nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Wrong Kind of Girl

Nostalgic Reads

Wrong Kind of GirlTitle: Wrong Kind of Girl

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #10

Blurb: Jessica’s at it again!

Jessica Wakefield has sworn never to allow Annie Whitman onto the Sweet Valley High cheering squad. Annie may have the beauty, talent, and spirit to be a cheerleader, but she also has the worst reputation in school. She goes out with a different boy every night, and all the kids call her “Easy Annie” behind her back. Jessica’s pulling every devilish trick to keep Annie from ruining the cheerleaders’ image.

Only Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, knows what Annie’s really like. But can she change her sister’s mind before Jessica shatters Annie’s dreams?

Review: On a very special episode of Sweet Valley High . . .

Yeah, this is one of the ones that tried to take on some very serious subjects. Did they succeed? I would say that they mostly did. This book dealt with the dangers of gossip and bullying, and has a suicide attempt as a result of said bullying. As such, this is probably one of the more darker story lines in the series.

It’s also a case of Jessica being the world’s worst person, this time focusing her horribleness on Annie Whitman, a sophomore who is desperately trying to change her life. One of the ways she is doing this is trying out for the cheerleading squad. She is desperate. It is the key to everything. But Jessica, being Jessica, doesn’t think Annie is “good enough” for them. Annie has a bit of a reputation around school as being “easy.” She likes the boys. A lot. Often bad boys, including Rick Andover, the drunk who had nearly sexually assaulted Jessica in the first book.

Part of Annie’s backstory is that her mother was a teen mom and raised Annie by herself. Her mom is absent most of the time and often drinks heavily. She also has a live-in boyfriend who gives Elizabeth the creeps.

Let’s be honest. Jessica is no position to call any girl “easy” with the number of guys she’s pursued. In fact, one of the  guys that Annie nabs in this book was one that Jessica had her eye on for a while, which didn’t help the situation at all. Jessica is afraid that the whole cheerleading squad will be tainted by Annie’s reputation and proceeds to slut-shame Annie to the other cheerleaders so that they won’t allow her to join. Which is a completely hypocritical, because Annie is an amazing cheerleader! She’s also been trying to get better grades, after being tutored by Elizabeth, who also tries to convince Jessica to change her mind. Which doesn’t work.

When Annie doesn’t get on the cheerleading squad, she swallows a bunch of pills in an attempt to kill herself. The cheerleader’s manager, Ricky Capaldo, a somewhat geeky guy with a heart of gold, has taken a liking to Annie and, knowing how devastated she was, goes to her apartment to check on her. He finds her unconscious and calls the ambulance. He also calls the Wakefields. Jessica realizes how awful she is, for at least a split second, and spends several nights at the hospital, along with Elizabeth and Ricky, trying to talk to Annie and get her to wake up. Which she finally does. Jessica lets her on the cheerleading squad and everyone is happy again.

So does this book adequately tackle these issues? I think it does, in an 80’s/early 90s sitcom way. Because of the format, it does have to wrap up things pretty quickly, but it does impart the seriousness of the situations at hand, which I think is a good thing. This was one of the story lines I actually remembered from reading it back when I was a teenager. So I guess it was good enough to have stuck with me.

Set up for the next book includes the mysterious Suzanne Devlin coming to stay with the Wakefields. The daughter of an American diplomat, Suzanne has lived all over the world. In addition to that, one of the twins will get to stay in New York while Suzanne stays with their family. Which one will they choose?

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Racing Hearts

Nostalgic Reads

racing heartsTitle: Racing Hearts

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #9

Blurb: “Love on the run…”

Roger Barrett has always had a hopeless crush on glamorous, wealthy Lila Fowler. The only attention Lila ever pays to him, though, is to make fun of him in front of her friends. But why shouldn’t she, he thinks. After all, he’s clumsy and shy and works secretly as a janitor after school.

When Roger wins the qualifying heat for a big race, he becomes a school celebrity overnight. And to his surprise, even Lila starts to chase after him. But Roger knows if he runs in the race finals, he’ll lose his job. Will Lila still notice him when he’s no longer a star?

Review: This may be the first book so far where Jessica is actually not terrible! Hooray!

Roger Barrett is sad and awkward and totally crushing on Lila Fowler, the richest girl in school. Roger is also super poor because his mom is sick and his dad is a drunk. There is a big event coming up – a race called “the Bart.” Lila shames Roger into running, which he does, enduring ridicule from Bruce Patman for it. Bruce is also running and exists purely to be a jerk to anyone and everyone around him.

But hey! Roger wins! And Jessica convinces Lila that Roger will be popular now after his impressive run, so Lila gives him a chance, much to the disappointment of Olivia Davidson, Roger’s best friend who has been harboring a secret crush on him. The other problem is that Roger has an after school job to help support his family – he can’t spend time training for a race!

