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.

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February 14, 2017

SVT #82, Steven’s Enemy: Oh, Brother

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

With his stance and the vibe he's giving off, it looks like Steven's upset because he wants Ben for himself

With his stance and the vibe he’s giving off, it looks like Steven’s upset because he wants Ben for himself

Summary: Having not learned her lesson from the last time she decided to trade in Denny for a better model, Janet has her eye on an SVH freshman named Doug. The other Unicorns decide to go to the next SVH JV basketball practice to check him out and let her know whether they approve. (I doubt any of them would say no. It’s not like Janet’s looking for an honest opinion here.)

Speaking of basketball players, Steven has recently been switched from starting center to guard in favor of a new kid named Ben Oliver. Steven hates Ben, even though he seems like a perfectly nice guy. But Steven isn’t going to be overshadowed by a kid who always knows the answer in class and probably thinks he’s smarter than everyone just because he’s a year younger than the other freshmen, having skipped seventh grade. To make matters worse, Ben is running against Steven for class treasurer.

Steven’s campaign goes negative against Ben, though Cathy objects, insisting that Ben is a great guy. Steven’s furious that she would find even one good thing about his arch-nemesis. He thinks he’s a shoo-in for treasurer. The Unicorns attend the next basketball practice, and Jessica immediately develops a crush on Ben. She has no idea that he’s her brother’s enemy, and he has no idea that getting involved with her would make Steven mad.

The vote for treasurer is too close to call, so the freshmen vote again. This time, Ben wins. Steven acts like a jerk about it even though Ben is gracious. His day gets worse when he comes home to find Ben there, about to take Jessica to Casey’s for ice cream. Steven goes all overprotective brother, refusing to let Jess leave with Ben. I can’t believe he thinks that’ll work. Jessica ignores him and goes off with Ben. Then Cathy and Joe are friendly toward Ben at school, just making Steven madder.

Jessica and Ben plan a double date with Janet and Doug, which Steven tries to get Ned and Alice to cancel. Even though their 12-year-old daughter will be going out with a high-schooler, Ned and Alice are fine with the situation (I think they made Ben 13 so the age gap wouldn’t be so big. But still, a sixth-grader and a ninth-grader?). Steven practically threatens to get violent with Ben, which gets him sent to his room. Hey, an attempt at effective Wakefield parenting for once!

Elizabeth has already started to suspect that Jess is only with Ben to bug Steven, and after the double date, it seems like Jess might only stick with the relationship for that reason. Ben and Doug are both kind of annoying, and Jessica and Janet are starting to realize that dating a high-schooler isn’t as glamorous as they’d expected. Still, Jess isn’t going to pass up the chance to talk up the date so Steven gets even madder. She plays it off like they’re just friends, so Ned and Alice can’t really object. After Steven overhears the Unicorns talking about Veronica, he decides to handle the Jess/Ben situation (JessBen is an awful couple name; let’s hope that, say, Jessica Chastain and Ben Affleck never get together) on his own.

Steven asks Veronica out, I guess not worrying about what Cathy will say if she finds out. Jess is as furious as Steven is every time he sees her with Ben. Though he’s pleased with his plan, Steven gets upset again when he hears a rumor that Cathy voted for Ben in the election. He immediately believes this, which is dumb, but that’s par for the course for Steven in this book. However, Cathy then confirms this, claiming she has a good reason. Steven’s too angry to listen to her.

Now at the side of a high-schooler, Veronica is suddenly popular. Even the Unicorns want to spend time with her, despite the tricks she’s pulled on Jessica in the past. Steven is happy with his revenge plot, but clearly still wants to be with Cathy, as he gets jealous when he hears that she’s been spending time with a guy named Howie. Later, Steven hears Ben telling Doug that Howie lost a bunch of the class’ money for a class trip while he was serving as treasurer. Ben has to do a lot of work to make it back. He knows Cathy voted for him, but only because she didn’t want Steven to have to be stuck with the debt (which she found out about while tutoring Howie in math). Okay, but couldn’t she have told him that?

