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.

Advertisements

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.

September 15, 2015

SVU #43, The Price of Love: Nick of Time

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:19 pm by Jenn

What...what is happening here? Is this supposed to be Nick? There's no way that's Nick

What…what is happening here? Is this supposed to be Nick? There’s no way that’s Nick

Summary: The book starts just where the last one ended, with Jessica and an unconscious Nick in the house where he tried to sting Clay. Nick regains consciousness, and Jessica tells him some of the things Clay said while he was out – namely, that he killed another cop, Riviera. Nick swears her to secrecy, deciding that he’ll pretend he heard the confession so Jess doesn’t have to testify and get involved in the whole mess. Unfortunately, until then, Nick and Jess will have to pretend they’ve broken up.

Jessica decides to make the fake split look more realistic by flirting with Clay. This seems like a foolproof plan. Lila thinks Jessica’s insane, considering what Clay did to Isabella. She tells Nick about Jess and Clay’s possible new relationship, which makes Nick go all Todd on Clay. Nick then covers up his jealousy by screaming at Jessica – in public – that she’s a slut for hooking up with another guy so soon after their breakup.

This doesn’t convince Clay of anything, or if it does, it doesn’t really matter. After all, Clay almost killed Nick, and with Nick…you know, not dead, Clay has a problem on his hands. He tries to have Nick kidnapped off the street, but Nick manages to get the attention of some nearby cops. Clay gets away, but Nick passes along the information that he killed Riviera, so the police are now on the lookout.

Since Jessica is a potential target, Nick enlists a young cop named Graham to be her bodyguard while posing as her new boyfriend. Jessica objects, even when Graham turns out to be cute. She’s pretty awful to him, making it clear that Nick is much more awesome than he is. I don’t think Graham really cares. Graham is a pushover, actually; he helps Nick and Jessica get together for a date when they’re not supposed to see each other. Thanks, Graham.

Despite the fact that Nick is staying in a hotel and using a “light disguise,” Clay is able to track him down. He brings along Nelson “The Nose” Karl, the head of the whole Sweet Valley drug empire. I’m curious whether he’s called “The Nose” because he has a large one or because he does a lot of cocaine. Nick escapes and leads Clay and Karl straight to where a bunch of cops are waiting for them. They’re not the smartest criminals, are they? Also, there’s an appearance by a helicopter, which supposedly takes the criminals by surprise, because bad books and movies always forget that helicopters are loud and can’t exactly sneak up on people.

So this means things get to go back to normal for Nick and Jessica, right? Wrong. There isn’t enough evidence to put Clay away without Nick having to testify, and Nick can’t be protected even after Clay’s in prison. He’s decided he needs to enter witness protection. Jessica wants to go with him, but Nick refuses to make her leave her life. They won’t be able to see each other ever again. There’s a super-dramatic scene where they say goodbye to each other. I would be more interested if I didn’t know what happens in the next book.

Elizabeth and Tom spend the entire book not talking about whether he slept with Dana. Elizabeth is freaking out about the idea but won’t bring it up. Tom notices that Elizabeth is upset about something but can’t get her to tell him what it is. This goes on FOREVER. Elizabeth finally asks the question…and Tom lies. Freaking A, Tom. I can’t take this plot anymore.

Winston gets a ridiculous plot involving a bunch of prep-school girls who visit SVU. They’re all in love with him (though I think it’s mostly because they go to an all-girls’ school and are so desperate for any kind of male interaction that they’d take anything). The girls act like rowdy six-year-olds. They have an actual food fight. And one of them, Brenda, kisses Winston while Denise is watching. This plot is exhausting.

Danny should have the most interesting storyline in the book, what with Isabella still being unconscious in the hospital, but it goes nowhere. Remember how Danny was accused of stealing a test he accidentally picked up? He’s supposed to meet with the professor about the incident and whatever kind of punishment he faces for it, but instead, she realizes that he didn’t do anything wrong. The professor’s suddenly so nice to Danny that I was sure she was going to try to seduce him and kick off a completely different plot. But no, she just lets the whole thing go. And then Danny realizes that he’s not mad at Isabella after all, and he wants her back. She’ll have to wake up first, of course.

Thoughts: The girls on Winston’s hall only get a few hours’ notice that they’re all expected to house overnight guests. I would walk out and spend the weekend somewhere else.

Winston tells the prep-school girls that he has a degree in sexual chemistry. First of all, that’s so weak. Second of all, THEY’RE UNDERAGE, EGBERT.

Jessica wears black velvet jeans. Why do I feel like Lila tricked her into buying those, making her think they were fashionable?

September 1, 2015

SVU #42, Sneaking In: Men Behaving Badly

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 5:17 pm by Jenn

No way is this what Nick is supposed to look like

No way is this what Nick is supposed to look like

Summary: If you remember way back to Good-bye, Elizabeth, Liz has just decided to stay in Sweet Valley instead of following Scott to Denver. She and Tom are now back together. Also, Jessica and Nick are still dating but having some trouble because he doesn’t want to be a cop anymore. Jess thinks he’s boring now that he wants to go to college and become a lawyer. So when Jess meets bad boy Clay DiPalma, she’s more than a little interested.

Isabella also meets Clay, though she’s not interested in him romantically. He flirts with her while she’s helping out with a Theta fundraiser, even after she tells him she has a boyfriend. Said boyfriend, by the way, has suddenly become a huge jerk. He sees Isabella and Clay together and Hulks out, basically accusing her of cheating on him. They make up, because Isabella has more patience than I do, but fight again when Isabella asks Danny to go to a frat party that all the Thetas have to attend. He only agrees to go so he can make sure she doesn’t hook up with any other guys.

