October 31, 2009
Summary: Picking up where Dangerous Love left off, Elizabeth is in a coma. And then she wakes up, and the book ends. No, just kidding. Elizabeth does wake up, but everyone quickly realizes that there’s something different about her – basically, she’s turned into Jessica. She starts caring about her appearance, cheating on schoolwork, flirting with every guy in school, and shirking responsibilities, to the point where Jessica has to pick up her slack. Basically, Elizabeth is now Jessica and Jessica is now Elizabeth.
Eventually Elizabeth (who’s dumped Todd) makes dates with both Bruce Patman and Bill Chase for the same night. She keeps the date with Bruce, and when Bill comes by the house for Elizabeth, Jessica takes the opportunity to get back at him for rejecting her by pretending to be Elizabeth so she can go out with him. Only in Jessica’s world does going out with a guy equate revenge. Elizabeth gets drunk and goes to Bruce’s father’s boathouse, and just before they’re about to have sex, she hits her head and suddenly reverts to her normal self. Of course! And then Bruce tries to rape her, because he’s so classy. She gets away and threatens to tell everyone what a coward he is, because it’s always a good idea to threaten someone who’s trying to rape you. Anyway, Elizabeth is back to Elizabeth, and Jessica is back to Jessica – she’s made Bill fall in love with her.
The B plot is hardly worth mentioning, but it involves a pair of 12-year-old twins staying with the Wakefields for a few weeks.
Thoughts: It’s a good thing Jessica turns into Elizabeth while her twin is turning into her, because I wouldn’t be able to handle two Jessicas. I don’t think anyone could. This does show that Jessica has some ability to be responsible, she just finds it boring.
Lila throws a “pick-up party,” a concept I’ve never heard of. (Of course, I was a nerdy, prudish high-schooler who usually went to parties where we watched horror movies and played extremely chaste games of Spin the Bottle, which is how Spin the Bottle usually is when there are 12 girls and only four guys. Though some of my friends did get busted for playing strip poker on a school trip.) All the guests come without dates, and everyone is free to pick up a new boy- or girlfriend. It’s also a chance for unhappy people to dump current boy-/girlfriends. Maybe this was the ’80s teenage version of a key party?
I’d like to state for the record that SVH’s basketball team is the Gladiators. I guess it’s hard to match anything really strong and intimidating with “Sweet Valley.”
Also for the record, Elizabeth’s neurosurgeon is named John Edwards, and he keeps touching Jessica. Was the ghostwriter psychic?
October 30, 2009
Summary: Todd is obsessed with the motorcycle he bought in All Night Long, but Elizabeth can’t ride it – her parents have forbidden her, Jessica, and Steven from riding motorcycles after their cousin died in a motorcycle crash. So Todd rides everywhere on his motorcycle anyway, giving rides to other girls, while Elizabeth rides in cars and gets jealous. Todd eventually decides that he’d rather have Elizabeth than the bike, so he sells it to an alcoholic SVH drop-out named Crunch McAllister. Elizabeth decides that since the bike is about to be out of the picture, it’s now okay to ride it (even without a helmet), so she lets Todd give her a ride to a party. In a “twist” worthy of any ’90s afterschool special, they get in an accident – with Crunch. Elizabeth ends up in a coma. To be continued!
The B plot (if you can call it that) involves Enid’s 16th birthday party and Jessica wanting to go out with Enid’s cousin Brian.
Thoughts: For once, it’s Elizabeth who makes the bad decision and Jessica who feels responsible. Jessica and Brian were supposed to give Elizabeth a ride, and Jessica feels that if they had, Elizabeth wouldn’t have gotten on Todd’s motorcycle. She also doesn’t worry about how Elizabeth’s accident will affect her, which I would consider huge growth rather than a normal human response. I guess that’s known as character development.
Speaking of Jessica, in the week since the last book, she’s already hooked up with a new guy, who she promptly dumps for Brian. So maybe she’s not growing after all.
I would like to state for the record that Crunch drives a purple van. I guess a guy nicknamed Crunch is allowed to drive whatever he wants.
