Posts Tagged ‘Body Image/Self Esteem’

Sweet Valley Twins #40: Danny Means Trouble

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

SVT040The Moral of the Story: Celebrities fix everything.

The Big Deal: Big track meet, Parents’ Night

Classmate with a Problem: Danny Jackson, trouble

Synopsis:

Danny Jackson is the best runner on the track team, but he’s a pain in the ass who’s always getting in trouble. After cutting off some of Julie Porter’s hair in class one day, the principal tells him he won’t be able to run track if he keeps screwing around. The next day, Danny is assigned all new classes, and now he’s in the twins’ homeroom and almost all of Jessica’s classes. In social studies, he draws a picture of Mrs. Arnette on the chalkboard while she’s out of the room, and in science class he and Ken get into a big fight. Somehow, he does not get kicked off the track team.

There’s a big track meet against Pinecrest, “the best school in the area.” Danny manages to break a school record, and Liz asks him some questions for the Sixers. When she mentions that his parents must be proud of him, Danny gets all pissed off and tells her to mind her own business. Jim Sturbridge tells Liz that Danny’s parents are scientists and they don’t really like sports.

In social studies one day, Danny tries to tell Mrs. Arnette that a good way to learn about the judicial system is the watch The Citizens’ Court, which sounds like a Judge Judy kind of show. Mrs. Arnette says television isn’t a good way to learn and she and Danny have a heated discussion that ends in a detention threat. And when he’s called on to read in English class, he suggests to a substitute teacher that they discuss what they’ve already read. When Mrs. Winderhoven (lol) doesn’t agree with him, he pretends there’s a mouse under his desk and makes everyone freak out. So, Danny is smart and cares about learning, he’s just got an issue with authority? Principal Clark says if Danny gets in trouble one more time, he’s off the track team. The next meet is three weeks away, and the twins are sure he won’t be able to stay out of trouble that long.

Meanwhile, Jessica notices that Bruce Patman is interested in one of the girls on the track team, so she decides she’ll be more appealing to him if she starts doing aerobics. She spends all weekend working out and by Monday morning she can barely move. And in other news, Lila is getting her ears pierced, so Jessica asks her parents if she can get hers pierced, too. Her parents decide she and Liz can both get their ears pierced when they’re fourteen. Jessica is not happy. Liz couldn’t care less.

And now it’s Parents’ Night at the middle school. It seems to consist of students and their parents roaming aimlessly around the school and stopping into whatever classroom they feel like visiting. The Wakefields go to their math classroom and overhear Ms. Wyler talking to Danny and his parents about his B grade. His parents are disappointed he’s not getting an A, and Ms. Wyler says he’s just having some trouble with the word problems. And then Liz hears them telling Mr. Bowman they think Danny should quit track so he’ll have more time for studying.

Liz asks Danny to look over her track article for the Sixers so he can make sure she’s got all his facts straight. It becomes immediately obvious that Danny doesn’t read very well. Liz tries to talk to him about it because she just can’t help herself, and Danny starts freaking out and ripping pages out of books and generally being a weirdo. Mr. Clark comes out of nowhere and takes him away to the principal’s office. Liz feels like it’s all her fault. She goes to Mr. Clark after school to tell him there’s a reason for Danny’s behavior, but she doesn’t want to tell him what it is so it’s kind of out of Mr. Clark’s hands. Danny is suspended from the track team.

Elizabeth has never felt more guilty about anything in her life, and she just has to tell someone Danny’s secret, so she chooses Jessica. Seems like a bad plan, but maybe Jessica won’t tell anyone. Liz also tells her father. Both Jessica and Mr. Wakefield tell her to let Danny sort it out on his own because it’s not her place to tell his teachers.

The twins read an article about Greg Voynow (lol), an Olympic runner who couldn’t read until he was nineteen. Liz writes him a letter and of course he calls right away and offers to come to Sweet Valley the next day and talk to Danny. So this grown man comes to meet Danny at school, talks to him for a minute about running, and then lures him away in his car to get some ice cream so they can talk. Seems legit. They go to Casey’s Place and eat sundaes while Greg tells Danny all about his own learning disability. Danny agrees to talk to Mr. Bowman the next day. Meanwhile, Liz is upset that Jessica got to meet Greg and she couldn’t because there was a Sixers emergency. Greg is gorgeous and Liz has her first crush.

Danny tells Mr. Bowman about his troubles and starts getting tutored. Mr. Clark lets him back on the track team and they win the next big meet. Greg Voynow comes to school to give a lecture about education and learning disabilities, and he calls Liz on stage to thank her for getting in touch with him. He kisses her on the cheek and Jessica is furious.

Update on Jessica’s workout obsession: She runs through the park one day in her super cool purple aerobic tights. Bruce Patman and Jake Hamilton are there and they make fun of her clothes and of how slow she’s running. Another day, she runs to the beach and discovers she has a blister. Jake Hamilton happens to be there and he offers to have his mom drive her home. Jessica is embarrassed, and when she gets home she weighs herself and discovers she’s gained three pounds. She decides to give up on working out.

Quotes:

“That’s funny. You don’t look like you gained any weight,” Lila remarked.

“I didn’t!” Jessica said.

“Then why would you want to exercise?” Lila asked.

My thoughts exactly.

 

“Do you have trouble reading?” she asked. “Because if you do, I—“

Danny scowled. “Just leave me alone, will you?” he almost yelled. “Stop being such a pain!”

For real, just leave everyone alone.

The Cover: That kid looks ANGRY! And he looks like he’s about five, which is weird. Loving Liz’s floodpants.

Sweet Valley Twins #38: Lois Strikes Back

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

SVT038The Moral of the Story: Fat people can win bike-a-thons! (But only if skinny people drop out.)

