September 19, 2017

SVT Super Edition #8, Jessica’s First Kiss: Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

Yeah, this didn’t happen

Summary: In the category of Things That Would Never Happen, the whole middle school is going on a mandatory week-long camping trip. I would fake mono or some sort of horrible injury so I wouldn’t have to go. Lila thinks that since they’re staying at a place with “estate” in the title, they’ll basically be at a spa for a week. Elizabeth tells her and Jessica that they’re wrong. Liz, by the way, is super-excited about spending a week in the great outdoors, especially since she’ll get to spend time with Todd. She writes a really bad poem about it, and Jess and Lila find it and tease her. Siblings are the worst.

On the way to the estate, Elizabeth and her dorky friends pass the long bus ride by singing camp songs. The Unicorns are completely over it. Liz tries to flirt a little with Todd, bringing up the possibility of going on a private nature walk together. Jess tries to do the same with Aaron, but he’s the epitome of a middle-school boy in this book and doesn’t get it. Aaron just keeps talking about bears, so Jessica hopes he gets eaten by one. Spoiler alert: Before long, the reader will have the same hope.

The first night of the trip, Aaron wakes everyone up by yelling that he saw a bear. A new student named Dennis Asher calls him on his prank, kicking off a rivalry between the two of them. Aaron’s the real idiot, though, since Bruce accidentally cuts a hole in their tent while trying to run to safety, and when it rains later in the night, Aaron gets soaked. He deserves it.

The Unicorns are miserable on the trip; they’re not allowed to have any electric beauty products with them, so their hair goes uncurled, and the showers smell of sulfur, so they don’t want to get in them. Aaron tries to pull his bear prank again, this time on Jessica, and she decides she’s through with their near-relationship. When she meets Dennis, she decides she’s ready to move on to a new guy. Too bad her unshowered, unprimped appearance is leaving her looking like a mess.

Though the kids are expected to take classes (such as learning about the history of the estate) or participate in athletic or craft activities during the day, the rest of the experience is a lot like summer camp. They have campfires every night, and at one, Winston tells a story about a pair of twins who were in love with the same man. They flipped a coin to decide who should be with him, but then the twin who lost murdered the twin who won and took her place. Was her name Margo? Aaron annoys everyone by pretending again that he saw a bear. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of adult supervision on this trip, and Aaron doesn’t suffer any consequences for pulling the same trick over and over.

Inspired by Winston’s story and the fact that April Fools’ Day is coming up, Jessica decides to pull her own twin switch in order to win over Dennis. Elizabeth is looking much cleaner and more attractive than her sister, so Jess wants to make Dennis fall for her, thinking she’s Jess and the dirty twin is Liz. Then when they get back to civilization, Jess will pretend she was the clean one all along. She signs up for the same activity as Dennis, pretending to be Liz, and chats with him a little. She warns him that her sister likes to play tricks, so if he addresses her as Jessica, she’ll say she’s really Elizabeth.

Indeed, Dennis sees Liz elsewhere and calls her Jess, confusing her. Jessica, pretending to be Elizabeth, encourages him to get to know her better, then makes sure Todd is off somewhere else so he can’t interfere. She also tells Dennis, who’s noticed “Jessica” with Todd, that Todd isn’t anyone to worry about. Jess convinces Dennis that “Jessica” likes him, but then Liz starts to put everything together. She tells Todd, and they decide to mess with Jessica for pulling a twin switch.

Liz flirts with Dennis, then gives him half of a maple leaf; if he’s ever uncertain which twin he’s talking to, he can just ask if she has the other half. She starts laying it on thick, saying she wants to spend tons of time together. Jessica gets sick and is sent home early, but Aaron doesn’t know; every time he sees Elizabeth with Dennis, he thinks she’s Jess. He’s jealous and mad that she’s spending time with a guy he doesn’t like. Aaron confronts Dennis, who tells him that Jessica should be allowed to choose which guy she wants to be with. What a concept!

Jessica’s better by Saturday, when everyone comes home from camp (which also happens to be April Fools’ Day). She gets all glammed up and goes to school to welcome everyone home. Dennis now thinks Jessica is Elizabeth, and since it’s April Fool’s Day, he doesn’t believe Jess when she claims it’s really her. He asks for her half of the maple leaf, and when she doesn’t produce it, he goes to Liz. Liz doesn’t produce it either, so Dennis decides he’s done with Wakefields. Smart boy.

Aaron comes to the Wakefields’ house and apologizes to Jessica for not being nicer to her on the trip. Jess realizes that Liz inadvertently did her a favor by hanging out with Dennis, since it made Aaron jealous. Aaron kisses Jessica, giving her the first kiss in the book’s title. I hope she was still contagious.

The Unicorns spend the whole book complaining about camping. Eventually Lila decides to call her father to send a limo and retrieve all the Unicorns. The camp director, Mrs. Sanchez, doesn’t care who she is or who her father is; she can’t use the phone unless there’s an emergency. The girls decide to fake an illness so they’ll be sent home, but when they can’t get their stories straight about their symptoms, the camp nurse again rebuffs them. Next they try to use ESP to contact their parents. Then they stage a fight so they’ll get kicked out. Instead, they’re forced to clean a grease trap in the kitchen.

The Unicorns decide to just leave camp and try to hitchhike back to civilization. They plan to leave after a campfire one night, but Aaron and Winston pull the bear trick again (sigh), telling a story about a ghost bear, which Aaron pretends to be. The girls are too spooked to venture off in the woods alone. When they attempt to leave the next day, Aaron spots them, follows them, and sees a real bear. He has to climb a tree to get away from it. The Unicorns get spooked and head back to camp, forced to suffer through the rest of the week. Aaron spends the night in the tree because no one believed he was really in danger from a bear. Ha!

Thoughts: I didn’t realize Jessica hadn’t had her first kiss yet. This means, amazingly, Elizabeth has surpassed her in this area.

If my friends started singing “Old MacDonald” on a bus full of middle-shoolers, I would just assume I’d died and this was my personal Hell.

Janet: “If you don’t mind, Jessica, some of us are trying to send ESP messages to our parents?” Snort.

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September 12, 2017

SVT #105, Jessica’s Lucky Millions: Jessica Is Officially a Golddigger

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:58 pm by Jenn

Uh, guys? The rainbow’s over there

Summary: After watching a movie about people winning big in Vegas, Jessica becomes interested in the idea of becoming rich without having to, like, work. Dare to dream, Jess. She considers playing the lottery, but since she’s only 12, that’s probably a long shot. She then thinks about learning some casino games, and she asks Steven to help her out, but he throws her dice out the window, which cracked me up.

The twins have been studying Irish folklore and history, and when Jessica gets caught daydreaming in class (now she wants to win money in a sweepstakes), she’s assigned to write an essay about the legend of the pot of gold. Jessica spends more time whining about this and the fact that it’ll keep her from hanging out with her new crush, Rick Hunter, than it would take her to actually write the essay. But then she realizes that if the legend is true, and she can find a pot of gold, she’ll become super-rich. She gets Lila interested, since Lila’s father has just denied her request for an expensive leather jacket – if Lila has gold, she can buy whatever she wants.

Steven overhears the girls plotting and tells them he found an old map inside a book. He gives just enough detail to make Jessica think that the map will lead to a pot of gold. She steals the map and tells Liz that she plans to use it to find her fortune. Elizabeth points out that since it’s Steven’s map, he should be involved, but since he’s been a jerk lately, he doesn’t deserve it.

