she's going to pass out, Justin gets her onto a couch and asks Molly to call 911 but Buzz is like "eh, nope". However, in the meantime Nicholas has told the cops at the station about how he's worried for his sister who is at a house party with drugs in it and at that exact moment, two cops, followed by Nicholas, burst in the front door.

Everyone is freaking out and Buzz makes a break for the back door, while a terrified Justin explains that Regina has had two lines of coke and one of the cops radios for an ambulance. Regina sees that Nicholas is beside her and fitfully Lifetime movies her way through telling him it isn't anyone's fault and that he's always been such a good brother and asks where Liz is (OH PLEASE) and Bruce too and that she wants to see them, mumbling "Nicholas, find them" before passing out. Of COURSE her dying words are her looking for Elizabeth Wakefield. Not just Bruce, who she was so recently in love with, not her parents, but A Fucking Wakefield Twin. Nicholas gets in touch with Elizabeth at Lila's house and Elizabeth, Jeffrey, Bruce and Enid all rush to the hospital, Bruce says it's all his fault for acting like such a jerk, Elizabeth tells him it "isn't a question of fault" and then decides that if anyone is to blame it's her, because it always has to be about her.  They get to the hospital, where Regina is in with the doctors and Nicholas tells the group that she had a heart attack from the cocaine. A few hours go by and then the doctor breaks the news that Regina has died and that she had an extremely rare reaction to the coke which caused an accelerated heartbeat which led to cardiac failure. And also that she may have had a heart murmur since birth, but like, which is it, Mister Doctor. And surely a heart murmur is something that would have come up over all her years of medical treatments and fancy doctors. Either way, imagine reading this as an 11 year old, my god it'd frighten the absolute shite out of you. No wonder so many women have told Francine Pascal that Regina Morrow is the reason they've never tried cocaine. Reading it now though, it's a bit like...this doesn't seem entirely legit, Ghostwriter. Her accelerated heartbeat stuff sounds more like a panic attack rather than DEATH, but there you go.

At school on Monday, there's an assembly so Mr. Cooper the headmaster can address the students about what happened. There's no sign of Justin or Molly and it's just as well, because Bruce keeps saying he wants to kill Justin and then Caroline Pearce, Winston Egbert and Lila Fowler each do a heavy-handed "well I'm never going to try cocaine now that it turns out you can die from it" bit. At the assembly, Cooper stresses that Regina's parents want them all to know that no one is responsible for Regina's death and that no one is to be treated as though it's their fault, so that'll definitely work and put an end to any bad feeling towards Molly or Justin. Done aaand done. That evening, Elizabeth gets the mystery letter that Regina wrote before the party and it's all super poignant and about how sorry Regina is and how she sees that Elizabeth had her best interests at heart and there's even a PS that mentions how she hopes their friendship will last forever. Elizabeth bawls crying but is also relieved "knowing that Regina had forgiven her before her death", because you can't get into heaven with a grudge against a Wakefield twin, duh.

There's a memorial at school on Friday for Regina and Nicholas has asked Elizabeth to make a speech and I'm sorry, but it's not as if Elizabeth and Regina were bffs or anything. Enid is Elizabeth's closest friend, and if anything, Elizabeth probably hung out with Lila Fowler more than Regina since she moved to Sweet Valley, but we're supposed to buy lines like "the loneliness she felt was so profound, she didn't think it would ever go away" as if Regina was someone Elizabeth spent all of her time with, rather than a nice girl she knew from school. Basically, if someone even vaguely adjacent to Elizabeth's life dies you'd better believe that it's all going to be about her. Anyway, she speaks at the thing and Nicholas reads a cheery poem called Dirge Without Music and everyone is sad and DON'T DO DRUGS KIDS BECAUSE YOU WILL HAVE A HEART ATTACK AND DIE.

Notable outfit:
This book is too preoccupied with evil drugs for any fun or frivolity in the way of outfits. Regina wears a "cardigan sweater" and "grey flannel pants" to the party and maybe the real tragedy here is that she died in such an ugly outfit. RIP Regina, you beautiful square.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 150

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 3
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 2 (TWO? I mean I know this is Regina's book but this is an outrage.)

Appearances of the word 'drugs': 23

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Secret Admirer

Alright, here we are then! There was a bit of a gap in recaps there, as that previously mentioned real life job weirdness finally resolved itself in me not having a job anymore and then I ran off to Electric Picnic last weekend. So we're onto book 39 now and so tantalisingly close to the Big Regina Drama, HOWEVER, I'm going away to Dubai for ten days on Saturday so I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave you hanging for a bit on that count. But for now, let's do this thing!

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Sweet Valley High #39: Leaving Home

Elizabeth Wakefield is writing her gossip column for the school paper in the office, chatting to editor Penny Ayala when Lynne Henry comes in laden down with an overstuffed envelope containing the personal ads for a new item the paper is going to start running. Elizabeth says she can't wait to see what's been submitted and Penny asks her if she's thinking of checking some of them out for herself, but it's a joke you see, because Elizabeth already has a totally amazing boyfriend in the "warm, caring, excitingly handsome" Jeffrey French. Liz asks Penny if she's going to check any of them out, but Penny blushes and says no and Elizabeth realises that Penny doesn't actually date anyone, even casually and had always thought it was because she was too busy, but now that Penny has blushed, Detective Inspector Wakefield has decided it's not by choice. Sexy ol' Mr. Collins then pops in and mentions that he's going to be chaperoning the upcoming Forties Night Swing Fling dance and before leaving, turns to the trio of underage girls and says "I expect to see you ladies there. I plan on jitterbugging with all three of you." GODDAMMIT ROGER.

Jessica and Lila are at the beach, complaining about how there are no decent guys around because they've already dated all the "acceptable" boys at school. There's a new guy at Sweet Valley High called Kirk Anderson and he's gorgeous but so obnoxious that even Jessica won't go near him, and she's dated all kinds of rapey, awful dudes, including Bruce Patman in his arrogant, pre-Regina days. They decide to use the new personal ads section in The Oracle to find themselves some older guys, with Jessica reasoning that her brother Steven gets copies of the high school paper (of course he does) so college guys in his dorm will definitely see the ads. Fantastic. Jessica thinks the right way of writing the ad is to describe the type of guys they want, but Lila thinks it's better to describe yourself, so they agree to have a wager and each try their own approach to it and see who lands the best catch. Do you want to see what they wrote? Of course you do.

Lila's ad:
Glamorous, sophisticated, mature high school girl looking for someone with the right stuff. I like fast cars, caviar and the Caribbean. Don't talk to me about commitment - I'm looking for excitement, not a bridge partner. If you can keep up with me, I want you. Kids need not reply.

Jessica's ad:
Are you devastatingly handsome? Are you romantic and wild? Do you like girls who aren't afraid of danger? Are you the type of guy who goes for what he wants? Are you in college? If you answered yes to all the above questions, drop me a line. I've been looking for you.

Elizabeth and Enid are also at the beach, with Jeffrey and some guy Enid is seeing. Penny comes along with an armful of books and asks if she can sit with the two girls, but as soon as the guys come back over, she makes an excuse about how much she has to do and goes off to sit by herself. Elizabeth then convinces Enid to help her talk Penny into taking out a personal ad for herself in the paper, so she could potentially get to know a guy through letters first and then this guy would see what a great personality she has. At this point I was just thinking Penny's probably gay just leave her alone Liz, but off they go and manage to talk Penny around because she's secretly super lonely. She writes a goofy anonymous ad about how she's a hook-nosed hunchback looking for a guy who's into Australian theology and speaks Urdu.

