Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Head Over Heels

Let's do this thang. But first, have you taken the Buzzfeed "Which Sweet Valley High Character Are You" quiz? Because you should. I got Lila Fowler. SUCK IT, BITCHES.

Sweet Valley High #18: Head Over Heels

You may remember from the last book that there was mention of Bruce Patman and Regina Morrow being very cosy together. There was also the mention of Elizabeth being all concerned about it, (while berating Caroline Pearce for being a busybody, of course) and that's still on her mind at the beginning of this book. Well, that and the upcoming carnival that the school is throwing, "to raise money for handicapped children" (Cringe. Welcome to 1986.) at Fowler Memorial. Liz is the chairperson of the carnival committee, because she has a flair for organising "and this was a cause she believed in". Liz is so special, because it's not like everyone in the world would agree that raising money for disabled kids is a good idea.

But even Elizabeth Wakefield isn't quite as special as Regina Morrow. Beautiful, vivacious, raven-haired, beautiful, deaf - did I mention beautiful? - Regina. In the space of five lines, the word "perfect" is used three times in relation to her. It's amazing that Jessica hasn't already scratched her sparkling blue eyes out. But then again, Regina inspires happiness wherever she goes, and farts rainbows too. Perfect little rainbows.

It turns out that Elizabeth isn't the only one unimpressed with Bruce and Regina's rich-kid romance, though. Jessica is none too happy that Bruce is so smitten with Regina, treating her so well and fawning all over her, after he was such a dick to Jessica that time they briefly hooked up. Lila is also cranky, but that's just because she has a random vendetta against Regina, for also being rich and hot, but she reckons that Bruce and Regina might go the distance as a couple. And seeing as the lives of other kids at Sweet Valley are mere playthings to Jessica and Lila, they decide to make a bet. Jessica proclaims that they'll be broken up by the day of the carnival, Lila says no way and the loser has to write the victor's term paper. (Because betting money is "vulgar", according to Lila's daddy.)

After school, there's a carnival committee meeting with sexy Mr. Collins (did you know that he looks like Robert Redford? Because he does. 1980s Robert Redford, to be precise), where Elizabeth divides up all the carnival tasks and then everyone goes to the beach. Liz invites Mr. Collins to go with them, but he decides to actually be appropriate for once in his life and politely declines.

Not much actually happens at the beach, apart from Jessica seeing Bruce and Regina walking hand in hand, all loved up, which makes her vow to find a way to break them up. But really, the only reason I'm talking about the beach is because it's casually mentioned that both Jessica and Elizabeth slather on BABY OIL. WHILE SUNBATHING. IN CALIFORNIA. Good luck keeping those fabled peaches-and-cream complexions past the age of twenty, girls.

Regina goes for dinner at the Patman's Patmansion and it's a super stuffy affair, with five of them seated around a table big enough for fifteen and Bruce wearing a blazer and a tie. Chillin': you're doing it wrong. Bruce's mother is being really embarrassing and practically shouting questions at Regina, with mad exaggerated lip movements. She also gets weirdly competitive when it comes up that Regina's mother is the parent advisor for the carnival committee and that Mr Fowler has donated a bunch of timber for the booths, because she hates the Fowlers.

"According to Marie Patman, the Fowlers were nouveaux riches - newly rich. Not like the Patmans and Vanderhorns, who were among the first families in Sweet Valley."

Hang on, who the eff are the Vanderhorns? And why hasn't Jessica Wakefield tried to ride any of them yet?

Anyway, Regina comes home after a bit of canoodling with Bruce at Miller's Point, to find her family all excited and pouring champagne. It turns out that there's a doctor in Switzerland who might be able to restore her hearing with a year of special treatments at his hospital.

"You'll be able to hear as well as the rest of us. Concerts and birds singing and babies crying."

Who actually wants to hear babies crying? That is not the way to sell this thing, Morrows. Anyway, after her initial excitement, Regina freaks out when she realises how long it will take. You see, she's in love (sing it with me) for the verrrry firrrrst tiiiime and doesn't want to leave Bruce and all her friends behind for so long when she's just settled in and is happier than ever. So she decides she's not going to go and she's not going to tell Bruce about it either.

"If a day without Bruce feels like a year to me, what would a year without him feel like?"

I'm not very good at maths but I'm pretty sure the answer there is 365 years. There you go, Regina. You can have that one for free.

Elizabeth calls over to Regina's house to meet with Mrs Morrow and discuss their ideas for the carnival. However, Mrs Morrow isn't feeling well, because she gets stress headaches when things don't go well for Regina, due to her GUILTY SECRET. And of course, seeing as Elizabeth is the one person in town that people seem to randomly confess things to, Skye Morrow takes her chance to unload it all onto a teenager she hardly knows. It's why Elizabeth's hair is so big - it's full of secrets. And she wears the barrettes to keep them all in place.

So Skye tells Elizabeth all about her former days as a model in New York and how she took diet pills for a swimwear shoot in the early days of her pregnancy with Regina. The pills affected Regina's ear tissue and permanently damaged her hearing, so Skye blames herself for her daughter's deafness. She also tells Elizabeth all about the doctor in Switzerland, that Regina is refusing to go and asks her if she could try to change her mind about it.

