March 15, 2016

SVU #53, Truth or Dare: SVU’s Elections Are a Gay Old Time

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:43 pm by Jenn

The love child of Wentworth Miller and Brian Austin Green

The love child of Wentworth Miller and Brian Austin Green

Summary: Neil is our star in this book. Yay, Neil! He and Jessica go out to a club, where girls keep hitting on him. Then a guy named Dave hits on him, but Neil doesn’t want to get involved with anyone; something happened at Stanford to turn him off of dating for a while. Jessica has decided to run for pledge chairwoman at Theta, and Neil is a little jealous that she has an activity she’s so excited about. At Stanford, he was in student government, fencing, and debate, but at SVU, he hasn’t found a club yet.

So Neil goes to the Student Center to sign up for something, only to learn that SVU has no debate team or fencing club. The budget has been cut so much that only the frats and money-making teams like football and basketball have survived. Neil then runs into a guy named Chip who’s running for SVU president. Chip is a frat guy and only really cares about getting more funding for Greek life. A girl Neil complains to suggests that he run for president as well. He latches on to the idea, deciding to ask Jessica to be his campaign manager, since she’ll be great at getting his name and message out to the other students.

Jessica’s happy to be in charge of something, and I have to say, she makes a great campaign manager. Neil starts campaigning right away, telling the students that he wants to make SVU more democratic. They should be able to choose activities to be offered, rather than having to pick from the few available. Who can say no to that idea?

A guy named Chris approaches Neil, happy that a gay student is running for president. Record scratch! Neil is barely out and is shocked that someone has caught him on gaydar. Chris is with the GSG, the Gay Students Group, who wants to offer Neil their support and endorsement. Neil fears that he’ll end up getting outed, and that his sexuality will overshadow his platform. But the damage is done, and soon everyone on campus has heard the rumor that Neil is gay. This brings the bigots and homophobes out of the woodwork.

During a chaotic night at the duplex, Jessica gets a call from Chris letting her know that the GSG wants to endorse Neil. Jess hasn’t yet talked to Neil about this, so she doesn’t know that he’s not happy about being the GSG’s new mascot. When she tells him, he argues that his sexuality and personal life should be kept separate from his campaign. Jess doesn’t see the harm in being known as a “gay candidate” – after all, Neil is gay, so he’s automatically a gay candidate. Of course, Jessica’s straight, so she doesn’t get why Neil might not want to out himself. The two of them fight, and Jess quits the campaign.

Neil turns down the GSG’s endorsement, which Chris isn’t happy about. Neil figures out that Chris wants to take advantage of having a GSG ally in student government; he doesn’t care about Neil’s platform at all. Chris refuses to withdraw the endorsement – the GSG will support Neil without his consent, and everyone at SVU will learn that Neil is gay.

Anti-Neil flyers start circulating, calling him “queer” and urging people not to vote for him. The Thetas are horrified and vow to help bolster Neil’s reputation. Jess talks to her buddy Alejandro, who encourages her to make up with Neil and return to his campaign before it becomes a total disaster. Before she can, someone from the school’s paper tries to ask her about a statement made by the GSG about how Neil is in the closet because he’s ashamed. Jess is smart enough not to give a comment. Neil is also questioned, and he proves to be very media-savvy – he won’t comment on his personal life, and he won’t distract from his platform.

The twins confer with Steven, wondering if they can sue the GSG. Steven teaches them about a little thing called the First Amendment. The twins decide to write an article for the paper about Neil’s campaign, trying to do a little damage control. Meanwhile, the GSG circulates flyers telling people to prove they’re not homophobes by voting for Neil.

Jessica and Neil make up, but she still doesn’t get the big deal about letting himself be outed. After all, there’s nothing wrong with being gay, so why shouldn’t people know? Neil finally tells her what scared him back into the closet: He fell for a closeted professor at Stanford, and they snuck around behind the guy’s wife’s back. Eventually the professor came clean, and his wife made him quit and move away in exchange for keeping his secret. So Neil lost his first love, then came out to his parents, who disowned him. Jess feels horrible and now gets why Neil is so private.

The two friends work on Neil’s campaign at the Red Lion, but Neil’s now pretty well-known, and the bigots are still angry. A guy yells at him, but Lila, in one of her most awesome moves to date, stands up to him and announces that the Thetas are endorsing Neil. Neil then heads to a dinner with the two other candidates, who turn out to be friendly and supportive. They clearly couldn’t care less that Neil is gay, and they think he’s tough for trying to overcome everything that’s being said about him. They’re also happy that he’s inadvertently getting people interested in student government. Neil realizes that even though the other two are just assuming he’s gay without confirmation, he doesn’t actually care.

Dave pops up again, admitting that he told Chris that Neil is gay, which drew the GSG to Neil in the first place. Neil forgives him, since Dave didn’t mean to start the whole Neil/Chris mess. The candidates have their first debate, and Neil does okay, but not better than his cheerleader opponent. Then someone in the audience starts yelling for him to comment on the rumors that he’s gay. Neil ends up announcing that, yes, he’s gay, but that’s not the important part of his campaign. He gets support from the audience, and later, a date with Dave. Awww!

Over in not-so-happy plots, Dana’s lonely now that Todd is working long hours. She cheers up a little when she hangs out at the bar where he works, which makes her think she can make the rest of her life better. No such luck: She embarrasses herself in music class and runs out. That, combined with the reality that it’ll be hard to become a professional musician, and her lack of free time to spend with Todd, make Dana decide to drop out of SVU.

Todd thinks this is a terrible idea. He points out that they won’t have more time to spend together, since he’s still working and going to school. Plus, her parents will probably cut her off for dropping out, so she’ll need to get a job to help with the rent. Dana then talks to Tom, who’s a little more supportive. He suggests that she give cello lessons, which Dana thinks is a brilliant idea. But her first is a disaster, as she’s basically a glorified babysitter, and her charge is a monster. Todd thinks this is funny. Todd spends a lot of this book sleeping on the couch.

Dana tries to cheer herself up by cooking a special dinner for Todd, but she didn’t confirm that he would be home for dinner. He gets called to work, and Dana throws a fit when he won’t stay home with her instead. She gets suspicious when she learns that the guy Todd was supposed to be covering for is at work, too. She calls Tom to complain, and he invites her to a frat party, where they both get really drunk…and end up in his bed. When she confesses to Todd, telling him she was so drunk that she thought she was with him, he kicks her out of their apartment. With no money and nowhere else to go, Dana heads home to her parents.

Chloe is desperate to become popular, and she thinks landing Jessica as a BFF and Sam as her boyfriend are the keys. No one actually knows Sam, who doesn’t even go to SVU, so I’m not sure about the logic here, but that’s really the least of Chloe’s problems. The biggest is that Sam and new duplex resident Nina are warring, and Nina doesn’t appreciate that Chloe’s always at the house. What’s interesting is that Chloe doesn’t completely hate Nina – she admires her for being assertive and confident.

Things with Sam go nowhere, as he’s content to just hang out at the duplex and listen to music with Chloe rather than doing anything romantic. After he tells Nina that Chloe isn’t his girlfriend, Chloe runs off to feel sorry for herself. She hears her dorm-mates talking about joining Theta, and how Chloe will never be allowed in (not that Chloe actually wants in).

Chloe watches a talk show about ways to make a man fall for you. It’s the most ridiculous, feminist-movement-setting-back crap, and I cringe at the thought of girls watching it and thinking it’s the way to go. Chloe’s too dumb to resist, so she does things like agreeing with everything Sam says, pretending she likes everything he likes, etc. It doesn’t go anywhere, since Sam doesn’t realize that Chloe likes him as anything more than a friend.

So Chloe pulls out the big guns, putting on some lingerie and a trenchcoat to give Sam a little peep show. She goes to his room and opens her coat to greet him. Only he doesn’t open the door – Elizabeth does. The idea of Elizabeth getting flashed by another girl makes me giggle, because how would she process that? I don’t think she would have any idea what to do in that situation. Sam doesn’t realize anything has happened, but Chloe is fully embarrassed.

In other news, Elizabeth thinks she keeps seeing Finn around town with another woman, even though he’s supposed to be out of town. This doesn’t go anywhere. Also, Neil tries to stop Nina and Sam’s fighting, cracking down on the twins a little in the process. Seems to me he would make a very good president.

