Ana Wrecks Your Life

The Perfect Girl
April 1991

Robin will do anything to keep George!

A dangerous obsession...

Robin Wilson's pretty, smart, and athletic, and her boyfriend, George Warren, adores her. Most students at Sweet Valley High have forgotten that Robin used to be an overweight loner. But Robin remembers.

When George becomes friends with a beautiful girl named Vicky, Robin feels George slipping away. If only Robin were thinner, George would drop Vicky in a second! Before long, Robin is obsessed with her weight. Elizabeth Wakefield suspects Robin is taking her diet too far, but Robin insists she's fine. What will it take to get Robin to admit that starving herself is not the answer to her problems?

I'd like to say that the reason this recap took so long is because of just HOW MUCH I hate this book, but it's not. I fucking hate this book. I hate it so much. What's worse is that it hates me in return.

But in reality the lapse was because I never got a break from the holiday crap that is retail and then uh, the world went into whatever *this* is now.

Anyway, back to how much I hate this book. I'm fairly certain that anyone reading this has a vague idea of what the book is about, but if not, I'm going to spoil it all for you: TW: Eating Disorder.

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Drugs are still bad, mmkay?

Regina's Legacy
March 1991
A simple gift turns into big trouble!
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Something to hide...

   When Elizabeth Wakefield receives a camera as a memento from her friend Regina Morrow, who died recently, she never expects it to plunge her into a dangerous mystery. Then she takes a picture of three suspicious-looking men. One of them tries to grab her new camera, and Elizabeth only narrowly escapes.

   Watching TV that night, Elizabeth thinks she sees one of the same men on the news. But this man is accused of being involved in a drug-smuggling operation. Could this be the man in her picture? When the darkroom at school is trashed, Elizabeth knows that something really strange is going on. Someone wants that picture-and will do anything to get it!

  Regina's Legacy is not my favorite SVH book. It's one that I remember being terribly disappointed in and re-reading it, I felt the same way. The story itself isn't awful. You've got mistaken twin identity, Jessica's feelings being hurt, some Lila along for the ride, and a fair amount of photography talk, all of which should've made me happy. But so much of this book hinges on people keeping stupid secrets or being upset when they shouldn't be that the A plot loses me pretty quick and the B plot is directly tied to it so there's no real relief there, either.

   But most of all, my problem with Regina's Legacy is that they knew damn well that slapping Regina's name on a SVH book would lure people back because Regina. I remember feeling tricked then and perhaps my initial vexation with the book has carried through the years. In any case, I wanted more than this book could ever give, so I'm sorry in advance.

   We begin the book with Jessica ribbing Liz about joining the nerd factory that is the photography club. Jess jokes that if she's not careful, Liz's next stop will be the chess club, and Liz says she only joins one new thing at a time and that chess is her next stop. :P This is cute enough, but is almost immediately obliterated with the introduction of the photography club members (not the problem) and the addressing everyone's immediate thought: no, Jeffrey will not be joining us, despite his thing being photography: he'll be too busy with soccer, which is just as well as Liz still feels weird about how things ended. DON'T DANGLE DRAMA LIKE THAT, SVH. GIVE IT TO ME.
  Also, super annoying since we just went through Enid's Story, huh. Ah well. Jeffrey drama blocked on all sides. WOE.
   Andrea and Claire stop by and wonder if it's too late to join the club, and Jim assures them that this is only their second week so there's still plenty of time to join in on the fun. We quickly learn that Jim teaches the beginners while Allen takes on those who are ready to move on beyond the basics. I... don't know what adviser Mr. Marks does, but hey. Adults are rarely important in Sweet Valley anyway. It doesn't take long for the group to decide to do a project that turns into a mural about SVH. And they decide to keep it a secret from everyone, which is great except that instead of telling their partners that hey, they'll find out everything two weeks from Monday (how long they've given themselves to do this), Jim, Liz, Andrea, and possibly others decide to just keep it SUPER SECRET and naturally Shelley, Todd, and Nicholas are a little vexed at being excluded, humored at best, and finding a bunch of pictures of someone else being taken by their SO. Seriously, just tell them it's a photography club secret project and drop it. Don't make it all mysterious. The only person who'd continue to care would be Jessica, honestly.
  But no. Noooooo. That would be too easy. At first it's kind of cute to see Shelley and Todd bond over Jim and Liz being photo dorks together and it makes sense, since S&T are both basketball players who love the game. But it doesn't take long for Shelley to tire of coming in a distant second to Jim's photography and instead of putting it like that, or understanding that Jim seriously underestimated how long it would take to put the lab back together after the B plot of the story crashed into the A plot, Shelley goes off with the guy she had a crush on prior to Jim, but who is so unmemorable that I'd completely forgotten him since Shelley's book. (Hi, Greg?) Just talk to each other, people. Jesus.

   I've gotten ahead of myself, though. So the photography club is out there, taking oodles of photos, and Liz is giving Jess a taste of her own medicine by hogging the Fiat to drive around SV taking pictures of everything and nothing. Oh, wait. We've gotta loop Regina in somehow, don't we?
  Skye Morrow promised at the end of the previous book to give Liz something she thought Regina would want her to have. She's a little late on giving it to her, but she shows up at Casa Wakefield to gift Liz with the spiffy Nikon camera Regina received at her 16th birthday party. The only part of this entire book that sparks any real memory of Regina is the picture taped to the box, of Liz and Regina, taken with said camera by Kurt Morrow at the party. Regina had apparently been getting into photography before her death and after hearing about the club from Andrea, Nicholas's new girlfriend (aw, they remembered), Skye decides to gift Liz with the camera.
  I feel like a dick that this scene doesn't do much for me, but it seems weird that Liz, who was so concerned about Nicholas after Regina's death that we had multiple books about it (granted they tended to be specials but still) didn't stop by to see Regina's parents once after the funeral. So either this is a retcon or it's not true to who Liz is as a character. Also, it feels weird that Enid would sit out in the backyard studying instead of going in with Liz to great Regina's mom. Also also, when Regina's ~tragic story~ is recapped, they don't mention that the boyfriend who sent her on her deadly spiral was none other than Bruce Patman.
   So, Liz has a pretty new camera and it doesn't take her long to head to the beach for some shots. She takes Prince Albert with her and they spend the afternoon taking pictures of everything and nothing, and I'd like to point out that the dog is just running up and down the beach without a leash or Liz picking up after him at all. Just saying.
  As she's leaving, Liz spots three dudes running and looking kinda weird, so she takes their picture. One of the dudes gets super upset and tries to grab Liz's camera, but Albert steps in and growls, and Liz runs away. She then guns the engine and hopes that her dog knows what to do as she prepares to drive away. I... Liz? What if the jerk who tried to grab your camera kicked your dog so he couldn't make his triumphant leap into the backseat? What would you have done then? It makes for a great visual, but Liz is a shitty pet owner, man.

   Liz later tells Todd about her run-in with the guys and is convinced that the guy in the middle of the trio is Ron Hunter, a guy she sees on TV during a news report about someone recanting their statement about being involved in the biggest drug ring in the US. Subtle has never been something SVH has strived for, has it?
  A few days later, Jess heads to the beach with Lila and finds herself being followed by a cute guy in a light blue convertible. Lila convinces Jess to pull over because dude is super cute and Jess complies because if Lila says this guy is that cute, he's that cute. His name is Chad and he's interested in seeing how that picture she took of him and his friends came out, and also sorry his friend got so aggressive. Jess is baffled and then realizes he thinks she's Liz. Still, cute guy she'll get to see later? He can think she's Liz all he wants. She gives him her number and tells him the photo's at school "drying".
   Cut to the next day when everyone finds out the darkroom's been trashed. Unfortunately, Liz and Jessica aren't really speaking too much because Liz tuned Jess out when she tried to tell her about Chad and while I don't blame Jess for being upset (Liz was rude), it's also super obvious this is just to keep them from talking to one another and figuring out the Chad mystery. Like so obvious that even kid!me got it immediately.
  Liz realizes pretty quickly that they had to be after her photo but can't prove it because who's going to believe that? This is when Jim severely underestimates how long it'll take to put the lab back together and since we're not in the time of cellphones, can't just call Shelley and tell her he'll be late. Oh, wait, you could still do that with the payphone, except he forgot her entirely. Still, I can't fault him too much because the place was trashed and it's his home away from home.
  Liz eventually makes it to Mr. Sutton's lab to enlarge the photo so she can read Chad's shirt and finds out that it says Rick's Place. Guys, I just cannot stress how stupid it is that this drug thing is happening in Sweet Valley. SO. STUPID. I can't. I just... I can accept every doppelgänger in the world traveling through the town, I can accept face snatching, and vampires and werewolves (technically that's London but whatever) but the drug ring being blown apart in Sweet Valley is just too much for me. It's where I draw the line, dammit. Why are they even in town? Chad makes it sound like they kinda chose the place at random and if so, why is he wearing merch from a local restaurant, even if it's his favorite one? Who even buys merch like that? When we finally get to Rick's Place, it sounds like a more upscale kind of place (not posh or anything but not the kind of place that sells t-shirts) so what in the hell?
  Chad finally gets a hold of Jessica and they make a date for later that night. Luckily for Jessica, Todd and Liz choose the same night to do recon at Rick's Place, which is where Chad takes Jessica after the world's worst game of bowling in history. I'm not sure why Chad can't be bothered to really try and make Jessica think he's charming after they start their date, but he doesn't. Jess wonders why he bothered if he doesn't seem to want to talk to her, or really be interested in all, but since we know he's after the picture.. eh. Seriously, though, what was his endgame? Grab the picture and the negative and just threaten her? Kill her? What?

   Anyway, the moment Chad and Jessica enter Rick's Place, Liz and Todd watch them to see what the fuck is going on. Liz wants to grab Jessica and run to safety, but Todd points out that won't help them figure out what the hell Chad is up to. I mean... he's right but also, Jessica is the queen of getting into trouble so maybe don't let her? Especially since Liz can tell that Jess is NOT happy. Chad finally brings up the photo and Jess realizes that's what this has all been about and the two are off to SVH. In the parking lot she briefly catches Elizabeth's eye and points to her cheerleading jacket as a clue to where they're going. Jess convinced Chad that she had the picture in her locker at school, btw. Jess's cheer jacket sure got a lot of screentime this book. So too did Todd's BMV having trouble starting, so naturally it does so at this crucial moment in time. Eventually Todd and Liz catch up to Chad and the two race, though Chad doesn't realize that Liz and Jess are twins because he's too caught up in putting a rich douche in his place. The cops pull Todd and Chad is thrilled.
  Liz explains her sister has been kidnapped and eventually works out that they're headed to SVH and the race is back on.
   At SVH, Jess stalls, first telling Chad that no one will let them in as the school is closed, but Chad's not above a little breaking and entering. Obviously. She then takes him the long way round to Elizabeth's locker and finally legitimately has problems opening her twin's locker because she's so scared. Been there, Jess. I understand. Luckily for Jess, the cops show up and Chad takes off...
  ...only to run right into Todd. Of course. They tussle and then Chad's being led off in cuffs, with the twins and Todd following along to the police station. Because we absolutely must hear this, I feel like every bit of protocol on the books is broken when Chad confesses in front of everybody that Ron Hunter and his twin, Rich, were part of the biggest drug ring in the US, until Ron went soft. Rich took Ron's place and recanted Ron's statement because that'll totally work. Fingerprints, people. Fingerprints! Am I the only one who watched that episode of MacGyver?
  So, y'know, twin shenanigans. Liz points out that she probably wouldn't have thought anything of the picture she took except George flipped his shit and basically blew their cover. Rick's Place having t-shirts probably didn't help, Chad.
  The twins and Todd end up in the news for their help in busting the drug ring and instead of ending up dead like anyone busting up a drug ring nowadays, they just get treated to people cheering them on at school. Lest you feel too good about Jessica, in our teaser for the next book, she can't help but think bitchy thoughts about Robin's previous weight.
  Oh, the photography club did manage to salvage enough pictures and take new ones to fill their mural. Which is naturally a hit and Jim managed to make up with Shelley and Skye and Kurt Morrow show up and offer to pay for the repairs to the lab. For Regina.
  And Liz can't help but think that her persistence in solving this mystery was due in part to Regina's drug history and that this way countless lives might've been saved, thanks to Regina's camera. Which is why she put the picture of Regina and Liz on the mural. Aw.

   We end with the cheerleaders discussing donuts and Robin worrying about gaining weight and Jess being bitchy, in her head, about Robin's weight. Next time we deal with Robin's eating disorder. That should be... sigh.


  • Photography Club: Jim Roberts, Tina Ayala, Allen Walters, John, Patty, Elizabeth, Olivia, Claire, Andrea, DeeDee, Neil, Andy, and Mr. Marks is the adviser. Claire and Andrea joined in the second week.

  • Mondays are for Jim teaching the newbies and Allen helping the beyond the basics crowd. Wednesdays are anything goes.

  • The SVH photo lab doesn't do color prints, so Patty has hers done at a lab in town.

  • At the second Wednesday meeting, the club decides to do a mural showing their vision of life at SVH, and it'll be done two weeks from the following Monday. The mural will be on the north wall of the main lobby.

  • Only Tina and Jim are mentioned as doing color prints for the mural, though it's entirely possible Allen did as well.

  • Liz's angle for the club is the teachers at SVH while Allen goes for group shots (like the cheerleaders act practice). Tina covers the couples and John seems to be going for the tennis team. Andrea goes for the musicians and Claire tackles the football team, including shots of them from the locker room. DeeDee went with the arts and Neil concentrated on funny faces in the lunch line. "Andy's photographs were sensitive studies of interracial friendships at Sweet Valley High, and included a beautiful portrait of Patty and DeeDee." Jim decided to go with the photography club in action.

  • When Regina's tragic death is mentioned, Bruce's name never comes up.

  • Regina is said to have inherited her mother's dark eyes. Um, I'd bet a pretty penny that Regina's eyes were blue. I'd bet almost the same amount that Skye's were, too.

  • Thursday, Skye gives Elizabeth Regina's camera while Enid hangs out in the backyard studying.

  • Apparently Liz hasn't been by to see Regina's parents since the funeral.

  • Over one weekend, Liz took 108 photos. It's implied that it's very possible that she took that many in one day. (Saturday)

  • The first picture Andrea develops herself is a shot of her father doing a cannonball into their pool.

  • Regina's camera is the best Nikon makes.

  • At Casey's, Liz is working on a chocolate chip cone that she can't finish, so she gives the rest to Todd.

  • Todd Wilkins has crap luck with cars. His new BMW has issues starting and Liz thinks he doesn't want to admit his new toy is already borked.

  • Liz mentally complains about how long people are taking using the photo equipment and then proceeds to take an hour herself. :P

  • Claire doesn't know who Max Dellon (The Droids) is.

  • Chad drives a light blue convertible. He's got longish white-blonde hair, sky blue eyes, muscular arms, a broad chest, and Jessica initially thinks he's 19 or 20, though she revises this opinion when out on her disastrous date with him. He's also a smoker, and oh yeah, part of a drug ring. But Lila thinks he's super cute. When asked what he does, he says he's an "entrepreneur." Dude, anytime some dude says that, run the other direction. Just start running now and ask no further questions.

  • Liz wears a deep pink sleeveless dress and pearls to dinner at Todd's and Jessica jokes that dinner with the Wilkins family is more formal these days.

  • After seeing Elizabeth's picture of the creepy trio and a flash of Ron on the news, Todd eventually agrees to help Liz with her mystery.

  • Greg Hilliard drives a Jeep.

  • Amy, Jess, and Lila are trying out a homemade hair goop that consists of mayo, lemon juice, mashed avocados, and beer which Ned gave Jessica permission to use so long as she didn't drink it.

  • Amy's father is a freelance photographer and has his own studio on Main Street.

  • Rick's Place is a restaurant on the water in Big Mesa. Todd describes it as an upscale burger joint.

  • Jessica thinks of Big Mesa as classy, though anything would seem that way when compared to Valley Bowling, which is where Chad took her first on their date. How many bowling alleys does Sweet Valley have anyway? Liz bowls and Valley Bowling might've gotten a biased review from Jess but it still doesn't really sound like somewhere Liz would go.

  • The bartender at Rick's Place is Steve.

  • During their casing of the joint, Liz and Todd consume one round of nachos, two salads, two burgers, one order of onion rings, and a pitcher of soda before ordering a hot fudge sundae that neither finishes before running after Jessica and Chad.

  • The Kimball party of 25 blocks the exit when Todd and Liz try to leave, and the birthday boy, a guy around Liz's age, tries to get Liz to stick around for the party.

  • The other guy in the picture is named George.

  • Rich Hunter took his twin's place in Washington, testifying in front of the Senate.

  • Liz includes a 9x12 photo of Mr. Collins in the mural.

  • Todd's favorite picture is of him and Liz at a soccer match where he's lifted Liz onto her shoulders and they look happy. ♥

  • The cheerleaders joke about their cars magically finding their own way to Caster's Bakery. I guess it's Sweet Valley's answer to Krispy Kreme.

Elizabeth suspected that someday, when her twin discovered what it was she wanted more than anything else in the world, Jessica would find out that she had a serious side, too. -p3

"Maybe they're performing some kind of satanic voodoo rituals," Lila suggested when Jessica told her about barging in on the photography meeting the day before. "Maybe they take pictures of people and then stick pins in them." - Li, I think we need to talk about your understanding of Satanism and possibly voodoo. p44

The second fib always came easier to Jessica than the first. - This explains so much, considering how easily the first seems to appear. p48

"You're really going to allow me into that sacred place?" he teased. - I can't stop you from taking this the wrong way. p61

"Don't worry," Elizabeth said soothingly. "We came after you."
"I knew you would!" Jessica smiled at her twin through her tears. "But did you have to cut it so close?" p123

"Spare us," Lila groaned. "Liz is the one who was trying to track down criminals. You were just trying to get a date!" -p130

"No problem," Winston insisted. "Hero status lasts for six months. After that, it has to be renewed with another heroic act." p131

"One donut's not going to hurt you," Jessica told her. Not that I'd risk it if I were Robin, she thought. If she had been fat once the way Robin had, Jessica was sure she would limit herself to carrot sticks for the rest of her life. - annnnnnnnd any goodwill this book might've maybe earned suddenly went up in smoke. p148

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   Let's get this out of the way: Regina's Legacy has fuck all to do with Regina Morrow beyond someone thinking it'd be a rad idea to have Liz bust up a drug ring and it'd come full circle because Regina's biggest defining trait is that she died because of her coke experiment. Otherwise, despite being mentioned a handful of times, and her name being on the cover, there's nothing that feels very Regina about anything in here. It's a big reason why I disliked it when I was younger and a bigger reason why I dragged my feet when it came around to recapping it.

  Also, I'm not a big fan of most of the plots running around in it, so there's that. It's not horribly written and if you're interested in photography of the late 80's, very early 90's, this might've been your thing. Alas, almost everything in this stupid book comes down to no one communicating a goddamn thing and I loathe that trope with just about every fiber of my being. So I'm sorry, ghosty, as you probably didn't get to dictate that being the order of the day but this one is on my "I expected better" list and thus I judge it more harshly than say, a sane person might.

He dipped you, didn't he

Enid's Story
December 1990

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Heading for danger...

People who meet pretty, quiet Enid Rollins find it hard to believe that she ever ran with a wild crowd. She's popular, a straight-A student, and is best friends with Elizabeth Wakefield. Finally, Enid seems to have her life together.
Then everything starts to go wrong. She's interested in Jeffrey French, Elizabeth's ex-boyfriend, and thinks that he likes her, too. But it turns out he hasn't gotten over Elizabeth. Then Enid's father shows up drunk for his Christmas visit. The only person left in Enid's life is Elizabeth, and when they have a terrible disagreement, Enid feels totally alone.
But when Brian, a boy from her past, asks her out, Enid is thrilled. She knows that being with Brian is risky, but he's the only person who seems to appreciate her. Can Enid resist temptation, or will she return to her wild life?

Enid's Story is one of those books I have massively conflicting feelings about. My brain has it labeled as a big friggin' disappointment but when re-reading it, I liked a LOT about it. However, my brain's label isn't wrong. Of all the Super Stars so far, this is the one that felt like it should've made the jump to regular series canon, ala BSC Mystery #5.

Since it did not, we were ROBBED of the drama to be mined from the retooled Enid/Jeffrey/Elizabeth triangle. ROBBED.

Also, it doesn't help that after this book Jeffrey mostly disappears except for Liz to hide from him in Regina's Legacy and... I dunno, possibly background filler elsewhere in the series. The only reason I can see for not having Enid/Jeffrey successfully hookup is that they figured no one in their right mind would buy Jeffrey being okay with being so close to Liz and yet so far. I was going to say that no one would buy him choosing Enid over Liz, but it's not exactly a choice given that Liz chose Todd and also we're shown repeatedly that guys choose Enid over Jessica so... Maybe they didn't really want to have Enid and Elizabeth fight over a guy? Because while Enid has been shown to be capable of getting over her exes (Hey, George!), Liz really does seem to expect all of hers to still be madly in love with her. Annnnnnnd... I get it. That's kinda the expectation, when you're younger. Hell, for when you're older, too, sometimes.

But Enid and Jeffrey work. They're adorkable in similar ways and it makes sense that after getting to know one another, they'd find they have a fair amount in common. If nothing else, they're both very Liz kinds of people and relationships have been built on less.

Seriously though, younger!me was so excited at the idea of Enid/Jeffrey being a thing and the dramatic fallout because Liz says she's over him but we all know she isn't ready to have her best friend move in on him and then NOTHING COMES OF IT, WTF.

Anyway, my other problem with the book is that it has Enid being really awesome in one breath and really stupid in the next. It's hard to buy her telling Brian off and then two seconds later agreeing to go off with him again, knowing what kind of douchebag he is. I know, I know, it's not completely outside the realm of possibility but it is annoying. I shouldn't be in mid-cheer when you turn around and do something stupid, y'know?

Enid's Story begins with Elizabeth and Enid being BFF dorks (and I say this with the utmost love) and wrapping presents at Enid's house. There are corny jokes that I love anyway and a feeling that these two actually are best friends and don't you wish you were there, too? But since this is SVH and we need some conflict, we find out that Todd is going away because if there's one thing that remains constant, it's that Todd's family peaces out at Christmas. Enid is secretly happy that she'll have super BFF time with Liz and even Liz seems pretty happy at the thought of getting to spend more time with Enid. We also find out that Enid was supposed to go to Tahoe with her mother to visit her Aunt Nancy but her father is coming to town instead. Enid admits her mother wasn't thrilled by the change in plans, but it's Christmas and Enid hasn't seen her father in ages. Liz understands but things get a little awkward when Enid's mother (Adele, darlings) comes in and makes a comment about wanting Enid to call Aunt Nancy to explain things, even though Adele already did so.

Book, we aren't even a chapter in and I've got a parenting bone to pick with you. I get Adele being ticked that her ex-husband basically killed her vacation (a point Liz brings up) but there's no need to make it sound like Enid owes her aunt an explanation about why she'd rather see her father for the first time in months rather than visit someone she's seen at least once during the series began. Nancy is presumably an adult. She might want to talk to you to just say hey, Merry Christmas, but she doesn't need a goddamn explanation or apology from a kid about wanting to see their parent over a major holiday.

Enid is less than thrilled that her mother chose to air their dirty laundry in front of Elizabeth but Liz is cool, and not in that patronizing way she can be sometimes. She cracks a joke, after Adele leaving, about peace on earth and goodwill towards ex-husbands and all is right with the world.

At school we indulge in one of my other favorite SVH bits and party hop from class to class since everyone knows only totally insane teachers attempt to actually teach on the last day before holiday break. Enid brings in red and green foil wrapped candy and hands them out to her friends, though only Winston, Maria, and maybe Elizabeth are mentioned as receiving any. We find out there's some skating party the next day and everyone is excited about going. And naturally, I have questioned.