Roger enjoys Lila’s attentions, but can’t keep up the charade. He tells her he can’t run, along with the reason why, and she is none too happy about it. But wait! Somehow Roger’s mean boss, who Roger was sure would never give him the time off to compete, is now totally cool with it and called the school to tell them that. Yay!

Roger also realizes that Olivia is his true love, the one who has been there all along. Double yay!

The day of the race arrives and it’s a close one. Lots of competition from other schools, but Roger wins the day! He also wins a full scholarship to Sweet Valley College. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy. Of course, all the attention has perked Lila’s interest again. She convinces herself that Roger made up the story about having a job and a mean boss. She is shocked when Roger turns down the invitation to Lila’s after party in his honor. Roger loves Olivia and that’s that.

Our subplot is that Jessica has come up with the idea that she wants to get serious. She wants to work part-time after school at her dad’s law firm and be a lawyer when she grows up. The shine of a new job wears off quickly, but then Jessica meets Dennis, who works for his father in the same building. They hang out after work, but Dennis won’t take her anywhere else. Why? Turns out he’s only 15 and has been lying about his age. Jessica isn’t interested after that.

There’s also a thing about Coach Schultz, who the students think is retiring because he has cancer, but that rumor isn’t true. He’s fine.

The set up for the next book involves Annie Whitman, a girl known for being “easy” who wants to join the cheerleadering squad. Jessica doesn’t want her there. I guess we’ll see what happens next!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads -Heart Breaker

Nostalgic Reads

412360Title: Heart Breaker

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate Willliam

Series: Sweet Valley High #8

Blurb: The surf’s up in Sweet Valley, and gorgeous Jessica Wakefield is making a big splash with Bill Chase, the hottest surfer in town. But after she tricks him into falling madly in love with her, she ignores him completely.

To complicate matters, shy, quiet DeeDee Gordon is also after Bill. But Jessica has the upper hand. If Bill even looks at DeeDee, Hurricane Jessica blows him off his board and back into her arms. Can Bill escape Jessica’s undertow, or is he in over his head?

Review: Ugh. This is another one where Jessica is the absolute worst person. Come on, all you 80s girls, answer this for me: why did we like this character?

You can’t help but feel sorry for Bill in this story. He’s very shy, very quiet. Likes to surf and . . . not much else. Spends a lot of time alone out on the waves. He also can’t help himself around Jessica. She leads him on, mostly because she can’t forgive him for turning down her invitation to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. Jessica does not handle rejection at all and is determined to make him pay. Mind you, they were never really dating. It’s not like she was all emotionally invested, they were boyfriend/girlfriend, and then he broke her heart. Bill is absolutely enthralled with Jessica, and she ignores him completely. Or worse than that. She takes advantage of his adoration, gets him to do things for her, and then treats him like dirt. And when a nice girl like DeeDee Gordon shows interest in Bill, Jessica does whatever she can to get the spotlight back on herself so that Bill can’t look away.

Another tragic thing about Bill? His previous girlfriend, Julianne, who was also a surfer and absolutely perfect for him, had died in a car crash before he moved to Sweet Valley. Part of his attraction to the Wakefield girls (he had a crush on Liz first, before falling head over heels for Jessica) was their physical resemblance to Julianne. Which is why he turned Jessica down at first — he was too shocked and still grieving.

Granted, Jessica doesn’t know this bit of background information when she starts messing with Bill’s mind, and I would like to think that she would never have treated him the way she did if she had known. She’s not a complete monster.

Side note: DeeDee’s father is a Hollywood agent. Jessica and Bill are playing the leads in a school play, and when DeeDee’s father drops in for rehearsal, there is a rumor that he thinks one of the actors has true star potential. Jessica spends the entire time absolutely positive that it’s her — and it’s not. It’s Bill. Hahahahaha.

There’s also a little trouble in paradise – Liz and Todd paradise, to be exact. An old friend of Todd’s — a beautiful, female old friend, mind you — moves back to town and make Lizzie all kinds of jealous. True, Todd and Patsy Webber used to date a while back, but they say that they are just friends now. Also, Patsy just came back from living in Paris, which makes Liz feel even worse about her boring self in comparison. As much as I really hate Jessica’s constant preening about how awesome she is, I really don’t like how insecure Elizabeth is about pretty much everything. She’s just as beautiful as Jessica is (identical twins, hello!) and is way smarter, not to mention nicer and an all-around better person. But she’s also always worried about Todd and letting other people walk all over her. Sigh. Luckily, this time there was nothing to worry about. Todd and Patsy are just friends and Todd is still madly in love with Liz.

Bill ends up with DeeDee, Todd and Liz are back together and happy, but there’s one other loose end here — Roger Barrett. Liz finds out that he is actually working nights and weekends as a janitor to help his parents pay for things. He also has a crush on Lila Fowler, the richest girl in school. The set up at the end of this one hints that something might happen between the two of them in the next book, so I guess we shall see. That would definitely be a case of opposites attract!

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 – 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:

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

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.