About the Book

Title: Outcast (Sweet Valley High #41)
Caught in the Middle (Sweet Valley High #42)
Hard Choices (Sweet Valley High #43)
Pretenses (Sweet Valley High #44)
Family Secrets (Sweet Valley High #45)
Wakefields of Sweet Valley (Sweet Valley Saga)
Published: 1987

Oof. The holidays. They’re almost over. Sure, part of me is sad – the part that wants more presents – but part of me is all too happy to be putting away the bourbon balls and homemade shortbread and peppermint bark (well, put it away somewhere else but in my belly, which is where it’s been going).

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a safe and happy one!! And that everyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas was not burned at the stake by Glenn Beck, because A) it’d suck if you were dead, and B) it’d SUPER suck to have Glenn Beck’s face be the last thing you see before you shuffle off this mortal coil.

But let’s move on from such dark thoughts, becauseit’s THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF THE YEAR. That is, the last one! Guys, it’s not too late to make your 2010 Resolutions come to pass! Hurry! Get a new job and/or lose 10 pounds and/or learn to paint and/or dump your boyfriend and/or propose to someone. You could propose to me, if you want! No one has done so in at least four years; I’m starting to feel a little unloved, frankly. SOMEONE PLEDGE ETERNAL DEVOTION TO ME WITH BLOOD DIAMONDS!

And since it’s almost THE NEW YEAR, it’s time to make some new resolutions. May I suggest that you resolve to be more like a Wakefield? If you aren’t blonde, grab some peroxide. If you aren’t tan, hit up the tanning beds. If you aren’t an utter douchecanoe, then, by all means, read on for another six days of Sweet Valley High presents; maybe you can take some lessons from these jackholes!

The last of my SVH-related presents were dumped on my doorstep (no chimney) this week, so let’s see what my True Love has in store for me. (HINT: we’re back to our regular daytime drama)


Seven drugs to avoid! Six chores a-doing! Fiiiiiiiiiive Fre-ne-mieeeeeeees! Four concert tickets, three extra-cirriculars, two ballerinas. And a thinking spot in a pine tree!

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 41: Outcast

In which we all snub Molly Hecht for killing our magical Regina.

Number Of Drinks Taken: 15

First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 6

Explanation of Gift: Here are seven drugs to avoid!

1.  Crystal Meth – I don’t understand people who do meth. I mean, I understand that people DO meth; I see it on the news and read about it on the internet. I’ve even known a few. But I don’t get WHY they do it. Meth is the least sexy drug in the world. Nancy Reagan didn’t even need to start Just Say No. She could have just said “Just Say No . . . To Meth.” Because it is HORRIFYING. It makes your teeth fall out and you get lockjaw and your body is riddled with open sores, but above all else, it tastes (I’ve heard) like smegma you spooned out of a four-day old corpse. IT TASTES LIKE A DEAD PERSON’S DICK CHEESE, is what I’m saying. Why would you want that anywhere near you??

2.  Crack – Look, guys, I understand the appeal of crack cocaine. It’s relatively cheap, it can be smoked or snorted or injected, which makes it versatile, like a swiss army knife, but honestly, it just is going to end up leading you to ill. Classist/racist mandatory minimums aside, it has the ability to take you from Back to Black levels of funky talent to “Bllllaaaaaaaaake” in less than a year. Not good.

3.  Heroin – Honestly I just try to avoid any sort of drug which involves needles. I have to have two nurses hold me down when I get vaccines; you think I’m injecting something into my veins myself? No.

4.  Oxycontin – Oh, I’m sure it’s awesome! But unless you happen to know a disreputable doctor, nurse or pharmacist, it’s likely you swiped that oxycontin from your mother/father/grandparent/neighbor who is dying OF CANCER. You, nameless person, are a jerk. While we’re on the subject of moral opposition to drugs, best to avoid . . .

5.  Any drugs that come from Mexico. I mean, sure, if you want to be contributing to the death of thousands of people . . .

6.  Ambien – I know what you’re thinking! Ambien is great! And it is! BUT. It often leads to sleep-typing, and the next day you wake up and check your email and you find that not only have you unknowingly emailed the guy you dated six years ago, BUT the email read: “eye jus wantyou t2 kno i shill lovyu do yuy thank im prerty ok wel bi”

7.  Cocaine. Cause you can TOTALLY DIE FROM TRYING IT JUST ONCE.

Main Plot: Oh, Molly Hecht. Girl, I wouldn’t want to be you right now. Mostly cause of your fugsville hair. Not even drug addiction is an excuse for feathered layers, kiddo.

Everyone is mad at Molly because they blame her for Regina Morrow’s death from trying cocaine JUST ONCE. Which I don’t get, cause it’s not like Molly gathered up the coke into a silly strawand then blew it up Regina’s nose, or anything. It was Regina’s choice to do the drugs – JUST ONCE – that led to her quick demise. I mean, the other day I totally consumed like three cups’ worth of Texas Trash, but I certainly didn’t blame my mom for making it, did I? Au contraire, I thanked her lavishly and wrote several odes in her honor. Personal Responsibility! That’s what Glenn Beck would say!