The ads are a sensation when the first round appears in The Oracle and Penny gets three responses to her one and reads them with Elizabeth. The first two are from dopes, but the third letter is funny and gets her weird sense of humour, addressing her as Quasimodo, yet managing to be sweet at the same time. It's signed "Jamie", but there's no guys called Jamie at school, so they figure it's an alias and Penny writes back. Meanwhile, Jessica has gotten a stack of replies and reads through them with Lila, mostly to rub it in her friend's face, deciding that the most promising one is from some dude called Paolo, who calls her "mi amore" and writes back to him to arrange a date, insisting to Lila that it's going to be the romance of the century.

Back at school, that jerk Kirk Anderson is hanging out with a bunch of lads, including Neil Freemount (who Jessica went out with a few times, but nothing major ever happened) and it transpires that they've been writing the Jamie letters to Penny as a joke. Neil has been doing the actual writing and after three letters to this mystery girl, he's starting to feel bad about it, because he thinks he likes her for real. However, he's also never been part of a group before, so when Kirk involves him, it makes him feel like he belongs and like he's one of the lads, even though he knows deep down that these particular lads are a shower of absolute dickheads. They get him to write back and ask her to meet "Jamie" at the bookshop in the mall on Friday (so the gang can "check her out" first - BOOO), and even though Neil wishes he could meet her alone, he can't bring himself to say it to Kirk and writes the letter. Friday rolls around and the guys all pile into the mall and head for the mezzanine level, where they'll have a good view of the bookshop entrance and even though Neil is the guy that's been elected to meet the girl, Kirk obnoxiously announces that if she's hot, he'll meet her himself instead. Penny arrives at the shop, wearing a red headscarf, as she was asked to wear something red so "Jamie" would recognise her. She shows up on time at four o'clock and nervously waits, but nobody shows up at ten past, twenty past, half past, and by the time it's quarter to five she leaves, humiliated and cries on the bus home. Aw Penny! :(

Man, Penny looks PISSED OFF here. This is not a girl who'll cry when she gets stood up, she's going to hex your ass and kick you in the balls. Also, LOVE those classic books behind her, who among us has not read Monkee Mania and Poems?

Also, quick sidenote - this storyline reminded me of a time when I was in school (like, first or second year) and one evening there was a message left on our home phone's answering machine, apparently from a guy in the year ahead of me, who was Good at Running and Probably Football i.e. popular and good-lookin', asking me to meet him outside the canteen in school at some time I can't remember now and I never went because I was scared that THIS EXACT THING WOULD HAPPEN. I never did find out what the deal was there but it most likely was some asshole messing with me. Rude.

Jessica's date with Paolo is Friday night, and she is EXCITED, having spent the week talking it up with everyone. The doorbell rings and Jessica answers, but freezes at the sight of "an undeniably overweight boy", and really, it only goes downhill from here for anyone who isn't a perfect size six bitch like Jess. She decides that her reputation will be ruined if anyone sees her with this dude and as soon as they sit down in the fancy Italian restaurant he booked for them, she basically makes it sound like she has some kind of terminal illness, going on about the dreadful headaches she gets and how she had just been for a CAT scan the day before. Stone cold, Jessica. She then acts like she's getting another headache, which at this stage frightens the life out of poor Paolo, who very kindly and worriedly rushes her home. She at least feels a tiny bit guilty for playing such a mean trick on a "polite, friendly and interesting boy", but that's immediately followed by "she couldn't help it if she simply couldn't stand to be around fat people". Now REALLY Jessica. That's the kind of attitude that makes me want you to get kicked into the ocean. And not the Pacific, one that won't match your dumb eyes. See how you like that. Anyway, when she gets home, there's a few more responses to her ad left on the table for her, one of which includes a photo with the letter. The guy says his name is John Karger and he's a total babe, so Jessica reckons she's onto a winner this time and gets back to writing letters.

In the canteen at school at lunchtime, Kirk and his gang of obedient idiots are crowing about what a narrow escape Neil had on Friday, when it turned out that the mystery girl was Penny Ayala, "Who'd want to date a girl who's always got her nose in her books?", "She'd probably be after you all the time to study" etc. These dudes suck so baaad. Neil at least has the decency to feel like a total shithead about the whole thing and makes an excuse to leave the table as he can't listen to them any longer. It turns out that Elizabeth and Enid are sitting at the next table and hear the whole thing. They're furious that the guys could be so cruel and blame Kirk as the ringleader, deciding to hatch a plan to take him down a peg or two. The following day, Elizabeth and Enid position themselves beside the table where Kirk is sitting again and once his minions drift off, they start talking about Elizabeth's pretend cousin from New York, the hot new teen model Erica Hall. Kirk immediately turns around when Liz casually mentions to Enid that Erica will be visiting them in Sweet Valley the weekend after next on her way to a screen test in LA. He looks at the photos of this girl Erica in the magazine that they've strategically placed on the table and declares that he wants to take her to the Forties Swing Fling dance. Elizabeth acts all unsure but he insists and tears a photo of himself from last week's Oracle, telling Liz to send it to Erica and that she'll definitely say yes once she sees a picture of him.

Jessica's date with John Karger goes off wonderfully, he's sexy and super interested in her, he's a sociology major and asks her questions about herself all evening. But then he cuts the date short and says he has a lot of studying to do and that he'll call her over the weekend. He doesn't kiss her goodnight, so Jessica figures he's just a gentleman and decides that she's in love and the contest with Lila is as good as won.

Neil decides to write another letter to Penny, alone this time, apologising for not showing up on Friday because there was an emergency and asking her for another chance, saying that he'll be at the Dairi Burger at four on Thursday. While he's waiting outside to see if she'll show up, he starts to worry that Penny will be disappointed that it's him and not some ace student (although he's got decent grades and is an excellent tennis player, and he must be a ride if Jessica dated him) and that she's too good for him. He sees her pull up in her car and walk to the door of the Dairi Burger, but at the same time, Kirk Anderson and one of his jerk friends show up and start chatting to Neil before spotting Penny at the entrance. Kirk turns and asks incredulously if he's meeting her and at this point Neil has had enough so he tells Kirk to jog on, in so many words, and walks off to meet Penny.

The interaction with Kirk made him late to meet her, so Penny is about to walk away, super upset at being stood up again, when she bumps right into Neil and he awkwardly and cutely explains that he's Jamie and mentions that he's probably not what she expected, but she's thrilled, because, y'know, he's a sound, tennis-playing ride. They go inside for sodas and in fairness to him, Neil comes clean immediately, confessing that he was there at the mall on Friday and that it all started as a joke among the tennis team. Penny is morto and goes to leave, but he's so sincere and apologetic that she ends up staying and he asks her to the Swing Fling Thing and they get the shift and it's lovely.

The day of the dance arrives, and earlier on that afternoon there's a beach party for some reason I can't remember and everyone is going along to that beforehand. In the run up to all this, Elizabeth has called Kirk, telling him that Erica is on for going to the dance with him and that she'll meet him there on the night. Lila and Jessica are each going to bring the guys they've met through their personal ads to the beach thing and Amy, Cara and Maria are going to be the judges of who snagged the better date. Jessica's afternoon gets off to a shaky start when her and Lila both turn up in the exact same leopard print bikini, but it only goes downhill from there when John Karger turns up and both girls run over to him, only to find him surrounded by a mob of confused teenage girls who all thought they were meeting him for a date too. He introduces the girl beside him as his sociology project partner and girlfriend and explains to the now pretty annoyed group of young wans that he met them all as research for his project, but just failed to mention that to any of them earlier and can't understand why they're not too impressed right now. His girlfriend Faye just laughs at him and tells him she said this would happen, and this guy's clearly too much of a dope to be an actual asshole, and really Faye, you can definitely do better. Lila, Jessica, Cara, Maria and Amy all end up having a big laugh about the whole thing anyway so that's all grand.