Thoughts: Giving cello lessons shouldn’t be such an out-of-left-field idea for Dana. After all, when she entered the series, she was giving lessons to Tom’s little sister.

“How do you have time to make your bed every morning?” Jessica knows it takes, like, ten seconds, right?

Jess has a lot of compassion and sympathy for Neil, so clearly we’re dealing with an alternate universe here.

“If someone sees the garbage is full, that person has to take it out.” Nice try, Neil. Everyone will just claim they didn’t notice it was full.

March 1, 2016

SVU #52, Fooling Around: Jess Sure Knows How to Pick ‘Em

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:14 pm by Jenn

I don't know if that's Finn or Tristan, but I wouldn't trust a med student or a TA with that hair

I don’t know if that’s Finn or Tristan, but I wouldn’t trust a med student or a TA with that hair

Summary: I guess Jessica has the A-plot here. She has a major crush on her art history TA, Tristan, who’s 22 (which means, for once, Jessica’s crush on an older guy isn’t completely inappropriate). Meanwhile, Jess’ friend Alejandro has a crush on her. Love triangle! Well, not really. Jess has no clue that Alejandro likes her, partly because she’s too obsessed with Tristan to notice anyone else. She wants to ask him out, but she’s worried because he’s older and a TA. This is the same person who dated her married professor during her freshman year, right? Alejandro is sad that Jess likes someone else, but still nice enough to suggest that she ask Tristan to tutor her so they can spend time together.

Tristan agrees to the tutoring, though he most likely means it as a euphemism, or at least a jumping-off point for something else. Jessica actually studies so she won’t be totally dumb when she talks to Tristan about art. She’s decided to declare art history as her major, by the way. I don’t know what she plans to do with that degree. Shouldn’t she go into fashion merchandising or something like that? Tristan decides that Jess is really good at analyzing art, though her observations seem pretty basic to me. But I majored in English, so what do I know?

Though the tutoring session goes well, Tristan doesn’t make a move to initiate anything beyond a tutor/tutee relationship. Jessica complains to Alejandro, who points out that he’s probably not allowed to, being Jessica’s TA. Jessica decides that it’s not against the rules for her to ask Tristan out, so she comes up with an excuse to talk to him, then starts kissing him. Well, that was quick.

The new couple goes to an art gallery for their first date, and Tristan shows off a painting he has displayed there. Jessica wants to go to a club, but Tristan thinks they should keep their relationship discreet. Jess finds this romantic, of course. After some sneaking around, Jessica talks to Alejandro again about her clandestine relationship. Her professor overhears and tells her that Tristan is under scrutiny for sexual harassment – he’s pursued six other girls. SIX. Jess, get out of this relationship right now!

Jessica’s professor says that Tristan would threaten to fail the girls if they didn’t date him. As #7, Jess would be a valuable witness at his upcoming hearing. She argues that she was the one who initiated the relationship, and Tristan has never mentioned grades or anything that would give her the idea that there’s a power imbalance there. Her professor points out that, if they were to break up, Tristan could get revenge by failing Jess, and the professor would never know why.

Jess quickly questions Tristan, who claims he dated the six girls but never threatened them. Still, though, he’s going to quit his TA job and leave town. Before the hearing? What a coincidence! So Jess is suddenly single again. And it’s only, like, two weeks into the semester!

Elizabeth is having trouble adjusting to having Sam in the house. He’s really inconsiderate of his housemates, blasting his music, eating everyone else’s food, and taking over the living room. His beer-can collection is still there. Elizabeth cuts her hand on the cans, so Neil takes her to the hospital to get stitches. There, Liz meets med student Finn Robinson and is immediately smitten. Before she leaves, he asks for her phone number so he can check up on her later. Totally normal med-student behavior!

Finn is as smitten as Liz, and as soon as he calls to “check up on her,” he asks her to dinner. He’s from New Orleans, so they go to a Cajun restaurant. Elizabeth thinks this is sophisticated and adult. They run into someone named Stephanie who Finn apparently broke up with not long ago. She’s upset that he’s brought his new girlfriend to the restaurant they liked to go to together. Elizabeth doesn’t think there’s anything weird going on, but if I were her and my new guy had a crazy ex, I might think twice about this new relationship.

Sam is totally jealous of Elizabeth’s new crush but is trying to hide it. Chloe provides a welcome distraction when she starts hanging around the duplex. It starts when her roommate busts her on her fake relationship with Tom. He calls to leave Chloe a message saying he doesn’t want to go on any more dates…and he calls her Cody. Ouch. Chloe zeroes in on Jessica as a potential new friend – she uses Lila as an in, asks for Jessica’s art history notes, and lies that she’s dying to become a Theta. Jess takes the bait and lets Chloe follow her home like a puppy.

As soon as Sam meets Chloe, they hit it off. Liz and Chloe, not so much. She doesn’t like Chloe being around so much and eating the housemates’ food (though Chloe also brings over food, so just eat that, Liz). Even when Jessica’s not around, Chloe starts dropping by to hang out with Sam. She has her sights on him as her new boyfriend, so she can get over the humiliation of the Tom situation. Seems like she could do a lot better.

Todd and Dana have the annoying C-plot. Turns out living on your own in college and having to pay for everything yourself when you don’t have money isn’t as fun as you’d think! And on top of that, Dana’s struggling in her music classes for the first time. She’s being shown up by a freshman! The horror! Everyone knows freshmen are supposed to be failures at everything. So Dana’s classes are rough, money’s tight at home, they keep eating macaroni and cheese because they can’t afford anything else, and Todd won’t cancel the cable so they can save money. Todd must have his ESPN!

But Todd is also smarter than we give him credit for, as he realizes that money can pay for goods and services like his precious sports network and food that doesn’t come in a box. He gets a job at a bar so he can provide for his woman. No, seriously, he feels it’s his responsibility to provide for Dana, like it’s the 1950s and she can’t get a job of her own to help out with the bills. Never mind that Todd’s family is rich, so he could just spend his savings. He doesn’t want to rely on his parents for money. Todd, sweetie, in about five years, you’re going to be wishing you’d taken your parents’ money when you had the chance.

Todd really likes his new job, but Dana isn’t happy about it. He works late hours (no kidding – it’s a bar) and sometimes goes out with his new co-workers after. Dana wants Todd home with her so she can whine about how badly her life is going. Remember that Dana has no friends. This book proves why. The freshman from her music class tried to be nice to her, but Dana was rude, so she’s burning bridges she hasn’t even built yet.

Dana starts thinking of dropping out of school, since the cello was her one true love and now they’re breaking up, or whatever. Todd says she just needs to find a new one true love. After all, he found something he enjoys doing, and now he’s happier. Dana’s like, “Nah, better to just quit altogether.” I hope she at least gets a job. Once Dana’s made up her mind to drop out, she’s suddenly happy, and she goes to Todd’s bar for a visit. She sees him goofing off with a hot bartender and gets jealous. Todd would probably be smart to try to hook up with the bartender. She can’t be as annoying as Dana is.

Nina’s plot in this book is so weak that it’s not even a D-plot. It’s an H-plot. She hates her roommate, who has moved on from trashing the room to trying to perform magic or voodoo or something on her ex-boyfriend’s karma. Nina tries to get a new room, but there’s nothing available. Finally, Elizabeth realizes that there’s room for Nina in the basement of the duplex. I say banish Sam to the basement so the normal people can use the rest of the house, and Liz doesn’t have to see Chloe all the time. Whatever, this should have happened two books ago.

Thoughts: How can Dana and Todd’s utility provider charge for the next month? You can’t charge for something that hasn’t been used yet. Sounds like a scam to me.

Dana complains that no one helps her get her cello out of her car. Hey, princess, if you want to play a big instrument, you’re responsible for it. Either take up the flute or shut up. (I seriously have no patience left for this girl.)

“Not that Chloe’s flaky – she’s just young.” She’s only a year younger than you, Jess. Tone down the condescension.

February 16, 2016

SVU #51, Living Together: Sophomore Slump

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 8:17 pm by Jenn

This is pretty cute, actually

This is pretty cute, actually

Summary: As was briefly mentioned in Loving the Enemy, Jessica and Elizabeth, now sophomores at SVU, are going to be living with Neil. They’ve found a duplex with four bedrooms, though they didn’t take a look inside before signing a lease, so they’re surprised to see how run-down it is. Also, they got a place with four bedrooms despite not having a fourth roommate or being able to afford the place without a fourth roommate. Great planning, guys. I trust you to live on your own and take care of yourselves.