Molls is suuuper sad that everyone – even Liz and Nicholas, the two lamest nicest people around – hate her. She tries to turn to her friend Justin, the one who HadA Hard Life and Hung With The Wrong Crowd, but even he will have nothing to do with her.

Bereft, Molly falls into the trap of World’s Lamest Drug Dealer, Buzz, and he convinces her to cash out her savings account and accompany him on the road. But Justin and Elizabeth who, having now decided to stop judging Molly, can start judging everyone else for judging Molly, manage to stop them! And then there is a RIDICULOUS hostage situation near Kelly’s Bar, which I am not going to detail here because I literally cannot force my phalanges to cooperate with such ridiculousness.

Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: It sort of is again? Damnit, Kate Williams, head writer of the Francine Pascal Cabal, stop storyboarding this shit to make sense; it’s totally messing with my recapping vibe!

Jessica decides to start a scholarship in Regina’s name, for students who have overcome some sort of handicap or hardship. No word on whether they are going to offer it to Former Fattie Robin Wilson, who obvs overcame her hardship of enjoying carbs.

The whole school pitches in and Ned Wakefield decides that he’s an estate lawyer this week and volunteers to do all the financial oversight for it. Everyone praises Jessica for being so kindhearted but secretly wonder what’s in it for her. Because Jessica is surrounded by jerks.

Improbable High School Moment: Man, the faculty of Sweet Valley High didn’t make those kids go to ONE drug prevention seminar after Regina’s death from trying cocaine JUST ONCE? Not even ONE?

Although, I don’t know; the first drugs-related death I was witness to wasn’t until college, where thankfully no one ever cares about how you’re handling your grief, so maybe a high school wouldn’t take the opportunity to turn a tragic situation into a pat little after-school special-esque life lesson, but I think they would.

Most Offensive Portion: Why the FUCK does Molly Hecht care about Liz Wakefield’s opinion so much? You don’t even know her, Molly! And if you did, you’d realize she’s a square and an asshole. She’s kind of like Spongebob Squarepants but without even Spongebob’s few redeeming qualities! (Squidward 4 lyfe!)


Eight Mexican stereotypes! Seven drugs to avoid! Six chores a-doing! Fiiiiive Fre-ne-mieeeeeees! Four concert tickets, three extra-c’s, two ballerinas and a thinking spot in a pine tree!

Sweet Valley High 42: Caught in the Middle

In which Sandra Bacon proves to be undeserving of her delicious last name.

Number Of Drinks Taken: 19. The fact that I barely got to drink through this made it so much worse.

First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 13

Explanation of Gift: In an effort to Talk About Racism, the Francine Pascal Cabal created the character of Manuel and shoved upon him many stereotypes. Manuel comes from a big, loud family! Manuel invites everyone to the Mexican festival! Manuel knows how to make homemade tortillas! Manuel is very brave, but can be a little stubborn! Manuel is a wonderful lover! And, though it isn’t mentioned in the book, I’m sure that Manuel is alternately very lazy but also OUT TO STEAL YOUR JOB, which is something that makes absolutely no sense. I mean, I’m very lazy, and I can tell you right now, I don’t want anyone’s job, much less my own. Unless their job is as a Professional Napper. In that case, I may be out to steal their job.

Main Plot: Sandra Bacon, I hate you. Sandy Bacon, who you may remember from that time she tried to sabotage her best friend Jean’s induction into the Improbable Sorority Pi Beta Alpha, has been dating Manuel Lopez for a few weeks now. She is keeping it a secret from her parents, however, because, much like certain dragons named Albi, Sandra’s parents are totally racist.

Or, well, no one actually says that they’re racist, only “bigoted against Mexicans.” Because in the 80s you could only be racist against Black people, I think.

Anyway, so Sandy Sausage keeps placating Manuel and telling him that she’ll tell her parents all about him at some point, even though you and I both know she never intends to do that. She’s a bit like Baby Houseman, only not awesome and probably an even crappier dancer. And, given that her last name is Bacon, I am going to assume she’s not Jewish.

At one point, Sandy, Manuel and Liz go boating on Secca Lake, but the engine blows up and Liz and Manuel are thrown from the boat. Manuel sees that Sandy is close to being burned to death, so he heroically rescues her (though he should have let her die, if you ask me). And then what does Sandy HamHock do? She tells everyone that LIZ saved her. Because her parents can’t find out that she was with Manuel.

Sandy Bacon, I hereby strip you of your name! You do not deserve to be associated with delicious anytime food! From now on, your new name is Sandy Lentils. (And don’t any of you healthy people jump in to tell me that lentils are awesome. They are not awesome. They taste like what a five year old would imagine dog poo to be. In a five year old’s mind, dog poo tastes like lentils; that’s what I’m saying.)

So while Liz is being congratulated for something she didn’t do, Manuel is starting to think that maybe his petite flower is actually a giant twatbox. And, because Liz MADE A PROMISE not to tell anyone it was actually Manuel who was the hero, she keeps her mouth shut during all of it. Ugh, I hate her so much.

Then! THEN! The cops arrest Manuel because he was a brown person in the vicinity of a crime, and they accuse him of tampering with Sandy Lentils’ boat. And Sandy Lentils LETS MANUEL GET ARRESTED. Because she is still afraid of her racist parents’ opinion!

