About the Book
- Francine Pascal
Happy (almost) Halloween! I hope you’ve enjoyed our ghoulish week of terror and killings, but it is time to get SERIOUS now, and talk about the most terrifying books of all time!! Sweet Valley High!
Actually, there’s some big news afoot in the land of perpetual blondes and sunshine, so before we delve into our special Super Thrillers recap, let’s talk about current Sweet Valley High news.
If you live under a rock and/or haven’t been following us on twitter (and why wouldn’t you follow us on twitter? Don’t you like us? Don’t we please you?), then maybe this next piece of news will be surprising. For the rest of you, well, life isn’t full of surprises 24/7! Deal with it!
The cover for Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later has been revealed! Check it:
Isn’t it shiny? It looks so . . . un-pastel! But, because I am me, there are a FEW things I need to point out:
1. That is not a lavaliere. Please don’t tell me that Jess and Liz’s rift is so great that Jessica has forsaken her lavaliere! THAT IS A VITAL COMPONENT OF THE DRINKING GAME!
2. I like Jessica’s feathered hair.
3. Okay, but seriously! Where are the 80s pastels! RED IS THE COLOR OF LUST! This is not what I would expect from Elizabeth Wakefield, who cries after orgasms.
4. OHMYGOD I NEED THIS BOOK IN MY LIFE. In April of 2011 I will have lived to see 31! And I will also have this book! Throw in a few minor STDs and basically all my dreams will have come true!
In other news, there’s loads of stuff to do at the new SVH website. (There is still NOT a link to this website, cause my pleas to St Martins go unanswered.) You can take quizzes to find out which character you are! I’m Jessica. OBVIOUSLY. I like the description: as a Jessica, I’m interested in sexiness, myself, and the sexiness of boys in close proximity to me. THIS IS TOTALLY TRUE. I am also, like Jessica,interested in cooking things. This weekend I am making caramel corn with BACON in it. I KNOW. You wanna touch me, don’t you?
Okay, enough of this talk, let’s get to the SWEET VALLEY HIGH SUPER THRILLERS!!!! Now, for those of you who never read the Super Thrillers as kids, allow me to educate you: they were regular-length books in which things were slightly more crazy than usual.
I really, REALLY wanted to be able to review my favorite Sweet Valley High Super Thrillers, A Stranger In the House and A Killer On Board, in which paroled convict John Marin stalks the twins, because of how Ned Wakefield sent him to jail ten years ago (back when Ned was an ADA, before he sold out to become a partner. Those spanish-tiled kitchens don’t pay for themselves on a government salary, kids!). ANYWAY, John Marin is the greatest SVH villain evs, because he has this ridiculous tendency to talk to himself – out loud – all the time. And he says stuff like, “I’m going to convict you, Ned Wakefield. And sentence you to death!” It’s amazing.
Sadly, however, my shipment of A Killer On Board came too late (i.e. yesterday) for me to finish reading it and recapping it. So we will have to hold off on John Marin for a while. I know. I know. I’d be so sad if it didn’t mean I got to read more of John Marin’s ridiculous monologues at some point in the near future. I will sentence you to death!
But! That doesn’t mean the (sweet valley) thrill is gone! Remember that time that the twins were interns at the Sweet Valley News, and all sorts of crazy-ass shit happened? I DO. So let’s talk about that!
The Official Sweet Valley High Drinking Game:
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
Also, since these are special SUPER THRILLERS, we have a few new rules to add to the drinking game. In addition to all our other rules, you’re going to want to drink once for:
• any mention of the Sweet Valley News
• anytime Mr Robb, editor of the Sweet Valley News, gives Jessica or Liz a ridiculous assignment that no intern would ever be qualified for
• anytime Liz flirts with another guy, even though she’s dating J French
• anytime you suspect that Steven/Stephen and his friend Adam may be engaging in homosexual relations
• take 3 shots if you guess every aspect of the plot “twist” by Chapter 3.
• take 2 shots if you guess every aspect of the plot “twist” by Chapter 6.
• take 1 shot if you guess every aspect of the plot “twist” by Chapter 9.
