Sweet Valley High #3: Playing With Fire

The moral of the story: Don’t go out with rich guys with Porsches.

The Big Deal: Dance contest, party at Ken’s, sorority dance that Bruce won’t let Jessica go to, Bruce’s birthday party


The book opens with a dance contest, ‘cause that’s what kids did in the eighties. Jessica and Winston have to go together because they were crowned king and queen at the last dance, and Jessica is not happy about Winston stepping on her feet all night. Bruce cuts in and saves Jessica, and she ditches Winston and goes to Ken’s after-dance party with Bruce. Liz keeps squawking at Jessica to be careful, but Jessica’s been in love with Bruce forever and now that he’s finally noticed her, she’s going to act like a moron to make sure she keeps him. At the party, Bruce unties Jessica’s bikini top while they’re swimming in the lake and Jessica worries that he’s moving too fast, but she still goes off into the woods with him so they can make out. Liz, who has appointed herself protector of her sister’s virginity, finds them and tries to get Jessica away from Bruce, but Jessica tells her to fuck off. After the party, Bruce and Jessica stay out all night long, so of course Liz is up all night worrying.

For some reason, Jessica makes plans with Robin Wilson, a sad fat girl who thinks Jessica is her best friend. Jessica blows her off to hang out with Bruce, so Liz feels bad and invites Robin to come with her to watch the Droids play at some crappy club. The Droids have been approached by some sleazy guy who says he wants to manage the band, and he’s got them playing a bunch of shows to empty clubs. Liz, of course, is covering the whole thing for The Oracle. Liz invites Winston to go along, too, but assures him she’s not trying to set him up with Robin. Jessica, on the other hand, tells Robin that Winston is looking forward to hanging out with her. Everyone has a miserable night. In the end, it turns out this manager guy really just wanted to get into Dana’s pants. That’s right, a grown man going to all that trouble just to spend some time with a high school girl.

Jessica’s relationship with Bruce is turning her into a doormat. She lets him win at tennis, starts running errands for him, changes the way she dresses, neglects her friends, stops going to cheerleading practice. It’s pretty sickening. I thought Jessica was lipstick feminism personified. Meanwhile, Bruce is telling everyone “he’s getting everything he wants out of her. And whenever he wants it, too.” After a few weeks, Bruce starts breaking dates and acting distant.

Bruce tells Jessica he wants to celebrate his upcoming eighteenth birthday with an intimate meal with Jessica at the country club. But really, he’s having a big bash and has invited half the school. Jessica is humiliated when Bruce leaves her alone all night to hang out with everyone else, but placated when he dances the last dance of the night with her. The party moves to Guido’s Pizza Palace, and suddenly Bruce says he has to make a call. When he comes back to the table, he says his grandmother is sick and he has to go home. Liz is suspicious, so she and Todd offer to take Jessica home when Bruce leaves. They drive around for a while, and then Liz pretends she forgot something at the restaurant. When they get back to Guido’s, Bruce is there with some redheaded slut. Jessica shoves pizza in Bruce’s face and dumps soda on his head.


“I want to stay, Bruce. You know that. But I’ve got to get to Russo’s class. He’ll kill me if I cut it.”

“You mean to tell me my girl’s more interested in Mr. Chemistry than in me? What about our chemistry? I thought I knew you better, Jess.”

Oh yeah, he’s a charmer.

She didn’t like the way Bruce was glaring at her, as if she’d committed a cardinal sin by playing her best…Bruce didn’t appear to appreciate her skill, and it was obvious he would be angry at her if she ended up winning…He might even decide she was too aggressive off the court and dump her altogether…During the rest of the match, she handled her racket as if she’d developed a sudden case of tennis elbow…Jessica got the first clue that she’d played it the right way when Bruce jumped the net after the set was over…he kissed her hard on the lips…

He really loves me, Jessica thought wildly…


Elizabeth thrust a forkful of salad into her mouth.

God, what an ugly sentence!

“Football bores me. And if you know what’s right for us, you’ll find a way to miss this game.”

And she does it. She misses the game. Ugh.

Jessica and the number 137

She actually doesn’t say it anywhere in this book! It must be because of her Bruce-inspired personality change.

Best outfit: Jessica – “a bright blue, skin-hugging minidress and matching tights”

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  • R. G. Quimby February 16, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Oh, man. Patman looks so lame on this cover. Besides the fact that it almost looks like he’s wearing a mink stole, he’s also sort of strangling Jessica, which is weird because she looks really happy about this.

    The tagline is funny, though. “Can Jessica play Bruce Patman’s game and win?” Umm… Jess, it’s already been established that you’re afraid to win games with Bruce because he might break up with you. Just sayin’.


  • outpostroad February 16, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Ha, so true. Also, I expected Bruce to be hotter than that, considering he’s “one of the most sought after boys in Sweet Valley.”


    thea Reply:

    money is the most attractive thing in sv


  • Erin March 25, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    “God, what an ugly sentence!”
    I am still laughing over that comment.


  • Ned W. April 26, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Jessica IS lipstick feminism personified! She realizes Bruce’s weakness (his ego and pride) and plays to them in order to manipulate him (possibly to take her to some dance in the future?). She knows what she wants, and she goes for it!

    Also, lets give Jess some credit. She’s still only 16 and still finding herself. Dabbling with a new look or hobbies is completely normal for someone of her age. Don’t be too quick to rush to judgment on Jess, soon she’ll be solving murders!