Sandy Lentils! Let me tell you something. If you are so afraid of telling your bigoted parents that you are dating someone with non-peach-colored skin that you let that person GET ARRESTED to keep your secret, then YOU ARE WORSE THAN YOUR PARENTS. Man! I cannot BELIEVE that you are even allowed to exist in this world! I’m not going to go all Godwin’s on you here, so I won’t say that you’re a Nazi. But you’re sort of like those people in Amsterdam or France who pointed out to the Gestapo that a Jew owned the shoe store down the street. You’re a Jew-pointer-outer, that’s what you are, Sandy Lentils!

Finally Sandy Lentils comes clean to her parents and her parents, unshockingly, are totally fine with the idea of Manuel being a part of the Lentils family. Mostly because Manuel saved their little Aryan princess, so he’s, like, a good Mexican.

Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: It’s Lila’s birthday! And she expects a good party! As she should, since she throws parties for everyone else pretty much every week (with tables full of soda and chips!). Jessica has planned to throw Lila a surprise party – something that always works out in books and tv but is usually a bad idea in real life – but has put an extra twist on the affair by telling everyone to pretend they’ve forgotten about Lila’s birthday entirely. Again, this is an idea that only works in fiction. In real life, the Birthday Girl would have started self-harming after about the second day of this treatment.

Anyway, party was had, chips and soda were consumed, Lila has had another birthday lapse in the Space Time Vortex that is Sweet Valley. Maybe instead of getting Botox, people should just move to Sweet Valley.

Improbable High School Moment: The entire relationship between Manuel and Sandy Lentils is improbable. First, what teenager cares about what her racist parents think, unless that teenager is either Lynx or Lamb, in which case they should stop caring what their shitbag of a mother thinks and start learning how to be less shitbaggy themselves? Second, what teenager actually cares about meeting his or her significant other’s parents? That way awkwardness lies. Parents of teenagers exist solely to embarass their children. They have no other function in life, except also to Not Understand What Their Children Are Going Through and Not Be Fair. I know this, because I’m already planning the ways in which I can embarass my own child when she brings home her first boyfriend or girlfriend, in addition to telling her to “Wipe that stuff off her face” and ground her for a month because she came home a few minutes after curfew.

And third, who stays with someone who will LET YOU GET ARRESTED so that they don’t have to stick up for themselves? I wish Manuel were Muslim or Jewish or fundamental Christian and would therefore find Sandy Bacon UNCLEAN.

Most Offensive Portion: This is a direct quote from the book:

Sandra felt she had to pinch herself to prove she wasn’t coming.

I am offended in two ways. One, that this made it past the editor. Don’t people get paid to catch these mistakes? Two, that Sandy Lentils is implementing some sort of pleasure/pain policy on herself at such a young age. Sandy Lentils, you have years of sexual dysfunction in front of you. Go ahead and let yourself have some guilt-free orgasms for now. Trust me. Once college comes around you are going to have enough issues with sex to taint most of your 20s. It does you no good to be ahead of the curve in this subject.


Nine annoyed eye rolls! Eight Mexican sterotypes! Seven drugs to avoid! Six chores a-doing, fiiiiive fre-ne-mieeees! Four concert tickets, three extra-c’s, two ballerinas and a thinking spot in a pine tree!

Sweet Valley High 43: Hard Choices

In which Enid’s grandmother moves in and makes us all hate old people.

Number Of Drinks Taken: 37

First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 2

Explanation of Gift: Ugh, this book is horrible for many reasons- the fact that it is about Enid is but one of them.

Main Plot: Enid’s grandmother has moved in! Enid’s grandpa has recently passed away, which I am not going make a joke out of, because having a grandparent die sucks. Enid’s super-excited about her grandmother moving in, because now she’ll finally have someone to pay attention to her, since her mom is too busy WORKING AT A JOB and has the audacity to want to get laid by her boyfriend, Richard, on occassion.

Enid’s grandmother, though, isn’t at all the spunky baker that Enid remembers. She’s cranky and tired all the time and hates everyone. Especially Richard and Enid’s own boyfriend, Hugh.

WAIT. WHAT? When the hell did Enid get another boyfriend? I don’t remember Hugh at all! This is boo-sheet! Boo-sheet!

Anyway, this “Hugh” fella goes to Big Mesa, the rival high school, so he and Enid don’t get to see each other all that often, even though the two towns are like 10 miles away and they both have cars but WHATEVER. Enid has to keep breaking promises to hang out with both Hugh and the few friends she has (i.e. Liz and J French), and everyone gets sort of annoyed with her. I guess the sad-sackery runs in the family, though, since Enid’s mother actually turns down her boyfriend’s proposal JUST BECAUSE Nana might disapprove. Man, what is in the water in Sweet Valley? Does it turn every woman into a spineless jellyfish afraid to stand up to people?

Eventually, Enid yells at her grandmother for being a bitch and then her grandmother bakes some cookies and then decides to move back to Chicago. I dunno.

Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: They did it again! Damnit! So, Elizabeth decides to make a documentary about Sweet Valley and how magical and wonderful and better than everywhere else it is. She makes J French direct and Jessica be on air and then complains that she, Elizabeth, is stuck doing all the work. WHATEVER, ELIZABETH. Also Enid was supposed to be helping but obvs couldn’t cause of how she had to placate her grandma all the time.