Everyone is at the dance that night, Penny and Neil are dancing together (until Mr. Collins comes along and jokes about how he wants to cut in, like a big creep) and Kirk is all cross after Elizabeth's "cousin" stood him up, so I guess that showed him? Jessica and Lila meet Regina Morrow in the bathroom and discover that she's there alone, as Bruce has decided to stay home and finish off a project he's working on. Jessica is immediately suspicious because Amy isn't there either and had mentioned to Jessica earlier on that she and Bruce were doing a school project together and that she was convinced there was something between them, suggesting that she was going to make a move. UH OH IS SOMETHING GOING TO UNRAVEL AT AN ALARMING RATE IN THE NEXT BOOK? BECAUSE THAT'S BOOK 40, KIDS! COMING SOOOOON! (ISH!)

Notable outfit:
Jessica's outfit for her date with Paolo takes it this time, and bear in mind that this one includes her wearing a fuckton of blue eyeliner:

She chose a skimpy white tank top in a nubbly silk knit, and a straight, figure-hugging blue linen skirt. She knotted Elizabeth's teal blue scarf around her throat, then stepped into a pair of thin-strapped white sandals.

Rockin' that Smurfette realness.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 152

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 3
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 7

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Leaving Home


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Sweet Valley High #38: Leaving Home

Elizabeth Wakefield is at the beach with her sister and Enid Rollins, soaking up that California sunshine and trying to have a conversation with her best friend, but Jessica keeps interrupting their boring chit-chat with her observations as she pervs on hot surfers through a pair of binoculars that an admirer named Randy has loaned her, because Jessica is a Gas Bitch. Anyway, all Elizabeth can talk about is Switzerland, because she's found a school there that offers scholarships to American students to complete their senior year there. Apparently, hearing Regina Morrow talk about how amazing it is over there after coming back from getting her hearing treatment has fired Elizabeth's imagination and all she can think about is how inspirational the lakes and mountains and fir trees and, I dunno, chocolate and St. Bernards will be for her writing. Also, Regina Morrow is described as being "startlingly beautiful", which is hilarious, like, do people get a fright when they see her? "Oh! Regina! It's just your beautiful face! I was so startled!"

Elizabeth continues to bang on about Switzerland and is annoyed that no one actually wants her to go and can't understand why they're not excited for her. She doesn't get it though, if she leaves Sweet Valley then who's going to overhear everyone's secrets and judgmentally insert themselves into their lives? Jeffrey points out how hard it was for her and Todd when he moved away, but Liz insists it's different for them and that he'll come around to the idea if she just talks about it even more and shoves brochures with pictures of the Alps in his face and then he'll see how much it means to her.

In the meantime, Winston Egbert has got a lottery ticket and for some reason it's a really big deal and he's invited a gang from school over to his house that evening to watch the numbers being drawn. Before the party, he and Maria are buying snacks and root beer and see an elderly man with his granddaughter and notice how poor he is, because his shoes are shabby and his clothes are threadbare. He's also carrying a jacket like the one Winston is wearing, only it's all poor-y too. While standing at the checkout, Winston gets too warm so he takes off his jacket and then runs off to get peanuts but UH OH the two jackets get mixed up and he ends up coming away with the wrong one. When Winston realises what happened, he goes back to the shop and leaves his phone number with the guy at the register. However, later that evening when everyone has arrived at his house, he can't find his lottery ticket and then remembers that he had it in the pocket of his jacket. But then he finds another ticket for the same draw in the old man's jacket and whaddya know, it's a winner. Winston can't believe it, the prize money is twenty five thousand dollars and he's the only one who knows that the ticket doesn't actually belong to him, so he's not sure what to do. However, when he showed the gang his ticket at school, Elizabeth noticed that the first three numbers were Jeffrey's birthday, so when the winning number is different, Elizabeth makes "a mental note to ask Winston about it later" because god forbid a plot line doesn't involve Liz sticking her beak in at some point.

Back at the Wakefield's perfect split-level ranch-style house, an envelope stuffed with information about the Interlochen School in Switzerland has arrived for Elizabeth. There's a cover letter from the principal, informing her of a scholarship for their creative writing programme that she could apply for. It's the Margaret Sterne Memorial Prize for creative writing and it's only open to girls aged between fifteen and seventeen from California, who are committed to academic excellence and involved in community affairs. Hey, I wonder if they also need to have sun-streaked blonde hair and sparkling blue green eyes the colour of the Pacific ocean? Anyway, Elizabeth is gearing up for the application process and deciding what writing to submit, who to ask for letters of recommendation and reading up on the interview process which involves a member of the Sterne family, while Jessica gloomily eats Oreos and tries to think of a way to stop her from leaving. Ned and Alice sit down to go through all the material with Elizabeth but they're not sold on the idea of her going just yet and want to think about it a little more before making any decisions.

At school, all anyone can talk about is the news of Winston's lottery win, while he's racked with guilt over the whole thing and figuring it's only a matter of time before the old man comes forward to clear up the mistake. Elizabeth asks him about the different numbers on his ticket and he quickly covers his ass with a lie about how he actually had two tickets but didn't want anyone to think he was trying to double his chances. Lying to Saint Elizabeth, aka MC Honesty Personified makes him feel even worse than before though, because who could DO such a thing? It makes him decide to come clean to the old man that afternoon, so he finds out where his house is from the shop where the mix-up happened, as the man had left his details and Winston's jacket with the guy on the till. The old dude's name is Jack Oliver and Winston finds his house in the "poorest part of Sweet Valley". It's rundown and in need of repair but also charming and has potted geraniums out the front and Jack answers the door in "a faded flannel shirt and a pair of trousers that looked too big for him" and OH MY GOD WE GET IT, HE'S POOR. He's so poor he doesn't even have a surname, just two first names. Jack invites Winston in, so we get a description of how basic all the furnishings are, how old the tv is and how positively fucking threadbare the sofa is because GUESS WHAT HE'S POOR, YOU GUYS. Winston sees some lottery tickets on a side table and brings the conversation around to the draw, discovering that Jack has no idea that he even lost a ticket, let alone a winning one. They talk about his granddaughter and Jack mentions how much he'd love to be able to send her to riding camp that summer because she loves horses. Anyway, Winston turns heel and decides that because Jack doesn't know about the lottery win, maybe it's fine if he just keeps the money after all. NO WINSTON, BAD WINSTON.

Okay, WHERE is Elizabeth off to with this lipstick and blusher combo? And she gives out about other people wearing too much makeup? RUDE. Also, lavalieres! Yay!

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is being a total pain in the hole and tries to get her parents and Jessica to rehearse what they'll say about her in the family interview with Mr. Sterne and then feels like they're not taking her application seriously enough and neither is Jeffrey because he made a joke while she was badgering him about what he'd say about her in an interview. She annoys Enid about it too and the pair of them end up having an argument at the Beach Disco where Liz calls Enid selfish for not wanting her to leave. Enid feels bad about their falling out and when she runs into Jeffrey the following day at the mall, it turns out he's had a row with Elizabeth too. They decide that they should support Elizabeth after all and plan to make a scrapbook of photos and souvenirs that she could take with her when she leaves and Jeffrey buys her a pearl pin she admired a few days ago because she's secretly an old lady. At school, Elizabeth wears her pin and thinks about how great her and Jeffrey's relationship is and how they'll totally be able to hack long distance.

Her reverie was shattered by the unwelcome sound of Lila Fowler's voice.

How dare you, Elizabeth.

Lila admires Liz's pearl pin "with eyes as sharp as an appraiser's" because Lila is goals and then informs Liz that she's just seen Jeffrey getting into his car with Enid when Liz says she's waiting for him. She also mentions that she saw them together in the student lounge being all secretive and that if it was her boyfriend she'd be "insanely jealous" and after all Elizabeth's talk about how strong her and Jeffrey's relationship is, she just buys Lila's suggestion that Jeffrey and Enid are hooking up. Literally two pages ago she was banging on about how they "supported each other so wholeheartedly". Over the next few days, Elizabeth keeps seeing Jeffrey and Enid together and then Jeffrey cancels a date, saying that he has to help Enid with a photography project, so she takes all that as irrefutable proof that they're riding each other or whatever and it's all so damn stupid.

