Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Leaving Home


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Sweet Valley High #38: Leaving Home

Elizabeth Wakefield is at the beach with her sister and Enid Rollins, soaking up that California sunshine and trying to have a conversation with her best friend, but Jessica keeps interrupting their boring chit-chat with her observations as she pervs on hot surfers through a pair of binoculars that an admirer named Randy has loaned her, because Jessica is a Gas Bitch. Anyway, all Elizabeth can talk about is Switzerland, because she's found a school there that offers scholarships to American students to complete their senior year there. Apparently, hearing Regina Morrow talk about how amazing it is over there after coming back from getting her hearing treatment has fired Elizabeth's imagination and all she can think about is how inspirational the lakes and mountains and fir trees and, I dunno, chocolate and St. Bernards will be for her writing. Also, Regina Morrow is described as being "startlingly beautiful", which is hilarious, like, do people get a fright when they see her? "Oh! Regina! It's just your beautiful face! I was so startled!"

Elizabeth continues to bang on about Switzerland and is annoyed that no one actually wants her to go and can't understand why they're not excited for her. She doesn't get it though, if she leaves Sweet Valley then who's going to overhear everyone's secrets and judgmentally insert themselves into their lives? Jeffrey points out how hard it was for her and Todd when he moved away, but Liz insists it's different for them and that he'll come around to the idea if she just talks about it even more and shoves brochures with pictures of the Alps in his face and then he'll see how much it means to her.

In the meantime, Winston Egbert has got a lottery ticket and for some reason it's a really big deal and he's invited a gang from school over to his house that evening to watch the numbers being drawn. Before the party, he and Maria are buying snacks and root beer and see an elderly man with his granddaughter and notice how poor he is, because his shoes are shabby and his clothes are threadbare. He's also carrying a jacket like the one Winston is wearing, only it's all poor-y too. While standing at the checkout, Winston gets too warm so he takes off his jacket and then runs off to get peanuts but UH OH the two jackets get mixed up and he ends up coming away with the wrong one. When Winston realises what happened, he goes back to the shop and leaves his phone number with the guy at the register. However, later that evening when everyone has arrived at his house, he can't find his lottery ticket and then remembers that he had it in the pocket of his jacket. But then he finds another ticket for the same draw in the old man's jacket and whaddya know, it's a winner. Winston can't believe it, the prize money is twenty five thousand dollars and he's the only one who knows that the ticket doesn't actually belong to him, so he's not sure what to do. However, when he showed the gang his ticket at school, Elizabeth noticed that the first three numbers were Jeffrey's birthday, so when the winning number is different, Elizabeth makes "a mental note to ask Winston about it later" because god forbid a plot line doesn't involve Liz sticking her beak in at some point.

Back at the Wakefield's perfect split-level ranch-style house, an envelope stuffed with information about the Interlochen School in Switzerland has arrived for Elizabeth. There's a cover letter from the principal, informing her of a scholarship for their creative writing programme that she could apply for. It's the Margaret Sterne Memorial Prize for creative writing and it's only open to girls aged between fifteen and seventeen from California, who are committed to academic excellence and involved in community affairs. Hey, I wonder if they also need to have sun-streaked blonde hair and sparkling blue green eyes the colour of the Pacific ocean? Anyway, Elizabeth is gearing up for the application process and deciding what writing to submit, who to ask for letters of recommendation and reading up on the interview process which involves a member of the Sterne family, while Jessica gloomily eats Oreos and tries to think of a way to stop her from leaving. Ned and Alice sit down to go through all the material with Elizabeth but they're not sold on the idea of her going just yet and want to think about it a little more before making any decisions.

