About the Book
- Francine Pascal
Whew. You know how, in school, you had to read some really long, boring book for class, and you hated it so you put it off to the very end, and finished it up in the stairwell between Chemistry and English?
Actually, that never happened to me, cause I really like books, so I usually ended up reading the assignments the day they were assigned. (Writing about them, on the other hand, is another story.)
Well, anyway, that’s been me for the last few weeks. I just couldn’t finish the INTERMINABLE SVH15: Promises, in which Tricia Martin dies (spoiler alert) and everyone acts like her death has really inconvenienced them in some way (not such a spoiler, since pretty much everyone in these books is an unmitigated asshole). But! La! I finished, hooray!
Before I go any further, though, can I just pause quickly and pour one out for a true visionary, artist, and my favorite designer: Alexander McQueen. Godspeed, sir. Heaven’s going to be a hell of a lot better dressed now, that’s for sure.
Anyway, back to the v. important topic of Sweet Valley High. It’s been a big week for the kids at SVH! The publishing staff at St. Martin’s just announced that the SVH series will be re-released. (They tried this about 5 years ago, but never got past Dear Sister.) That means that all of you out there who’ve been reading these reviews will now be able to buy these books for yourself! And then proceed to get totally smashed! Speaking of:
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
Sweet Valley High 11: Too Good To Be True
In which Suzanne Devlin comes to stay and goes all SWF on SVH
Number Of Drinks Taken: 9
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 5! Could we be growing as a people??
Main Plot: Ned and Alice Wakefield announce that they’re running child a trafficking ring inviting Suzanne Devlin, the daughter of Ned’s old college buddy, to stay with them for a week. And in exchange, they’re sending one of the twins to New York City for the week! This can only end badly!
Jessica goes out to NYC, and Suzanne arrives in Sweet Valley. You might think that a cosmopolitan, New York City socialite with diplomatic immunity would find quaint, postcard-perfect Sweet Valley to be pretty boring. Well, that would make you 100x smarter than anyone in Sweet Valley, who all think that Suzanne is a regular Freshman-year Jenny Humphrey. But, of course, Suzanne is bored among the plebes of Sweet Valley, with their picnics and surfing, so she tries to start a little drama by innocently accusing favored teacher Mr Collins (the one that looks like Robert Redford) of sexual assault. Everyone seems to get upset about that! Geez, Californians are so lame!
But, EVEN WORSE than falsely accusing someone of rape, Suzanne STOLE something. She stole Elizabeth’s lavaliere! This tyranny will not stand!!
Eventually, the truth comes out, and with the help of Winston Egbert, Elizabeth exposes Suzanne as a big lyingfaking fake. Then someone throws their drink on someone else! It’s so exciting! THIS IS JUST LIKE GOSSIP GIRL, Y’ALL!!
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Jessica’s living it up in New York City! Instead of immediately hunting down Kelly Cutrone and asking for a job and/or becoming a member of a satanist lesbian emo-goth-punk-screamo band, which is what I would do, Jess spends most of her time whining about how Suzanne’s boyfriend isn’t interested in her. Then, of course, because this is Sweet Valley High and Jessica is a female who has shown any sort of sexual interest in her life, he tries to date rape her. Jesus Christ, if we had a Take Back the Night rally for everytime someone gets sexually attacked in these books, it’d be like 90210 during that season when Kelly went all Riot Grrl.
Inexplicably, Jessica still goes out on a date with the guy after he attacks her on the living room floor, but crosses him off her list for good once he makes fun of her for not being sophisticated. The nerve!
Improbable High School Moment: Why would any parent send their 16-year-old, who is in trouble 6 days out of 7, to the capital of Hedonism? That’s like giving your toddler a matchbox and telling him to use it to build you a birdcage. Also, Jessica is intent on never gaining an ounce, which means she won’t be able to eat any food, and what is the point of going to NYC if you aren’t going to consume the equivalent of a year’s supply of food for several third-world countries?
