Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Playing With Fire

While it may not look like it, this post was very nearly a disaster of the unmitigated variety. I had just gotten stuck into book three of the series in ebook format and all was going to plan. There was a dance contest at the school (of course), Lila was wearing a yellow dress that "looked like it had been ripped right from the pages of In Style" (In Style? Ok, maybe it's been around since the Eighties, thought I), however, there seemed to be a suspicious lack of hilarious outfits but then we got to the school band playing onstage and shit got real, because these guys were called Valley of Death. VALLEY OF DEATH? Stall the fucking BALL, who the hell are these jokers?

Next thing I know, it's being explained that the dance competition used to be totally lame but "since all the crazy reality TV dance competitions started popping up, it had become one of the most popular events of the year". Reality TV? In the Eighties? I BLOODY WELL THINK NOT.

It turns out I was reading a 2008 rewrite. I would have flung it across the room in disgust, only I was reading it on my iPad and that probably wouldn't be the best idea ever. Let me tell you, the town of Sweet Valley in 2008 is a frightening and unfamiliar place. For one thing, Bruce no longer drives his black Porsche, he now has a Cadillac. Are Porsches not cool enough anymore or something? Dairi Burger has mutated into Casa del Sol, a burritos and nachos Mexican restaurant. What the hell was wrong with burgers? People still eat burgers, you rewriting jerks! As I've already pointed out, The Droids are now called Valley of Death. Ugh. WORST. NAME. EVER. As if that wasn't bad enough, it describes drummer Emily Mayer's outfit thusly: "Her dark hair was combed into her face and her eyes were rimmed with black kohl liner. She was wearing a faded black t-shirt with a red peace sign on the front and baggy shorts with combat boots." You IDIOTS! The Droids dress like Jem and The Holograms, not like My Chemical Romance rejects! For shame, ghost writing lady. FOR. SHAME.

Anyway, the day was eventually saved by eBay and my slightly panicked snapping up of the first six books of the series. So here we go, the untainted, unspoiled, un-mobile-phones-being-awkwardly-shoehorned-in-at-every-opportunity version of book the third.

Sweet Valley High #3: Playing With Fire

So, big dance contest hoo-ha. It seems that the very fabric of Sweet Valley High would be under serious threat if there wasn't a dance of some sort held at least once a week. Thanks to Elizabeth's dastardly revenge plot at the end of the second book, Jessica has to attend the dance with nerdy Winston Egbert, as they're the reigning king and queen of something or other. Jessica is all huffy because she wants to dance with the minted and handsome Bruce Patman and Winston keeps stepping on her foot. We're also introduced to Robin Wilson, who has the audacity to want to be friends with Jessica and who, by the sound of it, is the only fat person in all of Sweet Valley. The way the book describes her is actually so cruel and unnecessary, practically every mention of her has some reference to her size - "the overweight girl", "running as fast as her plump legs could carry her", "the pudgy girl standing before her" - Jesus, alright Francine, we get it, you hate fat people. Way to fuck with preteen reader body issues. Anyway, Bruce eventually swoops in and rescues Jessica from Winston's left-footedness with his nifty dance moves, lifting her high in the air and spinning her over his shoulders because it seems that they're actually Johnny Castle and Baby. Naturally, they win and Jessica ditches Winston to go off to Ken's house party with Bruce, after Elizabeth does the requisite bit of nagging her to be careful.

At the party, when the group all go for a splash in the lake, Jessica and Bruce swim away from the rest to grind against each other like dogs in heat. They're having a watery shift when suddenly Jessica realises that Bruce has UNTIED HER BIKINI TOP. They're up to their shoulders in water and all but still, it's totally SAUCY you guys. The book even says the word breasts! Can you HANDLE the SCANDAL? THIS is why these books were barred from certain households in the early Nineties. Jessica begins to back off a bit, so Bruce essentially calls her a prick tease and even though Jessica wants to slow things down a notch, they sneak off to the woods together because logic is for losers.

Elizabeth comes over all Helen Lovejoy, clutches her pearls and follows them into the trees to save Jessica from having sexy fun with the handsome boy she likes. She reminds me here of the Joan Rivers-voiced lady version of C-3PO in Spaceballs and her Virgin Alarm. Jessica tells Elizabeth to fuck away off and stays out all night with Bruce like the horny teenager she is.

The next morning, Elizabeth is moping over breakfast while Ned and Alice give us a little insight into their seemingly perfect relationship. Alice reads in the paper that George Fowler is expanding his business so she decides to show him her interior design portfolio, seeing as that's her job and all. It turns out that Ned has heard that the job is going to some big firm in San Francisco and never mentioned it to her because it didn't seem important. "She was unhappy with her husband's lack of interest in her work, but she had no desire to make an issue of it on this bright, clear Sunday morning." And it seems that she never gets the desire to call Ned out on his disinterested bullshit, because that's the last we ever hear of it. Fuck you, Ned Wakefield!

