nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Dear Sister

Nostalgic Reads

38601Title: Dear Sister

Author: Francine Pascal / Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #7

Blurb: Sweet Valley is stunned by the news: Beautiful young Elizabeth Wakefield lies in a coma, on the brink of death after a horrible motorcycle accident. Elizabeth’s boyfriend Todd is consumed by guilt; he was driving and escaped unharmed. He feels totally helpless. All he can do is wait for a change in Elizabeth’s condition–a change that might mean the loss of the only girl he’s ever loved.
But no one is more shattered than Elizabeth’s twin, Jessica. As she keeps watch over the silent body of her sister, she’s overwhelmed by despair. Without Elizabeth, can life go on?

Review: See, this is actually really funny, because the blurb for this book doesn’t really go into what the book is about at all. Elizabeth wakes up from the coma in the first few chapters and has relatively few side effects from being in a coma in the first place. What does happen is that Elizabeth starts acting a lot like Jessica – very flirtatious, very wild, shirking responsibilities left and right. Breaks up with Todd and stops hanging out with Enid because they are too boring. Jessica even thinks about how Elizabeth is now acting just like the wrong twin.

Oddly enough, Jessica is annoyed to all hell about Elizabeth’s behavior, even after noting this, but I am guessing that it won’t change how she acts at all in later books.

This is a classic soap opera amnesia story, although Elizabeth doesn’t really lose her memory, just her identity, which is restored with another hit to the head. It’s all a bit goofy, but it’s also really funny watching Jessica attempt to be the responsible twin. She doesn’t like it AT ALL. It’s also a bit funny watching Elizabeth fall head over heels with Bruce Patman, of all people, since she can’t stand him normally. And by funny, I mean really uncomfortable, since Bruce Patman is a terrible human being.

Of course, by the end of the book, Elizabeth is back to normal and makes up with Todd, who forgives her immediately for how she treated him when she was not herself. That sentence is a lot more confusing in a book about twins.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Dangerous Love

Nostalgic Reads

img_0620Title: Dangerous Love

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #6

BlurbThe end of the road for Todd and Elizabeth?

One of the strictest rules in the Wakefield house is “No motorcycles.” Ever since their cousin was killed in a crash, Elizabeth and Jessica have been forbidden to go near them. So when Elizabeth’s boyfriend Todd drives up on a shiny new Yamaha, she knows there’s trouble ahead. She can’t ride Todd’s bike, but other girls can and do. And sight of those girls riding with their arms around Todd is making Elizabeth crazy with jealousy. Todd tells her not to worry, but Elizabeth’s scared of losing him. Will Todd’s new bike drive them apart?

Review: This one is actually a bit tricky for me because I grew up around motorcycles. My parents were part of a motorcycle club and went on rides all the time. My dad had a few different bikes while I was growing up and I got to ride with him many times. I will say that it was a bit scary, especially since I was so small at the time, but my dad was a very good driver and always made sure we were safe.

Did I also know about friends of theirs who got in terrible accidents? Of course. We couldn’t drive by an accident where a motorcycle was involved without worrying that it was someone we knew. I have a cousin who was in a bad motorcycle accident and has been in a wheelchair ever since. But it also bothers me when people just vilify motorcycles all together. Elizabeth even points out the fact that yes, motorcycles can be dangerous, but so are cars – how many people die in car accidents? – and no one gives that a second thought.

But after having a death in the family, it does make sense for the Wakefields to feel super cautious. I get that. It was a tragedy. And Todd is understanding, although I really didn’t like the fact that now he’s offering rides to every other girl at school practically. It makes Elizabeth feel like she can be replaced at any moment.

Oh, and this rule about motorcycles? Pretty much the only rule Jessica actually agrees with. So there’s that.

There’s a ton of drama where Elizabeth gets jealous of girls riding with Todd, but Todd gets jealous when Elizabeth catches a ride with another guy. Seriously, dude, what is she supposed to do? Finally, Todd decides to sell the bike because he doesn’t like it coming between them, which leads Elizabeth to the decision of taking one ride with him. She’s stranded otherwise, or has to wait for Jessica to pick her up. Here’s the thing though – Todd doesn’t have her helmet with him. Didn’t think he’d need it. So they take off, her with no helmet, and that is so unbelievably stupid. You never, never, never do that.

