February 27, 2010
Summary: Kristy starts sitting for a girl named Susan who’s autistic, which means we get to learn a whole lot about autism, whether we like it or not. (You can tell this book is from the early ’90s because no one knows what autism is, and because Asperger’s never comes up.) Kristy thinks Susan’s just socially inept, basically, and decides that she can help her come out of her shell. She fails, but it’s not as delicious as Kristy’s failures usually are, because the subject matter is so serious. Yeah, this isn’t one of the more fun books in the series.
The B plot is less interesting but at least not so emotional: The Hobarts, a family from Australia, move into Mary Anne’s old house, and the oldest boy, Ben, becomes Mallory’s love interest. Awww, dork love.
Thoughts: From what I know of autism, Ann M. Martin/the ghostwriter gets many of the details right. I know a boy with autism who acts very much like Susan. I only wish the writer had addressed the fact that there’s a spectrum and varying degrees of severity. Eh, too much to hope for in one of these books.
I’m sure the “baby-sitter on board” sign Charlie made for his car gets him a lot of action.
This book contains one of the few times a sitting charge has a realistic reaction to being left with a sitter – Johnny Hobart cries and doesn’t want his mother to leave. I guess this sort of thing doesn’t happen too much in the series because everyone’s supposed to love the BSC girls.
February 25, 2010
Summary: Enid likes the new guy, Jeffrey French, so Elizabeth decides to play matchmaker for them. Lila also likes Jeffrey, so Jessica decides to help fix them up. She and Lila start out fighting dirty (ish), throwing a party and not telling Elizabeth and Enid about it so Lila can have some uninterrupted time with Jeffrey. Elizabeth and Enid fight dirty back, getting Jessica and Lila out of the way during a school auction so Enid can bid on Jeffrey without Lila interfering.
Enid wins the first battle, scoring a date with Jeffrey, but she soon discovers that they’re not a good match. Elizabeth won’t let it go, wanting to press on with her matchmaking “plans,” such as they are (there isn’t really much matchmaking in the book), even though Enid basically tells her it’s a lost cause. That’s because – surprise! – Jeffrey likes Elizabeth. And she has feelings for him, too. Awwwww. Enid doesn’t seem to care, by the way.
The B plot is kind of awesome: Jessica’s trying to spend time with this guy she likes, Eddie, but her and Elizabeth’s annoying cousin Jenny is in town and follows Jessica around everywhere. She and Eddie wind up together, which makes Jessica mad, which makes me happy. It almost makes up for the dull A plot.
Thoughts: Elizabeth asks Enid, “Can you imagine any guy in his right mind preferring Lila Fowler to you?” Actually, Liz, I can imagine all of them preferring Lila to Enid.
The school auction is actually pretty cool. Students bid on things like hugs and dates (yes, just like that episode of The Office) with cans of food for the hungry rather than money. I can’t believe SVH does something un-dorky and meaningful.
Enid keeping Jessica and Lila away from the auction so she can bid on Jeffrey is pretty diabolical for her. She pulls a Jessica on Jessica!
Mr. Collins auctions off a homemade meal. Does that mean he’ll go to a student’s house to cook? Doesn’t that seem inappropriate? He just gets creepier and creepier.
February 21, 2010
Summary: Picking up right where Mary Anne and the Great Romance left off, Dawn and her mom adjust to Mary Anne and Richard moving into the house. It doesn’t go well. I guess Richard and Sharon didn’t bother to discuss things like the Schafers’ vegetarianism or Richard and Sharon’s differences in cleaning philosophies before they decided to get married. Dawn and Mary Anne suffer the most from the move, as they’ve chosen to share a room, a decision that quickly proves to be a bad one.
While Dawn thinks Mary Anne is “wicked” (and, to be fair, she’s a big brat at some points), Dawn isn’t much nicer. With some input from Jeff, Dawn decides to get Mary Anne out of her room by making her think she’s hearing a ghost in the house’s secret passage so she’ll move out on her own and no one’s feelings will be hurt. Because it’s much better to scare the crap out of your stepsister than to have an honest conversation with her about how you feel. Whatever, things are fine in the end. But you couldn’t pay me to live with any of those people.
The B plot is kind of fun, if completely unrealistic. All the Pikes are sick or injured, so the BSC girls have to take care of them. Mallory’s 11-year-old-ness really comes out here; she can whine with the best of ‘em.
