Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Caught In The Middle

Here we are then! Back to the regular Sweet Valley storyline, no more unnecessarily long Super Editions where the twins go somewhere and someone is mean to them but then there's a dramatic and contrived near-death experience and everyone makes up and it was actually The Best Holiday Ever. So onwards to book 42 and if it isn't the return of ol' Crispy Bacon.

(Also, come say hi on Facebook, Twitter or Insta! There's going to be some news soon about a top secret Sweet Valley project I'm cooking up with the wonderful Anna Carey, so go follow her too, because she's cool.)

Sweet Valley High #42: Caught In The Middle


Jessica Wakefield and Cara Walker are heading to cheerleading practice and Jessica is grumpy because Cara knew that Sandra Bacon and Manuel Lopez are the school's newest couple and never told her. They've just spotted the two of them canoodling in a school corridor and Jessica is not happy about being behind the curve on SVH gossip. Sandy is late for practice and Jessica wonders what the Bacon family think of their daughter's boyfriend as Manuel comes from "a completely different world" and the Bacons have a reputation for being strict and also for being massive racists. Although this book does an amazing job of dancing around the word itself, i.e. "reputed to be bigoted." But back to Manuel.

His family was from Mexico and still spoke Spanish at home. Manuel had always hung around with the Mexican kids at school.

Excuse me? What Mexican kids? After over forty books we have literally met two Latina students, Penny Ayala and her sister and other than one throwaway mention of a black senior called Patty, this school is white AF. Sandy arrives all flushed from rushing over and Jessica considers a comment that Cara made earlier, where she said that Sandy looked different and that she's "so radiant" now.

Jessica was surprised at how pretty she looked. Not that she wasn't cute, but being best friends with Jeanie, one of the acclaimed beauties of the school, she was always complaining about looking "just average." And Jessica had secretly been inclined to agree.

Jessica, you bitch. I can't even act surprised.

After practice, Sandy tells Jeanie all about how wonderful Manuel is and that she's going to meet his whole family at a party in his cousin's house on Friday. She also confesses that she hasn't told her parents about Manuel and isn't likely to anytime soon because of the way the racist assholes "feel about Mexicans." At home that evening, Sandy is hanging out in the kitchen with her mother and feels uneasy about keeping a secret as she usually tells her everything. But when she reads out a piece in the paper about an upcoming Mexican festival in Sweet Valley (seriously, where has this thriving Latinx community been all this time? I call shenanigans), Mrs. Bacon gets all frowny and says it should be cancelled because of the "trouble those people can cause". Yeah. Real nice lady. Sandy gets upset and her mother continues to be awful, apparently she grew up in "a town plagued by racial tension" and for some reason her reaction to that is to cause more where she lives now. Slow clap for Mammy Bacon.

Meanwhile, Jessica is scheming for Lila Fowler's upcoming birthday. Lila has been dropping hints about as subtle as a sledgehammer that it's soon and that she wants a surprise party (classic Lila) and Jessica has been studiously acting like she doesn't care and that birthdays aren't really a big deal. She's planning a party for the day after Lila's actual birthday so it'll be a real surprise and enlists the help of Amy Sutton and Cara to act like they don't care either and to change the subject every time Lila brings it up. Cara thinks it's mean until Jessica reminds her that Lila once told her she thought her spring wardrobe was two years out of date.

Sandy is over at Manuel's house with his five younger siblings where everything is raucous and colourful and cheerful and not like Sandy's house where things are ordered and quiet and xenophobic. Mrs Lopez insists that Sandy stays for dinner, so she goes into the living room and calls home, telling her mother that she's over at Jeanie's house for dinner, but Manuel hears her and is upset that she's keeping him a secret. Sandy is ashamed of her racist parents and tries to explain, but Manuel thinks he should still meet them and Sandy promises that she'll come clean soon but needs more time. In the meantime, her oblivious parents are trying to set her up with some (white) golf-playing (white) country club (whitey white) kid called Carl who sounds like he'd be absolutely unbearable. Sandy tries to broach the subject with her mother, asking what they'd think if she already met a nice boy but one from a different background, like, oh I don't know, a Mexican-American? Her mother's reaction is predictably terrible, complete with an exclamation of "good heavens" and a "they're different from us", so Sandy feels like she definitely can't tell them about Manuel now.

There's a picnic that weekend that the Wests and the Bacons have every year, so Sandy calls Jeanie and asks if she'll help to cover for her, as Mrs Bacon is definitely going to say something to Mrs West about all the time that Sandy has allegedly been spending over at their house. Jeanie agrees but she's doubtful about the whole business and also gives Sandy a heads up that Elizabeth Wakefield is going to include an item about Sandy and Manuel being a couple in her Eyes and Ears column for The Oracle. Sandy panics because her mother sometimes reads the school paper, so she finds Liz the following morning at school before class.

"Hi Sandy," she said. She looked at the girl with admiration, thinking how much prettier and more animated Sandra seemed since she and Manuel got together.

Someone shove her into a locker.

Sandy pulls Liz aside and pleads with her not to print the mention of her and Manuel. Elizabeth looks "thoughtful" is all "I don't like to make major changes at this point. Is it really that important that it come out?" Jesus Liz, it's not exactly The New York Times so just take the fucking line out, she's clearly upset about it. Liz eventually deigns to remove it and decides not to press Sandra to explain herself.

It was obvious from the girl's expression that this was a painful subject for her, and Elizabeth didn't want to interfere.