It's the day before Mr. Sterne comes to interview Elizabeth and the family and Steven has unexpectedly arrived home from college, as he and Jessica have cooked up a plan to act like absolute dickheads in front of Sterne so he'll be totally put off Elizabeth. In the meantime, Elizabeth is wrecking everyone's head, telling Jessica what to wear and freaking out when Ned says he won't be home from work until six and Sterne is coming at four. "He'll think we have a broken family or something." Oh my god, clean up on aisle SHUSH. She goes for the one on one interview and Mr. Sterne is all frosty and hoity-toity, with a thin voice and steepled fingers, until Elizabeth's good manners and the levels of research she has clearly done win him over somewhat. There's another interview with some lady called Ms. Crawford and I can't remember who she is exactly, or be bothered to go back and check, because let's face it, this isn't exactly one of the more riveting Sweet Valley storylines. (I SWEAR we're getting close to the Regina Morrow cocaine fiasco but goddamn they're not making it easy.)

Anyway, Sterne and Elizabeth roll up to the Wakefield homestead to find a motorbike parked out the front, causing the monocle that I've decided Sterne is wearing to pop out. They go inside to find Steven unshaven (Gasp! Scandalous!) and acting all laissez-faire about missing college, saying that the family can't really function when they're not all together. Then Jessica shows up in a leather miniskirt with "enough makeup on for Halloween" and talks about how amazing Randy's friend's motorbike is, before Ned and Alice both show up late after being held up in work. Elizabeth is furious with everyone and spends the evening alone in her room all upset. The next day, Jessica sneakily ascertains what her sister is wearing for school that day and duplicates her outfit, down to the "plaid ribbon on her neat blond ponytail". She feels queasy checking her reflection, aghast that she has to spend the day dressed like she's "applying for a job as a junior executive". Haa! Get some aloe vera on that buuurn, Liz! Over the course of the day, Jessica follows Elizabeth and Mr Sterne around school and whenever Liz leaves for class, Jessica jumps out to run into Sterne with a different guy on her arm each time, pretending to be Elizabeth and telling him all about how she wants to meet a rich Swiss banker and spend her life in luxury (which is an amazing plan btw) and generally acting like a hobag in an effort to make her sister seem completely unhinged. By the time Elizabeth has her final interview with Sterne later that day, he's thoroughly unimpressed with what he's seen, topped off by Steven calling the school office under an assumed name and having the secretary interrupt their meeting with a message from yet another guy Elizabeth is supposedly seeing. Anyway it looks like the Swiss dream is over and then Liz catches a glimpse of Jessica through the window in her identical outfit, running to the car and suddenly realises what's been happening all day.

Elizabeth is desperately upset and Jessica and Steven feel suitably ashamed of themselves when she confronts them that evening and refuses to forgive either of them. Later on, she goes for a run and starts to think about how much she would have been giving up by leaving Sweet Valley and realises that she got caught up thinking about the Alps and chalets and what have you, without considering what day-to-day life would be like so far away from home and all her friends and family. When she gets back home, she starts shouting at Jessica and Steven again, but before they can get too deeply into it, Mr. Sterne and Ms. Crawford arrive, explaining that they'd had a visit from Jessica and Steven, who explained everything and confessed to sabotaging the whole process, so they've come to the house to offer her the scholarship after all. Before Elizabeth can even answer, the doorbell rings again and this time it's Enid and Jeffrey, with the present they've made for Elizabeth to wish her luck and she cops that that's what they'd been up to all this time so they're all good again. Then Elizabeth makes a big speech to the room, in which she politely declines the offer of the scholarship and says that Sweet Valley is where she belongs and that it's "even more magical" than Switzerland and that her inspiration has been there the whole time, with the people who love her most and THEN CRAWFORD STARTS CLAPPING AND THE FUCKING LIVING ROOM FILLS WITH APPLAUSE OH MY GOD I HATE EVERYONE. Fucking saps.

Anyway, back over at Winston's subplot, he bought a doll for Jack's granddaughter and sent it anonymously to the house, which is pretty creepy, and which he also realised was actually an empty gesture, seeing as he's STEALING MONEY FROM THIS POOR MAN. His conscience kicks in eventually though, and he calls over to the house and confesses everything to Jack, who's overwhelmed at the win and calls Winston a brave young man for coming forward and the story in the paper calls him a local hero. Everyone in school thinks he's great, except for Lila, who's annoyed that he didn't buy presents for everyone, (but mostly her) before handing the money back, because Lila too, is a Gas Bitch.

Notable outfit:
I don't know where she's getting them from, but every time Elizabeth busts out one of her Victorian lace blouses, this accolade pretty much goes straight to her. 

She was wearing a new velvet ribbon on her blond ponytail, a plaid jumper, and a Victorian lace blouse that looked old-fashioned and pretty.

The prettiest haunted Victorian doll you ever did see.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 150

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 4
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 7

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Rumors

Here we are then! I'm not sure how this got written at all to be honest, as I've been massively preoccupied with chasing Pokémon around the place for about ten days now and my obsession shows no sign of abating. (TEAM MYSTIC, btw) In any case, let's get cracking on to book 37, ever ever closer to the fateful book 40. There's actually two Super Editions that should have been covered by now, but I only got them for my birthday a few weeks ago and I'm as impatient as the rest of you to get to the Regina cocaine fiasco, so I'll go back to them after that point. In the meantime. Lezgo.

(Also, come follow me on Instagram!)

Sweet Valley High #37: Rumors

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are in the kitchen with their mother Alice (who looks both young and hot enough to be their older sister, you know) each reading different sections of the newspaper, having breakfast and generally being the picture of perfect West Coast whiteness.

There was no way to miss the fact that the twins were California girls.


Jessica is reading the comics while Elizabeth is reading an article about working mothers and admiring the journalist's writing style.

The story was clear, informative, and fair, she decided with a nod of her blonde head. Good reporting.

Oh my god, she needs to go down to that newspaper office and tell the writer IMMEDIATELY because surely praise from Elizabeth Wakefield is better than any award or accolades. Elizabeth reads aloud that more women are choosing not to have children in order to focus on their careers and Alice thinks it's a shame and says how important her family is to her, when Jessica makes a very valid point.

"It must be so much easier to be a man," she said. "You wouldn't have any of those really hard decisions we women have to make all the time."
"Yeah," Elizabeth said wryly. "I know what you mean. Like which blouse to wear with your new skirt. One of yours or one of mine."

Shut up, Liz.

All three then briefly chat about the upcoming Bridgewater Ball, a super fancy event that takes place in the nearby town of Bridgewater, which is full of wealthy people. I've previously called Palisades the Pawnee to Sweet Valley's Eagleton, but it sounds like Bridgewater is the real Eagleton in this game. Last year's ball had a Mississippi Riverboat theme, complete with a giant ice sculpture in the shape of a steamboat with jumbo shrimp all over it, which, to me, sounds like the stuff of actual nightmares, but I'm not a rich person in the Eighties so what do I know. This year's theme is "Tales from the Vienna Woods" and Jessica asks if that means they'll have "gondolas and things" at it. Aww! Before heading off for school, Elizabeth notices her mother wincing and putting her hand on her stomach. Alice says she's fine, she's just been feeling under the weather and has a doctor's appointment after work.

At school, Jessica and Lila are talking about the Bridgewater Ball and Lila insists that she's going but apparently no one has asked her yet. Jessica reckons that Susan Stewart will be going with her rich boyfriend Gordon, which riles Lila up, because she's jealous of Susan for being pretty and having fancy outfits, and partly because she dated Gordon a few times herself, but mostly for the air of mystery that surrounds her. You see, Susan lives with her guardian, a lady named Helen, and nobody knows who her real mother is, but apparently she sends loads of money because Susan always has the "most incredible clothes". And lots of people in school have gone out of their way to be friendly to Susan, in case it turns out that her mother is someone famous or important, because they're a bunch of shallow assholes.

