February 12, 2011
Summary: Annie’s dating a guy named Tony who’s on the track team with Roger (Barrett) Patman. He’s so good that he’s been scouted and could even make the Olympics someday. After a knee injury, Tony worries that he won’t be back in shape by the time he needs to be, so he accepts some “magic vitamins” (yes, really) from a guy at his gym.
Roger is hosting a 13-year-old Mitch whose mom was a friend of his late mom’s; Mitch has been suspended from school for a month and his mom thinks he could use Roger’s influence to help turn him around. Mitch ends up with a big-boy crush on Action Jackson (tm Maeby), AKA Tony, who ironically tries to convince him to stop drinking while he himself takes steroids.
Annie discovers the steroids in Tony’s locker and takes one to her cousin, who’s a biochemistry grad student and tells her what they are. When confronted, Tony denies being on steroids, but his behavior says otherwise. Annie confides in Elizabeth (of course) and Roger, who encourage her to slip Tony some placebos. Apparently her biochemist cousin can make placebos, so maybe she should quit school and go into drug forgery or something.
None of this really matters, though, because Tony overhears a conversation between his drug supplier and another guy, and it finally clicks that he’s taking illegal drugs that are giving him an unfair advantage. He comes clean to his overbearing father and coach, taking himself out of the upcoming all-county meet. The coach admires his honesty and agrees to let him compete, though he’ll make Tony take drug tests (which will turn up lots of sugar, I expect). Tony wins the meet, also breaking the state record, because drugs are bad, but being honest is good.
The B-plot is actually kind of fun. Todd’s annoyed that he and Elizabeth are never alone together, though he should probably stop inviting people to join them just as often as she does. Elizabeth comes up with a scheme to have Annie and Enid “kidnap” him and bring him to a restaurant for a romantic dinner. Todd has the exact same idea, substituting Winston for Annie and Enid, but they execute their plans at the same time. Just as Annie and Enid kidnap Todd, Winston kidnaps Elizabeth, and all five end up at the restaurant. C’mon, that’s cute, right?
Thoughts: I guess I wasn’t the only person who noticed that Elizabeth is always inviting people to hang out with her and Todd without asking his permission.
I thought it was common sense that if a guy in a gym offers you unnamed pills, you should run away very fast. I guess Tony isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box.
Addendum a few pages later: Tony doesn’t really know what steroids are. I can feel my IQ dropping just reading about this guy.
So teenagers exchanging locker combinations is the equivalent of giving someone a key to your house?
Why would Winston kidnap Elizabeth after she’s already in his car? Good idea, bad execution. Amusing, though. Winston tells Elizabeth, “You’re not supposed to make a peep. I’ve seen this in movies. Just lie back in the seat and moan every once in a while.” And now we know what Winston would do if he got a Wakefield twin alone in his car.
November 13, 2010
Summary: Bruce and Roger’s grandfather, creatively named Grandfather Patman, comes to Sweet Valley to visit, and he decides to pit the two cousins against each other to decide who will one day take over the family company. (Edward Quartermaine soooooo wishes he had thought of this for Ned and A.J.) Gramps gives both boys $2,000 and tells them that whoever makes the most money with it in a month wins.
Roger and Bruce quickly turn competitive, though Bruce plays dirtier than Roger. Bruce decides to play poker with his money, but he loses almost $800 (plus he has to keep paying for car repairs suffered by his distractions over a girl – more on that later). Roger invests $1,500 in a stock, despite being advised against it, and loses $500 of it.
At the same time, Bruce is interested in a girl named Tracy and Roger is interested in a girl named Lisa. Both girls are working on a project called SAVE; SVH is trying to raise money for a school for special-needs kids that’s in danger of being shut down. Tracy is especially invested in the project because her little brother attends the school. The girls (and other student reps, including Elizabeth) arrange something called Harbor Days, where students can sell stuff and donate half their profits to SAVE.
As suggested by Tracy, Bruce sells a book of his dating tips (seriously) while Roger decides to sell custom painted caps. Bruce sabotages him by switching out his paint for some that’s water soluble, then paying a kid to start a water balloon fight so all the hats are ruined. For the second weekend of Harbor Days, Bruce wants to sell Tracy’s grandmother’s homemade ice cream, but he’s worried that Roger will sabotage him. He himself wants to sabotage Roger’s project, selling blown-up photos as portraits, by exposing his photo paper.