Thoughts: Richard and Sharon let Dawn and Mary Anne spend the night alone in the Spiers’ house the night after the wedding. Isn’t 13 young for that? Also, no way Richard would go for that.
I felt bad for Mary Anne for having to move from the only house she’d ever lived in, but when she used that to guilt Dawn into giving her a sitting job, that went away. And whatever traces were left went away when she called Dawn fat. Shut up, Mary Anne.
Myriah Perkins wants to write a letter to the president (Bush Sr. at the time) to tell him she lost a tooth. Myriah is awesome.
Why does Richard keep making bacon for Sharon when he knows she won’t eat it? Wouldn’t he object to wasting food?
Don’t Dawn and Sharon know that if you have an Oriental rug, it’s the only place your cat will ever get sick? And a follow-up question: why do Dawn and Sharon have an Oriental rug?
Mallory admits to having chicken pox scars in “unmentionable places.” And now I will never think of her the same way again.
February 19, 2010
Summary: Jean West wants to join Pi Beta Alpha (and considering she’s practically perfect in every way, it’s a surprise she isn’t already a member), but her best friend Sandra Bacon doesn’t want her to join because it’s the only thing she has that gets her out of Jean’s shadow. She nominates Jean because she’s expected to, then tries to sabotage the pledge process so Jean won’t be able to join. What a wonderful best friend. She suggests that Jean have to invite Tom McKay to a party, knowing that Tom doesn’t like Jean, but Jean wins Tom over and the invitation works out. So then Sandra tells Tom that Jean was using him for her pledge process, making him stand her up for the party, which is supposed to get Jean booted from PBA consideration.
Again, it doesn’t work, since the PBA girls and Jean agree to get revenge by having Jean pretend to believe that Tom was sick (his reason for standing her up), ask him to a dance, and humiliate him in front of the whole school. (That’s always how it works in YA books and TV shows.) But then Jean falls in love with Tom and decides that she’d rather be with him than join PBA, so she doesn’t go through with the humiliation. She also finds out what a wonderful friend Sandra has been, and that friendship implodes about as quickly as you’d expect. But it all works out since Sandra apologizes, Jean forgives her, Tom reciprocates Jean’s feelings, and the PBA girls decide that Sandra and Jean have both earned their spots in the sorority. And I can’t believe I just typed that whole boring summary out.
In the B plot, Steven decides to quit college and work on a cruise ship. His family and Cara hate the idea, but the twins suggest using reverse psychology to get him to stay – everyone will pretend to support him until he…I don’t know, I lost my train of thought. I’ve already expended enough energy on that plot. Needless to say, it works and Steven stays put.
At the very end of the book, Jeffrey French turns up, having just moved to Sweet Valley from Oregon, and we’re promised “the hottest matchmaking duel ever” in the next book. Are matchmaking duels usually hot? Because I think even if it’s as cold as ice (which it probably will be), it’ll still be the hottest matchmaking duel ever.
Thoughts: Sandra lies to Jean, Jean lies to Tom, Tom lies to Jean, everyone lies to Steven…. These people are all horrible.
I don’t get the trend of books about people we don’t care about falling in love. Who freaking cares? Not that I care about any of the characters in the series, but still. Shouldn’t the twins not be supporting characters in their own series?
Ned tells a joke: “One guy says, ‘My daughter went around the world this summer.’ And the other guy says, ‘Oh, really? Where’s she going next summer?’” Oh, wait, jokes are supposed to be funny. Never mind, he didn’t tell a joke.
February 15, 2010
Summary: Mary Anne’s father and Dawn’s mother announce that they’re getting married, even though they really haven’t been back together for very long, and they’ve been seeing other people. But whatever, we all knew this was inevitable. Mary Anne and Dawn are really excited at the prospect of being stepsisters, until Mary Anne learns that Sharon doesn’t like cats, and that they’ll all be moving into the Schafers’ house. Nothing really gets resolved, since nothing’s going to change about the situation, no matter how Mary Anne feels about it, and in fact, the book ends on a cliffhanger. Well, “cliffhanger.” No one really cares who catches Sharon’s bouquet.
In the B plot, the BSC girls are trying to help Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold, who are engaged in a sibling-rivalry battle. Mary Anne solves it by suggesting that they not share a room anymore. A boring end to a boring plot.
