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.

December 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2015

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

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

This picture has nothing to do with the book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 27, 2015

SVU Thriller, Deadly Terror: The Return of William White, Part II: The Phantom of the Library

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

That is some awful, awful modeling

That is some awful, awful modeling

Summary: William is back and better than ever! I mean worse, worse than ever. He tells Elizabeth that he wants to make up for all the horrible things he did (you know, like murder), and would especially like to earn her forgiveness. Half of his face is heavily scarred, so just pretend he’s the Phantom of the Opera. And things turned out great for him! Elizabeth is understandably skeptical, and just trying to wrap her mind around the fact that a guy she thought was dead is still alive.

William goes to a much-needed therapy session, where his psychiatrist, Dr. Denby, tries to remind him that he put Elizabeth through a lot, so expecting her to forgive him immediately is pretty unrealistic. William thinks she hates him because he’s ugly now. He has some plan in mind but won’t tell Dr. Denby what it is.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth calls the police, who admit that they never told her William was alive because she was already traumatized. But he’s supposedly drugged up and under lock and key with Dr. Denby. If Elizabeth thinks she saw him, she’s just a nutty girl. Jessica thinks Elizabeth should give William a second chance, arguing that the cops would get involved if he were really a threat. Yes, those reliable Sweet Valley police officers. They’re almost as helpful as Jessica.

Tom notices that Elizabeth is acting strangely, but she doesn’t tell him about William. Besides, she has something much more important to worry about – she’s helping out with some archiving project in the library basement. There’s a lot of stuff in the book about this project, but none of it is important. It’s just a reason for Elizabeth to hang out in dark passageways, and for Tom to get mad that they’re not spending enough time together. (Tom spends the whole book upset with Elizabeth for not being like his Cyber Dream version of her. He’s unbearable.)

William tracks down Elizabeth again and gives her a white rose. The next day, Tom sends her flowers, having been advised by someone at the TV station that they might make Elizabeth calm down. Elizabeth prefers the wildflowers William sends, along with a note asking her to meet him in the library basement. Elizabeth goes back and forth on whether or not she should meet him, but ultimately doesn’t, thanks to a Jessica-related emergency (see below).

Tom sees William’s flowers and thinks Elizabeth’s cheating on him. He follows her and Jessica to the mall, where Liz catches him lurking and yells at him. Having been stood up, William goes back to Dr. Denby, who tells him to find a way to run into Elizabeth. William does, also running into Jessica for the first time (so at least now no one can say that Elizabeth has just imagined seeing William). Jess is all, “He was nice to me! You should go out with him!”

William throws pebbles at Elizabeth’s window that night and gets an invitation to her room. He tries to kiss her, but Elizabeth realizes how ridiculous this whole thing is and puts on the brakes. Tom is still being a creepy stalker and watches them through the window, sure that his suspicions are correct about Elizabeth being a cheating cheater. The two of them fight, and I really wish this were the end of their relationship for good.

Elizabeth finds a secret room behind a bookcase in the library basement (of course, right?) William tells Dr. Denby that he did something bad, but Dr. Denby thinks he can play dirty when he prize is his true love. I think Dr. Denby’s qualifications should be reviewed by the AMA. Elizabeth finally agrees to go on a date with William, who takes her to the library basement for a picnic. He’s been living down there and knows all the secret passageways because his grandfather designed the building, and he’s been hanging out there since he was a kid.

Elizabeth quickly notes that something smells gross, but she tries to ignore it so she can focus on getting back together with the guy who tried to kill her and her friends, I guess. But what William wasn’t counting on was Elizabeth’s inability to engage in any kind of intimacy beyond kissing. Elizabeth asks to move more slowly, and William has a tantrum, saying that Dr. Denby told him Elizabeth owes him, since everything bad that’s happened to him was her fault.

Elizabeth tries to go along with the crazy, saying that she’d like to meet Dr. Denby. William’s happy to oblige – in fact, she can meet him right now! He’s there in the basement! He’s the rotting corpse in the closet! Elizabeth decides to take a rain check on that meeting, but William won’t let her leave. And since it’s dark and Elizabeth isn’t familiar with the passageways, she can’t really get away from him. William chases her around, yelling that he’s going to scar her face, too, kill her, and then kill himself so they can be together forever. Fun times.

Elizabeth manages to find the bookcase that will get her out of the passageway and back to the basement, but as she’s running off, she trips over a gas pipe. Now she has to deal with a psychotic killer AND natural gas. William decides to use his lighter to try to find Elizabeth. Bad idea! As Tom arrives to talk to Elizabeth, the basement goes up. Elizabeth manages to get out without any injuries, and she and Tom are so happy to see each other that their fight is immediately over. William is considered dead in the explosion. No one bothers to follow up. Good police work, SVPD!