Clay also flirts with Jessica, who, unlike Isabella, doesn’t mention that she has a boyfriend. Nick catches them talking and also Hulks out, punching Clay in the face. Now Jessica’s interest in Nick is rekindled – who wouldn’t want to be with a tough guy who punches other men? This is all very Jess/Rory/Dean, only without Nick dropping Jessica at the tail end of a dance marathon.

Clay shows up at the frat party, and since Danny’s being a drag, Isabella’s now interested. Nick tells her and Jessica that Clay is clearly bad news, which just makes Isabella want to get to know him more. She starts dancing with a bunch of guys, so Danny tries to get her to leave, because clearly this kind of behavior means she’s a slut. When Isabella refuses to go, Danny storms off. Isabella starts drinking, then smokes a cigarette with Clay, even though she doesn’t smoke.

This is where things go pear-shaped. Clearly there’s something in the cigarette other than tobacco, because Isabella starts hallucinating. She thinks monsters are after her, so she runs upstairs and jumps off a balcony. This is probably the best anti-drug PSA any Sweet Valley book has ever presented. Jessica and Lila find Isabella unconscious on the lawn and are understandably panicked. They tell Nick that they saw her with Clay, who has since disappeared, and Nick figures out that Clay must have put drugs in the cigarette. Tests confirm that the cigarette was laced with PCP.

Isabella spends the rest of the book unconscious, in danger of slipping into a coma. Danny’s upset, of course – but with Isabella herself, not just with the situation. If she hadn’t been whoring it up and smoking, everything would be fine. At one point he literally says that she got what she deserved. If what she deserved was the realization that she shouldn’t be with a jealous, possessive jerk, then yes, she got what she deserved.

Isabella’s condition starts affecting Danny’s grades, because he’s still doing schoolwork even though his girlfriend is at death’s door. His biochemistry professor is especially unsympathetic. Danny accidentally takes a copy of a big exam coming up, but returns it to her without looking at it, even though it could save his grade. The professor accuses him of stealing the test and threatens to fail him. Danny’s like, “Another thing Isabella screwed up for me.” Hey, Danny? Shut up.

Other people involved in this storyline are focusing less on Isabella’s behavior and more on bringing Clay to justice. Even though he’s technically off the police force, Nick decides to do some investigating on his own. He ties Clay to a big-time drug dealer responsible for all the drugs in Sweet Valley. Jessica pressures him into trying to take down Clay by himself, since the cops at the SVPD aren’t qualified. Shh, Jess. I mean, she’s not wrong, but this is still a bad idea.

Jessica proves to be a pretty good investigator herself, calling a friend who tells her where Clay bought a motorcycle he was talking about at the party. Through the motorcycle shop, Nick gets Clay’s phone number and pretends he wants to buy drugs. To no one’s surprise, Jessica wants to come along on the sting. Also to no one’s surprise, Nick is unable to convince her to stay away, so the two of them head to a run-down house to meet Clay.

Nick goes inside while Jessica listens at a window. Clay, who happens to be high, knows that Nick is a cop. He knocks Nick out, then decides to shoot him. Then he changes his mind and just leaves while Nick goes in and out of consciousness. I guess this is supposed to be a cliffhanger ending?

In other news, Elizabeth and Tom are super-happy to be back together, especially with Scott halfway across the country. Scott keeps trying to contact Liz, though, telling her how great things are in Denver and how she should regret not coming with him. But it turns out that Scott has been expelled from the DCIR for plagiarism, fabricating sources, and altering his transcript. Awesome. Elizabeth is very relieved that she stayed in Sweet Valley.

But there’s trouble in paradise. Tom has a deep, dark secret that makes him feel guilty through the whole book. At the end of the book, Elizabeth learns what it is. She finds a half-empty box of condoms in Tom’s room and realizes that he and Dana must have had sex. Oh, no! Two consenting adults with romantic feelings for each other had protected sex! It’s a scandal!

Thoughts: The title Sneaking In makes no sense. No one sneaks in anywhere.

This book is supposed to take place just a couple weeks after Good-bye, Elizabeth. Does that mean the last five books never happened? Then why did I have to read them?

“I’m used to Danny’s insane jealousy.” Sounds like a healthy relationship to me! Also, since when is Danny insanely jealous? He always seemed pretty normal to me.

Going to a drug deal with only Jessica as backup puts Nick in the running for dumbest cop ever. Which explains why he worked for the SVPD.

I assume Tom wasn’t a virgin before he and Elizabeth started dating, so what does it matter if he slept with Dana? He didn’t cheat on Liz. Why does she care?

September 16, 2014

SVU Thriller, The Roommate: Have You Seen “Single White Female”? Now You Don’t Have To

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 6:51 pm by Jenn

I don't know why there's a balcony. That building looks really unattractive, though

I don’t know why there’s a balcony. That building looks really unattractive, though

Summary: We haven’t gotten a lot of Isabella-centric storylines, which is probably why I went into this book feeling like there isn’t a whole lot to her. She’s a little like Lila, in that her parents seem to be rich and she likes fashion, but she’s much more down to earth. In this book, though, she proves to be pretty smart, and shows that following your gut is usually the best move, especially when there’s someone unstable involved.

Anyway, Isabella has a fabulous birthday with all her friends, then wraps up the night with some alone time with Danny. He gives her a ring, so of course she thinks he’s proposing, but he just wants to let her know how special she is by giving her a family heirloom. He pretty much says that he loves her but isn’t sure he wants to marry her. Yet he’ll give her something special that’s been in his family for generations? How is it that he loves her enough to do that but not to marry her? Whatever, this is just setting things up for Isabella and Danny to be on the outs a little.