Because these books are super predictable, they in an accident with a drunk driver. Ironically, the same guy Todd was going to sell the bike to. This is the first SVH book that ends on a cliffhanger. Elizabeth is in a coma in the hospital. Her parents initially blame Todd for everything, which Todd does as well. They all come to the conclusion that the choice has been Elizabeth’s to make and she can be pretty headstrong about things. So no one is angry anymore. Just worried that Liz might die.

So this book is taking on a pretty serious situation, one that could have long-lasting consequences. It marks a bit of a change to the silliness and frivolous nature of the previous books.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – The New Girl

Nostalgic Reads

The New GirlTitle: The New Girl

Author: R.L. Stine

Pages: 176

Genre: YA Horror

Blurb: The new girl is as pale as a ghost, blond, and eerily beautiful — and she seems to need him as much as he wants her. Cory Brooks hungers for Anna Corwin’s kisses, drowns in her light blue eyes. He can’t get her out of his mind. He has been loosing sleep, ditching his friends…and everyone has noticed.

Then as suddenly as she came to Shadyside High, Anna disappears. To find a cure for his obsession, Cory must go to Anna’s house on Fear Street — no matter what the consequences.

Anna may be the love of his life … but finding out her secret might mean his death.

Review: Now for something a bit different! A quick departure from Sweet Valley High, we’re taking a trip down Fear Street! I loved these books as a kid, mostly because they were trippy and freaky as hell. A couple of them really spooked me when I was younger.

One thing you can almost always count on with Fear Street is some sort of crazy plot twist. The nice thing about this series is that they are not a continuous story. Each one stands on its own, for the most part, all just taking place in the same small town. There are a few spin-off series (Fear Street Saga, Fear Street Cheerleaders, Fear Street Nights, etc.) that are more connected stories, but for right now we are sticking to the original run.

So this book is pretty short, but it also gets all over the place. The main character, Cory, is a little weird, to be honest. He gets super obsessed with this new girl at school in a relatively short time. The new girl, Anna, is super mysterious and keeps disappearing. Her brother, Brad, is also very strange, and keeps saying that Anna is dead. Cory and is friend Lisa both get threatening phone calls. Lisa even gets a nasty surprise in her locker – a dead cat with a threatening note on it. I don’t remember if I read this particular one as a kid, but that would have really freaked me out.

Some of the Fear Street books have supernatural elements and some are just creepy mysteries. You do spend a good amount of time in this book wondering if Anna is a ghost, if that’s her secret. I’m not going to tell you if she is or isn’t – you’ll have to read the book for that – but the book was actually still pretty enjoyable. It’s funny how dated a lot of this stuff is – Cory makes a call to information to get the phone number for the Corwins’ house. When was the last time a teenager had to do that!

My current plan is to intersperse Fear Street books within my Sweet Valley High readings, just to spice things up a bit. Sweet Valley High is a super long series, so it’s going to take a really long time to get through them all.

Anyone else out there read Fear Street as a kid? What did you think of them?


nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – All Night Long

All Night LongTitle: All Night Long

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #5

Blurb: “Has Jessica gone too far?” Elizabeth Wakefield knows her beautiful twin can handle almost any guy–most boys are just no match for Jessica’s seductive charms. But Scott Daniels, Jessica’s latest love, is more of a man than a boy, much older and much more experienced than anyone Jessica’s ever dated.

When Jessica sneaks off to a college beach party with Scott, Elizabeth’s afraid of what could happen. And when her twin sister isn’t back by morning, Elizabeth’s fear turns to alarm. Why has she stayed out all night long?

Review: I think the day that Jessica Wakefield is actually completely honest about something is the day that the world will come to an end. Seriously, it would be one of the signs of Armageddon. That girl lies about so many things! Now she’s lying about dating a college boy because she knows her parents would not approve. Of course they won’t approve! You’re only sixteen! And Jessica has the nerve to be all kinds of indignant when Elizabeth has a problem with it all.