Does anyone else find Mr. Collins a little creepy? He seems a little too involved in his students’ lives. Enid’s mom asks him to chaperone her party (what kind of birthday party for teens needs chaperones?), and he stays at the hospital with the Wakefields because Elizabeth is “special” to him. What kind of “special,” Mr. Collins? What kind of special?
Has anyone ever solved the mystery of why the restaurant/hot SVH hangout is called the Dairi Burger, not the Dairy Burger? Was it hipper to have an I instead of an Y there in the ’80s? Because now it’s apparently hipper the other way around. Also, why would a burger joint serve a hot clam special? What exactly is a hot clam special, anyway? Why do I have so many questions that can’t possibly be answered?
I finally came across a snark-worthy outfit in this book – in fact, two. First Elizabeth suggests that Jessica wear a green polka-dot dress with puff sleeves. Classy. Jessica ends up wearing a black and white satin jumpsuit with spaghetti straps. I can’t wrap my mind around what that would possibly look like, but I’m sure some current C-list celebrity would own five of them.
October 29, 2009
Summary: Jessica falls for Scott Daniels, a college guy with a mesmerizing mustache and no redeeming qualities. She goes to the beach with him (telling her parents she’s going somewhere with Cara Walker), and after he spends some time drinking and smoking pot with his friends, they go off alone together. Scott proceeds to basically attempt to rape Jessica, who whines so much that she scares him off. However, Jessica’s stuck with a bunch of drunk/high fools, so she can’t get home in time to take a test at school that will allow her to be a “tourist guide.” Elizabeth, still suffering from a raging case of doormat syndrome, agrees to cover for Jessica, which requires pretending to be her. Unsurprisingly, it works and Jessica suffers no consequences for her actions, AGAIN. Except poison oak. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
The beyond-pointless B plot has to do with a surfing competition that involves Bill Chase. Yawn.
Thoughts: Seriously, Elizabeth has absolutely no spine. I don’t get why she cares whether or not Jessica gets busted for lying to their parents. Elizabeth constantly disagrees with what Jessica does, but she never does anything remotely close to making sure Jessica will change. Classic enabler. I think Jessica’s whining has special brain-melting powers. Actually, people just do whatever she wants so she’ll shut up already.
Jessica’s stupidity is at code orange in this book. Her dumbest move isn’t even riding in a car with a possibly under-21-year-old while he drinks a beer. No, her dumbest move is thinking. When Scott pressures her to have sex, she blames Elizabeth for not talking her out of going out with him. Then she tries to get Scott to back off by saying she’ll tell her parents he tried to rape her if he doesn’t take her home. That works about as well as you’d expect. Scott starts to leave Jessica at the boathouse of bubbling desires, but she tells him not to go because she has no way of getting home without him. And he basically holds her hostage by not giving her a ride home. So…good taste in men, there, Jess.
Elizabeth’s stupidity is slightly less prevalent, but she still has her moments. She wants to pretend to be Jessica and take the “tourist-guide” test (seriously, ghostwriter: “tour guide”), and when Todd tries to talk her out of it, she accuses him of being jealous. Say what? And speaking of jealousy and people’s apparent unfamiliarity with it, when Elizabeth passes her test and “Jessica” fails, Jessica accuses Elizabeth of flunking on purpose beacuse she’s jealous of Jessica and Scott. Yes, Jessica, Elizabeth is insanely jealous of Tom Selleck’s younger, skeezier brother. We all are.
Like I said, the surfing competition really serves no purpose, except it gives Todd something to do. We also find out that Bill bought Todd’s surfboard (a gift from his parents – nice one, Todd), which provided Todd with the money to buy a motorcycle, something that will show up again in the next book. That must be either an especially expensive surfboard (purchased by an insanely rich high schooler) or a really cheap motorcycle (also purchased by a high schooler). Either way, that sale makes no sense to me.