During the unit on Irish history and stories, Elizabeth has found her new favorite writer, Maggie Sullivan. She wants to turn one of Maggie’s stories into a play. It’s called Fool’s Paradise, and it’s about a couple who move from Ireland to America together, then get separated and realize they’ve lost everything. Cheery! Liz learns that Maggie moved to Southern California, so she puts in a request with some writers’ association for Maggie to call her. Steven pretends to be Maggie and gets Liz’s hopes up that the writer wants to meet her. For once in her life, Elizabeth wants revenge.

Jessica and Lila determine that the gold is buried at Sunset Beach (wasn’t that a soap in the ’90s?). Yes, it just so happens to be in Sweet Valley. When Liz and Amy look at the map, Liz realizes that Steven made it and is just messing with Jess. Jess and Lila are in denial, and the subsequent fight makes Elizabeth want revenge on another sibling. She and Amy bury some stuff at the beach to mess with Jessica and Lila, then amuse themselves by watching the girls dig up what they don’t realize is nothing special.

Jess and Lila dig up Liz’s key and a rock she’s labeled the Blarney stone. Cut to Lila making out with a rock. After they have to go home for the night, Liz tells Steven where he can find the treasure. When Jessica and Lila go back to finish their dig, Steven shows up as well. The dig continues, and Elizabeth is stunned when Jessica finds a purple bag. The bag contains a gold necklace inscribed with a love note from Patrick to Maggie, and a card with Maggie Sullivan’s address.

Steven, Jessica, and Lila go to Maggie’s house the next day to give her back her necklace. She tells them she lost it years ago and thought she’d never see it again). Jessica and Steven didn’t want Liz to come along, since they’re mad at her, but when she shows up, having followed them, they want her to meet the writer she admires so much. Maggie gives them each a gold coin, which she says will bring the kids good luck. They do, but it’s little stuff like a date with Rick, so I’m not sure we can credit that to the coins.

Thoughts: “Did they have malls in Paris? Jessica wondered.” I don’t think Lila would go there if they didn’t.

Speaking of Lily, I really doubt she has Doc Martens.

If Maggie’s so famous (there are pictures of her with celebrities in her house), how did no one know she lived in Sweet Valley? Why do so many famous people end up there anyway?

September 5, 2017

SVT #104, Big Brother’s in Love Again: More Like Big Bother

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 4:55 pm by Jenn

This is perfect

Summary: Steven has been happily dating Cathy for a while now, but when Joe starts talking about how being single allows him to date multiple girls, Steven starts to regret tying himself down (his words, not mine). Cathy probably has the same regrets when he starts acting jerky, making decisions about the movie they’re seeing and not sharing his popcorn with her. Some popular guys are at the movie theater, and Steven is pumped when a senior named Richard Ferris says hi to him. He’s so pumped that he ditches Cathy and sits with Ferris and his friends. He figures Cathy’s fine because some friends have joined her.

Jill Hale is also hanging out with the popular kids, and Steven’s crush on her suddenly returns. Cathy and her friends leave (we find out later that they went to another movie), so Steven is alone when Ferris invites him to come get pizza with the popular guys. Jill isn’t interested, so Steven invites her to get burgers and go roller-skating. Everyone thinks Steven is dating Cathy, but he says they’re just friends. Not great friends, apparently, since he ditches her twice, once during the movie and then afterwards to go off with Jill. I hope she got another ride home.

At the Dairi Burger, Jill orders a salad and water. Because she’s a girl, you know. Steven decides he’s too good of a guy to cheat on Cathy, so he calls her and breaks up with her over the phone. Cathy barely responds, so I’m guessing that she’s mad enough to realize she’s better off without him. Steven is ready to have some alone time with Jill, but she turns out to be incredibly vapid. At this point, this is exactly what Steven deserves, but he doesn’t get that yet.

Steven and Jill go skating and run into Cathy, who’s come with her friends and doesn’t look the least bit upset about being dumped minutes earlier. Steven thinks she’s masking her pain over their breakup. He “apologizes” to her, saying that he wishes there were two of him so Cathy wouldn’t have to suffer being without him. He basically says that the breakup hurts him as much as it hurts her. Cathy again barely responds, because she is a normal human being, unlike this weird alien who’s just done her the favor of dumping her.

Joe learns of Steven and Cathy’s breakup and asks Steven if he can go out with Cathy. Steven doesn’t think Cathy will return his affections, so he gives his blessing. He goes out with Jill, who continues to be superficial and uninteresting. He starts to doubt his decision to choose her over Cathy, but stops immediately when the popular guys show up. He’d rather be bored with Jill and get the approval of the popular guys than be “tied down” to Cathy.

When Steven sees Cathy and Joe together at school, he still thinks Cathy is just trying to ease her pain over their breakup. He goes to her house after school to tell her he’ll take her to an upcoming Valentine’s Day street dance, since he’d promised to, and I guess he still thinks he’s noble and respectable enough to keep his word. Cathy tells him she already has a date – Joe. Steven’s hurt and tries to get sympathy from the twins, who point out that he caused all his own problems by breaking up with Cathy.

Steven makes a deal with the twins to help them get dates to the dance (more on that in the B-plot) if they help him get back together with Cathy. Their plan involves running into Cathy downtown, and Steven pretending to comfort Jessica over something so Cathy can see what a compassionate, wonderful person he is. But the twins love Cathy and are angry with their brother for the way he’s been treating her, so instead they make him look like even more of a jerk in front of Cathy.

Things get even worse for Steven (but still not as bad as he deserves) when he sees Jill hanging out with Ferris. He mopes about how horrible things are going for him, as if he didn’t put everything in motion. Joe tells him how great things are going with Cathy, and how he’s changed his mind about not wanting to be a one-woman man. Steven lies that Cathy tried to get back together with him. Steven is seriously the hugest jerk in this book, and I hoped it would end with people throwing rotting produce at him.

Joe gets mad about Steven’s claims and goes off to break up with Cathy. Then Jill calls to tell Steven that she’s going to the dance with Ferris, who happens to be her ex. Steven realizes that she was just hanging out with him to make Ferris jealous. He has the nerve to be upset, as if he wasn’t using Jill to get access to the popular crowd. Steven’s whole life has fallen apart (couldn’t happen to a nicer guy), so he makes a new deal with the twins: He’ll get them dates to the dance if they help him get Joe and Cathy back together.

The twins accept, and Steven fulfills his end of the deal, but he learns that they didn’t – Joe and Cathy haven’t reunited. At the dance, Joe’s band plays Steven and Cathy’s song, as requested by the twins and dedicated to the former couple. Cathy asks Steven to dance and reveals that she and Joe were never really dating. They just wanted to make Steven jealous. Somehow, she thinks the experience has made Steven realize that other people have feelings and he needs to respect them. You know, like everyone else learns in kindergarten. For some reason, Cathy wants to get back together. That poor girl.

In the B-plot, the twins are upset that Todd and Aaron are going to an away basketball game and won’t be able to take them to the street dance. The girls think their guys should care more about Valentine’s Day. Jessica learns that one of Steven’s classmates, Pete, has two cousins visiting, and without knowing what they’re like or seeing them for more than a couple seconds, Jessica wants them. She decides to keep their visit quiet so no other girls can call dibs first. She convinces Elizabeth to help her meet the cousins so they can have two cool dates to the dance.

Because they’re 12-year-olds and don’t know how to behave like normal people, the girls stalk the cousins by hiding in the bushes outside their house. They figure eventually the boys will leave the house and the twins can pretend to just be passing by. Janet catches them, and Jessica gets her to leave by telling her that Janet’s crush, Denny, is on his way to the Dairi Burger with another girl. Then the twins learn that the cousins are already at the Dairi Burger.