Elizabeth figures that Regina hasn't told her parents that Bruce is the reason she doesn't want to go, but wonders how she can throw away such an opportunity and "felt she owed it to Regina to intervene."

"On the other hand, Elizabeth hated to interfere."

Bitch, PLEASE. You live for this shit and like nothing better than getting all up in other people's biznizz.

Aw, Regina looks cute. Bruce appears to have the exact same expression on his face as he did on the cover of Playing With Fire. He's like one of those gifs of Paris Hilton making the same face in every photo.

Meanwhile, Ken Matthews is cranky because he's running for president of the Student Centennial Committee (yeah, I don't know either) and had been running unopposed but suddenly Bruce Patman has declared his candidacy with a week to go until the election. Ken tells Jessica all about it and how Bruce is probably a shoe-in now that he's going out with Regina and is more popular than ever. Naturally, Jessica manages to come up with a way to use this information to fuck things up for Bruce and Regina and immediately begins scheming.

She decides to drop over to Regina's house, but calls beforehand, hilariously asking for Regina on the phone when her mother answers.

"Hello, is Regina there?" Elizabeth shot her a look. Jessica's cheeks turned bright red. "Oh how thoughtless of me, Mrs Morrow," she said quickly, "Of course she can't."

Oh Jessica, you beautiful, psychopathic dope.

Once she's gotten to the house, under the pretense of asking Regina and Skye to take part in a mother-daughter fashion show for the carnival, Jessica puts her plan into action. After complimenting Regina on a diamond bracelet that Bruce had given her, she casually mentions that there have been rumours going around about the two of them which suggest that Bruce is just dating her so people will vote for him in the totally not at all pointless Student Centennial Committee thing. Regina didn't know about Bruce running for the election, so she buys Jessica's lies. I really don't know why anyone believes a word that comes out of Jessica Wakefield's constantly lying mouth.

While she's on her way out, Jessica runs into Donald Essex, who's been staying with the Morrows. Donald was a patient of the Swiss doctor that Regina's parents want to send her to and he was invited to stay with them in an effort to convince Regina to give it a shot, as his hearing has been restored. Donald is super sexy of course, because only good-looking people get invited to Sweet Valley. There are definitely border patrol hotness checkpoints around that town. So Jessica flirts her pretty face off with Donald and then speeds off in the red Fiat, satisfied with her discord-sowing efforts and encounter with a random handsome dude.

Regina confronts Bruce about the election and he gets all weird about it, because he had intended it to be a surprise for Regina if he won, although I don't know how that would have worked as a surprise, seeing as it'd surely involve some manner of campaigning in the lead-up and she's deaf, not blind, dude. Regina takes his unwillingness to talk about it as proof that he's been using her, so they get into an argument that culminates with them breaking up and Regina flinging a ruby pendant at him that he had previously given her. Rich Kids of Instagram have fucking NOTHING on Sweet Valley's elite teenagers.

Elizabeth and Todd have some carnival business to discuss with Skye Morrow, so they call over to Regina's house. Sexy Donald answers the door and is all flirty and familiar with Elizabeth, thinking she's Jessica. Also, literally every time Donald turns up in the book, his sandy hair and green eyes get mentioned. He's practically a Wakefield! Anyway, for some ridiculous reason, Elizabeth is baffled by his reaction to her.

He looks as if he's seen me before, she thought. But I don't know who he is!

Christ on rollerskates Elizabeth, has it escaped your attention that you have an IDENTICAL GODDAMN TWIN? We're only reminded of it every eight seconds you know and really, this kind of thing happens all the freaking time to twins. My mother is a twin, so I know this to be true. It makes no sense at all for her not to realise what's happening here, especially since she KNOWS that Jessica had been over at the house previously. Anyway, Mrs Morrow isn't home, so Donald takes a message for her. And as they leave, Todd gets his knickers in a twist over how friendly and flirty Donald was and goes all huffy with Liz over it.

"What was all that about?" Todd demanded, following Elizabeth down the walk. "He seemed pretty friendly Liz, where'd you meet him?"

"Come on Todd", Elizabeth said lightly, getting into the car and fastening her seat belt. "I don't even know that guy!"
"Well he sure seems to know you." Todd said moodily.


Meanwhile, Regina has agreed to go to Switzerland after all, now that her and Bruce are splitsville. She tells Elizabeth about her decision and her view of what happened between her and Bruce, conveniently leaving Jessica's role out of things. Elizabeth ends up talking to Mr Collins about it, who reckons she shouldn't be so hard on Bruce and that people can change and she should keep an open mind about him. I mean, it's not like he tried to rape her when she was vulnerable and out of sorts after a motorbike accident or anything. OH WAIT.

Elizabeth and Todd eventually make up when they discover the glaringly obvious fact that Donald had mistaken her for Jessica. Well done, geniuses. It turns out that Todd is also of the opinion that Bruce has changed his ways and is genuinely miserable without Regina, so much so that he encourages Elizabeth to go to Bruce's house when he asks her over because he wants to talk to her. Sweet Valley collective amnesia. That must be what's happening here.

