Sweet Valley High #93: Stepsisters

SVH093The moral of the story: It’s really tough to be black in Sweet Valley.

The Big Deal: PBA swim party


Annie Whitman’s mother, who is a model, comes home from a photo shoot in New York and tells Annie she’s been seeing a photographer named Walter Thomas. Walter has asked her to marry him and she’s accepted, so he and his daughter, Cheryl, are coming out to Sweet Valley to meet Annie and look for a place to live. Then Mona says Walter and Cheryl are black. Annie doesn’t care.

Tony Esteban calls later that night. Annie broke up with him when she found out he was seeing another girl behind her back. He’s stopped seeing his other chick and wants to get back together with Annie. Annie still loves him and all her friends think she should give him another chance, but she doesn’t want to get hurt again.

The Wakefields’ next door neighbors, the Beckwiths, have moved away, and one morning, Jessica sees a realtor take down the for sale sign. She goes next door and finds Annie and her mother. Annie tells the twins about her mother’s upcoming marriage, and Jessica is super excited that Mona is marrying a famous photographer. She knows all about Walter and Cheryl because of some article she read in a magazine. She thinks Walter is really talented and Cheryl is stylish and can’t wait to meet them. Annie acts a little weird and tells Jessica not to tell anyone her news.

Annie keeps telling herself she doesn’t have a problem with Walter and Cheryl being black. She’s concerned about what other people are going to think so she doesn’t tell anyone, and when she thinks Jessica is going to blurt it out, she changes the subject. Meanwhile, Tony keeps pestering her and asking her to get back together. She tells him she has too much on her mind to deal with him.

Annie and her mother pick up Walter and Cheryl from the airport. Annie and Cheryl get along, but when they realize how different Sweet Valley is from New York, Cheryl gets kind of bummed out. Annie wonders how Cheryl feels about Annie and her mother being white. Later, as the girls are getting ready for bed, Annie asks Cheryl how she feels about moving to California. Cheryl says she’s glad her father is happy, but that California is so different from New York. Annie wonders if she means because there aren’t very many black people. Annie needs to get over the race thing, for real.

The next morning, Annie and Cheryl drive over to the new house to get ready for the movers. On the car ride over, they get along really well, but as soon as they’re at the house and the twins come over, Annie gets weird. She and Cheryl go upstairs to pick out their bedrooms, and Annie gets all weird again because she really wanted the bedroom Cheryl picked, but didn’t say anything. Things are better by the end of the day and Cheryl is looking forward to the party Annie is throwing for her.

The party is a little weird because everyone who shows up is surprised to find that Cheryl is black. They’re not upset or anything, they just don’t know why Annie didn’t mention it. And everyone, Cheryl included, is puzzled by the number of black and Hispanic people Annie invited because most of them are people she’s not close to. Cheryl asks Annie about it, and Annie runs off and cries in the kitchen. She thinks Cheryl will never forgive her for embarrassing her. God, she’s such a drama queen.

Annie figures she’ll make things better if she includes Cheryl in everything she does. She takes her to the Dairi Burger, Casey’s, the beach, the mall, Guido’s and the Wakefields’ pool. It’s clear to us, if not to Annie, that Cheryl is a little overwhelmed. Annie notices Cheryl isn’t a hundred percent overjoyed and thinks that means she just needs to try harder.

Annie makes Cheryl go to a football game. Since Annie’s cheering, Cheryl gets a ride with the Wakefields. When Liz and Todd go to get some refreshments, Cheryl takes out a book and starts reading. Steve notices and starts to teach her the rules of football. They start talking, and Steve offers to teach Cheryl how to drive since she can’t just walk everywhere like she did in New York. Cheryl has a good time with Steve and actually manages to drive around the school parking lot without stalling.

Annie tells Cheryl she wants to nominate her for membership in Pi Beta Alpha. Cheryl doesn’t seem all that interested, but Annie pushes until Cheryl agrees. At the next meeting, the motion is carried, but Suzanne Hanlon seems unhappy about it. Suzanne is having a PBA swim party on Friday for the members to get to know Cheryl and the other potential pledge, and she basically blackmails Annie into making all the food for the party. If she doesn’t, she’ll blackball Cheryl.

The next day after school, Todd is giving Cheryl, Rosa and Liz a ride home. Cheryl starts talking to Rosa about how much she misses her piano, which hasn’t arrived from New York yet. Rosa invites her over to play her mother’s piano, and Liz tags along. Cheryl asks Liz what happened at the PBA meeting the night before, and Rosa ends up telling Cheryl she’s happier for not joining. When Liz and Cheryl are walking home, Tony rides up on his bike and asks how Annie is doing. Liz explains that Annie and Tony used to date, and Tony tells Cheryl what an idiot he was and that he wishes Annie would talk to him. When Cheryl gets home, she tells Annie what Tony said, but Annie is still afraid of getting hurt. She changes the subject and mentions Suzanne’s swim party. Cheryl says she’ll only go if Annie invites Tony.