They rush over and distract Janet from seeing the cousins by telling her that there are roaches in the food, so she has to keep Denny from eating anything. While they’re there, Elizabeth sees the cousins for the first time and agrees that she and Jess are doing the right thing by trying to claim them, because the boys are hot. They lock Janet in a bathroom, but this keeps them from being able to talk to the boys.

The girls go a-stalking again, and Jess has the brilliant idea to try to get them to leave the house by yelling, “Fire!” The boys aren’t home, and everyone in the neighborhood is confused. Even though they’ve never so much as spoken to these guys, Jessica decides to tell everyone that she and Liz have hot dates to the dance. Janet calls her bluff and suggests a bet. If Jess and Liz do show up with hot dates, Janet will tell everyone at the dance that Joe’s band is better than Johnny Buck’s. If the twins are lying, they have to come to the dance dressed alike and dance every dance together.

Jessica’s desperate now, so she actually calls up Pete and asks to talk to either of his cousins. Pete couldn’t care less about helping a bunch of middle-schoolers make love connections, and he refuses. The twins next go to his house and pretend they’re polling boys, in hopes that Pete’s mom will bring one of them to the door. She tells them the boys have already gone home.

As mentioned above, Steven offers to get the twins dates with the cousins if they’ll help him get back together with Cathy. Since the twins know that the cousins are gone, they don’t bother helping him out. They’re unable to find other dates, so when Steven presents his second deal to get them dates, they accept. Steven is able to convince Todd and Aaron to skip the basketball game and take the twins to the dance. Apparently they count in the twins’ bet with Janet, so she has to tell everyone at the dance that Joe’s band is better than the Buckster’s. Everyone ends the book happy (except Janet, I guess).

Thoughts: I need the ghostwriters to stop inserting “like” and “you know” into so much of the dialogue. It’s, you know, like, really annoying.

Jessica: “You can give a jerk a shower and put him into a clean T-shirt. But it doesn’t change his essential jerkiness.” Truer words were never spoken.

Please keep in mind that when Steven tries to get Cathy back, he’s still dating Jill. Even when he tries to fix a jerk move, he’s still a jerk.

“Through absolutely no fault of his own, he’d lost two girlfriends even though he was one of the coolest dudes he had personally ever met.” Steven needs a psychiatrist.

“In his mind he ticked off the people he’d managed to hurt or let down. Cathy, Joe, the twins. And most of all, himself.” Excuse me? How did Steven hurt himself more than Cathy? This guy is a mess.

May 9, 2017

SVT #90, The Cousin War: Blockin’ Robin

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

No one wears her hair like that

Summary: Cousin Robin is coming to visit for two weeks while her parents are on a trip for their anniversary. (No mention of Robin’s younger sister Stacey, so I guess she’s Home Alone-ing it.) Jessica’s top priority while Robin is in town is to find her cousin a “vacation boyfriend.” There’s a Sadie Hawkins dance coming, and she wants to get Robin hooked up with someone. Jessica herself is interested in a guy named Juan, an exchange student from Argentina. She has no problem ditching Aaron…even though, awkwardly, Aaron’s family is Juan’s host family.

A bunch of sixth-graders go bowling together one afternoon, though Elizabeth has to skip the fun to work on a special issue of The Sixers. She asks Todd to be nice to Robin, since she doesn’t know anyone except Jessica. Robin and Todd hit it off, while Jessica tries to get to know Juan better. Robin quickly falls in luv with Todd, telling Elizabeth all about her new crush without mentioning his name. Liz has no idea that her cousin is interested in her sort-of boyfriend. And Jessica has no idea that her new crush, Juan, is interested in Robin.

Robin gets a note and some candy from a secret admirer and figures that Todd is trying to express his interest. Jessica thinks Robin is interested in Juan, so she wants to make a move before her cousin does. When she learns that Robin actually likes Todd, she decides to use this to her advantage – she’ll send Robin after Todd to keep her away from Juan. She doesn’t care that this might hurt Liz. She just wants Juan all to herself.

When Robin gets another secret-admirer note, Jessica eggs her on to go ask Todd to the dance already. But when Robin goes to Casey’s to talk to him, she sees him with Elizabeth. Robin is immediately furious with her cousin, thinking Liz is trying to steal her man. Because she’s 12, she doesn’t stop to think about how Elizabeth and Todd might have already had something going, or that Elizabeth couldn’t steal Todd from Robin when she didn’t know Robin liked him, or that you can’t steal a guy from someone he’s not actually dating. All Robin knows is that her cousin betrayed her.

Jessica sees this is a great time to ask Juan to the dance, but first she needs to make sure Robin doesn’t find out that Liz and Todd are together. She pretends to be Elizabeth and asks Todd to accept when Robin inevitably asks him to the dance. Liz won’t be attending herself since she’s so busy with the Sixers issue. Robin asks Todd to the dance, and he says yes, so he’s really surprised when the real Elizabeth is upset with him for agreeing to go on a date with another girl.

Jess asks Juan to the dance, and he admits that he was hoping Robin would ask him. She tells him Robin’s going with someone else, so Juan accepts her invitation. Meanwhile, Todd feels bad about accidentally hurting Elizabeth, so he backs out of the date with Robin. Robin is stunned to learn that Todd and Liz are sort of dating. Also, now she knows that Juan is her secret admirer, not Todd, and she’s lost her chance to go to the dance with him. To her credit, she feels bad about the way she treated Liz.

To make amends, Robin invites Todd over the night of the dance so she can smooth things over with Liz. The three of them figure out that Jess masqueraded as her twin to get Todd to accept the date with Robin. As retaliation, Elizabeth pretends to be Jessica and tells Juan that Robin wants to be with him. Then Liz gets to go to the dance with Todd, while Robin gets to hang out with her secret admirer, and Jess is alone. Well, at least until she learns that Aaron was helping Juan win over Robin, in part because he didn’t want Juan to be with Jessica. Jess thinks jealousy is hot, so she’s back to liking Aaron. Ick.

Thoughts: Robin knows her way around Sweet Valley pretty well for someone who’s only visited a few times.

“What was the big deal about Robin, anyway?” So Jessica throws over Elizabeth and helps Robin steal Todd, and then wonders what’s so great about her. JESSICA, YOU ARE A HORRIBLE PERSON.

“Then it hit her. The only reason Elizabeth would dress just like Jessica was if she wanted everyone to think she was Jessica.” Check out the big brain on Jess!

April 25, 2017

SVT #88, Steven Gets Even: Pranks a Lot

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by Jenn

I’m so glad I don’t have to live next door to these people

Summary: Even though it’s not Halloween, Mr. Bowman wants his class to study scary books, starting with Frankenstein. Each student also has to pick a scary story that’s at least 20 years old and write a report about it. All the kids think this will be a piece of cake – nothing more than 20 years old is going to scare them. These kids are the reason slasher movies have gotten so grotesque. Mr. Bowman suggests that Elizabeth read The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is dumb – it’s not a horror story.

The kids slowly realize that the stories Mr. Bowman wants them to read are scarier than they expected. Jessica gets spooked when he reads Dracula in class, and afterward, none of the girls wants to go to the bathroom alone. I’d make fun of them but I’ve been watching The Vampire Diaries, and there’s definitely safety in numbers where vampires are concerned. Some spooky stuff happens in the bathroom, and Jessica hears glass breaking and sees a hand turning off the lights. It turns out Bruce, Aaron, Brian, and Charlie Cashman were just pulling a prank. Now Jess wants revenge.