The roomies start interviewing people to take the fourth room, but as anyone could predict, all of the options are horrible fits. There’s the pierced punk who loves loud music. There’s the smoker who doesn’t even last ten seconds, jetting as soon as she learns that the duplex is non-smoking. There’s the nerd who probably won’t appreciate living with college students who like to party. Yeah, but at least he’s probably neat and would pay his rent on time.

While Neil and Elizabeth suffer through unending, unpromising interviews, Jessica has a catastrophe to deal with on campus. She’s learned that, despite paying her tuition, she’s not enrolled at SVU. She has to run all over the place to fix this, barely making it to the bursar’s office by the end of the day. No worries, though – some idiot credited her tuition check to Elizabeth instead of Jess. How did that person not see that Liz had paid twice? Maybe that person should cut back on his or her hours and attend more classes. Anyway, Jess is set to go, and now has a new friend in the office, a guy named Alejandro.

Sam happens to be in Sweet Valley, looking for a place to live. He couldn’t get housing at his school, so he’s checking out flyers for rooms to rent when he runs into Liz, who’s putting up an ad for the duplex. Of course, he’s going to end up moving in with the twins and Neil, but right now we have to pretend it’s not a sure thing. Which is reasonable, because Elizabeth is justified in not wanting to live with the guy who treated her so badly over the summer.

Neil meets with his new advisor, who’s surprised that he’s transferring to SVU from Stanford. Neil admits that his financial aid didn’t come through, which isn’t true: His parents cut him off after he came out. I just want to give Neil a big hug and bake him cookies and binge-watch trashy reality shows with him. Unlike the twins, whose parents are paying their rent and tuition, Neil has to fend for himself financially. He doesn’t want anyone to know.

Eventually, as anyone could predict, Sam mentions to Neil that he needs a place to live, so Neil immediately invites him to move in. He loves the idea of living with someone the group already knows. Sam’s jerky friend Floyd helps him move in. Sam’s a jerk, too, insisiting on setting up his beer can collection in the living room. Everyone fights, though things would probably be a lot tamer if Floyd weren’t there.

There are B-plots galore. First: Todd also doesn’t have a place to live, so he’s been staying at Dana’s. Dana’s three roommates aren’t happy about that. They think he hogs the phone, the hot water, and their food. They gang up on him and Dana, announcing that it’s time for him to leave. Totally reasonable. But Dana makes things worse by siding with him, telling her roommates that if they kick him out, she’s leaving, too. They call her bluff and show her the door.

Dana and Todd crash in a motel room since they have nowhere else to go. Here, I have to quote the recapper at 1BRUCE1: “Apparently she’s been lying there, crying for hours on end. Here’s the thing, though — I’m not sure if it’s from the housemates-kicking-her-out thing, or the motel room’s decor of ‘paintings of sad-eyed children in clown suits.’ WHAT?! Did Todd ask for the nightmare suite? That is, quite frankly, terrifying. Nobody has ever taken a woman to a motel room adorned with sad clown babies with any other intention but to face-stab her. Dana is going to get stabbed in the face here.”

Todd goes looking for a place to live (and yes, he does briefly consider the duplex, but he’s smart enough to know that’s a horrible idea), quickly realizing that since Dana needs a home, too, they might as well just get a place together. He rents an apartment and surprises Dana, who isn’t that thrilled that he didn’t talk to her about it first, especially since moving in together is a pretty big relationship step. She starts to warm up to the idea, even if it means they can barely afford food. Everyone in this book needs to get a job. Things are tense, but when Dana plays her cello, Todd realizes how much he loves her, and vice versa. If music be the food of love, etc., etc.

Chloe is now a freshman at SVU and, like Neil, is keeping a secret: She’s super-rich. So I guess not everyone in this book needs to get a job. She wants her classmates to like her for who she is and not think she’s a snob, so she tries to ditch all her expensive clothes and slum it in the dorms like a common townie. This despite her mother offering to rent her a penthouse apartment. Chloe, dignity is overrated. Go for the penthouse.

Chloe’s roommate, Moira, is really annoying and immediately pegs her as rich. Chloe hangs out with her anyway. She tries to make friends with some other girls in her dorm, but she’s too quiet to get into their conversations. To make the girls think she’s more awesome than she actually is, Chloe tells them she has a boyfriend at SVU, a popular senior who adores her. His name? Tom Watts.

Tom himself is still struggling to move on from Elizabeth. He meets up with a friend from his football days and gets back into the groove of being obsessed with sports and being called Wildman Watts. Tom decides to ditch his journalism major and the TV station so he can go back to being a jock. In fact, he’s considering going back to the football team. I’m sure his years away haven’t hurt his skills at all.

Chloe learns where Tom lives (from Winston, in his sole appearance in the book – hi, Winston!) and stakes out his dorm so she can pretend to run into him. Even though Tom seemed to really like her after their first date, he now is pretty indifferent to her. But since she seems to have a crush, he decides to humor her and ask her out. This is just what Chloe wanted: Her new friends get to see her being picked up for a date by the guy she claims is her boyfriend. She even makes out with him in front of the other girls. Slow it down, Chloe. He’s not that great.

The final B-plot, which is more of a C-plot, involves Nina being lonely because she’s finally broken up with Bryan (yay!). She has a new roommate, a girl named Shondra who won’t stop talking about her boyfriend. Then she has a long, dramatic phone conversation with said boyfriend and trashes the room. Seems to me that Nina would make a much better roommate at the duplex than Sam, but she wants to be more independent or something. I’m sure she regrets that decision now.

Thoughts: Whoever wrote the back-cover blurb gave away that Sam would be the fourth roommate. Boo!

Always be suspicious of a rental you don’t get to see ahead of time. It’s not going to be the Ritz.

“Chloe didn’t fit anywhere at SVU.” You haven’t even been there 24 hours. Chill.

“Sometimes I think I should play it safe and do something a little more academic, like English or art history.” First of all, English is “safe”? And second, the idea of Jessica as an English major is the funniest thing I’ve heard all month. Just imagine her having to write a 15-page paper about, like, Chaucer.

Neil bought orange crushed-velvet drapes. Wow. Hideous.

December 8, 2015

SVU #47, You’re Not My Sister: Elizabeth Has No Time for Your Psychological Breakdown

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:21 pm by Jenn

At no time in this book is Jessica ever this put-together

At no time in this book is Jessica ever this put-together

Summary: Liz has FINALLY filled her parents in on Jessica’s condition, and they’ve taken her home to get her some help. Ned, Alice, and Steven wonder why Elizabeth didn’t notice sooner that Jess was such a wreck. Instead of admitting that she did notice, and just tried a bunch of ineffective things to snap her out of it, Elizabeth whines that she has a life and can’t be with her twin 24 hours a day. Never mind that she WAS with Jessica 24 hours a day, or that everything Elizabeth was doing that wasn’t about Jess was dumb. Liz has a hissy fit and goes back to school.

Jessica sees someone outside her window and thinks it’s her guardian angel. She spends most of the book on this topic, making people think she’s either seeing things or that she has a stalker. Steven actually has a smart idea, wanting to call the police, an especially good move since we know Nick was killed by a guy with some pretty dangerous connections, and it would be reasonable to fear that they would come after Jessica, too. Also, we know she’s being watched, since we keep getting sections from her stalkers point of view. He’s trying to find a moment when he can get her alone.

When Elizabeth gets back to school, she goes to see Mike, because why should Jessica’s mental health be more important than Liz’s barely-first-base action? They make out a little, but Liz balks at going any further. Partly it’s because Mike slept with her sister, which is, admittedly, weird. But she’d still rather hang out with Mike than answer any of Jessica’s messages.

Ned and Alice’s big solution for Jessica’s problems is to bring over a psychiatrist and give Jess the sedatives he prescribes. Amazingly, Jess doesn’t get better! She gets a little crazier every day, mainly because Elizabeth won’t talk to her. Jess worries that something bad happened to her like it happened to Nick.

Liz is sent to L.A. to cover a story about an extreme-sports TV network, which is hosting some sort of competition. (This will come up in the next book.) Mike tracks her down there and they come very, very close to hooking up. Elizabeth wants to, since everyone sees her as a prude, and she wants to prove that she can have a purely physical relationship. Yes, Liz, this is a perfectly mature response to people being mean to you. Elizabeth panics over buying condoms and realizes she’s not ready for sex. Especially sex with her sister’s ex-husband.

