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