May 14, 2011

SVH #89, Elizabeth Betrayed: Truth Be Told

Posted in books tagged , , , at 11:19 pm by Jenn

Wow, Olivia looks HORRIBLE

Summary: Penny is going to D.C. for a couple of weeks, and she elects Elizabeth to edit the Oracle while she’s gone. This makes Olivia jealous, though she soon distracts herself with the literary magazine she runs. Her boyfriend, Rod (where did he come from? He wasn’t the guy she was with in Olivia’s Story), is obsessed with Elizabeth and won’t stop talking about her. He also keeps telling Olivia that he doesn’t like Elizabeth as anything more than a friend, and for some reason Olivia believes him.

Elizabeth has to put in a ton of work on the Oracle because a bunch of the other writers are out with the flu. She ends up letting Rod write a feature article, even though he’s an artist, not a writer, and no one thinks it’s a good idea. Jessica is also helpful, writing a story about whether telling the truth is really the best idea (something she’s been thinking about lately after getting in trouble with Lila for not being completely honest about how her hair looks with purple highlights). Jessica and Rod’s stories are both hits, though Rod’s seems familiar to Elizabeth. Jessica decides that despite how great her article was, she’s only going to tell the truth from now on.

Thanks to all that work on the Oracle, Elizabeth falls behind on an English assignment about comparing a work of art to a poem. Rod offers to help her out, since he’s such an art genius, but his idea of help is taking Elizabeth to the Dairi Burger and being all flirty. Olivia spots them and gets mad, but later Elizabeth calms her down. Rod winds up being a big help with the assignment, and though Elizabeth’s final essay isn’t her best work and she didn’t have time to really interpret the topic in her own words, she turns it in. Except it turns out that the ideas are all from a famous art critic, and Mr. Collins knows it. He gives Elizabeth an F on the paper and suspends her from the Oracle. She won’t tell him that Rod gave her the ideas, so he gets off scot-free.

Olivia’s life starts looking up, since Mr. Collins asks her to fill in for Penny until she gets back, and she and Rod are really clicking. After the local paper publishes one of her poems, which Elizabeth urged her to submit, Olivia realizes that Elizabeth is awesome but doesn’t know how to resolve everything. Jessica, still on her honesty kick (and ticking people off left and right), helps Olivia realize what’s really been going on with Rod and his feelings for Elizabeth. Olivia rereads Rod’s feature article and realizes that he plagiarized a bunch of people. Penny and Olivia show Mr. Collins the article and tell him the whole Elizabeth thing is Rod’s fault. Rod gets dumped and criticized, while everything works out for Elizabeth.

As for Jessica, Lila comes up with a plan to let everyone get revenge on her: a day where everyone tells Jessica the complete, brutal truth just as she’s been doing. Though Jessica appears to learn her lesson, she can’t argue with her honest policy when Elizabeth thanks her for telling Olivia the truth about the Rod stuff. Oh, and Jessica’s honesty has broken up John Pfeifer and his girlfriend, opening the door for Lila to date John. I’m sure Lila will be completely grateful about that.

Thoughts: Umm, as if Lila would dye her hair purple.

Jessica considers buying pink overalls. Even more as if.

Ned buys a glass sculpture of meerkats. WHAT IS WRONG WITH EVERYONE IN THIS BOOK?

Jessica: “We had a little argument in history today.” Amy: “You argued about history? How can you argue about history? It’s been over for years.” Hee.

“A dagger of unhappiness stabbed Elizabeth’s heart.” Melodramatic much, ghostwriter?

Rod thinks silver star earrings are unusual. Shut up, Rod.

Mr. Collins never read the issue of the Oracle that came out while he was out sick. What a crappy advisor.

Everyone makes a big deal about how weird it is that Rod wrote a great article when he’s not a good English student. But Jessica isn’t a good student either, and she’s written two articles everyone loved. Okay, I have to stop looking for logic in SVH books.

April 30, 2011

SVH #87, My Best Friend’s Boyfriend: Girls With Low Self-Esteem, Part 2

Posted in books tagged , at 1:04 pm by Jenn

Whatever, Ginny's totally cuter than Denise

Summary: A girl named Ginny Belasca starts working for the Project Youth teen hotline, after having been encouraged to by her best friend, Denise Hadley. (Thanks to Shannon’s Sweet Valley for that reference to the earlier book, because I never would have remembered it.) Ginny has incredibly low self-esteem, thinks she’s ugly, doesn’t know what to say around people, and is basically just a pathetic character. She thinks Denise is the hottest thing ever and wishes she could be like her. She gets a boost, though, when a guy named Mike calls the hotline to get advice on his new step-family, and Ginny feels like she’s really helped him.

