Sweet Valley High #39: Secret Admirer

The moral of the story: Personal ads are a terrible idea for a high school newspaper.

The Big Deal: Forties Night Swing Fling


The Oracle is rolling out a brand new feature: personal ads. Jessica and Lila, bored once again with high school boys, decide to try it out. Steve gets the high school paper up at the college, so Jessica’s sure some college boys will reply. Lila thinks they should describe themselves and let the perfect guys find them, but Jessica thinks they should describe the guys they want. They make it a contest to see which method works better. Meanwhile, Liz and Enid are concerned about Penny Ayala and her lack of dating. They convince her to write a personal ad. She writes one, but this is what it says:

Hook-nosed hunchback seeks kindred spirit. The ideal candidate will have a doctorate in Australian theology, love caves, speak Urdu. If you’re looking for a girl who giggles, don’t bother to respond. I’m strictly the guffaw type. Junior or senior will do just fine.

She claims she wants to see if anyone with imagination responds. And someone does. His name is Jamie and he responds in the same humorous fashion, calling her Quasimodo. Penny has Liz and Enid help her write a response. When she gets home that night she decides to spruce herself up a bit and goes off to find the makeup sampler her aunt gave her.

Neil Freemount, Kirk Anderson (the obnoxious but gorgeous new guy) and their buddies get together after school one day to read “Quasimodo’s” latest letter to Jamie. They got a kick out of her ad and decided to mess with her. But Neil, who is actually doing all “Jamie’s” writing, is starting to get invested and wishes he could write to her without the other guys’ involvement. The guys decide to try to meet her, and Neil drafts a letter telling her to be at the bookstore in the mall at four o’clock on Friday. At the mall, Neil tries to lose his friends, but they want to check out “Quasimodo” and see if she’s ugly. They find a spot to hang out on the mezzanine level where they can see the bookstore. Penny shows up, wearing a red headband as instructed, and waits forty-five minutes before giving up and accepting the fact that Jamie isn’t coming.

Jessica has gotten a few responses to her ad and she decides to meet with Paolo, one of her admirers. She gets all dressed up for her college boy, but when he comes to pick her up, Jessica finds out he’s fat! It’s the worst thing ever! What if Lila finds out she went out with a fat guy? Her reputation would be ruined! She doesn’t know what to do except go with him, but when they get to the restaurant, Jessica starts acting like she has some kind of terminal disease. She starts really laying it on thick and Paolo is so worried he takes her home. When she gets there, she finds Liz has left her a few more responses to her ad. One of them is from a John Karger and it contains a photo. Jessica thinks he’s gorgeous and sends him a reply.

At lunch on Monday, Kirk Anderson and his buddies are talking about what a close call Neil had at the mall. When they saw Penny show up, they started making fun of her for being a good student (ugh) and talking about how boring it would be to go out with her. Neil, who seems to have a man-crush on Kirk, can’t stand up to him and tell him he really likes Penny. Liz and Enid are sitting at the next table in the cafeteria and hear everything. They know the other guys were in on it, but they know it’s mostly Kirk’s doing. Liz comes up with a plan to get back at him.

Neil tries to talk to Penny and explain what happened, but he just can’t seem to get the words out. So instead, he writes another letter from “Jamie” and tells Penny he’ll be waiting outside the Dairi Burger on Thursday at four o’clock and she can meet him if she wants to. On Thursday, Neil sees Penny waiting for him and is about to go meet her when Kirk and his minions show up and laugh at him when he says he’s meeting Penny. Neil tells Kirk to fuck off and marches off to meet Penny. He tells her what really happened on Friday and apologizes, then asks her to the Swing Fling. She is more than happy to go with him. I guess Neil won’t be going out with Jessica anymore.

Liz’s plan for Kirk starts with Liz pretending a famous supermodel, Erica Hall, is her cousin. She and Enid talk loudly about how Erica will be coming to Sweet Valley the weekend of the dance. Kirk overhears and declares he’ll be taking Erica to the dance. Liz hesitates, explaining Erica only likes to go out with really good-looking guys, so Kirk gives her a picture of himself to give her, then instructs Liz to let him know “when she says yes.” Douchebag. A few days later Liz calls him and says Erica got his picture and would love to go to the Swing Fling with him. Kirk is all, “of course she would, duh.” Liz tells him to wait for Erica outside the gym on Saturday.

