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.


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.


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.


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.


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?)