Welcome back to another Nostalgic Reads! Today we go back to that perfect, perfect town of Sweet Valley, California and the beautiful people who live there.
About the Book
Title: Head Over Heels
Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William
Series: Sweet Valley High #18
First Published: March 1, 1985
Blurb: Bruce Patman and Regina Morrow in love? No one at Sweet Valley High can believe it. Regina is beautiful and shy, one of the nicest girls at school. Bruce is a real snob, and the only person he’s ever cared about is himself.
Jessica Wakefield figures the romance can’t last. She knows Bruce too well. She’s even willing to bet Lila Fowler that Bruce and Regina break up within two weeks. The stakes are high, and Jessica can’t afford to lose. If she has her way, Regina and Bruce won’t be happy for long.
So many things about this book make me unhappy and uncomfortable. I honestly can’t remember if I felt the same way back when I read it when I was 13 or not, but reading some of this with modern eyes is just . . . a lot.
Let’s get the simpler one out of the way: why did we have to give Bruce Patman a redemption arc? Why? He’s a slimy rich boy who thinks he deserves everything in the world because of who his family is. He’s been horrible for years and, if I remember correctly, will go right back to being horrible in later books in the series. Why try to paint him as this changed man when the only reason he has changed is because he’s dating an actual nice girl who he wouldn’t have given the time of day if she wasn’t as rich as he was?
Ugh. I will never like Bruce, no matter what you do to show he has changed his ways. NEVER.
So now, let’s move on to the meat of the story and what made me super uncomfortable to read. Regina Morrow. The beautiful new girl who is deaf but has learned to read lips so well that her deafness hardly ever presents any sort of challenge in her life and is usually only mentioned in passing when she is introduced in a new story. Everything about the way they write about Regina feels so ableist now. I don’t think it was meant that way, in fact she was probably written into the series to be more inclusive, maybe? This was back in the 80s, so who knows.
Regina is given the chance to have a procedure done that might “cure” her deafness, which she has had since birth. The problem is that the doctor is in Switzerland and the whole thing will take a year. Regina does not want to go away for a year, mostly because of Bruce. Her parents don’t try to pressure her and say that it is her decision, but here’s the thing – I totally get why she doesn’t want to go. Regina talks about how she had to be in special schools for a long time and now that they’ve moved to Sweet Valley, she’s gotten to go to a regular high school, make the best friends ever (even though she’s been there for what, a few months? time acts weird in Sweet Valley), and fallen in love. Of course she doesn’t want to leave!
Here’s where the argument kind of falls apart. Ever since Regina was introduced, her deafness was presented as just another detail about her. As I said before, she hardly ever seems to struggle with it at this point in her life because she has learned how to make things work. The story also goes on an on about how perfect Regina is, from being beautiful to being the sweetest girl imaginable to being a good student to being a good friend. Why should she have to change? Part of it boils down to her mother, Skye, feeling guilty because she caused Regina’s deafness when she was pregnant because of some sort of medication she was taking. Which, okay sure, there are plenty of things that moms feel guilty about with their kids (I feel that way about my kids all the time, hoping that I’m being a good enough mom), but Skye suddenly feels completely better once Regina decides to go to Switzerland.
I can’t speak for the deaf community, obviously, but the whole storyline based around other people wanting to change Regina into their version of normal just seemed icky. Yes, it was ultimately Regina’s decision to go, but painting her as someone who needs to be fixed . . . it just felt wrong. Again, this was the 80s, but still. A big nope from me.
The side plot of Jessica trying to break up Bruce and Regina was just as ridiculous as you would think. The “high stakes” mentioned in the blurb was merely the fact that Jessica doesn’t want to write a term paper and if she wins the bet, Lila will have to write hers. Jessica does technically win the bet since Bruce and Regina sort of break up (although Bruce slipped Regina a letter into her bag for her to see after she was already on the plane and they will probably be together again once Regina comes back), but this backfires on Jessica so spectacularly when Lila puts zero effort in Jessica’s paper, netting Jess a D. Not going to cry for Jessica here – what did she expect after making a bet with someone as nefarious as she is? I wouldn’t trust Lila with anything, so Jessica definitely gets what she deserves.
Set up for the next book: something to do with Lila and the hunky hunky construction worker that is doing something at her father’s office building.
Categories: nostalgic reads