Thoughts: Claudia wears a shocking-pink tunic over a white shirt with pink and yellow umbrellas on it, a yellow belt with a pink buckle, black knickers, and yellow stockings. Who wears knickers, other than people who work at Colonial Williamsburg?
Marilyn makes up a friend named Gozzie Kunka. What, Jane Smith was taken?
Marilyn also splits her and Carolyn’s room down the middle with masking tape. Wow, ghostwriter, what a fantastically original idea that no one has ever thought of before!
Mary Anne buys Sharon a charm that’s a replica of a Stoneybrook High School class ring because she knows Sharon never got one. That’s actually pretty awesome.
Kristy tells Mary Anne that Logan attending a BSC meeting isn’t “club policy.” I think she’s just bitter that he told her he would only join the club if he didn’t have to go to meetings.
Mary Anne imagines her and Dawn’s bridesmaids dresses being pale pink with lace collars, and she wants them to wear straw hats. Will Anne Shirley be attending as well?
Dawn and Mary Anne place the other BSC girls on the guest list for the wedding before mentioning family members or their parents’ coworkers. They’re almost as self-centered as Jessica Wakefield.
Apparently Richard, Sharon, and Dawn all agree that Richard and Mary Anne will move into the Schafers’ house…and then don’t tell Mary Anne. That’s a pretty crappy move.
Mary Anne suggests that Marilyn and Carolyn live in separate bedrooms because they’re so different, but then she agrees to share a room with Dawn. Someone’s not listening….
February 14, 2010
Summary: Jessica, Elizabeth, and Lila get summer jobs as mother’s helpers in Malibu, but since this isn’t the Baby-sitters Club, the kids don’t matter. Unsurprisingly, it’s all about the guys. Lila hooks up with a guy she thinks is in college, but he’s actually only 15. Jessica hooks up with a guy who…actually, there’s noting unique or memorable about him at all. And Elizabeth secretly hooks up with a guy named Jamie who’s supposedly a family friend of the people Jessica’s working for. Except he’s actually a big rock star named Tony, and he’s hiding out from a guy named Frankie whose girlfriend he kissed.
As Elizabeth sneaks around with Jamie (she doesn’t want Jessica to know about them because she thinks Jamie’s 21 and knows her family wouldn’t approve – also, he would probably GO TO JAIL), Jessica gets kind of close to Taryn, the little girl Elizabeth is taking care of. This doesn’t really matter, except that Jessica winds up saving Taryn from a bridge during a rainstorm, so Jessica actually has redeeming qualities in this book, and turns out to be very good with kids. Elizabeth finds out that Jamie is really Tony, saves him from the guy who’s after him, and promptly breaks up with him because she doesn’t think they have enough in common to stay together. But Tony writes a song about her and she realizes he did care about her. Oh, and Lila’s plot just…ends.
Thoughts: Who would’ve thought Elizabeth would be jailbait? Seriously, a 16-year-old seeing a guy she thinks is 21? Ew. And I don’t get why Jamie lies about his age anyway. I guess he’d rather appear older than is but also look like a child molester.
Jessica and Lila both manipulate Elizabeth into doing what they want her to do (being a mother’s helper with them). Okay, if she’s going to keep being dumb enough to believe everything they say, then she deserves whatever she gets manipulated into.
Jessica also tries to use a six-year-old to manipulate Elizabeth. Yep, pure evil. Though I haven’t decided if that’s cancelled out by the fact that Jessica saves said six-year-old’s life.
February 10, 2010
Summary: The BSC girls go on a class trip (not exactly the vacation the title suggests) to Vermont for lots of snowy goodness. Logan can’t go, so Mary Anne makes everyone take notes on the trip to compile into a book for him. I guarantee that he wouldn’t care about 95 percent of what they write about.
Mary Anne is all lonely without Logan and worries that he’s found a new girlfriend. He hasn’t.
Kristy is in charge of a team in the Winter War, which is a bunch of winter-sports competitions like cross-country skiing and some weird snowball fight/capture the flag hybrid. She gets really competitive, especially with Claudia, and ends up pushing a kid so hard to participate that he breaks his ankle. Yes, Kristy’s megalomaniacism has physically injured someone. It’s time for an uprising, people.
When not being snotty to Kristy, Claudia daydreams about her cute French ski instructor, Guy, thinking there’s a chance they could be together even though he’s more than ten years older than her. And married. With two kids. Oh, Claudia.
Stacey falls in luv with a guy from another school. They’re boring.