Susan goes golfing at the Sweet Valley Country Club with Gordon and his parents, who are the kind of rich people that are named Farley and Binky and complain about how the membership of the club has gone downhill lately and that Sweet Valley used to only be populated by the right kind of people. Susan anxiously wonders whether she's the right kind of people, seeing as she has no idea who her mother is, and tells Gordon that she knows he'd still like her even she she wasn't.

For a moment he hesitated and dropped his eyes from hers while a slight flush showed through his tan. Then he laughed hollowly.

Hey Susan, I've got this MASSIVE RED FLAG for you, would you like it? Susan? TAKE THE DAMN FLAG, SUSAN.

Afterwards when Susan goes home, she tells "Aunt Helen" about her day and how Binky thinks she should wear a pale gold dress to the Bridgewater Ball. Helen works her ass off as a waitress and also works as a seamstress from home to make extra money, and she offers to make a dress for Susan, showing her a sketch she's drawn up. Susan loves it and thinks about how hard Helen works and wonders what life would be like if she was her mother. Also, we learn that Helen has agreed to tell Susan who her real mother is on her eighteenth birthday, but not a day sooner.

Meanwhile, Jessica's health class at school is covering fertility and she was shocked and appalled at the thought of women having babies in their forties, because that's how old her mother is. While she's at home doing homework for it, she reads about how some pregnant women get unusual cravings, when Alice suddenly announces that she really wants pistachio ice cream, gets mad at Ned when he says he's too tired to go out and buy some and storms off to go to the shop herself. After that and Alice mentioning how she liked the name Andrea earlier, along with the doctor's appointment, Jessica is now convinced that her mother is knocked up.

At school, while in the cafeteria queue, Liz gets talking to Allen Walters, who takes photos for The Oracle and used to date Robin Wilson, I think? Or at least, he was around and nice to her back when she was being mercilessly bullied for being fat. Anyway, Liz realises that Allen fancies Susan and encourages him to be friends with her. Susan comes over and chats to them for a bit and Elizabeth sees that while she's friendly and open, Susan clearly doesn't see Allen as anything other than a friend.

She doesn't know what she's missing, she told herself silently.

This is such classic judgmental nonsense from Liz. As far as she knows, Susan and Gordon are super fucking happy together, but Susan apparently "doesn't know what she's missing" because Elizabeth has decided that Allen deserves all her attention just because she gives him a boner and how she feels about him or the fact that she doesn't even know him that well obviously doesn't really matter because she doesn't know what's good for her. SHUT UP LIZ.

Anyway, Lila is sitting with Cara Walker and Caroline Pearce, sipping her Diet Coke and eyeballing Susan from a few tables away. For some reason, Lila has decided that Susan needs to be taught a lesson and makes up a rumour that her mother is in a "hospital for the criminally insane", knowing full well that telling Cara and Caroline means it'll be all over the school by the end of the day. Classic villainess scheming, Lila.

Back at the tastefully-decorated Wakefield house, Jessica has convinced Elizabeth that their mother is pregnant, and Jessica goes snooping in their parents bedroom looking for clues. She freaks out when she finds baby clothes in the back of their wardrobe and the twins decide to start casually mentioning babies and large families the whole time, to let their parents know they're ok with the idea of a new sibling. However, all this does is cause their mother to take them aside after dinner and very seriously ask "Which one of you is in trouble?" which I can't help finding hilarious. Sweet Valley is NOT READY for teen pregnancy. However, even after all that, they still don't just ask their mother outright if she's preggo so this dumb subplot lumbers on.

Meanwhile, poor Susan is having plans cancelled on her by her rich so-called friends and feels like everyone is looking at her weirdly in the corridors at school. Then Gordon shows up and says he can't take her to the ball after all, that his parents don't want him to bring her and when Susan doesn't understand why, he blows up at her, accusing her of lying to everyone and going around saying she was important (which she never actually did), and in the process reveals that the rumour doing the rounds is that her real mother killed someone and is locked away in an asylum. Susan runs off crying and bumps into Allen Walters, who comforts her and tells her he doesn't believe the rumour. Susan goes home and tearfully begs Helen to tell her who her mother is, but Helen won't, even though Susan is clearly extremely upset, so Susan figures the rumour must be true and ends up even more distressed. NICE ONE, HELEN.

Aww Susan :( Her blouse seems suitably fancy, all silky-lookin' with pearly buttons. Also, is it just me or is she the image of a young, red-haired Parker Posey?

The next day, everyone finds out that Jackson Croft, a big-time movie director guy is coming to Sweet Valley to hold an open casting for his next film. Jessica is immediately picturing herself starring in romantic comedies before moving on to hard-hitting drama roles and Elizabeth reads up on him in the paper, discovering that his son died the previous year when their car was hit by a drunk driver. She also reads that his earnings from this upcoming film are all going to some group called Students Against Drunk Driving and Elizabeth decides that she should interview him for the Oracle, because he has "a real message", so she's going to head along to the casting call too and try to spring an interview on him about his dead son, because he'll surely be down with that.

Lila calls up Jessica, telling her that she's heard that Gordon has broken up with Susan over the rumours about her mother so now he's going to need a date for the Bridgewater Ball and acts like she doesn't care if he asks her even though she's clearly dying to go. Jessica decides that she's going to try to bag him as a date herself so she'll get to go. Jessica borrows one of Elizabeth's dresses so she can look all classy and demure when she launches her charm assault on Gordon at school. Her attempt doesn't go over as well as it should have though, as he was sitting with Lila in the cafeteria, and all her lustrous eye action and tinkling laughs couldn't stop Lila from essentially marching a slightly bewildered Gordon out of there under the pretext of getting history notes for her.

Meanwhile in the library, Liz runs into a mournful Susan staring out the window and tries to assure her that not everyone believes the rumour and her real friends still believe in her.

A hollow, dry laugh, almost a sob, sounded in Susan's throat. "But they don't," she moaned.  "Everyone's treating me like I've got the plague."
"I'm not!"


Elizabeth doesn't succeed in cheering Susan up and when she's leaving the library, meets Allen Walters and sends him in to talk to Susan. So far all we really know about Allen is that he's a lanky and shy photographer who nevertheless seems to have a suspicious knack for picking up girls who are sad and vulnerable. Anyway, he goes in and apparently he really likes Susan so he's nervous, but ends up asking her out for coffee on Saturday. Susan hesitates because it's the night of the Bridgewater Ball, but then figures she's not going now and agrees to the date.

Helen Reister is at home, kicking it Sunset Beach style, i.e. talking to herself in the mirror and saying dramatic things like "Oh Susan! Susan, my baby!" and "Susan, will you ever understand?" because, in a twist that will shock absolutely no one, it turns out that SHE'S Susan's mother. We discover that Helen wasn't married to Susan's father, that he was at the start of a career that would "consume every ounce of his strength and commitment" and couldn't offer her marriage. Because being pregnant followed by raising a child alone and with no support is such a fucking doddle I suppose, but yes, this dude's fancy job was more important than having any involvement with his child. Helen writes a letter to Susan, explaining all of this and how she moved to Sweet Valley after Susan was born but called herself Susan's guardian because an unmarried woman with a baby would be "shunned or scorned". Well well, maybe Sweet Valley isn't so perfect after all. Also, (and I know this isn't exactly a good solution either, BUT) couldn't she have told people that Susan's dad died or something? At least that way she could still be Susan's mother, it's a somewhat smaller and less ridiculous web of lies to weave and Helen would have been well within her rights considering the bullshit that guy pulled. Anyway, she ends up tearing up the letter, before a knock comes on the door and who is it only big-time movie director Jackson Croft. WELL LOOK AT THIS ASSHOLE.

