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