We're told this is a new thing and one they're hoping will be a tradition (it will not be) but we're never told where this ice skating rink is. Is it indoors? Outdoors? Did SV move to be in a slightly colder climate and did Secca Lake freeze along with Hell? How is Jessica such an accomplished ice skater that she can tease, I presume, Lila about being a bad skater? I'm far more likely to buy Lila being a fantastic skater than I am Jessica, given that never in the history of ever are we told about SV being all that wintry. Which is fine as indoor rinks are very much a thing (I learned to drive in the parking lot of the one they built here) but I'm still not buying that these California kids who always have to travel to get anywhere near snow are all great at skating.

Also, wanna feel really old or really young, depending on where you fall on the spectrum here? Dorothy Hamill, Katarina Witt, and Sonja Henie are all name dropped as the best skaters anyone can think of.

Enid realizes that Elizabeth's more upset about Todd leaving than she let on, so she hatches a plan to cheer Liz up. After school she commands Liz to drive them both to the DB. That's it, btw. As far as her plan goes, it's kinda lacking. Also, it pulls the drama tab and we're helpless to stop it.

Enid heads into the DB while Liz doubles back to grab her jacket because the DB is always cold. I mean, I've never heard this complaint before but I guess story's gotta story so sure. She runs into Jeffrey on the way in and the two find themselves under the mistletoe and everyone's all "KISS! KISS! KISS!" and so Jeffrey dips Elizabeth.

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Elizabeth, Todd hasn't even been gone a full afternoon. It is ENTIRELY too soon for you to be confused about your feelings just because Jeffrey dipped you for a kiss under some fake mistletoe at the Dairi Burger. I mean, really. Sigh. Enid misses this because she's sitting at the one booth in the place that doesn't have a view of the door, so she doesn't realize that Elizabeth's good and flustered by the kiss and the feelings it may or may not have reignited. Liz babbles on and then heads off to the counter to get herself a root beer (continuity!) after taking a huge gulp of whatever Enid is drinking.

Jessica makes her entrance with Lila and Cara off to the side (remember, no girl on girl action in the Valley) and, with hands on her hips, pretty much dares any boy to be brave enough to come up and kiss her as she declares, "Well?" This is the most Jessica thing on the planet and Ghosty, I love you for it.

It is then followed up by the most Bruce thing on planet Earth where he makes his way to the door and proceeds to kiss her (though I like to imagine Jeffrey's kiss was better) and Jessica rates it a 7.9. We get a nod to her recent jellyfish comments and how that's an exaggeration but she'd never tell him that, and that this kiss was pretty good. Bruce shoots back that she obviously got her numbers mixed up and that it was a 9.7 and she shoots back that she meant what she said.

Like I said, this book has a fair amount going for it.

Lila, Jessica, and Cara proceed to hand out candy canes and naturally this is just an excuse for Jessica to flirt with every guy, available or not. She even flirts with Winston. We learn Jessica's on the prowl for a new guy and she decides to flirt with Jeffrey because he's on the short list of guys she hasn't managed to entangle. She hops up a few times and manages to eventually grab the mistletoe (dying at this mental image) and sashays through the DB on a quest. She taps Jeffrey on the shoulder and for a second he lights up, thinking it's Liz. Jessica notices this and isn't totally thrilled when he gives her a very meh kiss and then scuttles away. Cara gives her shit for it and then Liz shows up to ask what Jessica and Jeffrey were talking about. Jessica says it was nothing and then asks why Liz wants to know.

"No reason. I just saw you guys talking, and I was surprised."
"I have talked to boys before," Jessica pointed out sweetly. "It's not that unusual."

While Liz is gone, Jeffrey comes over to talk to Enid and wants to make sure he didn't tick Liz off with the big kiss. Enid assures him that he didn't and the two get to talking about the joys of being single and how they miss seeing one another and it's weird how breakups also lead to friendships getting dropped and eventually he makes plans to pick her up for the skating party the following day. He disappears before Liz returns and Enid decides not to tell Elizabeth about her not!date with Jeffrey since she can tell Liz is in a weird mood... and also she feels guilty. Elizabeth invites Enid to go shopping instead of going to the skating party (because Liz forgot about it) but since Enid just make that not!date, she really wants to go to the party. Then she starts to try and convince Liz to stay away because dude, it will be SO awkward to hang out with the exes while trying to hit on one... but by the end of the car ride, Enid comes to her senses and tells Elizabeth that she shouldn't isolate herself as it'll just make things worse. Come to the party, have fun! But still no mention of Jeffrey. Liz declines and Enid heads on inside.

We get another moment of A+ parenting from Adele when she informs Enid that she just missed a call from her father. Enid asks if Dad left a message and Adele says no, they didn't exactly chat and Enid's ticked. Since this is pre-cellphones and Dave (her father) travels for business, it's not like she's got a reliable number to call him back on if Adele didn't bother to get one. She didn't ask when he'd call back and Enid's ticked and really, I can't blame her. I get that divorces are often messy and good lord do I understand that certain people make you fucking crazy just talking to them for two seconds but also sometimes you put that shit aside for your kid. We learn that Dave apparently had a drinking problem but Enid never really witnessed it and kinda thinks maybe her mother is, at best, exaggerating. So naturally we now know that Dad is super bad news and also might be where Enid gets her bad habits from. But I'm skipping ahead. Enid and her mother are now ticked at one another and Enid thinks to herself that winter vacation is off to a rocky start.

Oh, Enid. You have no idea.

Hurricane Jessica sweeps into Elizabeth's room to borrow some clothes and drag Elizabeth out of bed (kinda literally) and makes her go to the skating party with her. This scene also amuses me but it means that we get Elizabeth being blindsided by Enid and Jeffrey skating together. Jeffrey's a really good skater while Enid- not so much. Liz asks what gives and Enid admits that they made plans yesterday... at the DB. Liz is kinda ticked that Enid hid this from her and Enid admits it was kinda sneaky, but she didn't want to make things weird and also:
"Liz-" Enid drew a deep breath and forced Elizabeth to meet her eyes. "Jeffrey is not your boyfriend anymore. I don't think you should get so upset."

On the one hand, Enid's right. Liz chose Todd and chose him pretty solidly. Enid did like the guy first and she stepped aside right away when it became clear that Jeffrey just wasn't into her the way he was with Liz. On the other hand:

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That's just, like, the rules of feminism.

Liz agrees that she's acting weird and that she has no claim over Jeffrey and then disappears to find Jessica... even though she just arrived with her. Remember, Liz? There was that cute moment when you two tried to sing a round of Jingle Bells and you kept getting confused (as it was a round) and Jess somehow threw in a chorus of Deck the Halls and I cheered because I love the idea that the Wakefield twins can't sing for shit but still do it anyway.

Anyway, Jess is still on the hunt for a new guy and while she, Amy, and Lila are guy watching, we also learn that Lila's father had to cancel their plans to spend the holidays in Switzerland because he's got some deal to push through in NYC. Lila's not going with him because ugh, who would want to spend Christmas in NYC, it's so cold (I mean, Stacey McGill would like a word, Fowler, and also you were just about to spend the holiday in Switzerland, not exactly the warmest place on Earth) and Jessica reads between the lines and decides to ask her parents if Lila can spend the holidays with them. Seriously, there's so much good crammed into this book.

Jessica spies a cute guy who doesn't have a known girlfriend, so armed with the barest of intel from Lila, she skates into cute college guy Brian. She introduces herself but before she can really work her magic, Enid plows right into her and they go flying to the ice. Brian immediately helps Enid up and it turns out he knows her. Enid thanks him and skates away ASAP, leaving Jessica to wonder a) how Enid knows Brian, b) why Enid seems to have no interest in such a hunk, and c) why Brian has to be reminded to help bombshell Jessica up off the ice? Dude. Luckily, gossip warms Jessica's heart almost as much as romance and she skates off to share the Enid thing with Amy and Lila.

Enid is temporarily thrown by running into Brian Saunders from her old partying days but she's here on a not!date and not about to let Brian mess that up. So she and Jeffrey skate and flirt and it's very cute and definitely on the dorky side and my heart, she sings happily for them. They even make plans to see a horror movie later that night and Enid wonders if maybe, just maybe they could be more than friends. Would it ever work out, given that they'd have to deal with Elizabeth being Enid's best friend and Jeffrey's ex? Enid's willing to give it a shot but she's not sure Jeffrey would be and who knows how Elizabeth would react. Eventually she decides that she's getting ahead of herself, so she decides to just roll with it.

Later, at home, Enid is wrapping presents while waiting for Jeffrey to pick her up. Her father calls and they chat for a bit and Enid thinks that it's a shame her father can say nice things about her mother but her mother is always a royal witch to and about her father. I mean, Enid, there are several red flags at play on both sides here. Jeffrey shows up while they're on the phone and away Enid goes. On the way to the movie, Enid realizes she could very easily fall in love with Jeffrey but they almost immediately begin talking about Elizabeth and what Enid bought her (a very girly heart-shaped box) and how Liz does enjoy the super frilly things but would never admit it or buy that kind of stuff for herself. This causes Enid to worry that maybe Jeffrey is still hung up on Elizabeth (I thought we established that back at the DB, Enid) but the two do seem to be doing some stellar flirting so who knows? We don't get to follow them on their date and instead skip to the next morning.

But not like that. Enid wakes up and we learn that after the movie they had dinner and Enid decides that the best way to test whether there's a shot at romance is to buy Jeffrey a Christmas gift. His reaction will tell her everything she needs to know. I mean, she's not entirely wrong but... well. You'll see. Enid and her mother have a cute little exchange and just before Enid hits the road, Liz calls. Liz sounds down, so Enid invites her shopping. When Elizabeth isn't interested in that, she offers the beach (so again, I ask, where is this stupid skating rink?) but Liz isn't interested in that, either. Enid can tell her best friend is down but instead of surprising Elizabeth with a visit, which we all know is what Enid would normally have done in any other situation, she goes to the mall and runs into Jessica. Jess decides to grill her about Brian and Enid waffles between wanting to tell Jessica to run far, far away from bad news Brian and knowing that's not really helpful when it comes to the youngest Wakefield and she really doesn't want to discuss that part of her life with gossip hungry Jessica. Eventually she tries to warn Jess off but Jess mistakes this for interest on Enid's part. The two eventually part, with Jessica asking if Enid will be going to Robin and George's holiday party. Ooh, that's a low blow, Jess. However, unlike Elizabeth, Enid has let her ex go and feels just fine attending a party thrown by hers and the girl he cheated on her with.

Enid finds a Sonja Henie postcard and decides that this paired with some ice-cream is the perfect gift for Jeffrey. It's cute as hell, honestly. Enid gets home and asks if anyone called and is told no. She asks specifically about her father and Adele testily reminds her that she said no one called. Luckily, we're saved from my annoyance by Enid's father calling right then. They make plans to see each other the following day (Christmas Eve) at noon. When they hang up, Adele is PISSED. You see, she was going to surprise Enid with tickets to the Nutcracker and now that's ruined, too. Lady, I want to feel for you but Enid's right- the man didn't plan to fuck up your ballet plans. You do get awfully defensive each time he calls and your daughter is suffering for it, so put on your big girl pants and find a friend to bitch to instead of your daughter. Jesus. Adele realizes belatedly that maybe she's taking things out on Enid and apologizes.

While Enid wonders why things must be so difficult, the phone rings again, only this time it's Jeffrey. He wonders if she's busy as he has something he wants to talk to her about and the party is not the time for it. She agrees to go over and then head's off to get ready. She dresses up for Jeffrey and wonders briefly if maybe she's overdressed, but decides the holidays are the time to dress-up. She's sure that tonight is the night everything in their relationship will change.

When she gets to Jeffrey's, it looks like no one else is home. He asks about the ice-cream and she gives him his gift which he seems to love. He gives her a gift as well, and it's a book of poetry... but he hasn't written anything inside the book and it happens to be by Elizabeth's favorite poet. Still, he did buy her a present and put some thought into it so that should count for something, right?

Yeah. No. See, what he wanted to talk to her about was the fact that Elizabeth came over that morning with cookies she'd baked just for him. He's wondering if maybe Liz feels something for him and this is her way of letting him know. Enid's flabbergasted because as far as she knows, Liz is totally in love with Todd and why the hell is she baking cookies special for her EX-boyfriend? Is it just to keep him hanging on so he can't go out with Enid? What gives, Wakefield? Enid's crushed, too, when she realizes he's obsessing over this and going over and over what this gift would mean but doesn't realize Enid bought a gift, a special inside-joke gift for him and the fact that he gave her a gift doesn't seem to mean anything to him, either. He's really hung up on these cookies. Enid feels like a fool and makes up a lie about having to get her car back to her mother. She debates driving over to Elizabeth's to ask what the hell but realizes she can't because she made such a big deal about going to the skating party with Jeffrey not being a big deal and if she flips out, then she'll look like a hypocrite. It hurts even more to realize she can't talk to her best friend about her problem because the problem is her best friend. :(

Later that evening Jeffrey calls her up to go Go-Karting but Enid's feelings are still hurt and she turns him down. He seems disappointed but Enid wonders if this is because he won't be able to pump her for info on Liz or if he's actually disappointed to not see her. Before she can dwell too much on this, the phone rings again.

Enter Brian Saunders. Again. Enid's shocked and when Brian invites her to dinner, she tells him that she doesn't see the old crowd anymore. He says he doesn't party anymore and when she doesn't seem to really believe him, he says people do change. Since Enid's pretty much the poster girl for change, she admits it is possible, though Brian was the kind of mess that it would take a damn miracle to change. Brian, sensing that Enid's not sold on this, points out that he's in college now and this has straightened him out and that running into her reminded him that he's always really liked her, but he was too wasted then and she was always with George annnnnnnnnd the flattery works.

On Enid. Personally I'm torn between kinda gagging and laughing. Gagging because we learned fairly early on in the series that Enid was like, 13/14 when she was running with this crowd and if Brian's in college now, he's 18/19. However, this has always been a sticking point for Enid's past and me- I totally buy wild child Enid. It's just that they keep sticking her with guys older than she is and it's not my favorite thing. And the laughter is because look, I'm not saying it's impossible to find yourself giving up partying when you hit college but realistically, you're far more likely to take it up or kick it up a notch or twelve. And Brian seems the sort to have found himself a party school and indulged. But sure, sure. Let's pretend the University of Colorado is where Brian cleared his mind and found himself. Enid agrees to dinner.

Brian picks her up and immediately tells her she looks nice and Enid realizes that while she dressed up for Jeffrey, he never even noticed. Brian's attentive and seems actually interested in her and Enid decides that maybe she'll give him an actual shot, as it's nice to be appreciated by someone. But you can tell she's still far more into Jeffrey so, y'know, make of that what you will.
Enid and Brian sort of reminisce but not exactly fondly. She asks what made him change and gives him shit for how he used to be and he says that the Rockies helped clear his mind. That and he's been taking a lot of Asian Studies classes.
Oh, no.
Run, Enid. RUN.
But she's committed to the dinner and they end up at the Bangkok Palace for some Thai food. He orders for the both of them (after checking with Enid to see if that's okay) and they discuss college some more. When the food arrives, Brian orders a beer and instead of Enid seeing this as the massive red flag that it is, she agrees with him that it's possible to just have one beer with a meal and thinks to herself it's probably refreshing with the spicy food. Dude, you're in California and I'm fairly certain you've gotta be 21 to drink there, even in 1990 (Google assures me this is so) and so either Brian is waaaaaaaaaaaay too old to be hitting on Enid (particularly using the angle that he was always into her) or the BP should be losing their liquor license any minute now. Enid, the former party boy shouldn't be drinking when trying to convince you he's changed. You're smarter than this.
They have a nice dinner and after desert, Enid wonders if she's ready for the night to be over. What if he wants to go to Miller's Point? Is she ready for that? Instead, Brian asks if she's ready for the night to be over, because if not, he wants to swing by a friend's place for a definitely not a party kind of get together and show her off. Enid agrees, after making sure this is definitely not a party because she's not about that life anymore.
Brian has to park a block away because so many people have shown up to this not a party get together. Enid, honey. You know how this is going to end. Save yourself the headache and just walk away. Instead, she doesn't call him on the BS that it turned into a party and even forgives him when he disappears almost immediately after they walk in the door. Enid finds him downstairs playing a drinking game and he's already shitfaced. Enid's pissed, so she finds a telephone and calls a cab.
Which is a thing I really like about SVH. When someone's date fucks up, they frequently show the girl (Cara and Enid have both done this) calling a cab and just cutting her losses and they do it like it's no big thing beyond the disappointment of having to do so.

Enid makes it home sits in front of the tree, depressed. Her vacation is turning out to be kind of horrible. Her mother's kind of a harpy where her father is concerned, her dad is impossible to track down when she needs him, her best friend is acting super weird, and both potential love interests have fizzled in the same day. That's gotta be some kinda record, right? Merry Christmas indeed.

Christmas Eve! Liz wakes up early and feels like such a jackass as she wonders whatever possessed her to make cookies for Jeffrey and then deliver them. Her only consolation is that Jessica's been so distracted by Lila moving in that she didn't ask who Liz was baking for. Before Elizabeth can beat herself up too badly, the phone rings and it's Todd. Just talking to her true love grounds Liz and her confusion over Jeffrey completely disappears. Of course it's Todd she loves. It's always Todd. Unless she's on holiday or he's out of town, I mean. But otherwise, it's always Todd. ♥
Jessica and Lila find Liz just staring off into space and this gem happens:
"Did you make coffee?" Jessica asked in a creaky, sleepy voice.
"No." Elizabeth sighed and smiled happily.
"Did you bring in the paper?"
Elizabeth put her chin in her hands. "No," she said in a dreamy voice.
Jessica and Lila exchanged a meaningful look. "Did Todd call?" Jessica asked.
"No wonder," Lila said. "There's only one thing that could explain that glazed look."
Jessica laughed. "Right. True love."
"Actually, being whacked on the head might produce the same effect," Lila retorted.

I love you, Fowler.

Enid wakes up to a pounding headache and it only gets worse as she remembers her disaster date with Brian. Just as she's decided to bury herself in sorrow and bedding, she remembers her lunch date with her father. She hops out of bed and gets ready for the day. For whatever reason she hasn't bought her father's gift yet, so she borrows the car again and goes shopping. Again. Enid spends a lot of time shopping and I've gotta agree with Jessica's earlier assessment that Enid, like Liz, seems like the type to do most of her shopping by Thanksgiving. December 1st at the absolute latest, really.
She gets to the hotel a little early and is directed to the Oak Room, where her father is waiting for her at the bar. I know, and you know, that it's entirely possible to wait at the bar and have it be a normal non-red flag event. But we also know damn well that there's no way Enid's not going to walk up to her father and find him three sheets to the wind.
Enid's crushed and confused and her father immediately blames her mother, but in such a way that instead of realizing this is some fucking bullshit, Enid believes that yes, having to talk to a bitter ex-wife who always has an attitude would drive a man to drink on the first time he's seen his only daughter in months. But Dave doesn't stop there. No. Instead he makes a crack about besides, it's not like Enid hasn't been known to knock back a drink or two herself and Enid leaves him there. I don't blame her for that. Annnnnnnnd as much as I want to blame her for spending the car ride home getting mad at her mother, I can't. She's sixteen and having a shitty Christmas where everyone she loves or likes or wants to like is just turning on her at every turn.
So she laces right into her mother who points out that no, it's not her fault that Dave chose gin over his family, yet again. She's not responsible for his actions and never was and never will be. Enid wonders why she's not enough for her father to not drink and the two talk for awhile until the phone rings.
It's Jeffrey and he wants to take her to George and Robin's party. Enid debates turning him down but she needs a friend so she agrees to go.

Elizabeth, Lila, and Jessica are making a quick stop at the party before heading back to the Wakefield's for a fun filled Christmas Eve with the family and I'm going to call bullshit based on the fact that a) Steven's already at the party and b) they absolutely do not just do a quick fly by at this party and anyone who expects me to believe Jessica would be the sort to do so is insane.
Liz runs into Enid and asks how things are and Enid is obviously upset but won't talk about it. Instead, she runs off to talk to Dana. When she's gone, Jeffrey finds Liz and the two duck into the den to have their awkward talk. Liz jumps in and says she's sorry for the cookies and trying to sorta string him along as she knows it's not fair and she was a little mixed up due to the kiss but she loves Todd and she wants Jeffrey to be happy, to be truly happy. Jeffrey reacts about the way you'd expect him to, given how much he's been flirting with Enid, and you can tell he's hurt but it's not the end of the world anymore, either. He mentions Enid and Liz realizes the two have spent a lot of time together recently (I mean, yeah, this book covers like four days but sure) and she attempts to give her blessing without using those exact words. She does, however, think that Jeffrey is a really special person and tells him that Enid is a wonderful person. Ladies and gentlemen, Elizabeth Wakefield: the writer!

Unfortunately, as they leave the den they get busted under mistletoe and kiss once more. While Liz realizes the sparks are completely gone, Enid sees the kiss and it's more than she can handle. She escapes out to the patio and tries not to cry too much but this really is a shitty, shitty Christmas.

Jessica spies Brian across the room and heads in his direction. She corrects him when he calls her Jennifer but is willing to forgive him until he asks if she knows where Enid is. She stalks back to Lila and vents before hearing someone call her name. She finds Jeffrey and is happy to give that another whirl but it turns out he wants to know if she's seen Enid. Without breaking his stride, Jeffrey continues on in his search, leaving a ticked Jessica in his wake. Before she can really process this, Liz shows up and Jessica is thrilled that someone actually wants to see her. Yeah, no. Liz is also looking for Enid and Jessica nearly loses her mind and wonders when and why Enid got so popular all of a sudden. She tells Liz to follow the crowd and eventually they'll find Enid. Liz is pretty sure her twin has lost her mind but I'm amused and that's really all that matters.

Enid eventually ventures back into the living room but almost immediately runs into Brian. Too slow to duck back out onto the patio, she braces for impact. Brian appears and instead of being defensive about his fuckup the night before, he apologizes. Still, Enid's not fully buying it since his "not to make excuses" reasons sound an awful lot like excuses. Brian turns up the charm and Enid is still a little flattered. However, before she can tell him to fuck off (nicely or otherwise), she catches sight of Liz heading right for her with an extremely earnest look on her face. Not wanting to hear it, Enid steps into Brian's arms and the two begin to dance. Liz tries to get in a word and Enid won't hear of it. Liz leaves, bewildered, but Enid remembers the most recent Jeffrey/Liz kiss and doesn't feel too bad about blowing her best friend off. When Jeffrey appears, Enid tells him that Liz is right over there, ta-ta, bye now. Brian whisks her away and the two wind up driving up to Miller's Point. Enid's a little worried and still a little flattered. Maybe she can save Brian, even though her mother pointed out that you can't really save someone else.

And this is a thing that happens a lot during the book. Enid keeps expecting her relationship to save what's left of her shitty vacation. First she thinks maybe the thing with Jeffrey will do the trick, and then it's Brian before his drinking. Then it's how special she'd be if she could help him give up drinking and partying and my heart breaks a thousand different ways for Enid. As someone who has spent far more than her fair share of time imagining cinematic moments that always, always fall flat because that's how the universe works, I get it. But I also know, because I'm not a 16 year old fictional character, that you can't pin all that on one person.
Naturally Brian immediately begins going on about how the best way to not go overboard is to indulge every once in awhile. Enid counters that no, the best way to not drink/do drugs is to simply not do them. But he cranks up the charm and Enid desperately needs a win, so she ignores all the red flags and the two kiss. The heavens decline to part and the earth doesn't move and Enid's disappointment is very real, but she tells herself it's just a first kiss. Brian can tell she's not fully into it, so his brilliant idea is to smoke some pot.
Oh, honey, no.
But Enid's tired of being good and being the universe's butt monkey, so she goes along with it. It doesn't take too long before she's higher than a kite and it's not the fun she thought it would be. She mopes about Christmas and her father and we learn that Brian's father is also a drunk. The two try and recreate the 12 Days of Christmas but between the pot and the booze, they're a little too fucked up to really get it right.