The Big Deal: Bike-a-thon

Classmate with a Problem: Lois Waller, fat

Synopsis:

The school is doing a bike-a-thon to raise money for something or other. When Lois Waller says she’s excited to enter, Liz and Amy are surprised because Lois is usually too fat to do shit like that. Jessica is in a crisis because she thinks nobody will sponsor both her and Liz, and she really wants the super cool bike that’s being given away as a prize to the person who raises the most money. Lila and the other Unicorns decide they don’t really want to bike for thirty sweaty miles, so they drop out of the bike-a-thon. Jessica drops out, too, because she figures she’ll never win the bike anyway. She knows her parents will be disappointed in her, so she promises herself they’ll never find out.

One day at lunch, Bruce Patman accidentally trips over Lois’ backpack, and the whole lunchroom watches him clean up his fallen tray. Humiliated, Bruce vows to get revenge on Lois for having such an offensive backpack. Lois gets way more sponsors for the bike-a-thon than anyone else. Bruce realizes this contest must be really important to her, so naturally, this is the perfect means of getting back at her. He gets his parents to pledge twenty dollars a mile, and tells Lois the next day that there’s no way she’ll make more money than him. So Lois goes and gets a few more sponsors, and she’s up to twenty-one dollars a mile.

Finally, it’s bike-a-thon day. Lois and Bruce are the frontrunners, so Liz and Amy shadow them so they can report to the Sixers. Liz sticks by Lois as she rides twenty-two miles. Amy loses Bruce after only eight miles, and nobody has any idea whether or not he went the whole thirty. At school on Monday, he shows off the check his parents have written and brags about how he finished the race faster than anyone else. But when someone mentions the Casey’s gift certificates that were given out to everyone who finished, Bruce looks confused. Liz’s reporter’s instincts kick into high gear and she spends all day wondering whether or not Bruce actually finished the marathon.

By the way, Jessica only rode four miles and then she headed over to Lila’s to listen to the new Johnny Buck album. When Liz starts asking around about Bruce, Jessica mentions he was at Lila’s too, and showed up not long after she did. However, she thinks Liz is being unnecessarily mean to Bruce, so she makes a bet with Liz that he really did finish. Loser has to do the winner’s chores for a week.

OMG, this is so boring. Long story short, Liz gets Bruce to admit that he crashed his bike after eight miles, and then she has a great time watching Jessica do her chores.

Quotes:

Elizabeth looked at her. This was the first time she had ever seen Lois out of her school clothes, and she was surprised to note that in a T-shirt and shorts, Lois didn’t look so heavy.

Well, what the hell has she been wearing to school? A muumuu?

“I’m trying to stick to a diet,” Lois said shyly.

Elizabeth turned and looked at her friend. “That’s wonderful.”

That’s wonderful? I mean, you don’t have to pretend your friend isn’t overweight if she really is, but don’t act like you’ve been sitting around wishing she’d go on a diet.

Since she was going to be the center of attention, Lois had taken care to dress nicely. She and her mother had gone shopping, and because she had lost a few more pounds, she was able to fit into a pretty blue dress.

Because they don’t make pretty blue dresses for fat folks.

The Cover: I thought Lois was supposed to be fat…

Sweet Valley Twins #35: Amy’s Pen Pal

Monday, September 30th, 2013

SVT035The Moral of the Story: If you keep on lying, you could end up on a radio show and your sister will be miraculously cured of a vague unnamed disease.

The Big Deal: Party at Lila’s, barbecue at the Wakefields’, radio show at the mall

Friend with a Problem: Samantha Williams, pathological liar

Synopsis:

It’s a big holiday weekend in Sweet Valley. What holiday? No idea. But the twins have a full weekend coming up. Lila’s having a party Saturday night, the Wakefields are having a barbecue on Monday, and on Monday night some high school senior named Dave Carlquist is broadcasting his radio show from the mall and everyone is very excited for some reason. Dave is holding a contest to see who comes up with the best name for his show. Both twins entered, but only Jessica cares about the prize, a party at a “teen dance club” called Jupiter. Dave has a velvety radio voice so Jessica is convinced he must be gorgeous, so I predict he’ll be ugly. Brother Steven is in the radio club or whatever, so he goes to the mall to check out the broadcast booth they’re building. He tries to introduce Jessica to his friend Buddy, but Buddy looks nerdy so Jessica doesn’t care. Taking bets now that Buddy is actually Dave Carlquist.

In other news, Amy Sutton has been worried about her pen pal, Samantha Williams. Sam used to send at least a letter a month, but it’s been a while since Amy’s heard from her. But then Sam shows up on Amy’s doorstep with a suitcase in her hand. She claims she wrote Amy to tell her she was going to visit, but Amy never got such a letter. Amy’s mom says she wants to call Sam’s parents, but Sam tells her they’re camping that weekend and are unreachable, and of course Amy’s mom takes Sam’s word for it because she’s super good at parenting. Amy takes Sam to Lila’s party, and is surprised when Sam seems to actually enjoy talking to the Unicorns. Sam tells them all about San Francisco, and about her boyfriend, who is the son of an actress the Unicorns like. Sam spends the entire party ignoring Amy and she dances with Ken three times, even though she knows Amy likes him. Amy gets upset and calls her mother to come pick them up, but Sam decides to stay when Lila assures her she can get a ride home later from someone else.

Predictably, Jessica is the only Unicorn who doesn’t like Sam. You know how she feels about the spotlight being on someone other than her. Lila wants to put Sam up for honorary Unicorn membership. Jessica hates the idea, but she doesn’t like to argue with Lila. The Unicorns decide to get together at the Dairi Burger to discuss it. Lila calls Amy’s house to invite Sam, but Amy’s mother has insisted Amy and Sam stick together that day, so Amy reluctantly agrees to go along.