Back in Sweet Valley, Jessica is worse than ever – she thought Elizabeth was coming for a family dinner, but Liz doesn’t show up. Jess tries to call her at her hotel, but Mike has asked the receptionist not to put through any calls. This just makes Jess even more worried that something bad has happened to her twin. She sees her guardian angel again, but now her family thinks the sedatives are making her hallucinate. So…maybe have her stop taking them? No? You’re not going to do that? Okay.

The guardian angel leaves Elizabeth a note letting her know that Jessica needs her. Thanks for your help, angel! This sends Liz back home, where the sisters make up. Then Jess gets really clingy, which is unsettling. She tells Elizabeth all about her angel, leading Liz to tell her she needs to get over Nick’s death already. Thanks for helping, Liz! She continues that she has a life and can’t waste her time dealing with Jessica’s stupid problems, like depression and possible psychosis because her boyfriend was murdered. I mean, Jess is such a drama queen, right? Like, move on already!

Somehow, Jessica doesn’t punch her sister in the face. Instead, she says Elizabeth is right, and she appreciates what Liz has done for her. You mean how she abandoned you? I know, that was great of her, right? I think this is all supposed to seem like Elizabeth was using tough love on her sister, but it’s more like she’s selfish and didn’t want to have to deal with Jess, so she ignored her until Jess came to her senses.

Then Elizabeth starts to do something useful: She wants to get Jess’ expulsion from SVU revoked. She and Nina (who has temporarily moved into the twins’ dorm room because Liz is lonely, and because Nina needs something to do) decide to use the angle that Jess is suffering from a mental-health disorder and should be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school should have noticed that something was wrong and done more to help her. Never mind that ELIZABETH didn’t do more to help Jess. Also, they didn’t give her a fair expulsion hearing, which is the only part of this I will go along with.

Liz and Tom once did a story about the ADA, so she goes to him to get their notes. While they’re working together, and actually getting along again, Lila calls (more on that later). Elizabeth thinks Tom is getting ready for a super-special date with a super-special lady, which sets off her poor-me-I’m-so-neglected siren. You broke up, Liz. You were two seconds from having sex with Mike. Chill out.

Armed with what must be pretty flimsy information on the ADA, Elizabeth and Steven come up with a plan. She approaches the dean and threatens to sue the school if Jessica’s situation isn’t reviewed. There’s no resolution in this book, but I think we can all expect Jess to be reinstated at SVU, though hopefully they’ll have her go through an extensive psychological evaluation first.

Meanwhile, Jessica decides that her sedatives are messing with her head, so she stops taking them. Then she decides that since she stopped seeing the angel when she quit the pills, there must be a connection, so she starts taking them again. Then she decides to just take a bunch and take care of the whole situation altogether. She leaves Elizabeth a goodbye message and then starts having weird dreams or visions or something. Elizabeth gets the message and heads back to Sweet Valley.

The angel finds Jessica outside the house, and Jess finally realizes it’s Nick. Yes, friends, Nick faked his death to save his own life, but didn’t tell Jessica because he knew she’d never let him go, and the truth would put her in danger. Somehow this is better for her? Whatever, Nick. He tells her he’s okay, and that he’ll always love her. Fortunately, Elizabeth finds Jessica before the pills kill her, and I assume she’s okay even after overdosing on sedatives. At least now she knows her dead boyfriend isn’t really dead. Hooray, she’s cured!

Danny’s having a really tough time with Isabella gone. He’s getting drunk every night to try to forget her, but it still doesn’t take his mind off of the fact that he might never see her again. Tom thinks he would feel better if he were allowed to talk to Isabella, so he sets out to find out which clinic her parents took her to. He makes some calls, but can’t get any answers, not least because he doesn’t speak German or French. Finally he realizes that Lila might know where Isabella is. But Lila won’t give up the information without a catch: Tom has to come on a double date with her, Bruce, and a prospective student named Chloe Murphy.

Tom reluctantly goes on the date, thinking Chloe will be just like Lila. But Chloe’s not like other girls! She reads the New York Times! She’s interested in things other than clothes and country clubs! Tom really hopes she decides to come to SVU when she finishes high school. Keep it in your pants, Tom.

As for Danny, he calls the clinic, but Isabella’s father won’t let her talk to him, even when Isabella says she wants to. Mr. Ricci thinks everyone at SVU is on drugs, and that Danny’s a bad influence on his daughter. Danny wishes he’d never made the call in the first place. He goes back to drinking, and is offered drugs by a guy at a bar. Even though drugs are what took Isabella away from him in the first place, he contemplates taking some.

Dana starts out the book thinking that she wants to take things slowly with Todd. That doesn’t last long. After a run-in with Elizabeth, who tells Todd that Dana’s a bad choice in girlfriends, Dana throws out her plans, and she and Todd start going at it like bunnies. Then she starts talking about marriage and makes him panic. Oops!

Thoughts: For the record, Prince Albert is still alive.

“It’s macho jerks like Patman who make it harder for the rest of us.” Tom, sweetie, you’re a macho jerk, too.

“That way we can get on with our relationship, and you can get on with being lonely and bitter…or whatever it is you do when you and Tom Watts aren’t busy with your tedious little on-again, off-again love-hate drama.” I have newfound respect for Dana.

Chloe’s taking a feminist-law class, which means she really shouldn’t spend any more time with Tom.

November 24, 2015

SVU #46, I’ll Never Love Again: Dr. Elizabeth Wakefield’s Surefire Cures for Depression

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

This isn't indicative of depression. Everyone in college looks like this

This isn’t indicative of depression. Everyone in college looks like this

Summary: Never mind that Jessica’s boyfriend died not long ago and she’s barely functioning – Lila thinks she should worry about being kicked out of the Thetas. Jessica’s so far gone that I’m surprised she remembers who the Thetas are. Elizabeth, Denise, and Alex are in favor of Jess being allowed to stay in the sorority, but considering the fact that Alison is the sister leading the charge against her, the odds aren’t in her favor.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth has developed a little crush on the frat guy she danced with at a recent party, but when she has an actual conversation with him, she realizes he’s nowhere near her type. She also meets a guy named Lachlan who she actually has something in common with (they both like Walt Whitman), but she thinks he has a girlfriend. You know this is a weird book when Elizabeth’s the one crushing on various guys. Mostly this means that Liz is getting tired of taking care of Jessica, because it’s taking away time she could be spending flirting.

Elizabeth helps Jessica write a paper about Heidegger for Professor Malika, who pretty much hates Jessica and wants to shame her for being in a class that’s over her head. In the library, Liz runs into Lachlan, who tells her he doesn’t have a girlfriend…but then he sees a picture of Jessica and Nick, mistakes Jess for Liz, and thinks Liz is in a relationship. So much for that. Maybe if Elizabeth were paying attention to her sister instead of flirting, she would realize that Jessica thinks Nick’s ghost is following her, and that a philosophy paper is the last thing she should be worrying about. (For the record, Jess is being followed, but not by a ghost.)

Apparently Jessica has never written a college paper before, because Elizabeth has to tell her how to do it. She uses makeup as a metaphor, telling Jess she needs to put on foundation (i.e., write an outline) before she can put on blush and eyeshadow (i.e., write the thing). Somehow this clicks with Jess, who gets right to work. But because Jessica is two sandwiches short of a picnic, she just plagiarizes stuff and thinks she’s writing it herself.

Liz starts to proofread Jessica’s paper and quickly realizes that she copied pieces of it. But before she can bring it to Jess’ attention, she sees Tom’s editorial (see below) and gets distracted. So Jess turns in the paper and starts feeling better. Elizabeth decides to keep her on that track by having a barbecue at Theta House. When Jessica shows up, wearing clothes she clearly doesn’t care about, the Thetas see that she’s really gone downhill. Not that they come up with any suggestions for ways to help her, of course.

Elizabeth goes for a drive, but the Jeep breaks down and has to be taken to a garage. In the coincidence to beat all coincidences, the mechanic on duty is our old pal Mike McAllery. Liz has apparently forgotten anything bad she ever thought about Mike, because now she wants to catch up with him. Also, she realizes he’s hot. Mike expresses concern over Jess and asks if he can do anything to cheer her up.