Meanwhile, back at the party, Jessica has finally found someone who wants to talk to her after she crashes a conversation between her brother and some dude named Michael who is obviously into her. The two disappear to Miller's Point but Michael is distracted by the loud music coming from the other car there. Jessica stalks over to the car and eventually yanks the door open only to find a very, very stoned Enid and Brian and she's overcome with giddiness at the gossip that's just landed at her feet. She runs back to Michael and has him take her back to the party where she hopes not too many people have left because this is some good gossip.
When she gets there, Liz is looking for Enid and Jessica is gleeful because this is her moment to SHINE.
Before she can spill the beans, some old dude comes in looking for Enid and he's frantic. It's Enid's father, btw.
An hour after Enid left the party with Brian, Liz calls Enid's house to talk to her, only Adele answers and says Enid's not home. She's a little worried since it's 10:30 and Enid was due home half an hour ago. Liz says she's sure she'll be home soon and hangs up. Dave Rollins shows up at the door looking for Enid and the two finally get on the same worried parent page. Adele tells her ex that Enid's out with some loser guy from her past and she's not sure where they are. She gives him a couple of options, like Kelly's and the Pink Lady (ha, Adele, I think you mean the Shady Lady and why, God, do I remember this?) and when those don't pan out, Dave flings his flask of gin out of the car and heads to George's party to see if she's turned up there.
Jessica senses this is the moment, so she steps up and says she knows where Enid is. The crowd gathers and she says she saw Enid up at Miller's Point with Brian but they were both *whispers* a little intoxicated.
Annnnnnnnnd Liz is like well why the fuck did you leave her there, and Jessica realizes that she fucked up. She freaks out when she realizes the crowd is not on her side and she grabs Lila as Jeffrey and Liz head for the door to go rescue Enid. Lila goes along with her without question and seriously, I love Lila.
They race to Miller's Point.

Back in the car of stupid, Enid is sobering up real quick when she realizes that Jessica saw her at her lowest and ohshit, she's gonna tell everyone. Thing is, she's not sober enough to realize that Brian is beyond fucked up and he doesn't take too well to the idea of Enid wanting to go back. So he terrorizes her by speeding and driving like a fool. He kills some time in a parking lot spinning round and round in his car and eventually races back to Miller's Point because he remembered he's got another bottle of bourbon in the trunk. Enid begs him to let her go and he puts one hand over his eyes while driving and she shuts up. Until he decides to play chicken with another car as they're just about to hit the most dangerous stretch of road. (I'm assuming this is where Todd'll nearly die a few Christmases from now in Return of the Evil Twin, and also possibly where Sam dies?) Enid grabs the wheel and he fights her off and the other car swerves just before Brian does as well and they crash through the guardrail.
When Enid comes to, she's hanging upside down in the car as her father tries to get her to unlock the door. She manages it and he unhooks her seatbelt, sending her crashing to the hood of the car. She whimpers that she's in pain and her father tries to soothe her while pulling her from the car that's got a gasoline leak. He hands her off to Jeffrey and Liz and then goes back for Brian while Lila gives a play by play that ends in the car exploding and Enid screams for her father.
Liz rides with Enid in the back of the EMS to the hospital and Enid wants to ask her something but keeps flitting in and out of consciousness.
Eventually at the hospital we learn that Enid is mostly fine while Brian and Dave Rollins both are in the burn unit but should also be okay. I'm not sure I buy them letting Enid just waltz into the burn unit as I thought that area tended to be kinda on lock down because of the chance of infection but hey. Enid's also on the same floor so what do I know?

While Enid slept, Jessica and company brought her Christmas tree to the hospital (again, I remind you this is the same floor as the burn unit) and aside from having to handwave the improbability of certain things away, it's a pretty touching scene. Enid and her mother later talk about her father and whether this'll be a wakeup call for him, and when Enid later takes her present down to him, he admits that it is. He's asked his doctor about a good rehab program and once more I remind people this is a dude with serious burns.

Again, what do I know. Anyway, Brian's parents are looking into a good rehab program for him as well and he's going to attempt to turn over an actual new leaf and Enid wishes him well.

We end the book with Lila throwing her annual NYE party with Jessica helping to set up for it. Todd comes home and Elizabeth is all gooey and mushy at the sight of him. Jeffrey invited Enid to Lila's party but she turned him down and they both realize it's not because she doesn't want to go with him, but it's because she wants more than just a casual invite to Lila's party. Jeffrey realizes that he's into her but because of the stuff with her family and his Elizabeth hangup, if he jumped right into a relationship with Enid it would just crash and burn. So instead, he wants to take things slow. This doesn't stop him from setting up camp in the front hall of Fowler Crest and waiting for Enid to show up, ever so impatiently. When Enid does show up, nervous at how people will react after her antics the week before, Jeffrey opens the door and they basically spend the rest of the evening together. If this is taking it slow, I don't know what they'd consider jumping in with both feet.
At midnight, the two agree once more to take things slow...but the book ends on a midnight kiss and the promise of more to come.


  • Enid's age for her rough time is mentioned as being 14.

  • Enid's parents are Adele and David (Dave) Rollins. Dave is a tall drinker (he seems pretty fond of gin) and she's not great at hiding her dislike of her ex.

  • Elizabeth and Enid are both looking forward to hanging out together over their vacation since Todd will be away and Enid isn't dating anyone. Super BFF time! Only no, because it all falls apart the very first day.

  • A lot of Enid's old party crowd either dropped out or wound up in drug treatment centers. I feel like there's also some overlap between the two.

  • Todd's family is going to Utah to get in some Christmas skiing. While the destination isn't always the same, the Wilkins family is frequently out of town for the holidays.

  • Enid and her mother were scheduled to go to Lake Tahoe to visit Aunt Nancy before Dave forced a change in plans.

  • Liz is considering a silk blouse for her mother.

  • Enid hands out red and green foil wrapped chocolate to her friends. Winston pops the whole thing, foil included, in his mouth, prompting Maria to scold him.

  • In what the school hopes will be a new tradition, they're having a skating party at an unknown location. Each class chipped in to buy hot chocolate, marshmallows, and snacks.

  • Jessica has new skates. She can also apparently skate backwards and do camels.

  • Jessica teases Lila about still needing double bladed skates.

  • Aaron is looking for someone to start up an ice hockey game.

  • Elizabeth claims the Dairi Burger is always cold so she'll need her jacket.

  • Jessica rates Bruce's mistletoe kiss a 7.9 and he argues it should be a 9.7.

  • Cara, Lila, and Jessica stopped by the drugstore after school to pick up candy canes to hand out at the DB.

  • Jessica has to hop up to reach the mistletoe when she steals it to flirt.

  • Jess realizes that Jeffrey is still very into Liz but thinks maybe the best way for him to get over Liz is to date her twin. This seems... weird.

  • Enid suggests perfume, silk scarves, kitchen utensils, books, magazine subscriptions, gift certificates to her favorite store, a singing cake stand, and a homemade certificate for something like dinners made, dishes done, stuff like that.

  • Mrs. French has a singing cake stand that plays happy birthday.

  • Jeffrey invites Enid to go to the skating party together.

  • Liz invites Enid to go shopping, possibly up the coast to the cute boutiques (like the one where Lila ditches Jessica? the same time as the party.

  • Dave Rollins travels for business in a time before cellphones were really a thing so she doesn't have an easy way to get in touch with him.

  • Jessica says that Liz's problem is that she thinks she has to have no fun while Todd is away and uh, she's not wrong.

  • A Wakefield Family Disaster, soon to be a Christmas classic album.

  • Enid's hair is described as brown but I still maintain that it's auburn.

  • Lila was supposed to be going to Zermatt, Switzerland, before her father had to go to NYC for business instead.

  • Jessica invites Lila to spend the holidays with the Wakefields.

  • Brian Saunders is a tall brunette who went to Big Mesa and now goes to the University of Colorado. He's a graceful skater, a great dancer, and his father gets super drunk. He claims his Asian studies classes and being in the Rockies cleared his mind, curing his need to party, but this is a load of bull.

  • Jeffrey is a great skater and shows off a bit for Enid.

  • Jeffrey promises Enid that by the end of their skating session, she'll be a regular Sonja Henie.

  • Elizabeth avoids Enid at the rink once she and Enid have their mini blowout over Jeffrey.

  • After skating all day, Jeffrey and Enid make plans to see a horror movie that night.

  • Enid gives Elizabeth a heart-shaped pink satin box trimmed with white lace from Feminine Mystique.

  • Dave Rollins is driving in from Vegas.

  • Enid buys Jeffrey a Sonia Henie postcard from Reel Revival and a carton of ice-cream.

  • Jessica buys a pair of bright green sunglasses with mini pink palm trees across the top for Elizabeth but gives them to Enid after her accident.

  • Adele bought matinée tickets to The Nutcracker for a Christmas Eve performance.

  • Enid wears a pink t-shirt and blue jeans for her mall shopping trip and it's giving me Daria as Quinn vibes.

  • Enid wears a white turtleneck with a swingy red skirt, and green headband when she delivers Jeffrey's Christmas present.

  • Jeffrey's family goes in for blinking lights on their Christmas tree.

  • Jeffrey gives Enid Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barret Browning, who happens to be Elizabeth's favorite poet.

  • Liz makes Jeffrey Christmas cookies.

  • Brian orders a beer without issue at the Bangkok Palace so either he's way too old for Enid or the BP is gonna be shutdown real quick for serving minors.

  • Apparently Adele Rollins makes the hottest chili north of Mexico.

  • Liz tells Prince Albert that someone will walk him soon when she wakes up early, but who does normally walk him? He's Jessica's dog but she's known to sleep in on a regular basis.

  • Todd suggests that he and Elizabeth both look up at the Big Dipper that night before bed so they'll be both be looking at the same thing, even if they're not together. Except there's an hour time difference so you do the math, I guess.

  • Adele keeps exactly one picture of Dave around the house, and it's from Enid's 4th birthday party, where Enid is perched on her father's shoulders and she's wearing a party hat. Enid suspects the only reason it's been left standing is because Enid looks so happy in it.

  • Dave is staying at the Sweet Valley Regency. How swanky. He's in room 513 and he and Enid are to have lunch at the Oak Room, only he gets waylaid by the bar in the restaurant.

  • Dave is drunk by 11:15am on Christmas Eve and blames his ex-wife for it.

  • Adele is filling out Christmas cards... on Christmas Eve.

  • Jeffrey picks Enid up at 7:30 for George and Robin's Christmas party.

  • Brian's crowd really seems into bourbon as it's mentioned numerous times.

  • Why is Brian even at George's party since George seems to know that Brian's still a party boy?

  • Enid promised to be back home by 10pm to spend some of Christmas Eve with her mom.

  • Enid's favorite Christmas ornament is a shiny angel blowing a trumpet and it's always the first on the tree every year.

  • Adele thinks that Enid only helped decorate the house out of habit as she seemed kind of depressed but the book opens with a fairly upbeat Enid and the house is already decorated.

  • George lives on Hacienda Street.

  • Adele suggest Dave check Kelly's and the "Pink Lady" on 4th Street. I think she means the Shady Lady, btw.

  • Dave kept a flask of gin in his glove compartment and when he's frantically looking for Enid, he throws it out the window where it shatters in the street.

  • Dave also knows Elizabeth and she seems to know him which seems kinda weird, but I don't recall when Enid's parents divorced so that might explain it.

  • Brian sideswipes two cars after he drives around in an empty parking lot like a loon. He's also going 80 as they race back to Miller's Point.

  • Brian and Enid slam into the guardrail on their way back to Miller's Point and we're told this section of road is the most dangerous in the area. I wonder if it's where Sam will later die and Todd will have his accident.

  • Brian's car rolled down a steep bank and Dave is dragging Brian to safety when Brian's car explodes.

  • Elizabeth rides to the hospital with Enid.

  • Enid's in room 315.

  • The burn unit is also on floor 3.

  • Dr. Meyerson is Enid's doctor.

  • Adele gives Enid a gold heart pendant.

  • Jessica, Lila, Jeffrey, and Elizabeth bring Enid's tree from home to the hospital.

  • Liz gives Enid a fabric picture frame with a picture of the two of them on the beach in it.

  • Enid gives her father a key chain with her picture on it.

  • Dave calls Enid his little princess.

  • Lila asks Jessica if she took her pink shoes. This is only noteworthy because Lila is wearing a red dress to her NYE party while Jess is in pink so it makes no sense for Lila to be wondering about pink shoes.

  • Liz promises to be home at 1am.

Jessica found it extremely amusing to flirt outrageously. Boys were always so surprised. But that's because they were just boys.- p23

"Well, don't just lie there on the floor like a bum!" Jessica cried out. "Get up! Take a shower! Find your skates!" She wouldn't be on the floor if Jessica hadn't dragged and dropped her there, but point made. p42/43

Jessica smiled. "The rugged individualist, right? That's just my type."
"The whole male sex is just your type," Amy retorted. - I mean, it takes one to know one, Sutton. But also, I'll allow it. p50

Elizabeth looked up at him with a full heart and impulsively gave him a hug. She knew now that they would always be friends. - And then Jeffrey was never seen again... p125

"Oooh, I could just-just bite someone," she growled at Lila.
Lila popped a walnut in her mouth and raised her eyebrows languidly. "That sounds like fun. Did you have anyone in mind?" - ♥ Miss Fowler, you remain a gem at the most unexpected of times. p128

She would tell him straight off that she despised him.
"Am I glad I found you!" he exclaimed.
Enid gave him a frigid look. "I'm not." - p 132

"Wouldn't you like to reform me? It would be an act of mercy."
"I think the biggest act of mercy would be to have you humanely destroyed," Enid said dryly. "I know a good vet who could put you out of your misery." - If you still wonder why I love Enid, I cannot help you. p133

Enid opened her eyes again and gave Jeffrey a sweet smile. "Liz is over there, talking to Steve and Cara," she said politely.
"Huh?" Jeffrey looked puzzled and shook his head. "No, I wanted to-"
"Right over there," Enid said, pointing. "Sitting on the couch."
Jeffrey frowned. "But, Enid-"
"Bye, Jeffrey," Enid said, letting Brian steer her away. - This will never not amuse me. p136

Mrs. Rollins knew that Enid was hurting lately, and she knew that she had a lot to do with her daughter's pain. "Oh, Enid, what am I doing wrong?" she murmured. "I'm doing my best. I really am. It's just really hard." - Adele, Mrs. Rollins, you know that's a damn lie. I've had to sit through an entire book of you being possibly justifiably bitchy towards your ex but at your daughter's expense, so take this "best" BS and shove it. p158

Mrs. Rollins nodded. "He would have walked through fire for you-he very nearly did, too." p193

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See? ROBBED. I waited ever so patiently for Enid and Jeffrey to have any hint of a romance in the regular books and I waited for nothing. I don't know why I thought this would be the book to cross over into the regular canon but I did. Possibly because one of the things Enid's Story gets right is that it feels like a book that knows its SVH history. I'm not entirely sure I buy Enid's mother not remembering the Shady Lady but, y'know, it's been a couple of years since her daughter raised hell (more if you take the time warp into consideration) and clueless parents are a staple around these parts so I'll allow it. But everything else fits really well. It fits into the Jessica/Bruce jellyfish thing that happened in Starring, Jessica! the book that came out right before this one, it remembers that while Jeffrey and Elizabeth were a solid thing, Jeffrey was no match for Todd in Elizabeth's eyes, and also that Enid had her eye on Jeffrey first.
It feels like it fits in far better than either Lila's or Bruce's books did and that might be the difference. They felt very much like one-offs and set apart from the series but this one feels like a regular SVH book but with a very Enid-centric story.

I've mentioned how much I like certain bits and part of that is that they're done in such a way that you can very easily envision the scene in your head. They fit and flow very well and they're pretty fitting for their characters. You cannot convince you that you can't see Jessica making that entrance for on.
I guess in the end, my biggest problem is that for all the Enid-ness of her own book, it also managed to feel kind of flat for her. She does a lot of shopping and wrapping presents, which makes sense for the time of year but go back and count how often I mention her doing either of these things and then add in the "and then the phone rang" kind of transition and realize I probably left a couple of those out.
I wanted more and while this is easily better than Bruce's Story by an embarrassing margin, it's also dangerous to give me what I want because then I want more.

Btw, this is late and possibly weirder than usual as it was assembled throughout various parts of Hurricane Dorian.

And now a word from Francine

EW has an interview with Francine Pascal up and it's actually pretty interesting.

But I'll be damned if this isn't the most telling quote of all: I never really had the respect for Sweet Valley that I had for my other YA books. I felt it was a kind of soap opera, and that was kind of a lesser thing.

As someone who was victimized by SVC, let me just speak for everyone when I say, honey, it showed. She does then go on to say that she realizes now that she was wrong but we're never told when this stunning realization came to be. Because I'm never going to be convinced it was before SVC came out. Not with the way she wrote it.

However, there's a fabulous pair of pictures at the source and you should go look if only for them. Seriously though, the interview is pretty interesting. Perhaps you know all the things mentioned (I'm not sure I can envision a Fearless musical myself) but hey.

FP and I both agree on one thing whole-heartedly though: Pascal, who does not have script approval but is consulting on the film, is still hopeful a movie can happen — but the years of delay have taken a slight toll on her enthusiasm. “I hope I live long enough for this [to happen],” she says frankly.

Welcome to the newest wing of the alternate Sweet Valley Universe

Let's get this out of the way immediately. Academic All-Star? is nowhere near as bad as Sweet Valley Confidential. It's not as bad as most of The Sweet Life series, the attempted reboot from a few years ago, or even the Elizabeth series (which was, until SVC, my most hated of all things SV). I didn't finish the book and immediately hate myself and/or everyone involved.

But it's definitely something I will consider canon AU, sorta like as far as I'm concerned, Senior Year is an alternate universe. I enjoyed parts and I think it's worth a read if you're so inclined.

I don't normally utilize spoiler cuts for things here but since this is actually new and some people might like to experience it for themselves before some jackass (me) goes on and on about it, we shall be considerate.

Head's up if you buy the actual physical copy of the book: it is very floppy. It's glossy but there's no reinforcement to keep it from being bent when shipped. It's also smaller than I anticipated, but I am also terrible with dimensions so whatcha gonna do.

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She likes me for me

Rock Star's Girl
February 1991

Who's the new girl at Sweet Valley High?
 photo SVH_RSG_72_zpsmu7j4vax.png
Looks can be deceiving...

   Jessica can't believe it! Her idol, rock star Jamie Peters, has moved to Sweet Valley. If only she could meet him, her career as a 'star' would really take off! Peeking through the bushes bordering his estate, hoping to find a way to talk to him, Jessica sees something shocking.
   Andrea Slade, the quiet new girl at Sweet Valley High, is lounging by the pool with Jamie - and she's acting as if they are more than just good friends. Could a sixteen-year-old nobody like Andrea really be a rock star's girlfriend?

   My memory of RSG is pretty flimsy: purple cover with Jess doing her weakest "I'm watching you" face and this is the book where everyone thinks Andrea is Jamie's girlfriend and not his daughter. That's it.

 Which isn't to say that I was wrong, just that I'd managed to forget all the great things about the book. Like the fact that Enid pops up all over the place here and Lila's insane and our ghosty does not know how to play the marimba or possibly what one even is. Onward!

   We open with Enid being excited to tell Liz who she had lunch with as they get ready for gym. It's a little odd that Liz wasn't at lunch with Enid, and we never find out where she was, but we do get Liz guessing it's some fabulously gorgeous guy. Alas, it was a girl and that girl was Andrea Slade. You know, the new transfer student. Anyway, Enid thinks Andrea is great and she wants to invite her to the beach with them that weekend. Liz agrees and then Andrea appears because her schedule is still being fiddled with and now she's in their gym class. Huzzah!
  We have a brief interlude with our B plot and the lusting over Jamie Peters and then we hit the beach with possibly my favorite new trio. Andrea drops possibly the first of her many comments about being woefully pale and the Es try to explain "beach culture" to her. Which sounds less interesting than it actually is. The trio hit it off and Andrea seems to honestly enjoy hanging out with Enid and Liz and the three agree to meet up at the DB later for dinner... but only after Andrea once more avoids letting anyone even know what part of town she lives in. Enid's kind of worried by how secretive Andrea is, but Elizabeth chalks it up to the family not being fully moved in yet or something. Sure. As someone who did a move that was hell incarnate, with boxes everywhere for far too long, I can say that even during the midst of that, I would've been fine with someone picking me up. But maybe in the Valley you invite yourself in first and that's what Liz figures Andrea was avoiding.
   We get a moment of Liz trying to get Jessica to agree to meet and hang out with Andrea, because Liz thinks Jess would really like her and Jess just isn't interested. I'm torn on this. On the one hand, Jessica's right. She enjoys people like Lila and Amy and Liz prefers, y'know, Enid. Their friend circles don't really overlap that much when it comes to best friend material. On the other hand, the only reason for Jessica to not agree to meet the girl whose fashion choices she's already admired is because the plot requires no mention of Jamie around Andrea until later. And since Jessica's Jamie Peters obsession is in full swing, she can't really go more than five minutes without mentioning him. Possibly as subtly as, "You know who else likes to breathe? JAMIE PETERS!"

   Now, because this wouldn't be SVH without some romance, the book brings us Nicholas Morrow running into the new trio at the mall.
  Can we take a moment to discuss the mall? I admit I live in a place with two relatively shitty malls (I laugh any time someone asks about the closest one) but Sweet Valley is mentioned to be a small town about 137 times in this book alone but their mall is three levels? Are you kidding me? I could maybe buy this if we'd been told that it's basically the mall for every surrounding town and everyone goes there to shop but nope. Just small town this, small town that, btw, the mall has three levels.
   Back to Nicholas. He and Andrea immediately hit it off, bonding over the fact that they both lived in Boston in the recent past and also both LOVE sailing. Elizabeth is giddy over the thought of Nicholas finally finding someone and I kinda love that. I also feel a little bad for Enid as by the end of the book she's going to wind up the fifth wheel on the first of many an outing. Sorry, Enid.
  Nicholas and Andrea make a date to go sailing and when they do hit the water, they find that they both have a lot in common- not the least of which is being kinda dorky around one another. But it's endearing and maybe I'm biased because I want Nicholas to be happy almost as much as the Wakefield twins seem to in this book and also because Andrea is obviously team Enid, so I'll roll with it. They agree to meet back up for dinner, though there is a seriously awkward moment and no, not when Regina is mentioned.
   Yet again Andrea suggests just meeting someone somewhere and Nicholas is a little hurt because he thinks maybe she's ashamed of him or something. But when Andrea assures him that it's not that, she just needs a little time, he agrees, though he does hope that sometime soon she'll trust him. I... honestly don't blame him for being a little put off that she's being so evasive about where she lives. While we know she's hiding something (even if you don't know whether she's JP's gf or daughter at this point), Nicholas just knows this girl he spent an amazing afternoon out on the water with won't trust him to pick her up at her house... kinda the most basic of date beginnings.
   Andrea and Nicholas dine at a pretty little Italian restaurant that serves angel hair pasta (with cream sauce and herbs, as the running joke between the two goes and I did warn you they were dorks) and they have a delightful time. Thing is, at the end of the date we have Nicholas walking Andrea to her car... which is parked outside of his house. You know where the Morrows live? In the rich part of town, right by Lila and Bruce. He lives in a freakin' mansion. This is a plot point for more than one book, dammit, ghosty. So why, oh why does Andrea get a little squirrelly when Dana later mentions that the Morrows are loaded? She should already know this! It's not like your average teenage boy, at the age of 18, can afford a new sailboat after trading in their Sunfish for it. Seriously, the boy comes from money and it isn't exactly a secret.

   Still, Andrea seems to be fitting in pretty nicely with Olivia, Dana (who is sticking around more than I ever remembered her doing for this stretch of the books), Todd, and Winston. Win worries that he's offended Andrea when she runs off rather than discuss her father but Liz and Todd assure him that he was fine, she's just shy, maybe.