Jessica’s plot stems from a book I didn’t read, Jessica’s Secret Diary, Volume III. Long story short: Over the course of SVH books 83 through 94, Jessica met a young producer/director named Charles Sampson who wanted her to star in his movie, Checkered Houses. She helped Charles get the movie off the ground but didn’t act in it because Sam didn’t want her to. Also, Charles was totally in love with Jessica, despite the fact that he was in his 20s and she was 16, because there was no shortage of that in the SVH books.

So now Charles wants to take Jessica to the Independent Movie Awards, since his usual date can’t make it. Jess would never pass up this kind of opportunity, so she gets to work finding a spectacular dress (even though she doesn’t have much money). She goes shopping with Lila, who’s really annoying in this book, though she’s fed up with Jess, so I guess I can relate. Jessica wants a really expensive necklace to go with her dress, so Lila suggests that she convince the owner of the jewelry store to loan it to her and get free publicity in exchange.

Jessica doesn’t think she can make the deal on her own, so she asks Elizabeth to come with her. Somehow they talk the owner into letting an 18-year-old college student borrow a stunningly pricey necklace. Unsurprisingly, the necklace promptly disappears from the twins’ dorm room. Jess blames the fault clasp on the necklace’s box and enlists Elizabeth to help her search the quad for it. When that proves fruitless, Elizabeth decides to ask Tom to make a be-on-the-lookout announcement on WSVU. Tom has no intention of helping her with anything, which, fair enough. I mean, he’s a jerk, but you don’t break up with a guy and ask him for a favor the next day.

So the twins ask William for help, and he’s more than happy to look for the necklace. If he can’t find it, he’ll even loan them money to pay for it. Elizabeth’s like, “Well, he’s the only one of my friends who’s offered a loan.” Yeah, because all of your friends are college students and don’t have that kind of money. Also, why would they loan you money to replace something your sister was dumb enough to lose? Whatever, because William “finds” the necklace, saving the day. It’s never confirmed, but I’m 99.999% sure he stole the necklace in the first place. Anyway, Jessica goes to the awards, Checkered Houses wins best picture, and all is well.

Thoughts: Lila’s very anti-purple for someone who was once in a club devoted to that color.

Oh, so William’s crazy? What a twist! Were we actually supposed to think he was reformed?

“There’s no way anyone down in those tunnels could have survived that blast.” Then I guess you shouldn’t waste time making sure!

October 13, 2015

SVU Thriller Edition, Cyber Stalker: The Return of William White, Part 1: Lizception

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:32 pm by Jenn

The guy on the right who's probably William White looks like Milo Ventimiglia

The guy I’m guessing is William White looks like Milo Ventimiglia

Summary: Life at SVU is currently pretty normal – no undercover investigations, no kidnappings, not even any recent twin switches. We’re in that weird alternate universe where Elizabeth and Tom are together, and Nick doesn’t exist (or should I say didn’t – we’ll miss you, buddy). For Liz and Tom, things are too normal – there’s no longer a spark between them. They’ve become so boring that she thinks they’re going to break up. Yes! Finally! Be done with each other! Forever, this time!

But before anything happens there, Elizabeth notices a white tent going up on the quad, along with a banner depicting a white rose. She’s a little panicked because the white rose was William White’s calling card. (Remember William White? That was a long time ago, wasn’t it?) Jessica takes Liz to check out the tent, which houses something called the CyberDreams Virtual Reality Fair. No one knows what that actually means, but everyone on campus is excited to find out.

The twins, Tom, Bruce, and Lila go to the fair, where they learn that they can be hooked up to machines that give them super-awesome dreams. Basically, whatever they want the most will be presented to them as virtual reality. It’s kind of like The Matrix, but they’ll supposedly be able to guide what they experience through their subconscious desires. The only catch is that no one can dream more than twice. Three or more dreams can lead to sensory damage. Everyone wants to participate, so they pay the fee and enter the tent.

In Elizabeth’s first dream, there are books and top-secret documents everywhere. I would laugh about Elizabeth wanting to read more than anything in life, but let’s face it, that’s what I want, too, most days. Plus, the documents contain secrets like who really killed JFK and what the government is hiding at Area 51. Before Liz can start reading, she encounters William White. She’s very confused about why, of all people she could dream of – and remember, the dream is supposed to show her what she wants most in life – she dreams of a psychotic killer.

Tom’s first dream is about how he wants to be a knight and save Princess Elizabeth. Gag. His dream is basically the world’s worst fairy tale. It ends when the real Elizabeth screams and passes out after her William dream. Tom takes her to her room, where she tries to make things romantic but stops when she looks into Tom’s eyes and sees William’s instead. Liz can’t shake her dream, and she keeps thinking someone is coming after her.