I WONDER WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. In yet another instance of "people who don't know Elizabeth Wakefield that well but confess everything to her anyway", Sandy blurts out the whole deal about how her parents will never accept their daughter having a Mexican-American boyfriend. Elizabeth thinks about how brilliant her parents are and that they'd never be prejudiced like the Bacons. She also tells Sandy that she has to come clean because sneaking around isn't fair on anyone and that if they get a chance to meet Manuel they might change their racist minds. Sandy knows Liz is right but she's also afraid that her parents will make her give Manuel up if they find out. Sandy manages to get through the weekend barbeque with Jeanie's family without incident, but Jeanie is getting tired of covering Sandy's tracks for her. Sandy tries talking to her mother again while she's out in the garden trimming her beloved azaleas and just tries the exact same tack as before, with the hypothetical Mexican boyfriend. Mrs Bacon says that she would just be making things hard for herself and that she and Sandy's father want her to meet nice people like the Aryan youth from the country club and that last night she was thinking about what Sandy had said before about falling in love with a Mexican boy and she got SO UPSET SHE COULDN'T SLEEP. I hope her azalea bushes die. Also, I'm no parenting expert but if your daughter has come to you twice with the same hypothetical situation about her potentially having a Mexican boyfriend, MAYBE SHE'S TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.

Look at these forty-year-olds, waiting to hear back about their mortgage application.

Manuel is getting impatient about the whole thing and doesn't think it's right for him and Sandy to be dating when he still hasn't met her family and having to meet her in places instead of picking her up from her house makes him feel like she's ashamed of him. Sandy tries to make it up to him by saying that they can go out sailing on her boat the following week and lets him think that means she'll finally tell her parents about him as they won't let her go out on the lake alone.

In the meantime, Jessica's plan for Lila's surprise surprise party is in full swing, she's been insisting that birthday parties are for babies and Cara and Amy have been pretending that the three of them are going to see a "British rock group" the day of Lila's birthday. Over lunch in the canteen, Lila tentatively mentions that her father wants to take her to a fancy restaurant for her birthday but she wasn't sure what to tell him in case the gang are secretly planning something. Jessica keeps the ruse going and Lila storms off, upset that her friends are apparently going to a concert on her birthday and haven't even invited her. I know Lila's an absolute wagon, but I still love her and this is so mean.

Sandy asks Jeanie if she'd like to come out on the boat with her and Manuel, but Jeanie has plans with her boyfriend that afternoon and sees right through Sandy, because she's only invited her along to provide her with a cover so Sandy can tell her parents she was out with Jeanie on the lake. Sandy then runs into Elizabeth, who's just finishing up a project for sexy Mr Collins and invites her to come with her and Manuel on her boat, insisting that Manuel would love to have her there too. Elizabeth agrees to come as Sandy's story checks out because who wouldn't love to hang out with the illustrious Elizabeth Wakefield. Manuel isn't too impressed that Liz is coming (say whaaaaat!) and Sandy tells him that their boat trip plan just slipped out while she was talking to her and Sandy felt like she had to invite her. They head out on the boat, which was a birthday present from Sandy's parents last year and Manuel previously worked at the lake during the summer so he's good at boat stuff. They head out on the water and it's all going nicely, until the engine starts acting up. Elizabeth is worried about the weird noise it's making and Sandy gets the onboard toolkit and tries to fix it but next thing you know, THERE'S A HUGE EXPLOSION.

Elizabeth and Manuel are thrown into the water and they realise that Sandy has been knocked out and is on the bow of the boat, which is now in flames. There's gasoline under the seats and Elizabeth shouts that the whole thing could explode (again) any second. Manuel heroically swims back to the boat and gets Sandy into the water, and all three of them get to the shore, with Manuel towing an unconscious Sandy while the boat dramatically re-explodes behind them. Elizabeth sees a crowd of people over at the boathouse who've seen the whole thing and tells Manuel that help is coming. Sandy comes to and realises that Manuel saved her and Elizabeth almost cries twice over how pure and amazing their love for each other is. A moment which is then ruined by Sandy telling Manuel that her parents don't know he was out on the boat with her and to scram, basically. Liz can't believe it and Sandy pleads with her to pretend that she was the one who rescued her from the burning boat. Manuel is devastated by this absolute shitehawkery and leaves, crushed. Sandy is stretchered to the boathouse while they wait for an ambulance and tells the park service guy who has to file a report that it was just her and Elizabeth out on the boat. A boy who saw the whole things interrupts and says that there was a guy with them too, but Sandy denies it and is then taken away to the hospital. A reporter from the Sweet Valley News has turned up too and badgers Elizabeth for details of her alleged heroics. There's a photographer there too and Liz feels terrible for lying and taking credit for what Manuel did. She asks the reporter if they have to write this up and that she feels uncomfortable about it.

WELL WELL WELL. How's that medicine going down, Elizabeth? Does it taste like bitterness and blonde regret and tables turning? DOES IT?

The story is on the front of the following day's paper and everyone is falling over themselves to congratulate Liz for her bravery. Only her family, Enid and Jeffrey know the real story and Jessica thinks she should milk it for all it's worth. Elizabeth calls over to see Sandy, who isn't back in school yet and Mrs Bacon gives Elizabeth a fancy bracelet for saving her daughter. It's from Stowe's, so you know it's a fancy place when it doesn't have a typically Sweet Valley name like The Jewellery Shop (see also: Lisette's, where Lila shops). Elizabeth tells Sandy that she can't go on lying to everyone about what really happened, but Sandy insists that her parents will never forgive her if they find out about Manuel and asks Liz if she'll find him and tell him that she loves him and that she's sorry.

Back in Jessica's B-plot, Lila's actual birthday has come and gone and she's furious with her friends for ditching her. Cara and Amy then bring her to the Wakefield's house under the pretense of taking her there so she can confront Jessica. Once they drag her through the doorway, the lights snap on and everyone yells surprise ("in front of them all was Jessica, whose face was absolutely radiant") and Lila is thrilled about her surprise surprise party.

After a few days, Sandy comes back to school and when she finally gets a chance to talk to Manuel, he tells her he's had enough of sneaking around and though he still loves her, he's not putting up with it anymore and he pretty much breaks up with her. Later that day though, the cops show up and take Manuel in for questioning because witnesses saw him hanging around the boat at Secca Lake before the girls got in and they think someone may have tampered with the engine. Sandy and her parents are then brought to the station and told the cops have a suspect for the potential engine tampering and Sandy denies knowing anything about a Mexican guy that was there on the day of accident. Since Manuel has explained that he's a friend of Sandy's, the cops then bring him into the room and ask Sandy if she knows him and you won't believe the nerve of this bitch.