Before we begin, stop what you’re doing, go into your kitchen/bar/candy stash/secret bottle of scotch and pour yourself three shots. “But, Erin!,” you may protest. “I haven’t even read the book yet!” Doesn’t matter. “But, Erin! I’m only seven years old!” Doesn’t matter. “But, Erin! I’m actually not human at all! I’m a robot without the software to love!” Doesn’t matter! “But Erin! I’ve actually been dead for 10 years and even as I astrally project my body to you, bits of tendon are being stripped away from my real corpse!” DOESN’T MATTER. Trust me, you will guess the plot twists. TRUST.
Super Thrillers! Let’s get it!
Sweet Valley High Super Thriller #2: On The Run
In which Elizabeth totally cheats on her boyfriend with a boy who may be a serial killer (but of course isn’t).
Number Of Drinks Taken: 45.
Number Of Shots: 3
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or similar: page 2. It’s good to know that not even murder and mayhem can dissuade the Cabal from mentioning how perfect the twins look, right off the bat. YOU MUST KNOW OF THEIR PERFECTION! RIGHT AWAY! Your self esteem may actually be high! You must be reminded that you are not 5’6″, a perfect size six, with sun-kissed blonde hair and sparkling blue-green eyes so that you can feel bad about yourself!! (Unless you actually look like that, in which case you can sit back and relax in your perfection.)
Main Plot: Right! So! Liz and Jess are summer interns at the SWEET VALLEY NEWS, a newspaper that looks even less professional than the newspapers I used to write up and hand deliver to my neighbors when I was eight. (This is both because everything in Sweet Valley sucks and also cause I was a v. professional journalist at age 8. There was definitely something going on with the Ice Cream Man, and damn it, I was going to expose the truth!)
Anyway, we might as well settle in and get used to the newspaper internship thing. It’s going to stick around for two more books. And, if I could have found a copy of Double Jeopardy that didn’t cost me 22 dollars (seriously??), then we could have had all FOUR of the summer intern super thrillers. But, briefly, I will explain what I remember from that book: someone does a murder of this girl who is the girlfriend of Steven/Stephen’s friend Adam, and the police think Adam is the murder-doer, but of course he isn’t. And then Jessica sees the real murderer dump the body in the Sweet Valley News parking lot but no one cares at all (of course) but instead get concerned when the murderer goes after Elizabeth (who he thinks is Jessica). Which is just stupid! Why is he confusing the two? Doesn’t he know that Elizabeth always wears a watch and has a small mole on her right shoulder?? Jesus, DOESN’T HE READ? Anyway, eventually Adam’s name is cleared and he and Steven/Stephen get to have lots of gay sex, THE END.
Anyway!! Let’s move on to the plot of THIS book!
The book starts with everyone at the newspaper overly invested in the trial of some mob boss somewhere Not In Sweet Valley, where crime actually happens. Apparently the prosecution is finding it difficult to produce witnesses, cause of how the mob boss keeps having the rats killed before they can take the stand. This causes, in the hearts and minds of Sweet Valley citizens, a lot of sadness and cynicism. Liz thinks someonewill eventually come forward! Other people think that no one’s willing to risk their life! Jessica thinks everyone should shut up about the stupid trial and talk about the sale at Lisette’s! Eventually, the doctor of one of the murdered witnesses, who was treating said witness for diabeeetus, produces a letter the witness wrote, implicating the mob boss in many crimes. Incredibly, this is deemed admissible in court, even though THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. And then the doctor and his family have to go into hiding. Do you have that shot glass? Time to pick it up!
A few weeks after all of this, Liz meets Eric Hankman, who works in the coffee shop downstairs. Eric just moved to town from Ohio and he is a Sensitive Poet With A Dark Past. He’s also hot. Liz finds herself growing ever-interested in Eric’s deep, sensitive soul, and also the bulge in his pants. She and Eric hang out, a lot! They read each other’s poetry and stories! They gaze at each other soulfully! They’re in love! HEY, LIZ!! WHAT ABOUT J FRENCH, YOUR BOYFRIEND WHO IS AWAY AT SUMMER CAMP? HUH? WHAT ABOUT J FRENCH? As per usual, Elizabeth, sanctimonious hypocrite that she is, sees nothing wrong in going out on dates while her boyfriend is far away. Even though if Jessica did it, Liz would be all over her ass and Ned would sigh and call Jessica irresponsible. I HATE YOU, WAKEFIELDS!
Anyhoozies, Jessica and her new friend Darcy the Dipshit grow convinced that Eric Hankman is actually a serial killer from Ohio who has murdered several young women. LIZ COULD BE NEXT! Oh! If only!
