Thursday, September 08, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Secret Admirer

Alright, here we are then! There was a bit of a gap in recaps there, as that previously mentioned real life job weirdness finally resolved itself in me not having a job anymore and then I ran off to Electric Picnic last weekend. So we're onto book 39 now and so tantalisingly close to the Big Regina Drama, HOWEVER, I'm going away to Dubai for ten days on Saturday so I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave you hanging for a bit on that count. But for now, let's do this thing!

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Sweet Valley High #39: Leaving Home

Elizabeth Wakefield is writing her gossip column for the school paper in the office, chatting to editor Penny Ayala when Lynne Henry comes in laden down with an overstuffed envelope containing the personal ads for a new item the paper is going to start running. Elizabeth says she can't wait to see what's been submitted and Penny asks her if she's thinking of checking some of them out for herself, but it's a joke you see, because Elizabeth already has a totally amazing boyfriend in the "warm, caring, excitingly handsome" Jeffrey French. Liz asks Penny if she's going to check any of them out, but Penny blushes and says no and Elizabeth realises that Penny doesn't actually date anyone, even casually and had always thought it was because she was too busy, but now that Penny has blushed, Detective Inspector Wakefield has decided it's not by choice. Sexy ol' Mr. Collins then pops in and mentions that he's going to be chaperoning the upcoming Forties Night Swing Fling dance and before leaving, turns to the trio of underage girls and says "I expect to see you ladies there. I plan on jitterbugging with all three of you." GODDAMMIT ROGER.

Jessica and Lila are at the beach, complaining about how there are no decent guys around because they've already dated all the "acceptable" boys at school. There's a new guy at Sweet Valley High called Kirk Anderson and he's gorgeous but so obnoxious that even Jessica won't go near him, and she's dated all kinds of rapey, awful dudes, including Bruce Patman in his arrogant, pre-Regina days. They decide to use the new personal ads section in The Oracle to find themselves some older guys, with Jessica reasoning that her brother Steven gets copies of the high school paper (of course he does) so college guys in his dorm will definitely see the ads. Fantastic. Jessica thinks the right way of writing the ad is to describe the type of guys they want, but Lila thinks it's better to describe yourself, so they agree to have a wager and each try their own approach to it and see who lands the best catch. Do you want to see what they wrote? Of course you do.

Lila's ad:
Glamorous, sophisticated, mature high school girl looking for someone with the right stuff. I like fast cars, caviar and the Caribbean. Don't talk to me about commitment - I'm looking for excitement, not a bridge partner. If you can keep up with me, I want you. Kids need not reply.

Jessica's ad:
Are you devastatingly handsome? Are you romantic and wild? Do you like girls who aren't afraid of danger? Are you the type of guy who goes for what he wants? Are you in college? If you answered yes to all the above questions, drop me a line. I've been looking for you.

Elizabeth and Enid are also at the beach, with Jeffrey and some guy Enid is seeing. Penny comes along with an armful of books and asks if she can sit with the two girls, but as soon as the guys come back over, she makes an excuse about how much she has to do and goes off to sit by herself. Elizabeth then convinces Enid to help her talk Penny into taking out a personal ad for herself in the paper, so she could potentially get to know a guy through letters first and then this guy would see what a great personality she has. At this point I was just thinking Penny's probably gay just leave her alone Liz, but off they go and manage to talk Penny around because she's secretly super lonely. She writes a goofy anonymous ad about how she's a hook-nosed hunchback looking for a guy who's into Australian theology and speaks Urdu.

The ads are a sensation when the first round appears in The Oracle and Penny gets three responses to her one and reads them with Elizabeth. The first two are from dopes, but the third letter is funny and gets her weird sense of humour, addressing her as Quasimodo, yet managing to be sweet at the same time. It's signed "Jamie", but there's no guys called Jamie at school, so they figure it's an alias and Penny writes back. Meanwhile, Jessica has gotten a stack of replies and reads through them with Lila, mostly to rub it in her friend's face, deciding that the most promising one is from some dude called Paolo, who calls her "mi amore" and writes back to him to arrange a date, insisting to Lila that it's going to be the romance of the century.

