July 5, 2016

SVU #59, Elizabeth in Love: Be Yourself, Even If You’re Chloe

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 4:41 pm by Jenn

I used to have a hat like that. I can't believe I'm admitting it

I used to have a hat like that. I can’t believe I’m admitting it

Summary: We’re one book from the end of the series and Sam and Elizabeth have finally worked things out. Elizabeth: “Yay, we’re dating!” Sam: “…I guess?” It’s like that episode of Scrubs where, after wanting Elliot back for months, J.D. finally gets together with her and then realizes he doesn’t want to be with her. Sam’s been pining after Elizabeth for a dozen books but now decides he doesn’t want a relationship. Commitment is bad! He’ll have to be nice to her now! She might make him (ugh) talk about his feelings and feel vulnerable.

Liz, however, is super-happy and even wants to make herself look prettier than usual by wearing makeup and stuff. Sam thinks she’s dressing and acting like Jessica. They go out for breakfast and talk about how he never told her about his family and their money. She seems to be over it. Really, she’s just thrilled that Sam is finally acting like a normal human being.

Sam manages to tear himself away from the love of his life, to her dismay. She goes to talk to Nina, who thinks Sam should be working overtime to make Liz happy after making her miserable all year. Thanks for your input, Nina! Elizabeth decides to make a fancy dinner for Sam, which includes spending almost $80 on stuff that a typical college student wouldn’t like. She also considers finally losing her virginity.

Sam, for his part, spends almost $40 on flowers for his new girlfriend. He’s not appropriately grateful to her for cooking him such a nice dinner, thinking they’re moving too fast. Dude, you’ve known each other almost a year and have just now finally stopped fighting. All you’ve done so far is eat a meal together. Chill. Sam protests all the fancy stuff, which hurts Liz’s feelings a little, since she worked so hard on something she herself enjoys. I get it – they’re different people! He likes casual stuff and she likes a little glamour! Men are from Mars and women are from Venus!

Elizabeth and Sam talk about his family again. He tells her how his older brother was a great guy until their parents molded him into someone more like them. Sam cut off his family so they can’t change him, too. But he’s still rich, since his grandfather left him money. Poor little rich boy. He says that Elizabeth has changed him, which Liz interprets as a good thing. The conversation turns to sex, and Sam says he’s willing to wait until Liz is ready. I’m sure it’s not just because it means they get to move slowly and he won’t freak out.

Guys, this is the last book Chloe appears in! Let’s celebrate! First, let’s mock her because she thinks she’s a loser for not having a boyfriend by the end of her freshman year. She also really wants cool friends, which…she’s in a sorority. Isn’t she surrounded by supposedly cool people? Really, Chloe is just socially awkward and can’t carry on a normal conversation for more than ten seconds, so no one wants to hang out with her. If she would stop trying so hard, she’d be fine. Alternately, if she would stop thinking Val and Martin are nerds, she’d actually enjoy their friendship more.

Anyway, Chloe has glommed on to Nina, so she asks for some advice on attracting guys. Chloe thinks she needs to dress sexier so guys will want her. Nina actually says some smart stuff throughout the book, like how Chloe should only dress sexy if she wants to. Chloe doesn’t listen – she goes on a big shopping spree and starts wearing clothes that, trust me, college students aren’t wearing around campus, especially not when they should be studying for finals.

Finally, Chloe gets a guy’s attention, but the fact that he immediately seems like a jerk makes me think this won’t turn out the way Chloe wants. She goes out with the guy, James, but he clearly couldn’t care less about her as a person. She’s clueless enough to think he would still make a good date to an upcoming semiformal (which, fortunately, we don’t have to witness). They go to James’ apartment and make out a little, but James wants more. Chloe objects, and of course, James ignores her. Things are about to get really illegal when Chloe manages to make her escape.

She runs straight to Nina, who again says some really smart things: Chloe did nothing wrong, even by wearing sexy clothes, and they need to report James for almost assaulting her. Chloe says no, since he didn’t actually do anything to her. I wish Nina had pressed her a little here, since James shouldn’t get a pass just because his pants didn’t come off, and saying nothing might leave James free to go after another girl. But I guess that’s not the point the writer wants to make here.

Nina encourages Chloe to stop trying so hard and be herself. But Nina, Chloe’s horrible! If she’s herself, she’ll be even less popular than she already is! Chloe actually listens, though – she starts wearing the clothes she actually likes and stops trying to attract guys everywhere she goes. Then she goes to a party and immediately meets a guy. Of course! Also, Nina goes to a study group instead of the party and almost meets a guy. So at least we leave Nina in a good place.

Todd has finally realized that the dream life he wanted isn’t so dreamy after all. He wants a summer internship, but no one wants to hire a guy who dropped out of college. Also, he thinks he has some genius business plan that all sorts of companies will want to snap up, because he’s 19 and has no idea how the world works. He can’t believe that CEOs aren’t falling all over themselves to give him a corner office.

Todd starts having dreams about turning into a loser because he dropped out of school and spends the rest of his life working at Frankie’s. He’s not getting the independence he thought he would, and quitting school has closed him off to a lot of opportunities. So his solution is to go back to school. Well, that was easy. He quickly enrolls for the summer so he can try to get back on track by the fall. Yay, I guess.

Neil has been struggling to stay sane in the duplex, what with Elizabeth and Sam fighting all the time up until now. He decides to move out, and makes arrangements without telling anyone, even Jessica. She finds out when one of Neil’s new roommates calls to tell him the room in her house isn’t available anymore. Jess is furious, but Neil has already changed his mind about moving, since Sam and Liz have calmed down and things are better. Basically, this is a non-plot that just serves to give Neil something to do in his last appearance.

At least he has more to do than Jessica, who spends the whole book mad that Elizabeth wants to be with Sam after he’s been such a jerk to her. The sisters fight a lot, and Jess mopes over how they’re kind of growing apart. She spends way more time thinking about this than she does about her finals. Not that I’m surprised. Then Jess decides to try to get a summer internship at an art gallery, and she rents some movies, and she announces a big party at the duplex without telling her roommates. And then nothing else happens.

Thoughts: Nina has red pony-hair boots. Wh – I – what?

“Being with her was like listening to a song and needing to go out and buy the album right then.” I actually like that line, but the fact that it’s about Elizabeth makes me gag.

Apparently Elizabeth has a crush on Rupert Everett and Neil has one on Matt Dillon. It would make more sense the other way around.