But no, duh, Eric Hankman is actually Michael Ryan, son to the doctor-turned-star-witness in the mafia trial. They’re in the Witness Protection Program! (And the government sent them to Sweet Valley? Dizang, clearly the Feds in the WPP have a sick sense of humor.)
So THEN, even more hilariously, the bad guys find Michael, Liz and Dr Ryan after Dr Ryan performs an emergency traech on a little boy and the Wakefields’ neighbor is all, “I knew I recognized you! You’re that doctor who’s in governement-sponsored hiding from the mafia!! Look, everybody! It’s that doctor who’s in government-sponsored hiding from the mafia! Welcome to Sweet Valley! I bet you really like your new home at 123 Oak Street!” So while the bad guys hold Liz and the Ryans hostage, Liz pushes the “Good Neighbor Alert” alarm. Which, by the by, if you’re counting, is approximately the chapter I lost my shit, started laughing hysterically, and fell off my chair.
The Good Neighbor Alarm sends an alert to all of your neighbors! Then one of them calls you on the phone and asks you for the password! If you don’t say it, they call the cops and then BARGE INTO YOUR HOME with, like, rakes and pitchforks, I guess, and APPREHEND THE CRIMINALS AND MAKE A CITIZEN’S ARREST. In the name of Justice! And Neighborly Conduct!!
So the day, lo, she is saved, and Liz tries to convince Eric-who-is-Michael that he can be safe in Sweet Valley, cause it’s not like all those other places where people give information to criminals for money or because they, you know, fear for their lives or whatever. Sweet Valley doesn’t have a problem with private citizens being threatened with having to view their family’s sadistic slaughter unless they cooperate with drug cartels. Sweet Valley! It’s not like Juarez!
Apparently, even though Sweet Valley is a crimeless utopia of upper-middle-class people, Michael still has to leave. oh! Sad! Now Elizabeth can go back to J French and never tell him how close she came to almost getting to First Base with another boy!
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: So, Darcy the Dipshit is the newest Sweet Valley News intern, which means she, too, has job responsibilities that include: getting coffee, gathering information and drafting copy. (The fuck? Since when do 16 year old unpaid summer interns get to write copy? And no one seems to check their work! These kids could be James Frey-ing it up and down that newspaper and no one would know!)
Darcy likes Jessica but hates Elizabeth, because Darcy has good taste. So she plays some pranks on Liz. Liz, of course, is butthurt to the extreme about this, and whines about how much Darcy hates her, even though Liz did nothing wrong. Incorrect, ELIZABETH! You were being yourself and that’s enough reason for anyone to hate you!
Improbable High School Moment: Seriously. SINCE WHEN ARE SUMMER INTERNS ALLOWED TO COVER STORIES??
Most Offensive Portion: Okay, maybe this is hitting too close to home for me, cause of how my boyfriend is also far away (unlike J French, he isn’t teaching kids how to canoe at summer camp. I don’t . . . think.), but HOW IS IT OKAY that Liz is full-on cheating* on J French and no one fucking calls her on this behavior? You know what? Jessica may be boy-crazy, but at least she doesn’t get into RELATIONSHIPS with boys. So she is free to date as many as she likes! Liz, on the other hand, has managed to run-around on BOTH of her “long-term” boyfriends NUMEROUS TIMES. Yet, Jessica’s the boy-crazy, flighty one, and Elizabeth is the stable, nice, responsible one? FUCK YOU ELIZABETH WAKEFIELD!
*a relative term, since typically I wouldn’t consider some hand-holding and mild clutching at each other while speaking in husky tones to be cheating. But since that’s all she ever does with her ACTUAL boyfriend(s), to do so with another boy is, in fact, cheating.
Sweet Valley High Super Thriller #3: No Place To Hide
In which Nicholas Morrow gets over his sister’s recent traumatic death by developinga hero complex and Liz apparently practices her blow job face.
Number Of Drinks Taken: 32
Number Of Shots: 1
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or similar: page 3
Main Plot: So, Liz is awful tired of Nicholas Morrow being so down in the dumps after his sister traumatically died after using cocaine JUST ONCE. Jesus, Nicholas! Cheer up! That was, like, A MONTH AGO.