Isabella and Jessica go get free haircuts from salon students, and Isabella’s is kind of a disaster. (Jess, for once, is smart enough to trust her instincts, and she decides not to let the untrained style disaster assigned to them touch her precious hair.) To add insult to injury, Isabella then bangs up her car and can’t afford the repairs. She also can’t ask her parents for money, and she’s too busy with extracurriculars to get a job. I would suggest that she drop one or more of those extracurriculars so she has time for a job, but that’s crazy talk. Instead, Isabella decides to look for a roommate for her two-bedroom apartment. No, I don’t know why her parents agreed to pay rent on a two-bedroom when she’s the only one living there. The Riccis don’t seem that bright.

As if we’re in some bad movie, we’re treated to a montage of horrible roommate candidates before we come to Lisa Fontaine. She’s shy, she’s a bad dresser, and she’s awkward, but she doesn’t seem like an awful person to live with, and she can pay her share of the rent, so Isabella will take her. Also, she claims to have transferred from NYU, and people from New York are, of course, awesome, so how can Isabella turn her away?

Lisa tries desperately to befriend Isabella, who warms up to her as soon as she proves useful around the apartment. One shopping trip later and the girls are BFFs (and sometimes pretending to be sisters, which is kind of weird for people past the age of eight). The only thing Isabella finds strange about her new roommate is that she doesn’t like people touching her stuff, but Isabella can kind of understand that. Danny tries to smooth things over with Isabella by giving her a kitten, and Lisa names it Rosie. Lisa gets a little too rough with Rosie, who doesn’t appreciate it. This is when I started to get nervous and make threats against the ghostwriter.

Isabella thinks Lisa is the perfect roommate, but it’s not long before things start to go downhill. Lisa deletes a message Danny leaves for Isabella on their answering machine, so she can have lunch with Isabella. She tells Isabella that Danny never called. They start talking about their families, and Lisa mentions that she had a twin sister who died at birth. She also says that her parents were very protective of her, which is why she’s never been on a date or done a lot of the things most college students do.

Jessica meets Lisa and thinks she’s awesome. Jess has recently been in a good mood since she started dating a guy named Josh. (Ben doesn’t exist in this universe.) She hasn’t introduced him to many people yet, just Elizabeth and Tom, because she thinks he’s so awesome that all the other girls at SVU will want to steal him. Normally I’d think that Jessica was delusional, but the guy is pretty great.

Jessica introduces Josh to Isabella, but it’s not really an introduction – they know each other from high school. In fact, they dated in high school. (I don’t know what the odds are of a girl randomly meeting and falling for her friend’s ex without knowing it, but they have to be astronomical.) Jessica quickly becomes jealous of their closeness, but Isabella promises that she and Josh are ancient history.

Lisa, though, decides to mess with Jessica’s head, and later with Danny’s. When he calls looking for Isabella, Lisa tells him that she’s hanging out with an old boyfriend. Then when Isabella gets home, Lisa tells her that Danny was mad when he called, so Isabella should ignore him for a while to teach him a lesson. When Danny finally calls back and asks Isabella to meet him, she goes looking for a sweater she loaned Lisa and finds a bunch of what she thinks are her clothes in Lisa’s closet. They’re actually Lisa’s own clothes that are exactly like Isabella’s. Creepy…

Isabella tries to tell Danny about Lisa’s weird behavior, but he’s so jealous of Josh that he doesn’t listen. Danny’s boyfriendliness in this book is really lacking. Later, Isabella spots someone with her exact haircut and realizes it’s Lisa. She rushes over to Jessica and Elizabeth’s room to talk to Jess…who’s out with a new friend. Elizabeth thinks her name is Lisa. So we have clothes- and hair-copying, and friend-stealing. Isabella is right to be freaked out.

Jessica and Lisa are suddenly BFFs the way Lisa and Isabella were BFFs, and Jessica wants Lisa to join Theta. She invites her to a frat party, asking her to remind Isabella about it. Of course, Lisa doesn’t, so she goes out to have fun with Isabella’s friends, after spending some time chatting up Danny and making him think she’s both awesome and normal. At the party, she tells Jessica that Josh probably hasn’t shown up because he’s with Isabella.

Now Isabella’s on the outs with Theta, and Lisa’s…um…on the ins? I guess. Jessica nominates her as a new member, ignoring Isabella when she protests. Jess is a worse friend in this book than Danny is a boyfriend. Speaking of Danny, he gets a late-night visit from someone he thinks is Isabella, but who’s actually Lisa. He actually puts the brakes on before they can have sex, and asks her to have breakfast with him the next day. Lisa shows up at breakfast instead, of course, telling herself that Danny knew she was the one in his room and is just pretending it was Isabella.

Jessica’s supposed to go to Malibu with Josh for the weekend, but he has to cancel. Instead of picking up a phone or going to her room to tell her in person, he gives Lisa a note to deliver to Jessica. Then she sends Josh off in Isabella’s direction. So just as Jessica’s learning that her weekend plans are being called off, she sees her boyfriend with his ex. Now Jess is furious with both Josh and Isabella.

Lisa tells Danny that Isabella’s cheating on him with Josh, then makes sure that Isabella sees her with Danny and thinks they’re getting closer. Isabella’s had enough and decides to kick Lisa out of the apartment. While she’s packing Lisa’s things, she snoops a little, finding answering-machine tapes Lisa’s stolen, plus pictures from a farm and letters addressed to someone named Helen Mueller. There’s also an article about a girl named Rosie Mueller being found dead in a well after playing in the woods with her twin sister Helen. Of course, Helen is Lisa.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s still on her quest to get Lisa into Theta, but now she also wants Isabella out. The one person she thinks can help her is her old nemesis Alison. Alison has her own nominee for the only empty spot in the sorority, so Jessica convinces her to help her get Isabella ousted so both Lisa and Alison’s girl can join. Alison will bad-mouth Isabella to the other sisters, pointing out that she’s stopped caring about her appearance, so she’s not a good representative of them anymore. Jessica doesn’t have to lift a finger.

