January 2, 2018

SVT #117, Down With Queen Janet!: No, Seriously, Why Is This Girl So Popular?

Posted in books tagged , , at 4:48 pm by Jenn

Horrible girl, cute necklace

Summary: The school year is, miraculously, coming to an end. For real. Janet will soon be moving on to high school, and she’s been asked to give a speech at the eighth-graders’ graduation ceremony. I have a feeling that the students were asked to vote for the speaker they wanted, and they all voted for Janet out of fear for their lives. Janet’s excited about the speech, and about the huge party her parents are letting her throw to celebrate the end of the school year.

She enlists Jessica to “help” with the party planning, which really means that Janet comes up with ideas and makes Jessica write them down and do all the work. The food will be from a local barbecue joint, which seems very unglamorous for Janet, but what do I know? Again, everyone’s so scared of Janet that I’m sure they’ll gush about how wonderful the party was, even if they all wind up with food poisoning.

Janet has been meaner than usual (which I didn’t think was possible), and when Lois Waller spills her lunch on Janet in the cafeteria, she ends up humiliated in front of a bunch of people. Elizabeth stands up for Lois, which just makes Janet turn on her, as well as Sophia. Jess thinks Janet has gone too far, but she’s not about to say anything and become Janet’s next victim.

Elizabeth suddenly wants to befriend Lois, despite never paying much attention to her before. Lois confides that she and Janet were best friends when they were kids, but when Janet started middle school, she was suddenly too cool for Lois. Liz is furious that Janet could treat a former friend so badly, and she wants Janet to be punished. She convinces a very reluctant Lois to throw her own party the same night as Janet’s.

Liz is even more sure of her decision when Janet goes on a rampage of meanness and uninvites various people from her party for dumb reasons. Everyone Janet turns on gets invited to Lois’ party instead. Janet just mocks them all, since they’re a bunch of losers she wouldn’t want to hang out with anyway. Elizabeth tries to drum up support for Lois’ party, but no one wants to get on Janet’s bad side, so they’re still going. They don’t seem to care that Janet’s such a horrible person. I mean, she’s going to have a cool band! It’ll be worth possibly being ripped to shreds in front of the whole school!

Things come close to boiling over when Elizabeth tells Jess she should come to Lois’ party. After all, Janet has been mean to Elizabeth, and Jessica needs to stand up for her sister. Jess thinks that Liz is just trying to be noble, and hasn’t realized that having the party at Lois’ isn’t the way to confront the problem. If no one comes to Lois’ party, she’ll just feel worse than she already does. Liz is the only one who will feel better. This is exactly right, but Liz doesn’t see it. She tells Jess that if she doesn’t come to Lois’ party instead of Janet’s, Liz might never forgive her.

On party night, it looks like Jessica’s prediction might come true, as no one shows up to Lois’ house. But no one comes to Janet’s party either. People start arriving at Lois’, and the party turns into a pretty happening affair. Joe even wants to go, even though he’d implied that some high schoolers might come to Janet’s party. Eventually, Lois’ house is packed, while Janet’s is empty.

Jessica spends the early part of the evening trying to decide what to do. She knows Elizabeth is right, and she should stand up for her sister. But she also doesn’t want to endanger her friendship with Janet. She finally goes to Janet’s…but only to tell her that she’s going to Lois’ party. She’s chosen her sister over her so-called friend. It’s the right choice. I mean, Elizabeth may be boring, but at least she doesn’t criticize Jessica’s clothing.

But Lois feels bad for Janet. She still wants Janet to be happy, despite their ruined friendship and Janet’s behavior toward her. Lois goes to Janet’s house and tells her that if she wants to remain popular, she needs to be nicer to people. Janet admits to being scared about becoming a small fish in the big pond of Sweet Valley High School. Yeah, like that’s an excuse for being horrible to people. Lois invites Janet to her place, and they take the food and band over to Lois’ house to have a joint party.

Jessica writes Janet’s speech for graduation, but Janet ditches it and talks about how she’s only recently realized how important her friends are to her. I guess they all forgive her, possibly because she’s leaving the school soon and they won’t have to deal with her anymore. They probably also go back to ignoring Lois, at least until she throws another party. Middle schoolers are jerks.