Inspired by a trick Steven pulls with a knife, pretending he cut off his finger (and he probably shouldn’t pull that with his parents around, because Ned practically has a heart attack), Jessica pulls the old gross-finger-in-the-candy-box prank on Charlie while Mr. Bowman is reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the class. Elizabeth finds a Barbie hanging in her locker, dripping with fake blood, and the kids officially kick off a “scare war,” boys vs. girls. It’s mainly the twins, Lila, Janet, Amy, Maria, and Mandy against the four boys.

Since the girls are unsure what will actually scare the boys, they decide to use Steven to test out some pranks. Steven is a lot more gullible and prankable than you’d expect, considering he’s the one who’s usually pulling tricks. The girls become savvier and less scareable, to the boys’ dismay. However, they’re also getting spooked by Edgar Allan Poe stories and other stuff they said wouldn’t frighten them.

By the end of the week, Steven is scared to be in his own house because his sisters have been pulling so many pranks on him. They’re having a sleepover on Friday, and Ned and Alice will be out for a while, so he figures this is a good time to get revenge. The four boys show up to scare the girls, who quickly come up with a plan to spook them back, using glow-in-the-dark paint and sleeping bags to fool them into thinking there are weird floating faces outside the house. When Elizabeth realizes Charlie is dressed as a mummy, she drenches him with the hose. The boys admit defeat in the scare war, so the girls make them cluck like chickens and call the girls “Your Awesomeness” for a week.

Steven gets his revenge by making scary noises in the basement, where he’s been hiding the whole night, having made the girls think he was out somewhere. Jessica hides in the pantry, thinking there’s some sort of monster in the basement. The other girls have to face off with the “monster,” but Steven can’t keep from laughing, so he gets busted pretty easily. He tells the younger kids that they’re all wimps, so the girls’ win in the scare war doesn’t really mean anything. Then Ned and Alice scare everyone with masks. I don’t know. This book was probably fun to read when I was younger, but now it’s pretty weak.

Thoughts: “Kids today are too sophisticated to be frightened by a story like Frankenstein.” Are you sure, Amy? Are you sure you’re sophisticated? (I hope Mr. Bowman heard about all the scaring afterward and teased the kids about thinking they were unscareable.)

Why is Aaron still hanging out with Brian?

Here it is, the greatest sentence to appear in any Sweet Valley book: “‘I want to go home!’ Bruce sobbed.”

April 4, 2017

SVT #86, It Can’t Happen Here: There Are at Least Two Jewish Families in Sweet Valley and They’re Probably Pretty Ticked Right Now

Posted in books tagged , at 5:02 pm by Jenn

No stripes in Brian’s regime!

Summary: Aaron Dallas’ grandfather is visiting for a few weeks while recovering from heart surgery, and he wants Aaron to get in touch with his Jewish roots. Aaron clearly knows nothing about his family’s religion, and has no interest in learning more. He’d much rather hang out with his friends, and with the super-cool new kid, Brian Boyd. He’s from L.A.! He’s automatically awesome! Besides, Aaron doesn’t see what’s so important about his family’s past, or why he needs to dwell on things that happened to Jews decades ago.

When Aaron tries to go off and hang out with his friends, Grandpa invites himself along. Aaron thinks he would get laughed out of the mall if he showed up with his grandfather, even when said grandfather wants to buy him and all his friends ice cream. He pretends he doesn’t feel well and skips being with the cool kids. Meanwhile, Jessica and Lila get to hang out with Brian, who everyone thinks is awesome. Spoiler alert: He is not.

Grandpa tries again to connect with Aaron, showing him old family photos. Aaron’s like, “Oh, your sisters died? In the 1940s? In Europe? And we’re Jewish? Why is this important?” He just wants to watch basketball. Aaron is why the older generations hate kids. He’s trying to give you some foreshadowing for the rest of the book, Aaron! Pay attention!

The twins’ social studies class has a new teacher named Mr. Levin, who will be spending a few weeks with them while they study World War II. The kids are intrigued because instead of lecturing or doing any other traditional teaching, Mr. Levin has a game for them. For now, all they have to do is wear a white shirt to the next class. Those who don’t will get a lower grade. If you see someone not wearing a white shirt, you can rat him or her out for extra credit.

Everyone completes Mr. Levin’s assignment, still not understanding why it was so important for them to wear white shirts. Mr. Levin then splits the class into two groups, one led by Brooke Dennis and the other by Brian. Each group is now a club, and the leaders get to make rules for the members to follow. Brian picks all the seemingly cool kids and tells them to wear black shirts the next day. Oh, Brian. Just tell them to wear brown and drive this metaphor all the way home. He also enlists Aaron as his right-hand man.

When Janet hears about Brian’s new Club of Coolness, she wants in. Keep in mind that the “club” serves no purpose, does no special activities, has no theme, etc. It’s just a bunch of people who want to hang out together. I guess it’s no different from the Unicorns, though. Grandpa learns about the club and has a healthy amount of skepticism about it, since he’s not convinced Brian is a good guy. Aaron doesn’t see any reason to be concerned.

Brian names the group IN and suggests that they all wear something to identify who’s in the club and who isn’t. Jessica comes up with armbands. Armbands are okay under the Unicorns’ rules of fashion? Amazingly, Brian doesn’t suggest that they make people who aren’t IN members wear some other accessory to differentiate themselves, like yellow stars.

Randy Mason wants to join IN, but Aaron knows a nerd like him would never make the cut. Randy doesn’t get the restrictions and thinks that since Aaron’s his friend, he’ll make a good argument for his acceptance. It turns out Randy is also Jewish, and his mother’s family, like Grandpa’s, is from Austria. Grandpa would probably like to trade his unappreciative grandson for Randy, who’s genuinely interested in his stories.

Brian approves of Bruce’s acceptance into IN, but he clearly doesn’t want someone like Randy associating with the cool kids. Elizabeth is growing disenchanted with this elitist club that does nothing, and she actually dares to eat lunch with her friends instead of the club members. BANISH HER! Brian used to go to school with Amy’s cousin Emily, who’s told Amy some stories that make her realize Brian isn’t as great as people think.

Aaron goes home with Brian after school one day, amazed by how incredibly rich the Boyds are. They start solidifying the club roster, nixing Randy and Amy (cut for being ugly, the poor girl). While Brooke has turned her group into an environmental club, Brian is focused on making his group as elite as possible. Anyone who doesn’t follow his rules will be punished. Jess worries that Elizabeth will be kicked out for not falling in line.

Randy and Winston are both hurt that they’ve been excluded from IN after being so nice to Brian. This just makes Elizabeth surer that Brian is bad news and she should avoid him. Proving her right, Brian has IN litter in the parking lot of Casey’s, which Brooke’s club is on their way over to clean up. Aaron knows this is bad, but he’s not about to say anything to get himself singled out – especially when Brian’s about to throw a huge party for all his cool friends.

Brian notices that Elizabeth isn’t at the meeting and asks Jess about it. Jess covers for her sister, desperate not to let her get kicked out of IN. Brian tells her to make sure Liz comes to his party. When Jess goes to tell her sister how important it is that she come to some jerk’s party so she can keep hanging out with other jerks, Elizabeth is busy reading The Diary of Anne Frank. Jess is genuinely upset over the events of the time period and realizes it’s more important than making sure Liz goes to a party.

Brian cuts Melissa McCormick (poor) and Anna Reynolds (deaf) from the guest list, making Aaron disinvite them. Liz is so ticked at the way Brian’s treating the “lesser” people that she decides to have her own party the same night as his. Aaron feels bad that some people are being excluded, but obviously he’s not going to say anything to his new BFF, lest he be seen as uncool. When Brian shoplifts some CDs from the mall (which…you’re rich, dude. Just buy them), Aaron sees clearly that his new friend is a horrible person, but he’s still not willing to give up his spot in the popular crowd.