How on earth did I ever like this character? She is so awful! Also, can we just take a moment and comment on that impressive, snarky mustache on the cover? Is that what we thought screamed “older guy” back in the 80s?

Jessica even admits to herself that she might be in over her head, that some things about Scott make her feel uneasy. Even the college girls they hang out with warn her that Scott might be too much to handle. Warning signs! Red flags! This won’t go well!

The title comes from a party that they go to where Scott refuses to take Jessica home because she won’t have sex with him, this after he brought her to an abandoned boat house and, well, you know what he tried to do. Um, dude, she’s underage. Seriously. Do you want to go to jail? Everyone at the party is hooking up, drinking, smoking pot, and generally making Jessica feel extremely uncomfortable and she’s pretty much stuck there.

Elizabeth is still a doormat, covering for her sister because she just can’t say no to her, ever. She pretends to be Jessica around their mom so that their mom doesn’t suspect that Jessica isn’t there. She even takes a test as “Jessica” at school. It all ends up with her having a big fight with her boyfriend, Todd, over the whole situation because he really doesn’t like Jessica either since she tried to sabotage their relationship from the beginning.

Jessica finds her way back and is so happy at how well Elizabeth covered for her and made her horrible time sound like she came out on top. So Jessica is thrilled and Elizabeth is miserable. As usual. She does get upset because Elizabeth failed the test that she took while pretending to be Jessica, but she gets over it pretty quickly.

The side plot for this one revolves around a surfing competition. Because California. There is a rivalry between Sonny Callahan, the reigning champ, and Bill Chase, who has disappeared over the few days leading up to the competition. Turns out he was just skipping school to practice with his new board, which he had bought from Todd, and ends up winning the contest, with Sonny coming in close second.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Power Play

Nostalgic Reads

Power PlayTitle: Power Play

Authors: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #4

Blurb: Robin Wilson wants to join Pi Beta Alpha, Sweet Valley High’s highly selective sorority. She may not be beautiful or popular, but she’s friendly and smart. So when Elizabeth nominates her for the sorority, Jessica is less than thrilled. She is determined to find a way to keep Robin from Pi Beta.

But Elizabeth is just as determined to make Robin a sorority sister, and the twins become locked in a struggle that develops into the biggest power play at Sweet Valley High. Who will prevail? Which twin will triumph? What happens when sisters go head-to-head?

Review: This is something that I know didn’t really hit me when I read this book back when I was a kid.

So Jessica is president of the Pi Beta Alpha sorority now, because of course she is. And she doesn’t really want Robin Wilson to become a member. Why? Because she’s “a little overweight.” Even Elizabeth, who is supposed to be the nice sister, thinks that Robin should stop eating, as though being skinnier would stop all of her problems. Now, here’s the thing. I spent most of my childhood thinking I was fat. I wasn’t, although I am NOW. I wish I was the size I was back then, especially since I thought a size 8 or size 10 was “fat” at the time. I remember when I read about Robin Wilson thinking to myself that of course she should lose weight. It will solve all her problems, and therefore, it would solve all my problems as well, right?

Wow, how toxic is that train of thought!

Robin wants so desperately to fit in that she wants to join this sort of terrible organization that excludes people not deemed “worthy” enough. Despite being its president, Jessica does not want Robin to be pledged to Pi Beta, so Elizabeth agrees to do it instead. This makes Jessica very, very not happy.

Fat shaming comments:

  • Elizabeth thinking that Robin is “a little overweight. All right, a lot overweight.”
  • Jessica calls her a “tub of lard.”
  • Another Jessica gem: “One look at that shape and they’ll be calling us the Pi Butterball Alphas!”

And this is all in Chapter 1, y’all. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

The entire pledge drive is designed to make Robin feel bad about herself for being overweight: jogging around the track in shorts (while people laugh and heckle her), wearing a bikini to the beach, and asking Bruce Patman out on a date. Which Bruce agrees to do because Elizabeth promises him a bit story in the paper about his tennis prowess, but then he dumps Robin at the dance and humiliates her.