Thoughts: Janet’s so obsessed with her party being perfect that Jessica thinks she’s acting like it’s her wedding. Ugh, imagine what a grade-A bridezilla Janet would be.

“There are two parties tonight? I didn’t realize that.” Alice Wakefield, mother of the year. Your daughters have only been fighting about this for a week.

Lois: “All you have to do is start treating them the way you want them to treat you.” Janet: “How do I do that?” Never mind, Lois. She’s too dumb to help.

“[Jessica] had wanted Janet to apologize, and she was glad Lois and Janet had found a way to work things out. But she didn’t want her to go through a major personality change!” Um, why not? She’s awful!

September 8, 2015

SVT #38, Lois Strikes Back: If Elizabeth Is Nancy Drew, Then Lois Is Bess

Posted in books tagged , , , at 12:55 pm by Jenn

Yeah, she sure is huge

Yeah, she sure is huge

Summary: Instead of raising money on their own, the PTA wants the kids of Sweet Valley Middle School to hold a bike-a-thon to earn money for a VCR and videotapes. Students will get people to pledge a certain amount of money for every mile they ride out of 30. Whoever makes the most money (which doesn’t necessarily mean finishing the race first, or even finishing at all, depending on the amount/size of pledges) wins a top-of-the-line mountain bike.

Everyone wants to win the bike, especially plus-sized Lois Waller, who wants to start a paper route. Bruce thinks this is ridiculous. How could a fatty-fatty-fat-fat like Lois finish a 30-mile bike ride? Hasn’t anyone seen what she eats? He starts calling her Lois Walrus. Because middle-schoolers are generally awful people, no one stands up for poor Lois. And since Bruce gets his desired result – humiliation on Lois’ part – he just keeps harassing her.

The twins get to work lining up sponsors. Their parents, of course, contribute, and Steven reluctantly pledges a nickel a mile, so that the most he’ll have to give each twin is $1.10. SVT Steven is such a jerk. Lila and Ellen aren’t the least bit interested in the bike-a-thon, and frankly, I’m a little surprised Jessica is. She wants a new bike, and I’m not sure she realizes how much effort she’ll have to put forth to get it.

At school, Bruce lays into Lois again, and this time she gets revenge without even meaning to. He trips over her backpack and spills his lunch all over himself. He tries to blame her, saying she tripped him on purpose, but no one believes him – and the janitor makes him clean up the mess. Awesome. Bruce decides to get even by getting a huge sponsorship for the bike-a-thon. Lois has already signed up 23 sponsors, but not for huge amounts. Bruce gets his parents to pledge $20 a mile.

When Lois, Elizabeth, Amy, and barely-in-this-book Julie find out what Bruce has planned, they get together to figure out how much more Lois needs to have pledged in order to beat him. She’s almost there, and gets the pledges she needs at the retirement home where her mother works. Lois’ mother hadn’t wanted her to bother the residents, so Lois didn’t ask any of them for pledges, but the residents want to help out. This time, Lois keeps her mouth shut about how much she’s going to make.

The Sixers decide to do some special articles about the bike-a-thon, with an insider’s view. Elizabeth will ride with Lois, and Amy will ride with Bruce. They’re pretty excited about the whole thing. Jessica, however, is no longer excited. Lila’s uncle has sent her Johnny Buck’s album before it comes out, and all the cool people are gathering at Lila’s house the day of the bike-a-thon to listen to it together. Jessica has promised her parents that she’ll do the bike-a-thon, since she made a commitment, but she plans to duck out after a few miles.

The bike-a-thon begins, and Jessica rides four miles before quitting. Elizabeth sticks right by Lois, even though Lois is going pretty slowly and Elizabeth would like to go faster. They wind up having a pretty good time, and Lois manages to ride 22 miles before she tires out. Rock on, Lois. Elizabeth goes home and calls Amy, who admits that she lost track of Bruce after eight miles. But Amy herself finished the bike-a-thon, and she reports that at the finish line, everyone who rode all 30 miles got a gift certificate for a free sundae.