June 7, 2016

SVU #57, Who Knew?: When You Live With Elizabeth, You’re No Longer Entitled to Privacy

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:29 pm by Jenn

Obviously the person designing the covers had just given up by this point

Obviously the person designing the covers had just given up by this point

Summary: Sam has successfully stayed away from the duplex for a few days, still not wanting to face Elizabeth after their kiss. Elizabeth is desperate to talk to him, even falling asleep on his bed while waiting for him to come home. You’d think she’d take the hint, but no. Sam runs out of people to crash with and starts driving around town, looking for a hotel. There’s a big football game, so a ton of people are in town, and the only hotel with a vacancy is the super-fancy Sweet Valley Resort Hotel. Sam would rather not stay there, though…because his family owns it. We’ve known for a while that Sam is rich (but won’t spend his family’s money), and now we know how they got that way.

Out of options, Sam checks into the hotel, landing the owner’s suite. Due to some sort of tax issue, the hotel is actually in his name, so he’s technically the owner. And yet he lives in a duplex and shares a bathroom with three other people. Sam, what’s wrong with you? This is like Todd wanting to pay his own rent even though he has a bank account full of money from his parents. Boys, you are in college! College students are poor! Take advantage of…you know, not being poor!

Sam invites his friend Anna over, she of the plan to make Elizabeth jealous by making her think Sam had a one-night stand. Anna tells Sam that he’s clearly in love with Elizabeth and needs to let her know. Meanwhile, Liz is still obsessed with the fact that Sam’s been MIA, and is so distracted that she can’t have a normal phone conversation with Nina about her best friend’s problems.

Elizabeth goes looking for Sam, because SHE IS A STALKER, and happens to drive past his car outside the hotel. She goes in to ask if he’s there and learns that he spent the night in the owner’s suite because he’s…well, the owner. She goes up to see him, finds out that Anna spent the night, and flips out. Sam thinks his problems are solved – Elizabeth won’t want him anymore, so he doesn’t have to worry about things like expressing his feelings or becoming vulnerable while actually spending time with the woman he’s in love with. Anna thinks he’s nuts. Anna’s right. I would like to swap Elizabeth out for her, please, and finish out this series in peace. (Only three books left!)

So now Elizabeth is all mopey over Sam a) not telling anyone his family’s rich and b) hooking up with Anna again. She tries to vent to Nina, but that doesn’t work out, since Nina’s mad about Elizabeth not listening to her problems earlier. I really wish that Nina had enough of a backbone to cut ties with Liz and seek out friends who are there for her when she needs them and help her when she needs advice. Elizabeth doesn’t even care that much that she’s blowing off her supposed best friend.

Sam finally returns to the duplex, having decided he needs to be upfront with everyone, especially Elizabeth. Neil’s ticked that Sam lied to everyone, which…whatever, it’s not like he killed someone and covered it up. I mean, I think the whole thing’s dumb, but Neil seems like the kind of person who would be pretty forgiving in this kind of situation. Anyway, Sam tries to talk to Elizabeth, but after all those days of wishing he’d come home, she now wishes they’d never met.

Sam makes up with Anna by buying her flowers, then tries the same tactic with Liz. Liz happens to be off with Nina, making up with her instead of getting tossed in a Dumpster like she deserves. When Elizabeth gets home, she verbally tosses Sam in a Dumpster, making him change his mind about trying to make things work between them. I honestly don’t see what either of them sees in the other, and I couldn’t care less about this relationship.

The problems Nina’s been trying to discuss with Elizabeth have to do with Josh, the guy she’s recently started dating. She thinks he’s eager to have sex, and that her desire to take things slowly is turning him off. He’s really hot and cold with her, and eventually she decides to just go ahead and sleep with him, I guess so she doesn’t lose him. The next morning, Nina realizes she made a mistake, but she still likes Josh and wants to date him. She’s convinced herself that this is a solid relationship, or will at least become a solid relationship over time.

Clearly, Josh doesn’t agree. A friend of his, Dan, asks Nina out, confusing her since she thought everyone knew that she and Josh were a couple. Dan tells her that Josh okayed a date between them, claiming that they have an open relationship and are free to date other people. I’ve never felt sorrier for poor, naïve Nina. Nina talks things out with Elizabeth once they’re friends again, and Liz helps her see that she’s not at fault for the destruction of the relationship. I only wish we’d gotten a scene where Nina told Josh off, preferably in public, in front of someone he was trying to pick up.

The Jessica/Neil/possibly-gay-Jason triangle is still in play, with Jess and Neil both still insisting that he or she is the object of Jason’s affection. Neil’s upset with Jessica because he saw Jason first, but Jess claims she’s just trying to prove that Jason likes girls and doesn’t want to date Neil. Okay, but there are better ways of going about this. Both of them continue hanging out with Jason, and it’s not easy to tell which way Jason leans.

Jessica ultimately decides that she’s going to take herself out of the equation and let Neil have Jason, if that’s what Jason wants. This may be the most mature Jessica has ever done/ever will do. I’m actually shocked that she was worried enough about her friendship with Neil to let him win. But I’m also not shocked that things don’t turn out the way she’d planned: When she goes to see Jason to “break up” with him (keep in mind that they’re not officially dating), they end up kissing. And you’re probably not surprised to hear that Neil sees them.

For some friends, this could spell the end of the friendship, but Jessica’s still on her maturity kick, and Neil is already more of a grown-up than most people in this series, so they make up without much further drama. They’ve decided separately to bow out of the love triangle, valuing their friendship more than a guy neither is even sure likes one of them.

Jason asks them to meet him, and the three finally talk about the weird situation. Jason reveals that he’s struggling with his sexuality – he thinks he’s gay, and was basically seeing Jess to figure out if he likes girls at all. He’s realized that he does like guys, or at least he likes Neil, but because he’s just now figured that out about himself, he’s not ready to be in a relationship. So all around, these three handled things pretty well. Too bad they didn’t start getting smart until after things had blown up. Fortunately, Neil gets over it pretty quickly, realizing that he still has Jessica to pal around with. Poor guy. Make some new friends! There’s more to life than being a supporting character in the never-ending drama that is the Wakefield twins’ lives!

Thoughts: Josh’s version of sweet talk: “Oh, you smell so nice. Like a field of wildflowers! It’s making me dizzy. Your hand is so smooth and small. You feel so good to me.” Ugh.

“Nina had an important role to play, but everyone knew that Elizabeth was the star.” Hey, Nina figured out what Enid never did!