Steven suddenly gets that Ben isn’t a bad guy after all, and his jealousy comes from…well, nowhere, really. He tries to make up with Cathy, but she’s understandably tired of dealing with him. Steven takes Veronica to Casey’s, and Cathy shows up with Howie. Jessica spots Steven and flings a cherry at him. Steven fires back, innocents are dragged into the fight, and the whole restaurant gets trashed in a food fight. Mr. Casey kicks everyone out, surprisingly not banning them all for life.

The tension has been cut, and all the people who have been fighting make up. Ben and Veronica end up together, because why not? Then Ben has to quit basketball because being treasurer requires too much work, so Steven gets his position back. Everything is awesome again! At least until Steven dumps Cathy for a dumb reason and this whole thing starts over again!

The B-plot is really just setting up a future book: Amy’s suspicious of her parents, who keep having secret conversations and arguing. She thinks they’re going to split up, possibly because of a woman named Jane, as Mr. Sutton wrote a letter to her but hasn’t sent it yet. Liz finds a picture of Mr. Sutton with his arm around a woman, and the words “love, Jane” on the back.

She keeps this from Amy for a while, and when she finally tells her what she saw, Amy blows up at her. She accuses Liz of not wanting Amy to have a family as perfect as the Wakefields. What? Okay, Amy. They make up later, but things between Mr. and Mrs. Sutton don’t get any better. We get a cliffhanger when Jane calls the house and the Suttons ask Elizabeth to leave so they can discuss something in private. If you know the title of book #83, you can guess what the discussion’s about.

There’s also a teeny C-plot where Elizabeth learns that Bruce is going to release a pig in Mrs. Arnette’s class, so she publishes a story about it in the Sixers ahead of time. She and her friends are amused by how angry Bruce gets. I wish they’d done more with this plot; I thought it was funny.

Thoughts: Normally I would call Elizabeth a killjoy for ruining someone’s prank, but doing it to mess with Bruce makes me root for her.

Jessica considers wearing leggings with an Oxford shirt. Ick.

If the freshmen elected someone who’s bad at math to be their treasurer, they kind of deserve whatever happens.

December 6, 2016

SVT #74, Elizabeth the Hero: Nobody Puts Janet in a Corner

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:13 pm by Jenn

That's some forehead on Denny

That’s some forehead on Denny

Summary: It’s another perfect day in Sweet Valley, and Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria are hanging out at the beach, collecting seashells. Suddenly, things go horribly wrong! Denny Jacobson, the object of Janet’s affection, is knocked out while surfing in rough water. His brother Sam is nearby but doesn’t notice anything wrong. The girls try to get his attention, but he doesn’t hear them yelling that his brother’s unconscious. So Elizabeth puts to use the lifeguard skills she’ll display in SVU and saves Denny from drowning.

Suddenly Liz is a local hero. The Jacobsons are forever in her debt. (By the way, even though it was established a long time ago that Pamela with the bad heart is one of these Jacobsons, she’s never mentioned in this book. In fact, there’s a completely different Pam.) The rescue gets media coverage, though Denny exaggerates what happened, saying the waves were twice as high as they really were, and that Liz risked being struck by lightning to save him. He goes from never noticing Elizabeth to suddenly being her biggest fan.

Liz, however, doesn’t want a biggest fan. She’s humble about what happened and doesn’t appreciate Denny making a big deal out of it. I’m not sure she gets what a big deal it is – she actually saved someone’s life. He would be dead without her. But then again, Denny gets really annoying really fast. He wants to walk her to school and carry her backpack every day. He tells everyone they run into how she saved him. He talks the school into giving her a medal (then complains that it’s too small). Liz is miserable. She’s lizerable.

Also lizerable: Janet, who resents that Denny is giving Elizabeth so much attention. She orders Jessica to fix it, threatening to take away her chances to be hostess at the upcoming Teen Health Fair. Janet’s representing SVMS and giving a speech about orthodontia, which I guess means she’s not so embarrassed about her new night gear that she won’t use it to get something she wants. As representative, she gets to pick hosts and hostesses, and for some reason, this is an honor and all the Unicorns want in.