Lisa comes home while Isabella’s about to pack her stuff, so Isabella jets to the registrar’s office to get some contact info. There isn’t any – no one named Lisa Fontaine or Helen Mueller is registered at SVU. Back at the apartment, Lisa realizes that Isabella was looking through her things. She starts going dark, remembering how, when she and her sister were young, Rosie got all the praise and Helen got…locked in the cellar as punishment. Okay, now I just feel sorry for her. It’s not her fault she’s crazy! She had horrible parents! We also get a flashback to Rosie falling down a well and Helen leaving her there to scare her and make her experience what it’s like being locked in a cellar.

When Isabella gets home, she finds the kitten dead. Curse you, ghostwriter! That was so unnecessary! Isabella tries to find another place to spend the night, but all her friends hate her, so she sleeps in the student union. Poor Izzy. As soon as she sees Lisa leave the apartment in the morning, Isabella runs in to grab some of her things, but she’s not fast enough. Lisa ties her up and heads out to meet Danny.

Jessica FINALLY talks to Josh about how she thinks he’s cheating on her with Isabella, and he tells her she’s wrong. He’s rescheduled their Malibu trip, has only been spending time with Isabella to comfort her, and no longer has the feelings for Isabella that he does for Jessica. Jess is smart enough to realize that this means something else has been going on with Isabella, and she might be right about Lisa being a nutjob.

Jessica goes to the apartment, where Isabella has smartly turned up the TV so someone will come over and tell her to turn it down. While Jess frees her, Danny starts figuring out that Lisa has some issues. She tells him that Isabella attacked her, and mentions that she, not Isabella, was the one in Danny’s room the other night. As Danny runs off to find his girlfriend, Lisa goes home and finds Jessica in the apartment. She ties Jess up and makes Isabella write a fake suicide note.

While Lisa’s distracted by Jessica, Isabella manages to escape the apartment. Unfortunately, her streak of smart moves suddenly comes to an end when she decides to use the elevator (which we’ve been told is broken many times throughout the book, and which has supposedly just been fixed). She begins a slooooooow descent to the basement. Meanwhile, Danny happens to run into Lisa’s aunt in the lobby; she’s looking for her niece, Helen, who recently escaped from a psychiatric facility. Danny doesn’t care.

Lisa follows Isabella to the basement, now in full-blown psychosis, thinking that Isabella is her dead sister. Danny finds Jessica in the apartment and frees her, then heads down to the basement, where Lisa knocks him out. Isabella and Lisa end up in the elevator, with Lisa trying to choke Isabella. She thinks she hears Rosie calling to her from the bottom of the elevator shaft, and she wants to go down and rescue her, since she feels guilty for letting her die. Isabella can’t stop her, and Lisa falls to her death. (Or what I assume is her death. We all know Sweet Valley’s history with evil twins not really being dead.)

Happy ending! Danny’s not hurt too badly. Isabella and Jessica are friends again. Danny proposes for real, but Isabella thinks they should wait before they make that kind of commitment. I assume her money problems also get sorted out, or she at least comes up with a more reasonable way to pay for her expenses besides letting someone move in without a background check or references.

Thoughts: Here’s the plot of Single White Female, in case you’re unfamiliar with it. If you took a drink for every similarity between that movie and this book, you’d be drunk halfway through.

Why does Isabella live in an apartment in the first place? Why doesn’t she live at the Theta house?

Danny, I like you, but giving a girl a diamond ring and not thinking she’ll interpret it as a marriage proposal? Is dumb.

“Do you honestly think I’d date a crimninal?” Actually, Jessica, I’m surprised you haven’t already.

The Zeta frat has a Mexican-themed party with a banner that says “Zetas Go South of the Border!” Oh…oh, dear.

Tom’s going to a journalism conference for a few days and doesn’t plan to take any clothes with him. Tom, you’re gross.

August 19, 2014

SVU #22, Elizabeth’s Summer Love: Everyone Loves a Brooding Hunk

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:45 pm by Jenn

If you didn't know this book was from the '90s, this cover would clear that right up

If you didn’t know this book was from the ’90s, this cover would clear that right up

Summary: It’s been a month since the last book, and guess who’s not having a good summer? Jessica Wakefield, that’s who. She hates her job, Ben keeps bugging her, and worst of all, Elizabeth took the guy she wanted. She tells Nina she’s sick so Nina will go to work for her, which is a waste of a fake sick day, since the weather’s bad and they end up closing the beach. Perhaps a visit from Isabella will help? Jessica likes that…and would like it even more if Isabella brought Danny and Tom with her, so Elizabeth will have to put the brakes on whatever she has going on with Ryan. Jessica just won’t let her sister know her boyfriend’s coming, so Tom can surprise her.

Apparently Elizabeth and Ryan aren’t really together, despite their kiss in the last book, because other than being co-workers, they don’t have much of a connection. He doesn’t want to pursue anything because she has a boyfriend, and because it would cut into his time spent being emo. But Liz is still a dirty cheater, so whatever. Jessica, on the other hand, is still having to dodge Ben, who catches her at a salon on what’s supposed to be her sick day. Like he’s never gotten a manicure to cure an upset stomach. Nina catches them both at the salon and yells at Jessica for lying to her. Why is she so surprised?

Jessica tries to avoid Rachel by ducking into a fortuneteller’s, where she learns that a guy in her present was her husband in a last life. She’ll also hurt him very soon. Jessica’s sure the guy is Ryan. She heads out to find him; he’s with Elizabeth on the beach. He sees someone in trouble in the water, and the two of them go in to save her. As they celebrate after their rescue, Jessica spots them together and decides to tell Tom what his girlfriend’s been up. But then something hits her in the head and knocks her out.