"No," she said in a clear, strong voice. "I've never seen him before in my life."

SANDY YOU ABSOLUTE WAGON. Manuel stares at her and asks "How could you?" and I too would like to know what the fuck she's playing at, goddammit Sandy. However she then immediately bursts into tears and confesses everything to her parents. For some reason Liz appears in the room halfway through the confession scene because of course she does, and confirms to Mr and Mrs Bacon that Sandy is telling the truth. Mr Bacon thanks Manuel for rescuing Sandy, shakes his hand and tells him that he's always welcome in his home, and Mrs Bacon manages to bring herself to thank him too, while staring at the floor. The cops all laugh about what a lovely resolution this is to a case of suspected foul play and cheerfully decide to call it a day. Never mind the fact that Sandy lied through her teeth to them about an investigation and almost got her boyfriend thrown in jail for an imaginary crime. Sandy and Manuel head up to Miller's Point afterwards and make up even though she was nothing but terrible to him and seriously Manuel, D U M P  H E R. So the moral of the story is that racists will only get over their prejudice if their daughter's life is saved by a minority, but other than that, stay the fuck out of their country clubs.

Notable outfit:
Not a god damn one. For SHAME, ghostwriter.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 138
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 1 (ONE. Outrageous.)
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 2 (Shoddy.)
Amount of times the word "racist" is used: 0
Amount of times Sandy's parents are racist: A fuckload. Like, so much.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Super Edition: Spring Fever

I'm here! I'm back! That was quite a bit of a lag between posts, but you see I was busy with a constant low-level panic about my job situation and what the hell I was going to do with my life for the last few months so I wasn't really in a Sweet Valley typa place. Until now! And guys, it's finally, FINALLY the last of these lame Super Editions which always seem to culminate in a contrived life-or-death situation and then we never hear from any of the peripheral characters or boys Jessica falls in love with ever again. So after this one it'll be back to the regular Sweet Valley timeline and the next lil series of breakaway books are the Super Thrillers, where we'll get some murder-mystery-stalker-shenanigans going on and I for one cannot wait. But for now, it's the swan song of this seasonal series, so farewell Super Editions and don't let the door hit you in the blonde vagina on the way out.

Sweet Valley High Super Edition: Spring Fever


It's Spring Break! Again! And the Wakefield twins are taking their perfect size six asses to Kansas for eleven days to stay with Alice's uncle Herman and aunt Shirley for what appears to be no good reason. The gals are packing for their trip and Alice, who is described as "neat, pert and blue-eyed" (oh my) cautions them that their great-aunt and uncle are the same generation as their grandparents and not to alarm the old people basically, because they're not used to teenagers. She also reminds Jessica that they agreed that packing conservative things is the way to go for Walkersville when she sees a white jumpsuit studded with rhinestones in her daughter's case. Amazing. Elizabeth is excited because she's "always wanted to go to a little midwestern town" which is such a dumb lie Liz, knock it off.

Shirley and Herman collect the twins from the airport and Jessica admires the scenery on the way to the house. 

"I've never seen anything so flat before!" Jessica added, her eyes wide.

And if Elizabeth was any fun at all she's make a crack about Jessica's chest or something here. Come on, it's so obvious. The twins fill Herman and Shirley in on the goings-on back in Sweet Valley and what Steven is up to in college and how he has "a wonderful girlfriend, Cora Walker." Cora! Poor Cara Walker, I don't know why the ghostwriter has slighted you like this. They get to Walkersville and it's lovely and like a storybook, according to Elizabeth. Herman is the mayor and has an old fashioned five and ten cent store, which I can only assume is something closer to Main Street USA in Disneyland rather than a shop like Dealz or €uro2. It has a soda fountain inside, which is popular with the local teens, so Jessica pipes up and suggests that her and Liz could help out behind the counter while they're around. Shirley and Herman's house is all nice and Kansas-y with wicker chairs on the porch and copper pots and pans in the kitchen and patchwork quilts in the bedrooms. Once the twins get settled, Shirley barges into their room and tells them they're ready to head into town to show them around. Jessica isn't impressed, as she wanted just her and Liz to have a look around so she could scope out the local hot dudes, which will now be trickier to do with an elderly aunt and uncle in tow.

Shirley and Herman bring them around the town and Jessica feels like a movie star because everyone is openly gaping at the sight of her and Liz. Also, Jessica is thrilled that her outfit of "tight black stirrup pants, bright raspberry t-shirt, and black, man-tailored jacket" stands out so much, oh and she's wearing pointy black sunglasses that genuinely startled her aunt when she saw them. Jessica's fashion choices are not for the faint of heart so strap in, Shirley. Jessica manages to break away from the group under the pretense of checking out a craft shop across the road and once they've gone well ahead of her, she makes a beeline for a shop she saw a bunch of lads standing outside earlier. The poor simple country folk are transfixed by Jessica as she tosses her hair around and flashes flirtatious smiles, enjoying making them all turn red by asking for the time and the fact that they "couldn't believe she was really from California". However, two local gals then turn up and Jessica is totally flummoxed when they're all cold and unfriendly to this hot blonde stranger who's simultaneously chatting up everyone's boyfriend. One of the girls, Annie Sue (really), then starts pointedly talking about a party that everyone's going to that night and doesn't invite Jessica. Clearly she has no idea who she's talking to. Jessica catches up with Liz and the relatives and Shirley makes a big deal about what a sweet girl Annie Sue is, but all the girls they see in town look like they're ready to murder the twins when they see them. We're not in Sweet Valley anymore, bitches.
There's a carnival coming to Walkersville and the twins lose their fucking minds with excitement.

Jessica had grabbed Elizabeth by the hand and yanked her out of her chair. "Let's go figure out what we're going to wear!" she shrieked.

