December 2, 2014

SVT #21, Left Behind: Home Alone

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:38 pm by Jenn

She's supposed to be 12, not eight, cover artist

She’s supposed to be 12, not eight, cover artist

Summary: The Rapture happens, but only Elizabeth gets to go to Heaven, because she’s the only truly pure person in Sweet Valley. Wait, wrong Left Behind.

In this Left Behind, Elizabeth’s friend Sarah is neglected by her father, who’s always either working or spending time with his fiancée, Annie. Annie’s young and useless and most likely a golddigger. She wants nothing to do with a 12-year-old future stepdaughter, and only pays attention to Sarah when her father’s around. Mr. Thomas is totally clueless about everything, including the fact that his daughter just wants to spend time with him. (Sarah is Lila if Lila had manners and no confidence.)

Mr. Thomas has to go out of town for a week for work, and leaves Annie in charge of Sarah. The next day, Annie tells Sarah that her younger sister is sick, and Annie’s the only person available to take care of her. She’ll have to leave Sarah by herself in Sweet Valley while she goes off to wherever for a few nights. She basically bullies Sarah into agreeing by pointing out that she’s 12, not a little kid.

Sarah keeps quiet about her living situation, not wanting her father to find out. When Mr. Thomas calls, Sarah pretends that Annie’s in the shower. And when her Aunt Lillian calls to chat, Sarah pretends that her whole life is totally fine, and she doesn’t hate the idea of her father marrying Annie. I don’t get why she doesn’t rat out Annie, since that would likely lead to Mr. Thomas dumping her, but Sarah’s pretty meek.

The poor girl has a hard time sleeping because she’s afraid of all the noises in the house. Who hasn’t been there, even as a teenager? Heck, even in my 20s, I got a little nervous spending the night in the house by myself. Elizabeth suggests that Sarah go see the school nurse, and Sarah’s tempted to go just so she can lie down for a while, but she’s worried that the school will call her father.

Annie doesn’t come home when she’s supposed to, telling Sarah that her sister still needs her, and Sarah can handle a few more nights alone. Annie says that when she was Sarah’s age, she was taking care of all her younger siblings on her own, so Sarah can suck it up. What is this, Dicey’s Song? Who’s letting a 12-year-old raise a family? Mr. Thomas and Aunt Lillian remain in the dark, though Lillian can tell that something’s not right with Sarah.

Elizabeth invites Amy and Sarah to spend the night at her house the day before Annie’s supposed to come back. Sarah’s thrilled – she’ll finally get a good night’s sleep. But the afternoon of the sleepover, Sarah falls down the stairs at her house, hitting her head and injuring her foot. She can’t walk to get the phone and call for help, and obviously there are no adults around to find her. She ends up blacking out.

Ned, Elizabeth, and Amy to the rescue! They arrive at Sarah’s house to pick her up for the sleepover, and Elizabeth sees Sarah unconscious. Ned breaks a window so they can get inside the house and call 911. They all go to the hospital with Sarah, and in some very sweet scenes, Elizabeth and Amy ask to stay so Sarah won’t be surrounded by strangers when she regains consciousness.

When Mr. Thomas makes it back to town, he’s stunned to learn that Annie ditched Sarah, and that his 12-year-old daughter spent a whole week fending for herself. When he calls around to find Annie, he learns that she doesn’t even have a younger sister. Annie arrives, and Mr. Thomas tells her she’s too immature for him. Annie’s tries to call his bluff, all, “I guess I’ll just leave then!” Mr. Thomas basically tells her not to let the door hit her on the way out.

Then Lillian arrives to lecture Mr. Thomas about being a bad parent. She wants to have Sarah come live with her. Sarah confides in Elizabeth that she wants to stay with her dad but doesn’t want to hurt Lillian’s feelings. Elizabeth has to tell her to actually say what she feels, because Sarah is mature enough to take care of herself for a week but not emotionally mature enough to express her opinions. But it doesn’t matter, because everything just ends anticlimactically, with Lillian calming down and Mr. Thomas realizing that he’s been a pretty crappy father. And then I don’t think we hear about any of them again until book 62.

In the B-plot, Jessica wants to show queen bee Janet that she’s much more mature than other sixth-graders. Janet wants to throw a big Unicorn party, and she asks Jessica for ideas. Jess thinks they should throw a luau, and Janet thinks it should be held at Jessica’s house, especially if Steven will be there. Hey, is Steven there right now? Can Janet come over and hang out with Jessica, but only if Steven’s there? Has Steven ever said anything about her? What is Steven wearing right now? What is Steven doing right now? What is Steven thinking right now? Janet’s like the overly attached girlfriend meme, except without actually being someone’s girlfriend.

Jessica doesn’t catch on to Janet’s real interest; she’s just happy to be spending so much time with such a popular person. Lila’s ticked, though, since Jessica doesn’t pay attention to her anymore. I actually feel kind of sorry for Lila – I’ve been in the position of being ignored in favor of a new friend, and it sucks. But I don’t get why the three of them don’t hang out together. Lila and Janet are cousins, after all; it’s not like they hate each other or anything.

Jessica goes to Janet’s house to talk about the party, but Janet says there are painters over and talks her way into a visit to the Wakefields’. Steven’s there, and Janet flirts with him (badly), but he’s definitely not interested. Janet tells Jessica that hanging out with her is a waste of time. Now Jessica has two friends mad at her. Plus, she’s afraid Janet will kick her out of the Unicorns. But things get all anti-climactic again, with Jessica making up with both Janet and Lila. Plus, the Unicorns all like her luau idea. Jessica may not be queen bee, but she’s definitely in the running for princess.

Thoughts: How does Annie not get arrested for neglect or child endangerment? Shouldn’t Ned the lawyer do something about that?

Also, what’s with people named Annie being horrible to children? The woman who kidnapped Mary was also named Annie.

Janet doesn’t like popcorn. What kind of person doesn’t like popcorn?? Oh, right, an evil one.

I have to laugh at Jessica and Janet making up so easily, and Janet wanting to use Jessica’s ideas for the party. In real life, Janet would make the other Unicorns shun Jessica, who would wind up with an eating disorder.

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