Despite the fact that he just saved a life, Ryan gets yelled at by the captain guy in charge of all the lifeguards. It seems he didn’t put up “no swimming” signs, which is a big no-no during bad weather. Only Ryan DID put up the signs – it looks like someone cut the ropes tying them up. Also, one of the signs was the thing that hit Jessica in the head. Hee. Sorry, it’s not really funny, but…hee hee. Ahem. Anyway, Ben tells Nina that the signs were cut loose; that combined with Paloma’s poisoning makes him suspect that South Beach is trying to sabotage Sweet Valley Shore. Nina starts wondering if Paul is involved.

Elizabeth bugs Ryan a bunch about why they can’t be together, and he tells her that something happened last summer that haunts him. We already know what it is from the last book: Last summer, someone drowned. Never mind that it wasn’t on his watch and that it was in no way his fault. Ryan feels like Sweet Valley Shore is his beach, so everything that happens there is his responsibility. Maybe Ryan should look into a job that’s not quite so high-pressure. Anyway, he’s concerned about his reputation, and about losing focus on the job. But he’ll still go to an upcoming rave with her.

Elizabeth goes out to buy a new dress for said rave, and while she’s gone, Tom, Danny, and Isabella arrive in town. Liz gets ready for her big date, and just as she’s going down to meet Ryan, she runs into Tom. He thinks she was getting all prettied up for him. Ryan has no idea what’s going on. He and Jessica quickly pretend that they’re going to the rave together, which couldn’t make Jess happier.

After the rave, Ben discovers that Paloma’s missing, and apparently it was Jessica’s job to watch him, for some reason. I don’t know why the dog needs a sitter. They get into a huge fight and she screams that she hates him. Ben replies that he loves her. Ugh, no, you don’t! You’ve known her for 30 days, and she spent 29 of them yelling at you! Speaking of yelling, everyone else piles on Jessica for various reasons, so Jess decides she’s done with the shore and wants to go home with Isabella. It’s not like she’ll be a huge loss to the lifeguard squad.

The next day is July 4th, the beach’s busiest day of the year. Ryan is nowhere to be found – he left the rave with the captain and hasn’t been seen since. Nina takes charge, because Nina is awesome. She also tells Elizabeth about the person who drowned the summer before, and how Ryan blames himself. He skipped out on work a bunch of times after that, and now he’s going back to his old ways by not showing up to the beach. Nina thinks it’s because he saw Elizabeth and Tom together. Uh…that’s not a sign of stability. That’s not really something you want in a lifeguard.

A boat capsizes, with six drunk people on board. The Sweet Valley lifeguards rush out to rescue them, with Ryan making a surprise appearance to help out. Everyone is saved, and the lifeguards all come out looking good, including Jessica, who’s been having a good day. Ryan explains that he was off looking for a stolen boat holding all the fireworks for that night (though…why is that a lifeguard’s responsibility?). He has to reassure Elizabeth that he didn’t abandon the squad.

After the fireworks that night, Tom, Danny, Isabella, and Jessica the quitter leave, with Tom still having no idea that he hasn’t been the only person kissing his girlfriend this summer. She’s now more interested in Ryan than ever, and even imagines him while she’s making out with Tom. Dude, just break up with him.

Jessica’s almost back to SVU when she decides to go back to the beach and finish out the summer. She apologizes to everyone in the house, even though I don’t think she did much wrong, other than scheming against Elizabeth and lying to Nina about being sick. She’s starting to think that Ben, not Ryan, is her past-life husband, and that they’re destined to be together. Ben’s like, “I can get behind that.” Ick. He’s just not appealing.

The next morning, Elizabeth goes to see Ryan for some more making out. While their lips are busy, a kid almost drowns. Ryan blames Elizabeth for distracting him and for not following all the proper procedures in the rescue. Elizabeth cries. I bet the kid who almost drowned is, like, “Sorry to interrupt your relationship drama, but could I trouble you for some CPR?”

Paul, the guy Nina’s been hanging out with (but resisting romantically because of Bryan), tells her he’s been asked to join the South Beach lifeguard squad, the rivals of Nina and Co.’s squad. Nina still likes Paul, but she’s getting a little suspicious about him. First of all, he carries a diving knife, despite still working in a surf shop. Second of all, he happens to conveniently find Paloma after she’s fed poisoned hot dogs. (Poor puppy! She’s okay, though.)

The night of the rave, Paul takes Nina for a private boat ride, which is definitely sketchy. When the boat’s engine dies, Nina clues in that this might not be a safe situation. Her solution is to jump out and swim for the shore. Later, Paul swears that he didn’t do anything to sabotage Sweet Valley, and Nina decides to believe him. I don’t know why she thinks he’s telling the truth when two seconds ago she thought he wasn’t.

Winston’s summer is going badly, since he wasn’t picked as a lifeguard and hasn’t found a job anywhere else. Wendy encourages him to interview for a job at Hamburger Harry’s. The job is, unfortunately, as the restaurant’s mascot, which means Winston has to wear a big hamburger costume and try to get people to come eat there. He tries to quit after just an hour, but Hamburger Harry didn’t become King of the Hamburgers by being a fool. He guilts Winston into staying.

The next challenge Winston has to face is Hot Dog Howie. That would be the mascot of a hot dog place, for those of you who can’t keep up with this sophisticated literature. The two mascots pick a fight, and people on the boardwalk egg them on, placing bets on who will win. Winston and Howie secretly get together and organize a big fight so they can get a little extra income from everyone’s bets. Unfortunately, Howie’s been doing this a while, and he doesn’t go easy on Winston. It’s probably worth it for the money, though.

Wendy keeps getting flowers from Pedro, who is totally in love with her and can’t take a hint. I think she should stop accepting the flowers, which might send him mixed signals, but what do I know? Pedro has gone from kind of sweet to pretty much a stalker, what with all the flowers and pretending to be drowning so Wendy will come rescue him. Wendy, that’s not the behavior of a well man. You’re right to keep your distance.

