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

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Forbidden Love

Well hellooo there Valley fans! Let's get stuck into book thirty four. I can't believe I've written thirty four of these and that's not even close to halfway through this deliriously sprawling series. Tis but a drop in the pastel coloured Sweet Valley ocean. What am I doing with my life.

Sweet Valley High #34: Forbidden Love

It's Friday afternoon and Sweet Valley High is abuzz with the news that cheerleader Maria Santelli and her boyfriend Michael Harris have gotten engaged. Who? Exactly. But let's pretend we care. She's sixteen, he's seventeen, their parents hate each other and this is all clearly a huge mistake, so let's see what happens. Jessica Wakefield thinks it's the most romantic thing she's ever heard and Elizabeth has her frowny disapproving face on, but at least in this case she's more justified than usual. Elizabeth and Enid discuss it while walking home, along with the upcoming social studies project where the students will be paired up into husband and wife teams and have to figure out how to manage a budget and work through assorted problems that will be thrown at them. It's a little on the nose, as subplots go.

At cheerleading practice, everyone is crowding around Maria to bombard her with questions and get a look at her engagement ring. She explains that they have to keep the engagement a secret, because her and Michael's fathers used to be business partners but after some big deal fell through four years ago, the partnership split up and the two families haven't spoken to each other since. Maria has been telling her parents that she's seeing some guy called Josh and taking the ring off every evening when she gets home.

The following day, the social studies class project gets underway. Jessica gets paired up with Winston Egbert, Olivia Davidson gets Jeffrey French, Lila is paired with Bill Chase, Maria and Michael just happen to get randomly put together and Elizabeth gets Bruce Patman.

She couldn't help smiling at the prospect of pretending to be married to one of the richest boys in school. In the old days, Bruce would have been a pain to work with, she thought.

Hey Liz, speaking of the old days, remember that time he got you drunk and tried to rape you? No? Alright then.

The teams are all assigned their individual details, so we have Jessica annoyed with the fact that Winston is a bus driver, they have seven children like a Catholic family in the seventies (imagine what seven pregnancies would do to her perfect Wakefield figure! THE HORROR) and she works part time at a beauty salon, but it's nothing compared to Lila's outrage that she's a cook and her husband Bill is unemployed. Michael and Maria get designated as a vet and a housewife and Maria rolls her eyes, saying she must be the only "wife" who didn't get assigned a job, but it turns out that Michael actually wants his wife to stay at home and mind the kids, "like the good old days".

Hey Michael.



Go fuck yourself.

Jessica catches up with Lila and Cara after class and they decide to throw a surprise engagement party for Maria and Michael at Lila's mansion that weekend, so the two can have a chance to celebrate, seeing as they're having to keep the whole thing under wraps from their parents. And seeing as there's no dance coming up, you can be fucking sure that there'll be a Fowler mansion party at the very least.

Meanwhile, Winston is running for Student Council PTA representative and Maria has been helping him with his campaign. (Quick aside, literally every time I type Maria's name, I end up spelling it Maris and I'm starting to wonder if the character in Fraiser was a typo all this time. Seriously, every time you see the word Maria in this post, I've had to go back and change it from Maris. Every. Time.) She's been working on it with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the last while and has been really enjoying his company and seeing a more serious side to him. However, Michael wants her to come with him to buy a present for his older sister on Tuesday so she has to cancel on Winston and he's all disappointed. And then while they're out shopping, Michael makes a big deal over a tennis match he's playing on Thursday and demands that Maria ditches Winston again and comes to support him. She ends up suggesting that maybe she could get someone to take over from her with the campaign stuff and Michael jumps on the idea, saying that he doesn't like the way Winston looks at her. He's getting all weird and possessive and I hate this guy. Maria breaks the news to Winston at school and makes up some lie about starting piano lessons rather than telling him that her fiancé is being a dick.

Later that week, Maria calls Elizabeth at home and explains that she can't help Winston with his campaign any more and would she consider taking her place. Elizabeth hops onto her nearby high horse and proclaims that Maria made an agreement with Winston and she should see it through. Maria gets upset and huffy and accuses Elizabeth of being jealous of her and Michael. HA! As if a Wakefield twin, with their superior genetics and peaches and cream complexions and flawless parallel parking skills would be jealous of Maria Santelli. Who even ARE you, Maria.

Afterwards, Maria feels bad about blowing up on Elizabeth and decides that she shouldn't quit on Winston and that Michael will just have to accept it. She's also getting fed up of keeping their engagement a secret. Part of the reason that they got engaged in the first place was to show their parents how serious they are about each other when they eventually come clean with them, but Michael keeps putting her off when she brings it up. Later, in the social studies class, the pair of them are given a problem to work through. Their fictional son has been acting out and shoplifting, Maria wants to take him to a psychologist but Michael thinks they can't afford it and wants to beat it out of him instead. Super. After class, she tells him that she's going to keep helping Winston and he sulks a bit but tells her to go ahead.

These kids look like they're forty.

It's the night of the big surprise party for Maria and Michael and the twins are getting ready at home. Elizabeth thinks the party is a bad idea, since the engagement is meant to be on the down low, and "unhappily" moans about how it's "wrong" but she's going anyway because she's a fucking hypocrite. Maria and Michael end up having a row in the car on their way to Lila's because Maria doesn't want to keep lying to her parents and Michael accuses her of wanting to break up with him. They arrive at the house in bad form with each other and are shocked to find the drawing room decked out with silver bells, white balloons and a wedding cake. Michael gets dragged away by his friends and Maria has to feign delight and sign the guest book that Lila brings her over to, and of course her parties feature leather-bound guest books, because LILA = MAGNIFICENCE.

Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Santelli are going to the cinema and run into Caroline Pearce's mother in the queue, who's waiting on her friend while she parks the car.

"The show should start soon. Did you come with a friend or are you alone?"
Mrs Pearce had been divorced for years.

OUCH, GHOSTWRITER. This is such an unnecessary burn and I can't help but love it. Also, it turns out that Caroline's mother is as much of a blabbermouth as her daughter as she congratulates the Santellis on Maria's big news, which they are understandably thunderstruck to discover. They call the Harrises and explain what's happened and all four of them head over to the Fowler mansion together, reunited by the idiocy of their children.

Back at the party, The Droids play a song written especially for the unhappy couple, there are photos taken in front of the cake, and Winston asks Maria to dance. When the song ends, Michael takes the microphone and thanks everyone for the party, says how much he loves Maria, and then announces that he's going to run for student representative thingy as well, and that Maria will be helping him, which makes her look like a massive asshole in front of Winston. Poor Winston gets upset and runs off outside because he's SENSITIVE, you guys. :( Maria goes to follow him, but:

She hadn't gone far when Michael stepped in front of her. "Let him go," he said roughly, grabbing her arm. "Let him go, you hear me?"