Jessica decides on her sparkly white Dolly Parton-as-fuck jumpsuit, Elizabeth tells her she looks like someone on a game show and Aunt Shirley nearly faints when she sees it. Jessica has also taken the liberty of adding an oversize pair of silver earrings and white leather boots, like the absolute champ that she is, and everyone heads out to the fair. Oh, but first Aunt Shirley warns the girls about the unspoken rule in the town about boys who work at the carnival, "known as 'carnies' in local slang" and the secret rule is not to hook up with them, basically. They take a look around and there's a Ferris Wheel and food and a bunch of tents and the twins manage to break away from their aunt and uncle for a go on the Ferris Wheel, from which Jessica spots a hot guy working at a corral for horse riding. The twins go over and Jessica pretends to be super into horses. The dude's name is Alex and his dad owns the carnival, so he's helping out during spring break. They talk about California for a bit and even Elizabeth thinks he's a ride as well.

He seemed smart, too. Not at all like a "carnie".

Real nice, Liz. Anyway, when Jessica mentions that Liz wants to be a writer, Alex tells them that his brother Brad does as well and guess what, they're identical twins too! However, Annie Sue then turns up with her boyfriend and interrupts the conversation. Her boyfriend Dennis asks Jessica if the rhinestones on her jumpsuit are real diamonds and Annie Sue tries to monopolise Alex's attention by yammering on about horses. She tries to pet a stallion called Midnight and Alex gives out to her, because he hasn't been broken yet and is really skittish around strangers. Great idea having him out at the carnival then, Alex. Annie Sue goes off in a huff, dragging Dennis with her and Jessica asks Alex if he'll give her a riding lesson. AYOOO. Alex says he could meet her after the carnival when it closes at ten and Jessica agrees, despite Elizabeth's warning that Shirley and Herman definitely won't let her go out alone at that hour.

They get back to the house and Aunt Shirley mentions that she saw the twins talking to Annie Sue and goes on about what a wonderful girl she is, until Jessica tells her that Annie Sue doesn't seem to like her and Liz all that much. Aunt Shirley won't hear of it and says she's been telling Annie Sue all about her amazing, smart, pretty nieces for months, so Liz reckons maybe she's just sick of hearing about the Wakefields and that's why she's been so frosty to them. Jessica then casually mentions that she's heading back into town to see a guy she met earlier and Shirley has a totally normal reaction.

"You met-" Aunt Shirley turned white. "Herman," she said weakly, clutching her heart. "My pills-"

Shirley's a messy bitch who lives for drama.

There's no way they're letting Jessica out, so she apologises for upsetting her aunt and feigns sleepiness, saying she's heading to bed except she's obviously sneaking out instead. Jessica has a wonderful evening with Alex who, upon learning that Jessica has never ridden a horse before decides that she's the perfect person to ride Midnight, as he's almost broken in and she won't have any bad habits. She also won't have a fucking clue what she's doing and this is a terrible idea. But apparently it's ok because it turns out that Jessica is a natural. At riding. Of course she is. She also arranges to meet Alex and his brother the following afternoon so they can introduce Brad and Liz and they can bond over books and being absolutely negative craic.

The next morning, Jessica and Elizabeth head to their uncle's shop to work at the soda fountain. Jessica had forgotten that they were supposed to be working so she tells Liz that she'll cover for her and that she should head off at three o'clock to meet Alex and Brad at the corral. Before all that though, they have to get through their shift behind the counter, scooping ice cream and flipping burgers in fetching striped aprons and paper hats. A lady called Mindy works behind the counter too and shows them the ropes, then decides they know what they're doing and just bails before the lunch rush to do some errands for the guy that runs the shop. What the fuck, Mindy. The twins get through the busy period and are eventually left with a gang of the local boys that Jessica met on the first day, including Annie Sue's boyfriend Dennis, who asks the twins if they're going to the square dance that weekend and if they have dates yet. However, then Annie Sue turns up with a gang of local girls and gets all snappy with Dennis for talking to those blonde hussies. We find out that Annie Sue (that name is so annoying to type out every time, goddamn you ghostwriter and your stereotypical hick name choices) has been telling the other girls that the twins were mocking their clothes and think they're stupid. When Jessica protests and says that Annie Sue is lying, she whirls around and accuses Jessica and Elizabeth of trying to steal their boyfriends, before storming off with her gang and the lads trailing along behind her all sheepish.

Elizabeth heads off to meet Alex and Brad at the corral while Jessica mans the counter, but is disappointed to see Alex alone when she arrives. She says hi and asks him where Brad is, but he laughs and says that he's Brad and that Alex couldn't make it as he's meeting a prospective buyer for Midnight. They go for a walk and get along wonderfully, as Brad is sensitive and writes poetry and is shyer than his brother and Elizabeth thinks she might actually fancy him, which is awkward because Jeffrey is waiting for her back in Sweet Valley, being blonde and handsome. They decide to meet up again, but Brad is only free in the afternoons as he has to look after his little sister while Alex and his father are at the carnival in the evenings.

Just look at these assholes.

A few days later, Aunt Shirley tells the twins that they've been invited out to Annie Sue's grandmother's farm for a welcome to Walkersville lunch with Annie Sue (f u ghostwriter) and her pals. She's already accepted on the twins' behalf so there's no getting out of it. Uncle Herman drives them out to the farm, where they are welcomed by Mrs. Sawyer, Annie's grandmother, who is kind and lovely and in the middle of making an apple tart for their lunch. Annie (no more Sue for you!) is due to arrive with her friends around noon, but her little sister Janie is there and instructed by her grandmother to give the girls a tour of the farm. However, Annie has prepped her little sister to torment the twins, so she tries to get Jessica to milk a temperamental cow called Brownie who kicks everyone other than Mrs. Sawyer, until Elizabeth stops her just in time. Over the course of the morning, she also tries to steer the twins into poison ivy, ditches them in the woods so they get lost and gets them to feed the pigs which results in Elizabeth nearly being trampled into the Kansas dirt by stampeding livestock. They get back to the house for noon, but there's no sign of Annie and her girl gang, so they drink lemonade with Mrs. Sawyer on the porch. After waiting for almost an hour, it becomes clear that Annie is standing them up and Mrs. Sawyer is visibly upset as they go ahead and have lunch with six empty places set at the table. Fuck Annie Sue for having her lovely nanny make a massive lunch and not turning up out of spite for the twins, the lil bitch.