The documentary is, of course, lauded by one and all as the best thing they’ve ever seen, because it perpetuates their own narrow worldview about how gnarly Sweet Valley is.

Whatever! Let’s use this time to talk about good documentaries instead!! Remember those few years in the late 90s/early Aughts when there was a real surge in documentaries that poked fun at their subjects? Like Hands On a Hard Body and American Movie and Hell House? Good times. Documentaries were so much better before Michael Moore came along to ruin everything with his mouth-breathing and rape-apologizing.

Also, why is Hands On a Hard Body STILL not out on dvd? Fuck’s sake, what’s the hold up?

Improbable High School Moment: Big Mesa is having an overnight camping trip! An overnight BOY/GIRL camping trip! WHAAAA?

Most Offensive Portion: I’m offended that I don’t have any grandparents to bake any cookies for me. SOMEONE BAKE ME SOME MOTHERFUCKING COOKIES; IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!!


Ten love letters from the dead! Nine broken promises, eight Mexican stereotypes,seven drugs to avoid, six chores a-doing, fiiiiiive fre-ne-mieeees! Four concert tickets, three extra-c’s, two ballerinas and a thinking spot in a pine tree!!

Sweet Valley High 44: Pretenses

In which Cara and Stephen/Steven are being torn apart . . . from BEYOND THE GRAVE!

Number Of Drinks Taken: 47

First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 16!

Explanation of Gift: Someone is sending Stephen/Steven love letters! On Tragically Dead Tricia Martin’s stationary!

Main Plot: Cara and Stephen/Steven are not having a good time of it. Jessica keeps trying to convince Cara that she needs to inject some more spice into her relationship with Stephen/Steven. Jessica, didn’t you JUST TRY THIS, like, six books ago?

Meanwhile, Stephen/Steven has to come home to the Wakefield’s Spanish Tiled Kitchen for a few weeks because he has allergies.

You didn’t misread that. I wasn’t being flippant. Stephen/Steven has to leave school because he sneezes too much. Ugh.

Sneezy Stephen/Stevenis being awfully secretive and sort of moody, which makes Cara even more clingy and obsessive, which in turn makes Sneezy Stephen/Steven even more secretive and moody and, presumably, sneezier. I can’t believe they managed to fiull an entire book out of this plot. It sounds like an episode of Bridezillas.

So it turns out that the reason Stephen/Steven is being secretive is because he is receiving love letters . . . on Tragically Dead Tricia Martin’s stationary!! Is he being sent letters from beyond the grave? Or is someone trying to fuck with him? Is that someone me? Because it totally sounds like something I’d do.

Sneezephen/Sneezeven is so twisted around that he turns, naturally, to a complete stranger to discuss his troubles. Enter Abbie Richardson, who has lately been hanging out at the Wakefields’ house because she’s trying to make friends with people and I guess she figures she’d start with the blondes.

See, Abbie’s just broken up with her boyfriend, who went to Big Mesa,so now she thinks it’s a good idea to get her own life and make her own friends, whereas previously she just did whatever her ex wanted to do. Gee, Abbie sounds super swell, no? So in order to make friends, Abbie spends all her time offering to help people out with their problems, including Sneezephen/Sneezeven.

Jess and Liz start to suspect that Abbie is actually hot for Sneezeephen/Sneezeven’s junk and would like to make tender love to him while he sprays mucus on her face (it’s hardly the worst facial she could get during sex) and the twins think that she is the one sending him the letters. So, they tell Sneezephen/Sneeven this and there’s this whole ComeTo Jesus talk with Abbie, who gets very upset that her new friends that she has known for four days are questioning her motivation for spending all of her time with them.

But then, et la!, it turns out that Cara has been the one sending the letters, trying to inject some sort of romance and intrigue into her relationship with her congested boyfriend. Cara? Pro tip? How about a field trip to a sex dungeon instead? I’m just sayin’.

Eventually, everything is resolved; Abbie Richardson’s new friends love her again, Cara and Stephen/Steven presumably have very boring make-up sex which features a still and silent Cara and a sweating and grunting Stephen/Steven and, hopefully, Stephen/Steven has been able to heroically triumph over his sniffles and watery eyes and return to college.

Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Circulation is down for The Oracle! Even though the Oracle isn’t a subscription newspaper and they don’t sell ads and people just pick it up in homeroom! Penny, Olivia and Liz are upset that no one is reading their pearls of wisdom. Here I would ordinarily make fun of them, but considering that the purpose of this entire exercise is to have my opinion about books from the 80s validated by the internet, I really can’t. Damn!

Also, why isn’t John Pfeifer ever involved in these meetings? Has the Cabal forgotten that he is the Sports Editor at The Oracle? Isn’t he concerned with readership? Or is he thinking about how, in like 60 books from now, he’s going to start raping people? Maybe so. Maybe he is busywriting a diary about it.

Anyhooskies, someone comes up with the bright idea to add a humor section to The Oracle. Guys! Guys! I’m available! Pick me! I’m humorous, if you like jokes about dickcheese!

