Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Alone In The Crowd

Ok, I know that the last book was pretty much a snoozefest, but this one not only picks things up, it picks them up and has Jessica Wakefield emotionally torture them while she repeatedly tosses her glossy hair over her shoulder. What I'm saying is, it's much better craic.

Sweet Valley High #28: Alone In The Crowd


It's lunchtime in Sweet Valley High and the Wakefield twins, Lila Fowler, Cara Walker, Enid Rollins and Winston Egbert are all sitting together in the cafeteria, which seems unlikely really, seeing as Jessica can't bear Enid, Elizabeth thinks Lila is a snob and let's face it, Winston is probably an absolute dose to be around for any length of time. The cheerleaders need to fundraise for new uniforms and Jessica has been struck by inspiration, declaring to the table that they should have a rocking chair relay, where each squad member takes turns in a rocking chair and gets people to sponsor them for every half hour they rock while a big party goes on around them. It'll be called the Rock Around The Clock relay, Jessica's going to get the Droids to play and then she dashes off to check with the office about using the gym. Elizabeth sees her sister almost crashing into tall, quiet Lynne Henry on her way out.

Recently Elizabeth had been noticing the tall, reclusive junior and wondering what she was like.

So it's only a matter of time before Elizabeth overhears or discovers something she shouldn't have and dangles it over Lynne's head until she confides in her. Tricking people into telling her their secrets is kind of Elizabeth's thing.

Meanwhile, poor ol' Lynne is just trying to get through the day. She feels lonely and awkward and during class she daydreams about playing her guitar and writing songs. Lunchtime sucks in particular because she feels really self conscious eating alone, but no one ever talks to her and she feels like a nobody. :((((((

Then, just when I'm about to declare the students of Sweet Valley High to be Total Dicks, Guy Chesney, the keyboard player from The Droids strikes up a conversation with Lynne while she's walking home from the bus stop. She finds it really easy to talk to him and they chat about music and liking Linda Ronstadt and when Lynne reaches her house, Guy says that it was good talking to her, so Lynne is delighted. At home, it's just Lynne and her super glam mother, as her father died when she was three. Her mother Jade is a stone cold fox and runs a beauty spa called the Silver Door. She often urges Lynne to try contacts as her thick glasses hide her lovely eyes and when she suggests that Lynne comes to the spa with her on Saturday so some lady called Rhoda can do something with her hair, Lynne takes it the wrong way and says she knows she's "no beauty" and to leave her alone.

The next morning, she runs into Guy again while walking to school, they chat the whole way there and I get that Guy is supposed to come off like a super sound lad, but oh my god:

He was so forthright, so eager to talk about himself and his feelings.

Best of all he didn't press her or ask her questions.

She hated being put on the spot. But Guy didn't ask her anything, yet he listened carefully to everything she had to say.

WOWEE! A guy who just wants to talk about himself and doesn't ask her anything ever? Uh, jackpot? Anyway, next thing you know, Jessica Wakefield comes barreling into their conversation (which is either Guy talking or Lynne telling him how great he is) and beeps at them from the twins' red Fiat Spider. Her blonde hair is glinting in the sunlight and Lynne thinks she looks like a movie star and is in awe of her hotness and confidence. Jessica has been looking for Guy in her efforts to organise the band for the big dance and fundraising event and tells him to hop in, totally ignoring Lynne. RUDE, JESSICA. He asks Lynne if she minds and tells her they'll talk again after school. By the way, Jessica flips her hair twice between getting their attention and pulling away with a "silvery peal of laughter", while various bits of her are "shimmering" and "sparkling" in the sunlight, like some kind of demented mermaid.

On Friday afternoon, there's a juniors softball game at Secca Lake (sponsored by Mr. Collins and Mr. Jaworski, whatever that means), so everyone heads out to either play on the team or doss around in the sun by the water. Elizabeth notices Guy talking to Lynne ("Lynne appeared to be listening attentively") and realises that she hardly recognised her at first because Lynne was smiling.