At school, all anyone can talk about is the news of Winston's lottery win, while he's racked with guilt over the whole thing and figuring it's only a matter of time before the old man comes forward to clear up the mistake. Elizabeth asks him about the different numbers on his ticket and he quickly covers his ass with a lie about how he actually had two tickets but didn't want anyone to think he was trying to double his chances. Lying to Saint Elizabeth, aka MC Honesty Personified makes him feel even worse than before though, because who could DO such a thing? It makes him decide to come clean to the old man that afternoon, so he finds out where his house is from the shop where the mix-up happened, as the man had left his details and Winston's jacket with the guy on the till. The old dude's name is Jack Oliver and Winston finds his house in the "poorest part of Sweet Valley". It's rundown and in need of repair but also charming and has potted geraniums out the front and Jack answers the door in "a faded flannel shirt and a pair of trousers that looked too big for him" and OH MY GOD WE GET IT, HE'S POOR. He's so poor he doesn't even have a surname, just two first names. Jack invites Winston in, so we get a description of how basic all the furnishings are, how old the tv is and how positively fucking threadbare the sofa is because GUESS WHAT HE'S POOR, YOU GUYS. Winston sees some lottery tickets on a side table and brings the conversation around to the draw, discovering that Jack has no idea that he even lost a ticket, let alone a winning one. They talk about his granddaughter and Jack mentions how much he'd love to be able to send her to riding camp that summer because she loves horses. Anyway, Winston turns heel and decides that because Jack doesn't know about the lottery win, maybe it's fine if he just keeps the money after all. NO WINSTON, BAD WINSTON.

Okay, WHERE is Elizabeth off to with this lipstick and blusher combo? And she gives out about other people wearing too much makeup? RUDE. Also, lavalieres! Yay!

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is being a total pain in the hole and tries to get her parents and Jessica to rehearse what they'll say about her in the family interview with Mr. Sterne and then feels like they're not taking her application seriously enough and neither is Jeffrey because he made a joke while she was badgering him about what he'd say about her in an interview. She annoys Enid about it too and the pair of them end up having an argument at the Beach Disco where Liz calls Enid selfish for not wanting her to leave. Enid feels bad about their falling out and when she runs into Jeffrey the following day at the mall, it turns out he's had a row with Elizabeth too. They decide that they should support Elizabeth after all and plan to make a scrapbook of photos and souvenirs that she could take with her when she leaves and Jeffrey buys her a pearl pin she admired a few days ago because she's secretly an old lady. At school, Elizabeth wears her pin and thinks about how great her and Jeffrey's relationship is and how they'll totally be able to hack long distance.

Her reverie was shattered by the unwelcome sound of Lila Fowler's voice.

How dare you, Elizabeth.

Lila admires Liz's pearl pin "with eyes as sharp as an appraiser's" because Lila is goals and then informs Liz that she's just seen Jeffrey getting into his car with Enid when Liz says she's waiting for him. She also mentions that she saw them together in the student lounge being all secretive and that if it was her boyfriend she'd be "insanely jealous" and after all Elizabeth's talk about how strong her and Jeffrey's relationship is, she just buys Lila's suggestion that Jeffrey and Enid are hooking up. Literally two pages ago she was banging on about how they "supported each other so wholeheartedly". Over the next few days, Elizabeth keeps seeing Jeffrey and Enid together and then Jeffrey cancels a date, saying that he has to help Enid with a photography project, so she takes all that as irrefutable proof that they're riding each other or whatever and it's all so damn stupid.

It's the day before Mr. Sterne comes to interview Elizabeth and the family and Steven has unexpectedly arrived home from college, as he and Jessica have cooked up a plan to act like absolute dickheads in front of Sterne so he'll be totally put off Elizabeth. In the meantime, Elizabeth is wrecking everyone's head, telling Jessica what to wear and freaking out when Ned says he won't be home from work until six and Sterne is coming at four. "He'll think we have a broken family or something." Oh my god, clean up on aisle SHUSH. She goes for the one on one interview and Mr. Sterne is all frosty and hoity-toity, with a thin voice and steepled fingers, until Elizabeth's good manners and the levels of research she has clearly done win him over somewhat. There's another interview with some lady called Ms. Crawford and I can't remember who she is exactly, or be bothered to go back and check, because let's face it, this isn't exactly one of the more riveting Sweet Valley storylines. (I SWEAR we're getting close to the Regina Morrow cocaine fiasco but goddamn they're not making it easy.)