October 28, 2009
Summary: Kristy’s mom’s wedding has to be moved up for convoluted reasons, and since a bunch of kids are coming to town to attend, the BSC girls offer to watch them all. The ultra-boring B plot is about Kristy trying to figure out what to give her mother and stepfather for a wedding gift.
Thoughts: I shouldn’t be surprised that in a story about someone else’s wedding, it’s still all about Kristy. Why is it Kristy’s big day? She’s a bridesmaid. There’s also only about two pages dedicated to the wedding itself; the rest of the book is mostly the week leading up to it.
I can’t be the only person who has a problem with the premise here. The five BSC girls – all of whom are 12 or 13 at this point – are hired to watch 14 kids, ages 9 months to 10 years, for eight hours a day for five days. This is middle-schoolers doing a full-time job. (They also each wind up making $130 for the week, so they’re not even paid 1987 minimum wage, I don’t think. [I don't want to do the math.]) Isn’t that…illegal? Is Watson also running a sweatshop in his gigantic mansion?
The sitters are also asked to take the little boys to the barber. Take your own kids to the dang barber! And they’re invited to the rehearsal dinner, but mostly to watch the kids. Watch your own dang kids! I hope they were paid extra for that. Who brings a baby-sitter to a rehearsal dinner anyway? You’re sitting at a table and eating. Does that require so much supervision that the parents can’t do it themselves? Maybe they just wanted to get plastered.
Other strange moments: the kids put on a fake wedding, and Karen and David-Michael are chosen as the fake bride and groom. They’re about to be stepsiblings. Raise your hand if ew. Karen is also kicked off a school playground for basically having an overactive imagination. Look, I don’t like her, but that’s crazy. You can’t kick Karen out for being Karen. Her Karenness will overpower you every time.
In other annoying kid news, Emma, Kristy’s cousin, is put in time-out. I don’t remember time-out being used at any other time in the series. Usually the BSC girls are able to discipline kids in other ways. Emma totally deserves it in this instance, but she’s left in time-out for half an hour. That’s way too long.
Sadly, there are no fashion faux pas, but Kristy does state that Stacey looks like a 13-year-old Madonna (of course, this was back when Madonna didn’t look like a Tim Burton character) and that Claudia would look like her, too, if she weren’t Japanese-American.
Dawn manages to get her own “shut up” moment, even in the middle of a story all about Kristy. She writes in a diary entry, “Today was another bright, sunny day, thank goodness, and almost as warm as a nice September day in California.” It’s June in Connecticut. I’ve never been in Connecticut in June, but I’ve been near there in May, and it can get pretty hot. All this is to say, shut up, Dawn.
October 23, 2009
Summary: Jessica’s shadow, Robin, wants to join SVH’s most popular sorority, Pi Beta Alpha. Of course, no one wants a fat girl around, so no one wants to sponsor her. Elizabeth happens to be a member of PBA, because that’s totally realistic of her, so she sponsors Robin and helps her with the “tasks” the sorority requires her to complete before the members will vote on her induction. These tasks include running around the school track five times a day for a week, playing volleyball on the beach while wearing a bikini, and asking Bruce Patman to a school dance (where she’s publicly humiliated by him).
Robin is blackballed from PBA, and while it looks like this is going to send her over the deep end, instead it spurs her on to lose weight, dress better, and totally ignore the petty, catty brats who have made her life miserable. In the end, she becomes Miss Sweet Valley High and co-captain of the cheerleading squad (without experience? I bet), then turns down PBA when they come calling again. That’s a win for the former chubster.
In the B plot, Jessica has a bunch of new expensive accessories, and Elizabeth suspects that she’s shoplifting them. After a while, Jessica is arrested for the crime, but it’s only because people at the mall think she’s Elizabeth, who was previously acting suspicious. It turns out poor little Lila Fowler has been stealing to get Daddy’s attention and giving some of her hot goods to Jessica. Lila gets off with probation and Elizabeth tries to help her by encouraging her father to spend more time with her, but that falls through.