Jessica can’t talk Elizabeth into going to Brian’s party, and when Brian almost gets violent with Liz while trying to order her to go, Liz just becomes surer than ever that this is not a guy to spend time with. Meanwhile, Aaron lies about having to work on a school project about the Holocaust so he can go to the party instead of spending time with Grandpa. Brian puts Aaron to work at the party, but Aaron STILL thinks this is a better arrangement than being disinvited altogether. He also thinks Elizabeth should apologize for being rude to Brian and refusing to attend. Freaking A, Aaron.

At school the Monday after the party, Elizabeth officially breaks ranks with IN, wearing her regular clothes instead of a black shirt. Jess is mad that Liz would make her look bad like this. Of course this is all about Jess. When Elizabeth tries to tell her sister that Brian is horrible, he overhears and says she’s paranoid. He ignores her when she straight-out calls him a bigot. (For the record, Maria is never invited to join IN, but Brian never gives a reason. I guess the ghostwriter didn’t want to actually call him a racist.)

Brian wants to punish Elizabeth for her resistance, so he gets Aaron to ask her to meet him after school. When she arrives, Brian and Kimberly Haver try to shove her into her locker. Aaron is horrified but doesn’t do anything to stop them. Jessica comes across the scene and saves her sister while Aaron runs off, finally realizing that he and the club have been acting like Nazis. I mean, not really, but that’s the point of the book. Brian is Hitler. Aaron is Goebbels, I guess.

Aaron goes straight home and breaks down, telling Grandpa that he gets what’s been going on and why it’s so awful. He feels horrible that he let Brian charm him into following all his orders, even though Aaron knew they weren’t doing the right things. Grandpa confirms that he’s a Holocaust survivor, and lost his whole family at a concentration camp when he was Aaron’s age.

Aaron brings Grandpa to class so he can tell everyone his experiences. Aaron compares the Holocaust to the events at SVMS over the past couple of weeks, and everyone turns on Brian. Brian doesn’t think he did anything wrong – Mr. Levin gave him an assignment, and he completed it. So…you were just following orders, Brian? Is that what you’re saying? Mr. Levin is surprised that his “game” got so out of hand, which makes me think that he hasn’t spent much time with middle-schoolers, since they can be pretty vicious.

Brian’s parents will need to come in for a meeting with his teachers, so they can be told that they’re raising a fascist bigot, I guess. I can’t see him having any friends after this, but I guess that’s not Mr. Levin’s problem. And all the students at SVMS learned their lesson about conformity and following the orders of power-crazy 12-year-olds, and they were never mean to anyone ever again.

Thoughts: Jessica, re: IN: “It’s just like the Unicorns, only bigger! And including guys!” Confirmation that the Unicorns is a fascist organization.

Since when do the Howells live in a mansion next door to the Fowlers?

Either the ghostwriter has Melissa confused with Mandy or Melissa’s mom is back from the dead.

I’m floored that this book acknowledges that gay people were also targeted during the Holocaust. People always ignore that. I also guarantee that this is the only SVT book the use the word “homosexuals.”

March 21, 2017

SVT Super Edition #5, Lila’s Secret Valentine: Pretty Little Liar

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 4:52 pm by Jenn

Ugh, bunny ears. 12-year-old boys are exhausting

Summary: The Boosters want to raise money to hire a professional photographer for an upcoming Valentine’s Day dance, so they sell personalized cheers. For $2, they’ll give a shout-out to your crush or significant other in a cheer. For $4, they’ll create a brand-new cheer all about that person. Admittedly, this is pretty creative. But the Boosters aren’t going to spend so much time on this project that it takes away from their mission to find dates to the dance.

Lila is sure that Jake Hamilton, who’s practically her boyfriend, will ask her, so she’s crushed when he buys a cheer for Brooke Dennis. To save face, she tells her friends that she dumped Jake last week, so she’s not bothered. Besides, she’s already seeing a new guy, eighth-grader Gray Williams, who goes to a private school. Lila is so convincing when she describes him that no one catches on that he’s completely made up.

Lila figures she’ll just “break up” with Gray in a few days and her friends will never know the truth. But when the Unicorns come over and see some freshly cut flowers, they guess that they’re from Gray, and Lila plays along. She loves the attention too much to tell the truth now. Plus, she doesn’t want to admit that she’s single and Jake isn’t interested.

The ending of the book becomes clear early on, when Lila meets the Fowlers’ gardener’s grandson, Justin. She’s a jerk to him, but he’s hot for her. Justin, get some self-respect, man. Anyone over the age of five can figure out that Justin will eventually pretend to be Gray. But Lila hasn’t thought that far ahead, and is focused on having a hot date for the dance. She meets a guy at Casey’s, but the Unicorns chase him away, telling him that Lila’s spoken for.

Lila decides to fake a break-up, using an onion to make herself cry when she tells her friends that she and Gray had a huge fight after she forgot his birthday. The Unicorns secretly get him a cake and plan to take it to his school and tell him how sorry Lila is. To keep them from discovering that Gray doesn’t exist, Lila pretends that he called her at school and they’ve already made up. The Unicorns are gullible enough to buy this.

Just as Lila’s about to suck it up and come clean, Janet reveals that Sarah Thomas has been lying about her boyfriend. She said she was dating a ninth-grader, but she’s really seeing a seventh-grader. Now Lila can’t risk confessing her lies and being mocked by her friends. She confides in Justin, who quickly comes up with a solution but doesn’t get the chance to share it with Lila.

Lila’s next plan is to fake appendicitis (inspired by a teacher who just had it) so she has an excuse not to go to the dance. Most girls would just fake a cold or the flu, but not our Lila. She has to go all-out. She’s about to collapse at school when attention shifts to Jessica (more on that in the C-plot), so she misses her chance. Lila then tries to convince her housekeeper that she’s too sick to go to the dance, but she makes the classic fake-illness mistake of keeping the thermometer on the lightbulb too long, so her supposed super-high fever isn’t believable. Plus, Mr. Fowler is going to be one of the chaperones at the dance, and Lila knows she’d disappoint him by missing it. (By the way, Mr. Fowler is pretty awesome in this book, and clearly loves Lila a lot, despite never spending time with her.)

At the dance, Lila makes various excuses for why Gray isn’t with her – he’s running late, he’s getting refreshments, he’s talking to a friend across the room, etc. The Unicorns want to celebrate the new relationship by giving Lila and Gray a spotlight dance. When the spotlight falls on Lila and Gray is nowhere in sight, the Unicorns start to figure out that she was lying about him the whole time. But then! Justin arrives, pretending to be Gray, and saves Lila’s reputation. I would find it sweet, but Justin’s affection for a girl who treats him like dirt is just sad.

In the B-plot, Elizabeth and her fellow Sixers staff are publishing “lovegrams” to make some money. For a little extra, you can hire one of them to write a special Valentine’s message to your crush/significant other. Elizabeth gets really into it, going along the lines of “I burn, I pine, I perish!” On a roll, she decides to write Todd a passionate poem for Valentine’s Day. She thinks it’s more romantic to leave it unsigned, and she’s sure Todd will know it’s from her.

Todd, however, is a dolt and thinks he has a secret admirer. He becomes obsessed with finding out who wrote him a love poem. He’s so sure it wasn’t Liz that he breaks up with her. She turns her sadness and rage into super-passionate lovegrams, which disturb the buyers a little bit. Like, they want to tell girls they like hanging out with them, not pledge their undying love. Mandy Miller’s like, “I want this guy to think I’m nice, not that I want to elope.” It takes a little while, but Liz does get the hint.