Back at school, that jerk Kirk Anderson is hanging out with a bunch of lads, including Neil Freemount (who Jessica went out with a few times, but nothing major ever happened) and it transpires that they've been writing the Jamie letters to Penny as a joke. Neil has been doing the actual writing and after three letters to this mystery girl, he's starting to feel bad about it, because he thinks he likes her for real. However, he's also never been part of a group before, so when Kirk involves him, it makes him feel like he belongs and like he's one of the lads, even though he knows deep down that these particular lads are a shower of absolute dickheads. They get him to write back and ask her to meet "Jamie" at the bookshop in the mall on Friday (so the gang can "check her out" first - BOOO), and even though Neil wishes he could meet her alone, he can't bring himself to say it to Kirk and writes the letter. Friday rolls around and the guys all pile into the mall and head for the mezzanine level, where they'll have a good view of the bookshop entrance and even though Neil is the guy that's been elected to meet the girl, Kirk obnoxiously announces that if she's hot, he'll meet her himself instead. Penny arrives at the shop, wearing a red headscarf, as she was asked to wear something red so "Jamie" would recognise her. She shows up on time at four o'clock and nervously waits, but nobody shows up at ten past, twenty past, half past, and by the time it's quarter to five she leaves, humiliated and cries on the bus home. Aw Penny! :(

Man, Penny looks PISSED OFF here. This is not a girl who'll cry when she gets stood up, she's going to hex your ass and kick you in the balls. Also, LOVE those classic books behind her, who among us has not read Monkee Mania and Poems?

Also, quick sidenote - this storyline reminded me of a time when I was in school (like, first or second year) and one evening there was a message left on our home phone's answering machine, apparently from a guy in the year ahead of me, who was Good at Running and Probably Football i.e. popular and good-lookin', asking me to meet him outside the canteen in school at some time I can't remember now and I never went because I was scared that THIS EXACT THING WOULD HAPPEN. I never did find out what the deal was there but it most likely was some asshole messing with me. Rude.

Jessica's date with Paolo is Friday night, and she is EXCITED, having spent the week talking it up with everyone. The doorbell rings and Jessica answers, but freezes at the sight of "an undeniably overweight boy", and really, it only goes downhill from here for anyone who isn't a perfect size six bitch like Jess. She decides that her reputation will be ruined if anyone sees her with this dude and as soon as they sit down in the fancy Italian restaurant he booked for them, she basically makes it sound like she has some kind of terminal illness, going on about the dreadful headaches she gets and how she had just been for a CAT scan the day before. Stone cold, Jessica. She then acts like she's getting another headache, which at this stage frightens the life out of poor Paolo, who very kindly and worriedly rushes her home. She at least feels a tiny bit guilty for playing such a mean trick on a "polite, friendly and interesting boy", but that's immediately followed by "she couldn't help it if she simply couldn't stand to be around fat people". Now REALLY Jessica. That's the kind of attitude that makes me want you to get kicked into the ocean. And not the Pacific, one that won't match your dumb eyes. See how you like that. Anyway, when she gets home, there's a few more responses to her ad left on the table for her, one of which includes a photo with the letter. The guy says his name is John Karger and he's a total babe, so Jessica reckons she's onto a winner this time and gets back to writing letters.

In the canteen at school at lunchtime, Kirk and his gang of obedient idiots are crowing about what a narrow escape Neil had on Friday, when it turned out that the mystery girl was Penny Ayala, "Who'd want to date a girl who's always got her nose in her books?", "She'd probably be after you all the time to study" etc. These dudes suck so baaad. Neil at least has the decency to feel like a total shithead about the whole thing and makes an excuse to leave the table as he can't listen to them any longer. It turns out that Elizabeth and Enid are sitting at the next table and hear the whole thing. They're furious that the guys could be so cruel and blame Kirk as the ringleader, deciding to hatch a plan to take him down a peg or two. The following day, Elizabeth and Enid position themselves beside the table where Kirk is sitting again and once his minions drift off, they start talking about Elizabeth's pretend cousin from New York, the hot new teen model Erica Hall. Kirk immediately turns around when Liz casually mentions to Enid that Erica will be visiting them in Sweet Valley the weekend after next on her way to a screen test in LA. He looks at the photos of this girl Erica in the magazine that they've strategically placed on the table and declares that he wants to take her to the Forties Swing Fling dance. Elizabeth acts all unsure but he insists and tears a photo of himself from last week's Oracle, telling Liz to send it to Erica and that she'll definitely say yes once she sees a picture of him.

