Devon Whitelaw, or “If You are the One”

9 Apr

After the vampires, werewolves and French monarchy had been dealt with, the late-90’s Sweet Valley shake-up brought us hot, mysterious Devon Whitelaw.

Devon, after the untimely death of his parents, travels on his motorbike across the country to Sweet Valley with his large inheritance in tow, to seek out his relatives and not go to school. His exploits prior to arriving in the valley become the B plot of the “Fire” trilogy; as we get intimate details of him becoming a high roller at the age of sixteen and getting involved in a gambling ring with his estranged uncle Pete and Pete’s partner in crime Linda [never to be heard of again]. After much non-essential traipsing across the U.S. to relatives who end up disappointing him, Devon finally links up with Nan in Sweet Valley and has his first trip to the Dairi Burger to stalk the high school girls. No points for guessing which smart, kind, perfect girl immediately melts his cold heart, and no points for guessing who wants to wrap her legs around him on the back of his Harley and scrounge off his fortune [fear of motorbikes due to dead cousins and amnestic twin sisters having long been forgotten].

To put the new boi into context, Devon’s introduction is early on in the “Fire” trilogy. I recapped the first book in that arc, Lila’s New Flame, back in 2010. The A plot of the trilogy revolves around Steven creeping all over high schoolers again, only this time it’s even more inappropriate ‘coz he’s hooking up with Lila Fowler despite being assigned, as part of his pre-law school clerkship, to investigate her for arson. [I thought that investigating was Elizabeth’s job???] Turns out John Pfeifer, the rapist pyromaniac who assaulted Lila earlier in the year is responsible for the fire that burned down a wing of Fowler Crest. Turns out also that Steven is on the rebound and secretly wants to get back with Billie Winkler. [Did I mention I love Billie?] The twins are keeping busy by trying to sabotage Steven’s new relationship, which makes total sense, but also kind of obstructing the course of justice, which does not. Eventually, after some jail time, Lila is acquitted, and John Pfeifer sets Palomar house on fire before blowing himself up at the school. Pretty hectic stuff.

After the Lila-Steven thing has blown over and George and Grace are back from being shit absent parents on another honeymoon,  Devon becomes the A-plot and starts to stir up SVH as we know it. We see too-cool-and-smart-for-school Devon immerse himself in Elizabeth’s world, providing some cringe-worthy dialogue when he tries to match his chemistry compounds to Elizabeth’s eyes [ugh] and weasling his way in to mess up Liz-Todd just in time for the end of year prom. Punches will ensue. There’s a definite Gilmore Girls: Dean/Jess/Rory vibe about the last few books in the series, and I will hate myself for this later but I find myself pitying Dean-Todd. I mean, after 12 sweet valley months of Liz’s cheating, he’s surely had enough. Jessica, meanwhile, tries to get her claws into Devon, but as with most guys in Sweet Valley except perhaps A.J., she pushes him away with her incessant flirting. I will recap the subsequent prom miniseries in detail sometime but from memory it involves lots of Liz agonizing over which boyfriend to not have sex with, Jess trying to hook into Devon, and the twin switches that ensue. And it all plays out over ten or so books until some seismic activity shits all over Sweet Valley and brings us the millennial abomination that is “Senior Year”. Ugh.

In my re-reading of the Devon saga some 20 years later, I couldn’t help but imagine this book playing out on “If You Are the One”, China’s epic dating show which I, like many Australians, can’t get enough of.

If you live under a rock, here’s the rundown: in the most recent [and sexist] format of the show, the girls parade across a catwalk to Scandinavian house music while the male candidate assigns them to either the blue [ugly] or pink [hot] zone based on their appearance and whether or not he wore his glasses to the taping. The show’s on point host, Mr Meng, is there for advice and apt psychological assessments.

The girls then have the opportunity to ask questions of the candidate and help select the boys from the men. The poor candidate usually gets burned by their brutally honest judgments about his appearance, behaviour or family values and the lights go out with a resounding “brw” “brw” until only the faithful or desperate are left standing. The usual losers tend to be selfish, less educated or mummy boys who are still in contact with their exes, while well-travelled, wealthy, clever guys from Shanghai usually get the girl. The candidate either “fails to get a date” and leaves weeping to solemn Cantonese pop music or heads off with his girl for a trip to the Maldives or somewhere.

Obviously, aside from Jade Wu there is nobody of Asian descent in white-priv Sweet Valley [something I always found kind of strange coming from a reasonably cosmopolitan city and also having read the Babysitter’s club.] But I think Devon as the candidate baring his soul and braving the brutal world of dating in Sweet Valley shares so many parallels with the dating show.  See below my interpretation of IYATO-feat Devon-Whitelaw [complete with bad collages due to inability to operate Photoshop].


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