Todd starts thinking that any girl who’s ever been nice to him could be his secret admirer. Brooke asked to borrow some money, so she must be in love with him! Maria smiled at him, so she must be hot for him! I fear for Todd’s ability to read signals when he’s older. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has become an object of affection for many guys at SVMS, now that she’s back on the market, and even Bruce wants to take her to the dance. Todd’s upset about this, and eventually realizes that any girl who might want him can’t be nearly as awesome as Elizabeth. He needs to make up with her and get back together.

At the dance, Todd tries to apologize with flowers and candy, but Liz is slow to warm up to him. I don’t blame her. When it comes out that she wrote the poem, she has to laugh at his failure to realize who it was from. I guess it’s a little funny that he dumped her for the poet, who turned out to be her all along, but it was also a jerk move.

The C-plot is that Jessica wants Aaron to ask her to the dance, but he keeps hanging out with and talking to Elizabeth. Jess decides to call him out in the cafeteria, while the Boosters are performing their Valentine’s cheers. But just as she’s about to call him a snake in front of everyone, the Boosters perform a special cheer Aaron commissioned for Jess. (You have to read it – see below.) All is forgiven when Aaron explains that he was only talking to Elizabeth to get help with the cheer. Jess is definitely his preferred twin.

Thoughts: This is almost exactly the plot of Love Letters, just for the middle-school set.

Amy thinks Elizabeth should get Todd a stuffed animal for Valentine’s Day. Amy, stop helping.

Lila: “[Gray] threatened to do something drastic if I didn’t immediately break up with Jake and go out with him instead.” Tamara: “Oh, Lila, how romantic.” OH, GIRLS, NO.

Lila’s outfit for the dance: “The top was a sophisticated black velvet bodysuit. Displayed with it were long hiphuggers with huge bells at the bottom.” OH, GIRL, NO.

Here’s Aaron’s cheer, in all its…well, glory certainly isn’t the right word:

“Oh Jessica, oh Jessica,
You make my heart beat fast.
You’ve always been the twin for me,
From first until the last.
I love the way you chew your gum,
Right in our science class.
Around you I am never glum,
Not even when you sass.
Your long blond hair is like the sun,
Your eyes are like the sky.
With you I have terrific fun,
I’ll never make you cry.
You take a joke just like a boy,
You look just like a girl.
I’d follow you to Illinois,
Or all around the world.
I can’t compete with Johnny Buck,
He sure gives me a blister.
And now I find, with just my luck,
You think I like your sister.
But Jessica, you must believe,
There is no other one.
I’d like to take you out tonight,
In order to have fun.
Please say you’ll be my date tonight,
I’ll bring you one red rose.
There’s no way I’ll be late tonight,
Or step upon your toes.
Be my Valentine, Jessica! Love Aaron! Yay!”

January 17, 2017

SVT #79, Jessica’s Blind Date: Print Media Really Isn’t Dead

Posted in books tagged , at 5:18 pm by Jenn

Jessica's dress is actually really cute

Jessica’s dress is actually really cute

Summary: Jessica has recently started to think that a 12-year-old boy might not make the best boyfriend. Aaron Dallas may be cool and popular, but he’s not exactly mature. She tries to avoid him in the cafeteria, getting delayed by Elizabeth, who’s trying to find a tutor for Amy. Jess suggests that she run an ad in the Sixers. She’s unable to run off before Aaron can reach her, so she agrees to go get ice cream with him after school. But he’s childish, ordering bubblegum ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, and wearing a Donald Duck shirt. They have a fight about how she’s snobby and he’s immature, and that’s it for their relationship.

Going off of Jess’ suggestion to run an ad in the paper, Elizabeth comes up with the idea to start a Classified section. Jessica decides to run an ad looking for a date to a party at Rick Hunter’s house. Liz balks at running it, since she wants the Sixers to be a serious paper, like The New York Times. (No, seriously, she makes that comparison. I don’t think the Times prints cafeteria menus, though.) But Jets gets her way, of course.

The ad gets Jess a few responses, including one from a high schooler who says Johnny Buck is his cousin. Jess is naïve enough to believe that, as well as believe that a guy old enough to drive is looking for a 12-year-old girlfriend. She goes to meet him at the Dairi Burger, but it turns out to be Steven pulling a prank. Still, there are some guys at SVMS who are interested in Jessica, or at least her personal-ad persona, Gorgeous Blond.

Lila’s having guy problems of her own now, as Jake forgot their one-month anniversary. I didn’t realize they were officially dating. He probably didn’t either, which explains not acknowledging their anniversary. Jess suggests that Lila write a personal ad, too, keeping quiet the fact that she wrote the first one. After they write Lila’s ad, she tells Janet, and suddenly a bunch of girls at SVMS want to find new guys.

Suddenly the Sixers is super-popular, though not for the reasons Elizabeth would prefer. Everyone’s reading the paper just for the Classified section, which is now mostly the Personals section. She’s also annoyed that Amy ran an ad, and they fight about it. The only good thing she has going for her right now is that Todd has no interest in running an ad or finding a new girlfriend.

Unimpressed with the guys who responded to her ad, Jessica reads the other ads and comes across Athletic Guy. He likes pineapple pizza and roller coasters, just like she does. She writes him a letter but doesn’t get a response. She’s disappointed until she realizes that she didn’t give him the number of her response box, so he couldn’t write her back. Instead, he places a new ad asking for her contact info.

The two start writing each other like this is You’ve Got Mail, and Jess is smitten. A bunch of other girls who wrote ads have also made new love connections, and with Rick’s party coming up, they all decide to meet there for their first official dates. The only pair not going on a blind date to the party is Elizabeth and Todd. Liz is also happy because she’s turned the Classified/Personals section into a profit center. Charging people $1 to place an ad, the Sixers makes about $200.

Athletic Guy shows up to the Wakefields’ house to get Jessica for the party, and she’s floored to see that he’s Aaron. He, like Tom Hanks, already figured out who she was but didn’t say anything. Jessica, like Meg Ryan, is glad he’s Athletic Guy. They’ve learned a bunch about each other, and I guess now their relationship is going to be fine. They even skip the party so they can get pineapple pizza together.

This was probably a good idea, since the party isn’t great. All the new couples are complete mismatches, like Janet and Ken, Sophia and Rick, and Ellen and nerdy Donald Zwerdling. Everyone quickly realizes that they were happier with their original people. So the paper made $200 while everyone went back to relationships they were already in. I think Elizabeth comes out on top here.

Thoughts: Please enjoy the song stylings of Mr. Johnny Buck:

“Bringin’ me down
Bringin’ me up
Rockin’ me round
Just like a pup
She’s my roller coaster baby
My roller coaster gal
See if you can catch her
My roller coaster pal.”

Everyone gets pretty dressed up for a party at a teenage boy’s house. These kids go to parties practically every week; they can’t consider this a special occasion.

Mandy: “How did you come up with the name Awesome Dude?” Jake: “It fit me.” Mandy: “Oh. I should have known.” For some reaso, that cracked me up.

November 15, 2016

SVT #71, Jessica Saves the Trees: Soccer? I Hardly Even Know Her!

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:59 pm by Jenn

Untuck your shirts, you nerds

Untuck your shirts, you nerds

Summary: Soccer has become a big deal at SVMS, especially since the boys have just qualified for division A. (Apparently this means they’re really good.) As boys try out for the team, they dedicate their goals to the girls they like. I had no idea this was a thing. Jessica’s excited that Aaron might make a goal and dedicate it to her. Considering how low-scoring soccer games can be, she may have to wait a while.