Elizabeth is wary at first (too bloody right) but sees that Bruce is really torn up. He breaks down crying, asking her if she has any idea why Regina broke up with him. Elizabeth takes pity on his sorry ass and explains Regina's reasons. He tells her that it was all a misunderstanding and he had wanted to keep the election stuff a secret in order to surprise Regina, etc etc. Then Liz drops the bombshell that Regina is leaving for Switzerland in a few days and that he shouldn't try to work things out with her or she'll never go.

That night, Bruce decides to write a letter for Regina, explaining everything and telling her how much he loves her. It's all very melodramatic, with lines such as:

"By the time you read this it will be too late for you to change your mind about the treatments."

He asks Elizabeth to sneak the letter into Regina's luggage, so she'll know the truth but will still go through with the procedures in Switzerland. Elizabeth obliges, because she sees that Bruce has really changed and is no longer a rapey asshole. So she drops over to Regina's house while she's packing and puts the letter into a scrapbook of photos in her suitcase.

At the carnival committee's final meeting, Elizabeth convinces everyone to vote for Bruce Patman in the centennial student rhubarb rhubarb president thing because he's such a GOOD GUY now. I can't remember what it's actually called and it's so pointless I'm not bothering to check.

Regina discovers Bruce's letter while on her flight and is all happy and crying and finds the ruby pendant in the envelope, the one that she had previously flung back at him. So that's all grand now, although so much shit goes down on a weekly basis in Sweet Valley, who knows what things will be like when she gets back in a year's time.

The day of the carnival arrives and it's a roaring success, there's food and games and people get to throw pies at Winston Egbert's face for a dollar a go. They raise a bunch of money for the hospital and Bruce wins the stupid election thing. Seriously, this might have been the most boring subplot so far. NEEDS MOAR VILLAINY. Speaking of which, seeing as Lila had technically lost the bet with Jessica, she wrote her term paper for her, but screwed Jessica over, only getting her a D. Considering how Jessica is never held accountable for her attempted life-ruining actions and tactics, this is probably as much retribution as we can expect. Oh, and now she's vowing revenge on Lila, as all good frenemies are wont to do. The end.

Notable outfit:
There wasn't nearly enough outfit descriptions in this book, so I'm giving it to Regina's Sunday morning ensemble:

"She got up and dressed quickly, putting on a pair of white cotton jeans and a striped t-shirt."

Oh hai Liz Hurley. And as a bonus, Lila also wears white trousers later on in the book. They're clearly the uniform of any self-respecting Sweet Valley rich girl.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 152
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 6
Amount of times people's eyes/faces "darkened": 4
Amount of times "beauty"/"beautiful" was used to describe Regina: 6

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Good Queen Jess

Warning: Contains lots of excitable caps lock action.

Last weekend, I skittered off to London to see Blithe Spirit on the West End. It's a very funny Noel Coward play, which happened to be starring a lady you may have heard of before and who I may have mentioned every so often in adoring tweets and whatnot, i.e. ANGELA AMAZO LANSBURY.

Luckily, my supercool friend Brenda lives in London and is a fellow Jessica Fletcher fan, so it stood to reason that we'd go to see her onstage together. Ridiculous premium seats were bought, because fuck it, IT'S JESSICA FLETCHER AND I WANT TO SEE HER EYEBALLS.

The day finally came, wonky excitable selfies were taken outside the theatre, a dinner of Fruit Pastilles, peanuts and delirious joy was had in Row H, because we weren't organised enough to have dinner before the show at 7.30. Incredulous whispers of "It's actually happening" and "We're in the same building as her RIGHT NOW" were shared.

The curtain rose. The show began. There were around fifteen minutes of sparkling dialogue, witty retorts and mentions of the soon-to-arrive Madame Arcati, who travels everywhere on her bicycle, apparently, which prompted me to happily hiss "OF COURSE SHE DOES!" at Brenda.

The doorbell rang on stage. She walked out.

SHE WAS FINALLY HERE. The place exploded in applause. Myself and Brenda almost gave her a standing ovation then and there, before she'd even said a word.

The show was absolutely brilliant, which was a pleasant bonus seeing as I would have been happy even if it was just her knitting a scarf for two and half hours. The whole cast were great but you couldn't take your eyes off Angela, who also delivered some knockout physical comedy BECAUSE SHE'S THE MOST SPECIAL LADY IN THE WORLD.

After the show (when we finally got to stand up and whoop and cheer our admiration) a beeline was made for the stage door, where a crowd had already gathered and barriers were in place. There were to be no autographs, warned the security man, (which was fair enough, seeing as she's an 88 year old lady after all and she'd be there all evening if that was the case) when she came out she was going wave to everyone and make her way to her car and that would be that.

She finally emerged from the door and the crowd went nuts. I took around twenty shockingly bad blurry photos, partly because I was so excited and also because I suddenly realised I was looking at her through my phone when she was RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME IN REAL LIFE, so I wasn't even looking at the screen for a lot of it. But I got one! And that's all I needed!


Best. Night. Ever.