Thoughts: Jessica is, once again, a poor excuse for a human being. She makes Robin run her errands, leading her to believe that she’ll be a shoo-in for induction into PBA. Then she leads the anti-Robin charge and masterminds her blackballing, making anti-fat remarks through the entire book. After Robin starts becoming popular and shunning the PBA girls, Jessica wonders why she doesn’t like the popular people since they’ve done so much for her. She even says to Elizabeth, “Beauty is only skin deep, Liz. Just remember that. It’s what’s underneath that really counts.” If Jessica existed in real life, I would pour honey on her and tie her to an anthill. Seriously, she’s a sociopath – she has no emotions about anyone who’s not her.
By the way, do high schools actually have sororities? Aren’t they just cliques with dues and meetings? I don’t get the point. I guess it’s just another way for the rich snobs at SVH to rub their richness in other people’s faces.
I’m so disappointed Robin didn’t do a full-on Carrie at the end of this book. She would have earned it.
October 21, 2009
Summary: Dawn starts baby-sitting for the Barrett kids, whose mom is going through a tough divorce and is having a difficult time taking care of her children while looking for a job. Dawn gets annoyed by Mrs. Barrett’s tendency to seemingly ignore her kids, let housework pile up, and not give her the information she needs about the kids. It all comes to a head when the oldest child, Buddy, disappears, having been basically kidnapped by his father as revenge for Mrs. Barrett forgetting that it was his turn to have custody. This gets Dawn to sit down with Mrs. Barrett and come up with some guidelines and rules they will follow to keep things running smoothly. Dawn is also trying to become friends with Kristy, who’s jealous that Mary Anne suddenly has a second best friend.
Thoughts: Dawn starts to show her true colors in this book. She complains about the weather in Connecticut (because it’s not as warm as it was in California), she tells Buddy he can’t play with toy guns while she’s baby-sitting, and she gets bent out of shape when Mrs. Barrett doesn’t pay her extra for doing housework. Oh, Dawn. Her books are going to get the most comments out of me.
First of all, California must be some magical place where the temperature never drops below 80 degrees, because Dawn finds 70-degree weather “chilly.” She thinks it’s too cold for May. Girl, 70 degrees in May is a dream. She thinks people will wear down jackets to her mom’s picnic. She makes a show of wearing warm clothes. If she were my child, I would give her the evil eye until she shut up. Has she never experienced 70-degree weather before? Really?
Second of all, I get not wanting kids to play with toy guns – I’m a Sunday School teacher, and I don’t let the kids play with pretend weapons in class. But that’s because it’s Sunday School. If I baby-sat for a kid with a toy gun, I wouldn’t forbid him or her to play with it, because that’s not my kid. The parents say it’s okay, so it’s okay. It’s their house, not mine.
Third of all, no one asked Dawn to do housework. She thinks the Barretts’ house is a mess, so she takes it upon herself to get the kids to clean it. Well, good for you, Ms. Schafer, but you’re the baby-sitter, not the housekeeper. Let Mrs. Barrett clean her own house. You watch the kids. Also, as for her not paying extra for the cleaning, Mrs. Barrett is a newly single mom with no job. She doesn’t care about what’s in Dawn’s piggy bank. She has three kids to keep fed.
Though she does go shopping an awful lot for a woman with money issues. Just sayin’.
This is the first book where Mallory Pike really makes an appearance. She briefly showed up in Mary Anne Saves the Day, but this book is where someone mentions how good she is with kids. There’s even foreshadowing about her joining the BSC someday.
Speaking of Mallory, she unknowingly highlights a big mistake in this book. She tells Dawn that Marnie, the youngest Barrett kid, is allergic to chocolate and will get sick if she eats any. But earlier in the book, Dawn mentions Marnie eating some M&Ms, and nothing comes of it. Oops! Also oops – Dawn the anti-sugar queen eats saltwater taffy in this book. Shut up, hypocrite.
And while Dawn is by far more annoying, Karen Brewer’s dreadfulness starts to rear its ugly head in this book. While she, Kristy, Andrew, and the lovely Hannie Papadakis are playing “Let’s All Come In,” she starts ordering people around. Why doesn’t anyone tell her to cut it out? Everyone always mentions that Karen’s bossy, but no one does anything about it. To me, that’s worse than kids playing with toy guns.