Jessica continues to pretend to go to bed early so she can sneak out to see Alex and Elizabeth meets Brad again for another afternoon date. On her way to meet him, she notices that some of the local girls have started to dress like Jessica, as she sees one in a pink headband similar to one Jessica wore a few days before and another in a sweatshirt dress, again as previously seen on Jessica. One of the nights that Jessica is out with Alex at the corral and riding around on Midnight, she gets him to agree to take her to the square dance and to make it a double date with Brad and Elizabeth. However, as she's saying goodbye to Alex, she sees Annie Sue staring intently at her and realises that this means trouble as she's been caught out after eleven and with a carnie, no less. I mean, Annie Sue is also out at that hour with her boyfriend, but it doesn't stop her from threatening to tell Herman and Shirley and blackmailing Jessica into giving her her "rhinestone-studded headband" at the dime store counter the following day. Over the course of the week, she also makes Jessica give her other belongings, such as a rhinestone pin, a plastic sports watch (you just know it was that wonderful 80s shade of bright yellow that the SPORTS version of everything was) and - gasp, the indignity - Jessica's red cowboy boots.

Elizabeth meets Brad for one last date before the big square dance, and he has to go set up the corral that night as a favour for his brother. Brad ends up accidentally cutting his hand on a gate with a nail sticking out of it, so Liz patches him up with a first aid kit and is relieved to find that there's no romantic spark between them, they're just friends and she's still in love with Jeffrey back home. Over dinner, Shirley and Herman mention how much fun it will be for them and the girls to all go to the square dance together. Jessica is horrified and she and Liz explain that they have dates for the dance, but Shirley and Herman aren't having it and insist that because they've never met these boys or their families, they're not allowed to go with them. A distraught Jessica sneaks out again after dinner to find Alex so she can tell him that she'll never see him again as the twins are going home on Monday. Before she gets a chance to tell him that she can't go to the dance, he hurriedly explains that a guy called Sawyer is going to buy Midnight and he has to run off to meet him, so would Jessica mind watching the corral for a few minutes.

As soon as Alex leaves, Annie Sue turns up and starts crowing about how her father is buying Midnight for her. She makes Jessica give her the necklace of "big silver beads" she's wearing and then saunters into the corral and climbs up on Midnight, despite Jessica telling her not to, because he's not fully trained. Annie imperiously declares that she's been riding horses since she was three and yanks on the reins, making the horse all skittish and anxious. I mean, in real life, the girl who's been riding horses all her life is the one who knows how to handle a temperamental horse, even if she's mean to the twins, not some bird who's never even been near a stable since that week and is getting sporadic lessons from a guy she's dry-humping after hours at the town carnival, but real-world logic doesn't apply to Wakefield twins and I should really know that by now. Anyway, a metallic crash comes from the stables and spooks Midnight, sending him racing off around the corral with a terrified Annie Sue on board. Jessica climbs onto another horse and chases after Midnight, (how big is this corral lads, seriously) managing to get her horse in front of the stallion, slowing him down and then taking the reins from Annie Sue and patting Midnight so he calms down, because she's the fucking horse whisperer now on top of everything else. Alex has come back on the scene at this stage and races over, taking back control of Midnight and everything is grand again. Oh and a crowd had gathered in the meantime and now they're all cheering like a shower of absolute dopes because more loud noises are just what the giant nervous horse needs.

While all this was going on, Shirley came into the bedroom to speak to the twins about their decision, only to find Elizabeth there on her own, forcing her to explain that Jessica took off to see Alex one last time. Shirley and Herman freak out and head over to the carnival to find her with Liz in tow and arrive at the corral just as everything has calmed down. Annie Sue's dad Mr. Sawyer then tells them how Jessica bravely saved his daughter's life, so everyone is cool again. Annie Sue apologises to Jessica for being such a horrible bitch to her and Elizabeth and explains that she's always been the one in charge with the kids her age around Walkersville and that she's a bit spoiled and always got what she wanted, as an only child. An only child?

WTF WAS JANIE A GHOST? THE ONE THING THAT MIGHT SAVE THESE INTERMINABLE SUPER EDITIONS IS ADDING SOME DAMN GHOSTS.

However, in this case, it seems like the ghostwriter has delivered a final fuck you by not reading her own book, as Janie is then mentioned not three pages later by Annie Sue herself, so let that be a lesson to us all about getting our ghost-hopes up. Annie decides to throw a party that night at her house so everyone can get to know each other properly before the square dance and she can give Jessica all her stuff back. Everyone goes to the impromptu party at the Sawyer's massive house and has a great time and the twins are getting along great with Annie Sue and her friends now, particularly after Annie makes a big speech in front of everyone apologising to the twins for her behaviour, because only public repentance will do when you've messed with the Wakefields. Later, when Jessica drags Alex over to Elizabeth to talk about the square dance that they're now allowed to attend, Elizabeth notices that Alex has a bandage on his hand in the exact spot where Brad was cut on the nail. Well whaddaya know. Elizabeth angrily confronts him when Jessica goes upstairs to borrow a gingham dress from Annie Sue for the dance and he confesses that his name really is Alex and yes, he made up the whole twin thing. Elizabeth is furious but tells him to come up with a reason why Brad won't be at the dance and she'll go along with it for Jessica's sake, because Jessica is in love with him.