Dawn is a klutz and fails at everything, since she’s not used to snow. I actually kind of felt sorry for her in this book, mostly because I’m also a klutz and suck at ice skating.
Jessi organizes a talent show, wanting to prove to the other kids in school that she can be awesome even if she’s black. I assume the other kids have long stopped caring anything about her.
Mallory freaks out about a dance held at the end of the week, because she wouldn’t be Mallory if she didn’t have a panic attack about nothing.
The “sitting” part of the book series’ title is fulfilled by a group of elementary school kids who are in a bus accident and need looking after while their chaperones recover. They’re not that interesting.
Thoughts: Mary Anne says the school’s annual trip to Vermont is mandatory (though Logan gets out of it because of a family vacation). Can you really force students to go on a non-education-related trip? Can you even force students to go on an education-related trip? I highly doubt it.
Another ghost? Oh, freaking A.
Kristy holds practice for a snowball fight. If you need to practice throwing handfuls of snow, you’re too helpless for practice to do you any good.
Guy, stop touching the 13-year-old girl.
I fear Jessi’s on the road to being one of those people who believes any time someone doesn’t like him or her, it’s because of race. Don’t play the race card, Jessi.
I’m not at all surprised that Mary Anne is that one girl everyone knows who can’t go five minutes without talking about her boyfriend when they haven’t seen each other for a few days. (You know what I’m talking about. You know one, too.)
Kristy tries to recruit kids for a cross-country-skiing competition by telling them that if they can walk, they can ski. Some kids blow her off by saying, “We can’t walk yet!” Sometimes 13-year-olds are clever.
February 7, 2010
Summary: Amy Sutton, Elizabeth’s best friend from sixth grade, moves back to Sweet Valley, and it takes Elizabeth about two weeks to figure out what’s completely obvious from the first 20 pages – Amy’s not the same person she was in middle school. Basically, she’s Jessica now. Elizabeth wants Amy and Enid to get along, but they don’t, which makes sense, because Enid doesn’t get along with Jessica either. Elizabeth tries to be a good friend anyway, hanging out with Amy and inviting her to do stuff, but Amy keeps blowing her off or changing plans to get her way. Elizabeth is a huge doormat once again, so she doesn’t get what’s so troublesome about that kind of relationship.
The dealbreaker comes when Lila’s cousin Christopher comes to town and Lila throws a big party for him (of course). Amy has been told for days that Christopher has been “reserved” for her (no joke, that’s the actual word used), but it turns out that he and Enid know each other from summer camp, and he’d rather be with her than Amy. Amy goes all Jessica on Enid, finally showing her true colors, and Elizabeth finally sees who she really is. For once, there actually isn’t a happy ending – Elizabeth and Amy don’t really make up. Which is good, because with a friend like Amy, Elizabeth would be miserable.
In the B plot, Jessica and Cara write a column for the Oracle called “Miss Lovelorn,” in which students can write in to get love advice. Jessica takes advantage of the column to break up a guy named Jay, who’s dating a girl named Denise who’s a year older. She publishes fake letters about a bad relationship between a junior guy and a senior girl, making Jay and Denise each think the other has written a letter complaining about their relationship. Jessica gets Jay briefly, but he decides he’s not over Denise and dumps her before anything can really happen. Then, when Jessica and Cara fail to actually do the work their column requires, Elizabeth publishes their next two letters – which happen to be from Jay and Denise, admitting how sorry they are that they broke up. So Jessica breaks ‘em up and Elizabeth gets ‘em back together. Sounds accurate to me.
Thoughts: Lila says that Christopher is “the world’s most fabulous man” with “the most amazing blue eyes. They just sort of pierce right through you.” That sounds pretty normal for Lila…until you remember she’s talking about HER COUSIN. EW.
Why does Amy keep calling Elizabeth a doll? Is she secretly 60 years old?
Amy asks, “You don’t have to actually talk to someone to know it’s true love, do you?” That’s right, Amy, not Jessica. See the post title.
Cara gets Steven to dress up for Lila’s costume party as Raggedy Andy to her Raggedy Ann. Whipped!
So Elizabeth realizes that Amy’s been manipulative, has threatened Enid, and is a completely different person than she was five years ago…and she still wants to hang out with her? Sack up and cut her loose, Liz! You don’t have to be friends with everyone in the world!
