Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ms. Ayala if you're nasty.

#35, Secret Admirer

Tagline: "Who is Penny's secret love?" At first, when I read that, I thought it said "secret lover." And I was all, "OH SNAP! There's going to be boob-touching in this book!" But there is not. Alas.

So I think Penny Ayala might be the most well-adjusted and genuinely coolest person at SVH. Evidence?
  • If you ignore the pleated pants, ugly watch, man's belt, and shitty red headband, she actually looks all right on the cover. What I mean to say is that I like her shirt. It's an Oxford that appears to have Dolman sleeves, and I am intrigued.
  • Instead of sitting around weeping about the fact that she doesn't have a boyfriend, Penny actually *gasp* does something about it. I mean, in this case it's running a personal ad in the Oracle which pretty much guarantees you'll be dating some tertiary character like Aaron Dallas or Tad Johnson. And it's also kind of like issuing an engraved invitation to Elizabeth Wakefield that says Penny Ayala cordially requests the honor of the presence of your nose in her business. Still, points for proactivity!
  • "I know I turn boys off," says Penny. "They just don't like serious students, I guess. And frankly, I can't see pretending to be something I'm not just to snag one." Jessica Wakefield, walking past the Oracle office at that exact moment fell down in a dead faint, hearing those words.
  • The ad Penny writes for herself reads thusly: "The ideal candidate will have a doctorate in Australian theology, love caves, and speak Urdu. If you're looking for a girl who giggles, don't bother to respond. I'm strictly the guffaw type." Aw. The ghostwriter is trying his hand at irony, and it is working. I want to rescue poor Penny, spirit her away to Brooklyn, dress her in Urban Outfitters, and pierce her nose. FREE PENNY!
So because Penny is smart and thinks for herself, the SVH kids must destroy her, a la Claire Middleton. In this case, a group of guys make up a fictitious dude named Jamie and have him answer Penny's letter. The culprits are Kirk Anderson, Michael Harris, Chad Ticknor and Ron Reese. Um, who are the last two? Do they even go to SVH? Will we ever hear of them again? No. So no matter. Oh, and Neil Freemount is involved, too; you remember Neil, right? He punched his black friend in the stomach because Charlie Cashman told him to? Yeah, Neil's a catch. And he's the one Penny gets, in the end. Penny falls in love with Jamie through his letters, and is utterly destroyed and vulnerable when "he" stands her up. But it's OK. Because in the process of cruelly bullying her, Neil falls in love with Penny, and whatever, every smart girl needs to date one asshole in her life. When Penny's a film studies major at NYU she can make a short film about this experience.

In B-plot news, Lila and Jessica have officially dated every boy at SVH and so they run personal ads to find fresh meat. They compete to find the awesomest date to bring to the upcoming Spring Fling dance.

Here's Lila's ad:

Glamorous, sophisticated, mature high school girl looking for someone with the right stuff. I like fast cars, caviar, and the Caribbean. Don't talk to me about committment--I'm looking for excitement, not a bridge partner. If you can keep up with me, I want you. Kids need not apply.

And here's Jessica's. With extra annotation. I love footnotes.

Are you devastatingly handsome?[1] Are you romantic and wild?[2] Do you like girls who aren't afraid of danger?[3] Are you the type of guy who goes for what he wants?[4] Are you in college?[5] If you answered YES to ALL the questions, drop me a line.

[1] Meaning, do you look like this? Or this? Or this?

[2] "Extra points if you are a stalker."

[3] Because there's going to be plenty of it.

[4] It's like she wants to attract a date rapist.

[5] Seriously? You're running this ad in a HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER.

Anyway, Jessica and Lila end up dating the same guy, who's name is John Karger, which sounds to me like a serious serial-killer name. But John turns out to be totally awesome. He's only dating both of them because he is writing a paper on personal ads for his sociology class. He asks Jess and Li both to meet him at the beach and breaks the news to them. They're also wearing matching leopard-print bikinis when this happens.

The leopard print bikini is actually Jessica's second bikini of the book. Her other one is white. And it's a string bikini, of course. Honestly, I think if you went through Jessica's closet and tallied up what fabrics her wardrobe was made of, it would look like this, in the end:

Friday, February 19, 2010

The one where we learn that eating disorders can make you popular.

#4, Power Play

Tagline: "The Wakefield twins have taken sides--against each other!" What I would pay to see that cage match.

Dear Wakefield twins,

Help! A fat girl wants to join the prestigious, snobby sorority at my HIGH SCHOOL. What should I do?