Through all this, Tracy’s fallen in luuuuuuuv with Bruce, despite the fact that everyone keeps telling her he’s a player and a creep. She finally figures this out for herself when he promises to donate all of his profits to SAVE, then donates…none of them. She correctly guesses that Bruce used her to find out from Lisa what Roger’s plans are. (Well, he also liked her, but yeah, he was using her.) Tracy warns Roger about Bruce’s possible sabotage, but it turns out to be a moot point because neither cousin does anything to the other. They both make a ton of money at Harbor Days, and both decide to donate all of it to SAVE.
Gramps throws a party to welcome back Mr. and Mrs. Patman from a trip, and plans to get Roger and Bruce’s final contest results there. Both boys are surprised to learn that they both donated all their money to SAVE, and in fact have nothing to show to Gramps. Hank Patman, to his credit, thinks this is awesome and decides to fund the school so it never faces financial difficult again. Gramps admits to being embarrassed by his grandsons’ actions, because it’s totally better to make money that will line the pockets of an already rich man than to donate it to a worthy cause. But then he decides his competition idea was stupid and the boys are better people than he expected. Well, better than him, at least.
Thoughts: “I approve of sports that build up coordination and balance. Both are important qualities for an entrepreneur.” Grandfather Patman concerns me.
I’m pretty sure no one named Judd belongs to a country club.
“There was no way Judd could beat a pair of jacks.” Wow, Bruce is an idiot. Has he never played poker before?
I think we’ve already read “The Bruce Patman Guide to Dating.” Step 1: Get her drunk. Step 2: Take off her clothes. Step 3: Call your lawyer and see if he can get rid of that restraining order.
July 3, 2010
Summary: Amy brings a fad to SVH called slam books – people keep lists of categories like best couple and biggest flirt, so they can see what their friends think of their classmates. Basically, it’s a way for people to anonymously hurt each other’s feelings. Jessica’s the first casualty when everyone names her the biggest flirt, so she decides to tone things down, especially since she’s interested in the new guy, A.J. Morgan, and doesn’t want him to think she’s vapid and silly.
Jeffrey’s been spending a lot of time with Olivia (who, by the way, recently broke up with Roger), helping her out with a new literary magazine, and when people start writing them down in the slam books as the best future couple, Elizabeth tries not to get jealous. That only works until Cara tells her she saw Olivia and Jeffrey getting a little closer than they should be. Elizabeth decides to get some revenge by flirting with A.J., not knowing that Jessica’s already fallen for him. Lila takes it upon herself to try to act as a go-between for Elizabeth and Jeffrey, but Elizabeth has already given up on the relationship.
Lila starts hanging out a lot with Jeffrey while Elizabeth hangs out with A.J., and no one’s exactly happy. Jessica and Olivia figure out that Lila’s not really working on fixing Jeffrey and Elizabeth’s relationship, but is instead trying to get him for herself, and they realize that she was probably the first person to write down Olivia and Jeffrey as the best future couple in order to cause trouble, break up Jeffrey and Elizabeth, and steal him. They share this info with Elizabeth, who makes up with Jeffrey, and the girls get some really lame revenge on Lila by calling her the class sneak in their slam books. Fortunately for Jessica, Elizabeth’s flirting with A.J. has actually worked out in her favor – he doesn’t like flirty girls, and instead wants to be with someone who’s kind of shy…like Jessica. Poor, naive A.J.
Thoughts: Elizabeth thinks Jeffrey’s in love with Olivia, and she decides to just let Olivia have him. Great, another doormat in Sweet Valley. She also doesn’t think she can just ask Jeffrey what was going on when Cara saw him with Olivia. Like Elizabeth’s ever been at a loss for words before.
Elizabeth also doesn’t think A.J.’s her type, but so far he seems pretty much like Todd 2.0.
Liz’s idea of flirting: “Come and buy me a hot dog. I’m absolutely starving.” Now we know why she doesn’t flirt very often.
I love how there’s a page in the back of the book encouraging readers to start their own slam books, even after they’ve just read a book about how much trouble they can cause. The series wants to turn us all into mean girls, it seems.
