September 2, 2014

SVU #23, Sweet Kiss of Summer: Can You Believe These People Were in Charge of Saving Lives?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:14 pm by Jenn

I tried to come up with a Lifeguardians of the Galaxy title, but it didn't quite work

I tried to come up with a Lifeguardians of the Galaxy title, but it didn’t quite work

Summary: Summer is wrapping up, and the lifeguards of Sweet Valley Shore are getting ready for their annual triathlon, where they’ll compete against their South Beach rivals. Ryan has ditched the squad and become a waiter. That makes Elizabeth mopey. Jessica, however, is now having a great summer, since she and Ben are together. Unfortunately, soon he’ll have to go back to school in Chicago while she stays in California. They can’t afford to visit each other much, so they’re hoping their squad has the best record of the summer, which will earn them merit pay.

Remember how Winston had to get a job dressing up as a huge hamburger because he didn’t make the squad? He’s still doing that. He gets in a fight with the South Beach lifeguards and ends up betting Sweet Valley Shore’s merit pay that they’ll win the triathlon. He does this without consulting his friends, and despite the fact that the merit pay isn’t his to do anything with. Good job, Winston!

The lifeguards aren’t happy when they hear what Winston did, but Wendy thinks they can win. Nina isn’t sure they can without Ryan. She also thinks she’s been a bad leader, which is so laughable, I don’t know where to start. Nina, you have been completely awesome in this trilogy. Don’t ever doubt yourself. Also, don’t mention Ryan; it just makes Elizabeth whine. It also makes her stalk him to the restaurant where he’s working, and get mad when she sees him with another woman.

The weird incidents from the previous book, such as the Sweet Valley squad being sabotaged and Paloma Perro being poisoned, continue here, starting with some robberies. Someone keeps breaking into a locked drawer in the squad’s office and stealing money. Wendy also has her wallet stolen from Pedro’s house. So it’s a little suspicious when Paul keeps buying Nina things like jewelry and lobster dinners. Paul says he’s just prespending the money South Beach will get when they win the triathlon.

Money is also turning up in Winston and Hamburger Harry’s hands. They’re taking bets on the triathlon, pretending they’re not bookies and aren’t doing anything illegal. Winston is allowed to be an alternate on Sweet Valley’s triathlon team, despite not being a lifeguard, but doesn’t see any conflict of interest. Meanwhile, Elizabeth gets a call from Tom, who still has no idea that she’s been mooning over Ryan all summer. She realizes that she still loves her boyfriend, but she also obviously has feelings for Ryan.

Winston and Harry continue accepting bets, including from a preteen boy who threatens to turn them in to the police if they don’t take his money. Then Jessica cuts her foot on a knife someone left in the sand, so she’s out of the triathlon and Winston’s in. He doesn’t think he’s in good enough shape, though, so Jessica talks Elizabeth into going to see Ryan and asking him to rejoin the squad. Ryan declines.

Nina previously saw Paul with a knife, so she thinks he planted it in the sand to injure Jessica. I’m not sure how he could possibly know exactly where she would step, but whatever. Nina’s usually pretty smart, so I’ll give her a pass on this one. She sends Jessica to South Beach’s station to flash around a wad of money in hopes that they’ll steal it and Sweet Valley will be able to confirm that they’re the burglars.

Throughout the book, Wendy’s been upset that Pedro, who’s off on tour, hasn’t been in touch with her. While she’s at his house, looking after his dog, she hears an answering-machine message from his manager, mentioning that his tour ended a week ago. Wendy’s super-suspicious that Pedro has been off the radar – he must be with another woman! There certainly couldn’t be any other explanation! Rachel (Ben’s ex, and the Regina George of this trilogy) randomly turns up and mocks Wendy, not believing that she’s dating Pedro.

While the Sweet Valley lifeguards stay up all night waiting for someone to come rob Jessica, Elizabeth goes back to see Ryan, like, Liz, you’re turning into a stalker. Chill out. He kisses her, then drives away. She follows him (again, stalker), finding him at a church with the woman from before. She figures they’re there to plan their wedding. Elizabeth, for someone who wants to be an investigative journalist, you SUCK at investigations.