Professor Malika summons Jessica to his office so he can tell her how awesome her paper was. He’s impressed that a student at her level would understand such profound concepts and express such well-formed thoughts. In fact, they’re so profound and well-formed that he’s pretty sure she plagiarized them. They’ll need to meet with the dean, and Malika will recommend that Jessica be expelled. To add insult to injury, this is the day Alison decides to let Jessica know that she’s been kicked out of the Thetas.

Elizabeth and Mike’s big plan for helping Jessica deal with her depression is…a picnic. Wow. I bet they spent a whole five minutes coming up with that idea. Elizabeth takes Jess to the beach to surprise her with the picnic and Mike’s presence. Jess mistakes Mike for Nick and breaks down. So the day isn’t off to a good start. It only gets worse when Jess is down through the whole meal and Elizabeth keeps telling her to cheer up. I wouldn’t fault Jess for throwing sand in her sister’s face right now.

Jessica leaves, and Mike tells Elizabeth they should let her be by herself for a while (even though it means she’ll have to find her own way home). Jess walks back to the dorm, stopping at a drugstore on the way. She sees sleeping pills and realizes that they could be the solution to all her problems. Meanwhile, Liz and Mike hang out on the beach, start developing some sort of weird attraction to each other, and kiss.

Jess is seconds away from overdosing on sleeping pills when she realizes that dying is no way to honor Nick. She will just have to get through her depression. In the morning, Liz sees Jessica’s sleeping pills and thinks Jess has killed herself. When Jessica wakes up, she doesn’t even remembering buying them. She gets ready for her meeting with Malika and the dean, but her clock is broken, so she’s late. Not that it matters – Malika has enough evidence of her plagiarism to get her expelled.

A clueless Elizabeth goes out with Mike, then comes home to find out that Jess has been expelled. She blasts Jessica for not fighting harder when she was accused of plagiarism. Jess tells her she’s done dealing with Elizabeth’s concern. Liz is all, “I’ve done all these things for you, to help you get through this!” as if Jessica asked for any of it, or could have benefited from Elizabeth’s form of “help.” Liz finally says that she has more important things to do with her time (like flirting and going out with Jessica’s ex-husband), so from now on, Jessica’s on her own. What a wonderful sister Elizabeth is.

A lot of bad things happen to Tom in this book, which makes me happy. He airs his editorial response to Elizabeth’s sex-is-bad essay, but because he’s a jerk, it’s mostly an attack on Liz for not giving it up. He complains that women have too much power, because they’re allowed to turn down men. He makes a fair point when he says that Liz got mad at him for having a relationship with someone else, but it’s Tom, and I don’t want to give him any points.

Basically, all the girls on campus turn on Tom, thinking he’s sexist (which he is). My only regret is that Elizabeth doesn’t get to see girls shoving him and glaring at him, which would help her realize that she’s much better off without him. Tom also gets in trouble for using WSVU to rail against a woman who done him wrong. When he sees Elizabeth just minutes later, he calls her a “frigid old maid,” which, yes, true, but also, shut up, Tom.

Danny is also having a bad week, but he at least deserves some sympathy, since his amnesiac girlfriend just went to Switzerland and he might never see her again. Danny and Tom go to a bar to drown their sorrows, but Danny gets so drunk that he mistakes a girl there for Isabella and almost gets pummeled by her boyfriend. Tom rescues him, which is the only good thing he does in this book.

Dana and Todd are quickly falling in luuuuuuuv, but they’re so worried about getting hurt that they’re hesitant to go out on a date. Plus, Todd’s still struggling with Gin-Yung’s death, and he’s afraid that going out with someone else would dishonor her memory. After a lot of awkward conversations, they finally go out, and even though the date doesn’t go well, they admit their feelings for each other and start to get it on in the car. How romantic.

Thoughts: Todd thinks Dana is “fabulous.” Take it down a notch, Todd.

Tom: “I’m not on any medication!” Danny: “That’s a decision you might want to rethink.” Danny went back to being awesome all of a sudden.

Elizabeth decides that she needs to tell Ned and Alice what’s going on with Jessica, but she never does. So do Ned and Alice ever check in with their kids? I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved away and didn’t tell their kids where they went.

“You’re so special,” Dana tells Todd as they’re making out. Who talks like that? (Though it reminds me of that time on Gilmore Girls when Logan tells Rory she’s special, and she replies, “Like, ‘stop eating the paste’ special?”

November 10, 2015

SVU #45, Don’t Let Go: “Jessica Wakefield Is Checking Out”

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 5:23 pm by Jenn

This picture has nothing to do with the book

This picture has nothing to do with the book. Way to phone it in, cover illustrator

Summary: Nick = dead. Jessica = sad. Actually, Jessica is more than sad – she’s a combination of devastated and traumatized. All she can think about is Nick, and when she’s not thinking about Nick, she’s paranoid that his killer is going to come after her. Elizabeth is either in denial or a complete idiot (possibly a little of both), because she thinks Jessica just needs to be distracted. She also thinks Jessica needs to keep up with her schoolwork. Jessica’s so far gone that she barely registers that she’s even at school.

Finally Jess tells Elizabeth to leave her alone, and instead of making sure Jess has someone looking after her and making sure she eats and stuff, Elizabeth ditches her. I don’t know what she thinks will happen, but it doesn’t help. Jessica continues to spiral, even thinking she sees Nick on campus. Lila finds her in the midst of her breakdown and tells her she needs to get over Nick. Wow, Lila. It’s been, like, three days. You took forever to get over Tisiano, so shut it.

Jessica goes to Nick’s grave and lies down during a rainstorm, getting all muddy. She thinks she can feel Nick’s spirit, and she decides she needs to do something with her life that would make him proud. Except when she gets ready the next morning, she proves that she’s really losing it – she tries to wash her hair with hand lotion, and she puts lipstick on her cheeks.

A teacher calls her out for not doing well in class, then assigns her a paper on anarchy and death. Jessica’s mind goes back to a dark place, and she loses the tiny grasp she had on her sanity. She ends up at Theta house, where Alison tells her she’s not representing the sorority well, so she’s out. Geez, I knew Alison was horrible, but this seems like a little much. Jessica spends the evening alone in her room, talking to a teddy bear and deciding she’s not going to survive her grief: “Jessica Wakefield is checking out.” But there’s a guy watching her through the window, and he’s optimistic…

Elizabeth is assigned a story on how students at SVU feel about sex. Yes, this is the perfect story for her! She interviews a guy named Chip who ridiculous her for being a virgin. They get in a fight about how she’s uptight and he’ll nail anything that moves. They’re both awful. While I think it’s perfectly fine for Elizabeth to want to wait, she needs to chill out. She can’t expect everyone else in the world to abstain.

Liz decides to show that she can loosen up by going to a frat party and dancing with random guys. Tom’s there, getting drunk to keep his mind off of his problems with Dana and Elizabeth, and he gets into it with a guy Liz is dancing with. Tom and Elizabeth are both so awful that they kind of deserve each other. I just don’t want to have to read about it.

Todd and Dana are becoming friends, and realizing that they have more in common than they thought. He feels uneasy about moving on from both Gin-Yung and Elizabeth, and she feels uncomfortable in general because people think she’s a whore who only goes after Liz’s rejects. I actually feel sorry for Dana in this book, which I think is a first. Dana’s been struggling with her music recently, but when she plays her cello for Todd, she sounds wonderful. Someone got her groove back!

Elizabeth’s article makes Dana feel like a slut some more, but Todd tells her Liz is wrong – everyone is allowed to make his or her own choices about sex, and having it doesn’t make you a bad person. He notes that he had sex, so it’s not like he’s “pure” or whatever. The two of them go on a date, and it goes really well, and they wind up kissing. I’m not a Dana fan, but I’m almost happy for her.

In case you’ve forgotten (heh), Isabella has amnesia. Her parents want to take her to some special facility in Switzerland where there’s apparently a doctor who specializes in…amnesia. I guess. Hey, can he pop over to General Hospital? Because there’s an amnesia story that’s been going on for more than a year, and we’d all like it to get wrapped up. Also, GH loves Swiss clinics. Anyway, Danny wants Isabella to stay in Sweet Valley, so he keeps trying to come up with things she might find familiar.

At first the Riccis agree, putting Isabella up at some fancy hotel and letting Danny visit. But Amnesiac Isabella is like a frightened little baby bunny, and also kind of a jerk about stuff she doesn’t like. Danny does his best, but Isabella doesn’t remember anything, so ultimately her parents take her to Switzerland.