They go to the dance and Elizabeth decides to fuck with Alex a bit by letting Annie Sue in on what he pulled and getting her to interrupt him when he's dancing with Jessica, telling him that Elizabeth wants to dance with him too and then doing the same thing for Jessica when he's dancing with Liz. After an evening of being dragged in two directions, Alex gets Liz alone and apologises properly, explaining that he liked them both and couldn't decide who he liked more so this way he could spend time with the two of them, but he's fallen for Jessica. Elizabeth forgives him as she sees that he "cares for Jessica a great deal" and promises not to reveal the truth to her sister, so I suppose that's fine then and they all have a great evening at the end of their "precious" trip to Walkersville, which sounded like it sucked really, what with all the unpaid labour and getting the cold shoulder from local girls and blackmailing. Not to mention that fact that Elizabeth should have immediately sold Alex out for being an absolute creep but whatever. THE END.

Notable outfit:

In fairness, Jessica's white rhinestone jumpsuit is tough to beat, but when the twins go to the square dance, they actually wear almost exactly what's on the ridiculous cover.

"I look exactly like those girls always do in the movies!" she exclaimed, delighted. The skirt of the gingham dress stood away from her body, held out by the crinoline petticoat. The bodice fit very close, accentuating her slim waist and torso and the neckline plunged just low enough to look good - but not so low as to raise an objection from their aunt and uncle.

"You look fantastic!" Elizabeth said. She had decided to wear something simpler that night, a slim-cut denim skirt and a red and white checked cotton blouse. A bright bandana tied around her neck completed the look.

Go on Jessica, putting the ho in hoe-down.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 233
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 3
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 6
 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Super Edition: Winter Carnival

I know Sweet Valley has had its share of ridiculous moments and creepy doctors and downright evil Jessica schemes, but honestly this is the first Sweet Valley High book in this big huge re-read I'm doing that I've actually gotten mad at. Like, exasperated CAPS LOCK exclamations, the like of which were usually reserved for that dark period of my life where I was recapping Fifty Shades of Grey. And it wasn't even because of someone acting particularly terribly in the book, it's because it was SO BORING and SO MISLEADING, because you would THINK and it would be reasonable to assume that a book called Winter Carnival featuring a cover that shows the twins in winter clothes, standing in front of a fucking mountain might actually take place, y'know, AT THE DAMN CARNIVAL. BUT YOU WOULD BE MISTAKEN. LET ME SHOW YOU WHY.

(And also come say hi on Insta and Facebook)

Sweet Valley High Super Edition: Winter Carnival 


Elizabeth Wakefield is walking home from school, but it's the one day of the year where it actually rains in Sweet Valley, so she's soaking wet because she missed the bus and Jessica took the car without asking so she could go look for new pom-poms with Amy for the cheerleading squad. She cheers up a bit when she starts thinking about the upcoming Winter Carnival, a weekend where SVH juniors, seniors and alumni all go to a ski resort called Mont Blanc for the weekend. Steven Wakefield is even taking time off from college to go to it, because of course he is. I'd put money on him being the only alumnus there, the big creep. When Liz gets home, she's disappointed to see there's no post for her, as she and Enid entered a trivia competition a while ago and spent ages answering the questions on the entry form and expected to hear back from it by now. A two person team will be chosen from Sweet Valley High and pitted against another team from some other high school no one cares about and the winners will get to be on the televised version of the game show. However, then Jessica bursts in the front door and announces that her and Amy also entered, swiped some of Enid and Elizabeth's answers and were chosen for the first round.

The following day, as Elizabeth is moping to Enid about it, she finds out that the opening party of the weekend carnival is at seven on the Friday. This is a problem because Todd Wilkins is coming back to town to go to the carnival and is also attending a banquet because a kid he helped out on a Big Brother programme is getting a scholarship to a basketball camp. By the way, this book is full of overly complicated situations and still manages to be mostly uneventful, so get used to nonsense like this. Anyway, Todd is going to this dinner thing on the Friday evening and has invited Elizabeth to come with him but Jeffrey doesn't know about this and is already kind of annoyed that Todd will be at the carnival so he's probably not going to be too happy that Elizabeth will miss the first night of it for a thing with her ex. A series of things then happen that annoy Elizabeth, first Jessica and the cheer squad have been nominated for All-State, then Roger Collins tells Liz that a writing competition she entered gave her an honorable mention, but because she didn't win, she decides they may as well have told her that her essay sucked, then at dinner, Jessica gets a load of praise from her parents for making an amazing dinner, even though it was a dinner that Liz made and Jessica just reheated it. Then Jessica has to run off for a date with a guy called David, who she met that day as he's on the opposing team for the trivia thing, and she sticks Liz with the washing up even though it's her turn, so now Elizabeth is really starting to resent her twin. Two notable things happen during dinner though, one is the description of Alice Wakefield, which as usual confirms her outrageously youthful beauty and how she "doesn't look a day after thirty" and still manages to look gorgeous and well rested even after a busy day Having It All as a successful interior designer, but it also details her "smooth blond pageboy" haircut, YES Alice, serve that Princess Diana realness. The second is the next installment in Jessica's ongoing Elektra complex, while talking about David.

"He's a senior and he's got the most gorgeous brown eyes that get little wrinkles next to them when he smiles - sort of like yours, Daddy," she added, turning to her father."

I mean. Really.

A few days later, Elizabeth has a date with Jeffrey, but when she gets home from school, she finds that Jessica is over at Amy's house to study for the trivia competition even though it's her turn to make dinner, so now Elizabeth has to cancel on Jeffrey so her parents don't come home after work to no dinner. By the way dinner that night is a salad and apparently that takes all evening, even though salad is just leaves and vinegary dressing and terrible vegetables of some sort. I don't like salad, is what I'm saying. But also, just throw the damn thing together and then go for dinner with Jeffrey, ya big drama queen. Anyway, Alice arrives home with a new silver Lycra ski suit for Jessica (YES GAWD) and nothing for Liz, then Jessica turns up late for dinner wearing Elizabeth's mulberry jumper and when Liz snaps at Jessica, Ned gives out to her, saying that dinner conversation should be "pleasant and edifying". With allusions to how much you fancy your dad, obvs. Elizabeth later confronts Jessica about how often she's ducked out of making dinner lately and immediately forgives her when Jessica's eyes fill with tears and she says she feels terrible.