At school, Bruce brags about finishing the whole bike-a-thon. But Elizabeth starts to get suspicious. He’s not riding a bike anymore – his old one or the brand-new one he would have won at the bike-a-thon. He also doesn’t know about the sundae certificates everyone got at the finish line. Plus, Jessica reported that he turned up at Lila’s party, which doesn’t seem likely if he rode all 30 miles. He also seemed angry when he made it to Lila’s. Jess thinks Liz is crazy, and they make a bet: If Liz is right that Bruce didn’t finish, Jess has to do her chores for a week.

Elizabeth Nancy Drews things up, and after she and Lois bug Bruce, he admits that he crashed his bike and didn’t finish. The participants all had punch cards and were supposed to get a punch at each mile; Bruce just punched holes himself and lied about finishing. I mean, of course. So Lois is declared the real winner and even gets an assembly in her honor. I’d like to note that people are pretty nice to her in this book, but I don’t think it lasts.

Thoughts: If Elizabeth is such a great person, why isn’t she friends with Lois? Why doesn’t she stand up for her more?

I love that the people who ride the whole 30 miles get ice cream. “You just did a ton of exercise! Celebrate with junk food!”

Elizabeth and Lois are shocked that Bruce punched his own card to cheat. I’m shocked that he was the only one who did it (or at least the only one who got caught).

August 25, 2015

SVT #37, The War Between the Twins: Actually, It’s About Ethics in Journalism

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:18 pm by Jenn

Ugh, stonewashed mom jeans

Ugh, stonewashed mom jeans

Summary: At the end of the last book, Jessica was eager to write an article about the Unicorns for the Sixers. Elizabeth decides to humor her and publish it on the front page. The Unicorns are thrilled they’re going to get some publicity, as if everyone in the school doesn’t already know about them. But at the last minute, the Sixers has to include breaking news about a coach’s injury, and Jessica’s article has to be bumped. Elizabeth isn’t able to tell her ahead of time.

The Unicorns are furious with this development, accusing Elizabeth of deliberately messing with them. Then, like a typical child, Jessica announces that the Unicorns will just start their own paper. I mean, how hard can it be? Janet immediately takes control, though she at least tries to form a democracy before becoming the dictator we know she truly is. (In this case, though, it’s a good idea. Someone needs to make decisions.)

The girls write mostly inane articles, including one about an upcoming school dance they’re in charge of organizing. Lila’s supposed to book a band, since she thinks her uncle can use his connections in the music industry to get one. She writes in the article that a special mystery act will perform. The paper is supposed to come out on Tuesday, a day ahead of the Sixers, and will be eight pages, printed in purple paper.

Almost none of that happens. Ellen writes a horrible article about her new purple sweater. Tamara writes two paragraphs on the Unicorns’ history, when she was supposed to write two pages. Mary has to type everything up. No one other than Jessica is interested in actually getting the paper to press. There are only three pages of “news,” so Jessica adds in Unicorn meeting minutes (who’s taking minutes anyway?), claiming that people are always asking what happens at their meetings.

The girls can’t use the ditto machine at school to print the paper on Tuesday. (Were people still using ditto machines in 1990?) This means they don’t get their paper out before the Sixers. Not that it matters, since the paper Lila bought is too dark for black print. Even if they could read it, no one wants a copy. The Sixers figure they’re safe from any kind of meaningful competition. The Unicorns are reading to fold, but Jess isn’t going to let Elizabeth win. Janet lets her take charge, and the girls work toward a second edition.

Jessica announces that the paper will now be four pages, printed on white paper, and called The Middle School News so as not to alienate non-Unicorns. They’ll also include news about more than just themselves. Lila thinks they should print an interview with Donny Diamond, a rock star who’s the girls’ latest obsession. They don’t actually need to talk to him – they can just publish the answers he would give if they were to actually interview him. If anyone asks, they’ll say that Lila’s uncle introduced them to Donny.