Pedro shows up at the gang’s house the night of the rave and tags along with Wendy and Winston. Wendy has such a fabulous time with Pedro at the rave that she doesn’t seem to care anymore that he only asked her out originally because Winston made him. Pedro also says he loves her, so Wendy’s on her way to fulfilling every fangirl’s dream of dating her celebrity crush.

Thoughts: Winston’s hesitant to take the hamburger job, but how is dressing as a hamburger any different than being SVU’s mascot? At least as a hamburger, Winston gets paid.

The mental picture of Jessica getting hit with a sign is hilarious.

Nina wears “a long, red flannel granny gown with little black-and-white cows all over it.” Thumbs down for a nightgown, but that would make a cute pair of pajama pants.

These people are spending a lot of money for college students who can’t be making much over minimum wage.

Nina would rather dive into cold water and swim home than stay in the boat with Paul. And that’s why she’s awesome.

The rave features line dancing. Yeah, sure, okay.

June 24, 2014

SVU #19, Broken Promises, Shattered Dreams: I Donut Think This Is a Good Idea

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:36 pm by Jenn

And the award for most overdramtic book title goes to...

And the award for most overdramtic book title goes to…

Summary: When we last heard from our charming Sweet Valley friends, Billie was pregnant and Steven was making plans for their future. He wants them to get married, start their family a little ahead of schedule, and try to figure out how they can still become lawyers. Billie, however, isn’t completely sure what she wants to do. She talks to her friend Chaz (the guy Steven is jealous of), and he sends her to see his sister at a clinic. There, Billie learns about the magical world of choices. She can have the baby, yes, but she can also place it for adoption or have an abortion.

Though the Wakefields and Winklers don’t yet know about the pregnancy, Steven tells Jessica, asking her to keep her mouth shut. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Steven, you naïve dork. Jessica’s mostly excited that Steven and Billie are getting married, which means she gets to wear a pretty dress and be the center of attention as a bridesmaid. What do you mean, the bride’s supposed to be the center of attention? Oh, you naïve dork.

Billie’s parents show up for a surprise visit, and Steven awkwardly shuffles them over to Ned and Alice’s so the families can all be together and learn about the baby at the same time. Except Billie still isn’t sure she wants to keep the baby. There’s some fighting, and though Steve is very supportive of whatever Billie wants to do, he clearly likes his vision of a happy little family.

The news comes out about the baby and the wedding plans. The families are stunned, but agree to help support Billie and Steven however they can. The wedding’s in two-and-a-half weeks (…yikes), and Alice will be planning most of it. This is a Bad Idea. Alice turns into a nutcase, and has the nerve to disagree with the color Billie picked out for the bridesmaid dresses. Hey, Alice, it’s not your wedding, so pipe down.

Billie becomes less and less sure about the choices she’s making. She’s afraid of having a daughter who turns out like one of the twins – either a big mess she can’t control, or a goody two-shoes who’s no fun. Steven, for his part, worries that he’ll have a son who gets horrible grades. But he’s not as freaked out as Billie, who actually locks herself in the Wakefields’ bathroom so she can panic in peace. Steven talks her down.

Billie gets confirmation that she won the guitar competition from the last book, so marrying Steven and having the baby will mean giving up a semester in Spain. Steven tries to cheer her up by decorating their apartment like they’re in Spain. Steven is actually pretty cool in this book. I don’t expect to ever say that again, so enjoy it now.

But then there’s more fighting. Billie feels like Steven is making all the decisions for them. Billie, sweetie? If you don’t like it, tell him. He thinks you’re okay with everything because, you know, YOU KEEP TELLING HIM YOU’RE OKAY WITH EVERYTHING. Funny how that works. Anyway, Steven’s also not completely happy, since he’ll have to take an internship he doesn’t really want in order to provide for his family. There’s fighting, there’s fighting, there’s fighting, and then suddenly something’s wrong and Billie starts bleeding.

Yes, in the grand tradition of soap operas (and this series is definitely a soap), Billie miscarries. Steven feels guilty because they were fighting, and he thinks he put too much stress on Billie. Billie worries that now that they’re not “obligated” to get married for a baby, Steven won’t want to marry her anymore. Except…Billie wasn’t 100 percent down with getting married. I don’t understand that girl. Whatever, the next book’s called Here Comes the Bride, so that kind of answers that question.

Jessica and Val have started their own fashion business, despite not having business degrees, experience running businesses, or, in Jessica’s case, even the tiniest grasp of how the real world works. I don’t know who would want to do business with them. Jessica’s still a college freshman! But apparently things are off to a good start, and Val has everything under control. They just need money.

Since no bank in its right mind would loan money to Jessica outright, she has the option of using her and Elizabeth’s Jeep as collateral. This means convincing Elizabeth to co-sign. Liz is too smart for that, but it’s a moot point – Lila agrees to invest some of the money her father gave her in her unreliable best friend’s startup company that has no business plan or promise of being successful. Silly children with their silly disposable assets.

Jessica and Lila come up with a mutually beneficial idea: a fashion show at Lila’s donut shop. Lila is done with people not paying for food, and the fashion show will bring her exposure. The Thetas will model the clothes. I’m not sure a place that sells unhealthy food is the best place to show off clothes – “you’ll only be able to fit into these if you stop eating donuts!” – but at least someone’s trying something different.

Tripler-Wakefield Designs, or whatever, gets to work, but Jessica’s uneasy because Val and Mike seem really close. And also because there’s no fabric. Apparently fabric imported from other countries often gets held up in customs, but Val insists that what they’re getting is top-of-the-line stuff. If you’re suspicious that Val is actually using the money to buy what she says she’s buying, you’re not alone – Elizabeth is wary, too.