At school, Amy and Jessica are testing each other on their trivia knowledge over lunch in the cafeteria and then Winston Egbert comes along and fires a bunch of questions at them that they don't know the answer to. However, Jessica has a plan to make sure they win, which is to get David to just ...let them. While getting ready for her date with David that night, Liz comes in and asks Jessica if she'll take a message for her while she's out playing tennis with Jeffrey. It's yet another convoluted situation, this time involving Roger Collins being away and his son Teddy going to a birthday party and Roger's sister who can't drive, but basically there will be a call for Elizabeth at around six letting her know when to give Teddy a lift home from the party so Jessica needs to take the call and leave a message for Liz saying where he'll be. Ugh, even the shortened version seems stupidly complicated. Anyway, Liz leaves, the calls comes and Jessica writes the message for Liz but she's all flustered because David arrived early and she ends up taking the note with her by accident. (David shows up wearing a yellow sweater knotted around his shoulders, so I'm sorry Jessica, but this guy is quite clearly an absolute dickhead.) They go for sushi with David's patronising sister and her terrible boyfriend and at the end of their date, Jessica tries to talk David into letting her and Amy win, but he's not having any of it, so she thinks he's a jerk. Then Elizabeth is mad at her because she ended up waiting around for the phonecall when she didn't see any note and the host of the birthday party ended up driving Teddy home so Liz looked like an asshole for not showing up.

Jessica decides that there must be something more to Elizabeth's anger, and when Todd Wilkins phones, she decides that it must have something to do with his return, as it couldn't possibly be down to her constant thoughtlessness. Todd leaves a message for Liz, saying that if she can't make the banquet dinner he understands, as it clashes with the Friday of the Winter Carnival. When oh WHEN do we get to the goddamn carnival, guys? This cover promised snow and puffy 80s winter clothing and all we're getting is stupid sunny Sweet Valley and Jessica being bad at taking phone messages and not making dinner when she's supposed to. THIS WAS NOT THE DEAL. Anyway, there's a gang of students hanging out at the Dairi Burger, so Jessica, determined not to mess up this message for her sister, arrives and tells Elizabeth that Todd rang and dinner is still on for Friday and to let him know if she can go. Of course, this is the first that Jeffrey is hearing about this, so he stomps off, he and Elizabeth argue and then he drives away in a huff. There's a picnic the next day (GET TO THE DAMN CARNIVAL ALREADY) and after talking about Jeffrey's jealousy with Jessica, Elizabeth takes her sister's advice to play it cool and leave him at arm's length for a bit so he won't take her for granted. It is, of course, a terrible plan and when Elizabeth sees Jeffrey at the picnic and acts all weird and mysterious and even does a "Jessica-like pout", he accuses her of having something to hide and stomps off angrily again.

"I'm going to go get a sandwich," he added, storming up the bank towards Enid.

It sounds like he's about to kick Enid over for her pick-a-nick basket, like a violent Yogi Bear. Look out, Enid!

Back at school, they try to talk it out and Elizabeth reassures Jeffrey that there's nothing going on between her and Todd but he gets mad again when she says she's still going to the banquet thing on Friday. Later that day, Liz finds a note in her locker from Jeffrey, saying that he's going out to the canyon to think things through and will be there until six if she wants to talk and that if she doesn't turn up he'll "assume the worst". Jesus Jeff, dramatic much? Also, why a remote canyon? Are you planning on murdering her? Jessica is heading off to the tv station for the quiz show and promises Liz that she'll have the car back by half four. That's definitely going to work out, except oh wait, Jessica and Amy actually win the quiz and they all go out for pizza to celebrate and Jessica forgets all about her promise. Meanwhile Elizabeth is frantically trying to find a way out to the canyon, but Enid's mother is out with her car, the neighbours aren't home from work, and she doesn't have enough money for a taxi. Jessica arrives home eventually, to find Elizabeth sitting in the dark, staring at her like a serial killer (or Christian Grey). Liz stonily reminds her sister that she needed the car earlier and shows her the note from Jeffrey, telling her that their relationship is probably over now and goes up to her room.

WHERE IS MY GODDAMN WINTER CARNIVAL OF SNOW FUN.

Jessica decides that she can fix Elizabeth and Jeffrey's relationship and arranges to meet up with Todd and Winston when Todd comes back to town. The three go for burgers and "reminisce about old times" (like the time Jessica falsely accused Todd of sexually assaulting her? No? Huh.) and Jessica implies that Todd's visit to Sweet Valley and attendance at the Winter Carnival (WHENEVER THAT HAPPENS) is causing friction between Liz and Jeffrey and that the opening party is a huge deal, so Todd thinks maybe he should tell Elizabeth not to come to the banquet after all, if it's causing problems for her. Todd, thinking he's doing her a favour, meets up with Liz later in the week and suggests it to her, but Liz thinks he doesn't want her there so now she's doubly upset because she and Jeffrey haven't spoken since she missed Murder Canyon Night.

I hope you enjoy your CARNIVAL OF LIES

Jessica sees that her plan hasn't had the desired effect, so instead of just explaining anything to anyone, she forges Elizabeth's handwriting and leaves a note for Jeffrey in his locker, saying that "the carnival is a million times more important than any dumb banquet with Todd" and that they should meet at the ski lodge at half six. THANK GOD IT'S FINALLY CARNIVAL DAY. Jessica tells Cara that she's going to explain everything to Liz on the bus trip up to the ski resort, but she ends up missing the bus because of Amy's faffing around (she drags Jessica to The Ski Shop so she can get a ski suit like Jessica's one, but in gold. Amazing) so she and Amy have to drive up. The roads are terrible though and they get lost on the way, so it looks like they're only going to arrive around half six which won't give Jessica time to explain what's happening to Liz. Amy suggests that Jessica should just pretend to be Elizabeth and meet Jeffrey herself to smooth things over with them and then explain everything later. They eventually arrive (YAY SNOW SHENANIGANS) and Jessica rushes over to meet Jeffrey and, in character as Elizabeth, explains why she didn't make it out to the canyon and they make up. But some chick called Chrissy Nolan, who is apparently a huge gossip, spots them together so Jessica runs off to explain it all to Liz before any rumours start.