No way is Jessica going to pass up the chance to do whatever it is a Teen Health Fair hostess does, so she comes up with an idea to get Denny to back off: Elizabeth will pretend she’s drowning at the pool, and Denny will save her. Amazingly, this doesn’t go as planned. Denny eats too much and falls asleep, so when Liz pretends she needs help, he doesn’t hear her. Amy tries to save her instead. Good old Amy. Then when Denny goes swimming, he really does need help, and Elizabeth has to save him again. Maybe Denny should just stay away from water.

Now Denny’s even more obsessed with Liz. He serenades her outside her window and needs to know where she is at all times. Alice won’t let Liz tell him off; she thinks Liz should just let him feel grateful for a while. Alice, he’s stalking her. Shhh. Steven agrees to help the twins fix things, and Joe Howell happily joins in, since Janet’s being horrible and he wants to make that stop. He’ll pretend to mug Liz and Denny, and when Denny gets rid of him, he’ll be Elizabeth’s hero. Wouldn’t that just make him think he needs to spend even more time with Liz, to protect her?

Anyway, the fake mugging occurs, but Denny attacks Joe, and Joe has to fight back. Elizabeth grabs Joe’s arm and forces him to leave, which just makes Denny think she’s saved him yet again. Janet’s so angry that she accuses Liz of stealing her boyfriend. Elizabeth almost has her convinced that she hates the situation as much as Janet does, but Bruce ruins it by saying that Liz should take Janet’s place as the Teen Health Fair representative. Janet takes out her anger on Jess, taking her out of the running for hostess. She even forbids Jess from wearing purple! THE HORROR!

Even with the backfire, Joe’s still on board to help the twins and Steven (as is Denny’s brother Sam, who should really feel more embarrassed about not noticing that his brother was dying). They realize that they need to get Janet to do something heroic so Denny will focus his hero-worshipping on her instead of Elizabeth. They come up with a complicated plan involving skates and a big papier-mâché tooth Mandy and Mary made for the health fair. Liz has to get Denny to a spot in a strip mall at a certain time so the guys can skate toward him in the tooth. Jessica will get Janet there, and Janet will push Denny out of the way.

Somehow, despite a few hiccups, this goes almost exactly as planned. Janet panics as the tooth approaches, and Maria has to knock into Amy to get her to collide with Liz and domino into Jess and Janet to get her to save Denny. But Denny’s dumb enough to think Janet saved him, and suddenly he’s all into her instead of Liz. Everyone’s happy now. Denny should maybe have a chaperone with him everywhere, though, since he keeps getting into dangerous situations.

In the B-plot, Steven and Cathy are fighting because she’s sick of him bragging about how good he is at basketball. Instead of being sad or changing his attitude, Steven decides to go after another girl, Pam Martin. Joe encourages him to talk to her, but when he pushes Steven into her path, she trips over him and immediately thinks he’s a doofus. Well, he is, but not usually like this. Joe also likes Pam, and he wants to make Steven look bad in front of her so she’ll like Joe instead. What a nice friend.

After Joe pretends to mug Elizabeth and Denny, Steven gets him to pretend to mug him and Pam, too (though he tells Joe he’ll be with Cathy). Joe doesn’t fulfill his end of the bargain, so Steven ends up chasing him down the street like an idiot. Steven spends the whole book crushing on a girl who’d be happy never seeing him again. But he finally realizes that Cathy’s great and he needs to stop being an idiot so she’ll want him back. They fix things in, like, five seconds, though I don’t know why Cathy would even want to be with Steven after he spent the whole book being a dork.

Thoughts: Way to stand around, doing nothing, while Elizabeth saves someone’s life, Amy and Maria.

Hospital admissions calls the newspaper to tell them about Elizabeth’s heroics, which has to be some kind of HIPAA violation.

