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The one where Winston Egbert gets what he always wanted: Jessica’s Secret Diary Volume II

29 Mar

My original reaction to these “Secret Diary” editions was that Fran-Pasc was so stumped for new ideas that she had to rehash the events of sixty-odd Sweet Valley books. I probably wasn’t that far off the mark, because the next 77 titles just progress in their ridiculousness [Vampires! Werewolves! Crazy Freddy! French Royalty!]. However, this particular volume is a remarkably amusing read, not only because Jessica Wakefield KEEPS A FUCKING DIARY, but also because she snarks pretty much every Elizabeth-centric event that went down in books #40-#55.

Ten bucks says the ghost-writer in charge of this book secretly enjoyed mocking all the happy endings and Elizabeth heroism we were fed.

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In the word “TEAM” there is no “I” [but apparently there are two Wakefields]…

7 Mar

TEAM SWEET VALLEY #1 “JESSICA GOES FOR THE GOLD”

Jessica Wakefield is the star gymnast representing Sweet Valley Middle School at the state championships. Surprised? Oh, you poor deluded soul. It doesn’t matter that Jessica has never attempted gymnastics/played a team sport/committed to anything longer than one book before. Why not, you ask? Because she is a Wakefield, of course! And Wakefields are awesome at life. And vaulting, apparently.

[On a side note, it’s little wonder that I cannot hack losing and have to be the best at absolutely everything I do. See what you’ve done to me, Francine? See?]

The school is competing at a local meet, and Jessica is kicking ass on the uneven parallel bars:

“It was a killer routine too-full of complicated hand changes and death-defying leaps from one bar to the other. She leaped to the high bar, swung, then came back in a blind back-straddle over the low bar. She’d never felt so strong. Then Jessica leaped to the high bar for her big move. She did a long hanging kip, then casted to a full handstand on top of the high bar and did a pirouette. The crowd went wild. All around the gym, people were jumping up and down, cheering for her. Her face glowing with excitement, Jessica turned around and waved to HER public. Finally the head judge stood up. “Nine point seven,” he announced.

Of course.

This is making me hate Jessica. It’s also making me want to dig out some of my old “Gymnasts” books. I always did have a crush on the coach, Patrick.

So Jessica has developed a fierce rivalry with Dawn Maven, star of the Weston team. I wonder if Dawn is also new to gymnastics? Or if she’s been working her ass off 35 hours a week since she was five like most people who are good at something. Also, where is Weston? What happened to the Secca Lake team? Or El Carro? Big Mesa? Palisades? Dawn is a mega-bitch, but I like her. She oils up the bar so Jessica falls off. Jessica mixes sugar in the chalk bowl so Dawn slips and busts her ankle.  Dawn has a Margo moment when she threatens to “fix her, and fix her good”. This goes on and on until Jessica somehow finds a sense of guilt, becomes Dawn’s personal rehab physician, and they agree to play fair at the upcoming California Games. How Jessica can remediate a sprained ankle in the space of a fortnight astounds me.

Donald Zwerdling, who is basically Winston Egbert on acid, [read: more annoying, more persistent, more clumsy, and just an all around nerdburger] provides something vaguely resembling amusement in the B-story. He missed out on a spot on the boy’s team, [thanks to their captain, Bruce Patman] so he has decided to carry the drinks for the girls and be their assistant. Genius! Betcha Bruce wishes he’d thought of that. Also, can we take a moment to stop and laugh at Bruce doing gymnastics? Bruce on the pommel horse….Bruce busting his tighty whities on the rings….Ha!

At the California games, for once Jessica doesn’t win. Amazing. Riding her bike home from Dawn’s the night before, she sprains her ankle, and scores a measly old 9.4 on the bars to Dawn’s 9.6 [you may remember the highest score all book is still Jessica’s 9.7, of course]. She even congratulates Dawn on the victory, which is very un-Jessica. Obvs the ghosties were under instruction to teach us all a lesson. But like so many of these lessons we learn in Sweet Valley [you need a boyfriend to be worth anything, fat people should be burned at the stake, you CAN cheat on your guy 15 times a year, you SHOULD ALWAYS listen to Elizabeth etc, etc..] I’m choosing to ignore it.