But they don’t pick me. Instead, they decide to hold a contest, and both Abbie Richardson and Amy Sutton are front runners. Abbie helps Amy out on her submission, because she is just painfully unaware of how the world works.

Abbie eventually wins, because she writes this comic strip that bears a strong resemblence to Cathy. So you know, just imagine a comic strip in which someone has frizzy hair and talks about chocolate a lot, I guess. BLAT!

Improbable High School Moment: Love letters? On stationary? How twee. Whatever happened to scratching out a “Do you like me, yes or no?” note on notebook paper and folding it up 15 times and then “accidentally” dropping it on your paramour’s desk? Kids these days.

Most Offensive Portion: Abbie Richardson offends me with her niceness. I hate nice people. I don’t know how to act around them. They’re always smiling and offering me a drink or something, and not in a “You desperately need to knock back a few so you can remove that stick up your ass” way, which is why I’m usually offering someone a drink. And sometimes they tell me they’re going to pray for me, and that makes me super uncomfortable, because I don’t know what they’re going to pray for me to do. Stop cussing so much? Take up juggling? Stop being so offensive? What is left of me if I’m not a filthy-mouthed asshole who can’t juggle? I’M NOTHING.


Eleven danger signs! Ten letters from the dead! Nine broken promises, eight Mexican stereotypes,seven drugs to avoid, six chores a-doing, fiiiiiive fre-ne-mieeees! Four concert tickets, three extra-c’s, two ballerinas and a thinking spot in a pine tree!!

Sweet Valley High 45: Family Secrets

In which Kelly is at risk of entering into the abuse cycle.

Number Of Drinks Taken: 26

First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 2

Explanation of Gift: Ugh, Kelly goes out with douchecanoe Kirk Anderson (more on that later) and totally ignores all the “DANGER AHEAD!” warning signs of his douchebaggery. I need to buy this girl a copy of Listening to Fear, or something.

Main Plot: Kelly Bates is yet another blonde-haired, blue-eyed menace in my life. Kelly is the daughter of Alice Wakefield’s sister, and has come to live in Sweet Valley for a short time so that she can attempt to find her big-girl panties and pull them the hell up. See, Kelly’s mom is getting remarried, and Kelly’s super angry about that! Because she thinks her mom should still be with her dad, who’s super awesome and has no flaws at all! Her parents’ divorce is ALL HER MOM’S FAULT!

Kelly and the twins look a lot alike, so they have a good time dressing up as each other and confusing people. After I read this book I had this dream that I was being stalked by a three-headed monster who kept telling me I’d never make the cheerleading squad because I was from Texas and had brown hair. I’m sure this is unrelated.

Kelly catches the eye and small gonads of Kirk Anderson, who you may remember taunted Probable Lesbian Penny Ayala about seven books ago or so. He’s a jerk. Even Liz hates him, until such time as she finds out he’s got a Painful Secret and then decides to judge everyone else for hating him. But luckily for us all, that time is not yet here.

Kirk Anderson is a total jerkface, but Kelly just doesn’t see it. He’s dating like three other girls at the same time, and he’s constantly late to pick her up and his stupid smarmy face is smarmy and stupid. But Kelly Just. Does. Not. Get. It.

Meanwhile, the twins and Alice and Ned all know that Greg, Kelly’s dad, is a jerk, but Alice has forbidden them from saying anything to Kelly, because Kelly’s mom wants her kid to be open-minded about her dad. And Kelly remains blissfully enamoured of her father, despite the fact that he forgets to buy her a birthday present and only spends like twenty minutes hanging out with her. To be fair, my dad does that, and I’m fiiiiine. I’m sure Kelly won’t have any issues when she’s older!

Mean-meanwhile, Kelly’s been having nightmares about being scared and hiding in a dark place! Boy, I bet this has no relation to anything!

Ugh, so, anyway, in THE STORY THAT WILL NOT END, Kirk Anderson takes Kelly up to Miller’s Point, aka The Place For Makeouts (Pro tip? The place for makeouts is anywhere you freaking feel like it), and then when she won’t let him touch her anywhere but her lower arm, he flips out and starts screaming at her. Then he basically pulls an Elton and ditches her there. This causes Kelly to have a FLASHBACK to the night that her father got in a fight with her mother and started breaking all the dishes in the house, which led to Kelly’s mom grabbing Kelly, fleeing the house and Dumping The MotherFucker Already.

So then Kells FINALLY gets a clue, dumps Kirk and reunites with her mother and moves back home. THANK GOD. I can’t take any more blondes with tans.

Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Jesus, only at Sweet Valley High. Lila throws a costume party, of course. The twins + Kelly decide to go as the Hear/See/Speak No Evil monkeys. Doesn’t that sound like a great costume? Would you believe that, like, THIRTY PAGES are devoted to the unveiling of their costume? I know, me either. Then again, would you believe that neither Jess, Liz or Kelly can tell the difference between a monkey and a chimp? Yeah, that one was easy to call.

So, anyway, that’s the Wakefield/Bates costume. J French goes as a drunk homeless person and gets a lot of laughs, because people who can’t afford to live in safe, stable housing are hilarious. Winston goes as the perennial bunch of grapes. Sandy Lentils goes as a Mexican. She wins for “Most Authentic.” I don’t even fucking know.