    See: http://margorising.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/super-thriller-deadly-summer/


  • nugirl77 May 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Jessica throwing pizza and soda all over Bruce in Guido’s more than makes up for the awful book cover (what’s wrong with Jess’ face? She looks like she’s had Botox!). 🙂


  • Darren August 17, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Ha ha, just read the rewritten version and can you believe Todd Wilkins goes from driving a crappy Datsun to a crappy Honda Civic? Poor guy can’t catch a break, least they didn’t stick him in a Hatchback! I’m dying to find out what Steven drives, probably a Yugo or a VW van, that would be something, and maybe he grows a beard! The rewritten version is hilarious. Please note that culture language is used so it’s heavily PG 13. It was funny how Dana was told to kiss ass. I wonder if Dana is going to have creepy black hair and resemble Raven of the Teen Titans?


  • […] this stir up some excitement for you? For an old-school recap, check this out, to give us material for comparison. Will the classic tale of the saga of Jess and Bruce […]

  • breonna April 25, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    i think liz is kinda a slut she will fuck any guy 2 lose her virgentey.n jess is a selfish slob i mean haven’t know form your mistakes n stop being jeaslous of your sister am likeGOD DAM u look the funking same.also liz n tod need 2 b 2gether r don’t b 2gether make up your dam mind allreadly ok.but on liz n tod they findly break up.


    Shannon Reply:



    Huh? Reply:

    I cannot understand a word of what breonna said.


  • Kylie90210 July 19, 2010 at 12:21 am

    This book is soo out of sync with the rest of the series! Bruce is at his worst, Jess is at her most pathetic, only Liz seems normal. Sigh.


    Shannon Reply:

    Really, when Liz is the only normal one, you know something is wrong, ha.


  • Hina March 29, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Elizabeth thrust a forkful of salad into her mouth

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA :’D oh the sexual innuendo!!


  • severina October 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    The Droids! Best name for a fictional new wave band, like, ever.

    Sadly, all high school bands in 1983 usually just played Loverboy and Journey covers. I think it was a rule or something.

    The early 90s reprint of this book was half-assedly updated with one mention of CDs kinda shoehorned in then abandoned for “albums,” one of the twins wears a bodysuit (shades of 1st season Beverly Hills 90210), and someone uses the term “alternative” to describe one of Jessica’s trashy miniskirts.

    Off to Amazon for the 1983 edition…


  • Dane Youssef August 26, 2013 at 7:52 am

    I still remember when we found out Bruce Patman wound up with Elizabeth… well, until he inevitably had feelings for someone else. Understandable, Brucie. Understandable.

    Jess with Todd. I could see that. They showed us throughout the entire book series how that could kinda work. But Lizzie and Brucie?! I’d believe that Liz and Jess would share Winston while Enid watched than…

    Still, I guess he “reformed.” Just like Todd de-formed. Notice I didn’t use quotation marks for de-formed.

    There’s a good reason.

    –Seeing 1BRUCE1 for the No.2 He Always Was (and who couldn’t?), Dane Youssef


  • Nikki July 7, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    “When they get back to Guido’s, Bruce is there with some redheaded slut.”

    Why label the girl a slut (I hate that)? She may not even know Bruce is two timing her. Bruce is the one cheating, let’s call him names, he’s the real slut. Just saying.


  • Dane Youssef September 25, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Notice how gleefully malevolent Bruce and Jess look here. Like they should be standing on Southfork right now. You know “The Valley” owed a lot to “Dallas,” really.


  • Alex Kennedy July 9, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Finally. After years and years of pursuing the Brucester (1BRUCE1), it seems as if Jessica has finally succeeded. Just look at her face on the book cover. She can mark another notch on the headboard of her bed for this one. I take it that this shall score them high points for both of their reputations. Go Jess!!!

    It seems as if whatever happens, Jessica ends up paired with Winston. When I saw the TV series, the actor who was chosen to play Winston matched the image I had of him. Winston is actually one of the most loyal people out of all of them.

    So these kids stay out all night long? I take it Alice had a mansion to design and Ned had a big case to win the next day. Don’t these people ever check up on their kids? At least it is a SVT book, so we know that Jess and Bruce were not “doing the nasty” in the woods.


  • Dane Youssef May 20, 2017 at 2:20 am

    “Ha ha, just read the rewritten version and can you believe Todd Wilkins goes from driving a crappy Datsun to a crappy Honda Civic? Poor guy can’t catch a break, least they didn’t stick him in a Hatchback!” –Darren

    Well… in the re-boot, the “poor guy” is not only the captain of the basketball team… he’s the wide-receiver on the football team as well. I think his family still came into the money…

    Or… well, maybe it would have had the re-booted books gotten that far. Sadly, they didn’t really sell.

    Now come on, they WERE better than the originals. Better than most of what we got from CONFIDENTIAL and SWEET LIFE… Unfortunately… I think THE VALLEY just seems kind of “old school” now.

    Come on, they came out at the same time the ’80’s were just beginning… Well, a lot of stuff is coming back in..

    Eh, who knows?

    –Sincerely Wondering, DANE R. YOUSSEF


  • Arthur Castle September 6, 2017 at 2:49 am

    Bruce and Jessica’s relationship bordered on being abusive. Bruce stopped Jessica from cheerleading and controlled her ie losing at tennis, telling her what to wear etc. – not good in a relationship.


  • Arthur Castle September 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Page 37 “Ned’s face assumed that slightly bemused experession that always came over him when they discussed his wofe’s career moves.” What’s wrong with you, Ned?


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