Jessica and Amy are equally miserable at lunch, but only Jessica seems to be picking up on the fact that Sam is lying to them about pretty much every aspect of her fabulous life. She claims her family just bought a house in Hawaii but seems confused when someone asks her what island it’s on. She says she wins all the spelling bees at school, but at the party last night she was talking about how bad a speller she is. Jessica is suspicious. She’s sure she read in a magazine that the actress’s son Sam claims to be dating is much younger than Sam, so she and Liz set out to find the magazine and prove Sam’s been lying about everything. By the time the Wakefields’ barbecue rolls around, most of the Unicorns are pretty well convinced Sam’s been lying. Jessica finds the magazine, which says the actress’s son is only nine, and shows it to the Unicorns.

Janet Howell’s presidential plan is to come up with a crazy story and see if Sam goes along with it. If she does, they’ll know for sure she’s been a big fat liar about everything. They tell her they heard Melody Power was making a movie in San Francisco and got hurt, and Sam takes it from there and says she knows all about it and even went to see Melody in the hospital. Sam and Amy leave the barbecue, and the Unicorns discuss how to proceed. They have Lila call Sam to tell her Dave Carlquist wants her to come on his show that night and talk about meeting Melody Power. The idea is that Sam will go introduce herself as the famous DJ from San Francisco (she’s been telling everyone she’s a DJ) and then Dave will laugh her off the stage and she’ll be humiliated. After Sam hangs up with Lila, she and Amy have a fight about how unpleasant Sam has been, and then Sam wonders how the hell she’s going to get through the interview.

The Unicorns come pick Sam up to take her to the mall, and then Liz comes over so she and Amy can go together. Liz is conflicted about the Unicorns’ plan for Sam, so she confides in Amy and is horrified when Amy says she thinks they should laugh right along with the Unicorns. Then Mrs. Sutton FINALLY decides to call Sam’s parents so she can arrange Sam’s trip home, and Sam’s mother tells her Sam ran away and they had no idea where she was all weekend. Apparently, Sam’s little sister has been sick so nobody was paying any attention to Sam and she decided to run away to a place where people would notice her. Mrs. Sutton tells the girls Sam’s parents are on their way and to just go to the radio show and not tell Sam anything or else she might run away again. Now Amy and Liz feel really sorry for Sam and they want to keep her from being embarrassed at the show, but they don’t want to tell the Unicorns anything because one of them might say something to Sam. They go to the mall and talk to Steven, who comes up with a plan.

Steve arranges for Dave to call Sam up and interview her about what it’s like visiting Sweet Valley. Sam does the interview and goes back to the Unicorns, who can’t believe their plan was foiled. They tell Sam they found out about her lies and wanted her to be humiliated. Sam runs away from them in tears, and Amy and Liz do the arm-around-the-shoulder routine and make her feel better. Then Dave announces the winner of the contest to name the show. Liz wins with “The Awesome Hour.” Huh. Awesome. Liz gets to be interviewed by Dave, and she tells him she and her sister will host the Jupiter party together. Isn’t that nice.

Amy’s mom comes to pick up Amy and Sam, and Sam’s parents are waiting when they get home. They hug Sam and tell her how much they love her. Her sister is coming home from the hospital so things will be different now, blah blah blah. Sam apologizes to Amy for the way she’s been acting and they agree to keep being pen pals. And by the way, yes, “Buddy” turns out to be Dave Carlquist’s nickname, and Jessica is horrified to find out she’s been so rude to him this whole time.

Setup for the next book: Mary Wallace wants to run away now. Ugh.

Quotes:

“I made sure the gardeners worked extra hard to make the patio look nice.”

Picture this: Twelve-year-old Lila bossing around some sweaty landscape guys, telling them her patio better be damned gorgeous for her party that night. I love it.

Lila: I’m really surprised you and Sam are such good friends.

Amy: Why is that?

Lila: She’s wonderful. It doesn’t seem like you two would have much in common.

Daily dose of Lila awesomeness.

It would have been terrible if it had rained on their barbecue.

Don’t worry, Liz. Rain is only a plot device in Sweet Valley.

Mrs. Sutton seemed to be trying to put the pieces together. “I thought Sam’s story was a little odd, but I was so busy this weekend…” Her voice trailed off.

Best parents in the world, right here in Sweet Valley.

The Cover: Dead mackerel eyes. God, she looks like she’s come to devour Amy’s soul.

Sweet Valley Twins #31: Jessica’s Bad Idea

Monday, October 15th, 2012

The Moral of the Story: A makeover from Jessica will turn you into a jerk.

The Big Deal: Sweet Valley Days

Classmate with a Problem: Sandra Ferris, tall nerd

Synopsis:

Kerry Glenn has a party and her mom makes her invite Sandra Ferris. Total bummer. Sandra is tall and shy so nobody likes her. Jessica wants to make everyone get Kerry ballet themed presents, but she neglects to call Sandra. So Sandra gets her gloves. Gloves. In a town where the sun never stops shining and it’s always beach weather. Naturally, everyone kind of snickers and makes Sandra feel like an idiot, so Sandra locks herself in the study to cry. Liz swoops in and tells Sandra it’s okay if she’s tall and then invites her to ride bikes the next day.

Jessica is trying to sew a lace collar onto a sweater one afternoon when Sandra appears in her doorway and starts giving her sewing tips. Jessica is annoyed, but she’s placated when Sandra says she wishes she were as pretty and popular as Jessica. Obviously, it’s time for a fakeover. Jessica and Liz braid Sandra’s hair and give her a new shirt and suddenly she’s gorgeous! They take her for a walk around the block to show off their handiwork. Ricky Capaldo, Aaron Dallas and Tom McKay ride by and tell Sandra how much better she looks than usual (Sandra giggles and thanks them, which makes me want to puke) and then brother Steven suggests Sandra play beach volleyball with him and his buddies sometime.