December 31, 2009
Summary: Elizabeth, Jessica, Lila, Todd, Roger, Olivia, Bruce, Annie, Mr. Collins, Ms. Dalton, and a couple of extras named Barry Cooper and Charlie Markus spend a month biking up the California coast and manufacturing drama. A lot of boring stuff happens:
Elizabeth thinks that Todd is falling for a girl named Courtney who met up with the group in Hollywood and has been sent on the trip by her father so she’ll stay away from her boyfriend and his presumably fast-moving crowd. She gets jealous over pretty much nothing. Everyone thinks Elizabeth is too hard on Courtney since they think Courtney’s father is a neglectful alcoholic, but after battling a forest fire accidentally started by Courtney, Elizabeth discovers the truth, reveals it to everyone, and shows everyone Courtney’s true colors. Of course, she and Todd get back together, because they’re soul mates, or something.
Jessica falls for the improbably named Robbie October, who is your stereotypical bad boy. He hates authority and plays by his own rules. And then he screams like a girl when he comes in contact with a bear.
Lila is mad because Ms. Dalton is dating her father again, and when she finds out from some kids from another school that Ms. Dalton isn’t who she claims to be, she uses it to get what she wants.
Roger and Bruce are apparently at odds because they’re still not comfortable being relatives, but there’s so little of that storyline that it’s barely there.
Annie and Ricky have broken up, even though they were find in Runaway, and she’s now interested in Charlie. However, she’s worried that her past (she’s a loose girl, don’tcha know) will stand in their way. It doesn’t.
Ms. Dalton is revealed to really be Beth Curtis, and she fled her last home after her Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-like husband hit her and then committed suicide. Lila’s father apparently knows about her past, but it’s unclear if he’s holding it over her head.
Mr. Collins is totally still in love with Ms. Dalton, and they seem to be back together by the end of the book.
Thoughts: You’d think that in 250 pages, 100 more pages than the regular books in the series, something interesting would happen. You’d be wrong.
I just can’t see Lila and Jessica willingly going on a four-week-long bike trip that requires camping out. I’m surprised Lila doesn’t bring a servant along with her.
The 12 cyclists stay at Courtney’s father’s mansion – but they have to sleep in tents. Huh?
Also, Jessica and Lila hate Courtney because she calls them goody-goodies. But there are so many other reasons to hate her, girls!
I love how Sweet Valley is supposed to be some magical place: “Annie told her all about the town of Sweet Valley, and Courtney appeared to be properly captivated.” So…not captivated at all, you’re saying?
Jessica and Robbie are threatened by a bear, and Roger’s suggestion is that they call the police. What does he expect the cops to do, throw donuts for the bear to run after?
I think the ghostwriter has a crush on Mr. Collins. She keeps calling him handsome.
The Munchkin quote I used in the title is possibly the greatest thing I’ve read all year. Or at least in this series. It’ll be hard to top that one.
December 5, 2009
Summary: Roger moves in with the Patmans, his newly acquired family, and tries to adjust to life as a rich snob. Jessica wants him, for some reason, and decides to get his girlfriend Olivia out of the way by showing her and Roger how out-of-place Olivia is in his new life. It works until Roger figures it all out and…does nothing, really. I mean, he gets back together with Olivia, but it’s not like he comes up with some nefarious plot to teach Jessica a lesson or anything.
In the B plot, Regina has been meeting some mysterious older man, which makes everyone at SVH gossip about her. It turns out she’s been hired to do some modeling, but for some reason she doesn’t just come out and say it. So then she appears on a magazine cover and…uh, that’s it.
Thoughts: This book would have been more interesting if it had better developed the contrast between Roger, who’s suddenly rich, and Bruce, who’s been rich his whole life. Instead, Bruce barely makes an appearance and doesn’t seem to have an opinion either way about having a long-lost cousin. Instead the drama comes from Olivia and Roger’s relationship, and it makes no sense. Oh, no, Olivia doesn’t fit in! Well, neither does Roger, so what’s the big deal?
Also, why does Jessica want to go out with Roger? I guess she’s just a golddigger. (Yeah, like you’re surprised.) It just comes out of the blue. Maybe she’s gotten so horrible that now she just wants to break up couples for the heck of it. I wouldn’t put it past her.