Most Offensive Portion: After a close call, I have to go with False Accusation of Rape. Suzanne, you crazy freak, falsely accusing someone of a sexual attack isn’t funny. And it’s part of what makes girls like Jessica not believed if they decide to report one of their approximately 12,437 sexual assaults.
Also, that Jessica didn’t hit up Shake Shack.
Sweet Valley High 12: When Love Dies
In which Steven’s girlfriend, Tricia Martin, has leukemia
Number Of Drinks Taken: 5. Leukemia is no drinking matter.
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 2. Our moral victory was so short-lived.
Main Plot: Tricia Martin, of the infamous Martin family drunks, has been acting a little suspicious lately. She closes herself off from friends, always seems to be missing class, and eventually breaks up with Steven Wakefield, without giving him a reason why. I did the same thing in high school, but unlike me, Tricia isn’t going through an experimental phase with Kahlua and cream; she’s actually dying of untreatable leukemia.
Which makes me sound like a real jerk for blowing everyone off just for some sweet, sweet Kahlua. Thanks a lot, TRICIA.
Anyway, Steven finally discovers Tricia’s secret (after Elizabeth finds her at the hospital, realizes the truth, and tells Steven, because Elizabeth apparently doesn’t understand things like common decency or patient confidentiality agreements), rushes to Tricia’s bedside, and they have a tearful, passionate, yet ever-so-slightly hindered by the IV tubes, embrace. Problem: solved. Until she dies, of course. But don’t worry, that won’t happen for two more books.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Jessica wants to be a candy striper at the hospital! Not for any ordinary reason, like helping people out or even boosting her college applications, but because a TV talk show host is laid up with an injury. Her plan is to English Patient her way into his heart. She gets Elizabeth to join her, because Elizabeth is A) a sap and B) canny enough to know that if she pretends to care about sick people, colleges will like her more.
Unfortunately, poor Jess is clumsy around her TV talk show host paramour, and ends up causing him more injury in several high-larious sequences that I like to call “Kindegarten Cop Humor.” You know, in the end, when Arnold is all laid up in traction, and then they accidentally hit his leg, which causes him more pain? I don’t know why I’m singling out good ol’ KC, actually, since they run this gag in every damn show or movie that features a character in the hospital. You can be sure that if I’m ever laid up in the hospital, no one’s going to be gesturing wildly and messing with my leg that’s in traction! They’re going to smuggle me french fries from Smashburger and scope out hot doctors who look like they’re on the prowl for Wife #5 and like their trophy wives short, weird and freckled. That’s what friends are supposed to do when you’re sick.
Improbable High School Moment: That no one at school knew Tricia had cancer. Bish, plz. Have any of the writers of SVH ever BEEN to high school? The second Tricia’s doctor called in with an absence slip, the front office would be buzzing, at which point the Office Aide (usually kids who have an ability to slip by unnoticed) will overhear, and then tell their one friend, Goth Jeannine, who cries about it in Spanish class even though she’s never met Tricia, because death suddenly seems so real to her, man, and then the Spanish teacher tells the Art teacher, who instructs his/her students to express their emotions through paper mache, and then the whole school gets called into an assembly in the gym with the school counselors so that they can undergo mass grief training, even though Tricia isn’t dead yet and no one knows her anyway.
Most Offensive Portion: Steven Wakefield totally emotionally manipulates Tricia into getting back together, even though she is DYING OF CANCER. But suuuure, I guess her wishes don’t matter. Let’s all take time out to figure out what the handsome, popular college freshman who isn’t currently dying of cancer wants to do!
Sweet Valley High 13: Kidnapped!
In which if you cannot figure out the plot of this book, you are as stupid as the Wakefields
Number Of Drinks Taken: 5, again! Was I just not drinking the week I read these?
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 4. Slowly, but surely!