Also worse than kids playing with toy guns: Mr. Barrett basically kidnapping Buddy, then not getting arrested for it. Nowadays, he’d be in jail. Things really were different in the ’80s.
October 19, 2009
Summary: The BSC girls have a huge fight over something stupid and stop talking to each other. Mary Anne becomes friends with the new girl at school, Dawn Schafer, who dumbly believes Mary Anne’s story that she’s sitting alone at lunch because all of her friends are absent. Mary Anne is also trying but failing to get her cartoonishly strict father to back off and let her grow up already.
The BSC fight makes Mary Anne learn that she’s not as much of a doormat as she thought she was, and her newfound friendship with Dawn leads to the revelation that Dawn’s mom, Sharon, and Mary Anne’s father, Richard, dated in high school. Mary Anne also handles an emergency with a baby-sitting charge (the prissy Jenny Prezzioso) well enough to convince her father that she’s mature enough to stay out later, redecorate her room, and stop wearing her hair in the braids he always made her wear for no evident reason. Ultimately, the BSC girls make up, Richard and Sharon meet up again, and Dawn is invited to join the club.
Thoughts: Dawn is pretty low-key in this book, and it’s nice to enjoy it while you can, because later in the series she can be pretty unbearable at times. Also, she never stops mentioning that she’s from California. I think it’s mentioned more times than the fact that Stacey’s from New York.
Mary Anne Saves the Day reminds us that though the BSC girls are pretty mature for 12-year-olds, they can also be pretty immature. They practically get into a hair-pulling slap-fight at a four-year-old’s birthday party. Yeah, I don’t think I’d be hiring girls like them to watch my kids.
This is one of the few books where Kristy misses a meeting – and she does it purposely. You just know that if anyone else had skipped out, there would have been a trial and public execution. Don’t mess with Kristin Amanda Thomas.
Mary Anne is definitely the quietest, most conservative member of the club, but when she’s brainstorming apology notes to give to her fellow club members, she provides a gem that provokes genuine laughter. She imagines writing to Kristy, “I’m sorry you’re the biggest, bossiest know-it-all in the world, but what can I do about it? Have you considered seeking professional help?” She took the words right out of my mouth.
October 17, 2009
Summary: Stacey has diabetes. Her parents want to fix it. They can’t. Instead, they learn to listen to her and help her deal with it. Stacey also manages to patch up her friendship with her ex-best friend, Laine Cummings, by actually talking to her about her illness.
In club news, the stupidly named Baby-sitters Agency has moved into the BSC’s territory, poaching clients with their older sitters and later hours. Kristy comes up with some ideas to keep the BSC running and attract new sitters, some of which are successful and some of which are horribly bad. (Two words: sandwich boards.) The club adds two new members, but they skip their jobs, then reveal that they’re actually spies from the Baby-sitters Agency. Kristy cries. Twice. In the end, the BSC sitters win because the kids they sit for actually like them, they actually do their jobs, and the parents trust them. Happy ending!
Thoughts: Liz Lewis and Michelle Patterson, the two girls who form the Baby-sitters Agency, are actually savvy businesswomen. They recruit sitters, send them on jobs, and collect some of their income for themselves. Basically, they’re baby-sitter pimps. I’ll be they grow up to be CEOs. Or madams.
Kristy’s Svengali-like hold on the other BSC girls becomes more evident in this book. They’ll do almost anything she suggests, including wearing sandwich boards to school to advertise the club and try to attract new members. Her bossiness is starting to show, and soon it will be so out of control, readers will start to wonder how she still has friends.
This book marks the birth of the Kid-Kit, which is actually one of Kristy’s better ideas. It’s a collection of books, games, and activities the sitters can take on their jobs so the kids will have something different to play with. As they note, one of the best things about playing at a friend’s house is the ability to play with new toys, and with the Kid-Kits, the sitters are walking toy stores. Sometimes Kristy’s ingenuity makes up for her faults. Sometimes.