Elizabeth isn’t having such a great day – she wrote an article for the Sixers about two boys being kicked out of a new sweet shop, and the shop owner, Mrs. Simmons, is upset that she wasn’t interviewed. The article said that the boys were turned away because Mrs. Simmons doesn’t like kids, but she claims it’s because they started a food fight the last time they were there. Elizabeth is embarrassed, and Mr. Bowman is unhappy with her failure to get both sides of the story.

At the scrimmage that serves as tryouts for the soccer team, Aaron dedicates two goals to Jessica. The Unicorns fawn all over her, except Lila, who’s jealous. Janet thinks Denny Jacobson is going to dedicate a goal to her, but he gives a shout-out to his English teacher instead, since he failed a test last week. Heh. Jess thinks Elizabeth should write an article about Aaron and the goals, though of course it should focus on Jess rather than Aaron’s accomplishments. Liz knows better than to write something stupid just to boost her sister’s ego, but at least she can hide behind the excuse of journalistic integrity.

Jess watches an interview with her favorite actress, Lois Latimer, who’s really into activism. She encourages kids to get involved in good causes because doing so makes people beautiful. Jess realizes how many protests her parents were involved in back in college, and starts to think that activism really does make you more attractive. You know, like how all the people who marched for Civil Rights woke up the next morning with magically clearer skin.

Liz writes a correction piece to retract what she reported about the boys at the sweet shop. But she’s in for another embarrassment, as she accidentally publishes a version where Amy added a line about the boys being jerks for lying to Liz about the reason for their banishment. Liz is in trouble with Mr. Bowman again. Doesn’t he read the paper before it’s published? Later, it turns out that Mrs. Simmons mistook the two boys for two other troublemakers, so their banishment was based on mistaken identity. Maybe she should just require all kids in her shop to be chaperoned. Anyway, the whole thing is a mess, and everyone’s upset with Elizabeth for not covering all the angles of the story.

The students receive some bad news: The school’s soccer field is a few yards too short for regulation size, which means they can’t compete in division A after all. No other fields nearby are available, and expanding the field would cost $5,000, so the season is effectively cancelled. Can’t they just compete in division B instead? Whatever. The kids take a shot at fundraising, but since they only have a week to make the money (for some reason), they only get $1,767. Lila gets her father to make up the difference, so she gets all the credit for the fundraising, even though Jessica gave an impassioned motivational speech. The boys on the team decide to dedicate all of that season’s goals to Lila.

Jess gets depressed about the turn of events – the students got what they wanted, but they’re not paying attention to her. Sadly, Lois Latimer doesn’t show up to tell Jess to suck it up because activism isn’t about getting praise. Jess just spends the afternoon in the woods by the soccer field, crying to a bird that she thinks is sympathetic but that’s probably just waiting for Jess to feed it.

Elizabeth takes Jess with her to an interview with an engineer who will be working on the enlargement of the soccer field. She tells them that some trees will have to be bulldozed to make room. Jessica then goes with Liz to the Nature Society to learn more about the trees. (Elizabeth is obsessed with covering every single angle of the story. She’ll probably interview the birds about how they feel about their trees being taken away.) A man named Bill tells the twins that knocking down trees isn’t the greatest idea. Some trees in the area are 400 years old, and should be put ahead of expanding a soccer field.

Jess, feeling lonely and unappreciated, grabs a hold of this idea. She thinks the enlargement of the field should be stopped so the trees aren’t disturbed. She tells Elizabeth to say so in her article, but Elizabeth wants to just present facts and let the readers decide for themselves what they want. So Jessica starts recruiting her own little band of environmentalists and starts a movement to stop the expansion of the field. They only have a week to get out the word, so they get right to work.

Aaron is surprised that Jess is suddenly against the soccer field. After all, there are plenty of other trees around; cutting a few down isn’t going to hurt anything. He takes it personally that Jess wants to keep him from playing soccer. The Unicorns are also unhappy with Jess (and Mandy, to a lesser extent, since she’s on Jess’ side); they want to keep watching cute guys play soccer. Janet tells Jessica and Mandy to pick the Unicorns or the trees. The girls pick the trees, even picking up another supporter when Mary decides to join their cause.

By this point, pretty much everyone at SVMS has chosen a side except Elizabeth and Todd. Elizabeth is refraining from making a decision on the issue so she can continue to remain objective in her articles. Todd just hasn’t made up his mind yet. Both sides are getting ugly, calling each other “tree killers” and “tree huggers.” They protest on school property and get threatened with suspension for not being civil to each other. Jessica almost gets in trouble for announcing that they refuse to negotiate.

Aaron tries to make up with Jessica, but it’s really so she’ll back down and let the field expansion go forward. She’s so sure she’s on the right side that she refuses to compromise or admit that she’s done anything wrong. Aaron thinks she’s acting out because Lila got all the glory for the fundraising. Jessica insists that she really does want to save the trees. They’re at a stalemate.

Elizabeth interviews some students and teachers for her article on the whole fiasco. Randy Mason helped with the fundraising for the field, but now that he knows the trees are 400 years old, he thinks they should be protected. Rick Hunter points out that 400 years isn’t very long when you consider how old the world is, so they can sacrifice some trees to enlarge the field. A teacher tells Elizabeth she’s for saving the trees because she likes nature, and somehow Liz interprets this as her wanting to side with her friends, which she and Todd had agreed was a bad idea.

The only thing everyone can agree on at this point is that Elizabeth should be on their side. They want her to write articles supporting their opinions rather than just presenting the issue in a straightforward manner. Mr. Bowman finally tells Liz that she needs to put stories in the paper that express people’s passion over the situation. She gets Jessica and Aaron to write editorials and publishes them next to each other. Everyone’s mad about that, too, since Liz still hasn’t backed one side over the other.

There’s a protest outside Casey’s, I guess because the kids got in trouble for protesting at school, and it ends with yelling and everyone getting kicked out. Todd gets booted, even though he wasn’t involved in the protest, and he tells Liz he’s now against both sides. I can’t believe Todd makes it through this book without getting beaten up.

After chats with Bill and Ned, Elizabeth decides to do some research on the trees themselves. This research leads her to a surprising turn of events. She tries to tell Jessica what she found out, but Jess is too focused on her cause to listen. Just as the trees are about to be bulldozed, Jessica and her supporters leave their classrooms and run outside to chain themselves to the trees with bike locks.

Elizabeth brings Bill to the school to confirm what her research has revealed: The trees that would be knocked down for the field are diseased and actually NEED to be removed. What’s more, their disease could spread to other trees, so the whole wooded area needs to be bulldozed so the trees don’t die. People object, since the trees are 400 years old. Bill says that he told Jess some of the trees in Sweet Valley are that old, but he didn’t specify that they were the ones she wanted to protect. Those trees are actually only about 60 years old. (Not that it should matter – if they’re dying and going to kill other trees, their age isn’t really an issue.)

Jessica is embarrassed that she went full force on the protests without having all the information, and with faulty facts. Steven thinks she should look on the bright side: Without her protests, no one would have paid attention to the trees in the first place, and the disease might not have been discovered until it was too late. Not that Jess cares about that right now. The trees still have to go, and getting rid of the whole wooded area will cost so much that the school won’t be able to afford the field expansion after all.