   I believe I promised you Lila craziness, right? Well, first we circle back to Jessica. The new Jamie Peters album just dropped and so she and Amy go to Lila's to hear it on Li's new CD player that Mr. Fowler just brought back from Japan. Ah, book, you're so dated. I love it. Anyway, Jess can't get over how hot Jamie is, Lila can't get over the idea of how Jamie is moving into movies and possibly moving to California and hey, maybe he'll move to Sweet Valley and Amy can't get over how ridiculous both Lila and Jessica are acting about some 40 year old rock star.
  Lila decides to drop the bombshell that she's getting into music and has a music teacher, Max Sharpe, and soon they'll be deciding which instrument she should start to play. Lila's not prepared for how amused Amy and Jessica are by this and even less prepared when they go all in on her once she announces that her new musical focus will be... the marimba. Which we're told is a cousin of the harp but Wikipedia would very much beg to differ. Pretty sure you don't pluck the marimba, ghosty.
  Anyway, Lila won't hear of them mocking her new musical pursuit and won't they be sorry when she's rich and famous! Well. More rich and more famous, I suppose. Amy and Jessica decide they can risk it.
  Until later, that is, when Lila announces that she's seen Jamie Peters... in Sweet Valley! Amy's still busy rolling her eyes while Jessica wonders if it's possible that maybe Lila did. He wouldn't be the first (or last) star to swing by the Valley. Later that evening, Lila calls the Wakefield house during dinner, and we're treated to a fabulous quote:
"Your friend Lila is calling from her car phone," he said, half amused and half annoyed. "Apparently something earth-shattering has come up, and unless she can talk to you this very second, she claims she will die."

Such sass. ♥
  Lila claims to have seen Jamie on her way home from Max's house again. She followed him this time and found out that he must've moved into the old Kitterby estate, which is only five doors down from Lila! Also that neither Lila nor her father expected it to sell so long as the estate was asking $2 million for it, but that's not the point.
  Jessica is super jealous that Lila's now seen him twice and not happy that she's going to miss seeing him again because she has to finish dinner. Lila suggests a way onto the estate, as she used to be friends with Alexis Kitterby and knows the grounds fairly well, and the two agree to meet for lunch the next day to discuss it. So Jess grumpily goes back to dinner while Lila continues her stakeout.

   Lila, Jessica, and Amy sneak onto JP's property and are almost immediately rewarded with the sight of JP talking on the phone out by the pool. It's amazing that each time we hear about them spying on the star, he's always out by the pool. It's so amazing that the ghosty has to give us a reason to believe it and that's that JP's remedy for everything is to spend time baking in the sun.
  Funny that Andrea makes numerous mentions of her lack of tan then, but hey. Maybe JP moved to California just for the year round tanning opportunities.
  Anyway, the girls run away when Amy and Jessica make too much noise and Lila puts the kibosh on Amy telling everyone in SV about the new star in their midst. She points out that once everyone knows, they'll all be clamoring for JP's attention and then they won't be special. It works and the girls agree to keep the secret from everyone but Cara.
  And I take a moment to howl with laughter at how much Cara's changed, because it wasn't that long ago that telling Cara was akin to just putting up a billboard, only Cara's mouth might've been faster. Now she's capable of keeping a secret without it being a thing.
  When the foursome spy on Jamie next, they're surprised by the sight of the ever elusive girl in so many of Jamie's songs: Andrea! GASP. She kisses him on the cheek and all four are sure that Andrea's his girlfriend and are all scandalized.
   I laugh some more because these days, and even then, it's really not uncommon to hear of a middle aged rock star having a teenage girlfriend. Sure, her being 16 is weird but not the teenage aspect exactly. Also, for someone who has been kind of the voice of reason where Jamie Peters is concerned, Amy never once suspects that Andrea is his daughter even though she's sure the man's pushing 40 and I suspect that's about the average age for their parents. But complaining about the lack of logic in a SVH book is kinda pointless. :P

   The next day Andrea is sick from school with a cold and Penny tells Liz that she's got an in with someone at the Entertainment section of the Sweet Valley News and thus she knows Jamie Peters has moved to town. The real estate agent blabbed and it should be all over the news by that evening. You can't convince me that JP's agent didn't at least give him a head's up at some point so that Jamie would warn Andrea before she returned to school but fine. Enid and Elizabeth are pretty sure the rumor mill is wrong and that Andrea is his daughter, not his girlfriend but who listens to them? Not when the gossip is this juicy, anyway.
  Andrea returns to school the next day to find that everyone is treating her very strangely. Amy is super solicitous despite never giving her the time of day beforehand. Caroline is pretty much stalking her and trying to con her into confiding in her (Caro, if Andrea could peg Bruce Patman as an egotistical blow hard at first brush, I'm sure she's heard what a gossip you are by this point), and girls are basically just acting weird around her. She puts two and two together and figures somehow the news broke. She's nervous that Enid and Elizabeth will treat her differently but at lunch they're just happy to see their friend. Awww.
   Until Lila shows up and wants Andrea to put in a good word for her with Jamie. When Andrea doesn't leap for joy, Lila says she wouldn't be thrilled if her boyfriend didn't value her opinion on such matters. Andrea is ticked and instead of correcting Lila, she coldly tells Lila it's no business of hers who JP is to Andrea. She's not wrong but this will bite her on the ass very, very shortly.

   After school, Lila and Jess go shopping but Jess is ticked that Lila played the favor card too early. She's sure that she would've been able to finesse Andrea better and when Lila's like "who cares, he'll dump her soon anyway", Jess heads outside to people watch. She runs into Nicholas who just bought Andrea a bouquet of blue hydrangeas since blue is her favorite color. Jess feels funny when she realizes how smitten Nicholas is and I love this for reasons I can't fully articulate. When Lila comes out and wonders who the flowers are for, Jess tries to get Lila to not spill the beans about Andrea but Lila's not really picking up on any social cues today, so she tells Nicholas that Andrea is shacking up with Jamie Peters and he shouldn't get too serious. Nicholas is heartbroken and gives the flowers to a delighted Lila before heading off to break his date with Andrea. Sorta. Jess is worried that maybe they did something wrong, but Lila's sure that she just saved Nicholas from a world of heartache and he should really be sending her flowers for the next year as thanks.
  Oh, Lila.

   Andrea shows up late for her date with Nicholas and finds that he's left a note that calls her out for possibly two-timing him. She's upset, mostly at herself, because if she'd just bothered to correct Lila instead of getting the last word in, she wouldn't be in this mess. She can't go home because she's mad at her father for even entertaining the idea of breaking his promise to not go on tour again anytime soon and so she disappears.

   Which we only know because around 8:30, the phone rings at the Wakefield's and Jessica answers, only to find Jamie Peters on the line. He wants to talk to Liz because Andrea hasn't come home and he's not exactly worried, he just wants to make sure she's with friends. Liz tells him that Andrea isn't there, but she'll call Enid (uncool, Liz, let Enid talk to the rock star, too!) and Nicholas and then maybe they can go out looking for Andrea. After she hangs up, Jessica confesses that before anyone calls Nicholas, maybe Liz needs to know what happened that afternoon.
  Liz picks Nicholas up in the Fiat and I think at this point in the series we're starting to hint at the Jeep coming given that the Fiat isn't great for more than two people and this point is hammered home multiple times during the book. In any case, Nicholas is relieved to know that he only made an ass of himself with his assumption and that the girl he's interested in ISN'T a two-timing groupie. Huzzah? We stop at Enid's and climb into her mother's car and head off in search of Andrea. Nicholas finally remembers the third thing we know about Andrea (behind love of blue and angel hair pasta) and that's her love of water/sailing. Off to the marina they go!
  There's a joyous reunion and misunderstandings are cleared up and everyone heads back to Andrea's house... where Lila and Jessica are hiding in the bushes again. There's an incredibly stupid moment where, after Jamie and Nicholas yank Lila and Jess from the bushes (after Jessica basically falls out of her hiding spot) Jamie says to Elizabeth, "Sounds like you know these two." DUDE. THEY ARE IDENTICAL TWINS and you have both of them standing right in front of you. It's not until Liz asks how cool Jess is with the blackmail that's going to take place later to keep this from their parents that he realizes they're, y'know, twins. Oi. Maybe the sun has damaged his eyes even with the ever present sunglasses?
  I do have to hand it to Lila, who plays it super cool to the degree that she manages to lay the blame at Jessica's feet without anyone really catching it AND she gets a bit part in Jamie's upcoming movie. Sure, it's comedic and will be mocking her lack of marimba skills, but still. Considering she was just busted spying on the neighbors, she came out smelling like a rose. All hail queen Lila.
  Jessica, however, winds up having to do all of Liz's chores all weekend and Liz is still figuring how else to properly make Jessica pay. It doesn't happen nearly often enough, but I do love when Liz comes out on top in the blackmail department.
   There's a bit at the end where Enid and Elizabeth discuss how nice it'll be for Andrea to be around and then Liz runs into Skye Morrow, Regina's mother, who says she's finally been able to go through Regina's things and found something she knows Regina would want Liz to have. She'll bring it by tomorrow and we're left on that cliffhanger.
  Oh what could it be, dear reader. What could it be?


  • Liz, Enid, and Andrea have gym last period.

  • They're playing softball in case you wondered, and gym is a little more than 40 minutes.

  • Enid mentions the idea of Liz cutting back on her extracurriculars.

  • Andrea Slade is slender and tall with a wonderful mop of blond curls that cascade to her shoulders, wide set blue eyes with dark eye lashes, and a peaches and cream complexion. Liz thinks she seems a bit older than her other friends, possibly due to living in NYC (so sophisticated?) previously. Before NYC, she lived in Boston and then, in no order given, Dallas, Miami, and Detroit. She's prone calling things culture like "beach culture" and "mall culture" and she's got a fixation on tanning. She drives a small white Honda, her favorite color is blue, she loves pasta, especially angel hair pasta served with cream sauce and herbs, and she's nuts about sailing. Dislikes gym, moving vans, and elevator Muzak.

  • Nicholas and Andrea both like baseball, reggae music, Italian restaurants, anyplace warm, and think the best place to be alone is by the ocean.

  • Jessica picks up her Jamie Peters Pride CD from Records Plus in the mall.

  • Jamie Peters has shoulder length blond hair, is lean with muscular arms, a cleft chin, and a voice Jessica thinks of as a mixture of velvet and gravel. He married his childhood sweetheart, fellow singer Karen Ross and that same year they recorded an album together. 12 years ago Karen died when her private jet crashed in the Adirondacks. He drives an old white mustang convertible.

  • Todd owns 2 Jamie Peters albums.

  • We keep hearing about two of Jamie's songs: Doing It All For You, Little Girl

  • Amy seems repulsed by the idea of guys at a health club "having stuff put on their skin to take away wrinkles." To be fair, when put like that I wrinkled my nose, too.

  • According to this book, Amy and Lila fight frequently.

  • While Lila and Jessica swoon at the thought of having a star write them love songs, Amy points out that Jamie might not even write his own lyrics.

  • Lila's music teacher is Max Sharpe.

  • Jess camps out in front of the TV Friday evening to watch an MTV special interview with Jamie Peters. One of the women VJs is interviewing him.

  • Jamie Peters is considering a move from music to movies and somehow expects this to allow him to be home more and have more control of his schedule.

  • When asked what some guys were doing on the beach, Enid tells Andrea they're doing the Sweet Valley version of volleyball. What does that even mean?

  • Jessica declines going to the DB with Liz in favor of hanging out with Lila at Fowler Crest because Mr. Fowler is out of town and Eva, the housekeeper, goes to bed really early and Lila gets lonely. This is why I love you, book.

  • Andrea says she's not a good writer when Olivia asks her to write a piece comparing NYC and SV.

  • Olivia's father works at the Phillips Corporation in this book.

  • In case you wondered, Liz and Jess live near the middle of town according to this book. Shocking that they'd be at the center of things.

  • Lila finds out which instrument she'll be playing at her third music lesson.

  • Lila offers to play the opening notes to 'Jesu, Son of Man's Desiring' on the marimba for Amy and Jessica.

  • The Garden Cafe is located on the main level of the SV mall.

  • Nicholas picks up a program for his father at Computer Whiz in the mall.

  • Nicholas knows some of Andrea's Boston friends.

  • Lila had a dentist appointment at 11:30am Thursday morning and saw Jamie Peters leaving the drugstore afterward. She tells Amy and Jessica about this at lunch.

  • There's a strict no calls at dinner rule at the Wakefield house. I'm not sure why Ned answers the call at all other than to amuse me.

  • The Kitterby Estate is five doors down from Fowler Crest. Lila asks Jessica if she remembers the place with 2 stone posts with coral colored stone lions. The asking price was $2 million. Lila used to be friends with Alexis Kitterby.

  • Nicholas Morrow's boat is the Morning Glory and he's only had it for a couple of months. He traded in his Sunfish for it.

  • Nicholas takes Andrea to Oggi, an Italian restaurant on the outskirts of Sweet Valley.

  • Lila draws a detailed map of the layout of the Kitterby estate. There's a swimming pool behind the house, with a Mexican-tile patio around the pool, and "behind that a bunch of thick bushes. Calla lily" Lila thinks. Behind all that, there's a long trail which leads to the parkland behind their house, which is how the girls sneak onto the property. The Kitterby estate "was a beautiful Spanish-style villa, a sprawling stucco house with red tiles on the roof. The back doors were sliding glass."

  • Dana thinks Nicholas is hunky. I find it hard to believe Dana would ever use such a word but, y'know, 1991.

  • While camped out with Cara, Amy, and Lila, Jessica imagines what would happen if someone, say Jessica, made a noise. The other girls would run off but Jamie would investigate and instead of, I dunno, calling the cops, would offer her a drink and be completely fine with the invasion of privacy.

  • Penny has a friend who works in the Entertainment section of the Sweet Valley News.

  • A real estate agent blabbed about Jamie Peters moving to the news.

  • Enid and Andrea have the same social studies class.

  • Lila suggests that she'd be down for a double date with Andrea, Jamie, and Bruce Springsteen.

  • Jamie Peters has a remedy for everything, including colds: baking in the sun.

  • Andrea overhears her father talking to his agent Leo, on the phone, about a tour in Italy.

  • Diana Cushing was Andrea's best friend in Boston two years ago. Her mother was a reporter for an entertainment magazine and once she had the story she wanted on Jamie, Diana dumped Andrea. I wonder how much of her dislike of NYC was because she was still holding onto that pain.

  • Despite never seeing Lila interact with Andrea, ever, and knowing that Lila described her as weird, Lila pops up at lunch and says, "I feel like we know each other pretty well." I cackled.

  • Mata Hari's is a downtown boutique at the corner of the intersection of two main streets.

  • The Flower Shoppe is just across the street.

  • Nicholas buys Andrea blue hydrangeas for their afternoon tea date at the Fairmont Inn, which overlooks the marina and is famous for their afternoon teas.

  • Jamie has a sister, Donna, who lives in LA.

  • Lila gets a bit part in Jamie's new movie as a bad marimba player.

  • Liz runs into Skye Morrow who offers to drop off something of Regina's the following day for Liz.

Andrea's smile widened. "Great! That makes two people I've met today. I'm not sure I count Bruce as a 'person.'" - Patman's charm must be slipping. Maybe he needs to re-read his book? :P p5

But Jessica always had to turn liking into adoring. That was just the way Jessica was. She didn't get interested- she got obsessed. - Liz, you do the same damn thing, only not usually over celebs. p11

Amy shook her head. "I can't believe you two! What do you think, if he happens to be free, you could just call him up and ask him out?" - Amy nails why I've never been good at celeb crushes. p17

"What's a marimba? It sounds like something you eat for dessert," Cara said.
Jessica giggled. "Or something to wrap your hair in."
"I think it sounds like what you yell when you're chopping down trees," Amy added with a grin. "Ma-rim-ba!" - p49

"I happen to have natural talent for the marimba. That's what Max Sharpe thinks. Besides, I'm not crazy. I'm not going to play for Jamie until I'm much better. At least not for another week or two!" - Yes, that's all the additional time you'll need, Lila. p83/84

"You know, people who know me think I'm a really good listener. They think I'm the sort of friend you can really confide in." - Yes, confide in Caroline if you want your news spread all over town without any effort on your part, Andrea. p110

"Once she wakes up out of whatever daze she's in, she'll realize that there are better people to be friends with than Enid Rollins."
"Watch it," Jessica said. It was all right for her to disapprove of Elizabeth's friendships, but family loyalty ran deep. And right now, she was not in the mood to hear her twin's friend criticized, even indirectly. - my heart, she can't take much more of this, Captain. D'aww. p119

Elizabeth sighed. "So maybe that was it. On top of everyone at school treating her so strangely, your reaction must've been the last straw." - That was way harsh, Tai Liz. p131/132

Elizabeth couldn't see how Jessica could possibly prefer a whole evening cooped up with Lila to a lively night with a group of friends. - Oh how the tables have turned. p34

"Well, you've met my special girl. They don't come any more special than Andrea."
"Yeah, I agree with that," Nicholas said fervently. - Ick and aw at the same time? p144

"Before you go, let me just thank you two," Andrea said warmly. She put one hand on Enid's shoulder and the other on Elizabeth's. "Something tells me that the three of us are going to have a lot of fun together." - And then she was never seen again. Well, almost. p146

In Which I Nitpick:
"Why don't we come over and get you after Enid? Or Enid, then you?" - How is that different, Liz/ghosty p30

Her father hadn't understood why she had been so insistent on keeping her identity a secret.
Two paragraphs later: The great thing about her father was that he understood. - Sigh. p102/103

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   I really found myself liking Rock Star's Girl way more than I was expecting. We start off right away with Enid and keep her around for a good chunk of the book, and you know that's an easy way into my heart. I snickered at quite a few lines I'm pretty sure I was supposed to (looking at you, Ned) and while this is pretty much the definition of a cotton candy book, I also happen to love cotton candy.
  So let's examine the good stuff.

   Lila's musical fixation. One of the first things dropped in the series is the fact that Lila has a lovely voice and seems at least a little bit interested in music. So it makes sense to me that she'd try and pick up an instrument, even if I don't believe for a second she'd go with the marimba... or whatever the ghosty thought a marimba was. This is especially makes sense when you consider that she's probably imagining this as part of the ongoing competition with Jessica who is usually considered a failure at all things musical. Of course she's going to pick the one area she's been proven to be at least passably decent at that Jessica routinely fails at whenever the ghosties pay attention. I do wish she'd been given something she could actually excel at but baby steps, I suppose. It's not easy to come out on top when you're forever in competition with one of the stars of the series.
  I also happen to love just how she rolls with being busted by Jamie and company. Who isn't busted spying on their famous neighbors from time to time? Pfft. Lila plays it off as being shy and while I'm not 100% sure it really works, the fact that she gets away with it and even thought to try is kinda awesome.

   Enid! Enid is the one to make friends with Andrea initially and seems to be slightly better friends with her than Liz is and I love that Enid's shown to have a social life outside of Liz and Hugh. She hears from two sources, neither of which seem to be Liz, that Andrea had dinner two nights with Nicholas, and she's just fine hanging out with the rest of the semi usual lunch crowd. She snarks at Lila without being a big thing and I will forever love any interaction between those two because of course they'll find themselves thrown together way more often than either would like given their friendship with the twins.
  Also? I like that for some reason we get Jessica not being here for Lila mocking Enid. Mostly it's because it's a reflection on Liz and only Jessica gets to talk shit about her family, but still. This means that for at least one book, it also extends to Enid. Aww.

   Nicholas! My god, he comes across as a dork in this book and it's adorable. It's got to be hard trying to figure out when to tell someone that the biggest thing in your life recently was the death of your little sister, especially when that's basically his defining characteristic in these books: Regina's brother. But the way he's easily flustered by Andrea and wants to impress her to the point of buying hydrangeas is just cute somehow. And I know I mentioned it already, but I also really do love how Jessica and Elizabeth both want him to be happy to the point that Liz is gleefully clapping her hands at the idea of him dating Andrea and Jess is willing to admit to herself that maybe, just maybe, they don't have all the facts and shouldn't destroy his chance at happiness until they do.
  Anyway, as the anti-Bruce, I always wanted more for the guy.

   Andrea herself is actually pretty sweet. She's basically a stand in for the reader in that she looooooooooooves Sweet Valley to a possibly unhealthy amount. But she's reasonably funny, sweet, and a touch on the dorky side so I'm a bit biased. I will say that I would not call her cover hair curly to the degree the book does and also I'm not sure why she'd think her secret would last at all in a small town. Isn't one of the most well known things about small towns- that everybody knows your business, possibly even before you do?

   I have my fair share of quibbles, including the fact that there's no reason for Andrea to be holding a guitar on the cover other than to really hammer home the idea that she's with a rock star in some way. We're never given any indication that she's interested in music AT ALL. But she is friends with Dana, so I wonder if any connections were formed after this? We're repeatedly told how good they are, after all. Hrmm. Anyway, this is also one of the few SVH books I really found myself enjoying Amy in more often than not. Sure, she's snotty to Lila, but I tend to think of SVH Amy as a snotty brat anyway so it was nice to have glimpses of the brain we know she had back in SVT resurface.

  So yes, Rock Star's Girl is fluffy and I'm not sure how much any of this sticks in the series proper, but it's fun fluff and pretty much perfect for a summer read.

All aboard the good 'ship Lila/Bruce!

Starring Jessica!
January 1991

The spotlight is on Jessica-or is it?
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Choose me!

   When TV talk-show host Eric Parker comes to Sweet Valley and announces a contest to find the perfect American teen, Jessica Wakefield vows to win the coveted spot as Eric's special TV guest. She's meant to be a star! Then Lila Fowler, Jessica's best friend, announces she's going to win the spot, and the contest becomes a battle of wills and wits.
 With the help of Bruce Patman, who has his own score to settle with Jessica, Lila devises a brilliant scheme to ruin Jessica's shot at stardom. Will Jessica have her moment in the limelight, or will Lila succeed in stealing the show?

Full disclosure: We're entering a stretch of SVH that is pretty spotty, memory-wise, for me. Some of these books I remember bits and pieces of and some I suspect I'll remember more once I actually crack into them. I'm not sure why there's a memory lapse other than kid!me probably didn't re-read these as many times. Possibly because the library didn't have as many copies or my branch didn't anyway and also definitely because I don't have multiple copies of most of these running around from that whole "book of the month" thing.

   Anyway, Starring Jessica is kinda odd right off the bat. I need you to take a good, hard look at that cover. Does Jessica not seem kinda punchable? Kid!me was never a fan of this cover and that's about all I remember from this book beyond her scheming. But really, you could pick up almost any SVH book and find Jessica scheming. :P I will say this for the cover though: it matches the outfit worn in The Interview. But we'll come back to this later.

  In the last book, Jessica was all hyped up to land the guest spot on a special Sweet Valley episode of Eric Parker's talk show. Eric Parker is apparently some talk show host with a weekly show who graduated from SVH fifteen years ago and is now doing a special "All American Teen" episode. So he's looking for the perfect ordinary American teen. And who's more ordinary perfect than Jessica Wakefield?
Gotta admit, this is probably the other part where my brain just short circuits trying to reconcile the in world fiction with how the twins are perceived out here in reality. Still, in both Jessica isn't exactly average, though I guess with Jessica there's nothing that says she can't be stunningly popular and still be in the running. Otherwise, I suppose her grades are probably good but not Liz Wakefield levels, she's decently well rounded even though this book forgets the summer running theme of her working at a newspaper in an effort to push a Liz is jealous storyline... but I still feel like Cara, Olivia, or Winston or just about anyone else would've been a better fit for the whole "average" teen. Jessica is one of the freakin' stars of the school. Hell, if you stripped Lila's money from the equation, she's still a better fit. But of course we would never do that.

  Running against Jessica are Lila and Winston. Cara and quite a few others are also mentioned, but really Lila and Win get the most screen time. Lila technically doesn't lie on her application, but she does stretch the truth to its very limits and forgets to mention that her father's money is bankrolling whatever parts of town the Patman's money isn't.