Improbable High School Moment: I just have to ask: is anyone’s “no-man” zone the upper arm? Really? People are fine with some kissing, even with tongue, and maybe even some neck-biting, but the second the dude’s hand reaches the girl’s bicep, it’s time to start backing off? I mean, I’m not trying to diminish anyone’s sexual boundaries here – I, personally, draw the line at threesomes with goats, for instance – but THE UPPER ARM? Is that really a danger zone? “Oh no, he touched my upper arm; I’m totally going to want to take my pants off now!”

Most Offensive Portion: Okay. I realize that not everyone was BLESSED with an anthropology degree. I realize that not everyone cares all that much about non-human primates and how they’re classified. But, tough. I do. And I don’t require that everyone know the physical differences between platyrrhines and catarrhines or the story of vervet monkeys’ gonads*, but THIS IS SUPER EASY: Chimps are not monkeys. Monkeys are not chimps. Learn it. Live it. Love it.

*Okay, but this is suuuuper interesting! So! Vervet monkeys! Have blue balls (no jokes from the peanut gallery)! And there are studies which suggest that the brightness of their genitalia changes based on the position in the dominance hierarchy that the individual subject is at. The alpha male has the brightest, most colorful genitalia; if that male falls from alpha position, his usurper’s genitalia then changes color to become the brightest in the group. I mean, HOW COOL IS THAT.


Twelve stupid ancestors!!! Eleven danger signs! Ten letters from the dead,nine broken promises, eight Mexican stereotypes, seven drugs to avoid, six chores a-doing, fiiiiiive fre-ne-mieeees! Four concert tickets, three extra-c’s, two ballerinas and a thinking spot in a pine tree!!

Sweet Valley Saga: The Wakefields of Sweet Valley

Number Of Drinks Taken: Okay! So! I quickly came up with new drinking game rules for this book, since not that many people would be driving their red Spider Fiat to the Beach Disco. So! I just figured, in addition to the existing rules, I could take a drink anytime any name is mention that is stupidly similar to any of the existing Wakefields! This should be fine, right?! I’m just going to count up the little hash marks I make everytime I take a drink here . . . 1,006. Damn. I give up.

First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: this page doesn’t exist! Because, in this book, the twins aren’t mentioned until the last page. OH HAPPY DAY!

Explanation of Gift: So, this is a book that is called The Wakefields of Sweet Valley. But it’s actually mostly about Alice’s ancestors. Unless this book has suddenly turned into Flowers In the Attic, Alice and Ned are not, in fact, related.

Main Plot: Oh, Lord. Well, let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start.

Alice Larson (drink) is on a boat from Sweden to New York. So many interesting things have come to America from Sweden lately! Like Lisbeth Salandar! And stories of the Prince of Sweden’s weird sex parties! And rape allegations against Julian Assange! And, apparently, Alice Larson (drink), great-great-grandmother to Alice Wakefield. Well, they can’t all be interesting.

While on her boat to America, Alice Larson (drink!) saves a kid from drowning and in the process is rescued by Theodore Wakefield (drink!), who is totally the Jack Dawson to her Rose. Alice (drink!) and Theodore (drink! Ned is a nickname for Theodore) make plans to get married and make blonde babies, but are separated at Ellis Island because Theodore (drink!) has, like, the clap or something. Alice (drink!), thinking that Theodore (drink!) has ditched her, hitches a ride with her aunt and uncle and heads out west to Minnesota.

Great. As if Minnesota didn’t have enough problems; now it’s got one of Elizabeth’s ancestors in its midst.

Alice eventually gets married to some dude named George, and they have three children: Steven (drink!), and twins Elisabeth (drink!) and Jessamyn (drink! Drink twice, because I’m pretty sure a Swedish immigrant in the 1800s wouldn’t name her kid Jessamyn). Steven dies as a child of scarlet fever, which is something I wish would happen to our Steven/Stephen, but I know won’t, since good things don’t happen to me, as a rule.

Elisabeth and Jessamyn (drink! drink!) grow up to be wildly different lookalikes. Elisabeth is sweet and sensible and has acrush on a boy named Tom Wilkines (drink!) and Jessamyn is wild and loves the circus. (I don’t know.) Man! Where do they get these scintillating character ideas?

At one point, Alice figures out that her old flame Theodore Wakefield (drink!) is involved with the circus, and keeps hoping to see him, but never does.

Elisabeth (drink!) and Jessamyn (drink!) fill their time being nearly as tedious as their descendents, but with the bonus of befriending those ol’ literary tropes, the Magical Negro and the Wise Indian. It took me two days to read their section, and not just because of all the drinking. It was Just. So. Bad.

Then Jessamyn (drink!) runs away to join the circus and be a bareback horse rider. I wonder in whose fevered dreams this stupid shit was born. And what drugs they were taking to facilitate this bullshit. And whether they gave any thought to sharing with the rest of us.

Elisabeth is really sad that her sister has left, and spends many months missing her. But then the Wise Indian falls ill, so Elisabeth says goodbye to Tom Wilkines (drink! Drink! KEEP DRINKING!) and hops a train to go find her sister! Which she does! And they have a tearful reunion! And then, the next day . . .