Finally, though, Jessica’s desire to be an activist leads to something good. Since the trees are part of the town, not just the school, the community should contribute to the cost of removing them. The City Council agrees and will pitch in, which means SVMS can still expand their field. The students finally stop fighting and organize a fundraiser so they can plant new trees. Jessica even gets rewarded with a letter from Lois Latimer telling her to keep up the good work. Well, crap, now Jess is only going to do good things so she can get praise.

Thoughts: Jessica: “I’m not just trying to get attention for myself.” So you admit you ARE trying to get attention, at last partly.

Of course Todd is neutral. When has he ever been passionate about anything?

If Mr. Bowman doesn’t read the paper before it goes to press, and he never taught Elizabeth about interviewing both sides of a matter, what, exactly, does he do as the Sixers‘ advisor?

October 4, 2016

SVT #66, The Great Boyfriend Switch: Middle-School Relationship Drama Is the Worst

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:09 pm by Jenn

Everyone looks fine except Amy (what else is new?)

Everyone looks fine except Amy (what else is new?)

Summary: Believe it or not, but even though it seemed like there was a dance in every SVH book, the SVT crew has yet to have one. Their first is coming up, and the girls are worried that the boys will be their usual annoying, immature selves. New girl Veronica Brooks would be especially disappointed if that happened. You see, at Veronica’s old school, the boys were all charming and intelligent and clearly alien life forms because there’s no such thing as a mature 12-year-old boy.

Todd asks Elizabeth to the dance, and Veronica’s totally jealous. Amy hopes Ken will ask her, since they’re basically dating, but Ken is an idiot in this book and doesn’t get that his sort-of girlfriend might want to do something girlfriend-y with him. When the Unicorns graciously hold an “open meeting,” which is basically a crash course on style, Amy attends so she can get some pointers on making herself girlier so Ken will want to take her to the dance. The Unicorns happily take on Amy as a project. I don’t know why they care whether a girl they don’t even like has a date with a guy they don’t like, but okay.

Amy wears some eye makeup to school, and I guess it’s a pretty bad application because Ken thinks she was in a fight. So did Amy try to do her own makeup, or did the Unicorns overdo it on purpose? Discuss. Either way, later Ken does ask her to the dance, but he’s really casual about it and doesn’t want it to seem like a date. Amy will take it. Meanwhile, Veronica’s mad that Elizabeth keeps outscoring her on tests, because at her old school, Veronica was the best student (and, I imagine, also the most popular and the prettiest and the best athlete and the best singer and…). Also, she likes Todd.

The night of the dance, a bunch of girls get ready together at the Wakefields’. Remember middle-school dances, you guys? My friends and I got ready together, too. Then when high school came around, we skipped all the dances except homecoming and prom because we realized how boring they were. Anyway, everyone has a date, and the guys all come by the house to pick up their girls, which is cute. Todd gives Elizabeth a heart-shaped locket with their pictures inside.

Even though Aaron is Jessica’s date to the dance, she accepts a dance with Bruce. One dance turns into many dances, and Aaron is effectively ditched. Then Veronica steals Todd away from Elizabeth, so Liz and Aaron are stuck on the sidelines, watching their dates with other people. Jessica and Bruce even kiss on the dance floor! Elizabeth tries to comfort Aaron by dancing with him, and they end up kissing, too. They’re outside, so at least they’re not giving the whole school a show…but Caroline Pearce sees them, so that event isn’t going to stay secret for long.

Indeed, by Monday morning, rumors are flying that Elizabeth and Aaron kissed. Todd confronts Elizabeth, who blasts him for spending so much of the dance with Veronica. He argues that he was just trying to be nice, like, one dance with her is nice enough, Todd. They end up having a big fight, as do Jessica and Aaron. Then Jess confronts her sister, and the two of them fight about Jess treating Aaron badly, and how Liz kissed her sister’s guy. No one comes off looking great.

Elizabeth and Aaron have lunch together, as do Todd and Veronica. It’s clear that they’re all trying to make each other jealous. Amy thinks everyone’s nuts. Jess starts hanging out with Bruce, who’s at his Bruceiest in this book. We always hear about how self-centered he is, and it’s really apparent here. He expects Jess to laugh at all his jokes, and for everyone to talk about how awesome he is. Ohhhhhh. Bruce is Donald Trump. I get it.

That night, Aaron calls the Wakefields’ house, and there’s a fun moment where Ned offers the phone to Jessica and is shocked when Aaron wants to talk to Elizabeth. He’s not much of a conversationalist on the phone, as most middle-school girls can confirm about their middle-school boyfriends. Bruce also calls Jessica, but again, he just wants to talk about himself, so she’s not as thrilled anymore about having a popular seventh-grader interested in her.

Jessica wants revenge on Elizabeth, and who better to help her than Liz’s new #1 enemy, Veronica? Veronica changes a bunch of answers on Elizabeth’s math homework so her grade will be lower than Veronica’s. She wants to read Liz’s diary, too, but Jessica doesn’t want to go that far. Instead, Veronica steals something from Elizabeth’s room, though Jess doesn’t see what it is. The next day, Elizabeth is shocked to learn that she failed her math homework. Veronica changed a lot more answers than Jessica expected, and Jess isn’t happy.

Also not happy: Amy, who’s trying a new look to attract Ken. The Unicorns give her a makeover, styling and dressing her like a hippie. Ken thinks she’s sticking it to Valentine’s Day (which is coming up) by acting like it’s Halloween instead. He still wants to go to Ellen’s Valentine’s Day party with her, though. Jess will be going with Bruce, and Liz is going with Aaron. But the twins have realized they want to get each other back together with their original boyfriends, and they’ve separately decided that the party is the place to do it. Neither twin realizes it, but they’ve both decided to pull a classic twin switch.

Liz also wants to make up with Todd, and thinks wearing her locket is a good way to indicate that, but she can’t find it. Then Veronica shows up to the party wearing one just like it. Amy sees her first and thinks this means Todd is moving on from Elizabeth. Jessica, meanwhile, is at the end of her rope with Bruce. He can’t believe she didn’t notice that he parted his hair on the left instead of the right! Bruce in this scene reminds me of Joey from 10 Things I Hate About You. Through all this, Amy and Ken are fighting because he thinks Valentine’s Day is dumb, and she doesn’t want to admit that she likes all the heart-shaped stuff at the party.

The twins quickly get to work on their switch, though they still have no idea that they’re both up to the same plot. “Jessica” makes up with Aaron pretty easily, but “Elizabeth” takes longer with Todd. He gets really awkward and clumsy when he sees “Elizabeth,” making Jessica think that he still likes her. Also, the only thing she can think of to talk to him about is books.

Amy tells “Elizabeth” that Todd gave Veronica a locket just like Liz’s, and Jessica realizes that it’s really Liz’s locket – that’s what Veronica stole from her room. “Elizabeth” calls Veronica out, and they end up in a little shoving match. Once it’s over, the twins switch back and make up with their boyfriends. (Also, they catch Amy and Ken making out.) Veronica, however, is angry (even though she ends up with Bruce), and she tells Jessica she’s going to get revenge. Hell hath no fury like a 12-year-old girl scorned.

Thoughts: Veronica: “At my old school, I was one of the in crowd. We were really wild. We didn’t just have geeky school dances – we had real kissing parties.” Wow. Wild.

The local drugstore has a soda fountain. What year is this?

“[The Unicorns are] all obsessed with this romance stuff. It’s like they’re always trying to get guys to say mushy things. That’s why I like hanging out with you, Amy. You never do stuff like that. It’s almost like being with another guy.” KEN. STOP TALKING.

“You still love to read. I love to read. We both love to read. That’s why we have so much in common.” You stop talking, too, Jessica.

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