   Jessica is outraged that Lila would be so deceitful and it's kinda funny how worked up Jess gets over this. Jess isn't above doing the same thing in nearly any other situation, but since we're supposed to root for her, she decides to approach this far more truthfully. When she eagerly fills out her application, she quickly realizes that on paper she seems, dare I say it, kind of shallow. It's this moment that allows me to buy that Jessica's not willing to outright lie on her application- she wants to win on her own merits, even if they are a bit exaggerated. Still, she needs a baseline before she can exaggerate, so she turns to Liz to help her with her application.

  Liz takes Jessica's brief existential crisis in stride and points out things Jessica's forgotten, like her babysitting experience and that time she was a candy-striper, and later even offers something new: Penny's looking for something new for The Oracle and Liz is sure Jessica could come up with something good. Jessica takes two seconds to think about it before asking Liz for Penny's number. When Penny agrees to let Jess submit a piece, she also asks what Jessica's got in mind. Jessica falters for two seconds before coming up with "The Worst Dates Of My Life" and Penny loves it. She loves it so much that Elizabeth can't help but feel more than a little jealous that Penny thinks it's perfect as is, and Liz can't remember Penny ever saying such a thing about Elizabeth's writing. To be fair, Liz, you did help Jessica and convinced her to change the names to protect the guilty. You just couldn't convince her to come up with harder to figure out aliases.

   Much like Bruce Patman's Guide To Dating, I would very much like to read the entirety of Jessica's article. Alas, we're just given a glimpse or two and some of the references, like Winston and Jess being stranded on an island, or the callback to Magenta Galaxy. Jessica can't resist the urge to take a little creative license and describes kissing Bruce like kissing a dead jellyfish. Liz worries that Bruce is going to be understandably upset, but Jess isn't because of all the guys at school, Bruce is the one who could stand to be taken down a peg or fifteen.

  Yeah. For some reason Bruce is not overjoyed to have everyone taunting him with jellyfish cracks and in a blinding stroke of coincidence, there's an after school extra credit lecture for juniors and seniors and what do we begin with? Jellyfish.

   Bruce vows revenge.

  Also vowing revenge? Lila Fowler. You see, because our book required a little more tension, instead of just announcing the winner, Eric comes to down and has to interview the six finalists because they were all just SO GOOD. There's a great scene where Jessica's name is called first and she's overjoyed and Lila is most decidedly not, and you can tell she's getting madder and madder as each name is called. Lila's name is called last and Jessica is just so unbelievably happy that they both made it that they hug and kind of dance around and it's adorable and this is why I love Jessica and Lila. For a brief nanosecond, they're adorable and my heart can't take it. Naturally they spring apart and immediately decide that none of the other finalists are threats. They shouldn't be right, as Winston, Olivia, Jim Roberts (the photography buff) and Patty Gilbert are all interesting in their own way. Hell, of the six who made the cut, only Winston is one I'd consider average. Olivia's an ~artiste~ even if Lila and Jessica dismiss her as a newspaper editor instead, Patty's a dancer, and Jim's an accomplished photographer. Winston was right at the start of the book when he worried that Elizabeth, should she choose to apply, would've won hands down.

   I digress. Because we need more proof of Lila being devious, the site of the interview changes from the conference room to the SVH auditorium since that's where the actual taping will occur. A note is left on the conference room door and instead of leaving someone trustworthy there to tell people, they rely on a note. Which works until Lila sneaks back by after Olivia's interview and takes the note down so that Jessica, who had the final interview, is none the wiser. Naturally things don't go as planned and Jess runs into Olivia who tells her about the switch. Jessica rushes to her interview and nails it, even managing to get 20 minutes while everyone else was given fifteen. Since Jessica is also no fool, she realizes that Lila tried to sabotage her, so she returns the favor by making sure to not-so-casually mention that the hospital where she volunteered (Eric brought it up) is the Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital and gosh, is Lila back from Hong Kong already? That girl really does get to travel everywhere, what with daddy being so rich.

  Book. BOOK. You're telling me this guy didn't have an intern or something do background on these kids? Or that someone from Sweet Valley wouldn't have known the name Fowler? Seriously? Oi. I might even buy that if Eric hadn't been spending the last however long in town. Hell, taking five minutes to talk to Chrome Dome or I dunno, Mr. Collins (or any of the teachers) would have helped. Thing is, Lila's wealth couldn't have mattered too much because she's named Jessica's alternate when Jessica is announced the winner.

   But the book can't help itself and Jessica goes from incredibly charming (and she really is throughout a lot of this book) to incredibly stupid as she takes every single opportunity to rub Lila's face in the fact that Lila is only the first runner up and Jessica got the prize. I'm pretty sure there are transfer freshmen who could tell you not to piss Lila off because if you do, she will get revenge. Initially Lila grits her teeth and tries to fake smile her way through congratulating Jessica but Jess immediately pushes too far. So, like I said, Lila vows revenge.

  Which will lead us to the most glorious moment in this book: Lila and Bruce hook team up!

  But I need to address our B plot first.

   When Jessica's article finally comes out, it's an immediate smash hit. It's funny and well written and people love it, even those who find themselves mentioned in it- with one notable exception, that is. For a second Jessica worries that maybe it'll bite her in the ass when one of the guys she's dated in the past calls out to congratulate her but also says, possibly not joking either, that he'd been thinking about asking her out again but doesn't want to appear in part two. Liz points out that she'd like to see the day when the boys aren't lined up to ask Jessica out and all is right in Jessica's world.

  Liz, however, is rattled. She can't help but be jealous over how easily Jessica managed to knock out an amazing piece of writing- something Liz has been struggling with recently. She couldn't really get a handle on her article on Claire, and while that was more Claire being evasive, it still bugs Liz. She also worries that had she actually applied for the talk show gig, she might not have been well rounded enough, as a good chunk of her extracurriculars are literary based. When Todd and Jessica point out that Liz likes literary based things, she admits that maybe Jessica was right when she said that perfection for the twins is somewhere in the middle of fun at almost all costs Jessica and grade-A grind Elizabeth. Not that she puts it in those terms, but she does say she wants to branch out, maybe do something less in the writing field. Perhaps something to do with her burgeoning interest in environmentalism.

  Enid, sensing that Liz might be on the verge of another "take up something wacky like surfing" arc, mentions that she heard about a junior ranger program out at Secca Lake and she was going to look into. She invites Liz to join her and I wish, wish, wish that the ghosty had mentioned that Enid just broke up with her boyfriend, but Hugh and the breakup are never mentioned once this entire book, even though Enid makes more than one joke about appreciating the eye candy at the lake. I would have happily settled for Enid being happy to get to spend more time with Liz, but that doesn't really get stated either.

   Instead, Enid and Elizabeth pass their test and become two of the twelve junior rangers, and right away Liz is tapped to be Don's (the senior ranger in charge of this whole program) assistant. Because of course she does. This leads to Liz feeling increasingly torn between her gig at Secca Lake and her writing for The Oracle. For the first time ever, she has to turn down an assignment and it doesn't sit well with her. Enid points out that Elizabeth wanted to branch out beyond her writing and in doing so, there will be growing pains.

  Since we need things to return to normal though, Liz finds that her Secca Lake gig is physically exhausting and between her busy social life (or Jessica's demands on her time while also refusing to help out with the housework), homework, and writing, she's just spread too thin. Particularly since Don keeps calling her out to help out at the Lake and Liz can't say no since she agreed to be his assistant. Also, Liz isn't good at saying no to people in general, let's be honest.

  Luckily for Liz, when she agrees to help Jessica practice her interview, even though she's dead tired, she remembers why she loves journalism so much. She loves finding the story and finding out what makes someone tick. We could've told you that, Liz,but I get it. She also has a nice moment where she realizes that Jessica being good at writing, even a one-off, and Liz helping her, didn't take anything away from Liz. Scoff if you will, but remember that this is basically the message hammered home years later in Mean Girls. And people love their Mean Girls. (And by people I mean me.)

   Now, I believe I promised you the Bruce Patman and Lila Fowler hook team up? Yup. Lila decides that to make Jessica pay properly, she's going to need some help. Much as it kills her, she realizes that Bruce is the most obvious ally at the moment, what with the jellyfish thing. So she ditches Amy at the DB and heads back to school in order to meet up with Bruce after tennis practice. She doesn't even consider mocking him even a little (gasp) and goes right into her proposal. Bruce is intrigued by Lila's deviousness and agrees that with a lot of luck, they might just get back at Jessica.

  Alas, Lila's plan is far from brilliant though technically it works. She calls Jessica up Thursday night and says that she's thought about it and she's sorry for being such a bad friend and to make it up to Jess, she'd really like to go shopping for the perfect outfit for Jess to wear for her big break. And Jessica falls for it because she misses Lila, too. So Jess cancels her shopping trip with her mother (poor Alice) and agrees to head out with Lila the following day. Which, btw, is the day of the show. Uh oh.

  Lila convinces Jess that the perfect outfit is in Cold Springs, a town an hour away. Jessica's not exactly thrilled because she needs to be at the SVH auditorium, ready to go, at 7pm. Lila points out they'll be back at 5:30, 6pm at the latest. Which is BS as they don't leave til 3pm. You can't convince me that these two shopaholics will find something in less than half an hour, but since we all know Lila's up to something, fine. There's a stupid slip where Lila practically cackles and says You'll be sorry! when Jess agrees, but Jess isn't really paying attention. Jess, you kinda deserve what's about to happen. *facepalm*

  Lila takes Jess to The Lido, and almost immediately they find an outfit that appeals to Jessica. Lila convinces her to try it on and when Jessica goes to head to the dressing room, Li also volunteers to hold her purse. As soon as Jessica's back is turned, Lila scurries out the door and drives away, leaving Jessica stranded. Jess runs out after Lila and the clerks, who've been eying Jessica this whole time, immediately pounce. The cops are called before Jess even manages to run out the door ... because earlier that afternoon a Detective Tapnam called to warn them of a blonde matching Jessica's exact description who had been shoplifting from stores in the area.

  How often are we subjected to being told that Liz and Jessica are the ultimate California dream girls, what with their tans and blonde hair, and blue-green eyes? I'm pretty sure a zillion girls match the same description, though I suppose this all hinges on the fact that high school girls don't typically shop at The Lido? I dunno. Lila didn't need Bruce for this, honestly, as all he did was make a phone call. Lila could've done that. But then we would've been robbed of the next glorious moment.

   Lila practically flies back to Sweet Valley, high on her successful ditching of Jessica. What with the cops interrogating her and the distance, there's no way in hell Jessica will make it back home in time to be on Eric's show. Lila will go on and everything will be perfect. Revenge is exhilarating. She shows up at Patman Manor and finds Bruce climbing out of the pool, so she takes a moment to appreciate the view. She then gives him a thumbs up and says mission accomplished and with any luck, Jess might even be behind bars. Bruce is elated and swings Lila around in celebration and in the distance you can hear a thousand 'shipper hearts take flight. The pair take fiendish delight in the thought of Jessica missing her big break and Lila hugs Bruce. He puts his arms around her and then, for one brief shining moment, the two kiss.

  They immediately spring apart, with Bruce very nearly toppling back into the pool, and Lila plays it off like it's no big deal, but you can tell that Lila most definitely does not think Bruce kisses like a jellyfish, dead or otherwise. And Bruce is equally thrown and my god, this scene erases any and all sins in the rest of the book because um, yeah. Lila and Bruce kiss.

   So, where were we? Oh, yeah. Jessica's stuck at the Cold Springs PD along with the manager of The Lido and two sergeants. Jessica repeats that she didn't mean to steal or even give the impression of it, it was all some stupid prank her friend cooked up and you've just gotta believe her. The cops don't seem all that inclined to see things her way until Mrs. Loring flat out says she doesn't believe Jessica, especially considering that call she got from Detective Tapnam earlier. The cops are confused as not only is there no Tapnam on the force, but there hasn't been a shoplifter in town for weeks now. (I assure you, boys, there's always a shoplifter. People steal all the friggin' time.) Eventually they all believe Jessica, with Mrs. Loring willing to drop charges provided Jessica never darken her doorstep again. Not a problem, lady. Jessica's heartbroken though, as she has no chance of making it home in time to be on Eric Parker's show. She calls home and gets Liz and she wails. Elizabeth tells Jessica to just get home ASAP- Liz has a plan.

  Remember how I mentioned the cover looked rather punchable? That's because that's Elizabeth pretending to be Jessica, which explains the weirdness in the smile. For me, anyway. The rest of you are probably like, "the cover's fine, shut up about it already." to which I say fair enough.

  So yeah, Liz races to the auditorium just in time for Eric Parker to tell Lila to get ready to go on, as obviously Jessica has flaked. Liz waits til Lila is in the dressing room and then she wedges a chair under the door handle and finds Eric, playing up Jessica's total inability to be on time. Eric laughs when he remembers that she was also late to the interview and they head out to begin the show.

   Jessica arrives just before the show ends and despite not wanting to see Lila shine in what should be Jessica's spotlight, she trusts Elizabeth and sneaks in... to see Elizabeth pulling a twin switch. I love that it's not until she sees Liz in action does it occur to Jessica that this is what her twin had planned. Jess sneaks backstage and avoids Lila before Liz appears and commands a twin switch. It takes her a moment, but Jessica realizes that Liz fully intends to let Jessica bask in the spotlight, even if Liz was the one who gave the interview. After the switch, and people begin congratulating her, Jessica spies Lila and braces for a confrontation. Instead, Lila lays into Bruce for fowling up the plan and their blow-up ends with Lila shrieking about Jessica being right- Bruce does kiss like a jellyfish. Jessica wonders briefly how Lila would know and then is plunged back into the spotlight. Still, while we know Jessica wasn't the Wakefield on TV, Lila doesn't, so Jessica snatches Lila's keys and tosses them up in the air, where they land in a rolled up curtain. Lila panics about how she'll get home and Jessica says it's not her problem.

  To wrap things up, Liz steps down from the rangers and instead chooses to write about them in the hopes of sparking interest in her readers. She realizes there's a fine line between well rounded and over-extended and with her passion for writing back, she's fine in at The Oracle.

  Amy and Cara finally tire of being stuck in the middle of Jessica and Lila's war, so they declare a ceasefire. If Lila and Jessica refuse to makeup, then Cara and Amy will declare war on them... and honestly, I don't blame Lila and Jess for immediately folding. Much as I mock SVH Amy, I would not want her working against me alongside Cara. Those two could create so many problems if not for Cara's newfound morality. Also, Jess and Lila miss one another and so the friendship is fixed. I suppose when you spend half your time backstabbing one another, you can't hold too many grudges. Yay, friendship?

  We end with more gushing about Jamie Peters's new music and the appearance of Andrea Slade, a new transfer student who happens to be wearing the exact skirt Jessica's been coveting all book long. Lila immediately thinks she's uninteresting but Jessica's not so sure. We end our book on a ridiculous note:
Is there anything interesting about the mysterious Andrea Slade? Find out in Sweet Valley High #72, ROCK STAR'S GIRL

Gee. I wonder what that could be about.


  • Eric Parker is a talk show host from Sweet Valley. He graduated from SVH 15 years ago and most of his teachers have moved on. He's got jet black hair, smoky gray eyes, and a chiseled bronze face. Also, the whitest smile ever, though he doesn't seem to be a jerk which is a nice change.

  • Eric's weekly talk show is normally filmed in NYC but since he's shooting a segment called "Growing Up In America" he decided to choose an ordinary student from his old high school to interview.

  • Amy starts eying Tom McKay this book even though he's still with Jean West. Amy thinks he's going to break up with Jean because he's looking for "Miss Right." Ahem.

  • Dyan Sutton isn't a big fan of Eric Parker.

  • When referencing the events of FaF, instead of calling a hate crime or even calling Charlie Cashman out for being a racist, we get this gem instead: "racially motivated disturbance." I kid you not.

  • Winston doesn't seem as worried about Lila and Jessica applying as he is about the possibility of Elizabeth throwing her hat into the ring. Liz and Todd aren't interested though.

  • References to previous books include: the "racially motivated disturbance" (my head might never stop hurting from me rolling my eyes), Tofu-Glo, Jessica's stint as a candy striper to get to Jeremy Frank, Jessica and Lila taking that cooking class, Jess and Win being lost at sea, Magenta Galaxy and the whole computer dating agency, Ned Wakefield's run for office and the break in his marriage, and Liz's attempt at surfing.

  • Liz apparently uses a table as a desk and it's big enough for Jess to just sit down next to Liz, no problem.

  • Lila was kicked off the cheer squad due to a prank.

  • Jessica's article is "The Worst Dates of My Life."

  • When changing names, Winston becomes Kevin Klutz and Bruce is Reginald Rich.

  • Liz suggests that Penny print Jessica's article alongside Elizabeth's Eyes and Ears column on page four.

  • Cara is downgraded from her usual spot as Jessica's best friend to merely a "good friend" of Jessica's who happens to date Steve.

  • Applicants for the show: Jessica, Lila, Winston, Robin, Maria Santelli, Cara, Ken, Aaron, Dana, Bill Chase, DeeDee Gordon, Olivia Davidson, Patty Gilbert, and Jim Roberts.

  • Don Wolff is a married graduate from the University of California (three years ago), with a degree in forestry, with a particular interest in environmental education. Enid thinks he's cute.

  • In order to become a junior ranger, you have to score 100% on the test.

  • Jessica's new picture of Jamie Peters came from Flipside magazine.

  • Jessica's favorite song from his last album is "Barefoot Girl" and she and Lila both like to pretend he's singing it to them.

  • Jessica, Lila, Winston, Olivia, Patty Gilbert, and Jim Roberts make the final cut, though Jess doesn't even know who Jim is.

  • Lila has the first interview at 2:30, Olivia has the fifth at 3:30, and Jessica has the sixth at 3:45. I like that there's no taking into account the time for one person to leave and another to arrive.

  • When it's mentioned that Eric gets the key to the city from the Mayor, it's never mentioned that the Mayor is Maria Santelli's father... even though we hear a lot of about Ned's run for office.

  • Penny wanted Liz to cover the student government fund raiser and for the first time in her stint at The Oracle, Liz had to turn down an assignment. She didn't really want to do it either and I can't blame her as it sounds boring as hell.

  • Only 12 applicants made junior ranger, including Liz and Enid.

  • Secca Lake is fed by a stream that travels through an industrial area. Ten years ago, SV residents lobbied for a cleanup which led to the lake being safe to swim in again. Funny how that never comes up as a relatively recent event in SVT or SVK, as far as I know.

  • Don picks Liz as his "informal chief of operations."

  • Each junior ranger has two shifts a week: one weekend and one during the week.

  • They offer a 4pm nature walk and a sunset tour which lasts from 7pm to 9pm. That seems like a bit much but what do I know.

  • Secca Lake is a little less than half an hour away from the Wakefield's house.

  • Danny Stauffer says he doesn't want to make Jessica's Part 2 right after Jess thinks to herself how cute he is.

  • There's an extra credit after school science lecture for juniors and seniors being led by Mr. Russo and the first thing up on the docket? Jellyfish. All eyes are on Bruce.

  • Despite Jess admitting she took liberties with her article, Amy agrees that Bruce kisses a bit like a dead jellyfish. To be fair, Amy's still shown to be pretty petty about Bruce.

  • Liz thinks of Jessica as Lila's best friend.

  • Liz is leading a Nature Education workshop for 6-8 year olds Thursday afternoon when it's pouring.

  • The Lido is a little boutique in Cold Springs that carries clothes from Paris and Milan, "one-of-a-kind creations." Mrs. Loring is the store manager.

  • Bruce pretends to be Detective Tapnam when alerting the Lido staff to the shoplifter.

  • Sergeants Brown and Markowitz show up to bust Jessica.

  • Don Wolff seems to want to make Liz a senior ranger after like, a week. That's insane.

  • Jessica's eating a turkey sandwich with avocado and sprouts when Cara and Amy drag her away to makeup with Lila.

  • Andrea Slade is a new junior.

  • Other newbies that Penny wants put in at the end of the E&E column: a few new students and two teachers and a guidance counselor moving up from the middle school.

"If only I were a little more like you," she told Elizabeth now. "I mean, mostly like me, but with a little of your nerdiness thrown in for balance." - p16/17

"Filming a show here is great PR for Sweet Valley," Bill Chase pointed out. "It's just good politics to give the guy the key to the city and all that."
"I wish it was the key to my house," Lila said rapturously.
"So do I," declared Jessica. "Then he'd see where you live and realize that your application is a bunch of baloney and that you're not Little Miss Average after all!" - First, yay for Bill not being dumb and second, I snickered at this. p32

"So who's our competition again?" asked Lila coolly.
"Winston, Patty, Olivia, and Jim Roberts," Jessica recited.
Lila ticked them off on her fingers dismissively. "School clown, dancer, arts editor, photography buff. A classic bunch of nerds." pg47

"I always knew you had an evil streak, Lila, but this time you've really outdone yourself." - high praise from Bruce Patman. p91

"Jessica, you'll be a complete success. Aren't you always?"
Ten seconds had not been long enough to blunt the edge in Elizabeth's voice. Jessica stared at her twin. "No, I'm not always a success," she said matter-of-factly. "I said I was well-rounded- I never said I was perfect. You should know that better than anyone, that there are plenty of times when I need help." - p97

Jessica smiled in anticipation. No doubt about it, growing up in American is pretty fantastic when a sixteen-year-old can end up on TV just talking about what it's like! - I'll take passages that haven't aged well for 200, Alex. p106

She had not lost anything these past few weeks by helping Jessica to be the best person she could possibly be. Jessica's triumphs did not take anything away from Elizabeth.
"Shut up and strip!" - This realization followed by Liz's order crack me up. p138

"If she's worth knowing, she'll find her way to us sooner or later," Todd joked. - I mean, he's not wrong. p145

The Worst Dates Of My Life:
"Whoever said 'Chivalry is dead' and 'It's a jungle out there' must have had the Sweet Valley High dating scene in mind." - this is how The Worst Dates Of My Life begins and I need more, Jessica. p19
"The worst dates are with the type of guy who thinks wearing too much expensive cologne and throwing around a lot of money can make up for the fact that all he does is talk about himself. Bruce Patman falls into this category. I thought it would be fun to go parking in his black Porsche- until I discovered he kisses like a dead jellyfish!" - Don't hold back, Wakefield, tell us how you really feel.

The cropped cherry-red top had big gold buttons, a white sailor-style collar, and a matching miniskirt. - Jess falls in love at first sight and Lila describes it as Very French. Sharp, but not too dressy.

She pulled a short black skirt from a hanger, grabbed a white tank top from the pile on Jessica's bed, and pulled a boxy turquoise jacket off the back of a chair. In a few minutes, Elizabeth was dressed in her twin's clothes. She scrunched up the sleeves of the loose jacket, removed her watch, and put on a silver and turquoise bracelet and a pair of matching earrings.

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   This book is SO close to being fantastically good but it misses by just enough to be extremely frustrating. Lila and Bruce's kiss almost seems like it's from another book, the way it's written and presented, but it's also very much what I would consider classic SVH in terms of romance. Which I mean in the BEST possible way. But way back in Playing With Fire, we're told that "Lila had had a brief fling with the handsome, dark-haired senior some months earlier and considered herself an expert on him." (I have got to stop doubting my memory on SVH trivia.) We're told this as Jessica is getting tips on snagging Bruce from Lila, so why are we pretending that never happened in a book that LOVES to reference other books?

  I touched on this previously, but I also wish we'd gotten a little more Enid in the book, or at least one mention of her breakup or even just wanting to spend more time with Liz because of the breakup. Instead we get a lot of Enid making comments about finding Don or the lifeguards pretty attractive but that's about it. I do really love a scene at the Wakefields where Todd, Enid, and the twins are having dinner, and it's not awkward or weird so it's clearly a thing that's happened quite a bit at this point. Jess isn't being snarky and the four of them actually work pretty well and while I'd love to see more of this kind of thing, I also get why we don't. It's something that clearly happens between books or scenes but doesn't really need to work its way into most of the books. But I love it.