Tom spends the whole book being a jerk to people at WSVU, calling Dana a parasite (and, for all intents and purposes, a slut), and…what’s the opposite of slut-shaming? Prude-shaming? Whatever it is, he does it to Elizabeth. Shut up, Tom.

In the barely-worth-mentioning plot, Nina thinks Bryan’s cheating on her because she found another girl’s name written on his notes. Elizabeth figures he’s sleeping around. We don’t care what you think, Elizabeth.

Thoughts: So where are Ned and Alice? Do they not care that their daughter just lost her boyfriend? Why does Elizabeth think she can handle school? Why doesn’t she encourage Jess to go home and take the semester off? Nothing here makes sense.

“He thinks he’s all that and seventeen bags of chips.” Ghostwriter, please don’t attempt ’90s slang.

Apparently people were still using the word “sanitarium” in 1999.

September 29, 2015

SVU #44, Love Me Always: Jessica’s Status as a Black Widow Is Solidified

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:03 pm by Jenn

One of the worst covers of the series

One of the worst covers of the series

Summary: Clay’s trial for killing Officer Riviera is approaching, and Jessica is reluctantly staying away from Nick, who’s hiding out in case Clay wants to have him offed. Jessica’s been ordered to stay away from the trial, and I think it’s really cute that Nick believes she’ll listen to him. She shows up at the courthouse in disguise, pretending to be an old woman. Nick, however, is a trained detective, not to mention her boyfriend, so the disguise doesn’t fool him.

Jessica’s barely able to keep her mouth shut during the trial, since Nick’s testimony doesn’t go well. This is doubly depressing for Nick, since he goes through with his plan to commit perjury, lying that he (not Jessica) heard Clay admitting to killing Riviera. With things looking bleak for the police, Nick convinces the prosecutor to offer Clay a deal if he turns on the head of the mob organization he works for. This almost succeeds, until Clay hears Nick sneeze behind a two-way mirror and refuses to cooperate in anything he’s involved in. I don’t know how Clay knew it was Nick, but whatever. Also, he threatens to kill Nick.

Jessica tries to find out where Nick’s hiding out, so she can visit him. The police chief tells her a story about how he and his then-girlfriend were separated because they witnessed a crime, and it was super-difficult and blah blah blah, I thought it would end with the girlfriend being murdered, and a lesson for Jess that you don’t mess around when it comes to dangerous situations. But the chief and his girlfriend are now married and have been happy for decades, so I guess the lesson is that Jessica should get what she wants because what’s better than two people in love, even if they’d be risking their lives to see each other?

The police chief has Jessica followed so someone can slip her the address of the safehouse where Nick’s been hiding out. Jessica thinks she’s being followed by a hitman sent by Clay. It’s really dumb. Nick and Jessica are allowed to spend some time together, and she decides she can’t live without him, so they should get married, and then she can go with him into witness protection. Nick’s like, “But your codependence with your twin!” Jess is willing to leave Liz forever if it means she gets to stay with Nick. He doesn’t really respond, just telling her not to come to court when the verdict’s read.

Of course, Jessica doesn’t listen. This time she disguises herself as an old man. I kind of wish she’d resurrected Perdita del Mar for this. The chief tells Nick, in so many words, that he needs to break up with Jessica so she won’t want to come with him to witness protection. Jessica gets kicked out of the courtroom, but Nick manages to sneak away for one last makeout session. Then he’s dragged back to the courtroom, just like in a nightmare Jessica had, and she freaks out about never seeing him again.

She’s right to freak out: The verdict is read and Clay is sent to prison, but a masked gunman appears and shoots Clay. Jessica is back on campus at this point, so she and Elizabeth rush to the courthouse. Unfortunately, it’s too late: Nick’s dead. Now I’m sad. I liked him, and Jessica’s going to be devastated. Plus, this is, like, her fifth boyfriend who’s died. You suck, ghostwriter.

Hey, remember Todd? He still exists. Elizabeth runs into him and they chat about nothing for a little while before he heads to a session with a school therapist. Finally, someone in this town is getting well-needed counseling! Todd is still struggling with Gin-Yung’s death. He’s not as interested in basketball anymore, so his counselor advises him to find a new activity. How about music? When Todd heads to the music building to see what’s available for him to try out, he sees Dana. He thinks she’s hot. We don’t care, Todd.

The writers have suddenly decided that Dana needs our sympathy, so they let us know that all her friends hate her (because she ditched them when she was dating Tom). Also, she’s struggling with cello lessons, and everyone thinks she’s a jerk because she kept Tom and Elizabeth apart. Apparently everyone at SVU ships Tom and Elizabeth. Ugh.

At least one person has sympathy for Dana: Elizabeth. She tries to chat with her, but things go south when she brings up Tom. Liz gushes about how Tom is such a great guy for not just wanting to have sex with girls – he wants real relationships with them. Dana’s confused, so Elizabeth tells her that Tom said they never slept together. Dana gets offended, because why would a guy she was completely in love with deny having sex with her? She makes it clear that they humped like bunnies.

Elizabeth is humiliated that Tom lied to her. Now she can never trust another guy! Wow, Liz. She feels like he betrayed her. Not to go all Ross Geller on anyone, but they were on a break. But Elizabeth never let a little thing like facts get in the way of indignation, so she dumps Tom. Buddy, she probably did you a favor. But don’t think this means Elizabeth’s going to run back to Todd – after she bombs a recital and risks her scholarship, Dana runs into Todd, who asks her to get coffee. Todd, no! This is a bad idea!

Danny spends the whole book feeling horrible for the way he treated Isabella, and worrying that he’ll never get to talk to her again. Her parents consider moving her to Switzerland, but Mrs. Ricci decides that she should stay in Sweet Valley so Danny can visit her. Danny makes it his mission to bring Isabella out of her coma, so he plays her favorite Elvis songs and sprays her favorite perfume in her room. It’s actually kind of sweet. And somehow, it works! Except Isabella has total amnesia and can’t remember who Danny or anyone else is! GASP!

Denise is still furious with Winston for kissing visiting prep-schooler Brenda, though Winston maintains that she kissed him and he didn’t reciprocate. He’s desperate to make things up to Denise, so he goes to Bruce for advice. Yeah, read that sentence again. I wonder why this plan doesn’t work? Bruce tells Winston that Lila always responds to expensive jewelry, so Winston should win Denise back with something shiny. Winston gives this a try, not realizing that the ivory figuring he bought her was made possible by the death of an elephant. Wow, romantic.

Winston gets some advice from some random girl in his dorm, who tells him to think about Denise specifically, not women in general. He needs to do something to remind her why she fell in love with him in the first place. Winston’s brain interprets this as “buy her a cheeseburger and use that as a metaphor.” Denise finds this ridiculous, but when she sees how sad her reaction makes him, she feels bad. She decides to drag out her anger a little longer, but eventually forgives him after he serenades her with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It’s a kind of funny moment where all the girls in the dorm hear him singing outside Denise’s window and chant for her to take him back. So at least one couple in Sweet Valley is happy.

Thoughts: Brenda is described as a “brunette ringer for Jessica.” Does that mean there’s yet another Wakefield lookalike in Sweet Valley?

Nina (who has one unremarkable scene in the book) eats cottage cheese on toast. Is that a thing?

Isabella studied aikido. Sure, she did.

Why have Winston get relationship advice from someone we’ve never met before? Why not, say, Nina?

Elizabeth goes to the movies in a “short gold summer dress.” Wrong twin, ghostwriter.

“I mean, what does my sex life have to do with you, Elizabeth?” This might be the first thing Dana’s ever said that I agree with.

June 9, 2015

SVU #38, Good-bye, Elizabeth: We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 6:17 pm by Jenn

I'm really getting tired of the generic covers that don't show anything that actually happened in the book

I’m really getting tired of the generic covers that don’t show anything that actually happened in the book

Summary: It’s the morning after Elizabeth’s disastrous goodbye party, and Tom is thinking about how he finally got to make out with her again…or so he thought. After a few minutes of kissing, he realized that he was with the wrong twin. By the time he’d figured it out, Elizabeth had left. Jessica, for her part, tells Nick that Tom kissed her. Nick buys it and never bothers to mention it to Tom, so it’s just another lie Jess gets away with.