Liz and Tom go back to the fair and continue their dreams. In Elizabeth’s, William gives her a white rose and tells her he wants to make up for what happened between them before. Elizabeth is almost won over but fights him off just before she wakes up. Tom continues his previous dream, but it ends just before he finds Princess Elizabeth. Tom tries to get Elizabeth to tell him why she’s been freaking out so much lately, but she doesn’t want to tell him that she dreamed about William.

Apparently people can get around the two-dreams-only rule by signing a waiver and paying extra money (and apparently a lot of college students have that extra money just lying around). Liz and Tom both go in for third dreams, Elizabeth wanting the truth about William, and Tom wanting to hang out with Princess Elizabeth, since she has to be better than the real Liz right now. Dream Elizabeth has to run along a cliff to get away from William, and she almost falls off. Real Liz thinks she’ll die in reality if she dies in her dream. Spoiler: She doesn’t die. But William falls off the cliff, then disappears, so she’s not sure if he’s dead or not.

Tom finishes up his dream, but when he finally reaches Princess Elizabeth, she has no face. He confronts Jonah, who’s running the dream sessions (more on him later), and Jonah admits that the dreams don’t really pull from each person’s subconscious. They’re basically templates that the dream fills in with specific people and experiences. Tom chalks up the faceless princess to a technology fluke. Jonah mentions that the fair was funded and organized by a rich guy who seemed to be college-age.

Elizabeth is freaking out again after her dream, and Tom tries to go after her, but someone knocks him out. Elizabeth ends up on a hill overlooking the campus, and it looks like the tent has already been taken down, even though only a few minutes have passed. Then she sees the literal man of her dreams: the real William. Of course, he has a white rose. Elizabeth pricks her finger on a thorn to prove to herself that she’s not dreaming.

Like Tom and Liz, Lila and Bruce are verging on relationship troubles. Lila feels like Bruce doesn’t pay enough attention to her. They dream about each other at the fair, but in very different ways. Lila’s dream involves a super-expensive shopping spree that Bruce bankrolls. Her second one is about going to a big party and meeting a bunch of celebrities. Lila’s first two dreams are the only ones with happy endings, and show that her life is pretty much just what she wants subconsciously.

In Bruce’s dream, he’s James Bond and has to steal a microchip and take out some terrorists. (He feeds one to piranhas, which is pretty cool.) The terrorists have kidnapped Lila, and Bruce isn’t able to rescue her before his second dream is over. He asks for a third, but decides he doesn’t want to pay the $150 fee. Is Bruce sick? Someone take his temperature. Bruce decides to bring his dream persona into his real life, which for some reason involves driving his car on the beach. Lila isn’t impressed.

Lila and Bruce then get mugged, and Bruce decides to use his dream spy moves on the muggers. Surprisingly enough, he doesn’t actually possess those moves. Lila begs Bruce not to go in for a third dream, but they both end up back at the fair. Lila should have stopped after her second dream, because her third involves Bruce treating her like a hooker. Bruce’s third lets him find the kidnapped Lila, but he accidentally blows her up. Oops! The real Bruce and Lila decide that their real lives are more important than their dream lives, and they’re happy together.

Jessica starts out the book deciding she’s a feminist now and she doesn’t need a man. This lasts all of five minutes, before she meets and immediately falls in love with Jonah. In her first dream, Jess is a PI and Jonah is her client. She has to save him from some sort of dangerous situation, but I’m not really clear on the details. Jessica’s second dream is a continuation of the first, with generic action-movie stuff, and Jess protecting Jonah.

Jessica decides she wants Jonah for real, so she does some flirting. However, he turns out to be a lot more awkward than his dream persona. When Jess comes back the next day to give it another shot, she learns that Alison has also been dreaming about Jonah. Jess does a third session, but Alison’s in this one, along with a second Jonah. Jess and Alison fight over the guys, though…if there are two…why not just each take one and…? Oh, whatever.

The two Jonahs become one, and he basically proposes a threeway. The girls aren’t pleased. Real Jonah admits that he inserted himself in their dreams so he could get to know them better. So Jonah practiced inception before anyone had ever heard of inception. (And I imagine that’s what William did, too.) All this accomplished, though, was giving Jessica and Alison something new to fight about.

Thoughts: “She could no longer look at the bruised sky. It was too much of an omen, foretelling the death of their love.” What a drama queen. It’s just a storm, Elizabeth.

In case you’re wondering, Jessica’s type is “both suave and scraggly at the same time.” Or that’s her type this week, I guess.

“This is one of the safest campuses in the whole country.” Since when??

Dream Lila says “my stars and garters.” Wow.

Dream Lila also says “Private Dancer” is her song. Lila, sweetie, you know what that song is about, right?

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