The next day at school, all anyone can talk about is Sandra’s new look and they don’t even notice Jessica’s new lacy sweater. And Jessica can’t believe Sandra isn’t telling everyone the makeover was her idea. Sandra sits with the Unicorns at lunch and Jessica is SO MAD when Bruce comes over and flirts with Sandra. Then the lace falls off one of Jessica’s sleeves and lands in her macaroni and everyone laughs. Jessica HATES Sandra now.

The next day, everyone is still talking about Sandra and her new look. Sandra’s feeling so good about herself now that she’s no longer embarrassed when she knocks things over in home ec. Her newfound confidence has even given her the ability to play volleyball in gym class. She’s not too shy to raise her hand in social studies, and we find out Spanish settlers arrived in the area in 1788 but Sweet Valley wasn’t established as a town until 1857, a fact that I’m sure has been contradicted in plenty of other books. That bit of history has been brought up because we’re having Sweet Valley Days to “honor the early settlers” of Sweet Valley. One lucky sixth-grader will win the honor of introducing Mayor Lodge at a special assembly the school is having to celebrate Sweet Valley Days. Now we’re celebrating our celebrations. Jessica wants Liz to nominate her. She also wants to win the citizenship thing that will get her a place on the float in the parade. She figures then everyone will stop talking about Sandra and pay attention to her instead.

Sandra has been feeling confused and she’s worried everyone only likes her now because she’s so pretty. She figures if she gets to introduce the mayor, then she’ll feel like she’s not only beautiful, but also smart and talented and stuff. She asks Liz to nominate her and Liz says she will, even though she already promised to nominate Jessica. Oh, Liz. When she breaks the news, Jessica tells Liz she’s convinced Sandra is pretending to be shy just to get more popularity or something. She can’t think about it too much though because she’s busy designing the dress she’s going to wear on the float in the parade.

Sandra wins the introducing-the-mayor thing, and then she has the CRAZY idea to try for the citizenship thing, too. Jessica is mad that she’s trying to win both (even though she wanted to do the same thing). She goes out of her way to be the best citizen in Sweet Valley, but Sandra one-ups her at every turn. If Jessica donates a dollar to the literacy fund, Sandra donates two. HOW DARE THAT BITCH TRY TO BE A GOOD PERSON. Jessica finds out the library has been trying to raise money to repair their bookmobile, and she vows to come up with a super great plan to help them out. Steven tells her about how the seniors at SVH raised money for their prom last year by publishing commemorative books and selling ads to local businesses.

The next morning at school, Sandra overhears Jessica telling Liz about her idea. All she really hears is, “…the library needs money to repair their bookmobile,” and, “…sell ads to raise the money.” This makes her remember her older sister telling her about the seniors raising money for the prom last year and she comes up with the exact same idea as Jessica to publish books for Sweet Valley Days. She gets to Mrs. Arnette before Jessica does. Jessica is upset (rightly so, for once in her life) and she confronts Sandra, who insists she didn’t steal any ideas and besides, Jessica’s always been popular and now it’s someone else’s turn and she, Sandra, deserves to win. Well then. She introduces her bookmobile idea along with the mayor and then everyone votes for her to win the citizenship award.

Sandra goes to make up with the twins, but finds Steven playing basketball in the driveway. She tries to tell him that she didn’t steal the idea, and Steven says he was there when Jessica thought it up. Then Sandra remembers the things she overheard Jessica saying about raising money and LIGHTBULB! Gee, maybe she really did steal that idea! She shows up at the Wakefield house the morning of the parade and tells Jessica to take her place. Now that Jessica’s getting what she wants, she can be magnanimous. She knows Sandra has been doing a lot of work on the booklets, so she says she’ll be satisfied with riding on the float, and Sandra can take credit for the booklets.

Setup for the next book: Jessica wants to be an actress. (Again? Yawn.)

Quotes:

There was a picture of purple cotton pants with elastic at the ankles and one of a blue gym uniform with spangles, plus a dozen other designs.

These are Jessica’s clothing designs. She should have no trouble getting a job with American Apparel.

“Hold on,” Jessica interrupted. “There’s nothing wrong with being tall and thin. And you could wear your hair differently.” She jumped up and pushed Sandra’s hair away from her face. “Yes, that’s it.” She nodded approvingly. “That looks better.”

I hate fakeovers. I hate fakeovers so much.

Sandra walked around in a state of shock. She felt sure she must be dreaming. Any minute she would wake up and discover she was still clumsy and unpopular.

Apparently, when Jessica made her over, she somehow made Sandra less clumsy.

The Cover: That’s it? That’s the makeover? What the hell did she look like before if a tank top and mall bangs is enough to make her the most talked about kid at school?

Sweet Valley Twins #22: Out of Place

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The Moral of the Story: People from Tennessee are doll-whittling horse whisperers.

The Big Deal: Arts and Crafts Fair

New Kid with a Problem: Ginny Lu Culpepper, hillbilly

Synopsis:

Ginny Lu Culpepper has moved in with her aunt, Mrs. Waldron, a teacher at Sweet Valley Middle School. Ginny Lu is from Tennessee, so she has red hair and talks loud. The first thing Ginny Lu does when she rolls into town is go to the middle school to find her aunt. She interrupts Elizabeth’s class to ask Mrs. Arnette where Mrs. Waldron is, and her voice and clothes make Ellen Riteman hate her immediately.

Mrs. Waldron takes Ginny Lu to the mall for some new clothes, and Ginny Lu is simply amazed at all the shiny sparkly things that just don’t exist in Stony Gap, Tennessee. Ellen and Lila appear out of nowhere and pretend to be helpful, giving Ginny Lu a bunch of really ugly clothes and telling her they’re all the rage out here in California. She comes out of the dressing room wearing the following items of clothing:

  • Leopard-skin tights
  • Blue and white striped knee socks over the tights
  • Orange leather miniskirt
  • Huge green sweater
  • Banana earrings

Here is a visual representation of this outfit:

Not pictured: banana earrings

The saleslady asks Mrs. Waldron if Ginny Lu is color blind. Ellen and Lila have gathered a crowd outside the shop to laugh at Ginny Lu. The Unicorn Welcome Wagon, ladies and gentlemen.