Main Plot: Elizabeth gets kidnapped by a crazy dude named Carl who works at the hospital as an orderly. Of course, he doesn’t harm her in any way, indoctrinate her into a cult, raise her as his daughter but rape her regularly and impregnate her, kill her and dump her body in a shallow grave, or kill her and then go on national tv claiming that someone else has kidnapped her, and he’s just an innocent victim here even though he has 3 dead wives, because Carl isn’t that savvy. And because any of those other things would have lasting, damaging effects on Liz that would probably remain until at least Sweet Valley High 19.
No, Carl just wants to take Liz to a cabin, tie her up to a chair, dicker with her about using the bathroom, and feed her fish fingers. Because Carl is the lamest kidnapper ever.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: The Morrows!! The Morrows are here! Nicholas and Regina have finally arrived! YES! Now it’s all but prelude to that awesome book in which Regina tries drugs just once and totally dies and then Bruce is driven insane with grief.
Yes, pretty, fabulously wealthy Nicholas and his sister Regina, who as we all know is DEAF but really very pretty otherwise and you can hardly even tell, so don’t worry, have moved to Sweet Valley. They host a party and invite all the kids at school! Before they’ve even met any of the kids! Because that’s something that happens?
Improbable High School Moment: The Morrows have an indoor pool. That shit doesn’t even happen on My Super Sweet 16, y’all.
Most Offensive Portion: I think I have to give it to fish-finger Carl. I just feel like people should have drive, ambition. His kidnapping of Elizabeth was half-hearted, at best. Come on, Carl!
Sweet Valley High 14: Deceptions
In which Liz and Todd get to bore us some more with their stupid boring boringness
Number of Drinks Taken: 19. Holla! That’s more like it!
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: pages 3 to 4. Which is not me expressing uncertainty about which page. I mean that the description took up two whole fucking pages.
Main Plot: Oh, man, get this. Nicholas Morrow, despite being college-educated, rich, handsome and not a total cheesehead, takes one look at Elizabeth and falls in love with her. What? Why? How? Why? Anyway, so he asks her out on a date. And Elizabeth says yes! Because she feels BAD for the rich, sportscar-owning, hot, suave, smooth operator. She doesn’t want to hurt his feelings! Despite the fact that she’s literally only known him for 15 fucking minutes when he asks her out. And, also, you know, she has a boyfriend. I mean, her boyfriend’s LAME, but still.
So now Elizabeth is trapped in a tricky situation! She can’t break a date! But she can’t tell her boyfriend!
You know, one time in college, through a series of events I cannot accurately explain to this day, I found myself accidentally getting involved in phone sex with a stranger. It really was an accident! I was completely unaware of the situation; I thought I was patiently helping a nice, slightly odd young man, by explaining the way things at my residence worked. It wasn’t until I heard his labored breathing and certain . . . sounds . . . and heard him shout my name in ecstasy (“Oh, Erin at The Co-Op! Oh, Erin at The Co-Op! How can you help me??!!”) that I actually realized what was going on.
I tell you this story not to garner your sympathy (although that would be really nice because honestly that was totally one of the grossest things to ever happen to me and just thinking about it right now made me shudder and pull my blanket over my head), but to explain that I, too, have times when I accidentally find myself in a tricky situation and can’t figure out a polite way out that doesn’t involve a shotgun or my elbow to some dude’s face. But Elizabeth isn’t in a tricky situation!! She has a boyfriend! Just tell the dude no! It’s not that hard! I mean, it’s not like Nicholas Morrow is Ryan Reynolds! And even if he was, then you would have been smart enough to put him on the Freebie list the first time you got trashed in front of your boyfriend, in which case, you already have a free pass! Into his pants!
Where was I? Oh yeah, Elizabeth sucks. So anyway, she goes out to dinner with Nicholas, runs into Todd, pretends she’s Jessica, but then I guess it all comes out in the wash, and everyone has a big laugh. Boy, that Todd sure is understanding! Oh wait, he’s not understanding; he’s just boring.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Jessica is failing Math, big time. Once she learns that the Morrow family are going to donate a COMPUTER to Sweet Valley High, she gets a great idea to hack into the database and change her grades.