He and Helen haven't seen each other in seventeen years and we find out that Helen wrote to him when she moved to Sweet Valley with Susan, in the hope that he'd come for the two of them but then saw in the papers that he'd gotten married. This fucking guy. (I feel like I say that a lot about male characters in this series, but seriously, THIS FUCKING GUY) Jackson wants to see Susan, as he suddenly feels bad about abandoning her and her mother now that his son is dead.

"I'm sorry." He drew a deep breath. "Another woman might have come to be by now for help. I-I have a lot of money you, know." He looked sheepish, as though he were embarrassed to have been so successful at his work.

And what exactly was stopping you from sending some of that fucking money her way regardless of whether she came looking for it or not, WHICH SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN 100% ENTITLED TO DO. Hmm, Scrooge McDuck? You dick.

Helen explains to him that Susan doesn't know anything about him and that she'd prefer to be the one to tell her and then he can see her. However, Susan arrives home unexpectedly, sees that Helen is upset and asks what this fucking guy is doing here, Helen runs off crying and Jackson tells her he's her father. AGAIN. THIS FUCKING GUY. He also ends up telling her that Helen is actually her mother, but in fairness, he didn't realise that Susan didn't know that. Anyway, Susan is mad at everyone briefly, but then has a tearful reunion with Helen and everything is cool, although Jackson says he wants Susan to come live with him in LA, if she wants to, which is very fucking presumptuous of him.

It's the day of the open casting for Jackson's film, so the twins turn up, along with most of the kids from school. Jessica is mad at Lila, because she and Gordon are there together and he's taking Lila to the Bridgewater Ball. Elizabeth, Jessica and Enid see Jackson behind some vans and just walk right up to him because there's no security at this thing and Elizabeth asks him if she can interview him for the school paper. He's all interested in Sweet Valley High, because he knows it's where Susan goes to school and agrees to do an interview on the spot, because this is what Wakefield life is like. However, Susan suddenly arrives on the scene, saying she had to talk to him and that she can't come stay with him in LA right now, but maybe she'll visit him soon. Jackson is then called away and the whole story about him being her dad comes out, to an astonished Enid, Jessica and Elizabeth.

Back at the Wakefield house, Steven and the twins have decided that enough is enough and confront their parents about the suspected pregnancy. Ned and Alice are shocked and explain through laughs and gasps that the baby clothes in their wardrobe are for a baby shower next week and that a conversation the twins overheard, in which Ned and Alice were agreeing not to tell them something until it was definite was about them taking a month-long holiday and leaving the girls by themselves. So that was all a massive waste of time and energy, THANKS GHOSTWRITER.

Everyone is out at the Beach Disco, including Susan, who's just been dancing with Gordon. She joins the twins, Lila, Cara and Steve and announces that Gordon has said he made a terrible mistake and wants her to come with him to the ball after all, i.e. now that she's not white trash anymore and the daughter of a famous director. Lila is raging and Elizabeth reminds Susan that she's agreed to go out with Allen that night. Allen then turns up and tells Susan that he understands if she's too busy now to meet him, but she tells him shush, that she knows who her true friends are now and when Gordon joins them, she tells him to jump in the ocean. She and Allen head off to the dancefloor, leaving Gordon with a furious Lila, who dumps her soda over his head and all over his fancy cashmere sweater. IN YO FACE GORDON.

Notable outfit:
Susan's outfits are supposed to be totally amazing and enough to send Lila Fowler into a jealous frenzy, but the only outfit description of hers we get is...

At the moment she was wearing a simple, khaki-coloured skirt and a creamy silk blouse that set off her tanned skin and coppery hair beautifully.

...sooo beige librarian, then.

As such, this accolade goes to Dana Larson, who only makes the briefest of appearances, so Jesica can describe her pants in awe.

She was wearing skintight, leopard-spotted jeans.


Things I counted:
Number of pages: 168

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 3

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Safety Lights Are For Dudes

I went to see Ghostbusters last night. I have a lot of excitable thoughts about it. Also, while this post doesn't contain any spoilers as such, I am talking about a good few details, so if you'd rather go into the film knowing as little as possible, then maybe come back to this afterwards.

So. I loved this film. At various points, the Bear looked over at me in the cinema and started laughing because I had such a massive stupid smile on my face, right from the get-go. We've recently blitzed through all three seasons of Silicon Valley and my favourite character is the nervous, kind and consistently hopeful Jared, so when the film immediately opens on Zach Woods and his porcelain, slightly haunted-looking face giving a tour of a spooky old mansion, I could not have been more immediately sold. I'm certain that I gasped in delight, which is a pretty great way to start a film.

And where to start with how much fun it was. The four leads make a tremendous team, Kristen Wiig as the buttoned-down Erin Gilbert and Melissa McCarthy as her formerly spurned friend Abby rekindle their friendship when ghosts are being set loose around New York, and when joined by transit worker and amateur history expert Patty and mad scientist Holtzmann, it's four women looking out for each other, busting ghosts and in Erin's case, ogling Kevin, the gender-flipped sexy secretary. There's no jealousy, no falling out over dudes, just capable women getting on with it and being really fucking funny.

After disappointing blockbusters like Jurassic World screwed us out of a decent female character and sent Bryce Dallas Howard running around an actual jungle in her heels, a trailer for The Magnificent Seven that was played in the cinema last night and had one single woman in it crying, followed by seven lads blowing stuff up and having all the fun and what will be nine entire years with no female-led superhero film until Wonder Woman next year after Iron Man kicked off the frenzy in 2008, FOUR female leads in a film is so ridiculously refreshing. It shouldn't be unusual, but it is. Any big, blockbuster type film featuring an ensemble cast tends to have just the one, maybe two women on the team if they've completely lost the run of themselves. And when it's an utterly horrible film like The Hateful Eight, then why even bother. Between Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and now Ghostbusters, Paul Feig is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in Hollywood in terms of the comedies I've enjoyed the most over the last few years.

Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are excellent as usual and everyone gets an equal chance to shine, but Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon are breakout stars. And just to dwell on McKinnon for a bit (because it's pretty much what I've been doing since I left the cinema), in the trailers, I thought her turns as Holtzmann were cute and funny, but I wasn't ready for the incandescent, magnetic sex appeal that truly knocked me for six throughout the film. I couldn't stop staring at her, even when she was just chilling in the background. The combination of enthusiastic nerd charm and outrageously flirtatious swagger was so powerful that I genuinely missed one or two plot points. When she licked her gun, all fired up during the climactic battle scene, it was hands down one of the sexiest things I've ever seen on film. (I hadn't watched any of the trailers after the very first one in an effort not to know too much going in and I WASN'T READY FOR THAT.) I'm not sure where I figured on the Kinsey scale before all this, but Holtzmann kicked it over and used it for parts so it's all the one now. And when she makes a nervously rushed but heartfelt speech about friendship towards the end, giving a glimpse of what's behind all the swashbuckling live-wire silliness, I fell HARD. (And as for dancing around the lab with her blow torches? MADAM. I CAN NOT.)

When we were standing at the Luas stop in the rain afterwards, waiting to get home, I was still smiling. I still had a buzzy, excited feeling and an urge to watch it all over again as soon as I can. It's got four excellent heroines, a range of delightfully old-timey ghosts, fun cameos, a villain who could basically be named Neckbeard McEntitledGuy, Chris Hemsworth being an adorable dope, a shoutout for Roadhouse and rock-solid jokes. At the end of the film (we all clapped), as the credits rolled alongside Hemsworth doing a massive silly dance routine, a little girl got up and started dancing around in front of the screen, copying his moves where she could and quite clearly having an absolute blast of an evening, finishing with a round of applause from those of us still seated and I wasn't crying, YOU WERE CRYING.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Last Chance

Ok I'm back! That was a bit of a gap, but I assure you I had great reasons, such as being away for three days at Body & Soul, having to go to bed while it was still bright outside every evening for the following week from being so thoroughly wrecked from Body & Soul and it being my birthday last weekend so I only wanted to drink and watch Battleship (yes, again).