Scott is ridiculously pleased that he’s about to get what he wants – namely, his obsession with him in Denver, away from Tom. He finds Dana, butters her up, and reminds her that they have the same goal: Keeping Tom and Elizabeth apart. He warns her not to let Tom and Liz be alone together or Liz might change her mind about Denver.

Dana becomes a stereotypical crazed girlfriend, obsessed with keeping Tom and Elizabeth apart. Tom isn’t amused. She cries, pretending to be upset because he kissed “Elizabeth” at the party, then kisses him, making sure Liz sees. Tom is pretty much done with Dana but doesn’t actually tell her that, which I don’t get. Maybe Tom is an any-port-in-a-story kind of guy.

Jessica tells Elizabeth that she pulled a twin switch and learned that Tom still loves Elizabeth. Liz is mad that she meddled. She’s still going to Denver, even though Jess begs her to stay. Scott talks Elizabeth into taking a leave of absence for the rest of the semester and going to Denver early. Like, tomorrow. He takes control of all the arrangements, like Elizabeth is some ’50s housewife who can’t pick up a phone to make a plane reservation. Elizabeth needs better instincts, like, now.

Jess buys flowers to make up with Liz. She runs into Tom, who talks her into letting him take the flowers to Liz. He writes an apology note, declaring his love. Later, Jess learns that Elizabeth’s leaving early, and she leaves Tom a message letting him know. She runs into Dana and tells her, so Dana knows that she only has to keep Tom and Liz separate for 24 more hours. Liz gets the flowers but gives them away to someone at the paper before she can read the note she thinks is from Jessica. Tom tries to talk to Elizabeth, but she’s annoyed with him and tells him to leave her alone.

Bruce invites Tom to his parents’ party. Dana decides she needs to go, too, even though Tom clearly doesn’t want to take her. While packing her things, Elizabeth finds a locket Tom gave her and decides to keep it. Tom finds a silly tie Liz once gave him and decides to wear it to the party. This is, by the way, the third or fourth party in this miniseries. How do these people ever get any studying done?

Dana is so determined to keep Tom from seeing Elizabeth before she leaves that she gets him angry before the Patmans’ party, knowing he’ll speed and possibly get pulled over for it. She also breaks his taillights to cause even more trouble. Unfortunately, her plan works a little too well – Tom is so angry that he talks back to the cop who pulls him over, and when he figures out that Dana broke his lights, he snaps at her. The cop sees him as a violent threat and makes him spend the night in lock-up.

By the time Tom gets out, Elizabeth is about to leave for the airport with Scott. Nick and Jessica rush Tom to the dorm, where Scott basically kidnaps Liz to get her away from anyone who might change her mind about leaving. Dana finds Tom, sees how upset he is, and realizes that she’s gone insane and screwed up his life. She confesses everything she did, including taking the letter he wrote Elizabeth a long time ago in an attempt to apologize for not believing her when she told him what his father did to her. Dana adds that Scott is a nutter, so Tom should try to get Elizabeth away from him.

Tom, Jessica, and Nick race to the airport while Scott continues freaking out about getting out of California. He tries to rush Elizabeth through airport security, acting more and more like a controlling, abusive boyfriend. Liz is wearing Tom’s locket under her shirt, and it keeps setting off the metal detectors. When she finally realizes what’s happening, she gives the locket to a kind security guard, who offers to return it if Elizabeth ever changes her mind.

Like a good little romantic movie cliché, Tom tries to get through security to stop Elizabeth from getting on the plane. He seems to think there’s a special pass they’ll give you when you just want to get to a gate without getting on a plane. He’s lucky this takes place pre-9/11, or he’d land himself back in jail. Airport security finds out that he was arrested recently and thinks he’s a threat. Tom’s mental state at this point isn’t really helping matters.

Liz finally calls Scott on his behavior, as he’s been throwing little tantrums all morning. He finally loses it completely, saying he’s wasted his money on her, and she wouldn’t have gotten into the DCIR without him. They fight, and she finally accepts what she’s been feeling for a while: She doesn’t want to go to Denver anymore. But it’s too late – the plane is leaving.

Tom finally gets to the gate and sees the security guard with the locket Elizabeth gave her. Somehow, he manages to get the plane stopped. Again, it’s like a movie, with the hero getting to his girl at the very last minute and convincing her to stay with him. Not that she needs much convincing. Elizabeth gets off the plane and announces that she’s not leaving Sweet Valley. Not seen: Scott screaming for the entire flight to Denver. So we have a semi-happy ending: Elizabeth is away from Scott, but she’s back with Tom, and I’m not looking forward to returning to that mess.

In other, even less interesting stories, Denise has been hired to cater the Patmans’ party, but it means she has to fool another group of people with lobster that isn’t really lobster. She’s terrified that she’ll be found out and sent to jail. I don’t think you can be sent to jail for serving tofu in place of lobster. But Denise has become dumber with each book, so I’m not surprised she thinks this way. It doesn’t help when she learns that one of the party guests is a reporter well-known for busting frauds.

But luck is on Denise’s side, and when the reporter finds out she’s serving lobster, he announces that a bunch of places in the area were shipped tainted lobster. The Patmans agree that the lobster shouldn’t be served. So you see, kids, if you lie long enough, eventually someone will get you off the hook and you’ll get away with everything!

There’s also a tiny bit about Nick taking college-entrance exams so he can go pre-law, and how his new taste in clothes makes Jessica think of Steven. The two of them fight because Jess doesn’t like the person Nick is turning into (a polite, productive member of society? Sounds about right). With Elizabeth leaving, Jessica decides there’s no reason to stay at SVU, so she makes the impulsive decision to follow through on something she thought about a couple books ago: going to the police academy. We’ll see if that lasts longer than five minutes.

Thoughts: I can’t believe Tom has so much trouble telling Dana that he’s through with her. It’s not like he’s ever had trouble speaking his mind before. Though maybe he’s smart for not coming right out and dumping her. She could react violently, since SHE’S A PSYCHOPATH.

“You must be Scott’s little girlfriend!” Do not work for that man, Elizabeth.

When Lila sees Nick dressed up for the party, she says he looks like “that cute guy in that new lawyer movie…based on that John Grisham book.” A Google search tells me that was The Gingerbread Man, and she’s either talking about Kenneth Branagh or Robert Downey, Jr. (unless Lila has a thing for Tom Berenger or Robert Duvall). I doubt it’s Branagh, so from now on, I’m going to imagine that Nick looks like a young RDJ. Nick “Iron Man” Fox.

May 26, 2015

SVU #37, Breaking Away: Can I Move 1,000 Miles Away from Jessica, Too?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 8:05 pm by Jenn

They're happy because Elizabeth is going far, far away

They’re happy because Elizabeth is going far, far away

Summary: At the end of the last book, it wasn’t clear whether Elizabeth had decided to go to the Denver Center for Investigative Reporting. But now we have confirmation that she’s going. She tells Jessica, and Jess flips, because she can’t get through life without her other half/babysitter/conscience. At the same time, Danny (hi, Danny! Where have you been?) gives Tom the news. And not long after, Scott warns Dana to make sure things with Tom stay awesome. Obviously he’s worried that Elizabeth and Tom will get back together and she’ll end up staying in Sweet Valley.

Nina and Winston throw the first party of the book, to congratulate Elizabeth on getting into the DCIR. Winston has made a video commemorating Elizabeth’s life. When did he have time to do that? Do these people ever go to class? Todd’s at the party and on the video, and I wish there’d been a twist in this book where Todd and Elizabeth got back together, instead of Tom and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and Jessica get into a stupid fight about how Elizabeth isn’t showing emotion, and how Jessica never shuts up, or something. Jessica accuses Liz of going to the DCIR to run away from Tom. They both storm off, and Jess goes to see Nick, who’s a little distracted by his plans to take a longer leave of absence from the police force so he can go to college. Thanks for showing up, Nick!

The twins quickly make up, and Jessica decides to throw a going-away party for Liz, even though she’s still upset that Liz is leaving. While she puts that together, Elizabeth gets ready to transfer to the DCIR, returning the books she’s already bought for next semester (of course) and cancelling her classes. Except Scott has already cancelled her classes for her. Elizabeth yells at him, but he does that emotional-manipulation thing and makes himself look like the good guy.