Only Randy Mason, the computer geek who Jessica flirts with, is no Matthew Broderick, and the Sweet Valley High computer is no W.O.P.R., so Jess and Randy get found out. The principal threatens to expell them, but Elizabeth rides in to save the day. Of course.
Improbable High School Moment: Okay, y’all, look. This book was written in 1986. In 1986, I was in school, albeit first grade. And I clearly remember that my school had about 8 Apple II computers, on which we ran very scholastic programs like Oregon Trail and Frogger. And my school district was not well-off. I’m not entirely sure they didn’t purchase those Apple IIs from the mafia and loaned the teachers out as hit men in order to square the debt. But we had them. Are you really expecting me to believe that Sweet Valley High, with its high property tax rate and location in Silicon Valley, didn’t have one computer, this whole time? REALLY?
Most Offensive Portion: That story I just told about the phone sex. It’s even offending me and it happened to me.
Sweet Valley High 15: Promises
In which Tricia Martin kicks the bucket, Betsy Martin kicks the habit, and everyone needs a good kick in the face
Number of Drinks Taken: 26. Staying on the wagon is hard work when you have to deal with the Wakefields. Just ask Betsy.
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: Y’all. PAGE 16!! What what!! It seems there is one thing more important than talking about how perfect the twins look! And that’s someone dying of cancer at the ripe old age of 17.
Main Plot: Haven’t you been paying attention? Tricia dies! And her sister Betsy and drunken dad George aren’t even there! But the entire Wakefield family is! Lucky Tricia?
Tricia makes one last request of her boyfriend before dying – that he take care of Betsy and lead her to the Wakefield light. So the Wakefields let Betsy move in with them, and soon she’s being helpful, staying sober, and working on her art! And falling in love with Steven, of course, because he’s a Wakefield and it actually defies the laws of physics to have a person be in the same room as a Wakefield and not fall in love with them. It’s totally true. I think it’s because the blonde hair reflects so much light.
Jessica, of course, can not abide by any of this. A trashy Martin? In the modest, split-level Wakefield home? Think of the scandal! (hey Jess, just wait till you find out that your mom is doing it with Bruce’s dad.) So, of course, she connives to kick Betsy out.
Don’t worry, it all works out when Betsy finds true love with a non-Wakefield, gets accepted to art school on a full scholarship, and everyone hangs out at a pool party. Man! That sure sounds nice! Plus, Betsy’s younger sister tragically lost her fight to cancer, like, at least two weeks ago. So everyone’s over it now.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Roger Barrett (the track-runner)’s mom is really sick, and Bruce Patman’s dad flies her down to see a specialist in Houston (what what! Thanks for the shout-out, SVH! After she visits our famed Medical District, might we interest her in NASA? Or some alligators? Or Warren’s?).
Even weirder than that is this: Winston Egbert decides to become one of those guys that compete in those eating challenges. Unfortunately, he fails in his quest to be the center of attention earn a guest spot on Man vs. Food when his attempt at eating seven large pizzas in one sitting is not successful. C’est la vie, Starch King.
Improbable High School Moment: Again, I don’t think that the Francine Pascal Cabal has ever actually been witness to a high school student’s death. Where are the memorials? The plaque in the square? The scholarship in Tricia’s name? The false words of condolences from the therapist that the school district hired to make sure the kids don’t allow something like their friend tragically dying at a young age to interfere with their straight A average? Sheesh. Listen, Cabal, for when you reissue these books: by the time I was a senior in high school, I had been to funerals for six of my friends. You want to know how it’s done, let me know.
Most Offensive Portion: Honest to God. It’s like every single Wakefield thinks Steven should be over Tricia (not just her death! Over her, as in, go out with other girls) as soon as her body’s been put in the ground! Where is your decency, Wakefields? Is it tangled up somewhere in your blonde, all-American hair?
That’s all for this round! Join FYA next time for the most exciting string of books yet! Overnight millionaires, George Glass, Lila vs. Jessica, and Nicholas and Regina!!!!