Hello! I am in Russia. Actually, I'm on a small island off the coast of Siberia. Yes. It's cold.
What does one do with oneself when one is on a small island off the coast of Siberia, you ask? Well, first, one quits with the pretentious third-person. Alternate answer: read a whole lot of Sweet Valley High books.
Yes, there's nothing quite like kicking back in Business Class, surrounded by oil company people, sipping your pre-flight mimosa and reading a tattered copy of Sweet Valley High 4: Power Play. (Okay, that only happened for ten minutes. Then I proceeded to watch the Bourne trilogy for like 10 hours straight.)
As previously mentioned, I'd read a lot of the SVH books when I was in middle school. In fact, I remembered something as I cracked open Double Love, 20 years later -- in the front of the books, there's a reading level and age recommendation (of 12), and I remember thinking, at age 9, that I was going to get into soooo much trouble if anyone found me reading these books. You guys, it said right there on the front page. TWELVE AND UP.
But I had no idea what surprises awaited me when I started this reread project. Like how much DRINKING there was in Sweet Valley. And the fact that, on the covers of the books, Todd Wilson is totally cute, even though he's about as exciting as reading about someone playing canasta. Also, I'm not sure if people know this, but Jessica Wakefield is totally a serial killer in the making. I'm serious!! She's like the Trinity killer, only even more unhinged. Wild mood swings, strange obsession with the number 37, lying and manipulating to get her way . . . I would not be surprised to see her on America's Most Wanted, people! You'll be able to recognize her, cause of her all-American good looks, sun-streaked blonde hair, and perfect size six figure.
(Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I've read that description. Well, instead of a nickel, I chose to have a drink, which leads me to my next point:)
The Sweet Valley High Drinking Game!
Y'all, I can NOT get through these books without a drink. Or eight. In fact, I'm not sure how I did so when I was a kid, except that maybe I was a child alcoholic and didn't know it.
So I did what I do when confronted with entertaining-in-spite-of-its-shittiness material (like Twilight. Or George W Bush.): I made up a drinking game. I've posted the rules below, in case you do not heed my SVH-related warnings and decide to take on this project yourself.
Take 1 drink anytime:
• the words "blonde," "sun-streaked," "blue-green eyes" or "perfect figure" are mentioned in relation to the Wakefield twins' looks
• anyone goes to the beach, or talks about going to the beach
• Liz and Jess get to drive the Fiat
• Jess mentions the number "37" (you guys, seriously, she does this a lot)
• they mention Steve, the eldest Wakefield child
• Bruce Patman shows up
• Jessica flakes on chores, Elizabeth talks to herself, or Todd or Enid are lame
• "Eyes and Ears," the gossip column that Elizabeth writes for The Oracle, the student newspaper, is mentioned
• the fucking matching lavaliers are mentioned
Guys, I could have kept going with this, but I did not want to end up on the liver transplant list.
In order to provide some structure to my increasingly-insane project, I've decided to break down the SVH reviews as follows:
Number Of Drinks Taken:
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As "Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks" or equivalent:
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot:
Improbable High School Moment:
Most Offensive Portion:
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the first SVH review of many! (Seriously, I have at least 60 of the books right now, currently piled up on my dining room table. It'd be a little sad, if it weren't so AWESOME instead.)
Sweet Valley High 1: Double Love
in which we meet the twins and learn that they both sort of suck
Number Of Drinks Taken: I lost count after 25. There was a lot of exposition, you guys.
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As "Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks" or equivalent: Page 2
Main Plot: Todd Wilkins likes Elizabeth Wakefield, for reasons which no one can explain. Jessica Wakefield likes Todd Wilkins, which is even more implausible. So Jessica sets out to keep Todd and Elizabeth apart by telling Todd that Elizabeth is too awesome to hang out with him. Despite the fact that this is patently untrue, as Todd and Elizabeth are exactly the same level of motherfucking boring, Todd chooses to believe Jessica, mostly because he is not very smart. Elizabeth, because she is even more lame than Todd is dumb (which is saying something), steps back to let Jess have him.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Jessica goes out on a date with Rick Andover, who is a Grade A douchebag. He takes her to a BAR where he proceeds to get drunk and then gets in a bar fight with the manager after the manager spies him trying to manhandle Jessica. The POLICE show up and Jessica is escorted home in a cop car. Except, she lets the cops believe she's actually Elizabeth, and when the rumor gets out at Sweet Valley High that good-as-gold Liz actually has a life, she is shunned by everyone. Including her lame-ass BFF, Enid. Oh, and Todd somehow thinks this is his business, even though it is catagorically not.
Improbable High School Moment: Liz and Jessica are inducted into a sorority. In high school. Even more improbably, this does not immediatelyput them in danger ofbeing date-raped at a frat party.
Most Offensive Portion: That Todd seems to think that Elizabeth being escorted home by the cops from a bar is somehow his concern, despite the fact that A) they're not dating, and B) even if they were, he's still not her parent, so STFU, Todd.
Sweet Valley High 2: Secrets
in which there is a lot of Enid, and I am annoyed
Number Of Drinks Taken: 15
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As "Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks" or equivalent: Page 1, baby
Main Plot: Enid is interesting for perhaps the first and only time of the entire series. She starts dating douchenozzle extraordinaire, Rod (Ron? I can't remember now) Somethingorother, and as he is in charge of the Homecoming dance (second dance in three weeks), Enid is a top contender as Homecoming Queen. This displeases Jessica, who finds out Enid's big secret (a couple of years ago, she used to do drugs and then nearly killed a boy, all I Know What You Did Last Summer-style). But even worse than that, she still regularly corresponds with her Hottie McHottie ex, George the Former Druggie, even though he's, like, in military school now. Rod/Ron the Douchenozzle finds out about all this (via Jessica, of course, although Enid thinks Liz told), dumps Enid quicker than I can say "flight attendant, can I have another drink" and Enid haz a sad. But then she gets together with George and he's way hotter, and not an uber-douche, plus they both know that if this sobriety thing ever gets boring, they can spark up a fat one and remember the good ol' days.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: The hot French teacher may be boning the Varsity quarterback.