Hey, Ned, why is it okay if Steven asks for six pancakes but not if Jessica does?

Joe: “Ever since this thing with Elizabeth and Denny started, Janet’s been a nightmare to live with.” She wasn’t already?

Fun with out-of-context quotes: “It’s my tooth! And it’s out of control!”

October 25, 2016

SVT #69, Won’t Someone Help Anna?: SVMS Is Not ADA-Compliant

Posted in books tagged , , at 4:31 pm by Jenn

Aww, Cammi's cute. She doesn't look like a nerd at all

Aww, Cammi’s cute. She doesn’t look like a nerd at all

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!

August 23, 2016

SVT #61, Jessica the Nerd: A Girl Who’s Good at Science? What Kind of Bizarro World Is This??

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

Nothing says nerd like an E=MC2 shirt

Nothing says nerd like an E=MC2 shirt

Summary: A new program called SOAR! (Science Offers Awesome Rewards) is coming to SVMS to offer some students two weeks of science, science, and more science, AKA my worst nightmare. The students all take an aptitude test to determine who gets to miss regular classes for all the science-y goodness (i.e., the smart kids) and who has to miss out on beakers and microscopes and frog dissections (i.e., the losers). Jessica has no interest in this and figures only the nerds will get into SOAR!.

She’s wrong. Yes, all the known SVMS nerds score high enough to get in, but Jessica does as well. She’s shocked – though the questions on the aptitude test were more like puzzles than test questions, she hates science. Amy is also shocked, and upset that she didn’t get in, since she loves science. Janet’s crush, Denny Jacobson, gets in but Janet doesn’t consider him a nerd. Only girls who like science are nerds. Well, and nerdy guys. Janet has very strict qualifications for who is and who isn’t a nerd.

The Unicorns vow to help Jessica get out of the program, but their ideas are all dumb, and Jess has to go to the first SOAR! class. The teacher, Mr. Baker, is like Bill Nye and David Tennant’s Doctor rolled into one. He teaches through fun experiments like finding out which of two water balloons (one small, one big) will fall on the twins’ heads first. Jessica’s surprised to find herself enjoying it, even with all the school’s nerds around. Of course, she won’t admit that to the Unicorns.

Janet can’t believe that Aaron doesn’t think Jessica’s a nerd for scoring well on the test. She thinks Jess should downplay her basketball knowledge because guys don’t like it when girls know more about something than they do. $5 says Janet was a Rules girl in the ’90s. Mary clarifies that Janet thinks Jessica should dumb herself down so a guy will like her. Well, of course.

As things in SOAR! get more fun, and Jessica gets recognition for saying smart things, the Unicorns get more and more annoyed. She’s spending so much time with the nerds that she misses Unicorn meetings and Boosters practices. How dare she talk about life on Venus when she could be watching music videos and painting her nails! Amy’s also getting more and more upset, since all the nerds are having such a good time without her.

The Unicorns come up with a plan to get Jessica out of SOAR!: They start a rumor that she cheated on the aptitude test. Jessica is horrified when the principal accuses her of cheating, and even offers to retake the test. He backs off and doesn’t bring it up again, so it’s kind of a waste of a plot. The Unicorns can’t believe that Jessica didn’t take advantage of her chance to get out of SOAR! Then Janet gets even madder when Denny strikes up a conversation with Jessica. She announces that Jessica has to choose between SOAR! and the Unicorns. (Never mind that SOAR! is mandatory, or that it’ll be over in just a few more days.)

Jessica confides in Elizabeth that she’s been enjoying SOAR! and has realized the nerds aren’t so bad after all. In fact, she has some things in common with them. She’s worried that she really is a nerd. After Jessica misses a basketball game because she’s planting a tree with the class, she tells Mr. Baker all about her problems. He helps her come up with some ideas for how to win over the Unicorns.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth, Sophia, and Maria (all of whom are in SOAR!) decide to have a sleepover so Amy will know they still want to be friends with her. Amy ditches them because she’s a whiny baby. You couldn’t pay me to go back to the drama of middle-school friendships. They’re probably better off without Amy pouting all over their sleepover.