“‘So, you’re not attracted to me,'” Jessica stated bluntly, and immediately hated herself for trying to make this whole conversation about her.” Hold up. Are we still talking about Jessica Wakefield?

May 10, 2016

SVU #56, Dropping Out: Todd Is Sooooooo Grown Up Now

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:28 pm by Jenn

Why is there hay? There's no hay in this book!

Why is there hay? There’s no hay in this book!

Summary: Todd is living the glamorous life in Sweet Valley, doing such grown-up things as working part-time at a bar and paying rent. He thinks that since he’s an adult, he should stop taking his parents’ money and pay his own way. I guarantee he’ll regret that when he’s 25 and living on ramen. Note to Todd: You’re 19. It’s okay to let your parents pay for stuff while you get your degree. It’s even recommended. But no, Todd wants to be a big boy and navigate his own way in the world. Too bad he sucks at it and can barely make it to class on time. Even when he does make it to class, his grades aren’t very good. And on top of that, his car needs repairs.

After making a date with a classmate named Jodi, Todd gets a ride home from Elizabeth. He confides that he’s thinking of taking the rest of the semester off, and possibly the next one, so he can just work at the bar and enjoy being a grown-up. Elizabeth tells him he’s crazy. They get into a fight and he ends up walking home because he doesn’t want to have to listen to her anymore. I feel you, Todd.

Things start looking up for our boy when his boss offers him a promotion – he’ll become an assistant manager and make $10.50 an hour. Todd’s eyes are briefly replaced with dollar signs. He thinks $10.50 an hour is a huge amount. Doesn’t he drive a BMW? $10.50 should be nothing to him. Todd wants the promotion, but the drawback is that it’s a full-time position. He’ll have to bite the bullet and drop out for the semester. After some consideration, mostly about all the stuff he’ll be able to buy with his new riches, Todd accepts the job. He immediately realizes that a couple of his co-workers aren’t happy for him, but he doesn’t know why.

Todd drops his classes but doesn’t bother telling his parents (which is ridiculous, because THEY PAID HIS TUITION). When they find out, they’re furious. His father orders him to reenroll at SVU, and when Todd doesn’t, they close his bank account and take back his car. So Todd is finally doing what he’s been wanting – paying his own way. It’s just bad timing, since Todd will have to take the bus to meet Jodi for their date. But hey, he’s a rich man now, so he might as well wine and dine her.

After dinner, Todd takes Jodi by his bar to show her where he works. She hates it. She also hates that he’s no longer taking classes and is just a bartender. When she agreed to a date, she thought she was dating a student. Todd’s bummed, but when he runs into Sam later, and Sam talks up how awesome it is being single, Todd decides he’s better off.

Soon, Todd discovers that his new work responsibilities come with a lot of…well, responsibilities. He doesn’t get to just do the fun stuff anymore. He has to be in charge and make sure things are running smoothly. This is especially difficult when some of his co-workers are still cold to him. He finally learns that it’s because bartender named Cathy was hoping to be made assistant manager. She thinks she can handle the new tasks, and she would have liked the raise in pay. I was waiting for her to mention that Todd doesn’t need a higher-paying job since he has rich parents.

Todd suggests that he and Cathy split the job and work different shifts as assistant manager. They’ll work together one night a week to make sure they’re on the same page. It’s a good idea on paper, but in practice, it doesn’t go well. Cathy ends up ditching the promotion and going back to being just a bartender. And though Todd is getting a whole $10.50 an hour now, he realizes that it’s expensive to be a grown-up, especially without his nest egg to fall back on. He manages to get a little money selling back his textbooks, but it’s going to be a struggle.

He runs into Lila and Alex, who think he’s cool for dropping out, but clearly they don’t get what it’s like to have to work for a living and support yourself and do mature things like pay for utilities and car repairs. They just think he’s cool because he doesn’t have to worry about midterms. Fortunately, Todd’s attitude has started to change, as he realizes he should worry about getting a new car instead of the motorcycle he’s been wanting. Unfortunately, he’s still a friendless college dropout working in a bar, making his parents mad.

In SVU plots involving people who actually still attend SVU, Elizabeth is trying to deal with her break-up. She runs into Finn, who’s a jerk to her, and ends up fleeing a coffee shop in tears. Sam sees her and lays into Finn. He buys Liz a journal and a Bugs Bunny pencil to cheer her up, and she realizes he’s not the total clod she thought he was. When Finn accuses Liz of sending Sam after him, she stands up to him, pretty much calling him a slut and saying he sleeps around because he feels inadequate. Go, Liz!

To thank him for his presents, Elizabeth gets Sam a baseball cap (apparently he collects them). At home, they’re awkward around each other, and she misses an opportunity to give him the hat. When she goes to his room later, she hears him talking to a girl and chickens out. Sam has been wrestling with his feelings for Liz, but he doesn’t want to date her because he knows he’ll end up letting her down.

Elizabeth tries to stalk Sam in his room, I guess to see if he has another girl over again. At the end of another awkward chat, she goes to kiss him on the cheek but accidentally kisses his lips instead. Suddenly Liz is in love with Sam and can’t stop thinking about him. She leaves his present in his room, but never hears back from him about it. That’s because Sam starts avoiding the duplex, thinking he won’t be able to control himself around Liz. Buddy, I don’t think she wants you to control yourself. They spend the rest of the book apart.

After all of her late-night partying, Nina’s realized that her grades are suffering. But she can’t resist spending time with her new guy Xavier. She wants to know if they’re a couple, but he tells her he doesn’t like labels. Pssst, Nina: That means he’s just fooling around with you until he finds someone hotter. Get out now. She tries to have an actual conversation with him, but he clearly isn’t interested. He just wants to make out and flirt.

Nina isn’t the only one Xavier’s making out with, and when she goes to visit him one day, she finds him with another girl. Later, he goes to see her and tries to get her to come out with him. Nina just closes the door in his face. Unfortunately, her backbone is only there temporarily, as she decides to go see him again and give him the chance to explain himself and apologize. Instead, she finds him with yet another girl.

Nina finally realizes that Xavier is the wrong guy for her. She’s much more suited to a guy named Josh, who she meets in the library. She decides it’s time to stop partying so much, get her grades back up, and go back to her old self. Nina and Josh go on a date and start getting closer, though she’s worried that he’ll turn out to be just like Xavier. I’d say she has a good chance of ending up happy, though, since Josh seems to be genuinely interested in her, and not just in making out.