Unsurprisingly, Maria and Michael then have a blazing row in front of everyone, culminating in her handing the ring back, because everything has sucked balls since they got engaged. The Harris and Santelli parents get to the mansion, where Michael meets them and explains that he and Maria aren't engaged anymore. Maria is out the back, looking for Winston, so Michael has to do all the talking and the Santellis don't demand to see their daughter, which seems a bit odd. Anyway, the parents realise they were being stupid falling out over a business deal and forbidding Maria and Michael from seeing each other so everyone makes up and they just go home. Michael goes back to the party, where Elizabeth asks him if he's alright and he confides in her about how hard it's been and how sad he is but that it's probably for the best.

Meanwhile, Maria is in the garden looking for Winston and feeling relieved that she and Michael have broken their engagement. She finds Winston sitting near a fountain and sees that he's been crying (ah WINSTON! :(((( ) and explains that she had no idea Michael was going to announce his candidacy. She also tells him that it's all over between her and Michael and how much she cares about him and they end up smooching. They go back inside and Michael tells her that their parents arrived and he explained everything to them and they're all good again and she and Michael agree to be friends.

At school, they complete their social studies project and give a speech about how important compromise is and that a marriage will never work without love and trust and Mr Jaworski is all "yes, you're right, thank you, wise children". Michael tells Maria that he's not actually running for that position that I can't be bothered looking up the proper title of because who caaares and Winston wins the thing.

Notable outfit:
The ghostwriter didn't exactly break her heart on the outfit front in this one, unfortunately. Elizabeth wears a peach coloured dress to the party and Lila wears a silver dress and I'm like DETAILS PLEASE FFS. However, there is some notable hair to be mentioned.

Lila dressed the part of the daughter of one of the richest men in Sweet Valley, and that day she looked especially good. Her white skirt showed off her tan to perfection, and a new perm made her long light brown hair look fuller and prettier than usual.

A PERM. Lila, you're a beautiful, opulent mermaid, but there is just NO WAY that a perm in the Eighties is a good look on you. I still love you though.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 138

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 3
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 4

Amount of fucks I give about Maria and Michael: 0 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Starting Over

Ok, this one isn't as particularly exciting as other Sweet Valley High books, but we're inching ever closer to the infamous Regina Morrow cocaine storyline in book 40 so just HANG IN THERE.

Sweet Valley High #33: Starting Over

Sweet Valley's hottest band, The Droids, are rocking out in guitarist Max Dellon's basement, but lead singer Dana Larson is spacing out because she's preoccupied with the fact that her cousin Sally is coming to live with the Larsons. Thirteen years ago, Sally's father walked out and when her mother remarried, she dumped Sally into a foster home and she's been bouncing around the system ever since.

The only problem was that Sally's situation was embarrassing. A father who was a bum, no real home, a year behind in school. Sure, it wasn't Sally's fault, but...

Excuse me? But what, Dana? Don't make me hate you goddammit, DON'T DO ME LIKE THAT DANA.

Meanwhile, and let's face it, more importantly, Elizabeth Wakefield is working on an article in her room, when Jessica comes barrelling in the front door and up the stairs to her sister, all excited and nervous becauuuse...she brought home a puppy! She was at some game and there was a guy with a box full of Labrador puppies giving them away, which sounds both unlikely and very sketchy. At least he didn't have them in the back of a van, so nobody's been kidnapped or anything. Well, nobody important at least. Anyway, Ned and Alice are away for the weekend, so Jessica reckons that if she can keep the puppy a secret in the house for a week, they'll see that he's no trouble at all and let her keep him. She's going to keep him in her room, because Alice has given up on going in there and trying to get Jessica to tidy up, so it's a great hiding place. It's actually a pretty adorable storyline for Jessica, as much as I enjoy her unfounded revenge escapades.

Mr and Mrs Larson arrive home after collecting Sally at the airport and I sorta have to wonder why they've only stepped in now after their niece had spent over a decade having a terrible time and going from one foster home to another. In any case, Sally is nervous and determined to make this newest development work, desperately telling herself that she'll do anything to make the Larsons glad that she's around. Dana is all enthusiastic and shows Sally to her new room, which has been recently vacated by Dana's brother Jeremy, whose room is now in the attic instead. Jeremy arrives home late and is a total dick to Sally, but Dana assures her that he's just a grouch and always like that. Jeremy's an asshole.

Dana and Sally go shopping at the Valley Mall the following day, but Sally is a bit intimidated by Dana's energy and confidence and outrageous haircut and just goes along with the clothes Dana foists on her. They run into the Wakefield twins, who've just bought a dog collar for their secret puppy and make a big pointless deal of hiding it behind their backs, because everyone is SOOoOOOo invested in every tiny thing the twins get up to. Except they actually are and Dana badgers Jessica into showing her what's in the bag, which Elizabeth explains away as an accessory for a punk outfit for a fancy dress party. Stop enabling them, Dana.

Back at home, Dana insists on giving Sally a makeover, but really just faffs with her hair for a bit and says really insensitive things like telling her to just forget about her past and pretend it never happened and also advising her to tell people she's sixteen so no one will know she had to stay back a year. Goddammit Dana. After Sally's first day at Sweet Valley High, she's feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the new teachers, classes and students and doesn't feel comfortable in her new clothes, which, in an act of aggressive rudeness, the ghostwriter doesn't even describe to us. Dana then drags her to band practice to meet the rest of The Droids and suggests that she could be their manager. Sally doesn't really like rock music but she wants to please Dana so she agrees and then feels happy to be part of something. At dinner back at the house, Jeremy continues to be an unmitigated assface to Sally and when she volunteers to clear the table despite it being Dana's turn, Mr and Mrs Larson later talk about how helpful Sally is and tell Dana that she could learn a thing or two from her cousin, which pisses Dana off no end.

Jeremy's friend Mark calls over to the house at some point and is friendly when he meets Sally, like a normal person, so Jeremy gets all HE'S *MY* FRIEND STOP TALKING TO HIM and continues to be an absolute fucking toerag, although Mark either can't read social cues or is just ignoring his terrible friend and happily chats to Sally and is pretty clearly interested in her. He calls her up a few days later and asks her out, but she fobs him off and says she can't, even though the truth is that she really wants to but she thinks Jeremy will "never forgive her" if they spend time together because he's such a dickbag. Also Dana has been spiky with her whenever she tries to do anything for her, so she's starting to feel pretty isolated and it's really sad. These kids are just. Awful.

I'm absolutely loving how completely full-speed turbo Eighties every inch of Dana is in this picture. Also is it just me, or does she look like Sandra Bullock with Roxette hair? And Sally is giving Lila Fowler a run for her (not inconsiderable amounts of) money in the haughty bitchface stakes.

