Sweet Valley High #4: Power Play

The moral of the story: You can go from fat and ugly to skinny and hot, become co-captain of the cheerleading squad, learn to be a bitch, win Miss Sweet Valley High and snub a sorority. And you can do it all in 150 pages.

Dance: Discomarathon


Robin Wilson’s mother calls Liz begging for her help. She says Robin is going to drop out of school because she thinks she’s so unpopular, but a nomination into Pi Beta Alpha would solve all her worries. She stops herself before actually asking Liz to nominate her. Robin comes over to drop off some books for Jessica. She totally doesn’t mind running errands for her because she thinks she and Jessica are best friends. Liz knows Jessica is never going to nominate Robin, so she offers to do it herself.

So Liz puts Robin’s name up and Jessica, Lila and Cara go to Robin’s house to tell her the news. Jessica tells her to meet them after school the next day to start her first pledge. Robin is so excited she eats an entire cherry cheesecake. The next day, Liz is horrified when she goes to the track after school to find a bunch of other kids watching Robin jogging. She has to do five laps every day for a week while everyone heckles her.

Robin manages to survive her week of jogging, and her next task is to put on a bikini and play volleyball on the beach on Saturday. She doesn’t think she can do it, but Liz tells her it’ll be fine. She says she and Enid are going with Todd and George and says Robin can be on their team. With Liz’s help, Robin makes it through the day, but her next task will be impossible: she has to get Bruce Patman to take her to the upcoming Discomarathon dance. Liz tells Bruce she’ll write an article about him for the Oracle if he takes Robin to the dance. He does take her, but then deposits her in the middle of the dance floor and walks away. Robin runs to the restroom, and Liz runs after her. She tries to convince Robin she has a pretty face, but Robin’s not buying it. She runs out the door, determined never to come back to school again. Liz starts to go after her, but Enid says Todd is about to beat up Bruce. Liz wants to stop him, so she gets some nerdy kid named Allen Walters to go get Robin. He catches up to her in the parking lot and gets her to come back inside with him. They dance together and then Allen takes Robin home. Aw, how sweet.

The Pi Beta Alphas hold a vote on Robin, and Jessica blackballs her. The twins meet Robin at Casey’s Place to tell her the news. She doesn’t take it very well. She says there’s “no reason for me to go on,” and leaves in tears. Liz is disgusted with Jessica and she writes an article for the paper about snobbery at Sweet Valley High. Robin doesn’t come back to school right away, but Mrs. Wilson calls Liz after a while and says Robin was visiting an aunt in L.A., but she’s back now and doesn’t want to talk to anyone.

When Robin comes back to school, she walks around like a robot, not talking to anyone and being really bitchy and cold to anyone who talks to her. She runs on the track every morning and afternoon, and Liz notices that she’s losing weight. Unable to stop herself from interfering, she asks Robin if she’s starving herself and then says she thinks Robin is just terrific.

So now that Robin is hot and thin, she starts to be less of a bitch. She tries out for the cheerleading squad and is named co-captain with Jessica, Bruce starts following her around everywhere, and she even wins the title of Miss Sweet Valley High. When she’s crowned football queen, she disses Bruce and asks Allen to be her escort. Good for you, Robin.

My biggest problem with this book is the complete personality change in Robin. When she’s fat she seems mentally challenged (“Omigod, Jessica is my best friend!”). Then she gets thin and acts like a zombie for a while. When she gets over it, she talks about her old self like she’s a totally different person. Ugh, what kind of character development is that?

While we all love a good story about retribution and revenge, the B story was pretty interesting, too. Lila’s been shoplifting to get daddy’s attention. It all gets straightened out by Liz when mall security gets involved (because even though they don’t like each other, Lila called her first, of course), and everyone lives happily ever after.


“My mom is soooooo excited! She always told me that being best friends with the Wakefield twins could be great for me,” [Robin] gushed.

Of course she did.

She had been awake much of the night, unable to forget her suspicions. Should she confront Jessica about the gifts from Lila?

Really? That kept her up all night? Ah, Liz. You and your damn morals.

The day after her confrontation with Jessica, Elizabeth decided to make it up to Todd by getting him a special gift for his birthday…She’d get him a really nice new band.

Just what every high school boy wants, a watchband. How special! And how nice of Liz to make up for a fight with Jessica by getting a gift for her boyfriend. What?

“You’re too much, Liz. You know that? You can’t see the rottenness in anybody! She’s the one who blackballed me.”

“Jessica? No!” Elizabeth couldn’t bear for Robin to be so hurt, so disillusioned. “She was your friend!”