The next day at school, Ginny Lu overhears Ellen, Janet and Lila talking about her. She decides she’s had enough and she runs away from school. She doesn’t stop running until she comes upon the stables, which is where Liz finds her when she goes for her horseback riding lesson. Ginny Lu has a way with horses, and she’s made friends with a pregnant mare named Snow White. Naturally, Snow White is Ellen’s horse. And naturally, Ellen shows up and yells at Ginny Lu to go away. Liz tells her to leave Ginny Lu alone and stop being such a bitch. Not bloody likely.

Ginny Lu gives Liz a doll she whittled, and Mrs. Wakefield says it’s “a lovely example of Appalachian folk art.” She’s an interior designer so she knows about these things. Liz decides Ginny Lu should enter her dolls in the big Arts and Crafts Fair at school. Ginny Lu would rather keep her head down and keep out of the Unicorns’ way, but Liz is determined and she eventually convinces Ginny Lu to enter.

Things are going just fine at the fair and everyone seems to be getting into Ginny Lu’s weird poem that she’s decided to recite, but Ellen makes fun of her. And so, like a true Sweet Valley girl, Ginny Lu freaks out and runs away in tears. She goes home and packs a suitcase, then goes to the stables to say goodbye to Snow White. She’s running away, back to the mountains, where life is simple for a redheaded girl who talks too loud and wears gingham dresses.

When she gets to the stable, Snow White has given birth and Ted the stable boy is having some trouble. The foal is premature and won’t stand up to nurse and Snow White won’t let Ted get near him. It’s Ginny to the rescue. Ted has called the Ritemans, so of course Ellen shows up during Ginny Lu’s rescue operation, but she finally gets it through her head that the foal will die without Ginny Lu’s help. After things settle down, Ellen apologizes and lets Ginny Lu name the foal. She names him Sooner. “Because he decided he’d rather get here sooner than later. And now that he’s here, he’s decided he’d sooner stay.” Ugh.

Meanwhile, in Jessicaland… Jessica let Janet Howell borrow Ned’s prized tennis racket, and she broke it. Jessica wants to buy a new one before her dad notices the old one is gone, but it’s fifty dollars. After a couple of failed attempts at getting money (selling Liz’s clothes in a garage sale and doing Steven’s chores to get his allowance money), she hits the jackpot when she finds out a local shop will buy Ginny Lu’s whittled dolls for twenty-five dollars each. She sets herself up as Ginny Lu’s agent and slithers away with ten percent. The new tennis racket is on the way and only Liz is the wiser.

Quotes:

Their father, who was usually warm and funny, had no sense of humor when it came to his tennis racket.

Well, sure. Who does?

“I think you should get started right away,” Steven declared. He pulled a broom and dustpan from under his bed and handed them to Jessica.

I’d just like to know if anyone else keeps a broom and dustpan under the bed.

The Cover: First of all, let’s just take a moment to really soak in Liz’s smugface. That self-satisfied “I sure am good at making friends” face just makes me want to puke. (Also, doesn’t she look a little like DJ Tanner here?) And second, Ginny Lu looks exactly like you would expect a Ginny Lu to look: like she came straight out of Little House on the Prairie. (No offense meant to any Ginny Lus in the audience.)

Sweet Valley Twins #19: The Bully

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The Moral of the Story: If you want someone to stop being a bully, arrange things so that he owes you his life.

The Big Deal: Nothing special happening this week.

Synopsis:

Dennis Cookman is a jerk. He’s a great big seventh-grader who likes to pick on all the sixth-graders. In the last week, he’s punched Jimmy Underwood in the eye, ruined Olivia’s mural and gotten Lila to give him twenty-five dollars. The sixth-graders have a meeting – at some vacant lot that’s described as a favorite place for meetings even though we’ve never heard of it – to discuss what’s to be done about this Cookman slob. Steven Wakefield wanders by, and his sage advice is to tell a teacher.

This turns out to be a bad idea. Mr. Bowman tells Dennis to straighten up, so of course Dennis just terrorizes the kids more. They come up with a plan to scare Dennis. At this vacant lot where everyone’s been having secret meetings, there’s a cave. Right. This cave is called Dead Man’s Cave and all the kids are afraid of it. Aaron’s plan is to say, in front of Dennis, that he’s going to spend the night in the cave. He knows about a hidden pipe that leads out of the cave. I guess Dennis watching him go into a cave and then come out again in the morning is supposed to be some kind of payback. I don’t know why.

The Unicorns want Grace Oliver to join in their awesomeness. They’ve decided to bring back initiation rites. They make Grace stand up and recite a poem in the middle of English class and then get her to steal a bunch of people’s history homework. Then Jessica comes up with the grand idea to make Grace eat lunch with Dennis. Grace is terrified, but she does her best to be nice to Dennis, even when he tells her to get lost. Somehow, she actually does get Dennis to eat with her and she decides he’s really not so bad.

After Aaron comes out of the cave unscathed, Ken and Jimmy each spend a night there. They figure Dennis will want to show he’s tougher than them, but Dennis is scared to sleep in the cave and he says he can’t do it because he has a sore throat. The whole school taunts him until he agrees to do it. Everyone gathers at the cave that night and Dennis goes in. And then it starts to rain. Aaron panics because he knows the cave will flood, so he and Ken go running in to save Dennis. Dennis won’t listen to them and thinks they’re just trying to get him out of the cave so they can make fun of him for being scared. Then Grace comes along and convinces Dennis the boys are telling the truth. I don’t really get what happens next, but for some reason Ken, Aaron and Jimmy have to pull Dennis out of the cave because the water is rising and…I don’t know, Dennis can’t walk out on his own, I guess. Dennis stops being mean to everyone after they save his life.