Why does everyone want Annie to get back together with a douchebag who cheated on her?

At the party, Annie and Tony get back together. Later, when Lila asks Cheryl to come up and say a few words, Cheryl diplomatically says she would like to withdraw her name. Once everyone gets over their shock and the party is back in motion, Annie starts going off on Cheryl, saying she went out of her way to get the PBAs to nominate her and even let Suzanne blackmail her, and Cheryl isn’t even grateful. Cheryl makes a good point about the fact that Annie should have asked if she even wanted to join the sorority, but then ruins her credibility with me when she says something about Annie expecting her to be grateful like all white people expect black people to be grateful to them for trying to turn them into white people. Ah, go hang out with Andy and talk about Dr. King.

The next morning, Steve Wakefield is sitting by the pool when he sees Cheryl next door. He invites her to sit with him, and she tells him all about her fight with Annie. She says they were both out of line at the party and have been misunderstanding each other from the beginning. Steve compares them to Liz and Jessica and says the twins are as different as Cheryl and Annie are. Because it all comes back to the damned twins. Then Annie runs over all upset because she just got a call that her mother is in the hospital. She collapsed at the store. Steve drives them to the hospital, and once the doctor tells them it was just Mona’s appendix and she’ll be fine, Cheryl and Annie spend all of half a page apologizing and suddenly everything is all better. Hooray.


“I know Andy did have that trouble with Charlie Cashman, but aside from that I don’t think he or any of the other black kids have had much reason to feel uncomfortable at Sweet Valley High.”

“That trouble?” Liz makes it sound like they had a little disagreement at a tea party. Andy got jumped by five guys in a parking lot. He got punched in the stomach by his best friend. He had to go to the hospital.

“Sweet Valley sounds like something out of a 1950’s beach-party movie – football, cheerleaders, sororities, surfing. I suppose you have a burger joint, too?”

I was wondering when someone was going to notice. Good job, Cheryl.

The Cover: Argh, I hate both their hairstyles. And their clothes. And their earrings. And the fact that they both look like they’re older than me.

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  • girltalkread August 19, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Annie looks like my aunt Luiza- and my aunt Luiza is 55 years old.


  • Andy August 19, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    “Cheryl has a good time with Steve and actually manages to drive around the school parking lot without stalling the car.”

    I ready this as:
    “Cheryl has a good time with Steve and actually manages to drive around the school parking lot without stealing the car.”

    My jaw literally dropped. I didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended!


  • Sandy August 19, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    This one was kind of boring. I guess because Francine has already covered racial issues. But the last book ended on a not very good note. This is one where everyone is happy in the end (my fave kind of endings, I’m morphing back into a tween).Did the part about the bedrooms get solved or does Cheryl still have it?


  • Kate August 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    “I know Andy did have that trouble with Charlie Cashman, but aside from that I don’t think he or any of the other black kids have had much reason to feel uncomfortable at Sweet Valley High.”

    Wait, what other black kids? I mean, there was Andy, the token black guy, and his girlfriend, the token black girl. Then there’s Jade, the token Asian American girl and Rosa, the token Hispanic girl, and I think there was a token Hispanic boy too, whose girlfriend treated him badly, but that about does it for non-white-people in SV.


  • HelenB August 20, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Why does everyone want Annie to get back together with a douchebag who cheated on her?

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thought that!


  • Merrie August 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    What would Jessi Ramsey do in this situation?


  • Jenn October 9, 2010 at 3:28 am

    “That trouble?” Liz makes it sound like they had a little disagreement at a tea party.”

    It is, to Liz. Remember that she is a perfect white girl who has everything (except a cool boyfriend and decent family) and always fits in.


  • kellie April 28, 2014 at 3:09 am

    They had all the stero typical race issues but I noticed there were never any characters with Aspergers, mental health issues, intellectual disability or physical disability. Hm. Maybe Francine only accepts skin tone and sexuality?


  • kellie April 28, 2014 at 3:21 am

    I wondered that too. because cheating is acceptable in Sv as long as you are good at sports and popular?


  • Ira April 29, 2014 at 4:36 am

    Is Sweet Valley in Alabama? What’s with the Black ish?


  • kellie April 30, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Absolutely right. What would Liz know about struggling to fit in?


  • mary March 30, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Et really


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