Mike keeps calling the hotline to talk to Ginny, and eventually he asks her out. Even though she’s not supposed to go out with anyone who calls the hotline, she agrees to meet him. But that pesky low self-esteem gets in the way and Ginny freaks out. She asks Denise to meet Mike, pretending to be her, since there’s no way Mike would like Ginny, fugly as she is. Denise agrees, for some reason. She decides she’ll tell Mike the truth when they meet, but he’s a hottie (all evidence on the cover to the contrary), and she wants to get to know him. Also, if you think this sounds like the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs, you’re not the only person who thinks so. Ben Chaplin, however, IS hot.

Anyway, Denise (who Mike knows as Ginny) takes Ginny along on one of her dates with Mike, telling him she’s Denise. Mike hits it off with the fake Denise, but the real Denise thinks they’re going to live happily ever after. Yeah, the real Denise isn’t that bright. She also breaks up with her boyfriend for Mike. Mike calls the hotline again and talks to Ginny, though she disguises her voice and pretends to be yet another person. He admits that when he met “Ginny,” he didn’t like her as much as he’d expected, and now wants to be with someone else. Ginny doesn’t realize he means her, because why would anyone want to go out with a troll? She tells Mike to be honest with “Ginny,” so he decides he’ll break up with her.

Ginny doesn’t tell Denise that Mike’s about to dump her, so when he does it, Denise is pretty surprised. She’s also relieved, since it took a lot of effort for her to pretend to be Ginny. Then Elizabeth accidentally ruins the Ginny/Denise lie, and Denise winds up coming clean to Mike. Instead of being mad, Mike wants to meet the real Ginny. He calls the hotline again, tells Ginny he’s going to ask out “Ginny’s” friend, and then approaches her in person to let her know he really likes her. Good luck dating a girl who will probably constantly ask, “Does this dress make me look ugly?”

The B-plot is actually a teensy bit cool, even though it involves Elizabeth. Amy tells Jessica that a girl called the hotline because her teacher was sexually harassing her, and when Jessica tells Elizabeth, Liz decides to write an article for the Oracle about signs of sexual harassment and what girls can do if they experience it. Everyone on the newspaper staff is in favor of it, but Mr. Collins isn’t sure it’s a good idea, what with having been accused of the very thing the article is about. (Everyone keeps grouping sexual harassment and sexual assault together, and while there’s some crossover, they’re still different things. Just go with it. Also, the snarky cynic in me wonders if Mr. Collins doesn’t want his secret moves revealed.)

Elizabeth starts researching the article, but Mr. Cooper shuts her down, saying the topic is appropriate and might lead to a mass panic about sexual harassment existing at SVH. Jessica tells Liz to write the story anyway, so Elizabeth does, adding in some stuff about censorship for good measure. Penny wants to print the article even without Mr. Cooper’s okay, and Mr. Collins gives his permission. Mr. Cooper reads the galleys and tells Penny and Elizabeth there’s no way they can print the article in the Oracle. Jessica, bless her heart, notices the loophole: He never said she couldn’t publish it at all. She encourages Elizabeth to print her own paper so everyone can read the article.

Penny and Elizabeth print the article and distribute it to everyone at the school. Mr. Cooper summons them to his office, demanding an explanation and blaming Mr. Collins. The girls tell him they thought it was important enough to break the rules. Mr. Cooper backs down, admitting that the girls are mature and responsible, and have the right to speak their minds. Penny also gets him to agree to let her have final say on what can and can’t be printed in the Oracle. Though I thought the point of a faculty supervisor was to make those decisions. Maybe Mr. Cooper trusts Penny more than Mr. Collins.

Thoughts: Wait, the Morrows helped fund the teen hotline? The same teen hotline Amy works for? Awkward…

Also, how does Elizabeth not work there? It was made for people like her.

The irony of John Pfeifer supporting the sexual-harassment article is not lost on me.

Mr. Collins’ reaction to Elizabeth saying she wants to write about sexual harassment: “Are you saying this is happening at Sweet Valley High?” My translation: “Why? What have you heard?”

Denise complains about dating a guy who’s immature because he’s younger. Chill out, Demi, he’s only a year younger.

Penny: “If one of you was the victim of sexual harassment, would you know what to do about it?” Lila: “A good kick.” LYLAS, Lila.

January 23, 2011

SVH #75, Amy’s True Love: He’s Here, He’s Queer, No One Cares

Posted in books tagged , , , at 6:20 pm by Jenn

WASP alert!