Jessica intercepts a call from the DCIR for Elizabeth; some guy there wants to meet with her. Jessica decides to pull a twin switch, meet with the guy as Elizabeth, and make him want to reject her from the school. I don’t get why this is happening at all, since Elizabeth has already been accepted, and Jess has to know that this will come back around to bite her. Wait, what am I saying? Jessica never thinks about consequences. It doesn’t work anyway, since the guy just thinks she’s goofing around when she acts out.

While all this has been going on, Denise has been struggling with her financial issues. She has yet to figure out a reasonable way to pay off her debts, and apparently the collection agencies start calling two minutes after you rack up debt. Getting a job would be too easy, so Denise tries to think of a way to make money fast. When she hears about Elizabeth’s party, she jumps at the chance to cater, because apparently Denise is a really good cook. Jess is fine with it, and gives her money from Ned and Alice to pay for everything. She wants all the food to be gourmet.

Denise and Winston go all out, buying lobster and other expensive food. Except they accidentally leave the lobsters in the car for hours, rendering them inedible. Raise your hand if you think Denise is getting dumber. Left with little money and even less time, Denise sends Winston back to the store to get something – anything – she can make for the party. He settles on tofu.

Just before the party, Elizabeth and Tom almost have a Meaningful Moment, but Dana interrupts it. Boo, Dana! I don’t even like Tom and Elizabeth together, but boo, Dana! Jessica invited Tom to the party, and he’s coming with Dana. That doesn’t sound like a potential disaster at all!

Speaking of potential disasters, Denise does her best to turn tofu into something resembling lobster. Somehow, this works, and she manages to fool Bruce and Lila. Unless they’re pretending so they don’t ruin the party. It’s not clear. Anyway, Bruce asks Denise to cater a party his parents are throwing, and she’ll need to make her special “lobster” dish again. Denise worries that she won’t be able to fool a bunch of rich people.

Jessica puts into motion her last-ditch effort to make Elizabeth stay in Sweet Valley. It involves another twin switch. She pretends to be Elizabeth and goes off with Tom to find out how he feels about Liz. Tom is still in love with her, and is thrilled to learn that, supposedly, Elizabeth wants to be with him again. Scott spots them kissing and takes Dana out to see what’s going on. She’s devastated.

Now here’s what’s weird: Tom is currently kissing Elizabeth but thinks she’s Jessica. Scott can tell just from watching them through a window that Elizabeth is Jessica. How is that possible? Anyway, Scott finds the real Elizabeth and shows her that Jessica’s kissing Tom. Dana eavesdrops and realizes that Tom is kissing Jess, not Liz. She realizes that she and Scott want the same thing – to keep Liz and Tom apart. And the plan is successful: Elizabeth realizes that she really has nothing keeping her in Sweet Valley, so she can go to Colorado without regrets. Ha ha, Jessica’s plan backfired!

Thoughts: Jessica’s codependency is out of control. Does she plan to live with Elizabeth for the rest of their lives?

Jessica doesn’t like Scott because he seems “slippery,” so somehow, in this situation, her instincts are better than Elizabeth’s.

Speaking of Scott, I notice that no one’s throwing him any goodbye parties. Probably because he has no friends.

March 31, 2015

SVU #34, Spy Girl: These People Aren’t Exactly Giving James Bond a Run for His Money

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 8:16 pm by Jenn

Twin with bangs, I said no!

Twin with bangs, I said no!

Summary: You may recall that in the previous book, Nick finally agreed to let Jessica partner with him for a case. He needs a woman to accompany him to the country club where everyone’s been hanging out, so he tells Jess to get ready to go undercover. Because Nick is an idiot in so many ways, he doesn’t bother to tell her what kind of undercover assignment they’ll be on, so she dresses like a hooker and goes to meet him on a street corner. Nick is also somewhat in disguise, accidentally dressed like a nerd, and they don’t recognize each other. He thinks she’s some criminal he’s busted before, and she thinks he’s a geek from high school.

Once they sort things out, Jessica confesses that she told Lila she was going to go undercover, which means she and Nick will both need to get really good disguises before they go to the country club. Jessica says she’s channeling Eva Peron, wearing vintage clothes, dyeing her hair black, and calling herself Perdita del Mar (which roughly translates to Lost from the Sea, and how I wish it translated to Lost at Sea). Nick becomes Chip, a preppy who I doubt Eva Peron would ever associate with, but whatever.

At the club, everyone falls all over themselves to impress “Perdita.” She makes up a bunch of stuff about Argentina, and everyone pretends it’s right because who’s going to correct the hot chick? Jess manages to fool everyone – including her best friend AND HER OWN TWIN – until Liz gets up close to her and realizes, “Hey, this woman has my EXACT FACE!” I’m thinking that Liz might want to go into something other than investigative reporting.

Speaking of which, Elizabeth and Scott are still investigating Dwayne’s murder, under the guise of writing a story about a tennis tournament. Scott is having trouble with boundaries, even though Elizabeth has told him straight out that nothing is going to happen between them, and that they need to stay professional. Liz goes back and forth between doing exactly the right things and being too wimpy to tell Scott when he’s making her uncomfortable and generally being a creep.

Meanwhile, Tom realizes that he doesn’t actually like Dana as more than a friend, and that he’s been using her to try to get over Liz. He breaks things off with her, but quickly starts stringing her along again when he needs a partner to get back into the country club. Dana is too vindictive to care what’s going on; she’s just happy to keep Tom from spending time with Elizabeth.

The investigation has few developments, but Elizabeth learns of the disappearance of an employee named Manuel and steals a letter he never received. It’s addressed to a Manoel instead of a Manuel, and it mentions that his voting location has changed. But Elizabeth was told that Manuel barely speaks English, which means he’s probably not a citizen, which means he wouldn’t be allowed to vote. So I’m guessing the whole murder mystery/cover-up has to do with the club violating employment laws by hiring non-citizens, and people being killed because they threatened to blow the whistle.

Meanwhile, Tom gets chummy with a waiter and catches him collecting money from some of his co-workers. The waiter claims that it’s for someone’s birthday. Tom offers up a $10, writing “buena suerte” (good luck) on it. Later, he spots the bill in a stack of money Paul (see below) has, and wonders how it got to a club member instead of the employee he was told it was going to.

Throughout the book, Elizabeth and Tom keep crossing each other’s paths and competing over who can solve the case first. I’m sure Dwayne’s family would be happy to know that two reporters are vying to see who can find his murderer first – not to get justice, but to make each other mad. Eventually they agree that they should work together, and they let down their guards long enough to almost kiss. Then Scott pops up and pretends that Liz was just using Tom to get information. Tom storms off, and the rivalry is back on. Thanks a lot, Scott.

Lila has somehow been put in charge of the tennis tournament, which people imply to her needs to be rigged. While she’s working on that and sucking up to the other country club socialites, Bruce is stuck hanging out with Paul, the fiancé of Bunny, a girl Bruce once dated (and ditched without formally breaking up with her). Paul is…dumb. So dumb he would spell it dum. He can also barely walk five steps without falling over. He and Bruce start playing tennis, and Bruce slaughters Paul. Paul thinks he’s doing okay and asks if they can play for money. Bruce actually feels bad for taking the guy’s money – Bruce is possibly a pod person in this miniseries – but he figures he should get a reward for having to spend time with Paul.

The games continue, and Paul still sucks but keeps raising the stakes. Poor, naïve Bruce keeps agreeing to the bets, because he doesn’t know that this is a classic hustling technique. Indeed, Paul suddenly becomes a tennis star and beats Bruce over and over, collecting a bunch of money from him. Ticked that he was made a fool of, Bruce calls the police and anonymously reports that Paul stole money. But Bruce is dumb, and the police simply ask Paul where the money came from, and when he says he won it, the police are like, “You’re dumber than he is, Patman.”

Thoughts: “Barely two weeks had passed since he’d seen her tramping around the quad with Todd Wilkins.” “Tramping”? I HATE YOU SO MUCH, TOM WATTS.

“His father is Sweet Valley’s number one congressman.” Sweet Valley has its own Congress?

Who drinks iced tea with lime? Is that a super-rich-people thing?

Paul calls Bruce “old chum” and “dear chap.” Shut up, Paul.

I’m so sad that none of the Spanish-speaking club employees speaks Spanish to Jessica and busts her for not really being fluent.

Elizabeth doesn’t recognize Jessica’s voice as Perdita? Mmm-hmm, sure.

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