Over at the tastefully decorated, split level, ranch style Wakefield house, Jessica has named the puppy Prince Albert and is keeping him in the basement during the day before walking him and putting him up in her bedroom before her parents get home. When she brings Lila over one afternoon to show him to her though, she finds a chewed-up black tube that he's pulled off the back of the washing machine, so she has to organise a plumber to come over and sort it before Ned and Alice find out. That evening over dinner, after Elizabeth contemplates her hot dad ("he was an attractive man to have for a father, Elizabeth always thought" relax Electra), and Jessica explains away the howling noise from her bedroom as her stereo being left on, Alice mentions that she's putting on a dark wash if the twins have anything to throw in the basket. Jessica panics and says that she'll do the laundry, and when Elizabeth brings Jeffrey downstairs to see the secret puppy, they find Jessica halfway out the basement window with the laundry basket as she's bringing the washing to their neighbours house to cover up the broken washing machine. Aww, cute shenanigans Jess!

Meanwhile, Dana's ma is getting on her case to clean her room and mentions how tidy Sally is, which makes Dana even madder at Sally and prompts an incredibly unfair bitching session about her between Dana and Jeremy.

"You know what I don't understand though," Dana continued, "is why Mom and Dad are acting so weird about it. It's not as if Sally was abused or anything."

DANA. STOP IT. You're meant to be the Jem to the Droids Holograms and you're being such a cunt for absolutely no good reason. COP ON. JERRICA BENTON WOULDN'T ACT LIKE THIS.

Sally happens upon the pair's nasty conversation and they tell her to take their mother's car for the evening in the most dickish way possible and Sally's just like "uh ok, thanks?" even though she has nowhere to go and no one to see. She ends up driving out to the school and decides to check out the Oracle offices because she really enjoys writing but feels like she doesn't have time to get involved with the paper while she's working with the Droids and she doesn't want to let Dana down. Elizabeth is in the office typing up her Eyes and Ears gossip column and Sally ends up chatting to her and telling her her whole life story and how she's afraid that if she pisses off Jeremy and Dana then she'll be sent away again. Because of course she does, Elizabeth being the Sweet Valley confessional box and all. Back at home, Sally mentions to Dana that she ran into Liz and talks about how nice she is and Dana gets all weird with her and says she can't stop her being friends with Elizabeth and reminds her that she's committed herself to the band and it's SO FUCKING MEAN and makes Sally feel like she can't hang out with anyone but Dana and I'm so mad at this storyline for making me hate Dana. Liz ends up calling Sally and asking her if she'd like to go to the mall the next day with her and Sally has to reject another person she likes because her cousins suck SO HARD. Elizabeth is confused by Sally's reaction and wonders what's going on with her.

"But why?" Elizabeth said aloud. "How could she think that would make the Larsons like her more?"

She's got a point, normally if someone dares to turn down an offer of friendship from a Wakefield twin, the town of Sweet Valley will descend on their house in a pitchfork-wielding mob and run them out of town for slighting one of their hottest and most valuable residents.

At dinner, Jessica broaches the subject of getting a dog with Ned and Alice, but they're not sure about it, so Elizabeth chimes in to help and they realise that Jessica is super serious about it so they say they'll think about it. On Saturday, both parents are working so the twins take Prince Albert for a walk but he wriggles out of the collar and runs off and they can't find after searching all day. OH NO PUPPAY!

On Monday morning, Mrs Larson tells Jeremy, Dana and Sally to come home right after school because Mr Larson is flying back from a meeting in San Francisco and will have some news for all of them. Sally is convinced that it means she's being sent away and she's super sad all day long and it even rains that day, such is the tragicness of the situation. I think that's the first time it's rained in Sweet Valley this whole series. She runs into Elizabeth at lunchtime and apologises for turning her down last week.  

She would probably never see Elizabeth again.

Which is truly the most tragic part of whole tale. After school, Jeremy is driving her and Dana home and decides to pick up two "rough looking hitchhikers" on the way because he's a fucking idiot.

One of them flicked his burning cigarette into the grass on the side of the road.


They hop in and proceed to creep all over Dana who's stuck between them in the backseat and demand to be taken to Kelly's, the shady bar that only shady people go to and are generally all menacing and scary. When they get to Kelly's they basically threaten to rape Dana unless Jeremy gives them his wallet and then demand that the girls come with them into the bar. Sally suddenly puts on a tough act and tells them not to bother with Dana because she's a "dead bore" and says she'll go in with them because she knows how to have a good time and tells Dana and Jeremy to get lost in an obvious attempt to save them from any unpleasantness. Jeremy and Dana drive away and fucking LEAVE HER THERE and Dana then realises that Sally was just taking one for the team and didn't actually want to go into the scary bar with the would-be rapists, shockingly enough. Once Jeremy realises this too and what an absolute wanker he was being in bailing on her, they drive to Mark's house which is nearby and it turns out that Ken Matthews and John Pfeiffer are there too, so they all head over to Kelly's and Dana and Jeremy then realise on the way what a pair of total fuckers they've been to Sally this whole time.

The gang descend on Kelly's and rescue Sally because grown men are afraid of a few sixteen year old young lads and Dana calls Sally her sister during the confrontation and afterwards apologises for being such a dickhead. When they get home, Mr and Mrs Larson gather everyone in the kitchen and keep getting interrupted with their big news by Dana and Jeremy saying they want Sally to stay, but it turns out that they've arranged to legally adopt Sally so everything is fiiiine. Because all it takes to be accepted by your blood relatives is to throw yourself into harm's way to save their ungrateful asses.

That same evening, Ned Wakefield comes home with a surprise for the twins. He and Alice had decided that the girls were ready for a dog and stopped by the animal shelter, only to bring home...Prince Albert! YAY PUPPAY!

Notable outfit:
Obviously it's one of Dana's.

She was wearing skin-tight, black stirrup pants and a gold lamé dinner jacket, sleeves pushed up, over a black and white checked shirt.

Stirrup pants! Gold lamé! Sleeves pushed up! There is literally nothing I don't like about this whole entire sentence!

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 152
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 6
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 5

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - The New Jessica

Right, so the physical copy I have of this book has a tie-in cover for the 90s TV show, featuring the Daniels twins which you can see here, (and hey, why not throw me an aul like on Facebook while you're there?) and which I think we can all agree is a total non-event. As such, I'm using an image of the original, and pretty clearly superior cover. And it's goood.

Sweet Valley High #32: The New Jessica

Elizabeth Wakefield is sitting in her room while gorgeous sunlight streams through the window and her gorgeous eyes are looking all thoughtful in her gorgeous face while she gorgeously pours her feelings about her new boyfriend Jeffrey into her diary. Did I mention that she's gorgeous? And blonde? And slender? Well, she is. Jessica then comes bursting into the room, complaining about how fat she looks, which is ridiculous, because she too is gorgeous, you see. Jessica wants to borrow Elizabeth's "peach-coloured knit dress" (niice) and then gets pissed off when she wears it to school and everyone mistakes her for Elizabeth. Prior to this, Jessica was already moping to Lila and Cara over an ice cream sundae about how she's having an identity crisis and is fed up of being an identical twin. She goes shopping with Lila in Lytton and Brown, the big department store in the mall and is struck by inspiration when she sees a sign advertising makeovers at the cosmetics counter. Can I just take a moment to applaud the ghostwriter for actually coming up with a shop name here? After The Ski Shop, The Boston Shop, The Tennis Shop, The Designer Shop and The Sports Shop, the temptation to just call it The Department Store Shop must have been huge. Proud of you.