This edition of the paper is a success, even though it now costs 15 cents. Everyone’s excited about the Donny “interview” and starts writing in with questions for him. The Unicorns answer them as only preteens can. (Example: Jealousy is good because it means your boyfriend cares.) One letter asks for photo proof that the Unicorns actually met Donny, since the writer doesn’t think they did. Jessica manages to alter a photo they took with Janet’s brother to make it look like they hung out with Donny. The Unicorns think the letter came from the Sixers, who have started to realize that The Middle School News might be a threat.

Lila’s slowly growing more anxious about the school dance, since she hasn’t heard back from her uncle. She admits to Jessica that she hasn’t been able to line up a special guest. She tries to pawn off the problem to Jess, who’s already swamped trying to turn out the paper. Then things get more complicated with gym teacher Ms. Langberg starts asking questions about the Unicorns’ dealings with Donny. Jess keeps up the charade pretty well, but she knows Ms. Langberg’s suspicions aren’t going to just go away.

In the next round of questions for Donny, the girls get an accusation that their picture with him was faked. The writer asks how long they can keep up their ploy before everything comes out. Jessica is sure that Elizabeth is behind the anonymous letters, but Liz is clueless. She has, however, heard rumors that Donny will be performing at the dance. Thanks to Caroline Pearce (of course), the rumors make it to the high school. Everyone is excited for the dance, thinking they’re going to get a private concert from a huge star.

Ms. Langberg tells Jessica and Lila that even she’s heard the rumors. The girls tell her they’re not true, then come clean about all the things they made up for the paper. Ms. Langberg orders them to make a public apology at the dance. She’ll provide a group for the music – her accordionist cousin, Donald Kaminsky, and his Polka Dots. So not only do the Unicorns have to reveal that they fooled everyone, but they have to listen to polka music.

There’s a huge crowd at the dance, all chanting Donny’s name. Jessica and Lila announce that the interviews in the paper were all fake. Everyone’s mad, accusing the girls of lying to get a big crowd at the dance (though, in their defense, the Unicorns never confirmed that Donny would be there). Donald Kaminsky and the Polka Dots come on stage to face a very angry audience. But it’s all okay – Donald is really Donny Diamond in disguise.

Everyone thinks the Unicorns planned this all along, and that their “confession” was just a joke. Ms. Langberg explains that Donny sent them the anonymous letters to shame them for making money using his name. Jessica and Lila nicely decide to donate the money they made (a whole $45, which isn’t much until you remember that they only charged 15 cents a copy). The Unicorns get their picture taken with Donny for real. Not much of a punishment for lying and fraud, is it?

We end the book with Bruce being a jerk to Lois Waller because she’s heavy. Elizabeth and Amy are there when he challenges Lois to a bike race. But her pedals fall off because Bruce messed with her bike to humiliate her in front of a group of people. Sounds about right. This will lead into the next book.

Thoughts: Lila Fowler has a bedtime? I don’t think so. I also don’t believe she ever walks to school.

“As second-in-command, it was her duty to be loyal.” Jessica’s going to make an A+ trophy wife someday.

“Jessica had suffered enough. Maybe she had even learned a lesson, for once!” Elizabeth, why are you so dumb?

February 4, 2014

SVT #1, Best Friends: Good Twin, Bad Twin

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:20 pm by Jenn

See, when they dress alike, you can't tell which one's the psychotic one

See, when they dress alike, you can’t tell which one’s the psychotic one

Summary: Before Elizabeth and Jessica were stealing each other’s boyfriends and getting involved in gang wars and falling in love in two days while on fabulous vacations, they were in the sixth grade. They were also still dressing alike every day, sharing a room, and doing everything together. But things are about to change…FOREVER. (Cue dramatic music.)

Jessica’s being courted by the Unicorns, Sweet Valley Middle School’s club for the most popular girls. There are only a couple of sixth graders in the club (Lila being one of them), so if Jess gets in, it’s a major deal. Elizabeth is interested in starting a newspaper at school, along with Amy (before she became popular and flirty) and Julie. Neither girl is interested in her twin’s new interests, but they still want to spend time together.