Improbable High School Moment: This is the second dance in three weeks! What the hell? Why do they keep having dances?
Most Offensive Portion: Rod/Ron the Douche. The fact that I'm supposed to care that Enid used to do drugs. The fact that Enid nearly killed some kid all hopped up on "bennies" (I love the 80s) and pretty much escaped punishment. The fact that the kids at school shun Enid for smoking some dope when she was 14, and not for NEARLY KILLING A KID. Oh, also the fact that no one seems to know this secret already, despite it only being 2 years ago and, as I recall, Enid not being new to Sweet Valley.
Sweet Valley High 3: Playing With Fire
in which 1Bruce1 is Paul Bernardo in the making
Number Of Drinks Taken: oh dear God, I lost count. Bruce Patman shows up a lot.
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As "Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks" or equivalent: Page 2
Main Plot: Jessica wants Bruce Patman, for reasons unclear to anyone with brains or eyes. They start dating. Then she becomes his doormat, letting him manipulate her, control her and go beyond her comfort level, sexually. It's a real boon to a young woman. This is all laying the groundwork for Jessica's middle-aged foray into serial killing, by the way.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Fattie McFatterson, Robin Wilson, who has no business being alive, wants a friend. Also, The Droids, Sweet Valley High's answer to Zack Attack, are on their way up! After being "discovered" by a "manager" at the Disco (Seriously, what the fuck with the dances, this is the third in a month!), they're on their way! To playing crappy bars and breaking up, that is.
Improbable High School Moment: Oh, fucking all of it.
Most Offensive Portion: Anytime Robin Wilson's weight is mentioned. Anytime Jessica submits to something Bruce wants. Anytime Bruce goes around un-punched in the 'nads.
Sweet Valley High 4: Power Play
in which Robin Wilson gets even . . . and I develop an eating disorder
Number Of Drinks Taken: I stopped drinking for this one because it might make me as fat as Robin Wilson and then I'd have to wear a tent dress and cut myself.
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As "Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks" or equivalent: I think we actually made it to page 3 this time.
Main Plot: Robin Wilson is fat. Therefore, she must die, friendless and alone. But Robin Wilson, busy stuffing her face with ice cream (because that's so characteristic of overweight people I know, except for how it isn't), seems to think that she should have friends simply because she's smart, funny, and nice. Ha! The Sweet Valley High Improbable Sorority will show her! Or will they? Because Robin Wilson knows exactly what to do! All she has to do is starve herself, run 5 miles a day, and in three weeks she'll be thin! Which means that she'll finally be able to have a worthwhile existance.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Lila Fowler has started shoplifting to get Daddy's attention.
Improbable High School Moment: That anyone would manage to drop 80 pounds in 3 weeks, outside of having Jillian Michaels around to threaten to kill them. That an overweight teenager who, by all accounts, is friendly, outgoing and self-aware, would choose to dress in mumuus. That a girl who offered her guests milkshakes and ice cream sandwiches would be scoffed at, instead of immediately canonized and worshiped by a crowd of grateful teenagers who love junk food. Oh, and also that an overweight person MUST be stuffing themselves with ice cream and cookies 24/7, cause otherwise, why would they be so fat?
Most Offensive Portion: I don't even know where to begin. From the author's own description of Robin as "a girl who would be pretty, if she weren't so fat" to everyone's treatment of her, to the fact that Class Clown Wilson Egbert finds himself too good to date Robin (actually, that part was offensive but rang true. Thank you, every sitcom in which a fat schlub has a hot wife!), to the fact that Robin Wilson loses the pound equivalent of three toddlers and then suddenly becomes popular and wins the Miss Sweet Valley High pageant, much to the chagrin of Jessica. Just . . . fuck this entire book, honestly. Whoever pitched this idea to the Francine Pascal cabal ought to be taken out and shot.
Sweet Valley High 5: All Night Long
in which Jessica dates a rapey college guy with a mustache, and Elizabeth and Todd break up for reasons I can't remember
Number Of Drinks Taken: 13.
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As "Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks" or equivalent: Page 2, I think
Main Plot: Jessica starts dating Scott, aka College Jerk With A Mustache. At a party on the beach (drink), Scott lures Jessica into a secluded area and proceeds to try to rape her. Jessica successfully fights him off, and to punish her, Scott leaves her stranded. This, of course, means Jessica stays out, titularly, All Night Long. Elizabeth has to pretend to be her the next day to cover for her (though she never asks Jessica WHY she stayed out all night or, indeed, why she seems upset and shaken, and just spends the whole damn book complaining), bombs a test and breaks up with Todd, for reasons I cannot remember, because even their breakups are fucking boring. In the end, it all works out, except that Rapey Mustache McGee doesn't get his balls chopped off.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: There's a surfing competition.
Improbable High School Moment: Again, there's a surfing competition.
Most Offensive Portion: Like I said, that Rapey McRapesALot doesn't get punished. That Elizabeth doesn't care that her sister was nearly raped. That, in fact, it's Jessica's fault that she's nearly raped, cause she dated an older man (this is just like that Amy Dickinson column, in which she tells a rape victim that she was a victim of her own bad judgement). That Liz and Todd work it out and get back together.
That's it for this round! Tune in next time for motorcycle accidents, weird behavior, and silly sluts who think that they can join school sports even though everyone knows they Gave It Up to a guy!