With a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye, Lynne Henry was actually almost pretty!

ACTUALLY ALMOST PRETTY. My GOODNESS Elizabeth. Throw the girl a fucking bone, why don't you. At the lake, Guy hangs out with Lynne, who keeps internally beating herself up over almost everything she says and thinks he'll laugh at her if she tells him that she plays guitar and writes songs, as well as giving lessons at the Music Center. I like how we're continuing the Sweet Valley trend of giving places the most unimaginative names possible. (Previous excellent examples were The Designer Shop, The Sports Shop and The Tennis Shop.) Before the softball game gets underway, Dana Larson announces that The Droids are holding a song competition and the winner's song will be performed at their next gig. Lynne is super excited and decides to submit a song, but she's going to do it anonymously, what with her crushingly low self-esteem and all.

In the meantime, Lynne's mam is worried about her daughter and tries to get her to open up as it's painfully obvious how lonely and miserable Lynne is but she won't talk to her about how she's feeling and instead throws herself into working on her new song for the competition. It's called On the Outside Looking In, it's about Guy and it's emo as HELL.

Lynne is actually much cuter than Elizabeth on this cover. I mean, her glasses are veering slightly into Deirdre Barlow territory but that's a foxy hipster right there. The absolute bang of condescension off Liz though. Christ.

Jessica meets up with all the cheerleaders at Helen Bradley's house ("She's got a rocking chair, and we have to practice." What.) but arrives to find out that Helen's family are moving to LA and takes it personally that the cheer squad will be down by one member.

She was thinking that she was the one who had to suffer most when they had auditioned Annie Whitman, but she didn't dare mention it, not with Annie right in the room. The poor girl had tried to commit suicide when she hadn't made the squad. Everyone had gone almost crazy with fear and worry. Finally they expanded the squad and let her on. The last thing Jessica wanted was to go through something like that again.

Well maybe this time don't bully the girls who are trying out to the point that they TRY TO KILL THEMSELVES. JESSICA.

On Wednesday morning, Lynne tries to sneak into The Oracle office without being seen, so she can submit the cassette with her song on it, but Elizabeth is coming out when she opens the door. Lynne lies and says she got the wrong room and scurries off around the corner until Elizabeth is gone, so she can drop in the tape unseen. A few days later, The Droids play all the tapes for a crowd out on the lawn and everyone is stunned by Lynne's downer of a song. Hers is one of the "richest, throatiest, most gorgeous voices they had ever heard" and Guy is suddenly desperate to find the girl who wrote this amazing song. He and Lynne walk home from school again and he tells her all about the spectacular song they found and plays it for her on his Walkman. Guy gushes about how great this mystery girl is and says that playing backup for her would be like playing with Linda Ronstadt. Lynne decides that he expects the girl to be a knockout like Linda too and figures that he'd only be disappointed if he found out it was actually just plain ol' her. (Full disclosure, I had to look up Linda Ronstadt because they kept banging on about her in this book and HOLY SHIT that girl was beautiful. Like a Seventies Katy Perry and giving me serious fringe envy to boot.)

Everyone at school wants to know who the mystery singer-songwriter girl is and at the Beach Disco, Guy asks Elizabeth if she has any idea who she is, because she's such a good reporter. But Liz has no leads and feels terrible for Guy, as she reckons he's after falling in love. While everyone is at the disco, Lynne is at home with the place to herself and fed up with feeling shitty about her appearance, so she takes a bath, plucks her eyebrows and tries on a jumpsuit that her mother bought for her but was never worn. I actually remember reading this particular book as a young wan and my two prevailing memories of it are thinking, "Rhoda? What kind of name is that?" and being baffled by the idea of a jumpsuit. I asked my mam to explain what this exotic American piece of clothing was, but came away even more confused because my only frame of reference for an all-in-one trousers and top combo were the overalls that people wore for painting, or the flourescent yellow ones my parents wore on Civil Defence exercises and neither of those were particularly glamorous. Anyway, Mrs. Henry comes home unexpectedly and sees Lynne with her makeshift makeover and Lynne bursts into tears, thinking she looks stupid. Jade hugs her and tells her she looks wonderful. Lynne wants to go to the Silver Door after all because she's tired of being such a mess and her mam says of course but also reassures her that looks aren't everything. "What matters is feeling good about yourself - really good about yourself." Jade is sound.