Wasn’t Liz the first one to point out that Jessica was only using Robin? Sometimes Elizabeth’s twin worship can be a little much.

“If you never expect too much, you’ll never be disappointed.”

That’s right, Robin. Teach everyone that if they just keep their standards low, they, too, can become beautiful and popular and win contests.

Jessica and the number 137

“Robin can get carried away four hundred and thirty-seven times a day, you know?” p. 14

“She’s taking about thirty-seven extra courses.” p. 16

“And everybody knows we have thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents in the treasury, so there’s no need for a treasurer’s report.” p. 19

“Maybe if she ran around the track about a hundred and thirty-seven times a day for the next five years, she might lose some of that fat!” p. 29

“Oh, my head is going to burst into at least five hundred and thirty-seven pieces!” p. 50

“If I told her once, I told her eight hundred and thirty-seven times that blimps were not popular people!” p. 83

Nothing but the usual hundred and thirty-seven disasters and boring business and politics. p. 123

“Bruce Patman is the jerkiest person in thirty-seven states and Mexico.” p. 124

“Oh, Liz, that nonsense is about seven hundred and thirty-seventh on my list of concerns.” p. 148

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  • R. G. Quimby February 20, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Is it just me, or does it sort of look like Jess is going to bite Liz in the face? ;p


  • outpostroad February 20, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Good call. I always thought it looked like Liz was trying to kiss Jess and Jess was growling in a “don’t even think about it, bitch” kind of way.


  • R. G. Quimby February 20, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Ha! I thought the biting thing was cool, but I would have to say that your suggestion is way hotter. Where’s that Girls Gone Wild Guy? Why isn’t he sniffing around this cover and offering the girls a trucker hat or something?


  • outpostroad February 20, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Seriously! I’m kind of surprised that guy doesn’t follow them around all the time trying to get them to do a little twin-lovin’ in front of the camera.


  • nugirl77 May 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Um, I think Liz and Jess look cute on the cover! Much better here than on the cover for #31 Taking Sides when they both look like mean girls! 🙂

    My favorite part of the book? When the new Robin snubs Bruce Patman for shy, quiet Allen. Even better than her triumphing over Jess and becoming co-captain. Sadly all her successes seem to hinge on her weight loss, and sends the message to girls that you won’t achieve any of your dreams if you’re overweight. A big fat zero for healthy body image (um, no pun intended).


    Shannon Reply:

    Yeah, they look pretty rough on the Taking Sides cover. They look way better on this one.

    I hate the message that comes across in this book that you can only do awesome things if you’re thin and hot, but I’m also happy she snubbed Bruce for Allen.


  • Anners, Lover of Chandler July 18, 2009 at 3:38 am

    That #37 stuff is weird…


  • Darren August 15, 2009 at 2:56 am

    I’m a little confused…who exactly was the former President of Pi Beta Alpha, and how did Jessica get elected? Could it be maybe the President was Janet Howell, or perhaps Kimberly Haver of Sweet Valley Twins since they were older girls? No attempt was ever made to say who the President was, and after the incident with the Unicorns, why would Elizabeth want to join Pi Beta Alpha? I notice unlike the Unicorns, Pi Beta Alpha was not mentioned that much.


  • Darren August 16, 2009 at 3:39 am

    It also seems like as I read the rewritten version of chapter 4, the Pi Beta Club is turned into ‘a Beautician Club!” Good grief, just reform the Unicorn club, it’s easier and not so lame! I didn’t like how Robin is written as ‘the new bitch in town’, and how she winds up on the cheering squad. The squad is not made for her, it’s like she watched Dallas to get ideas to counter the girl version of JR, and got her hands dirty in the process. Now I hate Robin until book 74.


  • Anonymous October 30, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    These first few books seem to have some continuity. Maybe they were written by the same ghostie. In the later books, Jess isn’t obsessed with the number 37.
    Also, don’t you get the impression that the ghosties are sometimes making fun of SV? Maybe they took bets on how outlandish or silly they could make each book? Wasn’t there some episode of the Simpson’s where a character says something like, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, and I read the entire Sweet Valley High series!” Hilarious. These writers must have been joking with all of this crap, but we all bought it. Didn’t we? The joke’s on us.


    Shannon Reply:

    I don’t think so. Sadly, I think the whole series came from Francine wanting to play out some fantasy of how she thought high school life would be if you were a gorgeous and popular blonde living in southern California.


  • Kylie90210 July 19, 2010 at 12:28 am

    I agree about the message this book sends, reading it as an adult, I was appalled they were allowed to publish it! This and #10. Wow.