‘Cause winning is everything, bitches.

The best part of this book? There’s barely any Elizabeth [she’s off playing volleyball for the school]. The worst? Jessica not getting her come-uppance. At least not properly. Seriously, does any of the shit she pulls have any consequence beyond the same book?

Continuity note: Amy gets a 9.2 on her floor routine at the California Games. So she’s pretty much the best in the state. However, back in SVT#2, Amy is so bad at classical ballet that she scores the role of Coppelia the doll. I’m sorry, but someone who can barely point their foot and keep time in Madame Andre’s sixth grade dance class is probably not a state level rhythmic gymnast.

Cheerio!

 

The Ghostwriters Must Really Hate Us: SVT #103 “Elizabeth Solves It All”

31 Jan

Smug bitch. Is that too mean? She is twelve, after all. But something about the legs swung over the desk, the self-obsessed newspaper cut-out and the state-of-the-art laptop [this IS 1997, after all] are really pissing me off. And don’t even get me started on the prissy white sandshoes. Mine never looked like that.

I must really hate myself, because the first paragraph was enough to turn any sane person away:

“To Our Readers,

The Sixers is proud to announce, ‘Dear Elizabeth’, an advice column just for kids. Send in your questions and get great advice from Elizabeth Wakefield. As you all know, Elizabeth Wakefield is a great student, a great writer, and a person who cares about other people’s problems [Read: meddlesome shoulder patter]. So write to Dear Elizabeth, care of the Sixers, room 204, and take advantage of the wit and wisdom of SVMS’s very own professional adviser, Elizabeth Wakefield.”

I’m sorry, but “professional adviser” ?! What could possibly qualify a twelve-year-old for that role? Elizabeth, of course, feigns embarrassment on the matter [i.e. fishes for compliments about how awesome she is]. Fortunately, Amy Sutton is there to kiss-ass:

“Don’t be so modest, Elizabeth,” Amy said. “You are a great student, and you know it. Besides, we need to drum up business. Right Maria?” Continue reading

Sweet Valley: Land of the Clones Or SVH #64, “The Ghost of Tricia Martin”

25 Jan

Oh hey, Steven. Welcome home from college. Again. Or should I say, hi 33-year-old Justin Bieber. What the fuck are you doing with LaToya Jackson? Ba-by, ba-by, ba-by, oh…

But no – it’s not Ms Jackson taking up with a juvenile. It’s Steve Wakefield’s latest fling, Andrea , who is apparently the spitting image of his dead girlfriend, Tricia, who we met back in book 13.

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The French Are Doing It Better: LES JUMELLES DE SWEET VALLEY

16 Jan

Recently, I secured a copy of Les Jumelles De Sweet Valley California College: “Chacune pour soi” direct from France. Given that my French is limited to: “Je suis Winston. J’adore Maria Santelli”, the subject matter of this book is not particularly conducive to snark.

However, thanks to google translate, I managed to deduce that the book is called “Each Man For Himself” and is actually a [rough] translation of SVH #31, “Taking Sides”. I haven’t gotten around to recapping this one in English yet, but it’s the story of Lila and Enid vying for the affection of Sweet Valley High’s newest addition: Jeffery French. Because this is Sweet Valley, he is immune to everyone’s charms – except that of the pious do-gooder St Elizabeth Wakefield. Here’s hoping the book is better in another language.

Below is the blurb on the back cover, and its [googled] translation into English:

Un nouvel eleve vient d’arriver a Sweet Valley High. Jeffery, un garcon symp, bien dans sa peau, passionne de photos et champion de water-polo. Pas etonnant que toutes les filles soient folles de lui. Notamment la tres sexy Lisa, l’aime de Jessica, et la toute timide Enid, l’aimie d’Elizabeth. Chacune des jumelles va essayer d’aider son amie a seduire le beau Jeffery et ce n’est pas forcement la plus jolie ou la plus aguicheuse qui decrochera le gros lot.

A new student has just arrived Sweet Valley High. Jeffery, a boy symptoms, although in his skin, passionate, photos and champion water polo. No wonder that all girls are crazy about him. Including the very sexy Lisa, loves Jessica, and any timid Enid, loves Elizabeth. Each twin will try to help his friend to seduce the beautiful Jeffery and not necessarily the prettiest or the most alluring that hit the jackpot.