There’s a teeny side plot with Jessica and Neil that doesn’t really go anywhere, and mostly happens off-screen, so to speak. They both met a guy named Jason, and Neil asked him to study together. He thinks it’s a date, but Jessica thinks Jason is straight and actually wants to study. In fact, she thinks Jason doesn’t know Neil is gay, and was really flirting with her. Neil points out that a) everyone at SVU knows he’s gay, thanks to his ultimately unsuccessful run for president, and b) Jason got Neil’s phone number, not Jessica’s, so he must not like her.

Neil hits it off with Jason, though he’s still not sure if Jason wants to be more than friends. Jessica tries to settle things by asking Jason out, wanting to prove he’s straight. Neil gets angry, since, straight or not, Jessica shouldn’t be moving in on a guy her best friend likes. Fair enough. Elizabeth suggests that the two of them actually ask Jason his preferences, but they don’t want to listen to her logic. Neil’s upset that Jessica has betrayed him. I’m upset that this plot is almost exactly like an episode of Will and Grace.

Thoughts: Elizabeth says “dammit.” I AM SCANDALIZED.

Xavier: “We’re communicating on a metaphysical plane where no words are truly needed.” Translating: “We’re just going to band until I get tired of you.” Seriously, Nina, get out of there now.

“If it were physically possible for a person’s head to burst free from his neck, Sam would have been decapitated by a wave of disgust.” Beautiful.

Neil, re: Jessica: “How, in the name of all that is good and holy, have you lived with that girl for nineteen years?” Elizabeth: “I have an incredibly high tolerance for shrieks and pouting.” Hee.

March 29, 2016

SVU Thriller, Killer Party: And Then There Was One

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

Jessica, what is UP with your hair?

Jessica, what is UP with your hair?

Summary: Lila’s throwing an exclusive party on New Year’s Eve, having only invited a few dozen people. Making the cut: the twins, Denise, Alex, Chloe, Todd, Neil, Sam, and Nina, who I didn’t think Lila had ever even met. She’s barely in the book anyway. And I’m not sure how Chloe made the cut, but whatever. As Lila’s boyfriend, Bruce is also invited, of course, but he hasn’t yet made it back from his semester in France. An anonymous girl who wasn’t invited calls Lila to complain, warning that Lila will be sorry for not including her on the guest list.

Bruce calls Lila from Europe to tell her that his father has their private jet, and since Bruce would never in a million years fly commercial, he’s stuck until the jet is free again. He can’t just hire a private plane? Lila is furious that Bruce would rather sit around and wait than come home to her. She tells him they’re over. Jessica, of all people, tries to cheer Lila up by reminding her that she doesn’t need a guy to make her feel fulfilled. They’re going to have an awesome time at the party with or without Bruce. Chloe meets some grungy guys at the mall and invites them to the party. Chloe, NO. Lila tells the guys there’s no party, and for some reason doesn’t disinvite Chloe on the spot.

The party starts, but Lila’s sad because of what happened with Bruce. She distracts herself by dancing with Sam. Todd learns of the breakup and tries to convince Lila to give Bruce a second chance. Why does he even care? Chloe’s new friends from the mall crash the party, but Lila and Neil chase them off, threatening to call the cops. The guys warn that Lila will be sorry. After they leave, someone watches Lila from the bushes.

The partiers go back to partying, but suddenly the lights go out. The Fowlers’ house is apparently right near some woods, and far enough from the rest of civilization for it to be pitch black with the electricity out. Chloe’s on the deck and has to feel her way back into the house. As she’s getting there, someone grabs her and takes her into the woods. She figures the guys from the mall have come back to get revenge.

Inside the house, Todd heads off to check out the circuits. Lila gets another call from the girl who called before, making Lila think this is what the girl was planning when she warned that Lila would be sorry. Lila, Jessica, Elizabeth, Denise, and Alex light some candles, slowly realizing that a bunch of the partygoers have vanished. In fact, they’re being dragged through the woods by people they can’t see.

There are only a dozen or so people left at the party, and they can’t figure out how everyone else disappeared without anyone noticing. No one heard cars driving away, and it’s pretty unlikely that 25 just randomly decided to leave all at once without anyone seeing them go. They don’t think the guys from the mall could have kidnapped everyone, since some of the guests were big football players and would have fought back.

Lila gets two Theta pledges to go look for Todd, who never came back from checking the circuits. But since this is basically a horror movie, the pledges don’t come back either. The person watching from the bushes has himself a good laugh when he realizes how spooked Lila is by all the disappearances. The 13 remaining guests lock themselves in a room together, realizing that there are only girls left.

Alex and Denise talk Lila and the twins out of calling the police, because why do something logical? They don’t think the police will believe them without any evidence, like, if 13 girls tell the police that 27 other people disappeared, they’ll have to do something. I’ll just say that it turns out to be a good thing that the police never get involved, because someone would be in a ton of trouble. Lila suspects that her caller is responsible, and worries that the girl’s warnings about something happening at midnight mean more danger.

A few of the girls head back to the ballroom to get cigarettes, and another little group heads off to the bathroom. Only Lila, the twins, Alex, and Denise stay behind. Alex and Denise follow the other group the ballroom, since Denise hurt her ankle and needs ice. Jessica follows a minute later, wanting her sweater. This leaves Elizabeth and Lila alone, not wanting to accompany Jess in case someone comes back to the room they’re hiding in.

Jess checks to make sure the deck doors are locked, but while she’s there, someone comes inside and grabs her. Jess realizes that this person must have keys to the house. When she doesn’t return to Lila and Elizabeth, they go looking for her, then decide to call the police, finally. But now the phones don’t work, and Lila’s cell phone is missing. When she finds it, she gets another call from the girl, reminding her that something big is coming at midnight. Lila’s so spooked that she faints. Yeah, I bet.

Elizabeth hears someone in the house and ditches Lila to hide. Sorry, Lila! The person in the house knows Liz is there and is specifically looking for her. She gets grabbed, leaving only Lila in the house, like the only survivor in an Agatha Christie mystery. When Lila regains consciousness, she gets another call from the girl – but this time it’s a confession. The caller is Marnie, a girl from down the street who Lila has babysat for. She was mad about not getting to come to a glamorous party with college students, so she pranked Lila as revenge. Her mom caught her and made her come clean. Since there’s no way a 12-year-old could have orchestrated everything that happened at the party, the calls were a red herring.