Also, in case you're wondering where the hell book 35 went, that was actually the first one I recapped back in the mists of 2012, which started this whole ridiculous series of recaps and you'll find it here.

Also also, I joined Instagram! Or more accurately, I joined Instagram ages ago, posted one photo of my nails painted with green stripes for Paddy's Day and then nothing for three years but I'M BACK BABYYY, come follow me here, while I filter the fuck out of my life.

And now, to the next book!

Sweet Valley High #36: Last Chance

Jessica Wakefield, Cara Walker, Winston Egbert and Maria Santelli are having lunch in the school cafeteria and complaining about how bad the food is. Jessica is telling Cara about a dress she saw at the mall, but it's only in a size four so she's planning on losing a few pounds to fit into it.

Not that Jessica - a model-slim, perfect size six - ever had to worry about her weight.


There's some dance coming up, because of course there is, and Cara mentions how glad she is that her boyfrenn Steven Wakefield will be in town so he can come as her date. Jessica got them together a few books ago, but now she thinks that her friend is too dependent on Steve and seeing as her last few schemes have been more in the realms of light mischief (secret puppies and dodgy shampoo) than outright life-sabotage it's time for some proper divilment.

After Elizabeth joins the table, Amy Sutton saunters over and tells everyone that she's having a pre-dance party at her place next week, co-hosted by her new fella Peter DeHaven. Peter is super smart and has already been accepted early to MIT and won a bunch of science prizes but Elizabeth didn't know he was going out with Amy and is surprised at this news.

She had been one second away from blurting out, "but he's so smart!"

"Honesty and fairness personified" my hole. Judgmental biiiitch.

Julie Porter then joins the group and confirms the rumour that's been circulating that her older sister Johanna is returning to school after having dropped out the previous year. Johanna hadn't done very well in class and decided to leave school and get a job waitressing, but her and Julie's mother Mrs. Porter died in a car accident six months ago so the family is having a tough time of things lately.

Johanna is back in school on that same day and it's time for a bit of backstory on this gal. When she was in school, she had always felt like a dummy in class, but when she started working in the Whistle Stop cafe, the other waitresses respected her and would ask her whether they were spelling or adding things correctly. Respect is a big deal for Johanna. Anyway, we also learn that she looks like her mother but feels distant from her family, even since before the accident because they're all super intellectual and musical. It turns out that after her mother's death, Johanna found her diary in the attic while looking for a photo of her and discovered that her mother had written about how much she wants Johanna to go back to school but that she needs to make the decision for herself, so that's why she's back.

After a few days, Johanna is already feeling frustrated in class and finding it hard to focus, but FEAR NOT, because Elizabeth Wakefield is riding in on her trusty steed, The High Horse, to help her out with her English homework. Before Saint Elizabeth blesses her with her presence though, Johanna runs into Peter DeHaven, who she used to be really good friends with back when they were kids and who she's had a crush on since forever. They chat briefly about what classes she's taking and Peter offers to help her out with her chemistry if she needs it and Johanna thinks about how desperately she wants Peter to respect her. (Told you.) Amy breaks up the conversation when she returns to Peter's side and gives Johanna pointed stares and Johanna realises that she's actually in love with Peter and can hardly bear seeing him with his arm around another girl.

Meanwhile, Jessica's got her wooden spoon out to start stirring between Cara and Steven, telling Cara that people are going to start thinking that she's just waiting around for Steve because she can't do any better and that he obviously doesn't respect her because he's never even sent her a dozen roses. Man, everyone is obsessed with respect in this book.

On Friday afternoon, Johanna is staying behind in the chemistry lab to do some catch-up work, when Peter breezes in, surprised to see her there. He explains that he's picking up some materials for a class he teaches in the middle school. "It's really nothing special...just an enrichment session for gifted kids." I think I might hate Peter. He then spends the next twenty minutes talking about himself and his MIT plans and invites Johanna to come with him that night on a drive out to Las Palmas Canyon to see some computer guy that his older brother knows. Johanna is super excited about their plans for the evening, but when she mentions it to her sister Julie at home, Julie points out that it's a bit of a coincidence that Amy is away with her parents that weekend so she's not around to object or even know about it. Johanna won't hear a bad word about Peter though, as she's so delighted to be noticed by him, even though he spends all their time together talking about himself and the programme he's developing for some big science fair.

"They give the first-prize winner a scholarship to use at the college of his choice."
"Or her choice," Johanna said suddenly.
Peter stared at her, then turned back to look at the road. "Yes," he said. "Or her choice." He was quiet for a minute. "You don't seem like the sort," he added strangely. 
"What sort?" Johanna asked him.
 "You know, the sort who cares about using 'his' instead of 'his and hers'. That sort of thing."
Peter looked uneasy, as if he were on unsteady ground. 

Hey buddy, I got some unsteady ground for you RIGHT HERE.

Anyway, they go to the guy's house and Johanna is surprised when he asks her a bunch of questions and doesn't just talk about himself all evening like SOME PEOPLE. When they're done, Peter drives her out to the canyon and they make out and everything is amazing, according to Johanna, at least. On Sunday afternoon, Johanna is over at the Wakefield house for another tutorial with Elizabeth and ends up confiding to her all about Peter. Elizabeth must have some kind of Septa Unella vibe because she seems to spend half her life with people confessing things to her. She's quite rightly wary of the whole Peter situation and hopes that he's not leading Johanna on but doesn't put her off either, or even call Peter a self-involved geebag. Anyway, then Steven comes along, all grumpy because he and Cara have had a fight (Jessica told him that Cara's been going out with other guys while he's away at college - classic Jess!!1) and he's stuck on some maths problem he has to do for college. Johanna takes a look and breezes through the questions with ease, surprising everyone because she's not actually dumb and just isn't being challenged enough in her own maths class, which is why she can't focus in school.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Cara are hanging out and Jessica implies that Steven has been seeing other girls at college and that he's making a fool of Cara. Cara is about to start crying and Jessica congratulates herself, thinking that they'll both be thanking her after she's stopped them from making a mess of their lives, with all that happiness and relationshippy stuff. Jess comes home and Elizabeth almost immediately blabs to her about Peter and Johanna, because that's clearly a great idea. She swears her to secrecy though, so that'll definitely work.

Back at school, two random bitches that no one cares about start slagging Johanna while they're behind her, saying that she won't even be able to pass homeroom. Johanna shrugs it off and sees Peter with Amy and bunch of other people, so she goes over to say hi to Peter, who then gives her a terse "oh hi" and TURNS HIS BACK ON HER IN EVERY GODDAMN SENSE OF THE WORD. Oh how I hate him. Johanna walks away mortified, with Amy Sutton's laughter ringing in her ears and it's all so fucking MEAN, I can hardly stand it. Johanna spends her lunch hour working in the chemistry lab, which is where Fuckface DeHaven finds her and apologises for earlier, saying he just felt so awkward about it because he's going to break up with Amy but wants to let her down gently, because she's sooo much more into him than he he's into her. UGHHH. However, instead of telling him to eat a bag of dicks, Johanna melts at his apparent contriteness and his offer to take her out to dinner (to a place fifteen miles away from Sweet Valley *eyerooooooll*), thinking she misjudged him.

The actual hack of Peter here. Like, would you really be bothered. And what's going on with Amy's clothes? It's less "popular cheerleader" and more "middle aged librarian". Johanna looks pretty AF here though and I would 100% wear that dress in different colours. A+ for Johanna.