And what does Lila have against Regina? When she finds out Regina’s been modeling, she gets really jealous and wants to put a stop to it. What does she care? Has she ever even interacted with Regina? I thought Regina was so perfect and loveable that no one could ever hate her. Also, we’re reminded again and again that she’s beautiful. Is Lila allowed to hate other beautiful people? I thought she was only allowed to hate the ugly and/or poor.
I figured Hank Patman, Bruce’s father, would be a jerk, considering how awful his wife and son are, but he’s actually pretty okay. He accepts Roger into the family immediately, treats him like his own son, and tells him his friends are always welcome at the house. Of course, he’ll probably end up killing a puppy later just to prove me wrong, but as of this point, he’s not a bad guy.
Mrs. Patman, however, is just weird. She wears lounging pajamas to a barbecue. First of all, lounging pajamas? Those are different from pajamas you wear to bed? And who would wear them in front of guests? Hey, maybe she’s an alcoholic. Snobby, non-working wives of rich businessmen are usually alcoholics.
The mall contains stores called the Tennis Shop and the Designer Shop. Is the mall actually just called the Mall?
Unintenionally funniest quote of the book, regarding Jessica’s new “friendship” with Olivia: “Elizabeth couldn’t suppress a twinge of uneasiness about her sister’s newfound generosity. Was it possible Jessica had something else in mind other than good-natured friendship?” Is it possible I know more about Jessica than Elizabeth does?
November 28, 2009
Summary: Tricia dies (that was quick), and Steven promises that he’ll look after her supposedly hell-raising sister Betsy. This means letting Betsy crash at the Wakefields’ since her dad is MIA. Jessica hates this, since Betsy’s trash and she doesn’t want to be associated with her. She also doesn’t like that Steven’s spending so much time with Betsy, because if anything is Jessica’s business, it’s who her siblings are associated with.
Betsy starts down the path to righteousness – she stops going to bars and starts getting more interested in her artwork, with some encouragement from Steven and his friend Jason. Then Jessica finds out about the promise Steven made to Tricia and makes Betsy think that Tricia’s the only reason Steven’s being nice to her. Tricia quickly reverts to being a bad girl, drinking about a third of a rum and Coke (ooh, scandalous!) and hanging out with the skeezy Crash McAllister. Steven and Jason track her down, punch out one of the guys she’s with, and tell her she’s going to art school. All better!
The B plot is much more interesting than the A plot. Roger Barrett’s mom needs surgery, and everyone’s surprised when Bruce Patman’s father Hank arranges to pay all of her medical bills. At the very end of the book, the reasoning behind this comes out: Roger’s real father was Paul Patman, Hank’s brother. Gotta love paternity surprises.
The C plot, which is actually more like a D- plot, sees Winston eating lots of pizza. Yawn.
Thoughts: Really, the A plot is incredibly boring. Couldn’t they have had Tricia’s ghost haunt people or something? Who freaking cares about Betsy? She’s the worst bad girl ever. She drinks, does drugs, and supposedly sleeps with a lot of guys, but she says “darned.” Wow, what a rebel.
Jessica’s really become maddening. I wish someone would sit her down and tell her how to care about other people. I think she was born without a superego. Her ego ate it.
It also ate her sense of irony. Jessica, Lila, and Cara ask Bruce why his father is paying for Roger’s mother’s operation, and Bruce says that he’s “watching out for the little people.” Jessica gets all haughty and asks, “What right do you have to label anyone a little person?” Yeah, Bruce, that’s her job!
November 14, 2009
Summary: Remember how Roger is poor? He’s also a really fast runner. And if he wins a big race, he could get a full scholarship to Sweet Valley College. But he can’t take time off from his janitorial job to run. Elizabeth to the rescue! She gets her father to talk to Roger’s boss (since they work in the same building) and negotiate time off.
In other Roger news, he has the hots for Lila, who thinks he’s a complete loser until she realizes that he’s a good athlete. After he wins the qualifying heat for the big race, everyone in school starts talking about him, making Lila realize that if she hitches her wagon to his star, she’ll be talked about, too. Roger’s so pleased by her attention that he doesn’t realize his friend Olivia Davidson is totally in love with him.