Ahem – who is Lisa? And when did Jeffery add water polo to his list of accomplishments? I got my French-competent dad to read chapter one for me, and it turns out that Lila Fowler is in fact one of the ladies vying for his attention [phew!] and that Jeffery is actually a soccer player [thankyou universe for restoring order.]
However, I’m super glad that the Parisians have clarified Enid’s love for Elizabeth, also that the person who “hit the jackpot” – Elizabeth – is neither the prettiest, nor the most alluring.

Suck à ce sujet, saint Elizabeth Wakefield

The Evil Twin: A Sweet Valley High Costume Celebration

5 Jan

No-one can deny that the awesomeness of The Evil Twin is largely attributed to Margo Black. However, this Magna Edition also produced some killer outfits, outfits so fantabulous that I can justify an entire post solely dedicated to bringing them to life. Sadly, nearly all the items below I happened to own. Most were tucked away in boxes at my sister’s, grandmother’s and parent’s, but nevertheless they were there. One exception is Jessica’s New Year’s gown, which is probably my favourite Sweet Valley High outfit EVER, and the trigger for the complete and utter Wakefield-envy which plagued me for much of my childhood. My 12-year-old self would be thrilled to know that I picked up the sequinned frock at Samaritans for the bargain price of just $4.00. Get jealous.

 Just then, Elizabeth’s eyes came to rest on one of her favourite outfits, a fancy tuxedo shirt with matching bow tie, trousers and vest.

Elizabeth sighed. She’d just as soon put on an old pair of khakis and a polo shirt; she didn’t feel particularly festive.

Elizabeth slipped out of her robe and pulled a red v-neck top and black skirt out of her cupboard.

 Jessica chose an outfit that was appropriate for the last day of school before Christmas vacation – a short, forest-green knit dress with long sleeves and a scooped neck – but she did it without really thinking.

Somehow, I don’t think “appropriate” was the best choice of adjective.

“Trust Dana to make even an elf costume look like this year’s hottest fashion!” Elizabeth said laughingly to Todd. Dana Larson, lead singer of the popular SVH rock band The Droids, was wearing a bright green minidress and red tights and gloves. She’d even tinted her short blonde hair red and green for the occasion.

“What on earth am I going to wear?” Margo wondered, looking around the room at her skimpy wardrobe, much of which was lying crumpled and dirty on the floor. Since arriving in Sweet Valley, she’d purchased a few items of clothing and shoplifted some others; she’d also filched various accessories from the Wakefield twins’ drawers. Margo wrinkled her nose. Nothing she owned was quite right for this special occasion. Nothing was good enough for Todd.

“I want something new,” she announced. “I want something unbelievably sexy.”
In Margo’s opinion, she was taking over in the nick of time; Elizabeth’s image definitely needed an overhaul. Now Jessica understood the advantages of high hemlines and low necklines – she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing jeans and an oxford shirt on a date. When Margo was in charge, Elizabeth would adopt a much better style…and tonight Todd Wilkins would be treated to a sneak preview.

Lila agreed on a teal-blue dress with a deep, U-shaped neckline and a very short, flouncy skirt.

I had to consult my sister on this one:  Is teal pale blue-green, like aqua, or a darker shade more like turquoise? I realise now that the ghosties painted quite a fuzzy picture in my head of Margo-as-Elizabeth’s date outfit. Both of these fit the description, but somehow the latter looks far too medieval to be sexy. It does, however, catch the glittering light of the butcher’s knife very nicely…

“Hmm…” Lila eyed a bright red miniskirt with a matching, sailor-style jacket. “Cute. Too cute,” she concluded, pushing it aside.

 James turned away from the railing…and there she was, hurrying down the pier in his direction, a slim figure with pale hair covered be a baseball cap, her chin tucked into the collar of her denim jacket. “Jessica!” James cried, his heart almost bursting with joy.

James, you fool. The real Jessica would never be caught dead in that.

At least she’s up and dressed, Elizabeth thought, noting her sister’s oversized green sweater and black jeans.