Summary: Amy wants some attention, so she decides she should get a boyfriend. Specifically, she decides she should get Tom McKay, who’s recently broken up with Jean West. Jessica and Lila think she’s terribly uncouth for wanting to get with Tom just after he’s split from a fellow cheerleader, so they start ignoring her, wanting to show her what it’s like not to be at the center of attention. Because they’re the arbiters of which behaviors are appropriate and which aren’t.

Amy’s also struggling in sociology class, so her teacher suggests that she volunteer at a youth clinic. While she’s there, she gets to know Barry Rork, a friend of Tom’s, who develops a crush on her. Amy basically starts stalking Tom, who doesn’t want to have anything to do with her, while Barry kind of stalks Amy. (Yep, it’s one of those stalkerish love triangles.) Amy is completely unable to take a hint, and when Tom keeps trying to get away from her, she thinks she just needs to try harder.

Enid’s cousin Jake, a tennis player, is in town, and he hits it off with Tom. While visiting, Jake comes out to Enid, who kind of handles the news poorly, more because she’s surprised than because she doesn’t like that he’s gay. Jake also comes out to Tom, who starts to wonder if he might be gay, too. He goes to Mr. Collins for advice (is there no guidance counselor at SVH?), and Mr. Collins advises him to talk to someone at the youth clinic. The same day Tom goes there, Elizabeth is there to interview the director for the Oracle, and she sees Tom looking at a pamphlet about homosexuality and teens. Elizabeth pretty much doesn’t care, and neither does Barry when Tom tells him he might be gay.

Amy tells Barry she’s going to ask Tom out, but Barry (having been told by Tom that he’s really sick of Amy bugging him) breaks it to her that Tom won’t want to go. Amy asks Tom out anyway, and is embarrassed when he rejects her. Later, he sends her a nice apology note, and Amy learns that Barry stood up for her with that jerk Kirk Anderson, who was being…well, a jerk, so Barry must like her. Amy’s kind of been fighting feelings for him because she doesn’t think he’s cool enough, but I guess since Jessica thinks he’s okay, she does, too. And then Lila and Jessica lift their Amy ban, so everything’s good.

Thoughts: I kind of felt sorry for Amy in this book. But she mostly brings all her grief on herself, so it’s hard to keep up the sympathy for long.

Amy wonders why Tom and Jean broke up, and Jessica says, “I don’t know. It isn’t any of my business.” Aaaaaaaand Hell just froze over.

Amy is so wrong for a job counseling troubled teens that even she knows it.

“Barry was a nice guy, really sweet and sincere. What could he possibly like about Amy Sutton?” And this is from Jessica. The girl’s best friends don’t even like her!

November 26, 2010

SVH #67, The Parent Plot: I Guess “The Parent Trap” Would Be Too Easy

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 12:44 pm by Jenn

Try some eye makeup, Liz. It won't kill you

Summary: Ned and Alice are still separated after Who’s to Blame? and Trouble at Home. Elizabeth wants to get them back together, but Jessica thinks divorce is awesome, apparently, and wants them to start seeing other people. (Jessica’s complete okay-ness with her parents’ possible split is never really addressed, but it kind of worries me. Mostly it just reiterates what a lot of people have said about her being a sociopath and not caring about anyone but herself.) Elizabeth keeps coming up with dumb, middle-school ways to get her parents to talk or be in the same room, thinking that’s all it’ll take for them to realize they want to get back together.

Jessica first wants to set Ned up with Amanda, a lawyer working on his mayoral campaign (yes, that’s still going on), but that goes down the drain when she finds out Amanda’s engaged. Then she gets Alice to come in for a parent-teacher conference with Mr. Collins, which turns into a dinner/movie date, but it gets awkward when Ned takes the twins to dinner at the same restaurant as the date. Jessica’s final possible match-up for Alice is Ramon, another campaign helper, but he likes his cats too much to listen to what she says about Alice.

While all this is going on, Maria Santelli (whose father’s scandalous exit from the campaign paved the way for Ned to enter it) is suspicious about James Knapp, the guy who worked with Hank Patman to get Ned into the race. She, Elizabeth, and Knapp’s nephew Terry uncover a real-estate-development scheme Knapp is working on, and learn that when Mr. Santelli wouldn’t cooperate with Knapp, Knapp deposited $10,000 into his bank account to make it look like he was accepting kickbacks. And yes, this is all because Knapp wants to build a development and boardwalk on Sweet Valley’s shoreline. Apparently real estate in Sweet Valley is a millionaire’s dream.