Jessica goes home to help with the wedding, but while she’s gone, she can’t get in touch with Val. The fashion show is coming up quickly, and nothing appears to be ready. Since the proceeds are going to charity, they can’t call it off, or everyone could be arrested for fraud. Jessica eventually ditches her horrible mother-of-the-groomzilla to check on her business, and realizes that Val hasn’t been there for a while. She thinks Val and Mike have taken all their money and run away. Lila (possibly jokingly) suggests that they flee the country, and Jessica (totally not jokingly) gets ready to go.

But it was all a misunderstanding. Val and Mike did leave the state, but only to go to Texas to get more fabric, since what they ordered was destroyed in a fire. Val thinks the show will be able to go on time, and no one will be a fraud. In fact, everything goes well, and somehow, these plucky young entrepreneurs with their laughable business practices are successes.

Speaking of laughable business practices, as I mentioned above, Lila has realized that giving away food isn’t a way to make money. And how do you donate your proceeds to charity when there are no proceeds? Also, how do you pay your employees when you’re not bringing in any money? The answer is that you don’t, which is why Lila’s employees quit. Lila orders her friends to start paying their tabs, but since they don’t have money, she puts them to work. Cue Isabella and Danny trying to make donuts without having any idea how.

And there’s another problem: Jessica knocked down some guy named Pelmer in the shop, and he claims he’s injured, so he’s suing Lila. She needs money to pay for a lawyer, but she’s not very cooperative about the process. (Lila, uncooperative? I know, I was surprised, too.) Lila assigns Winston and Denise to follow Pelmer and find out if he’s really injured. This might actually be the smartest thing Lila’s ever done. Too bad Winston and Denise are horrible at being private investigators, and Winston’s a klutz, so when they get photographic proof that Pelmer is a liar, Winston breaks the camera and accidentally exposes the film.

Bruce becomes Lila’s punching bag, but he tries to be patient while she’s dealing with all her issues (which is good of him, considering he got her the donut shop in the first place). Danny and Isabella quit, sick of Lila’s abusive management tactics, and Bruce tries to convince them to help out their friend. Funny, I never thought of Lila as their friend. But then Bruce learns that since Lila’s the only one who owns the shop, he has no liability in the lawsuit. He immediately quits and takes off to let Lila handle everything on her own. Also, Winston, Denise, Danny, and Isabella picket the shop, which is great.

Lila begs her friends for help, reminding them that they’re putting on a charity fashion show, and that the shop’s proceeds also go to charity. They get her to admit that she opened the shop so she could be respected, not philanthropic. With everyone back on board, they organize the successful fashion show, but Lila isn’t happy with Bruce. I’m not sure why he wants her back anyway. They were both awful to each other.

There’s also a stupid plot where Tom casually proposes to Elizabeth, and she’s not sure if he’s serious or not, so she accepts, but it turns out he WAS serious, and he even gets her a ring. But then he’s all, “This is happening way too fast,” like, no kidding, so they call of their kind-of-not-even-real engagement, which she wasn’t even excited about. On the plus side, Tom enjoys spending time with the Wakefields since it reminds him of when he had a family, so that’s kind of nice.

Thoughts: I really want a donut now.

I’m surprised and a little impressed that the book presents abortion as an option, but the women who talk to Billie about it almost sound like they’re trying to talk her into it.

Bruce says Lila was fired from the department store because she was “unsuited for the workforce.” Winston: “I wish I were rich enough to be unsuited for the workforce.” Heh.

Jessica: “I hope you know what you’re doing.” Val: “I hope so too.” Yeah, they sound like people who should be starting a business together.

I take back what I said about Lila not being able to run a business. She knows how to boss around people to get them to do all the work, which is basically the same thing.

“Just between you and me, Lila, I’ve never trusted Jessica Wakefield.” I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Alison: Everyone knows that.

“Don’t act like a big martyr. You’re a man. You don’t have to do anything.” Well, then enjoy being a single mother, Billie.

March 11, 2014

SVH #14, Shipboard Wedding: Sink or Swim

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:18 pm by Jenn

Yo, guys on the left, you're about to fall into the pool

Yo, guys on the left, you’re about to fall into the pool

Summary: We’re still on this freaking cruise. It’s never going to end, is it?

So anyway, everyone’s mad at everyone else because of all the kissing of other people’s fiancées and the fighting over whether or not people should know about that kissing. As a refresher, Todd and Elizabeth are kind of back together, Tom keeps making out with Nicole (who’s engaged to Jason), Isabella and Danny are fighting, Leonardo is obsessed with Alex, Noah and Gin-Yung are hanging out, Nina keeps spending time with Rich (even though he’s a pretentious and boring egomaniac and she kind of hates him), Lila wants to break up with Bruce, Bryan is a wimp, and Jessica can’t find her mystery savior. Oh, and Winston and Denise are missing.

Jessica’s search for that mystery savior has landed her in jail. She was caught breaking into people’s rooms so she could find the savior’s button, and after Jason’s wedding ring was reported missing, she was accused of stealing it. (Danny still has it. Danny should probably say something.) There’s a great scene where Jessica tries to appeal to the captain and her other jailers, telling them she was breaking and entering for love, and they pretend to humor her and then laugh in her face. Then some guy shows up pretending to be a lawyer and gets Jessica released, but he doesn’t stick around long enough for her to find out who he is.

Everyone else is at a dance (well, of course) and jealous of the new pairings. Tom is especially mad because Elizabeth went back to Todd two seconds after they split up, but dude, you’re the one who kissed someone else. I mean, be mad all you want, but if you can’t keep your lips to yourself, you don’t get a say in what Liz does.

