October 25, 2016
SVT #69, Won’t Someone Help Anna?: SVMS Is Not ADA-Compliant
Summary: Big news at SVMS: There’s a new student named Anna Reynolds, and she’s deaf! (She’s also Asian, but that only gets mentioned briefly, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure hers is the only Asian family in Sweet Valley, at least until Jade’s family turns up in SVH.) Since there are no other deaf students at SVMS, Elizabeth wants to do a profile on Anna for the Sixers. She asks Cammi Adams, a quiet nerd who’s apparently a really good writer, to do the article. Cammi immediately panics.
Jessica’s shocked to see that Anna looks like a normal person. I’d like to know what Jessica thinks deaf people look like. This will be Anna’s first time in a mainstream school, and she’ll still take a few classes at a special school for the hard-of-hearing, but for the most part she’ll be immersed with her hearing classmates. All of her bases are covered: She uses sign language, she reads lips, and she can speak, so other than not being able to hear, she’s not that different from other girls her age.
Anna’s also really nice, makes friends quickly, and is totally fine answering questions about her deafness. She is immediately ten times more awesome than almost any other girl in the series. And her classmates don’t treat her any differently because of her deafness, which is refreshing. They have to remind themselves to make sure she’s looking when they speak to her, or make sure their words are clear so she can understand them, but other than that, carrying on a conversation with her is mostly like talking to anyone else. Everyone’s happy to have Anna at SVMS.
But Cammi thinks this new arrangement will crash and burn. As soon as the novelty of having a deaf friend wears off, the SVMS kids will ditch Anna, realizing it’s too much work to communicate with her. Why does Cammi think this? Because her own parents are deaf. Cammi’s kept this a secret from everyone, though her seven-year-old sister, Cara, doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Cammi’s seen the way her parents are treated by people who can’t understand them or who think they’re weird, and she’s sure that Anna will be treated the same.
Elizabeth introduces Anna to the Unicorns, who in many ways are her people – Anna’s fashionable, boy-crazy, and likes to dance. In fact, she wants to be an aerobics instructor when she’s older, and she’d like to start an aerobics club at school. She has to explain to the girls that while she can’t hear music, she can feel the beat through the floor. The Unicorns like Anna and agree to join her club.
Cammi tries to keep her distance from Anna, though it seems she’s pretty good at keeping her distance from everyone – she doesn’t appear to have any friends. Elizabeth invites her to a party (more on that in the B-plot), but Cammi needs to be home to help her parents talk to a repairman, so she says she has to babysit her sister. Her parents are concerned about her skipping out on socializing so she can help them. She shouldn’t put her life on hold for them.
Cammi reluctantly goes to Anna’s house to interview her for the Sixers profile. Anna explains all the technology in the house, like the TDD, a phone that relays text instead of spoken words (the hard-of-hearing were way ahead of the rest of us in the texting game). Cammi pretends she’s unfamiliar with all of it. Anna tells her how she’s adjusting to SVMS, skipping the part about how her grades aren’t so great.
Elizabeth tries to find out why Cammi’s acting weird, and why her article about Anna doesn’t go very in-depth. She goes to Cammi’s house, which for Cammi is a nightmare. What if Elizabeth meets her parents and makes fun of them for the way they speak? It’s as if Cammi has never met Elizabeth and doesn’t know that she’s on her best behavior all the time. When Cammi’s mother comes home, she invites Elizabeth to stay for dinner. Elizabeth easily accepts and has a great time, never saying one word about how Cammi never mentioned that her parents are deaf. It’s probably because she’s smart enough to know it makes Cammi uncomfortable, and also because Liz is a polite person who treats people with respect.
At school, Elizabeth and Amy learn that Anna’s having a hard time in her classes. Since the teachers often talk while they’re facing the chalkboard, she can’t always read their lips. The principal, Mr. Clark, thinks they might have made a mistake letting Anna come to SVMS. Hey, Mr. Clark? Get her an interpreter, or tell the teachers to make sure their lips are visible, or get Anna a tutor, or SOMETHING. ANYTHING. If she’s doing poorly in class, it’s not her fault. The ADA is going to be all over you.
Anna, unfortunately, also thinks she made a mistake coming to SVMS. She shouldn’t have thought she would be able to keep up in a hearing world. Word spreads that she might be asked to leave SVMS. Yet when she has trouble in English class (even beloved Mr. Bowman is no saint and doesn’t realize that, to make sure a girl who reads lips can understand him, she has to actually be able to READ HIS LIPS), no one does anything. This is where Elizabeth really should have rallied everyone in the grade and told them to alert the teachers whenever Anna can’t follow the lesson.
Cara brings home a friend who knows all about their parents’ deafness, and they chat about how Cammi’s brave. The younger girls want to teach the family dog, Ludwig, to bark – he’s never had to before, since his owners can’t hear him, but Cara thinks he can be just like other dogs. Cammi’s mother finds out what’s going on and says she thinks Cammi’s brave, too. After all, she’s had to do some grownup things to help her parents.
Somehow, this inspires Cammi, who starts using sign language with Anna the next time she falls behind in class. After class, she’s brave enough to reveal to everyone that her parents are deaf. No one makes fun of her or even seems that phased by the news. They’re excited that Cammi can now help Anna in class, which means Anna doesn’t have to leave SVMS. I still think the school should get her an interpreter so Cammi can focus on her own work, but whatever. At least Cammi has a friend now.
In the B-plot, Steven and Cathy are throwing a party at one of her relatives’ houses on the beach. Jessica invites a bunch of her friends, and the party’s a huge success. But while Jess is taking a walk on the beach, she sees Cathy kissing someone she thinks is Jake Hamilton, Lila’s guy. Jessica wants to tell Steven, but Elizabeth thinks they should mind their own business. Instead, Jess tells the Unicorns, swearing them to secrecy.
Of course, the Unicorns can’t keep a secret, and each tells one or two other people, who also can’t keep a secret. (Hilariously, Mandy’s the only one who doesn’t spill, but it’s only because everyone she tried to tell already knew.) Word spreads that Cathy’s cheating on Steven with a younger guy, and Lila’s ticked that her man is stepping out on her. Jess confronts Jake, who’s amused by the rumor but doesn’t know who everyone’s been linking him to.
Jessica finally tells Steven about Cathy kissing Jake. Steven decides the best course of action is to beat Jake up. When the guys confront each other, Cathy warns Jess that it’s going to be a one-sided fight – Jake has a black belt in karate. Jess panics and tries to talk the guys down. They agree to sit down and talk things through, as long as Jess buys their milkshakes (and anything else they want to eat). Soon they confess that the whole thing was a joke. Jess saw Jake and Cathy walking to the beach other, but the guy Cathy kissed was Steven. When Steven found out about Jess’s suspicions, he got Cathy and Jake to agree to play a trick on her. So the B-plot was pointless, but kind of funny at the same time.
Thoughts: This was always one of my favorite SVT books. It’s still good.
Sweet Valley seems to be a town where everyone knows everyone, so how does no one know that Cammi’s parents are deaf? The school administrators would definitely know, and I can’t imagine they could all keep that completely secret. Plus, Cara’s friends know, which means their parents probably know. Don’t any of them have students at SVMS who would spread the word?
“‘Cammi, maybe it’s none of my business,’ Elizabeth began.” Liz, I’m going to stop you right there. It’s not.
Jessica, re: Jake: “He can kill with his bare hands.” Lila: “Well, that’s no fun. I was planning to rush to his side when he was lying crushed in the dirt.” She’s disappointed that her boyfriend isn’t going to get beaten up!