Dear Ew!,

I think it's pretty obvio what you have to do, here. You pretty much have to tell the Fattie that you'll vote for her, if you want her to keep running errands and doing your homework for you. Then, when it comes time to vote, blackball her. You can't have fatties in your sorority. People will think you're fat, too! Don't worry about lying and being mean and stuff. Remember: you're pretty!

And just a word to the wise: if, by some chance, Robin Wilson--er, I mean, "the fat girl," gets all skinny in the course of two weeks and then tries to join your cheerleading squad, you have to do all you can to keep her off of it, too. She might be skinny now, but she was fat once. And now she's hungry, so she might eat you. And then beat you out for the prestigious title of Miss Sweet Valley High, which we will never, ever, after this episode discuss again, because apparently it's not THAT prestigious.

Luv & kisses!

PS: Remember the time Lila Fowler was a shoplifter because her parents don't love her, but everybody thought I was, because she foisted all of her stolen loot on me? Yeah. I do, too. Good times!

(PPS: Cara, is that you???)

Dear Ew!,

Please don't listen to anything my sister says. You must do everything I tell you, instead, because I am perfect, and always right.

Even if you know your sister is going to blackball the fat girl from the sorority, don't tell her about it. If it comes as a shock to her she'll be too crushed to eat, get skinny, and then she will be popular. Problem solved! I'm a genius, right? Mr. Collins thinks so.

Remember: when all else fails, a sympathetic shoulder pat or two can go a long way to healing a bereft soul.

With fondest regards,
Elizabeth Wakefield.

What they wore:

So Robin Wilson is fat and has to wear a lot of tent dresses. We don't get a lot of information about how they look, but I think we can imply that they are shabby, since one Robin wears early on is described as drab. Also, because of the fact that everybody knows fat people don't get to wear nice clothes. So these tent dresses of Robin's, they're ugly. She even wears one to the school dance. Because apparently when you're overweight the fat goes to your brain and clogs up your neural synapses, so that you can't judge the appropriate formality of occasions. When Robin gets skinny, Pascal's ghostwriter allows her to graduate up to designer jeans, a rainbow top, and a new hairstyle. So I guess all's well that end's well. As a sign of Robin's newfound popularity, the Chemistry Club names it's new formula the Robin Reaction. Which would have been the kiss of death for you, forever, at my school.

So as part of the Pi Beta hazing, Jessica the Evil Whorebitch makes the fat girl wear a bikini to the beach. "Do you have a bikini, Robin?"Elizabeth asks gently. "Well, it's a two-piece that's too small, so it looks like a bikini." Oh, Robin.

Here are the things Lila Fowlers shoplifts for Jessica: a sapphire-blue silk scarf, a pair of "carefully detailed" butterfly earrings dangling on a delicate gold chains, a gold bracelet, and a gold ring "magnificently crafted, with an Egyptian pharoah's head carved on it." As opposed to, you know, a German pharoah. #1, that's a lot of gold, and #2, below is a picture of what Lila would have looked like wearing all her flashy loot:

Elizabeth the Ace Reporter finally figures out that Lila is shoplifting because she notices her dressing more and more wildly, wearing elaborate jewelry and extremely flashy clothes. One such outfit includes "bright green skintight pants and a loose striped blouse that looked as though it could accomodate two people." Which doesn't really sound so telling to me. I mean, by that same logic, Dana Larsen of the Droids is a cat burglar and Claudia Kishi, a child murderer. Watch out Stoneybrook! There's a killer in your midst!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jessica Alba shows up to the Valentines Day premiere--and ruins a gorgeous Proenza Schouler dress--with Enid Rollins hair:

At least Enid's is brushed.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The one with the silver ski suit.

Super Special: Winter Carnival

"A winter wonderland..." My hometown is currently buried under two feet of snow, so I get this. I love the snow! It's so pretty and spangly and clean looking, and I don't have to go to school tomorrow! I am in love with the snow, even though I know it will soon turn black with car exhaust. My only stipulation is that it had better not knock my power out. If that happens, the snow will go from being my beloved friend to my ENEMY. The snow will become my Amy Sutton.

Speaking of Amy Sutton, she's in this book because we're zooming ahead in honor of the snow. I was going to save this super edition until next winter so it would be topical, and chronologically placed, but with all the global warming going on who knows if this will happen again?

Anyway, Amy is back in the SV but she's Jessica's friend now and likes boys and makeup. Todd has moved to Vermont, so Liz is dating Jeffrey French. One of these days I am going to post a head to head: Todd v. Jeffrey, and we can debate the pros and cons of the Elizabeth Wakefield Boyfriend Struggle. Oh, and Jessica is still a total bitch. Now you have all the backstory you need!