Jessica goes out with John Karger and has a wonderful time, even though he cuts the evening short because he has to get home and study. He also doesn’t kiss her goodnight, but Jessica is convinced they’ll have another date and they’ll be making out in no time. She’s also sure she’ll win her contest with Lila, but Lila says she’s got a guy she’s sure is even better than Jessica’s and that she’s going to win. Neither one of them mentions the name of her date or uses any words to describe him except “gorgeous,” so I’m pretty sure I know how this one is going to turn out. Sure enough, at the beach concert before the dance on Saturday, Lila says her date’s name is John and he’s meeting her there. When he finally shows up, he has his steady girlfriend on his arm and is surrounded by girls who all thought they had a date with him. He was just doing sociology research and can’t believe he gave all these girls the wrong impression. What an idiot. Lila and Jessica are furious, while Cara and the other cheerleaders laugh at them.

At the dance, Mr. Collins is inappropriate, Lila and Jessica show up with two college guys they met at the beach concert, Penny and Neil are happy and Kirk Anderson is pissed at being stood up by Erica Hall. The dance is really disappointing. I thought we’d get all kinds of descriptions of people’s 1940’s costumes, but there’s nothing. The author probably forgot about the dance’s theme. And setup for the next book: Regina is at the dance alone because Bruce has a lot of schoolwork to do. Jessica realizes Amy isn’t at the dance either. She’s sure Amy’s trying to steal Bruce from Regina.


“I expect to see you ladies there. I plan on jitterbugging with all three of you.”

Mr. Collins says this to Liz, Lynne and Penny. Gross.

Without another word she handed her friend a sheet of notebook paper and found an extra pencil.

I think the ghostwriter forgot Jessica and Lila were at the beach, and you know those two aren’t taking notebooks and pencils to the beach.

Her hair was swept back from her face except for a few carefully chosen tendrils, which curled forward, suggesting rumpled abandon. The effect was sultry and vaguely European.


The Cover: My husband picked this book up and said, “Why is this woman so worried about what time it is while she’s standing in front of books about Monkee Mania and Poems?” It made me laugh.

Look at Penny’s deformed right arm! It’s all curvy and weird! I would’ve stood her up too. And why isn’t her hair dark blond, as it’s described in the book? It looks like plain old brown to me.

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  • Sally May 8, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I super love the hair-don’t description and the phrase rumpled abandon. It’s my new favorite. I think I may have to use it in every day life.

    Random Person: Hey Sally, how are you?

    Me: I’m fabulous, living my life with rumpled abandon.


  • Jenna May 8, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Oh dear Lord, her arm is so creepy!

    I love how Liz is the only smart pretty person in Sweet Valley. Everyone else is either pretty and vapid, or they are smart and have makeovers and become dumb cheerleaders.

    And the description of the ‘hair-don’t’ is awesome. I think the ghosty was tired and wrote that phrase with rumpled abandonment. She probably is a total dork and doesn’t know anything about fashion. She needs a Wakefield style makeover.


  • R. G. Quimby May 10, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Why on earth would Steven’s college get the high school newspaper? I suppose it has something to do with Liz’s hard-hitting journalistic prowess or something.


  • Darren July 21, 2010 at 4:09 am

    I hated Amy Sutton after this chapter until Book 75 when Kirk called her a dumb blonde and made her cry. I always held Amy to blame for Regina’s death, and I think Bruce did too, henceforth they stopped seeing each other until book 55, they shared one dance or so.


  • Vix May 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    WTF is wrong with Mr Collins and how has he not been sacked and struck off from teaching on account of his inappropriate behaviour?!


  • Natalie April 28, 2014 at 4:48 am

    Is it just me or would any sane teenager NOT let their apparently ” gorgeous” boyfriend go on date with ” hot ” high school girls..?????


  • Alex Kennedy October 21, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I am just beginning to realise how pervy Mr Collins actually is. He gets away with it because he is a young and good-looking teacher (according to “Sweet Valley World.”)


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