The kidnapper comes back into the house, looking for the last woman standing. One of the rooms in the house has a secret room behind a bookshelf (of course), so Lila hides in there. I’m surprised the Fowlers don’t have a panic room, but the movie didn’t come out for a couple more years, so maybe they got one then. The kidnapper stumbles around in the dark for a whole (weird, since he had a flashlight earlier), then figures out where Lila is. He grabs her, blindfolds her, and takes her through the woods to the Patmans’ house, which is apparently right next door (since when?).

Lila realizes that the other partygoers are probably all at the mansion. The Patmans are out of town, so what better place to stash 40 people? She wonders if this is all a scheme to get revenge on the Fowlers and Patmans. But the truth is much, much more annoying. When Lila’s blindfold comes off, the partygoers all yell, “Surprise!” Then she realizes that her kidnapper is Bruce.

The whole twisted story is that Bruce wanted revenge on Lila for being mean to him on the phone. SO HE KIDNAPPED ALL HER FRIENDS AND MADE HER THINK SHE WAS GOING TO BE MURDERED. A totally fair response, right? Bruce enlisted some crew guys to help him “kidnap” the guests, many of whom were in on the game. And most of those people only agreed to participate because they were told that the twins were in on it and approved of the “joke.”

Instead of a New Year’s kiss, Lila gives Bruce a punch in the face. He deserves that and much more. The twins promise that they weren’t in on the plan (neither were Denise, Alex, or Todd). Sam and Neil were given the story that the twins were in on it, so they went along. Bruce tries to make up with Lila, who spends about 15 pages hating him before forgiving him. Lila, no! He’s messed up! That is not normal behavior! Let’s hope she’s just stringing him along while she comes up with a proportionate revenge plan of her own.

P.S. Chloe wasn’t part of the mass “kidnapping” – she was actually kidnapped by the guys from the mall. They took her to a treehouse and then ditched her. If she were anyone else, I would feel bad for her, but she’s really annoying in this book, so I just have to laugh.

Thoughts: Jessica mentions that all of her and Lila’s friends are “guyless and happy,” so I guess Denise and Winston broke up.

Jess thinks the partygoers’ disappearances are like something out of The X-Files, and that Elizabeth is like Scully. Okay, but Jessica is no Mulder.

“Eyewitnesses to the kidnapping – none! So that rules out any proof that the guess were kidnapped.” So Elizabeth’s logic is if no one saw a crime take place, the crime didn’t happen? That might be the dumbest thing she’s ever said.

Lila: “I’m not budging from my decision not to budge, and that’s final!” Hee.

“If there was one thing Jessica knew she could do, it was use her smarts.” Me: “…”

March 15, 2016

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

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

The love child of Wentworth Miller and Brian Austin Green

The love child of Wentworth Miller and Brian Austin Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 16, 2016

SVU #51, Living Together: Sophomore Slump

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

This is pretty cute, actually

This is pretty cute, actually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 19, 2016

SVU #50, Summer of Love: Crazy Ex-Boyfriend

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

Whichever twin that is, I like her bathing suit

Whichever twin that is, I like her bathing suit

Summary: We’re at the final book of this endless road-trip trilogy. Jessica’s back with her team, and everyone’s about to depart Tennessee for Georgia. Jessica and Neil aren’t speaking, Sam and Elizabeth are still going back and forth between speaking and not speaking, and Tom and Todd still hate each other even though they have something in common. They both want Sam to stay away from Elizabeth, though for different reasons: Todd because Sam is a jerk, and Tom because he wants Liz back.

They’re both a little happy when Sam, taking part in a tobacco-spitting contest, spits on Elizabeth. Then Liz gets too close to the side of a mountain and almost falls to her death. That would have made this book a lot more enjoyable. Sam saves her, because Sam always saves Elizabeth, no matter what. I hope the girl never gets a paper cut, because she’s going to have someone hovering over her with a giant Band-Aid. They kiss, so now Elizabeth is back on Team Sam Is Awesome.

Their RV runs out of gas (which I find very surprising – wouldn’t Liz be overly attentive to things like that?), so Sam and Liz walk to get more in the middle of the night. Sam is suddenly a sensitive poetry lover. Whatever.

The teams arrive in Savannah, Georgia, where they’ll be doing a Civil War reenactment with paint guns. That actually sounds kind of fun. The term “reenactment” isn’t quite accurate, though; they just shoot each other while wearing Civil War-era clothes. Still, it’s something college students would love. Tom wants to take Elizabeth prisoner and impress her with his soldier skills. Shut up, Tom. The teams get to practice shooting, and Neil shoots Jessica in the head, which is hilarious. Neil is now my favorite character.

In the reenactment, Elizabeth turns kind of aggressive, eager to do a good job. I like this side of her. However, her energy gets the better of her and she trips and falls. Sam thinks she’s been shot, so he rushes over to save her. From what, I’m not sure. Tom notices. Then Elizabeth gets shot for real and eliminated from the game. It would have been better if Tom had shot Sam. Jessica, meanwhile, goes after Alison, which makes total sense. Then she shoots Neil, which doesn’t. He’s on your team, Jess!

After the challenge, Sam and Josh (whose only purpose in this trilogy is to be even more obnoxious and sexist than Sam, thereby making him look more appealing) talk about Angelina, the girl Sam’s planning to meet up with in Florida after the competition is over. Todd overhears them, so now he hates Sam even more for being a womanizing skeeze. Tom’s like, “See? SEE?”

The teams have some downtime in their next city, Palm Beach, Florida, so Elizabeth, Charlie, and Ruby do some bonding at an amateur racetrack. Nothing important happens, but I thought it was nice that they had some fun together while the rest of the challenge participants were busy being angsty. Jessica goes shopping, but she doesn’t want Neil to get anything cooler than her, so she buys everything he looks at. Never mind that she doesn’t have any money, or that the stuff he buys is ugly. I imagine he’s trolling her, but it’s never clarified. So Jess winds up with stuff like purple boots she can’t afford.

The teams take prop planes to Key West, which only serves to put them in a slightly dangerous situation so Sam and Elizabeth can cling to each other. Jessica and Neil do, too, but there’s no chance of them having a romantic relationship, so it’s not as important, I guess. In Key West, the teams learn that their final challenge is to ride bikes up to a cliff overlooking the ocean and then jump off. Excuse me? Does that sound really unsafe to anyone else? Also, I would imagine that Charlie would need to disclose her pregnancy to whoever’s in charge of this show, because if anything went wrong, she could sue.