Jessica stays at Lila's mansion for the weekend, dyes her hair black and Lila combs stuff through it to make it all sleek and straight, as it's usually wavy. Lila then shows her some makeup tricks she's learned and trowels on the eyeliner and "dull-red lipstick", so Jessica now looks "foreign, slightly Eastern", whatever that means and basically the opposite of a blonde and Californian Wakefield twin. She then borrows a heap of clothes from Lila that Mr. Fowler brought her back from Paris, and one of the more casual outfits is a purple jumpsuit with lizard boots, so you know this is going to be a good time. Oh and she starts talking in a faintly English accent to match her new look and this whole makeover is fast becoming my new favourite thing. Jessica triumphantly arrives home on Sunday evening and Elizabeth reacts like Jessica has just fucked Jeffrey in front of her.

"Jess?" she said fearfully, her fingers flying to her lips.

Elizabeth felt the colour drain from her face. She was so stunned, she could barely speak.

Elizabeth felt her lip begin to quiver. She wasn't exactly sure why, but she felt that Jessica had betrayed her. "You look like a stranger!" she cried, her eyes brimming with tears. Elizabeth couldn't bear to look at Jessica a second longer.

She actually runs to her room, bawls crying and furiously writes in her diary about how this must mean that Jessica hates her and it's just the dumbest thing ever. It's just hair dye Liz, chill out for fuck's sake.

At school on Monday morning, Jessica's new look is a total sensation. She's head to toe in Lila's new French clothes and has ditched the lavaliere for a chunky necklace and big gold earrings. People are practically following her around all day and acting like she's the first sixteen year old to ever dye her hair and and naturally, Jessica is loving it. While she's still talking in her new voice and pointedly pulling copies of Paris Match out of her bag, Elizabeth is moaning to a sympathetic Enid like a total sap about how sad she is that Jessica has changed her look. "I think she sounds really affected, Liz. Like Joan Collins on Dynasty, or something." Oh WHATEVER, Enid. Elizabeth then runs into Jeffrey and marvels at how soft his hair looks, until he mentions that he likes Jessica's makeover, so Elizabeth runs off all upset because she thinks he prefers Jessica to her now and Elizabeth is a massive dope in this book.

Elizabeth retires to The Oracle office to read the proofs for her Eyes and Ears column, but instead ends up whining into her diary about Jeffrey and Jessica. Penny Ayala then turns up to tidy the office and move a bunch of paperwork around, so Elizabeth puts her diary aside and reads the proofs like she was supposed to, while Penny faffs about around her. The bell rings for class, so Liz heads off to Mr. Collins' classroom for English and suddenly realises she left the diary in the office, but by the time the class is over and she runs back to the office, it's gone. OH NO. Who could POSSIBLY have taken it, perhaps with a bunch of papers that may have been around it so it got mistakenly scooped up and moved? WELP, WE'LL JUST NEVER KNOW.

Meanwhile, Jessica is spending her time hanging out at a fancy coffee bar with Lila, drinking espressos and deciding that she needs to lose five pounds. "Though neither she nor Elizabeth had ever had to diet to maintain their slender figures." Unlike fat Robin Wilson when she was fat, you see. She's also been making an effort to spend time away from home and not hanging out with Elizabeth as much as usual, as she wants to be more independent. And in fairness, "Elizabeth kept moping all over the place, giving Jessica pained looks whenever she saw her", so you can't really blame her for wanting to get away from that particular barrel of absolutely no craic.

Oh Jessica. Jessica Jessica Jessica. There is so much happening here. The Lucky Bag jewellery, the eyeshadow ALL THE WAY to the eyebrows, the belt, the jacket JUST THE EVERYTHING. I want to say that she looks sorta like a particularly unskilled drag queen, but that's wildly unfair as drag queens tend to be nothing short of fucking fab. And this is not that.

At lunchtime in school, while marveling at Jessica's latest ensemble, DeeDee Gordon suggests that she should try modelling and gives her the number for a fashion photographer that her talent scout father uses sometimes. Jessica's like FUCK YES, partly to get one up on Lila, who previously failed at being a model and was hilariously told her face was too flat. Jessica meets the photographer dude who is also an agent and impressed by her cool European look and thinks she'll be good for an upcoming job for an in-store fashion show at Lytton and Brown, but the photos she'll need to have taken will cost $125. To be honest, I can't help feeling like this lad seems sketchy and should tell her to come back with one of her parents or something before anything gets decided. Anyway, Jessica is totally swept up with this whole modelling thing and is already imagining herself being interviewed from her Beverly Hills mansion and thinking about changing her name to Jessa Fields, as Jessica Wakefield sounds "too wholesome". It's true, you can practically smell the blonde off her name. However, she has to convince Ned and Alice to give her a loan for the photos, but they're not super enamoured with the whole thing, as the Lytton and Brown job isn't guaranteed. ""This wouldn't happen to Brooke Shields," Jessica said, infuriated." They agree to lend her the money in the end and then bring up the Ramsbury Fair, which is some thing the family go to every year, but Jessica acts like she's too cool for it now.

Elizabeth is still acting all weird and mad at Jeffrey for no good reason and when he brings up the fair and that his cousin who'll be visiting from Oregon could come too, Liz says she doesn't want to go anymore because Jessica thinks it's lame now. He gets sarcastic with her and she gets all huffy again and is even more convinced for some reason that he likes Jessica now instead of her and SERIOUSLY this is such a non-story. At home, while Jessica is getting ready to go to the Beach Disco, (in black leather jeans and crimson lipstick, OOH YAAS) Elizabeth tells her that Jeffrey has been admiring her new look from afar and that he prefers Jessica to her now. Jessica tells her that Jeffrey is obviously into her and not to be such a dope, but Liz is convinced. Jessica's reaction to all this, amazingly, is to try it on with her sister's boyfriend. At school, she comes over to Jeffrey in the cafeteria and tries to flirt with him, but he just keeps asking her about her sister, so Jess quickly realises that he's pretty obviously still smitten with Elizabeth and backs away quickly before any damage is done.