Liz invites Nicholas to a Sweet Valley News picnic in nearby Ronomo County, which sounds like a dumb name for a county. Californians, does Ronomo County actually exist? If so, is it dumb?
While at the picnic, Nick and Liz wander off and stumble upon a large and grand estate. And they meet a girl! Her name is Barbara and she wears old-fashioned clothes and she has a dog and she’s scared all the time. These personality traits cause Nicholas to fall instantly in love with her!
But Barbara, who is possibly the dumbest character ever to grace the pages of Sweet Valley High, is kind of/sort of/maybe being held hostage by her dead grandmother’s cousin John? You see, Barbara lives in Switzerland with her parents. And then her “Uncle” John called up her parents out of the blue and was like, “Lolz, guys, do you want to send your sixteen year old daughter to another country, where she knows no one,to live with a strange older man for a few months?” And then Barbara’s parents were like, “Sure, that sounds like fun, right Babs?” And Barbara is all, “I can’t see anything at all strange about this agreement! Let’s do it!”
Shocker of shockers, it turns out Uncle John is not as nice as he claims! He’s mean and makes her dress in old clothes and yells at the housekeeper a lot! And I think one time he might have kicked the dog? ALSO occassionaly Uncle John has a visitor who drives a silver-blue Jag, and when that visitor comes, Uncle John makes Barbara walk along the cliffs. WHAT COULD THIS ALL MEAN? (No, seriously, what could this all mean? This plot makes no kind of sense.)
Nicholas is convinced that Barbara is in danger and recruits the twins to help him. Elizabeth is all for it, and Jessica is all “Are you two crazy? CALL THE COPS.” But why would anyone want to listen to sensible Jessica? So she tags along, mostly to make sure Liz doesn’t get into trouble. (Is Jessica lauded for her clear-headed behavior? Of course not.)
After somescuffles and a sprained ankle (Liz), the kids (well, mostly Jessica and Nicholas, as Liz has been tied up in a shed) rescue Barbara, and mayoral candidate Russell Kinkaid (more on him in a second) plummets to his icy death. And then Barbara leaves and goes back to Switzerland. Man. Every girl in Nicholas’s life ends up in Switzerland, have you noticed that?
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: So here’s where the rest of the plot comes in, though I promise you that, combined, it still doesn’t make any kind of sense. Russell Kinkaid is running for mayor of Sweet Valley! But Liz doesn’t like him! She doesn’t know why, but she thinks he’s hiding something, even though everything looks above-board. Liz won’t rest until she can write an article (WHY!) exposing the truth! This is just like Watergate! Only instead of two seasoned veterans investigating a deep-rooted government conspiracy due to a tip from an anonymous source, Liz just seems to have a “feeling,” with nothing to back that feeling up. WOW. I hope Robert Redford gets to play Liz in the eventual movie that will be made based on her crazy investigative prowess!
It turns out that Russell is hiding something (though it’s not what Liz things, so she’s still wrong). Many years ago, he was living in an artist colony run by Barbara’s great-grandfather. He fell in love with Barbara’s grandmother, also named Barbara (who, of course, Barbara the Lesser looks just like). But Original Flavor Barbara was in love with another dude named Jack, and they had a secret baby together. Russell got super angry about this and threw Original Flavor Barbara off the cliff. Jack went crazy, and the baby (Barbara the Lesser’s mother) went to stay with people in Switzerland.
So THEN Russell undercut his brother John, with whom he was in business, and cheated him out of billions. And then ran for Mayor. So instead of John just going to the cops with what he knew (i.e. that Russell was a murder-doer), he bought Barbara’s great-grandfather’s house, kidnapped Barbara the Lesser and made her dress in period clothing, and then set out to drive his brother crazy by making him think that the ghost of Original Flavor Barbara was haunting him. And then Russell got so crazed that he tried to throw Barbara the Lesser off the cliff (again), but then slipped off himself and then died a death.
YEAH. I KNOW.
Improbable High School Moment: Um, did you not just read everything I just wrote?
Most Offensive Portion: Here’s what really chaps my hide. Elizabeth gets this hare-brained scheme in her head to help Nicholas rescue some girl she barely even knows. Elizabeth goes off all half-cocked on some mayoral candidate just ’cause he looks mean. Elizabeth manages to wind up being locked up in a shed due to her own stupidity. But does Elizabeth get scolded for any of this? Does anyone say, “Oh, Elizabeth, why can’t you be more like your sister Jessica?” NO. Because Elizabeth fucking shits diamond-encrusted plutonium and can do no wrong, ever. Elizabeth is totally the Gallant of this story, and Jessica is the Goofus. Goofus forgot her homework and is a jerk! Gallant cheated on her boyfriend and everyone loves her!