 Almost immediately, Elizabeth was sound asleep and dreaming. Once again she was going to the Jungle Prom, and once again every detail was vivid and precise. Wearing her light-blue dress, Elizabeth stood looking at herself in the mirror, arranging her hair and putting on her jewellery… The simple, flowing lines of the silk allowed her natural beauty to shine through; her eyes reflected the ice-blue shade, sparkling like gems.

What on earth was she going to wear to Lila’s ball tomorrow night? Elizabeth remembered asking herself the same question before the jungle prom.

The dress that Elizabeth and Margo apparently wear to Lila’s ball is described as below:

Elizabeth* considered the selection and then pulled a short, strapless fuschia dress from the closet. Jessica raised her eyebrows. The dress was new, and so daring and sexy she hadn’t even gotten up the nerve to wear it yet herself.

“Wow!” Jessica exclaimed. “That’s not exactly your usual style, Liz. But sure. Go ahead. I guess you’re planning to start off the New Year with a bang, huh?”

A secretive smile curved Elizabeth’s lips. “A bang? You might say that, yes.”

*actually Margo

Yet, on the cover, we have this:

It’s kind of conservative and bridesmaid-ish.  I can’t really imagine Jessica being too modest to get around in this. Then again, given the shit that went down in this book, a minor outfit inconsistency probably isn’t our greatest concern.

Also Margo shoplifts her copy of the dress, and then slashes the saleswomans’ tires with her pocket knife. Just for kicks.

Margo was wearing the strapless fuschia dress she’d “bought” that afternoon from Lisettes; her glossy blonde hair was swept up on one side and secured with a single rhinestone-studded barrette; her soft, golden skin and blue-green eyes were highlighted with just a hint of natural-looking makeup. I look beautiful, she thought, her lips parting in a self-satisfied smile.

And now, for my all-time fave:

 Jessica zipped up her dress and then padded in stockinged feet to examine the effect in the bathroom mirror. When Amy had called that afternoon, Jessica had confessed that she had nothing to wear to Lila’s ball. Ten minutes later Amy showed up with a sequinned cobalt-blue dress that Jessica had always been crazy about. Jessica smiled again, giving the gown’s ruffled taffeta hem a flirty flip. The sequins, the bare spaghetti straps – the look was both sexy and elegant, Jessica’s favourite combination.

 

Pamela looked terrific in a strapless plum velvet sheath that seemed moulded to her slender figure.

[For the record, I’m a Bruce-Pamela fan]

 Lila gave the skirt of her flouncy black chiffon dress a little flip. “Just a little something from Paris,” she said lightly. “Glad you approve.”

“Hi, how are you?”asked Elizabeth as she stepped up to Enid’s side and put out a hand to touch the sleeve of her friend’s dark-green velvet dress. “Enid, this is beautiful,” she said. “It matches the colour of your eyes exactly.”

I can’t finish on Enid, I just can’t. So here’s the cobalt-blue number to see out this costume bonanza.

My Christmas Wish: Sweet Valley Twins Special Edition “A Christmas Without Elizabeth”

13 Dec

I am totally digging this cover. For starters, there’s a shot of a woe-begone Liz with all her hair chopped off, sporting a fugly and completely unflattering red ensemble. But that has nothing on the title, nor the by-line: ““What If Elizabeth Had Never Been Born?” Oh, what if! Please, ghostwriters, make my day –

The first part of the book is actually rather likeable. Jessica had been elected head of the SVMS party planning committee, and like Angela of “The Office” fame, the power is going to her head. She has a kitty of $186 to spend, once she’s come up with a knockout theme to impress all the boys she’s after. Liz, meanwhile, is helping at the homeless shelter, and she befriends a poor family called the Glasses, whom she can pity and shoulder pat whenever she likes. The volunteer work is so all-consuming that she is blowing off TBT, Amy, homework and even the Sixers. She steals the $186 and gives it to Mrs Glass to put a down-payment on a rental property. Because they are poor, I fear it may be a place on the Wrong Side Of The Tracks, possibly near The Shady Lady or The Martins. Mr Glass is “working away” and uncontactable, and without the money for a week’s rent, the family are evicted. That night, Jessica figures out that her twin stole the money, and Elizabeth is the subject of everyone’s anger from the Glass kids to the Unicorns. And so she bawls, and feels sorry for herself and wishes that she had never been born… [If Only].