Tom’s ready to get Elizabeth away from Sam for good, so he wants to work with Todd on a plan. I think at this point, Todd’s willing to go along so Tom will leave him alone. At the same time, Sam has decided to get with Angelina, so he’s done with Liz. The only people who are really happy are Neil and Jessica, who work things out. He thought she was being cold to him because she’s homophobic, but he realizes that she’s just upset that he rejected her, since no guy has ever turned her down before. Jessica confirms this, expressing confusion over why she would hate him for being gay.

Sam finally realizes that Josh is a jerk and tells him off. Of course, Sam’s the one who’s been trying to make out with Elizabeth for eight weeks while supposedly having a girlfriend, so he’s not much better. Sam decides he’s done with Angelina. When a bunch of the racers go snorkeling, he tries to catch up to Liz, but Tom and Todd block him like they’re playing basketball and Elizabeth is Lebron James. (Does that work? I don’t do sports metaphors.) At this point, if I were Sam, I’d give up on Liz, because who wants to date a girl with insane ex-boyfriends? Elizabeth finds out what they’re up to and is very unhappy about it.

Scott (Charlie’s boyfriend) has caught up with the challengers by this point, and will be hanging out with them until the finish line. He doesn’t think Charlie should go snorkeling, because he doesn’t know if it’s safe for a pregnant woman to go swimming. Scott, you make me sad. He seems a little more concerned with this than he does with Charlie planning to jump off a cliff. Whatever, no one cares about this D-plot.

On cliff-jumping day, everything goes pretty much fine. Jessica gets a flat tire, so she rides on Neil’s bike, which apparently is a no-no. Her team technically wins the challenge, but since she broke a rule, they get disqualified. In the end, neither twin’s team wins the competition. They get some money, though, so that’s nice.

At the show’s after-party, Tom randomly realizes that it’s time for him to move on from Elizabeth. Good luck, buddy. Todd has already moved on and is looking forward to seeing Dana again. Neil tells Jessica that he might not have the money to go back to Stanford, so he’s considering transferring to SVU. Jessica’s thrilled. Neil has gained so much courage from the competition that he comes out on TV. Awwww. P.S. Sam and Elizabeth make out, but I really don’t care.

Thoughts: “It’s like one of those things you read about that happens to strangers but never to anyone you know.” Poor Ruby has never met a pregnant person.

Elizabeth offers to buy Ruby and Charlie drinks, by which I assume she means lemonade, because no way would she purchase alcohol (and she’s not 21 anyway).

“You’re just really chapped because Elizabeth is such a cold fish.” What decade is Josh from?

Jessica is exactly the kind of girl to wind up with a gay best friend, so I’m only surprised it took so long for her to find one.

January 5, 2016

SVU #49, Stranded: Jessica Has Left the Building

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:12 pm by Jenn

I love this cover. She's so mad!

I love this cover. She’s so mad, but she’s still modeling!

Summary: Jessica has accidentally been left behind in a bar in South Dakota while the rest of her Intense Coast-to-Coast Whatever Whatever teammates head to their next challenge. Fortunately, Elvis comes to Jessica’s rescue. Well, an Elvis impersonator, which isn’t as interesting. Jess has no idea where the next competition is, and mad at her team for ditching her anyway, so she decides to blow off the rest of the challenge and go to Memphis with Elvis.

When Jessica’s teammates realize that they left her in South Dakota, Tom decides that they need to go back and get her – not because it’s the right thing to do, but because Elizabeth would be mad if they didn’t. They run into a camera crew, which for some reason only films the competition parts of the challenge. They’re missing so much juicy stuff by not being on the RVs with the teams. Anyway, Tom and Todd pretend they’re just going back to get Jessica’s purse, so no one finds out they’re down one teammate.

Somehow, the team finds their missing player, but Jessica takes off with Elvis again. The team goes after her, then changes their mind and proceeds to the next challenge in St. Joseph, Missouri. Neil’s worried that Jessica’s mad enough to out him to the rest of the team. I will say that I don’t see anyone on that team caring that Neil’s gay. In Missouri, Jessica’s team pretends she’s asleep in the RV so Elizabeth won’t find out they lost her. Liz quickly figures it out, though, since Todd and Tom can’t keep their lies straight.

The challenge in St. Joseph involves horses and jumping. Elizabeth almost falls off her horse, but Sam rescues her, ticking off Tom. Elizabeth and Sam’s love/hate relationship is back to love, since he’s being nice in the wake of her near-death experience. Their team wins the challenge, and Jessica’s team is disqualified because they don’t have all their players. Jessica watches the broadcast from a diner and decides she wants to go back to the competition. But first she lets Elvis take her to Graceland, where they almost have sex. Or maybe they actually do. It’s not clear. Meanwhile, her team’s RV is really tense because Tom and Todd are fighting again. Neil gets them to shut up by playing a Carpenters song. Yeah, I don’t know. It was funny, though.

The next competition is in Chicago – teams have to sell hot dogs at a Cubs/Dodgers game. Since all the players go to college in California and root for the Dodgers, Sam smartly gets some Cubs gear to try to win over the Cubs fans. Todd is furious at him for basically selling out. I love it. Sam gets Elizabeth to kiss some teen boys on the cheek so they’ll buy hot dogs. Tom gets jealous again, gets himself on a camera, declares his affection for Liz, and makes a stupid buns pun before dropping trou and wiggling around in his boxers. Elizabeth is justifiably horrified.

Jessica rejoins her team, coming close to making up with Neil. But she gets offended when they’re asked if they’re becoming a couple and Neil emphatically denies it. Jess, don’t take it personally – he’s not rejecting you because of who you are. He’d just prefer it if you were a guy. Elsewhere, Tom and Todd finally have something in common: They can’t stand Sam. Elizabeth can’t stand him either right now; they’re back to the hate part of the love/hate relationship.

Strangely, the teams next head to Nashville, so this is Jessica’s second trip to Tennessee in just a few days. Their next challenge is singing karaoke in front of a big audience. Each team has to do at least two numbers, solos or otherwise. Elizabeth’s team ought to have an advantage, since Ruby is an aspiring singer. It turns out that Pam, whose speaking voice is often described as the most annoying sound anyone’s ever heard, has a beautiful singing voice.