  This is also the book to point to later when Liz goes on her eco kick and joins Dawn Schafer in being unbearable in their pursuit of saving the world. Though given the state of the actual world right now, maybe they weren't militant enough. o_O But yeah, Jessica laments that Liz makes her scrub out the dog food cans for recycling and it's cute. My only real problems with Elizabeth's subplot are how of COURSE she's the person picked as Don's assistant, even though Enid seemed just as likely a choice, and how quickly Liz burns out. Seriously, it's an almost immediate thing, which I get is because the book is only so long and we only cover a couple of weeks but still. It's ridiculously quick and makes no sense, really. So again, we're so close and yet so far.

   The best thing that isn't the Bruce/Lila pool scene, is probably how charming Jessica is for a good chunk of the book. If you ignore her feud with Lila, there are quite a few moments where you get why Jessica is so well regarded at school. She and Lila bond cutely over a new photo of Jaime Peters that Jessica has added to her locker shrine and they both adore the same song on his last album. When Winston mentions that he could be mad about making Jessica's article, she sunnily points out that it wasn't Winston that was the problem with the date, but the circumstances. That's right, Jessica Wakefield admitted to kind of thinking of that as a date and also that Winston wasn't the problem in that scenario. Her fears over messing up in the interview are kinda adorable (probably because like Liz, we don't believe for a second that's going to be an issue) as is her freakout over possibly being just a bit shallow.

  Unlike a lot of the early SVH books where we're told how charming Jessica is but are rarely shown anything all that charming beyond a winning smile and a pleading Lizzie!, this Jessica actually walks the walk. Unless you're Bruce or Lila and then all bets are off. Which is a problem. Jessica goads Lila immediately and doesn't let up, even when people point out that it's long past being cute or acceptable. She pretends that Lila knows it's all in fun but Jessica can't be stupid enough to really believe that. She's just still pissed about Lila trying to trick her way into winning and then outright trying to knock Jessica out of the competition. Which is fair enough, except Jess and Lila do this shit all the time. It's why they can make up at the end and not have it seem *too* weird. But she should also know there are limits as to how far you can push people.
  The Bruce thing... eh. He's an ass and I can see Penny letting it slide but that's also part of the problem, in that everyone takes a chance to take a crack at him at some point and that's not entirely right either. I'm calling this a wash though, mostly because of the team-up which requires the mockery. I do wish they'd played that out a little more, though.

   Overall, there's some legitimately good stuff to be found here, especially if you enjoy the good 'ship Bruce/Lila.
amy thinks

Gimme an F, gimme a U...

Ms. Quarterback
November 1990

A girl on the football team?
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May the best person win...

   Ken Matthews has regained his sight, only to face another battle. Now that he's recovered, everyone assumes that Ken is sure to win back his old position as quarterback for the Gladiators. But Sweet Valley High is stunned when Ken's toughest competition comes from the shy new junior- Claire Middleton!
  Terri Adams, Ken Matthews's girlfriend, sees Claire not only as a thread to Ken's football career, but also to her own relationship with Ken. Can Terri find a way to get Claire off the field so that Ken can resume his rightful place on the team?

   Ms. Quarterback is a bit of an odd book. Normally when a SVH book bothers to put a new character on the cover, we spend our time mostly with them, maybe with a side helping of Liz or another character helping them out. But the way the book is structured, we can't do that since Claire is supposed to be a woman of ~mystery~ and that doesn't really help our actual main character, Terri Adams, not look like a complete and utter jackass.

  If you haven't read, or simply don't remember, That Fatal Night, you're going to be at a serious disadvantage here as this is pretty much the sequel to that book. Terri and Ken have become a fairly solid couple as Ken has regained his vision. But Terri finds herself wondering if this will last should Ken rejoin the football team as its star player. And it's a valid concern, as Ken's first brush with the possibility of resuming his old life doesn't seem to leave much room for Terri.
   You might recall that at the end of the last book, we found out that Scott Trost, Ken's replacement on the team, was in danger of being placed on academic probation, leading to the team requiring a new QB. And sure enough, that happens. Everyone seems to assume that Ken is a natural lock for the position, not even really questioning whether or not he'd want to try out, much less whether it would be something he'd be physically able to do, given that as far as anyone other than Terri, Ken, and Elizabeth knows, Ken's vision is 100% back, or at least 99% and that's close enough, right? Bring on the feast of champions!
  This is also fueled by the desire for SVH to crush Big Mesa, the only team around with more wins than SVH this year. Liz also theorizes that the school is pinning so much hope on this game as it gives them something else to focus on rather than the race related fuckery that was the attack on Andy and the subsequent fallout of having to realize that your school is not as progressive or safe as you thought it was.
  Sadly (maybe?) that angle is mostly shoved to the side in favor of having everyone just hype up the mythical return of Ken Matthews, football god. Which I get, as we do love a comeback story. However, the reader spends more time with Terri and her ever increasing paranoia that Ken will return to his old life, complete with Terri not as his girlfriend, despite the fact that Ken does very little to prompt this fear. At worst, he makes a comment about hoping she won't be one of those girlfriends who is overly clingy... after she is overly clingy. And while it's probably not the nicest thing to say, especially in front of your friends on a double date, it's also not said maliciously and Terri herself recognizes that she's more upset that he's right than the fact that he said it.

   Sigh. Enter Claire Middleton. Claire's new at SVH as you might recall, and she decides to try out for the team since there's nothing in the rulebooks against it and she knows she's good. And Claire happens to be really, really good. She's faster than Ken on her off days and while he's better at say, passing, they're pretty much even in most other ways. Seriously, Claire and Ken are miles ahead of the distant third place candidate to the degree that it's like why bother prolonging the inevitable- the only real question should've been who was first string and who was second. So on the field, Claire is on fire.
  Off the field, well... Claire's got some serious people issues. She's standoffish and painfully blunt, with a serious case of Not Like Other Girls syndrome when it comes to cheerleaders, which makes her interactions with the twins kind of hilariously awful. Liz is tasked with interviewing her for the Oracle but the only time Claire opens up at all is when she's discussing football, and she's downright rude to Jessica about Jessica not taking up a real sport instead of cheerleading. Look, I'm all for giving Jessica shit when it's deserved, like later in the book, but cheerleading is a real sport and we've never been given any indication that Jessica doesn't treat it as such- when she's not busy chasing after Bruce Patman at the start of the series, anyway. This comment is going to bite Claire in the ass, just as you'd expect it to.

  Unfortunately for Claire, her "I didn't come here to make friends" kind of vibe means that instead of being able to bond with the obvious friend, Terri, she comes across as aloof... and also Terri is stupidly jealous because Ken is being nice to Claire instead of treating her like shit? I don't know. It's weird that Ken's behavior in the previous book, laughing at the idea of a girl QB, is gone completely but I'm trying not to complain too much, as I prefer Ken when he's not an ass. Instead, he cheers Claire on and seems genuinely happy for her, even when she's kicking his ass in tryouts. Initially Terri is proud that her boyfriend is such a good guy, but almost immediately her feelings sour when he makes a throwaway comment about Claire's looks. Suddenly Ken must want to date Claire and dump Terri and that's an awfully big leap to make when you've literally got John Pfieffer there making comments about Claire, and her looks, far more often. He's also got a girlfriend but not once does Terri comment on that. She's too busy freaking out about the potential hookup between Ken and Claire.
   Naturally she decides to take it out on Claire.

   Remember when I said Claire's crack about cheerleading would bite her in the ass? Yeah. Jessica passes it along to the cheerleaders and even those who were initially excited about the idea of a girl trying out for the team are hurt by this new girl's negative view of something all of them seem to take pride in. She convinces the others to do a kind of mean cheer to mock Claire, and good lord does this all fall apart the second you're not reading it in the book. Robin and Annie have both been on the receiving end of Jessica's particularly brand of scathingly brilliant ideas, so you'd think they'd forever be on the watch to keep her from pulling this shit again, but nope. Both eventually cave to Jessica's will.
  Amy and Jessica recruit some of the guys who've been cut from the tryouts to help play pranks on Claire, and I'm not entirely sure if they're actually trying to get her to quit, or just get her rattled enough to not beat Ken, as they do seem genuinely surprised when their cheer accomplishes the former. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
  Terri overhears Jessica and Amy bemoaning the lame pranks the boys have come up with and decide they're going to have to take it upon themselves to really get through to Claire. Still very jealous of Claire, Terri offers to help under the guise of wanting to ensure Ken makes the team. Girl, there's literally no chance of him not making the team- it's just a matter of whether he's first string or not but whatever. Since Terri walked in on Claire crying and being really secretive about a signed picture of a cute guy named Ted, she volunteers his name to the harpies. Who immediately pounce on it and decide they'll work it into a cheer to rattle her.
  So they do. And it freaks Claire out so much that she quits, right then and there, despite the fact that she's in the midst of a scrimmage and is quite possibly even the front runner in this scenario since she's the one on the A team. (Not sure if there's any significance of her being on the A team while Ken's on the B but I'd like to think so.)

   Liz is horrified by this because earlier that morning, good old Steve "Exposition" Wakefield dropped the bombshell that Ted was likely Ted Middleton, the JV quarterback on the SVU team the previous year. The QB who died of a brain tumor very suddenly, I might add. So Liz, Todd, and Steve storm down to the field to ask wtf is wrong with the cheerleaders, with Steve explaining the story again while I ponder once more how time works in Sweet Valley since football is an autumn sport and if Steve shared freshman comp with Ted but Steve's also still a freshman at SVU and... y'know what, let's move on before my brain explodes again.
  So the cheerleaders are now suitably sorry for their prank turning out to be downright cruel instead of mild bullying and then Jess sells Terri out since she's the one who supplied Ted's name.

   Liz hunts Terri down and Terri is also horrified by the fact that Ted is dead and right here is where I cannot suspend my disbelief any further. Terri is the statition for the team, or was prior to her upgrade to assistant manager. She's also a big football fan in general. Palisades isn't that far away from SVH, and I assume that Ted played for them prior to going to SVU. She'd have heard of Ted Middleton. She might not have heard how he died, but she'd have heard that he died. She'd make the connection to Claire, especially once Claire proved how good she is at football. Terri, of all people, should know who the damn hell Ted Middleton was/is and I cannot come up with any reasonable explanation for why she doesn't beyond the plot needed her to be mindlessly jealous.

   Anyway, Terri goes to Claire's house and apologizes for being a huge jealous bitch and the two get over things very, very easily. Which I'm not sure I buy, given how Claire's been acting towards everyone but since it makes a shit ton of sense for these two to have been friends right away, I'll let it slide. Claire heads off to talk to the Coach about being on the team and Terri goes to Ken to admit her part in chasing Claire away... and also talk about the serious lack of communication in their relationship.
  Ken's fine with Terri being thoughtlessly cruel towards Claire, though it's not put quite that way, and he admits that he wasn't fully himself because he so desperately wanted to make the team again that he was willing to push himself a little too hard, and every time Terri asked about his vision, he'd shut down. This part is interesting to me and so naturally it's pretty much hand waved away, but I wish the book's plot had been more of Terri being caught between wanting Ken to reclaim his spot on the team and wanting to make sure he didn't fuck up his eyes permanently, possibly with a side of really liking Claire and wanting her to make the team, too. But in order for that story to work, we'd need Dave to be more than a distant third, I guess. As it is, I have to make due with the little glimpses, like when Terri feels guilty for being a bit nostalgic for the start of her relationship with Ken because while it was a good time, relatively speaking, for her, it was a terrible time in Ken's life because, you know, he was blind.

   Anyway, Ken makes the team as first string QB while Claire gets to warm the bench just in case. And of course, Ken's vision is going to go wonky and Claire is tapped to play in the 4th quarter and she's AMAZING and leads the team to victory and huzzahs all around!
  Well. Almost. You see, the side plot we'd been teased with at the very start of the book, Enid being decidedly pro SVH despite her boyfriend, Hugh, attending Big Mesa, and making a comment about their relationship not being great? It's dropped entirely until the end when we find out that Hugh and Enid decided to split up, off screen and dammit, my Enid needs are not being met by you, book series.
  Oh, and part of Jessica's dislike of Claire is the fact that Jess set her sights on Danny Porter, one of the football players, but Danny is seen trying to chat Claire up, despite Danny being unbelievably shy. So, yeah, Jessica's hate-on for Claire is also fueled by jealousy. Woo.


  • The Palisades game is Scott's last game. SVH wins, 21-9.

  • Big Mesa is said to have more wins than SVH, but they must've only been ahead by one win since on the first day of tryouts we learn that SVH's record this season is ten wins, two losses, which ties them with Big Mesa for their division.

  • Scott is failing History and Spanish.

  • According to this book, Liz heard about Scott from John, who swore her to secrecy. She's the one who told Penny last book and she's told Todd prior to this book. Great secret keeping, Liz.

  • Despite frequently being described as curly, Todd's hair is never actually depicted as such on the book covers.

  • Todd claims he's all for a girl QB, mere seconds after rolling his eyes at the notion.

  • Liz heard that Ken was pro football material, at least prior to his blindness.

  • Enid and Todd both think Ken is a shoo-in for QB while Elizabeth isn't so sure due to his vision.

  • Jessica thinks the cheers have gotten old and stale, and Amy agrees with her. Later, Maria will too.

  • Since Ken left the team, Terri minimizes her role for the football team in public, like at pep rallies, which doesn't sound entirely healthy.

  • Scott had no backup QB and he wasn't as good as Ken, so he worked his ass off to the detriment of his education. Poor Scott.

  • Zack Johnson, a friend of Terri's, is a sophomore linebacker, and little brother of Tad "Blubber" Johnson.

  • Danny Porter is the wide receiver on the team. Jess has a bit of a thing for him, what with the cute smile and devastating blue eyes. He's also really, really shy.

  • Hugh and Enid go from being perfectly solid, as far as Liz knows, to being broken up, over the course of the book even though we don't see a thing.

  • Penny's hair is back to being described as light brown.

  • Liz forgot to setup an interview with Claire and this isn't the first time she's flaked on an Oracle assignment, though we aren't told of the other instances.

  • Penny arranges the interview between Claire and Liz for after the pep rally.

  • The Oracle is doing a bunch of stories on transfer students.

  • John wants extra coverage on the new QB spot. Not entirely sure why 8 sign ups make this a thing but hey. Liz is assigned to help him.

  • There are bleached maple wood benches in the SVH courtyard, tucked away in the trees and bushes. The courtyard also has large ceramic pots filled with flowers.

  • Claire Middleton is described as having a slightly tomboyish appearance, due moreso to her clothing choices than her looks. She's got long, pretty dark hair, an oval face, a beautiful smile, with a spattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks, and unusual pale green eyes. Her family moved from the Palisades district to SVH's, downsizing to a smaller house, after her big brother Ted's death. She loves football, running, cycling, and describes herself as a fitness nut. She's not exactly pro-cheerleader. She's intense about things she likes and not good at half-assing things.

  • Claire's motto is, "I'd rather die than quit."

  • Ted Middleton was the SVU JV quarterback. He started coming down with wicked headaches, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Within a couple of months, he was dead. Steven shared a freshman composition class with him and Steve's roommate was good friends with Ted.

  • The way Liz asks Claire about having any siblings is weird, as she asks if she's got any attending SVH. Like, Liz, you'd know the answer to that.

  • Jess and Amy initially want to recruit Claire for PBA and initially Liz is skeptical, but then figures it's a way to shake the sorority's rep for being too exclusive. Later, Jessica confirms this.

  • Terri's little brother Mark is 12 and best friends with Dean Skinner, Stan Skinner's little brother.

  • SVH plays their varsity games on Saturdays and this is still very weird to me.

  • Terri's mom drives a blue Volvo that Terri frequently borrows.

  • Terri and Ken usually meet in their special spot in the hallway between 3rd and 4th period. Fourth period for Terri is music.

  • Ken and Terri think of each other as best friends. Aw.

  • The sign-up sheet for QB tryouts goes up at 11:30am and is taken down around 12:40. An hour to sign up seems pretty short, even if it is during lunch.

  • Ken's the first person to sign up, with Dave Pollock, Stan Skinner, and Patrick Reeve from the JV team signing up after that. Tim Nelson, a linebacker, also signs up, as well as Robbie Hendricks, and Bryce Fisherman. Claire is the last to sign the sheet.

  • Ken has a lunchtime appointment with Dr. Cragie the day of sign ups.

  • Terri and Ken share history class, and they're learning about the French Revolution.

  • The tryout turnout includes the entire football team, the whole Oracle staff, and a few dozen students.

  • Ricky Ordway injured his hamstring.

  • Ken does the 40 yard sprint in 4.9 seconds, while Claire does it in 4.8 and she seems disgusted with her own time.

  • Claire is the first girl to tryout for QB at a public school in the area - ever. I do wonder if this means someone did so at a private school or if the private schools simply don't have football teams.

  • Dave Pollock is a distant third place in the QB competition.

  • The Sweet Valley News calls Terri to confirm the race times, and later calls Penny regarding Claire.

  • Liz notices a lot of sophomore boys are watching Claire's tryouts with wonder.

  • On the cheer squad, Robin, Jeanie, and Annie are all very pro Claire until Jessica shares Claire's less than flattering opinion of their sport.

  • Sandy, Robin, and Jeanie all seem especially hurt/baffled by Claire's words.

  • Jessica has Amy recruit Tim to their prank war by telling him that Claire was talking shit about him. This never bites Jessica, or Amy, in the ass, btw, even though it's a lie.

  • Peter Straus, the Big Mesa QB is being recruited by many a top college.

  • Various pranks played on Claire: trying to fill her helmet with water, toothpaste in her shoes, her vitamin drink stolen, and hate notes left. How are hate notes pranks? Jesus.

  • Annie, Jeanie, and Cara have to be talked into doing Jessica's mean cheer.

  • The Middleton's house is simple and sparse, decorated in pastel colors.

  • Claire called Ted "Teddy" and I audibly awww'd at that.

  • Greg Herly and Don Cavendish are also on the SVH football team.

  • Big Mesa's tackle is Matt Ambers.

  • During the Big Mesa game, the score is 7-0 (SVH), 7-7, 14-7 (Big Mesa), and ultimately SVH wins, 21-14.

  • Tim sits out the second half of the game with a sore ankle.

  • Cara won the cheerleading contest with her cheer for Ken.

  • Eric Parker's looking for a typical all American student for his TV show.

Cheer Along:

Give us a clap!
Give us a twirl!
Give us a quarterback
who isn't a girl!
--From the mind of Jessica without any real thought or planning.

Who wants a guy
when a girl like Claire
can throw the ball from here to there?
Who needs a guy
when a girl gives more:
She steals the ball,
she makes the score!
Who needs a guy
when a girl instead
can play like Claire?-
We know about Ted!
-- An awful lot of work went into this compared to the other cheers for the actual competition.

Second and ten!
That's our Ken!
See him score?
There will be more!
-- Cara won for this?

Who needs a guy when you've got Claire?
She runs, she scores, she gets you there!
Of all the heroes, she's the best!
The greatest player in the west!
-- Jessica's new cheer for Claire

Quotable SVH:

"Suit yourself. I think you'd do yourselves and everyone else a lot more good if you played a sport instead of jumping around and screaming." - Not cool, Claire. p44

"Anyway, you know how literal guys are," she went on lightly. "You have to really goad them into doing something mean, especially to a girl." - uh, wtf, Jessica? p90

"Lila isn't typical," Jessica said dismissively. "For one thing, her father owns half of Southern California." - I mean, she's not wrong. p149

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   This wasn't really one of my favorites when I was younger and re-reading it now doesn't change that opinion much. It's an odd book, given how often it calls back to TFN and even the previous book, while ignoring the fact that in FaF, Ken is not the pro-girl QB advocate he is in this book. And I might ignore that if not for the fact that Dana Larson, who was shown to be very much a fan of the idea of a girl QB, pops up everywhere cheering for Claire. So it's not just the references to Andy's attack and the subtle and not so subtle prejudices at SVH, it's also very clearly following up on the way certain characters viewed the idea of girls playing sports.
  Also, Claire's kinda hard to like. She's really only likable at the end, when the truth about Ted's been exposed, and she's talking to Terri about Ted and also about how obviously head over heels Ken is for Terri. Prior to that, she's needlessly rude to Jessica, weird with Liz (why agree to an interview when you clearly want nothing to do with the article?), and short with just about everyone who isn't Ken- that's the angle you could've used for thinking they were falling for one another, Terri.
  Jess and Amy are awful to Claire but I can't fully blame them, at least not right away... and Liz is mentioned to be off her game in this book and she feels like it, too. Also, justice for Enid! Didn't even get a proper C storyline and usually a breakup will guarantee one.

She's wanting me less, I'm wanting her more

Bruce's Story
June 1990

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A Grand Prize...

   The license plates on Bruce Patman's Porsche read 1BRUCE1, and that's exactly how he thinks of himself- as Number One. Handsome and arrogant, Bruce is used to getting everything he wants.
  Bruce's cousin Roger, who lives with the Patman family, is nothing like Bruce. Roger was penniless for most of his life. He only recently found out that his late father was a Patman and that he was heir to his father's estate. Roger is still trying to adjust to his newfound wealth.
   The boys have only one thing in common- their grandfather, who is one of the richest men in California. A shrewd, hardworking businessman, Mr. Patman decides to set up a contest between Bruce and Roger. The winner will inherit the grandfather's entire estate. The war is on-and Bruce will do anything to win.

   Ah, now I remember how I wound up accidentally taking an extended break from this place. This book. Bruce's Story dropped in the middle of the Wakefield political family drama, bringing that to a grinding halt btw, and when originally trying to do these in the order they were released, it accidentally slammed on my brakes. So we'll continue with my habit of circling back to pick-up the various special books a little bit later than I probably should for someone going in release order. Oops.

   Normally I'd say how much you're going to like this book depends on how much you like Bruce Patman at all but this Bruce doesn't really feel like Bruce. If actual-factual canon SVH told me that Bruce had an evil twin who took over for him during the events of this book, I would tell you that his evil twin isn't very evil and also I would believe it. There's a certain way to write Bruce and this, well... this isn't it for me. It's played for laughs, which is mostly fine, but for a character we rarely get a spotlight on, it'd be nice to scratch beneath the surface. This Bruce spends a lot of time surveying his land and thinking it's good to be king. Which has its funny moments but it also just feels very vague.