And this dichotomy also is what enrages me about SVH, more than the casual racism or pedantic writing or stupid plots. It’s this Madonna/whore complex. You can EITHER be smart and studious and wise and sensible OR you can be flirty and fun and like boys and clothes. You can never, ever be both, or a combination thereof. And lord help you if you’re anything but one of those two things. There’s no room for your own personal identity, ladies. You will fucking conform to what we have told you girls should be like, and you will like it.
Sweet Valley High Super Thriller #4: Deadly Summer
In which there is an escaped criminal who is obsessed with Liz and likes bombs, and this time it’s Jessica’s turn to practice her blow job face.
Number Of Drinks Taken: 62
Number Of Shots: 2
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or similar: page 3
Main Plot: Guess what! It’s still the summer! Yes! The summer just keeps happening! And miraculously, Liz and Jess have yet to be fired from their jobs as summer interns at Sweet Valley News, possibly because they seem to be writing all the articles.
But man, summer is lame now that all that murdering is over! Until! A former Sweet Valley High alum escapes from the prison for the criminally insane!!!
Liz and Jess are assigned to research the background of the escaped psycopath. Of course they are! Why wouldn’t they be? I always entrust important things like exploratory articles and research to my UNPAID SUMMER INTERNS WHO ARE IN HIGH SCHOOL. I mean, why would I want to waste that free labor on something silly but necessary, like making copies?
While they are investigating the crazy man – He’s crazy! Dropped out of SVH! Was teased a lot! kidnapped a girl he was obsessed with! Liked to build bombs! – Liz catches the eye of the man himself. You see, he went to visit his sister – who Liz conveniently babysits for – sees Liz, thinks she’s the same girl with whom he was obsessed in high school . . . and wants to blow her up.
After several fake bomb scares, the crazy man kidnaps Liz, J French and Bruce (drink) and locks them in a room and then Bruce has to run away with the bomb and Liz thinks he might have died but he’s okay, hooray!
And with that, the summer comes to a close, and we never have to hear about the Sweet Valley News again. Until the next time that Liz works there.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Ha ha ha! So. Lila gets an Ouija Board – they’re all the rage in Paris, you know – and she and Jessica play it. Liz is, of course, a total dickhead about the Ouija Board and how dumb Lila and Jess are to play it, even though their playing with an Ouija Board does not affect Liz in any way. So Lila and Jess decide to get Liz back by stealing her diary/letters from J French and then making the Ouija Board “predict” these super secrets. (Which serves Liz right.) Liz becomes, like, fucking obsessed with the Ouija Board, and insists that Lila and Jess play it every night. It’s like the Ouija Board is a hooker at the Plaza, and Liz is Charlie Sheen.
And then, Lila decides to make the Ouija Board say that Bruce is deathly ill, but that he’s keeping it a secret. Liz, distraught, goes to play nursemaid, and Bruce eats it up, because Bruce loooooves his Goldilocks. They get closer and closer and there’s a lot of husky tones, but then J French comes back to ruin everything. Man! Now we have to wait for those books in which Alice Wakefield and Bruce’s dad start having an affair for more Bruce/Goldilocks romance!! NOT FAIR! Those books are 60 books away!!
Improbable High School Moment: Okay, SERIOUSLY. WHY ARE THE SUMMER INTERNS WRITING COPY??
Most Offensive Portion: I am offended that the good name of the Ouija Board has been slandered by Elizabeth Wakefield! Liz, you best recognize! The Ouija Board KNOWS YOUR FUTURE. It knew, for instance, that I was going to marry someone named Tim Perkins when I was twelve. And I haven’t met anyone named Tim Perkins yet, but WHEN I DO, YOU BETTER BET I WILL PUT A RING ON IT.
Ladies and Gents, I hope you have a super spooktacular Halloween!! If anyone dresses up as a character from Sweet Valley High, PLEASE email us at foreveryoungadult at gmail dot com. I need some joy in my life while I’m waiting for Tim Perkins to show up and marry me.