Back at the beach, the Sweet Valley lifeguards find out that Winston’s been taking bets on the triathlon. Ben points out that he can’t take action on a competition he’s now in, so they kick him out. Then Wendy rescues a kid from drowning, but realizes it was all a diversion so someone could steal her wallet again. Where are the police in all this? Oh, right – Sweet Valley. Their badges say, “We’re incompetent.” By the way, Paul has been MIA for most of the book, but remains the Sweet Valley squad’s main suspect.

Elizabeth follows Ryan into the church and gets directed to the basement. And then she discovers Ryan’s true secret: He’s an alcoholic. Last summer, he skipped work because he was hungover, and a girl drowned. He blamed himself because he thought he would have been able to save her if he’d gone to work. After that, he got sober, and has been for a year. The woman Elizabeth saw him with is his sponsor.

Instead of being embarrassed that she thought Ryan was seeing someone else (even though they’re technically not dating anyway), then stalked him to a meeting he obviously wanted to keep quiet from her, Elizabeth guilts Ryan into going back to the beach and making amends to the other lifeguards. She also forces him to compete in the triathlon, which is dumb because he hasn’t been training. Whatever – Ryan comes back to the beach and everything is fine again.

Ryan regains leadership of the squad, and the triathlon gets off to a good start. In the biking portion, the only strange thing that happens is that two of the South Beach lifeguards try to knock Elizabeth and Ben over, and Rachel warns them to play nice. The swimming portion also goes fine, and the two squads are tied going into the running portion. Then Wendy gets lost in the woods, and the ghostwriter makes a big deal out of it, but it doesn’t go anywhere.

Nina comes across Paul, who’s been knocked out and tied up in the woods, after leading in the race. He doesn’t know who tied him up, just saying it was a kid. He admits that he was arrested for petty thievery a few years ago, and Captain Feehan (the guy in charge of all the lifeguards) helped him turn his life around. They teamed up to make Paul look like the burglar while they investigated other suspects.

Wendy beats Rachel in the running portion (though it seems Rachel may have let her win). Pedro’s waiting for her at the finish line, with the ring he went to Mexico to get from his grandmother. Despite thinking just hours ago that Pedro was cheating on her and she couldn’t trust him, and despite the fact that they’ve been together less than two months, if that, Wendy immediately accepts his proposal. Yeah, mazel tov, have a great life. I don’t care.

Somehow, South Beach wins the triathlon, which makes no sense if Sweet Valley won two portions, but whatever. This means Jessica and Ben’s long-distance relationship will have to mostly take place via phone. Captain Feehan reveals that he knew Winston and Harry were taking bets on the triathlon, but let it go because he’s looking for anyone who might have placed a large bet. That would be the preteen who threatened to go to the police. Guess what? He’s Rachel’s brother. They bet on Sweet Valley winning, then tried to throw the triathlon (including getting Paul out of the way).

Rachel tries to swim her way to freedom, which is kind of hilarious, because…how far away did she think she’d get? Was she going to swim to Mexico or something? Anyway, she hits her head and Winston saves her. Then she goes to jail, and Winston mails her a $50 for bail, which cracked me up. Wendy asks him to be her best man, so I guess that wedding’s going to happen.

Of the other summer couples, only Jessica and Ben remain together. He tells her he’s going to try to transfer to UCLA, which is super-close to SVU. Nina and Paul part ways, and she goes home to Brian, which is so dumb. And Elizabeth goes home to Tom, who will probably never find out that she spent the summer obsessed with another guy. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but poor Tom.

Thoughts: Ha, this book ends on Labor Day, which is when I finished reading it.

“Jessica couldn’t think of a single Jenny, Jen, or Jennifer at Sweet Valley Shore or neighboring South Beach.” I guarantee there are at least ten.

I love that Elizabeth’s mad that Ryan might be seeing someone else. Never mind that she’s currently cheating on her boyfriend. No one sneaks around behind Elizabeth Wakefield’s back while she’s sneaking around behind someone else’s back!

“Something in her resisted the idea of researching history papers and saving the world and doing all the other serious, grown-up things that lay around the corner.” “Saving the world”? Shut up, Elizabeth. Who do you think you are, Buffy?

“[Ben] shuddered at the thought of Jessica’s proud, strong body compromised in any way.” She cut her foot. Chill out. Also, ew.

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