  Bruce's Story opens with Bruce freaking out with his cousin Roger about their grandfather coming for a visit. Roger's thinking it'll be nice to talk to someone who knew his father and will have lots of stories about him. Bruce laughs at Roger thinking that a Patman has time to reminisce when there's money to be made in business. Bruce isn't the biggest fan of his grandfather, but we're told the old man's last visit to Sweet Valley was five years ago. If the twins are 16, Bruce is likely 17, which means he was 12 when this visit happened. Depending on his birthday, you could make the case for either 11 or 13 if you wanted. Point is, I laughed when Bruce was complaining about certain things, like Grandfather grilling him about homework and how he spent his allowance. Those are things you are likely to be grilled about, but particularly as a pre-teen.
   So part of me was hoping some of Bruce's panic would just be that he never grew out of that younger mindset. But no, when we meet Grandfather, his assessment of Bruce is "well, you haven't changed, where's the other one?" Look, I'm willing to assume that Bruce has seen Grandfather during trips his family has made and that GP just hasn't visited the Valley in 5 years, or that they've talked on the phone and Marie sends Bruce's pictures on a regular basis but the way it's written it's like his grandfather hasn't seen him in years and dismisses him as the same punk kid he was when he was 12. Which is somehow annoying and hilarious at the same time.
  We also get the setup for some new, never before seen (and likely never seen again) characters in the form of Roger's new friend Lisa DePaul and her best friend Tracy Atkins. Lisa is too calm and levelheaded to last long in SVH proper, plus the fact that Roger has no interest in dating her and they follow through with that means she's just here to not trust Bruce. Tracy is Bruce's love interest who is also too levelheaded to stick around for long. Thing is, I don't buy that she doesn't know Bruce's reputation, especially when we're told she heard about the Regina breakup and that Bruce was involved. You can't tell me even dorkiest of freshman couldn't recount the basics: Bruce cheated on Regina and she tried coke and died, and spelled it out pretty much exactly that way. A senior, even one who spends most of her time with her family, would've heard the gossip. She might not believe it, but she'd have heard it.
  I digress. Tracy's recently lopped off a good chunk of her hair and now looks, as Bruce puts it, like a model. Bruce is so taken with her, in fact, that he runs poor 1Bruce1 alongside a roadblock. This is the first of two accidents Bruce has while thinking about Tracy. We learn that Bruce is probably not the best with poor 1Bruce1 as he's got a mechanic, Jim, who seems to be on speed dial with how well he knows Bruce's car. This might not be such a big deal except our A plot is about to kick into high gear.
   Grandfather Patman has decided that with the recent discovery of Roger, there should be a competition between his two grandsons to see who will run the Patman Corporation after he's gone... well, and after George Henry is gone, too, I guess. The only person who is thrilled by this idea is Alexander Patman himself as everyone else is either horrified at the idea of Bruce not automatically gaining control (Marie, Bruce) or realizes immediately that pitting two teenage boys who have just started getting along is a really fucking stupid idea (Henry, Roger). But he's the money mogul, guys.
  The basic plan is that he's going to take all their money, credit cards, checks (ha), whatever, and in return give them two thousand dollars each. They have a month to see who has the most money at the end, with the hope being that they'll make... money I guess? But what if both boys had just been lazy and not done anything more than use that two grand to do whatever it is they normally do? Bruce would've blown through his in no time while Roger would've used his sparingly. That doesn't mean Roger is necessarily a better business fit for the company. It just means Bruce is wasteful because he's stupidly rich and always has been, a point that's kind of made by the fact that they get two grand as high schoolers. Just about double that (it's a little under) and there's your inflation, btw. In any case, they're also not supposed to tell anyone about it because reasons.

  You sir, are a terrible grandfather.

   Time for the B plot! You know what this book about spoiled rich people needs? A school on the verge of closing due to not having any money! The Nicholson school for special-needs children needs 10K before the end of the school year or once that final bell rings for the year, that's it forever. As such, they've come to SVH to have four representatives think of ways to help fund raise along with the PTA. I'd really hope that they also went to other schools in the area, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't snickering at the thought of schools and programs in need not running straight to the hallowed halls of SVH, realizing that if they have any chance of getting what they need, that's the school to do it. Due in no small part to the superpowers of the Wakefield twins! Liz is naturally elected as the rep for the junior class, while Tracy and Lisa are elected for the senior and sophomore classes respectively. Some poor dude named Dirk is the freshman rep and we're off and running to find ideas to save the school. Instead of doing a bunch of little things, they shoot off ideas and finally settle on Harbor Days, which is essentially local shops and restaurants setting up booths in the park by the harbor and paying the SAVE project half their profits. Tracy and Liz fight for the SVH students to be able to set up their own booths and a joke or three is made about how Jessica wouldn't help a good cause without a good reason.
  And then is promptly shown to make the suggestion box for the committee and to help with setup. She's legitimately more help than Roger and definitely more help than Bruce, but we're supposed to think of Roger as at least a little bit helpful.
  We also get a bit where Tracy has always admired the Wakefield twins and hopes that this project will finally help them to become friends. Since I've always wondered how the background characters actually feel about the twins, this scratches that itch, but it does so fairly clumsily, much like a lot of things covered in this book. Alas.
  Not that she needs an excuse to be pro-SAVE project, but Tracy's youngest brother actually goes to the Nicholson school and she's desperate to keep it open because if it closes, her brother will have to go to a school in LA and not live at home anymore.

  With that set up, let's check in on the Patman boys, shall we?

   Bruce and Roger find themselves pitted against one another at nearly every turn. Bruce is chided for his wastefulness as well as his letting the help clean up his messes, while Roger commits the cardinal sin of not reading or caring about the business section as it's "a little dry." Probably not the thing to say to the head of your family's company, Roger. Anyway, Bruce decides he's going to make Tracy's day by... asking her out to a concert, one he doesn't even seem all that interested in, I might add, after he buys the tickets. Naturally, she shoots him down because this book is filled with that. Not thrilled, Bruce goes to the Country Club in an effort to see if he can sell his tickets. While there, he gets the brilliant idea of how he's going to make his fortune. He's going to gamble.
  Bruce's big idea to make some money is to play poker. Except when we first learn that Bruce plays poker, we also learn that he's down a hundred bucks from playing and y'know, losing. So... this means it's canon that Bruce thinks he's a better player than he actually is, right? Anyway, he ups the ante from $1 to $10 and it goes exactly as you'd expect. He loses his friggin' shirt. In a matter of a couple of hours, he's down $800, and only gets off that lucky because the guy doing all the winning (and hosting the game) kills the game, likely out of pity. Granted, Judd then goes around telling the entire country club just how badly Bruce played so maybe pity isn't the right word.
   Proving that dumb decisions run in the family, Roger is reminded that Lisa's father is an investment counselor, so she finagles Rog a meeting with him and Roger decides to buy 100 shares of Robotech stock simply because he overheard two employees and Mr. DePaul's office discussing it "excitedly." To be fair, Roger does read up on them a little in the paper but he also ignores Mr. DePaul who cautions him against putting all his eggs in one flimsy basket. For a moment, his gamble pays off. Overnight, he makes $500. But when Mr. DePaul suggests that based on what he's heard, maybe Roger should consider selling while he's ahead, Roger decides to roll the dice and see what Monday morning brings.
  Naturally it means Lisa's father was right and now Roger has lost $700, putting him and Bruce sort of even, though neither realizes it. Instead, both are convinced the other has pulled painfully far ahead in the competition because the only time these two talk to one another now is to snipe at one another.
  Which reminds me. If you're wondering where Bruce's parents are, Marie convinced Henry that his short business trip to Tokyo should really be turned into a month long vacation in the Far East. Y'know, because Grandfather Patman would be around to watch the boys.
  I really hope Miranda the maid got hazard pay for this month.

   Anyway, both Roger and Bruce wind up deciding that they'll recoup their losses at Harbor Days. Roger's idea is to paint canvas caps and Bruce is given the idea to make his own guide to dating. Let me just say this real quick: instead of the Slam Book they released (which I would still kill to own, sadly), they should've made Bruce Patman's Guide to Dating as an actual book. It sounds delightful. Bruce cons Tracy into helping him and she tells him that he's got a real way with words and comedy.
  I mean... in this book, yeah. But I will admit that wacky spoiled rich kids Lila and Bruce in SVU are also comedic gold so I'll allow this. I also like the idea that Bruce is talented at something but doesn't really know because he's never had to bother utilizing this skill before now and besides, his sea of flunkies telling him he's good at something won't mean as much as it does from the girl he's trying (and failing) to impress.
  But because Bruce is also a complete asshole, he breaks one of the rules and decides to fight dirty. He finds out ahead of time from Tracy what Roger's plan is and he swaps out Roger's water proof spray paint with water soluble paint and I just wonder why bother, Bruce. The cost of tanking Roger's booth can't really be worth it. Spray paint ain't cheap. Naturally, step two involves hiring a troublemaker to stage a water balloon fight in front of Roger's booth and make sure to hit someone wearing their brand new, now ruined, cap.
  Bruce. Honey. Baby. Your idea would've outsold Roger's anyway AND you were charging more than he was. Oi.
  Bruce gloats and Roger vows to get even. DUN DUN DUNNNNN.
  Only he doesn't, because Harbor Days: Day 2 brings two new schemes. Roger teams up with Jim Roberts, the photographer from Perfect Shot to sell prints of his photos (which works since most of his work is either kids from SVH or local celebrities) while Bruce is given the super secret family recipe for Tracy's grandmother's peach raspberry ice cream.
   Yes, at some point over the course of the book, Tracy ignores all the warnings, be they signs like the fact that Liz is never exactly thrilled to deal with Bruce or even talk about him, or Jessica explicitly warning her that Bruce is trouble and she deserves better, and agrees to date Bruce. When he stupidly boasts (and is lying while doing so) about wanting to donate all his profit from HD1, Tracy takes him home to meet her family, including Jeremy. And the little boy is clearly smitten. My heart can't take it, captain.
  Roger is given the perfect opportunity to sabotage Bruce's icecream but can't bring himself to do it and walks away. Bruce witnesses this but instead of respecting his cousin, he decides that if Roger is too much of a sissy to stand up for himself, why should he bother to keep watch on his stash. Bruce, you are an asshole and make it impossible to root for you. Bruce also decides that he needs to find out what Roger's new project is so he can mess it up. He manipulates Tracy into thinking it's her idea to ask Lisa what Roger is up to so that Bruce can "help him."
  Lisa warns Tracy that Roger swore her to secrecy and also points out that Bruce STILL hasn't handed over even 50% he was supposed to give from HD1. Tracy is ticked that anyone would dare doubt Bruce... and then snaps out of it when she remembers that Lisa is her best friend and it makes no sense that the richest boy in school has essentially stiffed a charity. Unless, of course, that boy is an asshole and up to no good. So she follows him and catches him considering ruining Roger's photo paper. She runs away before he actually does it, but the fact that he was considering ruining something for charity just to win a stupid contest (a contest that again, no one who hears about it initially thinks is a good idea) means he's not the man she thought he was.
   She calls Roger and warns him before hanging up on him, only to have Bruce call minutes later so she can answer, "don't ask me how I know, Roger!" to make Bruce wonder wtf is going on, especially when she won't talk to him. I think we're supposed to care that Bruce has borked his chances with Tracy, but I don't. They never fit as a couple and we don't get enough time with them to see it working despite that. There are hints, like Bruce enjoying Tracy calling him out on his entitled BS, but it's not enough to really care about their failed relationship. Jessica and Lisa were right when they said Tracy deserves better.
  Really, so does Bruce, as this is supposed to be his star moment and he just comes across as a jackass. I know I'm supposed to follow up on his failed relationship with Tracy with a comment about the truly important relationship in his life being his bond with Roger but... eh.
  Determined to prove himself not a complete waste of space, Bruce works overtime to sell all his icecream and make a tidy sum for the SAVE project. He and Roger make up when Bruce offers to buy one of Jim's photos and the day is saved!

   Only not because even at the end of HD2, the SAVE group hasn't hit their goal of 5k. I do wonder what the PTA is doing because if four high schoolers are supposed to be earning half the money and they put on two Saturdays of sales, what, exactly, is the PTA up to? We never find out because as everyone leaves the SAVE office, they find an envelope crammed with cash. Serious cash. Tracy and Lisa are nervous to accept it but Liz is like, it's fine, they left a note addressed to us, it's fine. Besides, it means we only need another thousand dollars!
  Which they get because someone else left a cash envelope for the PTA. Yay, the school is saved! Well, for another year anyway. I do like that this is mentioned explicitly as not a full win, but Tracy's family accepts it for what it is: another year with Jeremy at home.

   With the B plot mostly wrapped up, let's get back to the stupid contest. Marie and Henry are back in town and another party is thrown to welcome them back and also to announce the winner of the contest. For someone who wanted secrecy, it does seem a little weird to announce the contest now, Grandfather. I like to imagine that everyone at the party is horrified, which is kind of backed up by the hush that falls over the crowd as Alexander Patman explains his stupid contest. He then has the boys present their envelopes and neither is exactly forthcoming about it. Why? Because they're both empty!
  AP is PISSED. Ideally he wanted more money than they started off with (I assume) but he was definitely not expecting them to have spent it all. He demands an explanation and Bruce and Roger fill in the gaps. AP is horrified by the poker and the stock market but before he can flipout over both boys giving their entire earnings (and then some) to the SAVE program, Henry steps in and congratulates them on taking something bad (the contest) and using it for good. He's so inspired that he'll be stepping in to make sure the Nicholson school stays funded from now on. Everyone wins!
  Except Grandfather AP who just looks like an old fool. But with time and reflection he realizes that he fucked up and he's sorry and family's important and I'm sorry, I nodded off there for a moment.
   We end with GP proud of his grandsons and the boys rushing off to see who can swim laps the fastest. Oh those wacky rich kids.


  • Before Bruce nabs him, Roger was going to have lunch with Ken and his new friend, Lisa.

  • Lisa DePaul is a pretty, blond sophomore who keeps her curly hair cropped short. She has large eyes that light up when she laughs, and is described as bright, friendly, generous, and unselfconscious. She's in Roger's Spanish class.

  • Alexander Patman is coming to town for his 70th birthday and will be spending 6 weeks with the Patmans.

  • Is drop dead handsome a saying, because it's how Bruce is described.

  • Roger is still smarting over his breakup with Olivia, which is listed as a reason why he and Lisa are definitely just friends.

  • The Patman dining room table is long enough to seat 20, and Bruce thinks of the decor as costly and impressive, from the Persian carpets, candelabra, and draperies. Way to be vague, ghosty.

  • Grandfather Patman says, "I see you still look the same" even though the last time he came to visit was 5 years ago.

  • Bruce admits to himself that his mother isn't very fair to Roger.

  • Alexander Patman likes breakfast by 7am, but only grapefruit and coffee, then he jogs for 2 miles, lifts weights, and then reads up on the stock market. His motto is "Get rich and work hard."

  • He asks for a no fuss birthday, but Marie goes full speed ahead and invites all her friends to the party, hires a Latin American band (sure), and sends out engraved invitations.

  • Bruce wants to buy a new, longer Windsurfer.

  • Bruce lost $100 in a poker game and Roger is surprised.

  • Bruce plays with guys from the Country Club at Judd Phipp's house.

  • Judd is a tall, lanky guy who organized the Country Club poker games.

  • Tracy Atkins is a senior with light green eyes that have amber flecks in them, black hair she recently cut short(er) and now looks like a model according to Bruce. They shared Mr. Jordan's geometry class back in sophomore year, which Bruce remembers more vividly than Tracy does. She and Lisa have been best friends since they went to camp one year and have been like sisters ever since, even though Tracy is two years older. Tracy is the oldest of six kids. Her youngest brother, Jeremy has a rare muscular disease that impaired his growth, which is why he attends the Nicholson school and she also has a 14 year old sister. She wants to be a designer and is quite skilled at sewing. She's also never had a boyfriend or been kissed before Bruce.

  • Bruce's car guy is a mechanic named Jim down at Foreign Auto Body.

  • The Nicholson School teaches special needs kids between the ages of 5 and 12, but it needs ten thousand dollars or this will be its final year open.

  • Amy's part in the Regina/Bruce breakup is mentioned and it's implied that Amy feels very bad about it but we never see this.

  • Amy is still very much in the catty stage when Bruce's new love interest is brought up while Jessica has progressed to not caring beyond it being gossip.

  • Liz is shocked when her classmates vote her to be their SAVE representative.

  • Representatives for the Freshman, Sophomore, and Senior classes are Dirk Pierce, Lisa DePaul, and Tracy Atkins.

  • The Patman Corporation has been doing more business lately with Mitsu, a Japanese company.

  • Marie convinces Henry to turn his short business trip to Japan into a month long visit to the Far East.

  • Did you know the Patman mansion has a view of the ocean?

  • Tracy wears an off-white, one shoulder dress to AP's birthday party.

  • Bruce invites Tracy to an exclusive LA club but she turns him down flat as it's not her scene.

  • Grandfather insists that the ventures Bruce and Roger pick be legal and that they not fight dirty. Whoops.

  • While thinking of Tracy, Bruce hits a Camaro and while the Camaro is fine, his front fender is badly dented and it costs him $450 to fix.

  • Bruce pays $100 for two tickets to the Starfest reunion concert. They're a band that were apparently popular ten years ago.

  • Roger wanted to talk to Bruce about not competing but then we'd be without a book.

  • Roger, Lisa, and some friends are going to the Beach Disco but Roger tells Bruce he's driving so that Bruce can't borrow his car and use all his gas.

  • Lisa's father is a senior partner/investment counselor.

  • Henry Patman is Roger's legal guardian.

  • Because Mr. DePaul knows Henry Patman, he agrees to buy Roger's stocks for him.

  • Tracy admits she doesn't trust Bruce.

  • 4 guys show up for the high stakes poker game and Bruce doesn't know 'em as they all go to Judd's high school in the next town over. We have Marshall, Rod, Arthur Marks, and Tony Dent playing with Judd and Bruce. You have to arrive by 8pm or there's no getting in. The first game they play is 5 card stud and Bruce's hand is two jacks, a ten, four, and a two. Alas, Judd has three eights.

  • Arthur, Tony, and Rod drop out of the first hand first, then Marshall bows out while Judd beats Bruce.

  • By 10:30, Bruce is down $700 and he loses one last hand of 5 card draw, bringing his losses to $800.

  • There's a pay phone across from the principal's office.

  • Jessica makes a suggestion box for the SAVE office, which happens to be next door to the Oracle office.

  • Liz and Jessica are in the same homeroom.

  • Bruce is described as having brown eyes despite having blue eyes since forever.

  • Bruce's initial Harbor Days idea is to sell copies of his little black book.

  • Tracy's put off by the idea (though Bruce can't figure out why) but does manage to spin it into the final idea of "The Bruce Patman Guide to Dating." Ultimately she also convinces him to have the finish product be laser printed and spiral bound.

  • Grandfather Patman never played around with stocks as he was worried about the risks.

  • Judd tells just about everyone at the club about Bruce's loss at poker to the degree that even Roger hears about it there.

  • Roger bought his 100 shares of Robotech for $10 but sells them at $8, which means he's down $700. Whoops.

  • Bruce likes that Tracy doesn't let him get away with much.

  • For their first date, Bruce takes Tracy to his favorite Italian restaurant.

  • Roger's first Harbor Days plan is to sell canvas caps/hats with visors and spray paint whatever designs people want on them. Who knew Roger was artsy?

  • Harbor Days officially starts at 10am.

  • Jessica joins Liz in setting up the Information Booth near the entrance to the harbor. Booths are on all four boundaries of the park and there are games to play as well.

  • Liz gets a bit testy when Jessica warns Tracy about Bruce even though she's been cool enough towards Tracy that T noticed that Liz doesn't seem to really like him.

  • Brian Webster is a mischievous ten year old boy with a mean smile and lots of freckles. Bruce knows him from the country club.

  • Winston buys the first copy of Bruce's book.

  • Amy and Cara have a water balloon booth where you can throw balloons at Steven Wakefield. (I'm going to pretend Jess spent a fair amount of time dunking her brother for funsies.)

  • Ronnie Edwards bought a red, white, and blue design for his cap and it's ruined by Bruce's paint switch and Brian's water balloon.

  • Bruce boasts to Tracy about donating all his profits to the SAVE project which prompts Tracy to tell Bruce about her little brother Jeremy.

  • Sunday dinner is the least formal at the Patman's. Alexander, Bruce, and Roger are simply having soup and salad.

  • Roger's second project for Harbor Days is to work with Jim Roberts and sell prints of Jim's photographs. Jim and Roger split the profits from each print, priced at $6.

  • Harbor Days #1 raised $1,500

  • Tracy thinks Bruce is using her to spy on Roger.

  • I'm cackling that the photography place is called Corner Camera.

  • When Bruce arrives to HD's second Saturday, Liz is the only SAVE rep there.

  • Mr. Peterson is the chairman of the SAVE committee.

  • I find it difficult to believe the Patmans, particularly Marie, brought Miranda (the maid) a gift back from their travels.

  • Uh, ghosty? Bruce's father's name is Henry or Hank, not George. You even got this right earlier in the book.

  • Never apologize, never explain is Bruce's motto. That explains so very much.

He was the dream of most of the girls in town. The ones who didn't think he was perfect were the ones who had had run-ins with his king-size ego. - Because there are no lesbians in SV. p4

"I can't help it," Bruce said. "I get anxious about my appearance when I'm nervous."
Roger had to hide a smile at that. And all other times, too he thought. - pg12

For just a minute, he was reminded that there was nothing better in the whole world than being Bruce Patman. - Such modesty, Bruce. p13

I probably brightened up her whole Saturday just by dropping by, Bruce thought proudly. - Oh my. p77

This is exactly the way the rich get richer, he thought. They relaxed, had fun, and did what came naturally to them. - I mean, he's probably not wrong. p78

The Bruce Patman Guide To Dating
Chapter 1: How to Let the Girl of Your Dreams Know You're Alive
Chapter 2: The Phone Call
Chapter 3: What to Drive, What to Wear, and What Not to Say: A Beginner's Guide to the First Date
Chapter 6: Keep Your Date Surprised

What do you say to a girl you've just met who you want to go out with?
A) You're gorgeous
B) I drive a Porsche, want a ride?
C) You're in for the best time of your life now that you've met me.
D) All of the above

Staying friends with a girl you used to date is definitely cool.

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   This is one of those books that I don't hate when I'm reading it, but as soon as I put it down and think about I dunno, any of it, my enjoyment of the book plummets. Part of this is probably because Bruce is one of those characters that requires a deft hand to make likable and to get just right. He's stuck on himself but not to the oblivious degree he seems to be for most of this book. He's a jerk, but he's also charming when he wants to be, and he always wants to be when he's first moving in on a girl. There's a reason even the girls who know better wind up falling for him and it can't just be how good looking he is. The Valley isn't hurting for cute guys, y'know? So you've got to have the right handle on Bruce's personality or it all goes to shit. We don't want date-rapey Bruce and if we're gonna spend the whole book with him, we also don't want callous jerk Bruce. Ideally this book would've given us a peek into what makes him tick but uh, if this is what makes Bruce tick, I'm good not knowing.

  I guess it's because there's a set-up for some depth but almost all of Bruce's stuff is ultimately played for laughs and it feels like a wasted opportunity, especially with the Super Star books supposedly being a closer look at characters we don't tend to get to know quite as well as the twins.

  I like that unlike a lot of SVH books, Bruce doesn't wind up with Tracy after trying to make amends because she can't get over what he's done or even thought about doing. His actions have consequences and while he gets over it pretty quickly, I do like that it's not all hand waved away.
   I also like the glimpses of Jessica we get here. Many a joke is made about her flightiness, but she's right there helping Liz and not obviously dragged there against her will. I repeat: Jessica Wakefield is up before noon on a weekend and she's doing work for her community. This is a big deal and one isn't made about it and that's actually kinda refreshing. I also like her not being emotionally caught up in anything about Bruce at this point. She comments on his love life but unlike Amy, it doesn't seem to bother her at all. She's not even snarky when she warns Tracy away from him: she just genuinely believes Tracy is better than Bruce and doesn't want to see her waste her time on him. Liz dances around her feelings about Bruce but Jessica just puts it all out there without drama.
  Another thing I enjoyed was how quickly Tracy got over her irritation at Lisa for thinking the worst of Bruce. She initially leaps to Bruce's defense but then she remembers that Lisa is her best friend and wouldn't say these things to hurt her. We're spared the best friends being torn apart by the Patman cousins and instead Tracy takes a closer look at Bruce's actions.
   Finally, I do like that what gets Bruce to turn against Roger is jealousy. Jealous isn't one of the words that comes to mind when I think of Bruce, but it works. He's jealous that his grandfather clearly shows no real interest in him but is ready to lavish attention, some of it even the good kind, on Roger. He's also willing to just hand over Bruce's future to Roger without a second thought or any real discussion. Just oh, you managed to do better at this one thing? Welp, guess you're the future of the company and also my favorite. And Roger's insecurities are all tripped again, leading him to actually fight back even though he had no intention of participating in the contest initially.

  So while I don't think Bruce's Story does a great job of doing Bruce any favors, it does have moments for others... and I really wish we'd gotten a real version of Bruce's Guide to Dating. :P

Hey, who wants a review from back when this first came out? Entertainment Weekly's got you covered.

That's just like, the rule of friendship.

Friend Against Friend
October 1990

What's happening between Neil and Andy?
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   Andy Jenkins and Neil Freemount have been best friends for years. They hang out together, double-date, and help each other with homework.
  But bully Charlie Cashman sets out to make life miserable for Andy, just because Andy is black. First Andy finds trash in his locker. Then his girlfriend is taunted, and he is pushed around in the school parking lot. Neil wants to help his best friend, but suddenly Andy turns against him, and Neil doesn't know why. The two boys are about to face the greatest challenge of their lives. Can their friendship survive the test?