This is a terrible book.

Quotes:

“Well, maybe this whole thing isn’t boring after all,” Jessica pronounced, tossing back her hair. “If it’s going to make Dennis look like a baby, it might just turn out to be fun.” Her eyes sparkled. “We better make it official Unicorn business to bug him today – and to be sure to be at Larson’s lot tonight!”

It’s good to have official business to take care of.

The Cover: I LOVE Lila hiding behind Jessica.

Sweet Valley Twins #16: Second Best

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The Moral of the Story: If you win a contest, everyone will like you. (I feel like this is a recurring theme.)

The Big Deal: Party at Kimberly’s

New Kid with a Problem: Dylan McKay, loser

Synopsis:

Three super important things are happening in the lives of the Wakefields. 1. Steven has some kind of sports banquet coming up. *yawn* 2. Liz is all excited about an essay contest. *double yawn* 3. Jessica wants to go to Kimberly Haver’s upcoming birthday party but she’s still grounded because of last week’s shenanigans. Her parents have been thinking she might have been grounded long enough, but then they get the kids’ report cards and decide Jessica could do with another two weeks. Jessica schmoozes herself into a “probation period” and if her grades haven’t improved in two weeks she’ll be regrounded.

Liz overhears an argument between the cute and popular new kid, Tom McKay, and his awkward older brother Dylan. Tom would like Dylan to get involved in stuff at school, but Dylan doesn’t feel like there’s any point because he sucks at everything. Dylan is actually a pretty good writer and he’s been working on a piece for the essay contest, but he gives up when he hears some kids talking about how great Tom’s essay is.

There’s a schoolwide project everyone has to do, that thing where students have to create a business. Liz is determined to be nice when Dylan McKay is assigned to the group she’s in, but he’s unfriendly and shoots down all Liz’s suggestions about contributions he could make. Tom is in Jessica’s group and he’s all excited about Jessica’s idea to start a boutique. When Dylan sees how much fun the other group is having with Tom, he gets even crabbier and pretty soon nobody wants to talk to him because he’s acting like a jerk. That makes him even more crabby and he decides it’s all Tom’s fault. He starts a fight in the cafeteria and punches Tom in the nose.

Liz’s group is going to publish a book of students’ writing, and she puts Dylan on typing duty. When Liz gets home that night, she finds Dylan’s essay mixed in with the other papers. She thinks it’s great and she calls Dylan to tell him it has to be postmarked today or it won’t be counted. Dylan tells her to throw it away. Liz can’t bring herself to do that; instead, she gets her mom to drive her to the post office so she can mail it herself.

Everyone in the seventh grade gets invited to Kimberly Haver’s party. Except Dylan. This is the last straw; he’s going to run away. He goes to the bus station, but realizes he can’t afford a ticket. Then Jessica (who is at the bus station for some dumb contrived reason) sees him and he makes up a lie about seeing an aunt in San Francisco. Jessica loses interest almost immediately, but Dylan decides to wait until next Friday. Everyone will be at Kimberly’s party and nobody will even notice Dylan is gone.

When Friday rolls around, Liz finds out Dylan actually won the essay contest, but he’s nowhere to be found. The Scooby gang gets together: Kimberly says she “forgot” to give Dylan his invitation, Jessica says she saw Dylan at the bus station, Tom says there is no aunt in San Francisco, and Liz puts it all together and she and Tom run off to the bus station. They find Dylan about to get on a bus to Los Angeles and they pull him out of line. Dylan whines about how everyone likes Tom better than him and he’s such a loser who’s not good at anything, so Liz tells him he won the essay contest. With his newfound confidence, Dylan goes to the party and has a grand time because everyone wants to hear about his awesome essay.

Quotes:

“We’ll probably need to construct a booth or something. How are you in wood shop?”

Dylan shook his head, still refusing to meet [Liz’s] eyes. “Terrible. The only thing I ever managed to do in wood shop was almost cut off my finger,” he told her glumly. “The teacher would hardly let me near the tools after that.”

The Cover: Liz looks like she’s messing with a hearing aid or something, and Tom just looks confused. His left hand is clawing at his back pretty intensely.

Sweet Valley Twins #13: Stretching the Truth

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The Moral of the Story: Everybody loves a tugboat!

The Big Deal: Birthday party for Mary

Synopsis:

Mary Robinson is feeling down. Her long lost mother went and married this Tim Wallace guy and Mary feels left out. But for some reason she’s going around telling all her friends that Tim is this rich architect who buys her presents and is designing a mansion for her and her mom. He’s not. He’s a handyman who just bought a tugboat.

The twins can tell something is bothering Mary. She rushes straight home from school every day, her grades are falling and – worst of all! – she keeps missing Unicorn meetings. The Unicorns have a special lunch meeting just so Mary can be there, but Mary has gone home to have lunch with her mom. Janet decides to continue the meeting after school and if Mary’s not there, she’s kicked out of the Unicorns.

Mary manages to make it to the Dairi Burger for the meeting, and she’s mortified when her mom and stepfather walk in. Tim pulls up a chair and starts talking to the Unicorns. Mary fakes a stomach ache when he starts talking about the tugboat (Mary’s been telling everyone it’s a yacht). Mr. and Mrs. Wallace take Mary home and try to think of some way to make her feel better about things. They decide to throw her a surprise birthday party on the tugboat. So now they’re spending even less time with Mary because they’re always heading off to the harbor to fix up the boat. And Mary’s friends are always talking about the party, and they shut up whenever Mary comes near.