Jessica's date with John Karger goes off wonderfully, he's sexy and super interested in her, he's a sociology major and asks her questions about herself all evening. But then he cuts the date short and says he has a lot of studying to do and that he'll call her over the weekend. He doesn't kiss her goodnight, so Jessica figures he's just a gentleman and decides that she's in love and the contest with Lila is as good as won.

Neil decides to write another letter to Penny, alone this time, apologising for not showing up on Friday because there was an emergency and asking her for another chance, saying that he'll be at the Dairi Burger at four on Thursday. While he's waiting outside to see if she'll show up, he starts to worry that Penny will be disappointed that it's him and not some ace student (although he's got decent grades and is an excellent tennis player, and he must be a ride if Jessica dated him) and that she's too good for him. He sees her pull up in her car and walk to the door of the Dairi Burger, but at the same time, Kirk Anderson and one of his jerk friends show up and start chatting to Neil before spotting Penny at the entrance. Kirk turns and asks incredulously if he's meeting her and at this point Neil has had enough so he tells Kirk to jog on, in so many words, and walks off to meet Penny.

The interaction with Kirk made him late to meet her, so Penny is about to walk away, super upset at being stood up again, when she bumps right into Neil and he awkwardly and cutely explains that he's Jamie and mentions that he's probably not what she expected, but she's thrilled, because, y'know, he's a sound, tennis-playing ride. They go inside for sodas and in fairness to him, Neil comes clean immediately, confessing that he was there at the mall on Friday and that it all started as a joke among the tennis team. Penny is morto and goes to leave, but he's so sincere and apologetic that she ends up staying and he asks her to the Swing Fling Thing and they get the shift and it's lovely.

The day of the dance arrives, and earlier on that afternoon there's a beach party for some reason I can't remember and everyone is going along to that beforehand. In the run up to all this, Elizabeth has called Kirk, telling him that Erica is on for going to the dance with him and that she'll meet him there on the night. Lila and Jessica are each going to bring the guys they've met through their personal ads to the beach thing and Amy, Cara and Maria are going to be the judges of who snagged the better date. Jessica's afternoon gets off to a shaky start when her and Lila both turn up in the exact same leopard print bikini, but it only goes downhill from there when John Karger turns up and both girls run over to him, only to find him surrounded by a mob of confused teenage girls who all thought they were meeting him for a date too. He introduces the girl beside him as his sociology project partner and girlfriend and explains to the now pretty annoyed group of young wans that he met them all as research for his project, but just failed to mention that to any of them earlier and can't understand why they're not too impressed right now. His girlfriend Faye just laughs at him and tells him she said this would happen, and this guy's clearly too much of a dope to be an actual asshole, and really Faye, you can definitely do better. Lila, Jessica, Cara, Maria and Amy all end up having a big laugh about the whole thing anyway so that's all grand.

Everyone is at the dance that night, Penny and Neil are dancing together (until Mr. Collins comes along and jokes about how he wants to cut in, like a big creep) and Kirk is all cross after Elizabeth's "cousin" stood him up, so I guess that showed him? Jessica and Lila meet Regina Morrow in the bathroom and discover that she's there alone, as Bruce has decided to stay home and finish off a project he's working on. Jessica is immediately suspicious because Amy isn't there either and had mentioned to Jessica earlier on that she and Bruce were doing a school project together and that she was convinced there was something between them, suggesting that she was going to make a move. UH OH IS SOMETHING GOING TO UNRAVEL AT AN ALARMING RATE IN THE NEXT BOOK? BECAUSE THAT'S BOOK 40, KIDS! COMING SOOOOON! (ISH!)

Notable outfit:
Jessica's outfit for her date with Paolo takes it this time, and bear in mind that this one includes her wearing a fuckton of blue eyeliner:

She chose a skimpy white tank top in a nubbly silk knit, and a straight, figure-hugging blue linen skirt. She knotted Elizabeth's teal blue scarf around her throat, then stepped into a pair of thin-strapped white sandals.

Rockin' that Smurfette realness.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 152

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 3
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 7


  1. Wait but what kind of sociology project involves going on dates with high school girls? Did John get ethical approval for this??

  2. Fuck...smurfette realness...I died laughing out loud.
    Seriously? She can't stand to be around fat people. Man, these books were terrible for the psyche.

  3. I cried laughing at the book titles behind Penny... how did I never notice them before?!


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