Jessica tries to make up with the Unicorns by pointing out how much they use science, especially electricity. Mandy even chimes in, noting that medical science saved her life when she had the world’s shortest battle with cancer. The Unicorns are sold, but Janet remains stubborn. Since Jessica won’t give up science, she’s out of the club. This is a fate worse than death, of course.

But Mandy comes by the Wakefields’ to tell Jessica that Janet’s just upset because she thinks Denny likes Jess. She thinks that if Janet knew that Jess doesn’t like Denny, things will go back to normal. Jessica takes it upon herself to approach Denny, who makes it clear that he doesn’t want to date Jess. But he was thinking about asking out Janet, so he’s happy to hear from Jessica that Janet likes him, too.

Just when it looks like Janet will get a boyfriend and basically be forced to back down from Jessica, Janet does an actual mature thing. She tells Jessica that a recent struggle with the family VCR made her realize that boys aren’t the only people good at science. Her father and brother told her not to try to fix the VCR since girls aren’t science-y (Joe? Sexist? No!), but then they couldn’t fix it either. Now Janet knows that your gender doesn’t determine your scientific aptitude.

So Jessica’s allowed back in the club. She gets a little revenge on Janet with some makeup that turns to mud, but since Janet ends up with Denny, I don’t think she’s too mad about it. Amy randomly gets over her issues by performing an awesome baton routine. I’m not sure what the connection is, but she stops moping, so I’ll take it.

In the B-plot, Steven is a huge sexist. He thinks guys are better than girls at science and sports, especially ping pong. The Wakefields have just gotten a ping pong table, and Steven’s obsessed. He gets upset when Cathy beats him, because girls aren’t supposed to be good at stuff like that. They have a rematch, and when Steven wins, he becomes unsufferable. Cathy secretly tells the twins that she let him win so he’d stop moping. But the bragging is worse than the pouting, and Jess ends up telling Steven the truth. After another rematch, which Cathy wins, Steven calms down. Yay, sexism is over!

Thoughts: This book isn’t exactly the best way to let girls know it’s okay to like science, but it’s a start.

“I wish I’d never taken that test. I could have gone my whole life without knowing I was smart.” Jessica Wakefield, ladies and gentlemen.

Ellen once tried to get out of doing a project on fruit flies by saying she was allergic to bananas. Sounds about right.

“You are smart. I mean, it’s only natural. You’re my twin, after all.” I wish Elizabeth were smart enough to shut up.

July 12, 2016

SVT #57, Big Brother’s in Love!: Matchmakers, Matchmakers, Make Him a Match…

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:07 pm by Jenn

Please try not to think about how much Cathy looks like the twins

Please try not to think about how much Cathy looks like the twins

Summary: Despite their horrible date in the last book, Steven still likes Jill and wants to find a way to win her over. Janet thinks the whole thing is ridiculous, since Jill is now dating Joe and clearly doesn’t have any romantic interest in Steven. Jessica decides to take advantage of the situation by making a bet with Janet: If she proves over the next week that Steven’s over Jill, Janet has to hand over her two tickets to a TV show called Staying Up with Bob. If Jess fails, Janet gets Elizabeth’s new camera.

Elizabeth is furious with Jess for using something that belongs to her in a bet, but Jessica is confident that she can beat Janet. Since Liz loves Staying Up with Bob (ugh, what a horrible title), Jess is easily able to convince her twin to help show that Steven is over Jill. Jessica figures the best way to do this is to get him interested in someone else. And the best candidate for that someone else is his friend Cathy Connors.

The twins make a big plan to send Cathy a series of gifts from a secret admirer, attached to a few letters of Steven’s name. By the time Cathy gets the last of the gifts, she’ll have all the letters and be able to figure out who her secret admirer is. While I find this plan creative, it doesn’t guarantee that Steven will want to be with Cathy instead of Jill. It doesn’t even guarantee that Cathy will want to be with Steven. In fact, it could backfire and end their friendship. But this is Sweet Valley Twins, not Sweet Valley High, so the chances are good that the plan will work.