Mary tells Liz she’s afraid nobody likes her anymore, so Liz spills the beans about the party. Mary’s pretty happy until Liz tells her the party is going to be on the boat. Oh, no. She’s sure nobody will want to be her friend when they see her stupid tugboat. The day before the party, Mary fakes another stomach ache so she can leave school early. When her mom and Tim don’t seem overly worried about her, Mary decides the best thing to do is run away. But as soon as she walks out the door, she trips over her bike and hurts her arm. Tim comes outside to investigate, sees Mary’s arm is hurt, and offers to carry her inside. Because she can’t walk with an injured arm? Tim promises he won’t tell Mary’s mom that Mary was running away, and Mary decides she trusts him and it’s okay with her if he adopts her.

Now that she’s discovered what a nice guy Tim really is, Mary guesses she ought to go to the damn party. She shouldn’t have worried, of course. All her friends think it’s super cool that her family owns a tugboat, and everyone thinks Tim is dreamy when he takes out his guitar and sings a song he wrote just for Mary, and then all the songs from the Unicorns’ current favorite movie.

Quotes:

Elizabeth frowned. She missed spending long Sixers work sessions with Mary, the two of them typing and laughing for hours on end.

I keep picturing Liz and Mary laughing insanely while they type. Reminds me of Hyperbole and a Half’s Internet Forever.

[Tim] took out his guitar and sang a simple melody about love and trust. Each verse talked about building love like a house, adding room after room until the house had turned into a castle. The chorus was, “There’s always room for more love.”

Barf. We get more lyrics later on: “Love takes time, love takes work, but now my love castle is finished, and my princess can move in.” Ew.

The Cover: Mary looks exactly like the twins, and I don’t know who that other person is supposed to be. My husband saw this cover and said, “It’s Pat!”

 

Sweet Valley Twins #10: One of the Gang

Friday, May 13th, 2011

The Moral of the Story: You can’t make friends unless you can win contests.

The Big Deal: Mini Olympics

New Kid with a Problem: Pamela Jacobson, heart condition

Synopsis:

Liz’s new friend this week is Pamela Jacobson. Pamela is a recent transfer to Sweet Valley Middle School. She has a heart condition and was attending the “special” school, but all she wants is to be a normal kid! So she’s gotten her parents to let her transfer, but at the first sign of fatigue or depression, it’s back to Ridgedale.

Steven Wakefield has been annoying the twins by saying he has ESP. They want him to STFU, so they tell him people with ESP have visions. That night Jessica puts on a ghost costume and climbs a ladder up to Steve’s window. Steve opens the shade and starts screaming, and he scares Jessica so much that she falls off the ladder and sprains her ankle. She has a fun time getting fawned over at school the next day, but by the second day she’s sick of her crutches and she just wants her old life back, dammit.

Jessica has been put in charge of the Mini Olympics at school. Ever since Liz started getting to know Pamela, she’s been trying to get Jessica to change the Olympics and put in more activities for kids who can’t do athletic stuff. Jessica thought it was a lame idea, but now that she’s handicapped herself, she thinks Liz just might be on to something. She doesn’t care anything about Pamela, but Lila’s been trying to take over her job as chairman and Jessica thinks this is the perfect opportunity to get the power back.

Pamela’s parents don’t think she’s progressing very well at normal school, and they’ve decided that she’ll go back to Ridgedale next month if things don’t improve. They seem convinced that since she can’t do anything athletic, she’s totally isolated from the rest of the kids. I don’t get it. I never did anything athletic in school and I don’t feel like I was ever lacking in friends. But whatever…Pamela says she’d like to stay at Sweet Valley Middle, and her eighth-grade brother is pissed because he’s embarrassed of her. Pamela starts thinking they’re right, that the fact that she can’t participate in the Mini Olympics means she shouldn’t have even tried to go to a normal school.

Jessica goes to Pamela’s house and tells her she needs her advice about what kind of special activities can be added to the Mini Olympics, and she convinces Pamela to go to that night’s committee meeting with her. She figures that if Pamela is there, the faculty advisers won’t put up too much of a fight about changing things around. She also figures that Lila will argue and end up looking like a jerk. Who needs enemies, right?

Pamela and Jessica spend many long hours reorganizing the plans for the Olympics. What they come up with is ridiculous. One of the new events is a bed-making contest, which is just, like, what? But okay, fine. Let’s say there’s someone on your team who is awesome at making beds. You can’t just put that person in the bed-making contest. Names will be drawn at random to decide who will participate in each event. I think this is really dumb. Only Lila agrees with me.

The day is broken up into three parts. First, the talent competition. Each team puts on a skit and performs a song. Next, Brainpower. Spelling bees and such. Then, the bed-making and wheelchair races, along with Crutch Croquet and junk like that. So, no actual sports at all. I thought this new version was supposed to accommodate everyone?

Pamela and Jessica both end up on the blue team, and they’re tied with Lila and the red team at the end of the day. The last event is the wheelchair race, and Pamela wins it for the blue team. Way to go, Pam. I’m a little confused, though. The entire book, we’re told she can’t even walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to rest her weak heart, but she can exert herself enough to win a wheelchair race? Whatever, good job, blue team. Pamela’s father sees how much everyone loves her now that she’s won something, and he decides she can stay at Sweet Valley.

Setup for the next book: Ellen and Jessica find a mysterious box buried in Ellen’s back yard.

Quotes:

“Unless you’re really pretty, or really good at sports, or really smart, no one notices you.”

That’s right, Liz. If you’re not doing anything terribly noticeable, you probably won’t get noticed.

Lila frowned. “It sounds ridiculous,” she said. “Who ever heard of a bed-making contest in a Mini Olympics?”

Indeed, Lila. I hear you, sister.