Neil turns “Jolene” into “Jessie-lene” to try to win Jessica over, which makes two public displays of humiliation for the twins at two back-to-back events. Jess was supposed to sing for her team, but she backs out after Neil embarrasses her. Elvis to the rescue again! He convinces Jessica to duet with him on “Islands in the Stream.” It ends up not mattering, though; Jessica’s performance doesn’t count, since she sang with someone who’s not in the competition. Elizabeth’s team wins.

Elizabeth and Sam make up, but it lasts for, like, two minutes. Tom and Todd start fighting over their mutual ex again, then decide to go after Sam together. They find him and Elizabeth making out. Tom tells Liz he only came on the challenge to win her back, but she’s not moved. Jessica tells her teammates that she forgives them for leaving her in South Dakota, which they think is ridiculous. She’s the one who’s been a jerk to them, so she’s the one who needs to apologize. Sam starts acting like a sexist jerk again, so Elizabeth tells him to leave her alone forever, which is going to be fun while they’re sharing an RV. So basically, no one’s happy by the end of the book. Well, maybe Elvis.

In news no one cares about, Charlie’s been sick the whole book and finally finds out she’s pregnant. I can barely remember who Charlie is, so this makes no difference to me.

Thoughts: Whoever owned this book before me left an Old Navy Hip to Zip sweepstakes card inside, with an offer for $5 off a tech vest. If only it hadn’t expired in 1999. (In case you’ve blocked tech vests from your memory, like I did, here they are being modeled by some other ’90s mainstays.)

Selling hot dogs: SO INTENSE!

Again, the planning of the teams’ routes is awful. They were given a huge amount of time to drive from Missouri to Chicago. Cut that in half and add another task later.

Jessica’s team is DQ’d from two tasks for not having enough players, but they participate anyway. Huh? What’s the point?

December 22, 2015

SVU #48, No Rules: $5,000 Is Not Nearly Enough to Put Up With This Insanity

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

Wear a seatbelt, moron

Wear a seatbelt, moron

Summary: A TV network called ICSN is hosting a cross-country competition for college students. The prize: $5,000 scholarships. The method of travel: RVs. The stunts that must be performed along the way: INTENSE. The competitions will be filmed, but the rest of the trip won’t be. So it’s like Road Rules without the interesting parts. The twins, Todd, and Danny (who only makes a brief appearance in the book) are all chosen to compete. Tom is passed over and named an alternate, but he pays off a guy who made it so Tom can take his place. He wants to spend the trip with Elizabeth in hopes of getting back together with her.

Everyone gathers at the starting point in San Francisco; the trip will end four weeks later in Florida. Dana’s upset that Todd will be away for a whole month. Todd thinks she’s really just nervous that he and Elizabeth will get back together. She tries to convince him to drop out of the trip, but fortunately, he refuses. And fortunately, we’re done with Dana for the book.

The competitors check in, and Richie Valentine, the Intense Coast-to-Coast Road Trip Challenge’s very own Ryan Seacrest, gets things started. The students, who are from three different schools, are randomly sorted into teams, then sent to do introductory interviews on camera. Todd meets Sam Burgess and isn’t impressed. Jessica meets Neil Martin and is VERY impressed.

Jess and Neil are on different teams, but Neil’s with Elizabeth, so Jess switches with Liz. Tom finds out that he and Elizabeth are on different teams, so he finds someone to switch with. But he doesn’t realize that Liz and Jess have already switched. He also doesn’t realize that Todd is on his team, which means, Jessica, Tom, and Todd are going to be stuck in an RV together for the next four weeks. Their other teammates are Neil and a super-annoying couple named Pam and Rob.

The teams’ first instructions send them to Vegas. Well, this trip is off to a good start. I mean, except for the fact that Tom and Todd keep fighting, and Pam and Rob are practically attached at the hip. At least Neil seems like a nice guy, and much easier to live with than anyone in Elizabeth’s RV. She’s with bad-boy Sam, aspiring singer Ruby, meek Charlie (a girl), Swedish exchange student Uli, and unremarkable Josh.

Liz is relieved not to be stuck with both Tom and Todd, but she soon realizes that Sam is just as bad. He’s sexist and full of himself. Ruby plays an original song for her teammates, and Elizabeth has to pretend she likes it, even though Ruby doesn’t seem to have the talent to become a professional. She doesn’t know that Ruby doesn’t think very highly of her either – she thinks Elizabeth is a shallow snob. Ruby fully admits that she’s only in the competition to get exposure.

Sam tries to sleep, thinking about how Elizabeth is too perfect, which makes her annoying. He’s surprised to hear her talking to Charlie about sex. Speaking of Charlie, she seems to have a secret – she’s seen a guy on a motorcycle following their RV, and she’s wondering if she should tell Liz about it. Also, she has a boyfriend but doesn’t want anyone to know. I think you all are smart enough to do the math on this.

Everyone gets to Vegas without incident. Elizabeth sees Sam in just his boxers, and he’s surprised that she doesn’t get all flustered. She takes a nap instead of going to breakfast, since she drove all night, and Sam tucks her in. This whole thing is dumb. Clearly they’re going to end up together! Just get there already! Anyway, the teams learn that their first challenge is to get as many winnings cups as they can from casinos. (Wow. Intense!) The competitors quickly realize that many of them aren’t 21 yet, which means teams with over-21 players have an advantage.

Sam has a fake ID, but it turns out not to be necessary. He and Josh tell a guard that they’re with a TV show investigating underage gambling. They pretend the ICSN cameras are with this show, and that other people in the casinos have hidden cameras. Security should keep an eye out for any college-age kids trying to get in, even if they have IDs saying they’re 21. Word spreads down the strip, and Tom and Todd are unable to get into any casinos, even though Tom’s 21.

Ruby just wants to hang out and have fun instead of worry about the competition. She and Charlie split up, and Ruby goes to a bunch of shows. Elizabeth and Uli team up and get a dozen or so cups. Neil pretends a random guy is someone he knows, so the guy will do him and Jess a favor and get them some cups. Todd decides to call it a day, even without any cups, but Tom doesn’t want to quit because then Elizabeth will think he’s a loser. (Insert joke here about how that message has already been received.) But then the guys spot a Dumpster full of cups and realize that, even without gambling, they hit the jackpot.

Meanwhile, Sam plays blackjack, and Elizabeth yells at him when he gets some money from an ATM to keep gambling. Chill, Liz. Don’t tell people how they can or can’t spend their own money. He’s clearly rich anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Also, you’re supposed to be getting cups. Jessica’s team does very well with that task, but Elizabeth’s team almost completely fails. Liz misplaces her, and Sam’s own winnings cup is the only one they’re able to turn in at the end of the task. Good job, guys!