In the meantime, aka Subplot-land, The Droids are all excited because a record company rep came to their gig at the dance competition (he wore red leather pants. RED LEATHER PANTS) and said he's going to be their manager and make them famous.

Jessica starts spending all her time according to what Bruce wants to do, skips classes to indulge in a spot of frottage on school grounds, collects dry cleaning for him and stops going to cheerleading practice because he thinks cheerleading is stupid. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but according to every piece of pop culture ever, high school boys are all about the cheerleaders, no? Well, not in Bruce's case anyway. He's also going around the school saying he gets whatever he wants, when he wants it from Jessica because she's a total hobag. Meanwhile, Jessica acts like a simpering doormat to keep Bruce happy, because he seems to like his women braindead. She's all excited about playing tennis with him, but he gets really annoyed that she's better at it than he is, so she throws the match to keep him sweet. By sweet I mean mentally abusive. She also changes the way she dresses, going on a shopping spree for the most boring clothes ever. A matching brown wool blazer and skirt and two oxford shirts, to be precise. I actually missed the diabolical sociopathic Jessica at this stage. I mean, yeah she was out of her devious mind most of the time, but at least she wouldn't ever let an Eighties douchebag cliché order her around.

He's even got a jumper over his shoulders, which is the universal symbol of smug twats worldwide. He also has Jessica in some manner of choke hold, but hey, who doesn't enjoy a little light choking now and again?

For some reason, Jessica makes plans with Robin (who is fat by the way) to give her a makeover (because she's so fat and all) but blows her off because Bruce whistles for her so she comes running. Elizabeth invites Robin out to a Droids gig that's been organised by their fancy red pants wearing manager. They go along with Todd and Winston, but the club is a dive and hardly anyone shows up. Everyone has a miserable time and it turns out that Mr. Red Pants actually just wanted to get into lead singer Dana Larson's sparkly and/or velvet pants and never had any intention of making The Droids a nationwide success. It seems like a lot of effort for a grown man to go to just to get the ride off a high school student, but whatever.

Boring New Jessica eventually comes to her senses on the night of Bruce's birthday party. He ignores her for the entire shindig, dancing with every girl at the party except her. The party then moves to Guido's for some pizza, but after making a call at the payphone, (in the stupid new version, his mobile goes off and his ringtone is This is Why I'm Hot. Barf.) Bruce announces to Jessica that he has to go because his grandmother has suddenly been struck down by a mystery illness. Elizabeth smells a rat and offers to take Jessica home and with Todd's help, bundles her off into his crap Datsun. They drive around for a bit and Elizabeth pretends that she's left her keys at the pizza place so they have to go back. When Jessica sees that Bruce's car is still there, she comes in too, only to find that Bruce has been joined by some random redheaded hottie. Jessica finally snaps out of her Stepford stupor, throws a pizza slice in Bruce's face and dumps a soda over his head, causing him to topple backwards into the restaurant's indoor fountain. Revenge, Wakefield style. He emotionally abused her, made her change her whole personality and fucked her around the entire time, but it's ok now because he's got cheese on his shirt and he got wet. Yeah. Although I am actually glad that the deranged psycho Jessica is back. Yay!

Notable outfit:
"Dressed in a bright blue, skin-hugging mini-dress and matching tights, Jessica was an eye-catching sight."

I'm sure that anyone who went to a school dance dressed as Smurfette would be an eye-catching sight.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 149
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 2 (Disappointing.)
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 3 (Disappointing x2)
References to Robin Wilson being fat: 11
References to Jessica being "starry-eyed" over Bruce: 3


  1. Haha... :) You're posts about SV inspired me to buy SV Confidential! :) I spent yesterday on my sickbed reading it! :) hahaha..

  2. I'm loving your Sweet Valley High posts and that 2008 rewrite sounds horrendous

  3. This SV Revisited series is AMAZE, missus. Absolutely loving it!

  4. There are at least 8 people who are still in the office at 6.40pm who now think I'm mental from laughing my ass off while reading this.
    I'm totally ok with that :)

  5. Orla - The sheer ridiculousness of Sweet Valley is guaranteed to cure what ails you!

    Cornflake - It's horrible! There's all these really forced references to YouTube and videophones, it's just awful. Don't even get me started on the covers. They're so flat and completely devoid of charm. The one for the first book is here. ICK.

    Lynnie - Thanks so much! :)

    Mulq - Yay! I love it when I make people do that! :D

  6. This is brilliant! I'm loving these! Although does anyone else think that Bruce on the cover of this looks like John Barrowman? Just me then?!

    1. It is definitely not just you. I found this book in my mom's garage, and my jaw hit the floor. If I ever see , I so want to ask if he modeled teen book covers in the eighties.

  7. Henry VIII had his hand on Anne Boleyn's neck like that for a promo for The Tudors. Then he had her beheaded at the end of season two.


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