Anyway, Sterne and Elizabeth roll up to the Wakefield homestead to find a motorbike parked out the front, causing the monocle that I've decided Sterne is wearing to pop out. They go inside to find Steven unshaven (Gasp! Scandalous!) and acting all laissez-faire about missing college, saying that the family can't really function when they're not all together. Then Jessica shows up in a leather miniskirt with "enough makeup on for Halloween" and talks about how amazing Randy's friend's motorbike is, before Ned and Alice both show up late after being held up in work. Elizabeth is furious with everyone and spends the evening alone in her room all upset. The next day, Jessica sneakily ascertains what her sister is wearing for school that day and duplicates her outfit, down to the "plaid ribbon on her neat blond ponytail". She feels queasy checking her reflection, aghast that she has to spend the day dressed like she's "applying for a job as a junior executive". Haa! Get some aloe vera on that buuurn, Liz! Over the course of the day, Jessica follows Elizabeth and Mr Sterne around school and whenever Liz leaves for class, Jessica jumps out to run into Sterne with a different guy on her arm each time, pretending to be Elizabeth and telling him all about how she wants to meet a rich Swiss banker and spend her life in luxury (which is an amazing plan btw) and generally acting like a hobag in an effort to make her sister seem completely unhinged. By the time Elizabeth has her final interview with Sterne later that day, he's thoroughly unimpressed with what he's seen, topped off by Steven calling the school office under an assumed name and having the secretary interrupt their meeting with a message from yet another guy Elizabeth is supposedly seeing. Anyway it looks like the Swiss dream is over and then Liz catches a glimpse of Jessica through the window in her identical outfit, running to the car and suddenly realises what's been happening all day.

Elizabeth is desperately upset and Jessica and Steven feel suitably ashamed of themselves when she confronts them that evening and refuses to forgive either of them. Later on, she goes for a run and starts to think about how much she would have been giving up by leaving Sweet Valley and realises that she got caught up thinking about the Alps and chalets and what have you, without considering what day-to-day life would be like so far away from home and all her friends and family. When she gets back home, she starts shouting at Jessica and Steven again, but before they can get too deeply into it, Mr. Sterne and Ms. Crawford arrive, explaining that they'd had a visit from Jessica and Steven, who explained everything and confessed to sabotaging the whole process, so they've come to the house to offer her the scholarship after all. Before Elizabeth can even answer, the doorbell rings again and this time it's Enid and Jeffrey, with the present they've made for Elizabeth to wish her luck and she cops that that's what they'd been up to all this time so they're all good again. Then Elizabeth makes a big speech to the room, in which she politely declines the offer of the scholarship and says that Sweet Valley is where she belongs and that it's "even more magical" than Switzerland and that her inspiration has been there the whole time, with the people who love her most and THEN CRAWFORD STARTS CLAPPING AND THE FUCKING LIVING ROOM FILLS WITH APPLAUSE OH MY GOD I HATE EVERYONE. Fucking saps.

Anyway, back over at Winston's subplot, he bought a doll for Jack's granddaughter and sent it anonymously to the house, which is pretty creepy, and which he also realised was actually an empty gesture, seeing as he's STEALING MONEY FROM THIS POOR MAN. His conscience kicks in eventually though, and he calls over to the house and confesses everything to Jack, who's overwhelmed at the win and calls Winston a brave young man for coming forward and the story in the paper calls him a local hero. Everyone in school thinks he's great, except for Lila, who's annoyed that he didn't buy presents for everyone, (but mostly her) before handing the money back, because Lila too, is a Gas Bitch.

Notable outfit:
I don't know where she's getting them from, but every time Elizabeth busts out one of her Victorian lace blouses, this accolade pretty much goes straight to her. 

She was wearing a new velvet ribbon on her blond ponytail, a plaid jumper, and a Victorian lace blouse that looked old-fashioned and pretty.

The prettiest haunted Victorian doll you ever did see.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 150

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 4
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 7