After school, Jessica drags Liz to her meeting with the photographer and the art director for Lytton and Brown, although Liz won't go any further than the waiting room as she's busy moping about her sister's new hair, her missing diary and her Jeffrey. While she's doing all that in the reception area, Jessica comes out of the meeting in tears because they decided her image was wrong for the show after all. Mr. Mahler, the L&B guy, then spots Elizabeth and declares that she's perfect and exactly what he's looking for. Jessica insists that they're actually identical twins and that she can change her look back, but Mr. L&B Man and the photograpehr aren't having it and don't believe her, because they're fucking idiots. THEY HAVE THE EXACT SAME FACE YOU DOPES. Mahler offers Elizabeth six hundred dollars to do the show and tells her to get back to him tomorrow, even though she said she's not interested.

That night after dinner, Penny Ayala drops by with Elizabeth's diary, because - shocker - she moved it by accident that time we all figured that's what happened and Penny only just realised she knew where it was when Mr. Collins mentioned that Liz had lost it. Jessica answers the door and takes the diary from Penny, but because she feels like her and Liz have been drifting apart lately, she reads a bit of it and sees how upset the makeover has made Elizabeth. Later, the family watch some old home movies, because Ned and Alice are putting some together to send to the Wakefield grandparents and there's footage of the twins as little kids the first time they went to the Ramsbury Fair. It's all enough to make Jessica change her mind about the fair this year as well as fix everything by telling Elizabeth that Jeffrey is still crazy about her and shampooing the dye out of her hair, so she can pose as Liz and take the Lytton and Brown job.

Elizabeth makes up with Jeffrey, although he does call her "stupid girl" while forgiving her, but makes it sound "like an endearment", so I guess that's ok? He also explains that he only liked Jessica's makeover because he had been slightly unnerved by them being identical twins and this way it was like he had Elizabeth all to himself or something. Jessica bags the modelling gig by pretending to be Elizabeth at the next meeting with the two idiot grown men and the when the day of the show comes, Elizabeth attends in disguise, wearing a dark wig and sunglasess so as not to give the game away. Loads of kids from school are there too and then Winston starts joking about how he could be a model too and SNATCHES ELIZABETH'S WIG. LITERALLY.

And the next minute he had snatched off her wig, leaving her facing Mr. Mahler as her blond hair tumbled around her shoulders!



It turns out Mahler copped that, duh, yes they are twins, because Ned and Alice came up to him saying how happy they were that Jessica worked out for the show, so he decides he wants Liz to take part in the show too, although he's not going to pay them any more money, they'll have to split the six hundred dollarybucks, which kinda seems like bullshit, but fine. So Elizabeth and Jessica get to don evening gowns and model together for the show and it's all great because they're so happy to be in it together. And the moral of the story is, Wakefields don't need makeovers, unlike fat Robin or plain ol' Lynne Henry because they're already SO GODDAMN BEAUTIFUL, OKAY?

Notable outfit: 
Or in this case, outfits, because there is SO MUCH GOOD STUFF as part of Jessica's fancy new Paris-inspired image.

Jessica was wearing an olive green leather skirt with a slit up the back. The skirt was so straight it was hard to walk. Matching hose with a lacy pattern and three-inch heels made Jessica's legs look longer and slimmer than usual. She felt very tall and elegant, and the silky, oversize blouse and green leather belt worn on her hips made her feel incredibly glamorous.

Jessica looked terrific in the black silk jump suit and red high-heeled boots Lila had loaned her. Her sleek black hair was pulled back in a bun that day, with just a few loose wisps around her face. A red silk scarf completed the elegant look, along with oversize earrings.

Jessica crossed her legs, admiring the silky new stockings she had found. They were just the right shade of blue to match the two-piece knit dress she had convinced Lila to lend her.

It was a white, really slim-cut skirt that was several inches longer than what she usually wore, with a white sweater with sequins on it. A white beret completed the look. With her new dark hair, the combination was fantastic. 


Things I counted:
Number of pages: 136
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 11

References to Jessica's new, raven black hair: 13

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Taking Sides

Forget Batman V Superman, (because it's terrible) the big showdown this year (or in 1986, whatevs) is Elizabeth V Jessica! What could they possibly be squabbling over? Something ultimately pointless? Let's find out!

Sweet Valley High #31: Taking Sides

The Wakefield twins are sitting in the sunshine out on the lawn outside Sweet Valley High, with Lila Fowler and Enid Rollins, even though Jessica can't bear Enid and Elizabeth thinks Lila is a snobby wagon. In case anyone had forgotten, Jessica and Elizabeth are SPECTACULARLY beautiful, with their tumbling locks of spun-gold hair and sparkling, twinkling, glittering aquamarine eyes.

They had the kind of looks that make California girls famous around the world. 

And the kind of relatability that...nope, I got nothing.

There's a new dude in town, he's blonde and tall and handsome, his name is Jeffrey French and both Enid and Lila have the hots for his Oregon farm-boy ass. Jessica brings Lila across the lawn to introduce her to him and Enid is raging, even though she was getting all cosy with Lila's fancy cousin Christopher just two books ago, but he seems to have disappeared into the ether. Elizabeth is determined not to let Lila "walk all over poor Jeffrey" (hey, you don't know what he's into, Liz) and is going to do her damnedest to get him and Enid together.

Also, the twins have this annoying fifteen year old cousin called Jenny who's coming to stay with them for two weeks and she simply idolises Jessica. Unfortunately for Jenny, Jessica can't stand her.

Thick glasses, unkempt hair, at least ten pounds overweight, and dressed in the most unflattering fuschia sweats, Jenny was, as far as Jessica was concerned, a mess.

Oh Jessica. The most problematic of faves.

"I'm on a diet," Jenny announced cheerfully. "I've made up my mind, just looking at you two. I want to be thin, too!"


Lila overheard Aaron Dallas mentioning that he and Jeffrey will be at Casey's ice cream parlour that evening, so she gets Jessica to come with her and they're crammed into a booth with Ken Matthews, Eddie Winters (Jessica's latest crush) and Jenny, who insisted on coming too and is currently horsing into a massive banana split, so Jessica is judging her internally, and generally being awful. Eddie and Ken seem to get along with her though, and ask her about the book she took along with her, like normal, sound lads. Jeffrey and Aaron show up and they all squash into the booth so Lila can coo and purr and murmur at Jeffrey and she decides then and there to throw a pool party for the following day as a ploy to get her hooks into him. On the way home, Jenny lets slip to Jessica that Elizabeth is scheming to get Enid and Jeffrey together, so Jessica tells Jenny not to mention the pool party to Elizabeth, pretending like Lila never invites Liz to stuff and it'd only hurt her feelings, which keeps Liz and Enid out of the way.

The pool party is a smash, there's a cabana and a grill filled with sizzling hamburgers but Lila is annoyed, because Jeffrey is being all friendly and chatty with everyone there and he's not paying enough attention to her. Jessica is also failing to command the attention of Eddie Winters, as he's busy playing water volleyball and giving piggybacks to Jenny, despite the fact that Jessica is wearing a tiny bikini and aiming her hotness right at him all afternoon. The next day, Jenny inadvertently mentions the party to Elizabeth, because pretty much her only purpose in this book is to mistakenly rat each twin out to the other. Elizabeth is furious and tells Enid that she should go to the volleyball match that's on the following night and she'll make sure that Jeffrey joins her there. Eddie drops over to the house and Jessica is delighted, until Jenny inserts herself between the two of them again and keeps talking to Eddie about books and foreign films and what have you and Jessica decides that he's just a really good guy because he's just being polite in putting up with Jenny.