Elizabeth is in the room she's sharing with Enid, Olivia and not-yet-dead-Regina and everyone is running around from room to room as they all get ready for the party. Chrissy Nolan then pops in looking to borrow mascara and remarks that she thought Elizabeth was behind her on the way in after she saw her with Jeffrey outside and of course Liz has no idea what she's talking about.

Chrissy laughed. "I guess I made a mistake. You have a twin, right? I always get you two confused. Come to think of it, she was wearing different clothes. And she's the one who goes out with that guy isn't she?"

ExCUSE ME? Who is this student whose life doesn't revolve around the Wakefield twins and all the details of their lives? How did she get in here? GUARDS, ARREST THIS WOMAN.

Elizabeth immediately jumps to the conclusion that Jessica is moving in on Jeffrey, so she packs up her suitcase and you're not going to believe this, LEAVES THE DAMN SKI LODGE. She tells Ms Dalton that she feels sick and Ken Matthews drops her to the bus station. I actually can't believe we finally made it to the carnival and now this bitch is turning around and going home. The bus arrives and Steven and Cara hop out, confused as to why Liz is leaving. She tells them that everything's all messed up and that she has to go home and gets onto the bus.

ELIZABETH WAKEFIELD GET DOWN OUT OF THAT BUS THIS INSTANT.

She doesn't. We were so close, you guys. So close. Elizabeth arrives home to an empty house, because Ned and Alice are out at a party. Jessica rings, but Liz doesn't want to talk to her and doesn't believe her when she tries to explain what she was doing with Jeffrey. Elizabeth says she's had enough and that she wishes she never had a sister and hangs up on her. Then she goes to bed and cries herself to sleep. Like she couldn't have done that at the ski resort. Rude. The phone rings and when she gets up to answer, it's the cops telling her that Jessica is in the hospital after getting into a car accident on the roads from Mont Blanc. (REALLY, ghostwriter? If it's not a big storm it's yet another car accident with these Super Editions. Always with the near death experiences.) She runs out to ask the neighbours for a lift to the hospital, but Todd pulls up and when she tells him what happened he drives her there. She talks to a doctor who tells her she's going to have to be brave and then she faints. When she comes to, she discovers that Jessica is dead. Because SURPRISE motherfuckers, it's a dream sequence. They took away the long-awaited snowy winter shenanigans to pull a goddamn Bobby Ewing. This was the point where the Fifty Shades levels of exasperation kicked in, by the way. Dream Liz starts taking pills to calm herself down and thinks that her family blame her for Dream Jessica's dream death. A dream week has passed and everyone is going to Enid's for a get-together to mourn Jessica and then a fight breaks out between Todd and Jeffrey, preceded by this wonderful line:

Then he stormed outside, and Todd followed him, smashing his fist over and over again into his own palm.

Oh Dream Todd, you are so dream lame.

Eventually, Liz is woken up by the sounds of Jessica coming home and calling for her, accompanied by Cara, Steve and Jeffrey, who drove back from the resort to find her. Elizabeth is so delighted to see Jessica that she bursts into tears and hugs her and then all the stupid mix-ups get explained and Liz tells everyone about the dream she had after she had told Jessica she wished she didn't have a sister.

"We're studying dreams in psychology," Steven told his sister, "and yours sounds to me like a classic guilt dream."

Thanks for that groundbreaking insight, Dr. Obvious.

Anyway all of Jessica's broken promises and meddling are instantly forgiven because of a stupid dream so no need for her to change her behaviour or be more considerate or anything drastic like that. The following morning they all go back to Mont Blanc and the final chapter is basically a quick recap of all the snow fun for the whole weekend, wherein Todd and Jeffrey win the skiing relay and are best buds now, there's snowman-building, tobogganing and ice skating and then a big dance called the Snow Ball and everything is just fucking great and the entire Winter Carnival takes up all of eleven pages. ELEVEN PAGES. This book should have been called Super Edition: Jessica Is Inconsiderate And Elizabeth And Jeffrey Get Their Signals Crossed And There's A Tiny Bit Of Winter Carnival At The End, Barely. BUT I SUPPOSE THAT WOULDN'T FIT.

Notable outfit:
As bad as this book was, it at least delivered plenty on the outfit front. I'd even venture to say more so than any previous book. I've already mentioned Jessica's silver Lycra ski suit and Amy's matching gold one, but for one of her dates with David, Jessica treats us to:

"A bright pink long sleeved shirt" underneath a big baggy vest that "hung down loosely over the tight black stirrup pants Jessica was wearing."

Then Jeffrey turns up to the picnic at the lake wearing "faded madras pants". I had to Google madras pants, and hoo boy are they truly something.

Also, Jessica's outfit when she arrives at the ski lodge and pretends to be her twin, is not "particularly Elizabeth-like" because it includes "a hot pink sweater and white leather boots". Jessica, with these outfits you are spoiling us.

However, the one that has them all beat is Elizabeth's absolute JACKPOT of a dress that she wears to the Snow Ball at the end.

BEHOLD.

It was silver silk, with slightly puffy sleeves ending at the elbow, a round neck and a soft full skirt. The fabric shimmered like ice. With a small strand of pearls around her neck and tiny silver and pearl earrings, Elizabeth felt wonderfully glamorous.

YES LIZ, A THOUSAND TIMES YES TO THIS.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 214

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 4
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 5
Amount of times boys are wearing pants described as "faded": 3 (Are they leaving their pants out in the sun for prolonged periods of time? What's going on with your pants, lads?)
 
 
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