That was the first part of the book. The good bit. From here on in, Liz is taken around town by a spectre, whose sole purpose is to visit Liz and prove how wonderful she is and how the universe wouldn’t function without her. The angel, however, is fairly shrewd, making this observation about St Liz:

“Personality Problems Profile. Elizabeth can be very self critical. She takes on more responsibility than is age-appropriate. She can be stubborn and exhibits a tendency towards self-righteousness. She is a major goody-goody.”

She then takes Liz for a spin around the Valley, “A Christmas Carol” style, showing all the things that would’ve happened had Elizabeth never been born:

#1 Without Liz, Sophia Rizzo is a social pariah, and her brother ends up in reform school because he got in so many fights defending her.

#2 Sophia’s mom and Sarah Thomas’ dad never get married.

#3 Sarah Thomas is dead. [Apparently without Liz, she would have died from falling down a flight of stairs.]

Dear God.

#4 Denny Jacobsen is dead. Without St Liz, there was no-one to rescue him when a monster wave hit and his surfboard whacked him on the head.

I’m starting to see a pattern here.

#5 Brooke Dennis a social outcast. [Maybe a leper?]

#6 Mary Giaccio/Wallace is still in foster care and has mousy, limp hair.

#7 TBT is miserable and boring without the love of his life and stays at home playing video games all day [so really, nothing’s changed.]

#8 Amy and Winston are not on the Booster’s cheer-squad. OK, I read Booster Boycott, and Liz had nothing to do with me being on that squad, dammit!

#9 I get beaten up by Jerry McAllister and Charlie Cashman. [Would’ve liked to see Liz stopping that one. ]

#10 The Unicorns are called the Sharks and they smoke actual cigarettes! OMG!

Enough, spirit, enough! Show me no more!

#11 Alice is accused of having an affair and Nalice divorces, because there was no St Liz to defend her! [She’s been boning Hank Patman all along, I knew it! If only Liz had covered it up and she could continue her wicked ways….]

#12 Ned is a divorced alcoholic who hangs out at Kelly’s.

#13 Steven has a tattoo, an earring and a ponytail. He is also in the hood. This is what happens as a direct result of a divorce in Sweet Valley. And the divorce is a direct result of Elizabeth never having been born.

Here’s an excerpt of the Wakefields, sans Liz:

Mrs Wakefield ran out the door after him. “Will you at least be home to open gifts tomorrow morning?”

Steven stopped in midstride halfway across the lawn. “Did you get me that CD player I want?”

“Steven, you know we don’t have that kind of money –“

“Then the answer’s no.”

 

#14 Without Liz, Jessica is ugly and unpopular. When the Sharks come round pretending to be her friend, she jumps at the chance. They then force her to scale City Hall and remove the star from the top, and she falls to her death.

It is now that Elizabeth realizes she is crucial to everyone’s livelihood, and agrees to go back to the real world.

When she “wakes up”, she’s at the SVMS Christmas party, as the guest of honour. A guest of honour? At a fucking Christmas party? With all this miracle work, she’s practically Jesus Christ, so why am I not surprised?

Everyone is gushing over her, and the crowd cheers every time she opens her mouth. Then the friggen Glasses turn up with good news – they’ve moved into an even better apartment! In the space of one day! Even Mr Glass is there, which is surprising because I was beginning to think he might be George…

The moral of the story – Elizabeth Wakefield is central to the functioning of Sweet Valley, to California and to the entire solar system. Can I have the past two hours of my life back? Please? Francine, if you’re reading this: “A Christmas Without Elizabeth” is the perfect title for a spin-off series, where Margo finally has her way….Just a thought.

***

As many of you know, I am a major Sweet Valley nut. But above and beyond that, I am a Christmas dork. I freaking love Christmas. I turn into this corny, caroling version of myself. So this year, I decided to put a Sweet Valley spin on my Christmas decorations. The Evil Twin scene from last week is in the living room. And this is what became of my book collection:

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