Oh, hold on. I just need a moment to swallow my gales of laughter. Okay. I’m good.

Then, the next day, Elisabeth (drink!), drunk on her newfound power as a rail-hopper, asks Jessamyn (drink!) to let her ride bareback on one of the horses! AND THEN SHE FALLS OFF THE HORSE AND DIES.

I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself.

Jessamyn (drink!) is distraught! And then moves to San Francisco so that she can ride in Model Ts and listen to jazz music!

So then it’s the 20th century! Let’s go to space! Jessamyn runs a hotel and has been dating some fella named Taylor Watson for eight years. She keeps declining his proposal. Clearly Jessamyn would never start a blog post by asking total strangers on the internet to propose to her. Pff.

Jessamyn has her eye on Taylor’s friend, Bruce (drink) Farber, who is nearly as smug and rich as our favorite Patman. He races cars. Even though I’m not sure how fast you could race a car in 1908. Also, I never pegged Jessica – er, Jessamyn – for a NASCAR fan.

Then there is an earthquake that tears San Fran apart. You may have heard of it. In the ensuing craziness, both Bruce and Taylor go into Jessamyn’s hotel to save an old lady, but then Bruce totes leaves Taylor to die, even after Taylor risks his life to rescue Bruce. Jessamyn is all, “Now I know what love is! It’s not leaving people to die!” and breaks up with Bruce and marries Taylor.

They have a son, Harry, and twin girls, Amanda and Samantha. This part of the book was very exciting for me, because I didn’t have to drink as much. Occassionally a girl likes to take a break, you know? Flush out the ol’ kidneys.

Amanda and Samantha grow up to have, wonders of wonders, very different personalities! Amanda likes to write for her school paper! Samantha likes acting and jazz music and rouging her knees.

Rouging one’s knees is something I confess I do not understand. So you, like, put blush on your knees? To make them look red? Like you’ve just been, I dunno, on them?

At some point in their idyllic teenage lives, Harry, the older brother, sends home a letter containing a photo of Harry and his college roommate, Ted Wakefield (drink!), and Samantha falls instantly in love with him and makes plans to woo him in a romantical way. Ted comes to visit and he instead falls for Amanda, and they get to first base and then move on to exchanging love letters when Ted goes back to his school. Amanda keeps all of this secret from Samantha, so as not to upset her.

But Samantha finds out anyway and decides to plot revenge! She gets an ex-boyfriend of hers, who’s a bootlegger, to help her set up Ted Wakefield as a rum runner, and the Feds totally bust him and haul his ass off to jail. Samantha is, bar none, the best person in this entire book. Hee!

Amanda gets all pissy about the fact that her sister has had her boyfriend arrested and she tells Samantha that she never wants to see her, ever ever again.

Samantha leaves home (what’s with all the “Jessica”s of the story running away?) and moves to Hollywood and becomes a famous actress. She gets married to a man named Jack and Amanda refuses to attend the wedding. Then Samantha gets pregnant, and still Amanda does not care, until a doctor calls and tells her that Samantha is going to die in childbirth and is asking for Amanda.

So Amanda drives to Hollywood and arrives just in time to see her sister die. She vows to stay and help Jack take care of the baby, named Marjorie.

So many people dying in this book! And none of them die from trying cocaine JUST ONCE. Regina, you truly are a trendsetter.

A few years later, Jack, Amanda and Marjorie have settled in Sweet Valley, because Jack is a journalist, and I guess he wanted to move where the action isn’t?

Jack decides to take a position in France (I should provide some chronological reference – the year is now 1935). He wants to take Marjorie with him, particularly since she conveniently already has a French name. He asks Amanda to go as well, but Amanda is busy teaching high school English at Sweet Valley High. Her favorite student is the class clown, Walter Egbert (drink!).

So, Jack and Marjorie move to France, and for a while I’m sure it’s a gorgeous place filled with pan au chocolat and red wine, but all good things must eventually come to an end. Time for some Fancy Nazi Action!

The Nazis invade France! Jack is part of a group of townspeople working in the Resistance, though Marjorie does not know that. One night, Jack gets arrested, and one of his Resistance allies, Madame Hubert – or something, I was drunk at this point – takes young Marjorie and hides her out in the basement of the town winery. Her only companion there is Sophy, who I guess is the only Jewish girl in the entire town.

Marjorie and Sophy stay in the basement for a year. They find it boring, though I’m sure if they just availed themselves of the winery’s offerings, they’d soon forget there was a war going on.

Sophy’s older brother, Jacques, comes to bring messages to the girls and asks Marjorie to join the Resistance. Apparently they need someone capable of translating telegrams in both English and French and no one else in the entire country who isn’t a 14 year old girl can do it. Man. No wonder France needed America to step in.

So then, the war, it is a-going, and Marjorie is happily helping the Resistance and having kissy times with the hotness that is Jacques when she learns that A) the Nazis suspect that her father intentionally got himself arrested to spy behind enemy lines and B) Sophy has been found by the Nazis. I bet Sandy Lentils pointed her out in her official capacity as Jew-pointer-outer.