Still Robin makes it to the final vote – in which someone blackballs her, eliminating her from the chance at membership. She is absolutely devastated. She disappears after the vote, feeling completely humiliated, and when she comes back, she’s almost a ghost – not speaking to anyone, keeping her head down. Instead, she turns into a machine, running every day, going on a diet. And she begins losing weight and looking beautiful – even though she was already beautiful before, just a bit bigger than the other girls.

Once she is thin enough, she tries out for the cheerleading squad, another domain of Jessica’s. She has completely changed – lost weight, got more stylish clothes and hairstyle, wears make up now. Even snotty Bruce Patman is impressed. And when she tries out for cheerleading, not only does she make the squad, she gets made co-captain with Jessica!

Now that Robin feels better about herself, she starts to rebuild her friendship with Elizabeth, and recognizes Jessica for the terrible person that she was. She knows that Jessica is the one who blackballed her from Pi Beta and knows that Jessica completely  took advantage of their “friendship” before. Robin just wanted to believe it so badly that she let Jessica walk all over her. It’s sad, really, but Robin is different now.

And bold. There is a contest for the title of Miss Sweet Valley High and competition is fierce. Robin posts the following signs all over school:


It has come to my attention that members of Pi Beta Alpha have forbidden any girl who is not a member to go out for Miss Sweet Valley High. I know all about the PBAs. They blackballed me. I accept their challenge. I ask for your vote.

Robin Wilson

That’s pretty badass. And it works. There is a backlash against PBA for their snobbiness, even though they try to deny it. Robin stands firm . . . and wins the title! Here’s the thing though. She is asked if she has a message for the student body. Her message is:

“Only something we all know but don’t always remember — ‘Know yourself.’ And don’t try to be anyone else.”

Except, Robin, you did try to be someone else. You completely changed everything about who you were to make yourself acceptable to the student body. You are Sandy at the end of Grease, changing completely for all the wrong reasons. It also leads Robin to get back at Bruce Patman and to reject the PBAs when they try to retroactively invite her for membership.

The side story in this one is about Lila Fowler’s mysterious aunt who gives her presents she doesn’t want, so she passes them along to Jessica. Then Elizabeth sees a new store in the mall that sells similar items and the manager says they have had a string of shoplifting happening. Yep, rich and wealthy Lila is stealing. And because Elizabeth tried to investigate, Jessica gets suspected and arrested. Lila finally breaks down and confesses that she did it because her father, who is one of the richest people in Sweet Valley, doesn’t pay one bit of attention to her. She has to go to court, but their lawyer is able to take care of things so that Lila only gets probation.

In conclusion, this particular book is really terrible. It has a horrible message for young girls — if there is anything about yourself that is the least bit off the norm, you must do anything possible to change yourself in order to be accepted. It’s only redeeming quality is that Robin specifically says she’s not starving herself. So no anorexia, yay! But still, change yourself and throw it in the faces of all the people who rejected you. That’s the way to be! Sure, it’s the plot to many teen movies, especially from the 80s, but it’s still bad. Really bad. Although a bit satisfying to see Jessica get so thoroughly defeated. No one deserves it more.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Playing With Fire

Nostalgic Reads

Playing With FireTitlePlaying With Fire

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

SeriesSweet Valley High #3

Blurb: Watch out, Sweet Valley High! Once again, Jessica Wakefield has gotten her way. Fresh from her greatest social triumph, Jessica proceeds to sink her hooks into rich, handsome Bruce Patman, the most eligible, sought-after guy at SVH.

Or has Bruce gotten his hooks into Jessica? Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, notices a big change in her sister. Suddenly Jessica’s following Bruce everywhere and dropping everything just to spend time with him.