The next day at school, Elizabeth is sitting in the Oracle office with editor Penny Ayala, talking about how it's PTA Food Drive Week and what a great initiative it is. Hang on, why is Jenny coming to stay for two weeks when she should surely be in school herself? What's she doing all day? I'm not sure the ghostwriter thought this through. But back to Liz and Penny.

"It's hard to believe there are people in our own town who don't have enough to eat!" "I know" Penny said soberly. 

That's because you don't know any poor people. Aside from Tricia Martin, and she's dead.

Sexy ol' Roger Collins pops in and asks if one of them would mind staying on for Jeffrey French, as he's a photographer, and going to help the paper out with the supplement they're putting together for the food drive but he needs to be shown around the office. Elizabeth says she'll stay and Penny asks if she's sure.

Elizabeth laughed, making little shooing motions with her hands. "Go on, both of you!" she said lightly.

I 100% read that as "little shooting motions" the first time around and had a truly wonderful image in my head of Elizabeth doing finger guns, going "pew pew pew!" at Penny and Mr. Collins. So disappointed. Anyway, Jeffrey comes along and Elizabeth finds the way he looks at her "unnerving", but in a good way I guess? They actually get along really well and chat for ages and it's half five before Elizabeth remembers that she's supposed to be trying to set him up with Enid, so she starts going on about how wonderful Enid is and how Jeffrey should get to know her, although he's pretty obviously into Elizabeth. She tells him that she was supposed to go to the volleyball game with Enid that night and he should take her place, because she promised her mother that she'd hang out with Jenny for the evening. Jeffrey sort of noncommittally says it's a good idea and then asks if Liz wants to get a Coke with him at Casey's, but she fobs him off and can't figure why he seems disappointed. HE'S INTO YOU, DUMMY. "The kind of looks that make California girls famous around the world", remember?

Elizabeth sorta looks like she's staring right past Jessica on this cover, like her eyeline doesn't quite match up with Jessica's. No wonder Jess looks so pissed off. That and the fact that she's been been caught in a boring ass polo shirt.

However, later that night, Enid rings Liz all upset because Jeffrey never showed up and Liz finds out from Jenny (of course) that Jeffrey was at the Beach Disco with her, Jessica, Lila, Eddie, Roger and Olivia and that Lila was dancing with Jeffrey all night. Also, Jessica and Jenny are meeting Eddie on Friday night, and while Jessica is doing some leg lifts in her room (while listening to her Walkman, obvs), Jenny suggests that they go to the Plaza to see Wuthering Heights and goes on about how cute Eddie is, oblivious to Jessica's annoyance at the whole situation.

Back in school, Jeffrey comes over all chatty to Elizabeth, who's pissed off with him for going to the Beach Disco instead of the volleyball game like he never actually said he would. He explains that Lila asked him to come to the disco, and told him that Jessica was taking Jenny there to show her around, so he assumed that meant Liz would be there too. Liz is bewildered, nay FLUMMOXED by this and in the meantime, Enid is flailing around trying to think of a way to get Jeffrey to notice her, because Lila is campaigning hard and already bought him a new camera and tripod, which he won't accept. There's a charity auction coming up at school as part of the food drive, where the students bid with cans of food, so Enid cooks up a plan to get Elizabeth to convince Jeffrey to offer a date with him as an auction item and then Enid will make sure to be the highest bidder. Elizabeth agrees to the plan and gets Jeffrey on board, but feels like a dope because she reckons he thinks she's doing all this as a roundabout way to go out with him herself.

The day of the auction, Enid asks if Jessica and Lila can help to pack the food cans to be taken to City Hall when the auction is over, and Lila's like "You mean actually putting them in boxes?", because bitch please, as if Lila has ever packed in her fabulous life. They quickly make up excuses why they can't help out, which keeps them out of the way for the auction and it's actually pretty impressively sneaky of Enid. When Jeffrey's date night comes up, Caroline Pearce and some other bird called Stacie are bidding back and forth until they get to twenty five cans, when Enid steps in and bids seventy five. Way to play it cool, E.

But whatever about that, the other items up for auction are the best part of this bit. Well, two of the other items. Namely, "a voucher for a homemade dinner cooked by none other than Mr. Collins", because that man genuinely doesn't know the meaning of the word APPROPRIATE and "a candid snapshot of Bruce Patman in a bathing suit" HOLY FUCK WHAAAT. Unfortunately we don't find out who won the bidding on either of those, so we'll never know who spent a cosy underage evening with sexy Roger Collins or who publicly bought Bruce Patman wank material.

On Friday night, Jessica is being driven up the wall by Jenny on their night out with Eddie and feeling like he's ignoring her and just talking about dumb mystery novels and dumb classical music with her dumb cousin. They end up at Dairi Burger, where Jessica just sits quietly "sipping angrily at her Diet Coke" while the other two chat, (I don't know how exactly you can sip angrily, but if anyone can do it, it's Jessica Wakefield) until she sees Enid and Jeffrey out together and discovers the whole auction plan. WHO CARES, ask about the Bruce photo and the sex-dinner! PRIORITIES, JESSICA. Anyway, Enid and Jeffrey's date is going reasonably well, in that he's polite and attentive, but they're not clicking and Enid accepts that there's nothing there between them.

On Sunday there's a big beach party as the final event for the Food Drive week, although I'm not sure how a bunch of fancy teenagers hanging out at the beach trying to fuck each other helps the poor of Sweet Valley, but what do I know. Enid tries to tell Elizabeth that it's not going to happen between her and Jeffrey and they should drop it, but for some reason Liz insists that she doesn't give up and arranges for Jeffrey to take a bunch of photos of Enid for a profile about her, as she's head of the student committee for the food drive. These kids, they're all on committees and president or chairman of this and that, just chill with the bureaucracy would ye. Anyway, Elizabeth drags Jeffrey away from the dancefloor and a fuming Lila Fowler and it's really awkward when she lumps him and Enid together and runs off. Jessica then confronts Elizabeth about her scheming against her and Lila and they have it out over all the shenanigans each of them pulled. Then Enid gives out to Elizabeth for trying to force her and Jeffrey together and then Jeffrey gives out to her too for playing games with him and trying to decide who he should go out with, so everyone is mad at poor, beautiful Liz.