A few days later, in the school library, Amy makes a point of loudly talking about the party that she and Peter are hosting before the big dance on Friday and saying how she's invited eeeeveryone, accompanied by more pointed looks at Johanna. Then Peter turns up and doesn't even look at Johanna, thus confirming that he is in fact a human bag of bin juice and can thoroughly go fuck himself. The exact same scene as before then plays out, with Peter apologising and talking Johanna around so she comes with him to his house so can bang on some more about how fucking great he is. Johanna picks up a printout from his science fair programme and tries to talk about it with him, but surprise, he's really dismissive and condescending to her saying "you wouldn't be interested in that." Her feelings are hurt by his constant lack of interest in her opinions, but she resigns herself to the notion that he's just such an overachiever, he couldn't be expected to care about someone as ordinary as her. The boys of Sweet Valley High are just awful. Apart from goofy, good-natured Winston Egbert and Bill Chase, who's essentially a blandly benevolent square jaw, they pretty much all suck.

However, Johanna's spirits are lifted somewhat when she gets an A in chemistry and is the only person in class to do so. Mr. Russo tells her after class that she has a real aptitude for maths and science and that she should consider pursuing them in college as she'd be well able for it.

In the meantime, Jessica and Amy are in the locker room, talking about Amy's party. They've just come in from an aerobics workout in gym class and Jessica is lining her eyes in blue pencil. OOH DAT EIGHTIES GOODNESS. Anyway, when Amy asks Jessica if Steve and Cara will be coming to the party together, Jessica alludes to her dastardly scheme to split them up and Amy is suitably horrified, seeing as she's not an actual sociopath like Jessica, just your common or garden high school mean girl. Jessica decides she doesn't like Amy's "attitude" so she drops the Johanna and Peter bomb on her supposed friend to take the wind out of her sails. Amy storms off to confront Peter, who denies that he's been seeing Johanna, doesn't defend her when Amy says that she can barely spell her own name and insists that he's just been helping her out with chemistry because they used to be old friends. Amy is eventually satisfied but warns him that they're through if she so much as sees him talking to Johanna.

Peter sighed heavily. He understood Amy's meaning, all right. What he didn't understand was why he didn't just tell her to get lost. He hardly even enjoyed Amy's company anymore. Sure, she had a lot of status around school. She was a cheerleader, she was really pretty. But their relationship seemed so shallow to him. Amy wasn't a real friend. They barely even knew each other!

Hey Peter! Maybe it's not actually Amy's fault that you only like the idea of her rather than her as an actual person and haven't bothered your hole getting to know her. You prick.

And Johanna. She was so vulnerable, so real. Something was really there when he talked to her. He knew if he gave himself a chance, he could come to care about her.

This fucking guy.

Instead of doing any of the things he's just thought about, he writes a cowardly little note for Johanna and stuffs it into her locker, saying that Amy has found out about them and that they can't see each other any more.


Johanna is gobsmacked and tries to work out how Amy could have found out, and even though she doesn't want to believe that it could be Elizabeth, there's no way it was her sister Julie, so when she runs into Liz at the drinking fountain, she blows up at her and calls her a phony (HA!), says she feels like she doesn't belong anywhere and hurries away angrily. Then it's Elizabeth's turn to be cross, because it's clearly Jessica who spilled the beans all over the fucking shop, but she gets Liz to immediately forgive her by insisting that it was for Amy's own good, as she couldn't bear hearing her talk about how in love she was with Peter.

"I guess it isn't your fault everything's such a mess, though I do wish you hadn't gone back on your word."

Gurl. It is ENTIRELY Jessica's fault that everything is such a mess, but sure, whatever.

It's the night of the party, and everyone is mad at each other. Steven has arrived with a friend from college and Cara has brought Ken Matthews so they're all glaring at each other from across the room, while Amy and Peter seem furious at each other and Amy looks like she's ready to kill everyone there, not least Jessica, who's ignoring her. They all eventually leave the terrible party and go to the dance, where Cara goes up to Steve and asks him to dance and they talk it all out, discovering that neither one of them was seeing anyone else and it was Jessica sprinkling her life-ruining fairy dust all over their relationship. The pair of them angrily confront Jessica, who then lies her ass off and says that she was just testing them and that if they really loved each other they'd never fall for her scheme. Then they immediately switch from Steven literally growling "we want revenge", to Cara looking thoughtful and saying "We're the ones at fault. We should have trusted each other." So Jessica is off the hook once again and free to ride Ken Matthews or whoever off into the sunset.

Across the hall, Elizabeth is sitting with Jeffrey and Enid when Amy, Peter and a bunch of others join them. Lila Fowler mentions Johanna and how well she's doing in chemistry class, which prompts Amy to start slagging her off and saying that she must have cheated, while Peter sits there and says nothing. Elizabeth tells her off and then confronts Peter when she gets him alone and gives out to him for not defending Johanna, seeing as she's been working her ass off and is desperate for his encouragement and support. Peter at least has the decency to be ashamed of himself and admits that he's let Johanna down and hasn't been a good friend to her. Back at school, Peter finds Johanna in the student lounge and apologises "for everything" and asks if they can be friends. She says yes but is cold with him until he starts telling her about a problem he's run into with the programme he's developing and despite herself, she's interested in how it's going. She suggests drawing out a diagram or flow chart or something that she saw in a documentary once that might help to plot the programme and he LAUGHS AT HER SUGGESTION. I HATE HIM SO MUCH YOU GUYS.

Already feeling downcast and fed up with all these fucking assholes, the final straw comes when Johanna is getting changed in the locker room and overhears some other bitches talking about her and Peter sneaking around behind Amy's back and how she probably couldn't even understand a word he says. Johanna thinks "fuck this" (in a manner of speaking) and walks out of the school, deciding that she's going back to waitressing. Later that day, Peter tells Elizabeth that Johanna has left, as he's just heard it from Julie. Elizabeth asks Peter if he did anything to upset her that day, and he mentions their run-in in the lounge and how he was just talking about his programme, when Liz points out that he never gave her a chance to say anything about how she was doing and then lays into him for never supporting Johanna when she needed it and only ever caring about himself. SET HIM ON FIRE LIZ DO IT DO ITTT. Peter goes home, feeling like the total dick that he is and tries out Johanna's suggestion for his programme, which actually works and shows him where he had made an error. He then goes to find her at the Whistle Stop and pleads with her to give school another shot and admits that he was a jerk. Johanna isn't having it though and he realises that it's too late and he's not going to be able to convince her.

That night, Johanna comes home exhausted from her shift at the cafe and sits down with her dad, telling him that she's left school again. He says that Julie told him how unhappy she's been and that he wishes they didn't feel like such strangers since her mother died. Johanna tells him about finding the diary and her mother's wish that she would finish school and he hugs her and says he understands but that she has to do these things for herself and not for anyone else and it's actually kinda lovely and sad. Then he mentions that he's heard how she'd been doing really well in science and maths and Johanna is surprised because as far as she was concerned, her family didn't care about anything other than music. Johanna decides to go back to school, but with a different mindset this time and announces her decision to her dad and Julie at breakfast the following morning.

Back in school, Johanna finds out that Peter and Amy have broken up and Peter comes to talk to her at lunchtime. Johanna is relieved to discover that it doesn't hurt to see him anymore and that she's over him and all his fucking nonsense. He thanks her for the diagram idea for his programme as he went on to win at the science fair thing and asks her out to dinner on Friday night to celebrate. Johanna says she can't as she's going to a concert with Julie and then tells him that it's not a good idea for them to get together as she has a lot of work to do and wants to concentrate on school and friends and he's all hurt and sad and I'm delighted because FUCK YOU PETER! HA! GO WIN YOU OWN SCIENCE THING JOHANNA YEAHH!

Notable outfit:
Well Amy wears a peach coloured jumpsuit to the big dance and Jessica wears a white leather miniskirt, but I'm going with Johanna's haunted nineteenth century doll realness.

That afternoon Johanna was wearing a flowered jumper and a Victorian lace blouse. She had a style all her own, which Elizabeth thought was charming.

That day she was wearing a flowered cotton skirt and a soft, Victorian-looking white blouse.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 136

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 4

Amount of times people bang on about respect: 5