On Saturday morning, Elizabeth heads to the Music Centre (I can't stick with the American spelling, it looks weird) to buy a Billie Holiday record. While she's dawdling around afterwards, what does she hear? Only the voice of the mystery girl, giving a lesson to a kid, so of course she barges in to see who it is and interrupts the class. Lynne pleads with her not to tell anyone and when Liz tells her that The Droids are freaking out and want the writer to perform the song with them, it only strengthens her resolve, because she's too scared to perform in public. Elizabeth figures out that Lynne is super into Guy Chesney and that the song is about him, and Lynne explains that he's expecting a hottie like Linda Ronstadt to be behind the song and that she'll only disappoint him. Elizabeth thinks Lynne isn't giving herself a chance but promises to keep her secret.

It's the night of the Rock Around The Clock relay and the event is a huge success. Most of the kids have come dressed in Fifties style outfits (Jessica is wearing a skirt with a poodle on it! Elizabeth has come dressed in black calf-length slacks and a sleeveless white blouse like a total fucking buzzkill), the Droids are playing and the place is hopping. The band end up playing Lynne's song and Elizabeth talks to Guy afterwards, who's going out of his mind wondering who wrote it. Elizabeth tells him he's got to stop looking for her and tells him the girl doesn't want to be found out, because she's really shy. Well done keeping that secret, Liz. Guy keeps asking questions and Elizabeth tells him that this girl thinks everyone's expecting Linda Ronstadt or something. Guy immediately realises who the girl is, but Elizabeth can't figure out how. While all this is going on, Lynne herself is in the next town at the Silver Door with her mother and ends up telling her all about the song and Guy and they end up bonding during her makeover and it's all quite lovely really.

On Monday morning, Guy meets Lynne on the way to school and tells her she looks terrific. (She's wearing contacts and "sleek black jeans, a white t-shirt and a crayon-bright cotton vest" instead of her usual ill-fitting jeans and baggy jumpers.) He tells her that The Droids are announcing the winner of the song competition, that Outside Looking In has won and that the mystery has been solved. Lynne's like "wuh?" and Guy explains that his father's friend is a police sketch artist, so he described the singer to him as he pictures her and the drawing is going to be on a flyer that'll be distributed all over school. This is all just so unnecessary. Lynne feels terrible that Guy is hung up on an imaginary girl, but then at lunchtime, everyone in the cafeteria is congratulating her and telling her she's deadly. Lynne is all confused until she sees the flyer with the song printed on it, along with a drawing of her face. Guy appears, begs her to sing for them and drags her in front of a microphone that's in the cafeteria for some reason. This is the New Lynne Henry now though, the one in eyeshadow and espadrilles, so she sings in front of everyone while Guy plays along on guitar and she gets a massive round of applause. Then Guy brings her out to the deserted patio and shifts the face off her. Everything is solved by a blowdry and new clothes, hooray!

Notable outfit:
It's got to be Lynne's jumpsuit, mostly because I have such strong memories of being bamboozled by the idea of it.

At last she chose a cotton jumpsuit in a bright royal blue print. 
She layered the jumpsuit over a t-shirt, tied a sash around her waist and and even found a pair of her mother's earrings that didn't look half bad. 

Outrageous. Truly truly truly outrageous.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 136
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 3
Amount of times Linda Ronstadt's name is mentioned: 11

 
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