Elizabeth doesn’t trust Bruce one bit – he’s arrogant, demanding, and way too fast. Jessica can usually hold her own with any guy, but this time Elizabeth’s afraid her sister may be going too far…

Review: So this one picks up after Jessica won the title of fall queen at the dance, but was stuck with school nerd, Winston Egbert, as her king. She doesn’t want anything to do with Winston, of course. She only has eyes for Bruce Patman, the rich kid who drives a Porsche, but she’s stuck with Winston for all official school activities for the rest of the year, like the dance contest which kicks off this book. Of course, because she’s Jessica, she has to break Winston’s heart just as soon as Bruce shows her the slightest attention and she ends up going to the after party with Bruce instead.

It’s almost karma — the two worst people are together. A match made in heaven, really. Here’s the thing though. Bruce is a bit more . . . more than Jessica is used to. He wants to move faster than she does, or has in the past. For example, at the after party, they are swimming in each others arms and he unties her bikini top. Jessica is used to being the one in control of everything when it comes to guys, but that’s not the case with Bruce. Elizabeth is worried about her sister, but when Jessica tells her to mind her own business, there’s not much that Elizabeth can do.

As time passes, Jessica gets more and more obsessed with Bruce, even more obsessed than she usually is with herself. She cuts class, ditches other plans with friends. And her relationship with Bruce is really toxic. He’s manipulative and mean. They play tennis up at his estate (because of course he lives on an estate) and he gets angry every time Jessica scores. She doesn’t even question him about it – instead, she stops playing to her full potential and throws the match so he can win and be happy.

Elizabeth describes Jessica as “a helpless puppet — and Bruce Patman was pulling all the strings.” Definitely not the Jessica we all love to hate.  He even convinces her to quit the cheerleading squad. In turn, Jessica ends up treating one of her friends, Robin, almost as bad as Bruce is treating her — dropping plans, using her for help at school, foisting Winston off on her. Of course, Jessica doesn’t see it that way, but when does Jessica ever see the way her actions affect other people? It’s almost karma that she is being manipulated as badly by Bruce, but even so, no one deserves to be treated like this.

Bruce finally pushes things too far and Elizabeth helps Jessica see that he had been cheating on her. She breaks up with him, very publicly at the pizza parlor, where she throws gooey pizza on him and dumps a pitcher of soda over his head. She even makes things up with Winston.

There is also a subplot about the rock band at school, the Droids, getting picked up by an agent who promises to break them into the L.A. rock scene. The promise of success drives up tensions between the members of the band and, when their gigs are nothing but dive bars, it doesn’t help matters. The agent turns out to be a dud who only tried to “help” them because he had a thing for their lead singer, Dana.

I can honestly say that I didn’t spend the entire book hating Jessica this time, only because I was worried about her for most of it. I’d like to think she might have learned something, maybe that looks and money aren’t everything, and that she should really give people like Winston or Robin a chance. But this is Jessica we’re talking about, so let’s be honest, it’s not gonna happen.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads: Secrets

Nostalgic Reads

Welcome back to Nostalgic Reads! Today, we head back to Sweet Valley, California.

SecretsTitle: Secrets

Author: Francine Pascal/Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #2

Blurb: Beautiful and ruthless, Jessica Wakefield is determined to be chosen queen of the fall dance at Sweet Valley High. If she can win the contest, she’s sure to win Bruce Patman, the most sought after boy in school.

The only person standing in Jessica’s way is Enid Rollins. When Jessica discovers the truth about Enid’s past, she knows the crown is within her grasp. She doesn’t care that Enid is her twin sister Elizabeth’s best friend or that revealing the secret may cost Enid both her reputation and the boy she loves. Only Elizabeth can save Enid from Jessica’s vicious gossip but can she stop her scheming twin in time?

Review: Oh boy. Jessica is not endearing herself to me at ALL.

I don’t think I fully grasped this book when I was younger. I never really had a boyfriend to speak of when I was in high school, so the desperation to hang onto one was never really there for me. To be honest, I’ve only ever really dated two guys in my life – and I married both of them!