While she's crying all alone further down the beach, Jessica comes over and patches things up, and also makes Elizabeth realise that she totally fancies Jeffrey. She also reveals that Eddie is currently slow dancing with Jenny and he's a lost cause. Jenny is fifteen and Eddie is a senior, so that makes him around seventeen, yeah? Hm. HMM. Elizabeth and Jessica rejoin the party and Jenny tells them that Eddie is coming to Dallas to visit her after she goes home. Jenny is eating a hot dog and Elizabeth makes a comment about how being in love is meant to make you lose your appetite, but Jenny says they're just friends.

"Love is too stupid," she added licking a bit of mustard off her hand.

I am HIGHLY suspicious of this seventeen year old dude arranging to go all the way to Texas see a clearly very immature fifteen year old girl that he's "just friends" with. I'M WATCHING YOU, EDDIE WINTERS.

Anyway, Elizabeth then finds Enid and apologises to her and they make up, and then she goes and does the same with Jeffrey, only their conversation ends with a heap of smooching on the dancefloor and Elizabeth Wakefield is now OFF THE MARKET, DUDES.

Notable outfit: 
This one is notable because it sounds fucking awesome.

Elizabeth couldn't believe the way Lila was acting. First of all, she was dressed inappropriately for a picnic on the beach. Her one-piece, white jumpsuit would have been more suitable on a Hollywood set. And those gold-spangled high heels were just too much.


Things I counted:
Number of pages: 134
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 3

Amount of times people blush: 17
Amount of times Jenny's weight is brought up: 7 (Not gonna lie, it's pretty bleak.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Jealous Lies

Hi! Barcelona is super fun and pretty! But perhaps more importantly, GET A LOAD OF THIS SHINY ASS BOMBER JACKET. I can actually feel those stretchy, striped cuffs on my wrists.

Sweet Valley High #30: Jealous Lies

The Wakefields are having breakfast in their lovely, tastefully decorated split-level home, and by the time we've gotten to page five Alice's eyes have been twinkling, Ned's have been crinkling and Elizabeth has been winking, so we're off to a great start already. Steven is coming home soon for a whole week and Alice wants to plan something "really special" for his visit, even though he's always coming home, but whatever. Also, the fancy Pi Beta Alpha sorority that the twins are members of is having some important meeting to discuss new pledges and I still don't understand why a high school has a sorority. The meeting is happening at Lila Fowler's house, as she's the pledge chairman. Man, I don't know, let's just go with this whole thing. At the meeting, Sandra Bacon is sitting towards the back, thinking about how average and unmemorable she is, compared to her bff Jean West, who is gorgeous, plays the flute, is a fabulous dancer, a great cheerleader, an A student, a great cook and never wears jeans. However, Jean isn't in PBA, and Sandy wants to keep it that way, as it's the one thing she has that Jean doesn't, but everyone expects her to nominate Jean when her turn comes so she can't back out. Sandy needs to chill the fuck out, she's a cheerleader and in this stupid posh sorority so she's obviously cute and skinny, considering the emotional torture that very group put Robin Wilson through when she wanted to join back when she was chubby.

A quick aside about how much these girls' names bother me. I love some nice crispy bacon, like any sane person, but Sandy Bacon sounds like there's all bits of gritty sand on my lovely rashers and now I can't eat them. Jean West just makes me think of John West, i.e. the tuna and I don't like fish, so these two dumb names just immediately make me think of ruined rashers and smelly cans of tuna and those two things are just upsetting. It's making me want to refer to Sandy as Crispy Bacon instead and I'm just not going to use Jean's full name ever.

So. Crispy nominates Jean as expected, and now has to be her sponsor, to get her through the pledge period. The following day, the two of them are chatting in the school swimming pool between practising water ballet routines, because OMG OF COURSE Sweet Valley High has a synchronised swimming class! Yes! Crispy reassures Jean that she'll ace whatever challenge the pledges have to do, which is a big lie because Crispy is already plotting against her friend. The pledges all have to bring an assigned dude to a party, and Crispy is trying to think of someone who'll turn Jean down, which is a tall order, considering how totally wonderful she is at everything. However, while at lunch with Elizabeth and Winston Egbert, Winston mentions that he ran into Tom McKay that morning and he was really glum because he tried to talk to Jean and was given the brush off. "He was good and mad, to tell you the truth." How dare Jean not give him her full and undivided attention when he starts up a conversation, uninvited! Like, fuck this guy. Maybe she was busy dude, put your pants back on. In any case, Crispy sees this as a perfect opportunity to throw an obstacle in Jean's way, and suggests to Lila that she be assigned to bring Tom as her date to a party at Cara's.

The last girl he'd gone with was Jessica Wakefield, and a few people joked that she had turned him off the female sex forever, having strung him along until someone better came along.

Ha! Although at the end of that particular book, Tom was hooking up with Sexy Patsy Webber, who seems to have disappeared from the face of Sweet Valley. Jessica probably murdered her.

Lila suggests to Jean that she should watch some tennis match that Tom is playing and then talk to him afterwards and tell him how brilliant he is. She then ruins Crispy's sabotage plan by wingwomaning Jean into inviting Tom as her date to Cara's party, and Jean tells Crispy that she's actually really starting to like Tom after properly talking to him.

Back over at the Wakefield house, Steven is home and the family are having dinner together. Once Jessica is done admiring her hot brother ("she couldn't help thinking how good Steven looked"), he announces that he's planning to leave college and go working on a cruise ship called the Bellefleur, owned by his roommate's father. Ned and Alice freak out and Steven storms off, so Elizabeth suggests that they try reverse psychology on him and act like they're all on board (I'm sorry) with the idea. They were going to throw a totally pointless surprise party for him while he was home so now they're going to make it a bon voyage party instead and Ned reckons that dropping out will lose its appeal if they don't put up any opposition. Okay, sure.

Meanwhile, Crispy is plotting again and drops into The Tennis Shop, where Tom works, under the pretence of buying tennis shoes for her mother. She then drops some not so subtle hints that he's been invited to the party that night as a task for Jean and then runs off crying guilty, salty tears. Tom had started to really like Jean, so he's pretty stung by it all and decides he's not going to let her make a fool of him. Jean is getting ready for the party and looking forward to seeing Tom, but over an hour after he was supposed to pick her up, he calls her and says he's not feeling well but he'll be over soon. Then at around ten, at which point the party is in full swing and poor Jean is still hanging around a home waiting, he calls again and says he's in hospital with food poisoning. So she heads off to the party alone and super late and is the only pledge who has failed in her task. Crispy then sells her out in front of the rest of the sorority and suggests that she should check Tom's story out and call the hospital. Of course, he's not there and then everyone knows that she's been stood up and made to look like an asshole. Jean tells the sorority girls that she's going to get revenge on him by acting like she believed his story, making him start to care about about her, getting him to come to the school dance on Friday as her date, and then, because it'll be the day of her and Dana's birthday, they'll start the dancing and she'll invite some other guy to dance, making HIM look like the asshole. Jessica loves the plan, obviously, and Lila and Cara agree that it'll be her substitute task, but then Crispy pipes up and says it's not fair to break the rules for Jean, so the two friends end up having a row.