Jessica's bitchitude, in this book, takes the form of her stealing Elizabeth's slot on a new teen trivia show in order to meet hot dudes. Elizabeth feels put out because of that, and also because this essay she wrote about being a twin only got an honorable mention. Also, she makes dinner and does the dishes a lot in this book because Jess is out with her hot trivia boyfriend, David.

There's a winter carnival coming up, and Jeffrey plans to spend it doing lots of intense hand-holding with Liz, but Todd is coming home for a sports banquet for the Sweet Valley equivalent of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program and he wants Liz to be his date, for old times' sake. This causes some strain to Jeff and Liz's relationship, and increases Elizabeth's depression. And then she is driven to the point of suicide by the fact that her mother buys Jessica a silver ski suit to wear at the carnival. Elizabeth realizes, yet again, that she is boring and not a silver ski suit kind of person, and hates it. She has to make do with a navy blue parka.

So things are already bad, and then Jessica goes and fucks everything up even more. Liz is supposed to meet Jeffrey at La Palma canyon so they can discuss their shitty relationship, but Jessica takes the Fiat and Liz is stranded at home. The subtitle of this book should really be, I Can't Wait Until Cell-Phones Are Invented. Because then Liz could just call Jeffrey and tell him she's going to be late. But since she can't, he assumes she doesn't want to be his girlfriend anymore and instead of going and explaining, Elizabeth screams at her sister and then cries a lot.

Jessica, bless her heart, wants to make everything better so she arranges this total cockamamie scheme where forges a note from Liz asking Jeffrey to meet her at the Winter Carnival, so they can hold hands and gaze into each other's eyes, like they planned. But then Jessica doesn't get a chance to tell Elizabeth about the note before they leave, separately, for the carnival at Mont Blanc. Again, a cell, even a Zac Morris style behemoth, could solve all their problems. When Jess arrives at the carnival she runs to Jeffrey and pretends to be Liz, and tells him she's sorry. But Liz sees them and gets the idea that Jessica is into Jeffrey. And again, instead of going and figuring things out, she cries, and gets on the first bus back to Sweet Valley. "I wish I never had a sister," she says, and then she falls asleep.

Cue the Wayne's World sound effects: doodly doo, doodly doo, doodly do0.

The phone rings and Elizabeth wakes up. It's the Sweet Valley police, calling to tell her that Jessica was in an accident on her way back down from Mont Blanc, presumably to catch up with Liz and plead her case. And Jessica is DEAD! The Wakefields are all crying and wailing. "I don't know how any of us is going to survive," Mrs. Wakefield sobs. "We just aren't a family without Jessica!" I wouldn't be able to survive without her, because they are all boring except for Jess, but it's interesting that Mrs. Wakefield hasn't been prepared for this eventuality with all the comas and shipwrecks and kidnappings and various-shady-murder-involved dealings with her daughters prior to this moment. Also surprising? That she remembers she has kids at all, for all the involvement she has with them.

Elizabeth meets up with her friends, who are trying to make her feel better, and Todd and Jeffrey get in a fight over her. And we know this is a dream sequence, right? That's supposed to teach Elizabeth a lesson about how much she loves her sister. But I love how her subconscious just had to throw that scene, of two men fighting over her, in there.

Then Enid walks in in Jessica's silver ski suit to break up the fight, and Elizabeth wakes up. And Jessica is there, in her room! Not dead! Steven has driven her home. Elizabeth explains her dream to them, and Steven asks what might have caused it, and Jessica responds that the twins have been having "a number of misunderstandings lately, most of which are [Jessica's] fault." A few seconds ago Elizabeth was so glad to see her sister, and now she's like, "Most of them?" all bitchy. How quickly we forget.

The twins go back to the winter carnival, and build snowmen, and go to a dance (of course). Liz and Jeffrey get back together and dance at the Snow Ball to a Droids song called "Snow Girl," with lyrics that go,

You took my heart girl, which was made of ice
One look at you and I'm on fire
So let's just listen to our hearts, girl.
Lift up our hearts even higher

And Elizabeth promises herself, the very last line in the book, that she'll "never, ever regret having a twin again." Until the next time.

What they wore: Since this book has as a major plot point the dichotomy between Todd and Jeffrey as Elizabeth's boyfriends, I thought I would point out what Jeffrey is wearing in one scene: he is casually preppy in old faded khaki pants and soft pastel sweaters that looked comfortable and sturdy at the same time. In another scene, he is wearing madras shorts with a sweater tied over his shoulder. Jeffrey sounds like J.Crew catalog circa 1989, doesn't he?

