August 16, 2016
SVT #60, Ciao, Sweet Valley!: The Italian Snob
Summary: The twins were interested in a program called GO, where they could spend three weeks studying abroad, but they’re not eligible since they don’t speak another language. Alice suggests that they host a student from another country instead. Jessica takes the phone call telling the family they’ve been assigned a student named Giovanna Screti. Jessica mishears this as Giovanni and gets really excited about a possibly cute Italian guy living in her house. When she learns her mistake, everyone teases her about it. She panics because Italian girls are really pretty, and Jessica can’t have that kind of nonsense in her house.
Lila’s spent some time in Italy (only a few days, but it totally counts, guys!), so she acts like the resident expert on all things Italian. She’s happy to get the chance to show off to a real Italian girl. A woman down the street from the Wakefields, Mrs. Dalone, is also excited to meet Giovanna, as her own family is from Sicily. Looking at Mrs. Dalone’s mother’s childhood pictures makes Jessica think Italy is the same now as it was decades ago. Maybe Giovanna has goats and walks around barefoot all the time! Maybe she doesn’t have electricity! Even Ginny Lu the farm girl is like, “Jess, chill.”
Giovanna comes to Sweet Valley, and Jess is immediately humbled. She’s tall and gorgeous, and she dresses better than any of the Unicorns. Her English is a little shaky, which leads to moments that are supposed to be funny, like when she doesn’t know what a strawberry is and tries to figure it out from the name. People comment on her language skills throughout the book, making it seem like they’re worse than they are. She’s practically fluent; she just doesn’t know American slang or the right word for everything.
Things get off to a rough start because Giovanna comes across as snobby. Things in America are soooooo different from the way they are in Italy. In Italy, everyone has coffee and fresh fruit for breakfast, and even kids get to drink wine. The buildings are old, but not very big. Everyone walks everywhere or a rides a scooter. Spaghetti sauce does NOT come from a jar. Also, Giovanna’s from Florence, which is apparently better than anywhere else in Italy. The girl won’t stop talking about it.
Lila gets taken down a peg when she has to admit that she barely saw any of the sights in Italy. In general, Giovanna gets along better with the guys at SVMS. This makes the Unicorns seethe – doesn’t she know that they’re supposed to be the popular, pretty ones? (They seem to forget that she’s only there for three weeks, so she’s not exactly going to be able to steal their boyfriends and crushes.) Lila’s knocked down another peg when she and Giovanna wear the same bikini to a party the twins throw. Giovanna, of course, wears it better.
Things really start going downhill when Giovanna meets Mrs. Dalone and belittles her Italian vocabulary and taste in food. Poor Mrs. Dalone just wanted to treat the girls to some spumoni. Even Elizabeth is starting to resent Giovanna, not least because they’re sharing Liz’s room and Giovanna is a slob. I don’t know why the twins didn’t just share a room and let Giovanna have her own instead of making her split time with the two of them.
Throughout the book, the students keep seeing two teachers spending time together. Giovanna thinks they’re in love, which makes everyone think that a date they’ve mentioned is going to be their wedding date. The Unicorns buy them a picture frame and present it to them in the cafeteria, hoping to get a lot of attention for giving such a thoughtful wedding gift. Of course, they’re completely off-track – the teachers are working on a combo math/science program. The Unicorns are humiliated and blame Giovanna.
For Jessica, the last straw comes when she sees Aaron and Giovanna out getting frozen yogurt together. Now everyone’s fed up with Giovanna, so the Unicorns plot revenge. Giovanna has to give a speech in English about her impressions of America, and she’s been stressing out over it her whole trip since her written English isn’t that great. The Unicorns offer to review the speech for her and even type it up. Lila gets it back to Giovanna just before class, so Giovanna doesn’t find out ahead of time that the speech is all about how awesome America is.
Giovanna feels embarrassed for being tricked into telling a bunch of kids how inferior her country is to theirs. (Yep, sounds like ‘Merica, all right.) She tells Jessica she’s closed-minded for not considering that Italy might have some things America doesn’t. Giovanna’s so upset that she wants to go home early. Elizabeth tries to work things out, but accidentally reveals that she didn’t want to share a room with Giovanna anymore, which makes Giovanna feel unwelcome.
The twins tell Giovanna that she was rude to Mrs. Dalone, which Giovanna legitimately didn’t realize. She keeps talking about Italy because she misses it, and because she wants people to know how much she loves it. She points out that she knows more about America than the twins do about Italy, so they can’t really knock her for talking up her country all the time.
Jess mentions that everyone’s mad about Giovanna being so flirty, but Giovanna says she’s just being herself. She’s been talking to all the guys at SVMS because she’s interested in the same things they like; she doesn’t actually want to date any of them. She was hanging out with Aaron because she asked him to help her buy thank-you gifts for the twins. The girls easily work things out, and Giovanna apologizes to Mrs. Dalone for accidentally being a jerk. Now everyone can enjoy Giovanna’s remaining time in Italy (and then never mention her again).
Thoughts: Ellen: “I thought Rome was the City of Seven Hills.” What? Ellen knows something?
“I wonder if they drink hot chocolate in Italy.” It’s Italy, Jessica, not Narnia.
Maria gives Giovanna a little American flag when she meets her. If it were anyone else, I’d make fun of her, but it’s Maria, so I’ll give her a pass.
Giovanna: “The Pantheon is over two thousand years old.” Jessica: “It’s about time you built a new one.” Sounds like something Ellen would say.
Tamara thinks the Unicorns can get the teachers something nice from a store called Susie’s Cards ‘n’ Stuff. What a horrible name for a store. This is why you never get to do anything, Tamara.