The steward who turned Jess in for thievery in the first place is after her again, but the mystery “lawyer” trips him and Jessica’s able to hide in a movie theater. Meanwhile, the police arrive and try to arrest Elizabeth for stealing the ring. Of course, they’re not going to fall for the old “it wasn’t me, it was my identical twin!” story. Isabella finds Danny (who’s hiding like a six-year-old afraid of getting in trouble for eating cookies before dinner) and demands that he tell the truth.

So Danny finally comes clean about the “stolen” ring, which puts both twins in the clear. But Jason’s mad that Danny lied to try to stop the wedding, so he fires Danny as his best man…and enlists Tom to take his place. Poor, dumb, naïve Jason has no idea what’s been going on between Tom and Nicole. Oh, and the wedding’s tomorrow, and everyone on the ship is invited.

Jessica’s still hiding in the movie theater through all this, and Nina and Danny wind up there, too. They start talking, and when Nina kisses Danny on the cheek (just as a friend), Jessica misinterprets this as romance. Now she thinks Danny’s a two-timer, and she isn’t sure if she should tell Isabella. Ironically (I guess), in the first book, Isabella insisted that if Danny ever cheated on her, she wouldn’t want to know.

That night, Alex and Isabella wind up in the twins’ room and all four girls cry over their relationship woes. They see Nina and Rich together and think they’re happy, when Nina’s really just faking it. Also not happy: Tom, who’s been kicked out of his and Danny’s room. Todd finds him, they fight, and just when things are about to get sort of interesting, they…stop. And they decide to work together to get Tom and Elizabeth back on track. It involves Todd pushing Tom overboard so Elizabeth will save him. There’s no way this could go wrong!

Everyone goes to the wedding, with Alex throwing Gin-Yung shade for hanging out with Noah, and Danny hiding in the back (Danny hides a lot in this book). Everything goes fine until “if anyone knows why these two shouldn’t be married.” This is when Danny decides it’s finally time to say something to Jason about his fiancée kissing another guy. Jessica shoots him down, accusing him of two-timing Isabella with Nina. Isabella’s madder at Jessica than with Danny.

While Jason’s confronting Danny, Nicole gets super-dramatic and tries to flee in a lifeboat. She winds up in the water, so Danny jumps in so save her. Jason punches Tom, who also goes in the water, but he wanted to be there anyway so Elizabeth would save him, so he just goes with it. But Danny tries to save Tom as well, so Tom has to get rid of him. Elizabeth doesn’t seem to realize (or care?) that Tom’s in the water, so Todd tosses her in after him. Brilliant plan, guys. It doesn’t work, since Tom clearly isn’t drowning, and Elizabeth still doesn’t want to be with him.

Noah’s like, “Well, everyone is has gone insane, so I might as well, too,” and he knocks out Leonardo. Bruce approaches and Noah tells him that Leonardo fell. Alex joins them and the guys stick to their story. And speaking of insane, Jessica decides to recreate her first meeting with her mystery savior by…jumping in the water and pretending she’s drowning again. I’m pretty sure this is certifiable psychopath behavior. Gin-Yung gets a little revenge on Todd by pushing him in the water.

At this point almost everyone’s in or has been in the ocean except Isabella, who agrees to make up with Danny as long as he doesn’t get her dress wet. Jessica doesn’t have any luck fake drowning, but she does finally meet her mystery savior. It’s Randy Mason, Sweet Valley Middle School’s resident nerd. Jessica doesn’t care that he used to be a nerd, or, apparently, that he’s been STALKING HER ALL WEEK. Seriously, this guy is creepy.

Leonardo has decreed that he’s taking Lila back to Italy so she can properly mourn Tisiano. He’s taking Alex there, too, so she can become a model. Bruce isn’t going to let Lila go without a fight, possibly a physical one. Lila, however, is resigned to her fate, especially when she realizes that if the situation were reversed – if she’d died and Tisiano were moving on this quickly, say, with someone like Jessica – she’d be jealous. After all the wedding madness and ocean wackiness, Lila decides she can’t be without Bruce, so they’re back together. And I guess Leonardo regains consciousness with some brain damage, because now he’s okay with them being together, and he’s fine with Alex leaving him and getting back together with Noah. I don’t know.

Bryan is still hanging out with Jean, learning to swim and trying to figure out how to get back to the boat so he can reunite with Nina. He dreams about water-skiing back to the ship, and decides to make that dream come true. Because that’s totally reasonable for someone who only learned to swim two days ago. Bryan takes some skiing lessons (this all happens over less than a day, by the way) and gets a guy to take him on his boat out toward the ship. He shows up while everyone else is falling/getting pushed in the water, but he falls in as well, so Nina has to save him. This is so dumb.

Winston and Denise spend the entire book floating around on a sinking boat, thinking they’re going to die. They wash up on an island and decide to become the new Swiss Family Robinson or something. (I hope there are monkey butlers and chewy, chewy cocoa beans.) Then they’re suddenly both knocked out. It turns out they’re not on a deserted island – they’re on the same island as a resort, and they were knocked out by golf balls. But the good news is they can go home with everyone else. And they didn’t embarrass themselves by falling overboard.

Thoughts: These books would be a lot shorter if they didn’t spend so much time recapping previous books.

Danny describes dating Isabella as “like falling forty floors into a pool of Jell-O with your arms around the person you love most in the world.” Danny, please don’t ever become a writer.

“Jessica instantly loved the bridesmaid dresses, which had a tropical theme. The girls wore brightly colored green, aqua, and pink silk sarong skirts that reached their ankles. Their silk tops were cropped and shoved each girl’s tanned midriff.” I don’t care where you’re getting married – no one’s midriff should be visible.

Nicole’s wedding dress has “tiny seed pearls sewn over every square inch.” That sounds awful.

I’m sure the ship’s captain appreciated everyone jumping in the water. How much do you think that guy hates doing college cruises?

Next page