Sweet Valley High #90: Don’t Go Home with John
The Big Deal: Costume ball at Lila’s
Lila is having a costume ball in two weeks. Which is awesome. I mean, how many of your high school friends threw costume balls? Jessica, Amy and Maria are complaining that they can’t get their boyfriends to dress up the way they want them to. Then they tease Lila about her lack of a date, and then about her crush on John Pfeifer. Lila and John have been spending a lot of time together lately, though they haven’t been on a date yet. Lila likes John because he’s a serious guy, but sometimes his seriousness freaks her out a little. She’s also pretty sure his breakup with Jennifer Mitchell has left him a little damaged.
Sam and Jessica make out after a date. Surprisingly, Jessica is worried that their kissing might go too far one of these days. Without once saying the word “sex,” Jessica and Liz discuss the difficulty of keeping in control. Liz tries to tell her not to worry, that all couples go through this, but Jessica thinks it’s the biggest problem ever. She decides to make sure she and Sam are never alone together.
John finally asks Lila out. They have dinner at the Box Tree Café, and Lila thinks everything is just beautiful and awesome. She suggests they go for a drive, and they end up at Miller’s Point. They start to make out, and then John turns into the kind of sex monster you usually only see in V. C. Andrews books. He pulls her hair, unbuckles his belt and ignores her requests for him to stop. Lila takes his keys from the ignition and stabs him in the neck. She gets out of the car, throws the keys in the bushes and walks to a gas station, where she calls a cab to come take her home.
The next day, Lila is a wreck. She wants to tell someone what happened, but she’s sure she’ll be laughed at and blamed. After all, she wore a little black dress, she suggested Miller’s Point, she’s the flirt. When Jessica calls to find out how the date went, Lila changes the subject pretty fast. That isn’t like Lila, and Jessica is convinced something is wrong.
Meanwhile, all the girls are having trouble getting their boyfriends to decide on costumes for the ball. Winston wants him and Maria to be Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Sam wants to be motorcycle cops, Hugh wants to go as chickens and Todd wants to go as a horse. While all this is going on, Liz has been getting letters from Arthur Castillo, the Crown Prince of Santa Dora (he’s from a Sweet Valley Twins book). They’ve been pen pals for years, but he’s been writing a lot more lately. Todd finds out and gets jealous. Whatever, back to Lila.
Lila goes to school on Monday wearing a shapeless dress and almost no makeup. Amy and Caroline try to ask her how the date went, but she just tells them it was boring and then runs away from them. Jessica is really worried, but Lila won’t tell her what’s wrong. She gets even more worried when Lila says she’s thinking about canceling the costume ball. Jessica talks to Liz, who thinks it sounds like Lila is depressed. All of Lila’s friends are getting worried about her.
Lila decides not to cancel the party, but she does want to tell John not to come. She finds him alone in the Oracle office and tells him what she thinks of him and that he’s not welcome in her house. He kind of smiles in an insolent way and says, “If that’s the way you want it.” Lila feels a little better until John does show up at the party the next night with a cute little sophomore girl. Lila tells him to leave or she’ll have him thrown out, but John taunts her and asks her what reason she’ll give everyone. Lila tries to ignore him, but he turns to his date and loudly says they should leave. Lila tells the girl not to go with him and ends up screaming at John, “Tell her how you tried to rape me last Saturday night!” John tells everyone that something did happen, but it certainly wasn’t rape. Lila runs upstairs to her room and John leaves.
By the way, Liz and Todd go to the party as the sun and the moon, Sam and Jessica are Han Solo and Princess Leia, Enid and Hugh are the base and receiver of a telephone, and Lila is Peter Pan.
Jessica goes to Lila’s room and knocks on the door for a long time, but Lila won’t come out. The next morning, after trying to call three times, Jessica goes to Lila’s house. Lila finally tells her everything that happened and feels better about things. Jessica goes home to find Sam waiting for her. She realizes she’s lucky to have a boyfriend who respects her and who would never do anything to her like what John did to Lila.
Monday is hell for Lila. The story has spread, and while some people are nicer to her than usual, most of the school seems to believe John’s version of what happened. Tuesday is just as hellish, and Lila nearly panics when John stands in her path as she’s walking to her lunch table. She already feels like everyone is watching her and talking about her, and now she’s worried John is going to speak to her. Suddenly, Liz and Enid are on either side of her, thanking her for the party and loudly saying the only thing wrong with it was the gatecrasher. Jessica talks to Jennifer Mitchell to see if there’s anything she can do to help Lila. Jennifer says the reason she broke up with John is because he was controlling and always had to have everything his way, “but that has nothing to do with this other thing.”
That night, a sophomore named Susan Wyler shows up at Lila’s house. John and Susan went on a date after John and Jennifer broke up but before he asked Lila out. Susan had to fight him off, too. The only thing that saved her was the arrival of another couple at Miller’s Point. She and Lila plan to confront John and hopefully get him into counseling. On Wednesday morning, Lila puts a note in John’s locker asking him to meet her at the Dairi Burger that night. Then she tells Jessica about Susan Wyler and their plan.
The Dairi Burger is more crowded that night than Susan and Lila would like, and John is sitting with a large group of other guys. Lila sits down next to John and says she wants to talk privately, but John is all cocky and says she can talk in front of his friends. Lila mentions Susan Wyler. John looks worried and says he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but then Susan Wyler is right there and they both tell him he needs help. One of the other guys at the table says Susan is his little sister’s best friend and Susan is like a part of his family. John says they’re lying, but the other guy says Susan doesn’t lie. The boys start to move away from John like he’s Arlo Guthrie on the Group W bench, and then Jessica, Liz, Sam and Todd gather around Susan and Lila and they all leave the restaurant together.
I have a problem with this book. John Pfeifer has been around since the beginning. He’s always been a nice guy. And I understand that this is the problem Lila has: John is such a nice guy that it’s hard to believe he could do something like this. But it’s just not believable in this context. It would have been one thing if John had just gotten carried away while making out with Lila, but it’s more like he’s turned into this asshole who goes out of his way to try to rape girls. When he’s at Lila’s party telling his date they should leave, he’s doing so in a way that makes it clear he’s going to try to rape her, too. It might have been better if they had created a whole new character. Using John for this story just made it ridiculous and unbelievable.
Setup for the next book: Dana Larson and Aaron Dallas are having relationship troubles. Prince Arthur is coming to Sweet Valley for a visit.
“Sam, could you give me a hand with this [costume]?” she asked. “I need you to pin me up.”
Sam came up from behind and put his arms around her. “I’ll pin you up any time you want,” he said in her ear.
Oh, Sam. My heart’s all aflutter.
[Elizabeth] thought about how he had acted when he was trying to get Jennifer Mitchell to break up with Rick Andover. Even though she had agreed that he was right, she hadn’t approved of his methods. “Strong-arm tactics,” she had thought of them as at the time.
Read this and tell me where John used “strong-arm tactics.”
The Cover: This is a difficult cover to look at. I hate that Lila looks all scared, but I mostly hate John’s evil face and the fact that it looks like it was designed to make you think you can tell a rapist by his ugliness.