Elizabeth, Maria, and Terry formulate a plan to break into Knapp’s office to get evidence, and though it works, when Elizabeth shares the news with Ned, he points out that they can’t really use the evidence because of the way it was obtained. They wind up having to tell the police about an anonymous source finding the evidence. Ned kind of falls apart upon learning that he can’t trust Knapp, and that he’s being used as a pawn, so Elizabeth sends him home to Alice so they can discuss the situation. Nothing happens out of that, but after Ned gives a speech that both exposes Knapp and clears Mr. Santelli’s name, apparently the senior Wakefields decide all is good and reunite. Also, Mr. Santelli is elected mayor, as if we care.

Thoughts: You can tell the position of mayor of Sweet Valley is really important because Ned gives a speech at the mall.

Ramon is a liaison to Sweet Valley’s Hispanic community. As far as I know, that community only consists of him, so he must have a pretty easy job.

Ned gets a slow clap. Awesome.

December 31, 2009

SVH Super Edition #1, Perfect Summer: “She Felt About as Low as a Munchkin on a Submarine”

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:20 am by Jenn

No one is actually this happy in the book

Summary: Elizabeth, Jessica, Lila, Todd, Roger, Olivia, Bruce, Annie, Mr. Collins, Ms. Dalton, and a couple of extras named Barry Cooper and Charlie Markus spend a month biking up the California coast and manufacturing drama. A lot of boring stuff happens:

Elizabeth thinks that Todd is falling for a girl named Courtney who met up with the group in Hollywood and has been sent on the trip by her father so she’ll stay away from her boyfriend and his presumably fast-moving crowd. She gets jealous over pretty much nothing. Everyone thinks Elizabeth is too hard on Courtney since they think Courtney’s father is a neglectful alcoholic, but after battling a forest fire accidentally started by Courtney, Elizabeth discovers the truth, reveals it to everyone, and shows everyone Courtney’s true colors. Of course, she and Todd get back together, because they’re soul mates, or something.

Jessica falls for the improbably named Robbie October, who is your stereotypical bad boy. He hates authority and plays by his own rules. And then he screams like a girl when he comes in contact with a bear.

Lila is mad because Ms. Dalton is dating her father again, and when she finds out from some kids from another school that Ms. Dalton isn’t who she claims to be, she uses it to get what she wants.

Roger and Bruce are apparently at odds because they’re still not comfortable being relatives, but there’s so little of that storyline that it’s barely there.

Annie and Ricky have broken up, even though they were find in Runaway, and she’s now interested in Charlie. However, she’s worried that her past (she’s a loose girl, don’tcha know) will stand in their way. It doesn’t.

Ms. Dalton is revealed to really be Beth Curtis, and she fled her last home after her Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-like husband hit her and then committed suicide. Lila’s father apparently knows about her past, but it’s unclear if he’s holding it over her head.

Mr. Collins is totally still in love with Ms. Dalton, and they seem to be back together by the end of the book.

Thoughts: You’d think that in 250 pages, 100 more pages than the regular books in the series, something interesting would happen. You’d be wrong.

I just can’t see Lila and Jessica willingly going on a four-week-long bike trip that requires camping out. I’m surprised Lila doesn’t bring a servant along with her.

The 12 cyclists stay at Courtney’s father’s mansion – but they have to sleep in tents. Huh?

Also, Jessica and Lila hate Courtney because she calls them goody-goodies. But there are so many other reasons to hate her, girls!

I love how Sweet Valley is supposed to be some magical place: “Annie told her all about the town of Sweet Valley, and Courtney appeared to be properly captivated.” So…not captivated at all, you’re saying?

Jessica and Robbie are threatened by a bear, and Roger’s suggestion is that they call the police. What does he expect the cops to do, throw donuts for the bear to run after?

I think the ghostwriter has a crush on Mr. Collins. She keeps calling him handsome.

The Munchkin quote I used in the title is possibly the greatest thing I’ve read all year. Or at least in this series. It’ll be hard to top that one.

November 19, 2009

SVH #11, Too Good to Be True: The Tell-Tale Lavaliere

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

Jessica's face transplant was a success, but her new personality didn't take

Summary: Jessica goes to New York while Ned’s friend’s daughter Suzanne comes to Sweet Valley for two weeks. Suzanne snows everyone into thinking she’s the sweetest, most wonderful person in the world, so of course, she’s not. She even steals Elizabeth’s gold lavaliere! The horror! For some reason Suzanne sets her sights on Mr. Collins, everyone’s favorite teacher/unnecessary party chaperon, and when he rejects her, she tells Elizabeth that he tried to rape her. (That pretty much says all you need to know about Suzanne.)