  • pibetaalpha May 17, 2011 at 3:03 am

    I still can’t believe that Elizabeth was genuinely surprised that Jessica blackballed Robin. Elizabeth is always going, “Well, now that she ran her laps…and played volleyball…and go Bruce Patman to take her to the dance…of course you have to let her in!” Has Elizabeth just met Jessica?


  • caligirl76 September 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I laughed every time Jessica mentioned the #37 lol


  • rose choto October 9, 2012 at 11:03 am

    i like these series very much but i think i also support liz trying to make her twin sister see that Bruce is not the right person for her.


  • Mad Dog June 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    This was the very first SVH book that I bought. It was in 1984 and I was 12. I was on holiday in a little North Yorkshire seaside town called Filey and they had the first 6 books in a tiny newsagent. Up to that point I had only ever read English stories about girls in villages who owned ponies and girls who went to posh boarding schools and I had not seen anything as glamorous as these before. After much pondering, I decided I liked this cover best as I thought the twins looked gorgeous. I was also fascinated by the little flag and the red lettering. It just seemed so American and I thought it was fab!

    I alternated between wanting to be Elizabeth and Jessica. It was only later in life that I realised that they were both bonkers and needed some serious therapy.

    I am now in my forties and still have my full set of SVH and SVU books – and I will not part with them – as they are part of my childhood. Even when the storylines went nuts, I couldn’t stop collecting them. For shame!

    In fairness, I did keep all my other childhood books. I also kept my full set of Caitlin books, also by Francine Pascal. Anyone remember them?


    Shannon Reply:

    I never read the Caitlin books, but I may read them one day if I ever finish Sweet Valley.


  • MacKenzie October 8, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    I’m not even going to comment on the ridiculousness of the main plot of this book and the awful theme of in order to love your self and be popular you must be thin, but I just wanted to comment on the B plot of Lila shoplifting, it’s a bit crazy that a store with such expensive stuff doesn’t have alarms or even cameras, LOL! And she did it all for her dad’s attention, how cliché is that?


  • Natalie June 5, 2014 at 5:36 am

    I LOVED the Caitlin series !!
    word of the day : rottenness….


  • Nikki July 7, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    The cover: which one is Jessica and which is Elizabeth? My guess would be Jess is wearing the red and white plaid shirt (cause that one has a bitchy look on her face) and Liz is wearing white (she has a softer look), but I can’t imagine Jessica ever wearing plaid, so this cover throws me off a little.

    Jessica overdid it w/ the whole #37 thing in the early books. Guess that was supposed to be her catch phrase.

    “When Robin comes back to school, she walks around like a robot, not talking to anyone and being really bitchy and cold to anyone who talks to her.”

    Her classmates weren’t exactly nice to her, so I don’t really blame her for being a bitch to them. They probably had it coming.

    “My mom is soooooo excited! She always told me that being best friends with the Wakefield twins could be great for me,” [Robin] gushed.

    I forgot how ridiculous these books were. Lol even the adults in Sweet Valley worship the Wakefield twins.


  • Dane Youssef September 25, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    You’re not really sure which twin you want to punch in the face more. They both deserve to die in a blazing fire. And so does everyone else in “The Valley.”

    So… let me get this straight: There are fraternities and sororities in high school? “Pi Beta Alpha”?

    Girls like Robin make me sick… “The Queen Bee spit on me! A kiss from the Gods…”

    So… when she was fat, she was an idiot. And she was a cunt to people all throughout the journey. But… after losing all that weight and being a cheerleader… she grew a brain? In a sad way, that… really does kind of make sense.

    What a stupid, stupid world… With stupid, stupid people…

    Wait, she grew a soul and became a decent person, too? Right away… OK, now that doesn’t…

    Wilkins is going to pound Patman into oblivion? Let him… Fuck…

    –Sincere As Always, Dane Youssef


  • Alex Kennedy July 8, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    This book made me very angry. It showcased Jessica for what she is – a bully. She behaved the same way towards Lois Waller is SVT. She basically “broke” a person and caused that person to have a very serious mental health condition. Yes, I concede that it is fiction. She traumatised Robin – I think that some episodes of bullying can be described as being traumatic. Jessica rarely receives repurcussions for her behaviour.


  • Jessica W is an a Bad Person September 14, 2017 at 8:46 am

    I hated this book so much. Although it highlights the fact that Robin was subject to bullying, the bullies never get what is coming to them. JW was downright CRUEL and just because Robin was fat. What’s more, Robin was civilised towards JW in subsequent books.


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