The Cover: I don’t really know what the tag line has to do with anything. “Is Jessica really as perfect as she thinks she is?” I guess? Pamela’s cute, but I hate her 80s hair. Jessica seems to be swimming in that huge pink sweatshirt.

 

Sweet Valley Twins #9: Against the Rules

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

The Moral of the Story: You have to be talented if you’re poor. Otherwise nobody will like you.

The Big Deal: Party at the Wakefields’

Synopsis:

Jessica is disgusted by Liz’s behavior. Know why? No, she’s not trying to get the color purple outlawed or anything like that. It’s because she’s hanging out with Sophia Rizzo. Sophia is POOR! Her brother is a CRIMINAL! Their mother is DISABLED! Liz being friends with her is the worst thing that’s ever happened to Jessica.

Ned Wakefield has a client who has a daughter the twins’ age, and this client has invited one of the twins to L. A. to hang out with the daughter. Liz automatically offers to stay home and let Jessica go, but Ned insists the girls draw straws. Jessica loses. This, too, is the worst thing that’s ever happened to Jessica.

Sweet Valley Middle School is going to put on a play, and the two best English students from each grade are chosen to write it. Sophia and Liz are the sixth grade representatives, and Jessica can’t stand that Liz is going to be working with Sophia. Because, remember, she’s POOR! Even brother Steven warns Liz not to get too close to the Rizzos. He knows Sophia’s brother, Tony, is a CRIMINAL who went to REFORM SCHOOL. Sophia comes over to work on the play one night. Lila happens to be there, and Jessica tells her Sophia’s there to pick up a box of old clothes. She says this, of course, right in front of Sophia.

Liz is worried at the first play committee meeting because the two seventh grade reps are Mary Robinson and Peter Jeffries, a Unicorn and a friend of Bruce Patman’s. Liz is sure Sophia is going to have a rough time, but it all turns out surprisingly well. The other kids like Sophia’s ideas and she’s chosen as the head writer of the play. Liz is feeling good about things until she gets home and sees Steven’s black eye. Tony Rizzo punched him in the face, so now Steve and Jessica are pissed at Liz. Weird Wakefield logic, don’t ask.

When the Wakefield parents see Steve’s black eye, they tell Liz she can’t hang out with Sophia outside of school anymore. That really sucks because Liz just told Sophia she’d throw her a birthday party at the Wakefield house next month. See, Sophia’s never had a birthday party, on account of her being so POOR. Things are even worse when Liz finds out her trip to L. A. is on Sophia’s birthday. She begs her parents to let Jessica go instead, but they say that just wouldn’t be fair. Okay, the Wakefield parents are being ridiculous this week.

Steven suggests the twins switch places so Jessica can go to L. A. Ned and Alice are going to be at an all day beach party that Saturday, so Liz figures she can throw Sophia a little party while everyone is gone. Jessica loves the idea of switching places, of course, and thinks Liz is the best sister ever, but then in the same conversation she gets all pissy about Sophia writing the damn school play. She says she won’t be auditioning and neither will any of the other Unicorns because nobody wants to be involved with Sophia in any way.

Sophia collides with Jessica and Lila in the hallway at school and papers go flying everywhere. Before Sophia can pick them up, Lila snatches a page and starts dramatically reading a scene from the play. All the kids who have suddenly gathered around start laughing and Sophia runs away. Liz runs after her and Sophia tells her how much her life sucks. When she asks Liz to come home with her, Liz can’t help but say yes. She starts spending time at Sophia’s every night to work on the play, but she feels totally guilty about it. I don’t know why she doesn’t just tell her parents she and Sophia have to work on school stuff together.

Almost nobody will try out for the play at first, but after a few roles are cast and scenes are performed in English classes, people start to come around. Eventually, Jessica is the only holdout, but Liz tells her she won’t let her go to L. A. in her place unless Jessica at least goes to watch the play.

Opening night is a roaring success, and the last scene moves everyone to tears. After the actors take their bows, someone in the audience starts chanting, “Author! Author! Author!” Does that really happen? Sophia takes another bow, and on the way home, Jessica and Steven admit they were wrong about Sophia. Even the Wakefield parents concede that she’s talented. How nice of them.

Jessica goes off to L. A. the next day, Ned and Alice leave for their party, and Steven has some kind of basketball thing he has to go to. As soon as Liz is alone, she calls Amy and Julie to come over and set up for Sophia’s party. Pretty much the whole school – including Lila and Bruce – show up since Sophia’s a famous playwright now, but Ned and Alice come home early, before Sophia gets there. Oh, no! But wait, it’s all good. Liz had good intentions, so she’s off the hook. Ned even drives to the Rizzos’ house to pick up Sophia’s mother and bring her back to the party. While there, he gives Tony the number of a psychologist who might be able to help him out. Then Alice offers Mrs. Rizzo a position designing afghans for her interior design firm. Sophia has the best birthday ever and the world explodes in a sugary ball of cheese.

Quotes:

She was small and dark like her daughter, and, like Sophia, her clothes were faded from age and countless washings.

Sophia is faded from age and countless washings? (Cheap shot, I know, but misplaced modifiers crack me up.)

As her path took her back into her own familiar neighborhood, filled with spacious homes on carefully manicured lawns, Elizabeth wished that more people shared Sophia’s talent for understanding others. But, as Jessica came bounding out of the Wakefields’ front door, Elizabeth wondered if the happy, pampered kids of Sweet Valley would ever be able to put themselves in Sophia’s place.

Oh, not like you, Elizabeth! You’re the only kid in the whole world who can look past your carefully manicured lawn and reach out to the hopeless po’ folks.

The Cover: Liz looks like she’ll pull a muscle if she gets any friendlier. Amy looks like she just woke up. And actually, if I had to guess which kid on this cover is the poor one, I’d guess Amy. She looks like crap. At least Sophia’s shirt fits her.