The girls start hanging out with their new friends, realizing how nice it is to spend some time apart. Elizabeth worries that hanging out with Amy and Julie will leave less time for her to be with Jessica, but Jessica’s really just concerned with impressing the Unicorns. They tell her that Elizabeth isn’t going to be asked to join anyway, but Jessica figures that she can get them to change their minds once she’s admitted.

Before Jess is allowed in the club, she has to complete three tasks. First she has to steal a teacher’s lesson plan book and get it into her bag by the end of class. She completes that with some help from her classmates. Then she has to get three girls to use the boys’ bathroom. That goes more easily than she expected. Finally, Jessica has to come to school looking completely different from Liz. She also can’t tell Liz what she’s doing.

So Jessica waits until Elizabeth is dressed, then puts on something different. She also curls her hair and puts on some makeup. Liz is hurt that her twin doesn’t want to dress alike anymore. But after a day of looking different at school, Elizabeth learns that people like it better when they don’t look exactly the same. People have been wanting to get to know them, but aren’t sure which twin is which. Elizabeth decides to make a couple of changes herself, fixing her hair a way Jess doesn’t like.

Then Liz learns something else (from resident gossip Caroline Pearce): that the Unicorns want Jessica. Liz worries that this will mean even less time for her and Jess to spend together. Alice points out that Elizabeth wouldn’t even like being in the club, so she shouldn’t see it as a loss. Alice is like, “You know you guys are two separate people, right? And that you don’t have to be attached at the hip?” Apparently this is a new concept for Elizabeth.

But Jessica wants Elizabeth to be a Unicorn, so she asks the club if Liz can join. President and HBIC Janet Howell makes it easy on Elizabeth by assigning her one pledge task. She just has to get Lois Waller – the resident fat girl in a time before Robin Wilson – to go to the Dairi Burger with her for an ice cream sundae, then replace her whipped cream with shaving cream. (Side note: Middle school girls can be huge bitcas.) Of course, Liz isn’t going to do that, but Jessica tells the Unicorns that she will.

This leads to what is supposedly the girls’ very first twin switch. Jessica pretends to be Elizabeth, invites Lois to the Dairi Burger, and does the task. The Unicorns approve, so Liz is in. Jessica tells her that they just changed their minds and didn’t need her to do a pledge task after all. Liz goes to a Unicorn meeting and hates it, of course. Ellen Riteman (the village idiot of the Unicorns – think Karen from Mean Girls) mentions the shaving cream to Liz, who figures out what happened. She’s super-upset that Jessica pulled a switch, and that Lois thinks she’s a jerk.

Elizabeth tells Lois what really happened, then forces Jessica to apologize by blackmailing her. If Jess doesn’t apologize, Liz will tell the Unicorns that she, not Liz, did the task. Then Elizabeth helps Lois get revenge by pulling the shaving cream trick on Lila while Amy takes pictures.

In other storylines: Jessica’s obsessed with ballet. The twins start taking dance classes, and Jess is clearly the best of the group, but the teacher, Madame André, hates her for trying to stand out on the first day.

The twins have been sharing a room, but Alice decides they should have their own space. If I were Liz, having to live with a slob like Jessica, I’d be hugely grateful.

A girl named Roberta was kicked out of the Unicorns for staying out late with a high school boy who supposedly trashed the club. It turns out she was dating Steven, but she was the one trashing the Unicorns, not him. And she wasn’t kicked out for dating him – she was kicked out because Janet wants Steven. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he deserves better.

Thoughts: Janet is Lila’s cousin, but she disappears after SVT and is never mentioned again. My guess is she harassed the wrong person and wound up dead in a ditch.

A man with the last name Nydick became a middle school teacher. Why would he set himself up for torture like that?

“Now I have two sophisticated daughters.” Yeah, one of them wore a yellow sweat suit all day, Ned, so I wouldn’t go with “sophisticated.”

Apparently there’s a middle schooler whose bra size is 36E. I don’t think that’s possible for someone that age.

If my parents made me share a room for 12 years when there was a guest room in the house the whole time, I’d be ticked.

Why did they only get revenge on Lila? Janet’s the ringleader. She’s the one to bring down. You’re supposed to stab Caesar!