   Hello and welcome to a very special installment of Sweet Valley High. Today the Wakefields will tackle race relations with the subtlety and nuance you would expect from them in a book from 1990. Get your coping methods handy because holy Christ are we gonna need them. I refuse to count how many times I scribbled "wtf" or "JFC!" in my notebook because after awhile I just couldn't handle it and stopped writing it, but still thought it. Or said it, loudly, to the cat.
  There are fun SVH books, there are bad SVH books, and there are some books that are so bad they're good. And then you've got the books I'm not sure anyone re-reads for fun and that, I think, is where Friend Against Friend falls in the SVH canon.

   I mean, I wish we could've just had an entire post where the jokes write themselves, as many a comment has been made about the cover art and the text underneath, particularly when combined with this being book #69. But alas, this book wants us to have no fun and instead wants to make things as painful as humanly possible.
  So take a moment and wish for what could have been and then grab your drinks and follow me into Hell.

   Despite what the back cover tells you, Andy and Neil have not been best friends for years. In fact, it's implied heavily that they only became close once they were paired up as marine biology lab partners, which would mean their friendship started this year/semester. Pity, as I'd like the idea of them being friends since Andy moved to SV more. But it would also make the big WTF moment that much less believable so, y'know, I guess.
  Anyway, Andy and Neil are friends and science geek bros together. Huzzah! They go on double dates and make boring jokes together and all is well until they stop by Andy's locker and find it filled with trash and a note scribbled on the locker door: Go Back to Africa Where You Belong. And then we're painfully reminded that Andy is one of the only black students at SVH and Neil is very white. What could go wrong?
  Neil wants to report the incident but Andy refuses, claiming that doing so will only incite the racist to up their game. Neil's not exactly sure how true this is, but it is Andy's call so he goes along with it... though he does tell his girlfriend, Penny Ayala. I'm surprised that Penny doesn't push for this to be covered in The Oracle or told to the authorities, though she does mention both as options. She agrees with Andy that odds are good that if anything is made of the incident, it'll get worse.
  But ignoring it will totally make things better, right? Sigh. It's a long one, folks.

   Complicating matters for Neil is the fact that his father and Charlie Cashman's father are friends. At first we're not sure if Mr. Cashman is the only bigot in the relationship or if Mr. Freemount is as well, but don't worry. We'll get that answered all too well and it will make me want to throw the book across the room. (So uh, spoilers? Freemount is possibly worse because he hides his racism better.) Neil calls his father out on some "questionable" comments made during the BBQ and we're left to wonder why, exactly, Neil's mother hasn't left his father because she seems to be taking absolutely no BS when it comes to the men's bitching about affirmative action. Carol, honey, I don't know you all that well, but you and Marge should get the hell out of these relationships. Neither of these men is worth the trouble.
  Back at school, Andy wins a summer scholarship at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the peasants rejoice! After a quick trip to the DB to celebrate, Charlie confronts Andy and is a racist prick because duh and also he has three idiots backing him up. The girls come out a few minutes later and we find out that someone has slashed Tracy's tires. I wonder who that could be, hmm? Couldn't be Charlie Cashman, right? Oh. Wait.
  Andy stays with Tracy's car and Neil takes Tracy to work and then takes Penny home. Not sure why he didn't go back to the DB and hang out with Andy but whatever, I don't write these things. The next day, Andy is pissed that he's out more than $45 and time and in a critical mistake that I visibly cringed as I read it, Neil tries to smooth things over by invoking MLK. Andy reacts about as well as you'd expect: Who do you think you are? Don't talk to me about Dr. King!"
  I mean, we can't say that SVH didn't try to warn us all way back when.

   Eventually we find out that Andy doesn't want to report the incidents because when similar things happened back in junior high, he was told to ignore them and not to cause trouble. So... despite being pissed at this being the advice and help given, that's exactly what you're doing? I mean... that's showing them, I guess? I get that it's more about not wanting to be let down again by the adults in the situation but the way it's written doesn't drive that home or point out the flaw in his plan.
  Anyway, Neil's resentment of Andy builds the more Andy pushes him away and especially when Andy says that he doesn't need help from any white person. How dare Andy not let Neil be his white savior? I dunno, I feel weird being overly snarky about this because I get where Andy is meant to be coming from and I also get where Neil is coming from - up to a point. But when Charlie Cashman shows up at Neil's house because things at his house are going to shit and Charlie suggests going cruising, Neil saying yes is just mind-blowingly stupid.
  This guy isn't just someone you think is behind the racist attacks on your friend, possibly your best friend (Neil's literally not shown hanging out with any other guy besides Charlie and Andy)- he's outed himself proudly to you and your friend. You don't hang out with him, no matter how badly you feel for him due to his home life. If he needs to be saved, he can go to Saint Elizabeth of Wakefield like everyone else in Sweet Valley. If he doesn't need to be saved, well, you should definitely not be out cruising with this asshole, Neil.

   Naturally, Charlie views this as them being friends so the next day he invites Neil to hang again and Andy's not exactly thrilled to see his friend hanging out with a known racist. Go figure. Neil and Andy have a bit of a tiff about this and things are so tense that Neil blows his marine bio quiz the next day.
  That same day, Charlie trips Andy and sends his books flying all over the floor. Andy's sick and tired of this and tackles Charlie until Mr. Collins breaks the fight up. For reasons I don't fully understand, Collins singles Neil out after sending Charlie down to see Chrome Dome. Wouldn't talking to Andy be the first step, then talking to Neil? Whatever. In an effort to patch their friendship, Neil makes one last attempt to hang out with Andy who turns him down because he doesn't need Neil's pity.

   This is where the book suffers. There's realism and there's having to play by the rules of fiction, since fiction has to make narrative sense (usually) while reality does not. And while I get that Andy is the one being singled out, the one worrying about his own safety as well as Tracy's and possibly both of their families as well, Neil never seems to grasp that this extends beyond Andy being kind of a dick to him. And also, well, Andy's a dick to Neil for a good chunk of the book, even before Neil's earned it. Which is done so that Neil's irritation, annoyance, and hurt will lead us to the events that unfold after Neil and Penny ditch their movie early.
  They head to Neil's car, which he always parks in the back parking lot of the mall because it's less crowded and he can always get a good spot. They see a group of guys looking ready to rumble, so Neil sends Penny back in to call the cops while he runs down to see what's going on.
   Neil. Honey. Babycakes. As soon as you recognize Andy's father's car, you know what's happening. You know Charlie and company are going to jump Andy and kick his ass. And they do. They drag his ass out of his car and by the time Neil gets his ass in gear they've already pretty much knocked Andy out. Which is why Andy does not remember this next part.
  Charlie goads Neil into taking part in Andy's assault. Neil actually falls for it and slugs Andy once, before he's so horrified by his actions that he fucking runs away, hops in his car, and flees the scene of the crime, not only leaving his best friend to whatever beating Charlie's group wants to dish out, but also leaving Penny stranded.
  But I'm supposed to feel bad for him because he's traumatized by what he's done and he has to pull the car over to puke. Goddammit, Neil, I want to puke, too. You were supposed to kick Charlie's ass, maybe get yours handed to you because it's four against one (or two, but Andy's out of it so I'm not saying he'd be any help to Neil) and basically not be a piece of shit.
  Nope. NOPE. NOPE!

   Because the plot needs Andy to think that Neil came to his rescue beyond having Penny call the cops, and we need Penny to think something similar though where does she think Neil disappeared to after "going to get help, too"? We need Neil to feel literally sick about what he's done and hole himself up in his room all weekend. We need him to torture himself as he worries about the cops appearing and then, what we need most of all, besides Charlie threatening to turn Neil in, is for Neil's dad to take him to a USC game and at halftime tell him that Mr. Cashman called and told him what Neil did.
  And while it wasn't the best thing ever to kick a man when he's down, at least he knows Neil's heart was in the right place and that Andy learned his lesson. I'd say let that sink in but no, don't. Let me point out that he knew what Neil did before he bought the tickets to the football game. He bought them as a reward for Neil beating up his best friend.
  Neil goes into shock as he realizes his father is a terrible excuse for a human being. When they return to SV, he demands to be let out of the car. Mr. Freemount realizes that Neil's disgusted by him (I'm not sure I'd buy the man being capable of that much self awareness) and sneers that Neil is no better than anyone else and not to go around being all high and mighty. Lord, give me strength.
  Neil goes to Andy's to apologize only to realize that Andy doesn't know that Neil took a swing at him. Unable to confess while Andy's parents keep popping in to thank Neil for helping save Andy, Neil ducks out again.
  Neil keeps trying to confess and then chickening out, though he really picks it up when Charlie tries to recruit him after Andy comes back to school. Realizing that Andy's more popular than ever after the attack, Charlie thinks he needs another to really show Andy what's what, and he wants Neil in on this one, too. Neil tells him to go fuck himself (not literally, unfortunately) and that's when Charlie threatens to put in a tip, anonymously of course, to the cops about Neil's involvement in Andy's attack.
  Remember Andy's scholarship win? Well, there's an awards ceremony and Andy doesn't want anything to mar his day because he'd like this win to be an absolute win for him. So Neil doesn't confess prior because it would hurt Andy to do so.
  But he doesn't think twice about telling him right after his win. We need to talk about a lot of things, Freemount, but timing is definitely near the top of the list, young man.
   Andy and Penny both want nothing to do with Neil and honestly? I don't blame them. And I get that Penny doesn't really have all that many dating options but I absolutely do not see her staying with Neil after this. Unable to be around people after his confession goes about as well as he expected, Neil heads out to his car and winds up just sitting there, stunned and sick.
  Eventually Elizabeth finds him and of course Penny has told her what's happened. Liz isn't on Neil's side but she lets him know that it's possible Penny might forgive him, and also maybe the important thing isn't to deny the existence of the side of him that took a swing at his friend, but to admit it was there and to make sure that it doesn't happen again. He can't change the past but he can absolutely change his reactions in the future. Liz is nicer than most would be but doesn't completely absolve him of his sins and I do appreciate that.
   On his drive by the school a little later, he notices Andy walking across the football field... as Charlie and company are heading towards him. Neil hops out of the car and joins Andy, telling Charlie that if he wants to get to Andy, he'll have to take on Neil, too. I... don't think I buy that Charlie and his goons couldn't take a still wounded Andy and Neil, but I get not wanting to end the book on them going to the hospital. Instead Andy points out that this doesn't mean they're friends and Neil knows it. He says he'll spend the rest of his life sorry for what he did and that he'll always be by Andy's side when someone is threatening him, whether Andy wants him there or not. Which is... you know, I'm not sure I have the words so it is what it is.

  Penny eventually sort of forgives Neil, though she says it's not her place to forgive him, but I still can't see Penny getting over this.

   But what about a B-plot, you ask. Well, Liz gets the scathingly brilliant idea to have The Oracle put out a question to the general SVH audience: If you could change anything at SVH, what would it be?
  Liz figures it'll be a bunch of silly answers, like less classes and more vending machines but it turns out that SVH isn't the idyllic paradise Liz envisioned it to be. What? You mean the school where a girl was bullied to the point that she developed an eating disorder crash diet just to make some friends, another girl was bullied to the point of a suicide attempt, and your friend Regina died due to the drugs easily found in the seedier circles isn't the most perfect place ever? I am shocked. Shocked, I say!
  Penny and at least one other person want to get rid of PBA, Dana wants less time, money, and attention spent on the boy's sports, someone thinks it's unfair that a girl can't play for the varsity football team, Manuel Lopez wants the history classes to stop skipping the part where the Spanish founded California and oh yeah, some asshats want every "non-American" to be kicked out. Sweet baby Jesus, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
  Technically the Light Eyes sociology experiment is probably more part of the A plot but it loops in Jessica so it's more B-plot. Anyway, since this book came out before SVT's It Can't Happen Here, Jessica reacts to the brown eyed students being able to treat her and all the other "light eyes" like trash like it's her first time being discriminated against. Ironically, Amy seems to be one of the first to really catch on to what's going on, while Jessica doesn't fully grasp that if everyone is discriminated against it's not discrimination.
  Winston admits that he initially thought he wouldn't want to be mean to "the light-eyes" but found himself getting into it the longer the class went on. His girlfriend, Maria, however, jumped right the fuck in. I'm guessing she's still got some processing to do given how shittily people treated her not too long ago.
  The book ends with a set-up for Claire Middleton stepping out of the shadows to take on Ken for quarterback of the football team after Scott Trost is found to be failing two of his classes. Dun-dun-DUN.


  • Jessica claims to be on a diet which is why she skipped lunch. Minutes after telling Liz this, she hits her up for 50 cents to get a candy bar or something.

  • Elizabeth calls Penny "Pen."

  • The Oracle's survey question: If you could change anything at Sweet Valley High, what would it be? Liz expects most of the answers to be fluffy but it turns out there's a fair amount of unrest bubbling under the surface.

  • Neil Freemount is tall, blonde, and good looking. He takes Marine Biology and is lab partners with Andy Jenkins, a pairing that led to them becoming good friends. His older brother Gary is a freshman at UCLA. Neil plays soccer and tennis but not football.

  • Neil and Penny are apparently one of Elizabeth's favorite couples at SVH.

  • Andy Jenkins is one of the best science students at SVH, has won certificates of merit in biology and chemistry, as well as the county science fair twice. He's described as easy going and friendly, plays the French horn, and is a guitarist in Baja Beat which we know he founded courtesy of the last book. He's also one of the few black students at SVH.

  • Penny would abolish PBA and Elizabeth is surprised by this. Penny and Olivia both feel it's an exclusivity thing that brings out the worst in people. Another Oracle reader will submit a similar response, though they'll point out that it's not fair that PBA members are the ones heading all the social committees and then mentions they don't think there should be any club that gets to decide whether people are in or out based on how they dress or whether or not they have a boyfriend.

  • Olivia jokes she'd cut the school week down to three days and outlaw homework. Remember when Olivia would've answered super seriously and not made a joke?

  • Dana would have less attention on boy's sports.

  • Manuel Lopez would change the way history is taught, particularly emphasizing the fact that the Spanish discovered California and how this is glossed over.

  • Someone wants it to be possible for girls to play on boys sports, particularly having a girl QB. Penny leaves Liz a note to find out who this author is so they can put it in the Eyes and Ears column.

  • Another asshat wants everyone who isn't a "real American" kicked out. Specifically blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. Penny is disgusted and balls this letter up.

  • Andy and Neil find out during their marine biology lab that the water in the marina is gross. Neil admits that he's so disturbed by the idea of what people are pumping into the water that he doesn't like swimming in the ocean. Andy promptly invites him to the beach. :P

  • Neil turns down the invite to the beach because his family is having the Cashmans over for a BBQ and Neil's expected to be there. Charlie, btw, does not show up to this.

  • After the lab, Andy finds his locker has been filled with trash and someone has written Go Back To Africa Where You Belong on the inside of his locker door.

  • Penny's hair is described as dark blonde and she's got hazel eyes.

  • Paul Freemount and Frank Cashman both work at Patman Canning on the outskirts of Sweet Valley. Gotta admit, I thought for sure with how quickly this was mentioned after the marina water issue that we'd find out that Patman Canning was up to no good. Turns out that both Paul and Frank believe Willis, their new boss, got promoted due to nothing more than affirmative action and both resent him to varying degrees. Frank's more of an overt ass and Paul tries to back peddle when his wife and son both call him out on his BS.

  • Willis is a stickler for punctuality and Cashman apparently sees nothing wrong with showing up 15 minutes late to his shift. It will not surprise you to learn that Cashman gets fired within two weeks of admitting this.

  • Neil is so ashamed of his father's behavior that he hides out for most of the rest of the weekend and still feels weird on Monday when he and Andy see each other again.

  • John Archer is the marine biology teacher. He's always making big announcements before class officially starts.

  • Andy won the Monterey Bay Aquarium Scholarship for Outstanding Achievements in Life Sciences.

  • Liz has lunch with Enid, Todd, Aaron, Dana, Manuel, Sandy Bacon, Jade Wu, Ken, and John Pfieffer.

  • Tracy works at a toy store in the mall.

  • At the DB, two Diet Cokes and two Cokes are ordered and I'm hoping one of those Diet Cokes is for one of the boys because I will never not be tired by the whole "girls drink diet drinks and boys don't, tee hee" trope.

  • Charlie Cashman drives a beat up blue Camero.

  • He also hangs out with Jerry "Crunch" McAllister and SVH seniors Jim Sturbridge and Ron Reese.

  • Charlie and possibly his cronies slashed all four tires on Tracy's car.

  • It cost Andy $45 to tow Tracy's car to the tire place. He then had to bum a ride home, borrow money from his mom, and get back to the tire place only to be told they couldn't do the work til the next morning. In case you wondered, that's like $88 today.

  • Neil tries to calm Andy down by invoking the ever popular "what would MLK do/say" and Andy goes OFF.

  • Turns out that similar stunts were pulled when Andy was in junior high and when he told the school about it, their big help was to ignore the idiots and not cause trouble.

  • Charlie shows up after his father goes on a tear at home and for whatever reason chooses Neil to try and hang out with... and Neil goes with him.

  • They wind up at Chrome Dome's house, where Charlie leans on the horn for a good ten seconds, lets loose a wolf howl, and speeds off. This is repeated at various houses around SV and neither Neil nor I are terribly impressed. Neil wonders at the end of the evening why the hell he would've gone off with Charlie, even if he did temporarily feel sorry for the guy.

  • Chrome Dome lives in a small brick house, btw.

  • The same day Andy gets tripped by Charlie, Neil invites Andy and Tracy to the movies for a double date with Penny. Andy declines but still winds up at the mall anyway.

  • Neil usually parks in the back of the mall because the parking lot there is less crowded and he's more likely to get a spot by the entrance.

  • Neil and Penny leave the movie early because Neil's gotten himself all worked up over Andy not treating him like much of a friend and when they hit the parking lot they see a group of guys advancing on a car. Neil sends Penny back in to call the cops while he runs to help.

  • When Neil recognizes the car as Andy's father's, he freezes. This gives Charlie and co time to drag Andy from the car and proceed to beat him into unconsciousness before Neil reaches them.

  • Andy refuses to stay in the hospital even though he's been beaten pretty badly. He also can't/won't tell the cops who beat him up, though he genuinely doesn't know Neil took a shot.

  • Penny spends the weekend trying to get ahold of Neil who left her behind in his hurry to run far away. She assumed he went to get help, too.

  • Jessica starts a petition to denounce the attack and to show that the students of SVH are on Andy's side. Penny is the first to sign.

  • Jessica and Liz apparently only share Chemistry and French classes.

  • Jess takes sociology along with Cara, Amy, Winston, Maria Santelli, and Ken.

  • Ms. Jacobi teaches sociology.

  • Ms. Jacobi ends the Light Eyes Experiment with five minutes left in class so they can discuss what just happened.

  • Winston, one of the dark eyes, thought he wouldn't want to be mean but he got into it and that freaks him out.

  • Neil's father treats him to a USC football game and during halftime congratulates his son on beating Andy up.

  • Andy's mother is a night owl.

  • Aaron thinks that "girls get all the breaks. Always!" Aaron Dallas is a tool.

  • Ken doesn't think girls should play football but Olivia has him agree that a girl could be a good sprinter, good at strategy, and oh yes, good at throwing the ball... what more does a QB need? Ken's unable to come up with a good reply to that.

  • Neil confesses his part in Andy's attack at lunch right after the awards ceremony. He waits until everyone else leaves except for Penny and Andy.

  • Andy leaves without a word.

  • After confessing, Neil winds up in his car, just staring off into space where Liz finds him when she heads off to take the galleys to the printer (skipping study hall) and she offers a bit of advice.

  • Neil's driving by the school again later once school has let out and sees Andy and his horn crossing the football field as Charlie and his goons are approaching from the other side.

  • Crunch McAllister is the one to talk Charlie down from the beating.

  • Scott Trost is failing two of his classes and is about to be suspended from the football team, leaving Penny and Liz to wonder whether mystery girl will try out and if so, how it'll go since everyone just assumed Ken would take back his place on the team when he was fully healed.

Elizabeth, her identical twin sister, was not overly concerned. Jessica made an average of six melodramatic statements every day. - We start off so strong and it goes so quickly off the rails, p1

"What is this stuff, anyway?" Neil joked. He held up a bottle of slimy-looking liquid. "I don't even want to say what this looks like." - Oh, please, enlighten us, Neil. p7

Neil looked away. "Haven't you ever done something you wish you hadn't?" he asked in a low voice. "Something that made you hate yourself?" p127

Race Relations at SVH:
"I heard you got picked out for a special prize because you're black."
Andy's jaw muscles tensed. "I heard it was because I earned it." - fuck off, Cashman. p31

He groped for the right words but couldn't seem to find them. "Think-think of how Martin Luther King, Jr., would react to a situation like this-"
"Who do you think you are?" Andy gasped. "Don't talk to me about Dr. King!" - don't do it, Neil. Just don't fucking do it. p38

Andy's been treating me like dirt, he thought indignantly. He thinks he's better than anyone. He acts like since he's black, everyone else is wrong, never him. - With friends like these... p76

"Listen, about the way I've been acting lately. I've been lying here thinking, and I realized that jerk Charlie got me so confused I was being as much of a racist as he was. I know we're friends and I was a fool not to appreciate you. It doesn't matter what color either of us is." - Words, I don't have them, Andy. p100

Liz Muses on Important Issues:
"Don't you feel like some people get more privileges than other people, just because of who they are?" she asked her sister. -baby's first brush with white privilege as a concept.
"So in other words, people who are good looking and rich get extra, is that what you're saying?" Elizabeth demanded hotly. - by George, I think she's got it. p46
"Didn't it ever occur to you that if we're fortunate, that means we have a responsibility to make sure other people are treated fairly?" - We have a winner, folks! p47
"We should also have some kind of racism awareness program," she mused. "I think it's really important. Most racism isn't even as obvious as beating someone up." p86

Elizabeth felt a surge of warmth when she looked at her friends. They all wanted to reassure Andy that they liked him. And it wasn't just because of his race. That would be reverse discrimination, which would be just as bad. - Sweet mother of mercy, I still don't have the words. p109

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   Basically this is the book where almost every dude comes across as an ass. Neil? Duh. Andy? Yup. Charlie? Was there any doubt? But the B plot takes out Aaron, which wasn't that hard, honestly. Ken's kinda terrible when confronted about how boy's sports get way more attention than girl's and how a girl QB wouldn't be the worst thing ever and even Todd's .04 seconds of screen time doesn't keep him from putting his foot in his mouth either.
  It also has a weird cafeteria moment where characters we really haven't seen since their B-list spotlight books appear to just be hanging out with Liz and company like it's a normal thing. How often do you remember me mentioning Liz having lunch with Manuel and Sandy? And Jade Wu, who is always referred to as Jade Wu? Yeah. I thought so. It's just weird and like the powers that be had to point out that we do have a couple of non-white students roaming the halls of SVH.
  I feel like they tried with this, but it comes across as very After School Special and that's pretty much never a compliment. Liz gets some good lines but they're essentially buried under an entire book of cringe and nothing you can say is going to have me believe that Andy's going to say that him being a dick to Neil was being just as much of a racist as Charlie. Just... no.
  Also, you know who is conspicuously absent? Lila. That's probably for the best as her track record ain't great. It's why Jessica's reactions ring kind of hollow. On the one hand, I cheer when Jess is the first person to suggest a petition to support Andy and denounce his attackers, but on the other... Jessica, you and Lila got away with a lot at the start of the series.
  Ultimately, there are some things I think the book manages to get right and then, well... bless its little heart, but it tries and fails in a lot of the ways you imagine, though not all of them.

  I leave you with an image I suspect will haunt Neil for quite a long time.
Andy looked away. He looked tired and sad and most of all, alone. "Why's it so hard?"