Marjorie and Jacques concoct a plan – Jacques will contact an ex-classmate and known German collaborator and tell him that if the Nazis will release Sophy, Jacques will give them Marjorie, who is more valuable. The trade goes down in the train station; Pierre (the collaborator) releases Sophy with falsified papers to get her to Spain and takes hold of Marjorie. But then another Resistance member creates a disturbance and Marjorie gets away and boards the train with Sophy! Then Nazis come and people start shooting! And Jacques dies!! Then Sophy gives Marjorie the papers to get to Spain and jumps the train! All the Jewish people sacrifice themselves so that the little blonde princess can get to safety! This theme isn’t problematic at all!

Years later, I guess Jack was freed from prison, and he walks Marjorie down the aisle to marry Charles Robertson, a wounded POW that Marjorie had helped save years earlier.

Marjorie and Jack have three daughters, and one of those daughters is our own Alice Wakefield (nee Robertson)! Let’s see what happened in her life before she settled down to parent three of the worst children the planet has ever seen!

Alice is a hippie! And is going to college! And not just to get her MRS degree, either! She’s studying art!

Alice is constantly being asked out by Hank Patman (whom she will later have an affair with), who is a spoiled rich boy. But Alice doesn’t care about money, so long as she can maintain her comfortable middle class existence! She cares about THE PEOPLE, man! Some of the people. The people who can afford to go to college with her. She cares about those people.

During a sit-in, the faculty refuse to perform food drops for the protestors, and the protestors are offended by this. I’m offended by their LAZY ASS protesting. You don’t go picket a McDonalds and ask them for a fucking cheeseburger, you idiots. Anyway, Hank Patman gets his family’s helicoptor and drops food onto the roof of the administration building for all of the hungry protesters. Man! THIS IS JUST LIKE SUDAN!

So I guess that warms the cockles of Alice’s heart – not to mention sets her labia a-tingling – and she and Hank Patman date. Then they get engaged. But then, while Alice is saving someone from drowning (it all comes full circle, you see), she is rescued by none other than Ned Wakefield. Awww. The circle of life! How cute!

Ned is butt-crazy in love with Alice and serenades her with, like, Peter, Paul and Mary songs or something, but Alice is promised to another! She can’t be with Ned! Even though they both love the song “Blowin’ In the Wind,” which obviously highlights THEIR PERFECT UNION. Because no one else, anywhere in the world, has ever enjoyed that song. (Actually, this choice highlights how douchey Alice and Ned actually are, because no one with any actual taste who had the single of “Blowin’ In the Wind” would choose that as their groove over the FAR SUPERIOR B-side, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”)

So then it’s Alice’s wedding day, and she finds out – just before walking down the aisle – that Hank Patman isn’t ACTUALLY a hippie at all! He still drives cars! And likes corporate greed! And listens to Bobby Derrin records, I don’t know. He only did all that peace and love stuff to impress Alice!

Alice, therefore, runs out on her own wedding and finds Ned and they embrace and promise to love each other forever and never sacrifice their hippie ideals for things such as, oh, I don’t know, a house in the suburbs and coporate jobs and buying their teen daughters a convertible! Hooray! Peace, love and ganja!

The book ends, mercifully, with the birth of Elizabeth and Jessica. We are all left to wonder why those two babies couldn’t have been given up for adoption so that we were all spared the onslaught of their perfection. We may never know why, kids. The answer, you might even say, is blowin’ in the wind.

Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Have you just READ all that? You expect SUBPLOTS too? This isn’t fucking Wolf Hall, kids.

Improbable High School Moment: I CANNOT BE EXPECTED TO REMEMBER THESE THINGS! ONE THOUSAND AND SIX DRINKS! I DON’T HAVE A LIVER ANYMORE!! IT FLUSHED ITSELF OUT OF MY BODY! My liver was like, “Aw, shit, it’s getting real up in here! I’m out!” and then it dropped its microphone and stormed out the metaphorical door and all the bile was like, “What do we now?” and then some bilirubin was all, “Oh, I know! Go hang out in the spleen! That place is the shit!” and all the bile was like, “Yay, cool, new friends!” and NOW I’M IN SEPSIS. I hope you’re happy, Francine Pascal Cabal. I hope you’re happy.

Most Offensive Portion: Look, I know families pass down names. I get that. But do they really pass down THAT MANY names? Alice Robertson was like, “I def want to name my kids the exact same as my great-great-grandmother named hers! Faboo!” Really? If I named my kids the same names as my ancestors, I would have the following offspring:

•  Christopher Columbus Callahan

•  Napoleon Bonaparte Callahan (I swear I’m not making this up)

•  Ephegenia

•  Bertie

•  Clara

(Okay, so Clara’s a lovely name, but would you LOOK AT THE REST OF THOSE?)

I’m just sayin’, is all. I’m just sayin’!

Alright, that’s it for this round. Guys, I hope you have a SUPER FUN AND SUPER SAFE New Year’s celebration! And, even if you find yourself glum as 2010 slips away and you are no closer to your goals of becoming a professional lady of leisure (ahem, not that I am speaking for myself, or anything), just remember this: You are not a Wakefield. So applaud yourself! Cause you deserve it for not being an asshole! WELL DONE YOU!

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.