First the twins send Cathy flowers, but Steven doesn’t pay any attention. He’s still hung up on Jill, and still making a fool of himself in front of her. He thinks he can win her heart by getting a motorcycle, since she’s mentioned liking them. He knows he can’t drive one for two more years, but nothing’s stopping him from buying one. Well, nothing but a ton of money. Steven decides to get a job, which is easier said than done for a 14-year-old with no marketable skills. He ends up getting a job at McRobert’s, a mall fast-food restaurant that I’m sure is in no way based on McDonald’s. Cathy happens to work there, too, so apparently McRobert’s is immune to child labor laws.

The twins spend most of their money on Cathy’s gifts, and asking for an advance on their allowance gets them nowhere – their parents point out that they just got $100 each from Aunt Helen, and it’s not Ned and Alice’s fault if they’ve already spent it. That’s totally fair, actually. Steven needs his laundry done, so he offers his sisters $1.50 to do it for him. That’s a horrible price, but the twins are desperate. While doing the wash, Jessica finds $15 in the sock Steven uses for his piggy bank and, under the family’s finders-keepers laundry rule, confiscates it.

So now, hilariously, the twins are going to use Steven’s own money to buy gifts that are supposedly from him. Well, Elizabeth doesn’t know – Jess knows she’ll make her give the money back, so she tries to buy balloons for Cathy without her twin finding out. Liz learns the truth and refuses to continue the plan until Jess gives back Steven’s money. Jess stubbornly says she’ll continue the plan on her own, though Elizabeth points out that she’s the one who’s been cutting out the letters in Steven’s name, and Jessica probably doesn’t know which ones have already been sent.

Steven realizes that if he does win over Jill, he’ll be stealing his best friend’s girlfriend. Took him long enough to figure that out. Steven decides to tell Joe straight out how he feels about Jill, but Joe takes the news surprisingly well. The truth is that he doesn’t really like Jill that much. He’s figured out that she doesn’t have much of a personality outside of molding herself to what other guys like. So…why doesn’t Joe break up with her? Whatever.

As Steven spends more time with Cathy, he realizes that he’s a little jealous that she’s getting gifts from a secret admirer. Maybe he likes her as more than a friend? When she gets her last secret-admirer gift and puts the letters together, she comes up with Steven’s name. Steven figures out that his sisters were playing matchmaker for them the whole time. He and Cathy are both thrilled and start dating.

So everyone’s happy…until Ned and Alice learn about Jessica and Janet’s bet. They don’t like that Jessica’s gambling with expensive items like cameras and TV tickets. They don’t want her to accept her prize from Janet for winning the bet. But Steven’s so grateful to his sisters for getting him and Cathy together that he offers to give them money so they can buy the tickets from Janet. So when the twins present photographic proof that Steven is over Jill, Jessica hands over money for the tickets instead of just accepting them as a prize. This makes Janet feel a little better about losing the bet.

Throughout the book, Elizabeth has been trying to come up with a stupid human trick for a Staying Up with Bob segment using audience members. She stumbles across one at the dinner table, realizing that she has a hidden talent for batting away peas with a knife. The twins get to go to the show, and Elizabeth is chosen to perform her trick (with assistance from Jess). So by the end of the book, Steven and Cathy are happy together, the twins have been on TV, and Jill and Joe have broken up. She tries to catch Steven’s eye, but he’s already moved on. This means that everyone ends up happy except Jill. Sucks to be her!

Thoughts: “Let’s just say I have connections.” Janet, you’re 14. You don’t have connections.

“Valley Pharmacy was one of Jessica’s favorite stores.” Jessica makes me sad.

“And if Jessica couldn’t deliver the camera, she’d be a welcher – something no Unicorn had ever been.” Probably because they don’t know what it means.