Summary: While helping Stacey and her mom unpack (since they’ve just moved back to Stoneybrook), Mallory finds an old trunk and takes it home. Inside is a bunch of stuff from the 1800s, including a diary that belonged to a 12-year-old girl named Sophie. Sophie tells of her mother’s death, the disappearance of a portrait of her mother, and her grandfather’s subsequent cutting-off of her father, who was accused of stealing the portrait. Mallory thinks that Stacey’s new house is haunted by the spirits of the people involved in this non-crime, and she wants to help them rest in peace, or something, so she sets to work trying to find out what happened to the portrait, with help from Buddy Barrett, who she’s been tutoring in reading.
Buddy finds Sophie’s grandfather’s confession in the trunk, and he and Mallory learn that the grandfather had the portrait painted over because he was so heartbroken about his daughter’s death that he couldn’t bear to look at her. When people asked where the portrait went, he let them think that it had been stolen, then further let them think that Sophie’s father was the culprit. So a man was shunned and cut off from his rightful inheritence because his father-in-law was sad. How nice. So Mallory solves the mystery, Buddy becomes a better reader, and Stacey’s house is proven not to be haunted. Just another day in Stoneybrook.
Thoughts: This is actually not a bad mystery. However, it’s also not solveable by the audience it’s targeted at. What preteen would think the portrait might have been painted over?
Mrs. Pike has told Mallory that when she turns 12, she can dress however she wants. As if there’s such a huge difference between being 11 and being 12. And as if there’s anything hugely appropriate about the clothes Mallory wants to wear. She’s a dork, Mrs. Pike. You have nothing to worry about. Let her wear jeans with zippers on the legs. (I had no idea those were cool in the ’80s.)
As annoying as I usually find Mallory, she seems like she would make a good teacher. She’s good with encouragement, the right balance of reward and punishment, and trying different things to help Buddy learn. Her idea to have Buddy practice reading and writing by reading comic books and then making his own is kind of brilliant.
So Karen thinks Kristy’s house is haunted, Dawn thinks her own house is haunted, and Mallory thinks Stacey’s house is haunted. Was all of Stoneybrook built on an Indian burial ground? What are the property values like there?
Dawn wears a straw hat. What the–?
Mary Anne and Dawn announce that their parents have been on 25 dates since reconnecting in Stoneybrook. Not 25 consecutive dates, mind you, since Dawn’s mom has been seeing other guys. And yet they get married in the next book. (Uh, spoiler.) Methinks the ghostwriters just wanted to speed things up.
February 5, 2010
Summary: There’s some really shy girl with zero self-esteem named Lynne, and she has a crush on Guy Chesney, the Droids’ lead guitarist. For some reason, we’re supposed to care about this. Lynne anonymously enters a songwriting contest the Droids are holding, and she’s by far the best entrant, but no one knows she’s behind the entry. Then Elizabeth finds out, and that goes nowhere. Lynne hangs out with Guy, who’s obsessed with the mystery songwriter, to the point where he’s in love with her, despite the fact that he has no idea who she is.
Lynne slowly starts to become less insecure, then gets a makeover, because obviously ugly girls can never be happy. Finally Guy figures out that Lynne wrote the song, and he reveals it to everyone in school, which is kind of mean and could have been really traumatizing, but it all works out, so yay, two more people we don’t care about are going to be happy forever.
The B plot is beyond stupid. Jessica and the cheerleaders hold a fundraiser for new uniforms in which they take turns rocking in a rocking chair. No, I’m serious. Yes, that’s it. No, I don’t get it either.
At the very end of the book, Elizabeth discovers that Amy Sutton, her best friend from sixth grade (who I remember from the Sweet Valley Twins books), is moving back to Sweet Valley. I’ve heard some major stuff happens because of that, so I hope that winds up being awesome.
Thoughts: Could have done without the makeover. Only pretty girls get love, huh?
Jessica’s fundraiser is the laziest charitable effort ever. So it’s perfect for her.
Guy doesn’t think girls like guys in bands. No, honey, they just don’t like guys who play keyboards in bands. Or maybe they don’t like you because of your love for Linda Ronstadt. (Seriously, it’s like an obsession. Between that and his obsession over the mystery songwriter, this guy’s on the right track to become a stalker.)
Jessica wears lace anklets. I knew she had the maturity of a four-year-old; I didn’t realize she dressed like one, too.
Plucking your eyebrows can make you sneeze? I just learned something from a Sweet Valley High book!