Since you’re guilty until proven innocent in Sweet Valley, everyone turns on Mr. Collins. But then Elizabeth finds her missing lavaliere in Suzanne’s belongings and realized Suzanne stole it, which of course means that she also lied about Mr. Collins. Then Winston spills punch on Suzanne and the truth comes out. I swear it happened in that order.

In the B plot, Jessica tries to steal Suzanne’s boyfriend in New York. Ironically, he does try to rape her. And…that’s about it. Oh, and Steven’s girlfriend Tricia keeps breaking dates, so Jessica thinks she’s cheating on him.

Thoughts: Suzanne’s scheming and lying make Jessica look like an amateur. Even after she finds out that Elizabeth’s on to her, she tries to make everyone think Elizabeth’s crazy because she hit her head – that she’s acting like someone else the same way she did in Dear Sister. Nice thinking, crazy girl.

Though Jessica gets in some scheming of her own. Elizabeth actually wins the coin toss to decide which twin will go to New York, but Jessica convinces her to let her go instead by telling her that if Elizabeth leaves town, Lila will steal Todd. What a wonderful sister. Also, Jessica continues to prove that by buying herself a necklace and giving Elizabeth a bunch of free perfume samples.

The essence of Jessica can be summed up nicely in this quote: “Enthroned before her was the dream boy of a lifetime. Jessica didn’t care if he was Suzanne’s boyfriend or not. Why should she be loyal to a girl she’d never even met?” It’s a good thing Jessica and Suzanne never actually meet, because the two of them combined would be a super-powerful team of evil.

Just to show how dated this book is, Jessica fantasizes about meeting Mick Jagger at an “impossibly chic Manhattan disco.”

October 30, 2009

SVH #6, Dangerous Love: What Do You Expect From a Guy Named Crunch?

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:19 pm by Jenn

Dangerous

Hellooooo, Todd's arms

Summary: Todd is obsessed with the motorcycle he bought in All Night Long, but Elizabeth can’t ride it – her parents have forbidden her, Jessica, and Steven from riding motorcycles after their cousin died in a motorcycle crash. So Todd rides everywhere on his motorcycle anyway, giving rides to other girls, while Elizabeth rides in cars and gets jealous. Todd eventually decides that he’d rather have Elizabeth than the bike, so he sells it to an alcoholic SVH drop-out named Crunch McAllister. Elizabeth decides that since the bike is about to be out of the picture, it’s now okay to ride it (even without a helmet), so she lets Todd give her a ride to a party. In a “twist” worthy of any ’90s afterschool special, they get in an accident – with Crunch. Elizabeth ends up in a coma. To be continued!

The B plot (if you can call it that) involves Enid’s 16th birthday party and Jessica wanting to go out with Enid’s cousin Brian.

Thoughts: For once, it’s Elizabeth who makes the bad decision and Jessica who feels responsible. Jessica and Brian were supposed to give Elizabeth a ride, and Jessica feels that if they had, Elizabeth wouldn’t have gotten on Todd’s motorcycle. She also doesn’t worry about how Elizabeth’s accident will affect her, which I would consider huge growth rather than a normal human response. I guess that’s known as character development.

Speaking of Jessica, in the week since the last book, she’s already hooked up with a new guy, who she promptly dumps for Brian. So maybe she’s not growing after all.

I would like to state for the record that Crunch drives a purple van. I guess a guy nicknamed Crunch is allowed to drive whatever he wants.

Does anyone else find Mr. Collins a little creepy? He seems a little too involved in his students’ lives. Enid’s mom asks him to chaperone her party (what kind of birthday party for teens needs chaperones?), and he stays at the hospital with the Wakefields because Elizabeth is “special” to him. What kind of “special,” Mr. Collins? What kind of special?

Has anyone ever solved the mystery of why the restaurant/hot SVH hangout is called the Dairi Burger, not the Dairy Burger? Was it hipper to have an I instead of an Y there in the ’80s? Because now it’s apparently hipper the other way around. Also, why would a burger joint serve a hot clam special? What exactly is a hot clam special, anyway? Why do I have so many questions that can’t possibly be answered?

I finally came across a snark-worthy outfit in this book – in fact, two. First Elizabeth suggests that Jessica wear a green polka-dot dress with puff sleeves. Classy. Jessica ends up wearing a black and white satin jumpsuit with spaghetti straps. I can’t wrap my mind around what that would possibly look like, but I’m sure some current C-list celebrity would own five of them.