October 16, 2009
Summary: Jessica is totally in love with Bruce Patman, the most perfect, handsome, wonderful guy in school. Only he’s not perfect or wonderful, and in fact is about 75% of the way to becoming an abusive boyfriend. Jessica starts changing herself to be the kind of girl he wants, and while we all would like to see Jessica change, this isn’t the way it should happen. Eventually everyone finds out that Bruce is seeing someone else, so Jessica dumps pizza and soda on him and then he falls into a fountain, making this the second of three books that ends with someone falling or being pushed into a body of water.
In the B plot(s), the school’s most popular band, Valley of Death, is supposedly being scouted for a record deal, except they’re not. The drummer, Emily Mayer, is having trouble in chemistry class, which means Jessica is having trouble as well since she cheats off of Emily. Emily cheats on a test but her conscience gets the better of her and she confesses to the teacher. Jessica cheats off of Emily and ignores her conscience (assuming she has one), so not only does she not get punished, she doesn’t learn anything. Shocker.
There’s also a new girl in school, Robin Wilson, who wants to hang out with Jessica, for some reason, but Jessica doesn’t like her because she’s overweight and probably doesn’t have a million-dollar trust fund. Also the class geek Wilson Egbert keeps appearing because he’s in love with Jessica but she won’t give him the time of day, and even tries to set him up with Robin to get them both off her back
Thoughts: So yes, once again, Jessica doesn’t get punished for her actions. She does lose her dream guy, but she comes out ahead in so many other ways that it almost doesn’t matter, especially since she gets the last laugh. Is it possible that when they were in the womb, Elizabeth somehow absorbed all of Jessica’s conscience, leaving Jessica with none and Elizabeth with an overdeveloped one? It would certainly explain a lot.
Oh, and why is there no fire in this book? The title implies fire! Stupid false advertising.
October 13, 2009
Summary: After reading a news article about a cat burglar in the area and receiving some mysterious phone calls while sitting, the baby-sitters are on edge. Claudia is also frustrated because her sister Janine is annoying, and because the guy she likes, Trevor Sandbourne, doesn’t seem to know she’s alive, so he’s certainly not going to ask her to the Halloween Hop. The phone calls turn out to be Alan Gray’s attempts to bug Kristy, culminating in him asking her to the dance. In the end, Claudia gets everything she’s looking for – a better connection with Janine, a date with Trevor to the dance, and a B+ on a math test.
Thoughts: I always thought this book was pretty realistic in terms of how Claudia, Kristy, Mary Anne, and Stacey respond to the news of a cat burglar in cities around Stoneybrook. They’re 12-year-old girls who are sometimes baby-sitting alone at night, and the idea of a guy breaking into the houses where they’re watching little kids is pretty freaky. That’s exactly what a 12-year-old girl would be afraid of.
Mary Anne, however, handles the situation a little differently, and in a way that I’ve always thought was creative. While sitting for Kristy’s younger brother, David Michael, she comes up with homemade burglar alarms, including an ingenius music alarm. She rigs a tape deck (’80s, remember) so that it will turn on and blast music when a door hits it. Give that girl an A in…whatever subject that would be.
There are no spectacular Claudia outfits in this book, though at one point she wears white tights with clocks on them, along with lobster earrings. Later she wears a bowtie with scottie dogs on it. She also wears barrettes at two different times – one pair is beaded with sparkly streamers and the other has teddy bears and streamers. Because streams are soooo mature and sophisticated, right?
Kristy’s weird in this book. She spends the whole story complaining about Alan, who pops up again and again in the series to bother the girls, and then when he asks her to the dance, she immediately accepts. As she explains to Claudia, he’s cute, he’s kind of funny, and he likes her, so why not? Apparently Kristy has never heard of dignity. Also, this is the book where she threatens to punch a kid. I just thought I’d bring that up. Kristy Thomas, supposedly responsible baby-sitter and level-headed problem-solver, threatens an eight-year-old boy with violence. What a charmer.