Anyway, the main crux of this book is that Enid Rollins, Elizabeth’s best friend, has a secret. She is pretty straight-laced now, but she used to drink and do drugs with her old boyfriend, George. They got sent to juvie after nearly killing a kid in a drunk driving accident and Enid came out sober. She changed her whole life. Which – good for her. George was sent away to finish school, but he and Enid have kept in touch through letters. In fact, Enid’s letters have helped him clean up his act as well, and since he is coming to town soon, he wants to see her. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Turns out Enid’s current boyfriend, Ronnie, is a jealous, controlling jerk who doesn’t like it if Enid even looks at another guy. Enid is absolutely terrified that he will find out about her horrible past and that she is still in contact with George. First of all, Enid, girl, you need to run. Ronnie is bad news. I don’t care how much you love him, he should not have this much control over your life. Elizabeth thinks that Ronnie should be happy that his girlfriend has worked so hard to improve herself and has been a good and loyal friend to someone who needed help. I agree. He should be. But he’s an ass.

So let’s talk about how awful Jessica is in this book, shall we? She . . .

  •  helps start a rumor about one of their teachers dating a student, which could get that teacher fired.
  • obsesses over wanting to date Bruce Patman just because he’s rich and drives a nice car (otherwise, he’s a jerk too).
  • finds one of George’s letters to Enid and GIVES A COPY TO RONNIE.
  • asks Ronnie out to the school dance after he breaks up with Enid (and only after she finds out that Bruce Patman is taking a college girl) in order to improve her chances of being named prom queen.

There is also a subplot about their French teacher, Ms. Dalton, who is actually dating Lila Fowler’s father, but who the entire school thinks is dating Ken Matthews, the captain of the football team. Sure, Ken clearly has a crush on the teacher, but Ms. Dalton is really nice and would never jeopardize her career that way! And besides, there is always nice Mr. Collins (who looks like a young Robert Redford) who has an interest in her too.

So yeah, Ronnie finds out and is horrible about it. Enid, of course, thinks that Elizabeth is the one who told him because she was the only one who knew (except for Jessica, who found one of the letters that got dropped in Elizabeth’s bedroom). Jessica claims that she is trying to help the situation by going with Ronnie to the dance, but her real motivation is to try and get enough votes to be the prom queen and kick Enid out of the running. Ronnie is on the dance committee, so she thinks this will help.

Elizabeth finds the missing letter on her bedroom floor and immediately figures out what must have happened. Enid gets some advice from Ms. Dalton (who is her favorite teacher) and decides to go the dance alone, but is surprised by George, who shows up to take her. He has cleaned up his act and is now absolutely gorgeous. Of course. They are old friends who have known each other a very long time though, so they immediately fall back into that comfortable relationship. George tells her that her letters were what inspired him to make all the changes in his life and were what helped him keep going. Aw! How sweet! He also asks to take her to the dance, which she immediately agrees.

Jessica gets her comeuppance by the end, of course. Elizabeth always seems to be able to do that, once she finally realizes what her twin is up to. Honestly, she should always just assume that Jess is up to no good. It’s almost always true. Jessica wins the prom queen title, but instead of Bruce winning king (which Jessica assumed, since he is so amazing whatever), she gets . . . Winston Egbert, the school nerd! And as such, she is stuck paired with him for the rest of the semester’s events! Hahahahahaha! All thanks to Liz, who started the rumor that Jessica had a thing for Winston once she found out Jessica was the one who shared Enid’s letters.

Does Jessica learn her lesson? Of course not. She never does. She just comes up with another scheme to catch Bruce, especially after the look they share at the dance.

So to sum up the rest: Enid apologizes to Liz and they are friends again. Ms. Dalton arrives at the dance and shares a dance with Mr. Collins. Ken Matthews, who was supposed to take Lila Fowler to the dance, dumps her when he finds out that she was the one who started the rumor about Ms. Dalton in the first place.

Definitely more cohesive as a whole than the first book (since there aren’t a million plot points). Still don’t like Jessica. Still think Elizabeth is a bit of a naive doormat. How were these two such role models for preteen girls back in the day? But still, an entertaining read after all these years.