Jessica has a new guy and wants to be the center of attention, so she decides to reveal Roger’s secret job, ruin him and Lila, and swoop in with her new boyfriend to become the newest hot couple. Hilariously, Roger outs himself to Lila before Jessica can do anything, so it becomes a moot point. In the end, Roger wins the race, gets his scholarship, and gets the girl – Olivia, not Lila. Everyone else loses.
The B plot is about Jessica and the new boyfriend she’s been secretly seeing in her father’s office building. Turns out he’s only 15. Jessica would rather lose a great guy than admit he can’t even drive yet, so she’s single yet again. I’m sure that won’t last.
Thoughts: Humiliation is a nice look for Lila. I’m sure she’ll never learn a lesson about treating people nicely no matter what class they belong to, or anything deep like that, but it’s nice to see her use a guy and suffer the consequences. I’m sure she’s horrified that Roger would ditch her for a nobody like Olivia. No one’s allowed to be happy if Lila isn’t happy! No one!
So there’s a Sweet Valley College in addition to Sweet Valley University? That seems strange. Or maybe Sweet Valley College becomes SVU later on. I’m still confused as to how big this town is.
Though that makes it even funnier when Jessica says, “There are other places in Sweet Valley besides the Dairi Burger and the beach.” Not that I’ve seen.
November 2, 2009
Summary: Jessica has sunken her claws into Bill the surfer, even though she doesn’t actually like him – she wants revenge for a time when he rejected her. They’re spending a lot of time together, since they’re starring opposite each other in the school play, and Jessica has Bill wrapped around her finger. Basically, when she says, “Jump,” he says, “How high? For how long? Can I get you anything while I’m up here?” Bill is also teaching shy DeeDee Gordon how to surf, and because he’s doing so much with Jessica, he has no idea that DeeDee’s in love with him. Jessica can see it, but DeeDee isn’t beautiful and popular, so obviously she’s collateral damage in Jessica’s revenge-seeking plan.
Bill saves DeeDee from drowning and realizes he’s fallen in love with her, so he dumps Jessica (at a party, in front of everyone, so way to go, Bill!), which means she’ll probably go for an even sicker revenge plot in the future. In the end, Bill is happy, DeeDee is happy, and Jessica is alone. So sad.
There are three B plots, only one of which is actually kind of interesting. In the first, Elizabeth is jealous of Todd’s ex-girlfriend, Patsy, who’s just moved to town and who he’s spending a lot of time with. It’s a typical I-think-my-boyfriend-is-in-love-with-someone-else-but-I’m-too-chicken-to-say-anything plot, and Elizabeth comes away from it looking as dumb as Jessica. In the second B plot, which is pretty brief, Jessica thinks DeeDee’s father, a Hollywood agent, is going to peg her as the next big thing in Hollywood. She’s wrong, and Bill gets that honor, so Jessica loses again. Awesome. In the third, semi-interesting B plot, Roger Barrett is in love with Lila but she thinks he’s a loser. Elizabeth discovers that Roger is secretly working as a janitor (read: he’s POOR) and agrees not to tell anyone.
Thoughts: Bill might be my new favorite character. He rejects Jessica twice and doesn’t seem to care that he could suffer her wrath. She’s the bratty child who wants her way and he’s the parent who’s putting his foot down and not letting her get away with murder. Supernanny fans, we could all learn a lot from Bill Chase. And even if he turns out to be a serial killer or something in the future, he’s already put up with enough from having to hang out with Jessica, so I think we can cut him some slack.
I know where the Roger stuff is going, and I have a feeling Lila’s going to be getting her own comeuppance. Funny how, at least in the Sweet Valley Twins series, Lila was always considered the spoiled brat and the quintessential mean girl, but from my reading, Jessica’s the one who’s nastier. Not that Lila doesn’t deserve being put in her place herself.
The teens at SVH are putting on Splendor in the Grass. Is that really an appropriate play for high-schoolers? I mean, we weren’t even allowed to do Grease in high school. Maybe Sweet Valley is a lot more liberal than I thought.
I have to ask, what’s up with Jessica and the number 137? In the first eight books of the series, she’s used it about 137 times. Maybe I should start keeping track of how many times it pops up.