Next the teams head to Idaho. IDAHO IS SO INTENSE! Pam and Rob start fighting, and I don’t know how the rest of their teammates manage to not shove one or both of them out of the moving RV. Hatred of Pam and Rob is basically the only thing Todd and Tom can agree on. But then they start talking about Dana and Elizabeth, and get all competitive, so maybe they’re the ones who should be jettisoned on the highway.

Over in Liz’s RV, Sam has made Charlie cry by complaining about how she can’t drive stick. Elizabeth gives her a driving lesson, which endears her to Ruby, so the three girls are now a lot friendlier with each other. Then Sam picks a fight with Elizabeth and makes her cry, which just makes him even more sexist about frail girls and their stupid emotions. But he still cares about her, because he’s falling in luuuuuuuuuv with her (of course).

In Idaho, the challenge for the day is whitewater rafting. Charlie freaks out, even though she can swim, and everyone will be wearing protective gear, and there’s a guide with them. I get being nervous about the task, but she really overreacts. At least she’s going to participate, though, unlike Pam, who wants to sit out because she can’t swim well. Since Rob is basically her conjoined twin, he’ll be sitting out, too. He starts going on and on about delicate women, so Todd turns it around, getting Pam angry enough to decide to raft.

Everyone goes in the water. Ruby falls out. Elizabeth saves her. Sam realizes he would be totally devastated if anything bad happened to her. JUST HOOK UP ALREADY. Tom sees Sam being protective of Liz and gets jealous, because of course he does. Once he’s sure Liz is okay, Sam yells at her for jumping in to get Ruby, since it left the team with only four competitors, and they were disqualified. Elizabeth doesn’t understand why he’s more concerned with the competition than the fact that Ruby could have died.

In Jess’ RV, Pam suggests a game of truth or dare. Who plays truth or dare past the age of 13? Neil’s terrified that Pam has found out his secret and is using the game to reveal it to everyone. No one wants to play, though, so Neil’s safe for now. The teams are next sent to Wall, South Dakota, where Rob thinks they’ll be doing something involving jackalope. Shhh, Rob. Tom and Todd get competitive again, basically fighting over who was more worried about Elizabeth during the rafting challenge. Shhh, Tom and Todd. Shhh, everyone.

Pam again suggests truth or dare, and this time everyone agrees to play. Jessica smartly makes a rule that no one is allowed to ask Tom or Todd anything about Elizabeth, so they won’t start fighting again. (Jess is actually pretty likable in this book.) Jess gets the first question, being asked if she would ever consider kissing one of Elizabeth’s boyfriends. Todd starts coughing because he knows it’s already happened. Hee.

Jessica dares Neil to let her braid his hair and paint his nails. Weak, Jess. Then Pam dares Neil to kiss Jessica for a full minute. Jess is super-excited because she keeps falling more and more in luuuuuuuv with Neil. She thinks something’s a little off, though. Todd can’t keep quiet like I told him to, so he asks Tom how his kiss with Jessica was when she was pretending to be Elizabeth. He gives it a 7 out of 10. Neil says his kiss with Jessica was better than that.

Charlie gets some practice driving the RV, but Sam complains about it enough to make Charlie decide she wants to stop. Elizabeth yells at him, and he retreats to the bathroom, make Liz worry that she really upset him. When he comes out, he says he was just using the bathroom for its intended purpose. Yeah, right, he was probably crying. That night, as Liz is driving, the RV blows a tire. Sam helps her pull over safely, then complains about women sucking at driving. As the others fix the tire, Sam goes off alone to cry, admitting to Elizabeth that he was scared for her. See, it’s okay that he’s mean to her, because it means he likes her! As soon as they’re back with the others, he acts like a jerk again.

Jessica’s team makes it to Wall, and everyone enjoys some nice, cold, free water. There’s a lot of mentions of how it’s free. I’m not sure why that’s important. I guess they want to make everyone drink a lot of it so the next challenge is even more fun. Liz’s team is almost too late for the next task, because of the tire, but they make it just in time for a water-drinking contest. Thanks to being so hot and thirsty from their tire adventure, Liz’s team wins. Everyone who’d already arrived is too full from already drinking plenty of water.

The next stop is in Missouri, but no one makes it there in this book. Instead, they all find themselves in Wonderlust, South Dakota, and decide to spend the night drinking and singing karaoke at a bar. Tom spends the night drinking and being mad at Elizabeth for introducing him to her team as an “old friend” instead of her ex. Sam’s also mad at Liz for having the nerve to dance with a guy who isn’t him. He cuts in and forces her to dance with him, then kisses her. Liz likes it. Liz exhausts me.

Jess can’t believe that she’s not the twin making out with someone at a karaoke bar, so she tries to remedy that by flirting with Neil. He’s confused, though – didn’t she know that he’s gay? Here’s where Neil makes no sense. He was desperate to hide his sexuality back when they were playing truth or dare, but when Jessica shows interest in him, he acts like she should have known he doesn’t like girls. Jess is shocked that her gaydar never went off, so she runs out.

While Ruby wows everyone with her musical talent (I guess she’s better on stage than in the back of an RV), Elizabeth goes to the RV for some time alone to think about how awesome her kiss with Sam was. She sees Charlie heading out somewhere on her own and thinks she’s going off with a guy. Charlie admits that the guy is her boyfriend, Scott. Her parents sent her on the trip to get her away from Scott, but he’s been following their RV on his motorcycle and meeting her at every stop. Whatever.

Liz overhears Sam talking to Josh about a hot girl who’s a good kisser. Naturally, she thinks he’s talking about her. But he’s not: He has a girlfriend back home, and she’ll be waiting for him in Florida. Yikes. Neil goes to his team’s RV to try to talk to Jessica, but he thinks she’s asleep under a duvet. He’s wrong – Jessica’s somewhere in Wonderlust, on her own. As everyone gathers back in their RVs, she goes back to the now-empty bar and falls asleep. When she wakes up, the RVs are leaving without her. Oops!

Thoughts: If they’re driving from California to Florida, why are they going north to Idaho and South Dakota? Plus, they’re already hading to Missouri be the end of the book, which is the first in a trilogy. That’s already more than halfway there.

Dear all SV series ghostwriters: You are barred from naming any more characters Sam or Scott.

Cuzin Chunky’s Fried Chicken is a horrible name for a restaurant.