One Book Wonder #3: Tom McKay from SVH #74 “Amy’s True Love”

25 Jul


This week’s one-book wonder is……. Tom McKay! And no, he’s not Amy’s true love.

amys true love

Pictured here as an effeminate Ken Doll. 


First of all, there is WAAAAY too much Amy Sutton in this book.

Even in the one token book about the one token non-heterosexual in Sweet Valley, the book focuses instead on Amy Sutton and her first world white girl issues.

Tom McKay is literally the “only gay in the village”. [At least until SV Confidential comes out in 25 years’ time and we find out about *SPOILER* Aaron Dallas and Steven Wakefield,]. After reading the entire book, all I know about Tom McKay is that he likes tennis [which is clear from the  cover]; and  he has a secret penchant for jazz and science fiction [which we hear about in one sentence]. Oh, also he is gay.

After breaking up with his girlfriend, cheerleader Jeannie West, Tom remains in the closet until he meets Enid’s hot, well-dressed cousin Jake, who comes to visit from San Fran. Other than his gayness, Jake also likes jazz, science fiction and tennis, and leading on girls like Jessica and Lila who decide to be doormat Enid’s BFFs for a week so they can hang out with her hot cousin. Tom acts very affronted when Jake comes out,but is nowhere near as rude as Enid who sinks into a deep despair and calls on Elizabeth Wakefield to heap pity on her cousin.  To be fair, the book was written in 1991, and it is easy for a Caucasian woman like myself in an era of HIV control and marriage equality to sneer at Liz and Enid’s homophobic reactions. Although it is never directly referenced [given the intended audience of 8 year olds], this book was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic, when the MSM community faced horrible prejudice, hate crimes and the possibility of a catastrophic death from an uncontrolled virus. So yeah, I’ll let Liz and Enid and their shock-horror reaction off the hook for this once.

It still bugs me, however, that Tom ran into Elizabeth at the psychologists’ office and sought her counsel. I mean, she’s there as a freaking journalist for the school paper, and her regular assignment Is writing the GOSSIP COLUMN for said paper. Have you people no filter? What magic is in these shoulder pats that makes people spill their guts like that?

Anyway, after cousin Jake comes out, Tom realises his attraction to other men is probably at the root of his inability to form lasting relationships with women, and the book hints that he will embark on some kind of self discovery. Sadly, we will never know the details of this journey, whether he got together with Jake, and also what kind of person he is, aside from being a gay tennis player who is very in touch with his feelings and has nice clothes.

But seriously, this Jake sounds like a catch.


So on to what should be the B plot, but really takes up 80% of the book:

Amy Sutton cries poor because her parents are SUPER successful and so she has to date multiple guys to get their attention! Naturally! And then when it backfires she decides securing a nice, all-rounder boyfriend like hunky tennis star Tom McKay will really impress them.

This plotline really pisses me off. Especially because her Dad, a photojournalist, and her Mom, a sportscaster on WXSV, insist on coming home and having family dinner with her EVERY SINGLE NIGHT AND take a genuine interest in her personal, academic and sporting achievements. I’m trying to understand, Amy, really. Her whole storyline is really white priv at its worst and unlike Lila who has genuine attachment issues, Amy really just seems like a vapid, boy-crazy individual with a narcissistic personality disorder. I mean seriously, we’ve met Ned and Alice. There are no parenting issues in the Sutton household that can compare.

After Tom breaks up with her fellow cheergirl Jeanie West, Amy wastes zero time in trying to hook up with him. Despite the fact that he shows her zero interest, she flirts, and follows him, and buys concert tickets for him, and even dresses up IN TENNIS GEAR to go to Enid’s party. Despite his multiple rejections, she really doesn’t take the hint and her desperation is decidedly unattractive.

Because she spends her life pants-chasing, Amy is failing social studies and Mr Jaworski suggests she volunteer at Project Youth to make up her grades. Project Youth is a totally useless teen hotline staffed by other teenagers with zero formal qualifications, no psychometric tests and a pitiful FOUR HOURS of training. They man phones at the local community centre, taking calls from people with legitimate psychosocial distress, suicidality and mental health crises. And someone in their right mind thought a sixteen-year-old girl like Any Sutton was appropriate for the job. Amy befriends her co-volunteer, Barry Rork, but only because Baz is friends with Tom McKay. Barry, for some god unknown reason, is clearly smitten with Amy, but it takes Tom’s final rejection in the form of gayness to send her spinning into Barry’s arms. ‘Cause after all, what’s a Sweet Valley girl without a boyfriend? I wonder if her parents like her more now she has a boyfriend for an entire 10 books?


Seriously Barry, get out now!

The high point of the book is when Amy realises that it’s not just guys who label girls, and she had fallen in love with Tom’s cute blonde jock image, despite not knowing him at all. The low point is my sheer terror wondering what havoc she will wreak on the lives of poor psychologically distressed teens answering the phones at Project Youth. I also wish they’d given Margo a job there, after her catering gig fell through. That could’ve opened up a whole lotta hell-raising, complete with rasping down the phone.

In all, I give one-dimensional Tom 2 stars as a one book wonder.

2 Responses to “One Book Wonder #3: Tom McKay from SVH #74 “Amy’s True Love””

  1. Claire Middleton July 27, 2019 at 10:38 am #

    Thanks for doing the book I suggested! I wonder if homophobic moms sent Francine hate mail back in the day.

  2. Claire Middleton April 15, 2020 at 9:42 am #

    Hey, I know that you’re an MD IRL and hope that you’re okay considering the worldwide pandemic, especially if you might be working during the crisis.

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