♪ Look at meee/I'm Sandy B/dressed up like a Pink Ladyyy

While the row is going on, Steven is talking to Cara, who has been prepped by Jessica to be cool with his cruise ship decision. When he told her about it first she was really upset, and now that she's acting like she's fine with it and that they should go their separate ways because long distance relationships don't work, Steven gets all huffy and storms off. He does that a lot in this book. The next day, Jessica brings him a bunch of brochures about the Far East and goes on about all the great presents he'll be able to buy her on his travels. Ned and Alice have also been playing along, and Ned landed him with a heap of paperwork to sort out health insurance policies and stuff for when he leaves college. Steven tells Jessica that he and Cara are breaking up and Jessica quite rightly points out that he just dropped this bombshell on Cara and expected her to wait around for eight or nine months at a time before she'd see him, without even talking it through with her first. The ridiculous plan seems to be working though, as Steve is starting to question his decision to go.

Jean is feeling sad about her row with Crispy. She only wanted to join the sorority in the first place because she felt like the two of them were drifting apart and she wanted to spend more time with her friend. In the meantime, she gets started on her revenge plan for Tom and calls over to his house with a bag of get well soon presents, laying on the fake concern and generally being super nice to him. Tom is totally caught off guard and figures that she must really like him and they arrange to have lunch at school the next day. While at school, Crispy begs Jean for forgiveness, but instead of just coming clean about her weird jealousy, she says that she only did what she did because she's afraid the other girls will accuse her of favouritism and says that she's been put under loads of pressure from the other members since nominating Jean, and then they make up.

At lunch, Tom surprises Jean with a picnic and she acts like she loves it, even though she's kinda being a lil bitch about it. "This guy is off his rocker, Jean thought with disgust as she sat down." Even though she apparently hates picnics, she has a nice time talking to Tom about their respective brothers and even momentarily forgets that's she's supposed to be exacting revenge on him. That evening he wants to take her somewhere he thinks she'll love and surprises her with a trip to some amusement park at Clinton Falls, wherever that that is. He's really starting to care for Jean but he's slightly worried that they're too different and she's too sophisticated for him. However, Jean is afraid of heights and apparently hates this surprise even more than the picnic, but he takes her on the Ferris wheel and holds her hand and the view is so amazing at the top and she realises this is so special to him that they start shifting. Also, he pays an entrance fee to get into the park and then has to buy tickets for the Ferris wheel once they're in, and I have to say Tom, this special park of yours is a fucking rip-off.

Back at school, Elizabeth is at a lunch table with Cara, Jessica, Lila and Jean, and Lila goes through Jean's plan for Tom at the school dance, which is all news to Elizabeth.

She frowned at Jean, thinking that it hardly seemed fair to get back at Tom in front of the whole school. But she wouldn't have dreamed of saying anything in front of all the other girls. Besides, she didn't know Jean well enough to intrude.

As if that stopped her literally every other time she's stuck her oar into other people's business uninvited.

In any case, Jean is feeling bad about her plan for Tom and doesn't think she can go through with it because she really likes him now. They're hanging out in the back garden of his house and he confesses that he didn't really have food poisoning and she admits that she was bringing him to Cara's party as part of her pledge task and that she feels awful about it. When she asks why he stood her up, Tom tells her that Crispy had called into the shop and dropped a bunch of hints about the task and Jean realises that Crispy has been plotting against her all this time.

In school, Elizabeth is proofreading her Eyes and Ears column in the student lounge, when Crispy bursts in, looking upset because she thought the room would be empty. She sits down and Elizabeth mentions that Jean's revenge plan is a bit lousy, whereupon Crispy bursts into tears and says it's not Jean's fault and runs off. There's literally no point to this bit whatsoever, it's just an attempt to crowbar Elizabeth into a story line that doesn't involve her. Crispy ends up in Mr. Collins' classroom and confesses that she's done something terrible to someone she cares about, so he tells her that she either has to come clean and apologise or hope the other person doesn't find out.

Outside of class he was a great listener - and a wonderful shoulder to cry on.

Shoulder to cry on, lap to sit on, potayto potahto.

Steve tries to talk to Ned and Alice about whether he should take the cruise ship job or not and gets all huffy when they tell him it's his decision to make. So he's mad when they don't want him to go and he's mad when they're being supportive. He then calls Cara to talk it over with her and she's still pretending to be all breezy and also says it's up to him, so Steve gets all upset and decides to stay in college after all, thinking that none of them care about him anyway.

The night of the school dance rolls around and because it's on Friday the Thirteenth, it's got a spooky theme and everyone is wearing black.

Black crepe paper and forbidding-looking moons festooned the walls; papier-mâché black cats perched on the table where the punch was being served, and eerie music was playing. Students had to pass under a big ladder to enter the gym and the decoration theme of unlucky objects was carried out everywhere.

I have to say, I'm 100% into this theme and execution. Bravo, dance committee. 

Jean arrives with Tom and has decided that she's not going to go through with her plan after all, because she really likes him (despite the fact that she's hated every surprise he's organised for her thus far) so she's resigned herself to not getting into the sorority, sadly thinking that Crispy will get what she wanted after all. Dana and Jean are called forward to choose their dancing partners, Jean calls out Tom's name, and the sorority bitches are all really cross. They start giving out about Jean, saying she was leading them on and that she should be dropped from the pledge list for good. Crispy gets all upset and comes to her defence, saying that it was all her fault and that she was sabotaging Jean's efforts all along because she was jealous and to kick her out instead and let Jean join. While all this is going on, Jean's dance has ended and she's overheard the whole confession. The girls tearfully make up and the sorority decides to accept Jean and also to let Crispy stay because she's been punished enough. Also, Tom and Jean are in love now and everything is awesome. 

The following night is the surprise party for Steve at the Wakefield house. He comes into the room with Cara, everyone jumps out and there's a big bon voyage banner, so he announces that he's actually not going now. The twins are all excited and flip the banner over, so it says "Welcome Home, Steve!" instead and reveal that they'd all been yanking his chain the whole time, because it had to be his decision, YES WE KNOW, JESUS.

Notable outfit: 
Tragically, the amazing (and suuuper flammable-looking) sorority bomber jackets aren't actually mentioned in the book at all, otherwise it would obviously be all about them here. Instead, when Jean calls over to Tom's with the care package for his fake food poisoning, she dresses in an outfit that she thinks he'll like, i.e. cute, simple and outdoorsy. 

She had taken special pains getting dressed, finally selecting a pair of linen walking shorts and a Fair Isle cotton sweater.

I looked up Fair Isle jumpers and they're actually pretty nice, but boy do linen walking shorts sound terrible.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 135
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 4
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 1 (ONE? Not nearly good enough. I could have FORGOTTEN they were blonde, for GOD'S SAKE.) 

Amount of times Steve storms out of a room: 3