Jessica borrows a mulberry sweater from Elizabeth without asking, and Elizabeth retorts that Enid bought her that sweater for Christmas. Who knew Eeny Rollins had such good taste in sweaters? Mulberry, and all the purples, tend to look better on brunettes, I think, but that could just be my own bias showing because I'm a brunette. But wouldn't it be funny if Enid bought Elizabeth that sweater knowing it would wash her out? All "Hee hee hee, there goes your perfect tan, you biatch!" Enid is oppressed.

We also have the Elizabeth Clothing Paradox explained: "Since her own taste was conservative, it amazed Elizabeth that Jessica borrowed so many of her things. But then, Elizabeth thought, Jessica always liked to appear in new clothes." Thank you, ghostwriter. Although that does sounds a little OCD to me, this habit of Jessica's, of wearing things she doesn't like in order to not wear the same outfit twice. Doesn't it?

I love it when the clothes are actual plot points. In this book, it's the silver ski suit that Mrs. Wakefield buys Jess. It is made of Lycra and spangly and the silver material would fit Jessica like a glove. Amy Sutton gets a matching one in gold, and Cara Walker tells them that they're going to look like robots, and now I have a picture of C-3PO on skis. Anyway, Elizabeth covets this ski suit, and Mrs. Wakefield tells her that she knew you wouldn't go for something like this. Twist the knife! When Jessica offers to loan it to her sister, Elizabeth sighs and says she's fine with her navy blue down ski suit: You're you, and I'm me, and wherever we go people are going to expect me to be on time and to wear navy-blue and they're not going to expect you to do either.Jessica stared at her sister. She couldn't imagine a fate worse than the one Elizabeth was describing for herself. Dammit, people! There is nothing wrong with navy! It is a nice alternative to black!

The height of the B-plot in this book is that Jessica goes on a date with Trivia David to a sushi restaurant and embarasses herself by eating the wasabi whole. She is very eager to look good on the date and impress David's nineteen year old sister Barbara, because their mother owns Bibi's, at the mall! Here is what Jess wears: tight black stirrup pants and an oversize black men's vest over a bright-pink long-sleeved t-shirt, with black ballet flats. Add a bunch of skinny scarves and some coke bloat to the mix, and Jessica will look just like Lindsay Lohan. Barbara's boyfriend Mitch would totally be a douchebag hipster if he were alive today, because he is wearing, to the double date, an oversize Hawaiian shirt with a jewelled pin, and strangely cut linen pants that made him look emaciated. Welcome to the skinny cut on boys era, folks! Also, Mitch is wearing kelly green glasses. I have twenty five pair of glasses, he tells Jessica. I change them to go with what I'm wearing.

When Jessica tries to food Jeffrey into thinking she's Liz, she's wearing a hot pink sweater and white leather boots. And Jeffrey doesn't even notice. Todd never would have fallen for those shenanigans.

For the snow ball, Elizabeth has bought a whole new outfit that's going to be a surprise, and I thought for a minute that Liz might indugle herself, for once, and buy something slinky and Jessica-y. But at the moment of the big reveal, we find Liz is wearing a silver silk dress, with slightly puffy sleeves ending at the elbow, a round neck, and a soft full skirt. The fabric shimmered like ice. This could be cool, and 80's-riffic, although I am leery of the round neck. I love puffed sleeves, though. Anne of Green Gables has brainwashed me in favor of them, forever. But instead of throwing on a black shrug or adding some tights and big jewelry, Elizabeth accessorizes with a small strand of pearls around her neck and tiny silver and pearl earrings. Oh, Liz. Boring is as boring does, you know. Le sigh.

Things I Would Buy if I Were Elizabeth Wakefield:

From top left: J.Crew wool schoolboy blazer; Torero cross-button shirt, Free People; Kimchi Blue Swiss-dot oxfords; Game Point Chinos, Anthropologie; J.Crew party bow elastic.

Just the thing to make Todd swoon at the next pep rally! There is a way to do clean and preppy without looking like your mom.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The one where Todd gets a motorcycle.

#6, Dangerous Love

Tagline: "Are Elizabeth and Todd heading for disaster?" Well--some might call it that. Let's ask Cousin Rexy what he thinks.

So Todd got a motorcycle. For his thirty-fifth birthday. You still look good, Todd! You've got all your hair, and stuff. And your all teeth, presumably.

But despite this, all is not well in Todd's world. You see, his girlfriend Elizabeth isn't allowed to ride his hog (ha!) because her cousin, Rexy, died in a motorcycle accident recently. I love how the ghostwriter feels the need to justify Ned and Alice's parenting decision beyond "You just can't because it is dangerous, and we say so." Who is cousin Rexy? It doesn't matter. We don't ever hear about him again, or get to find out which of Jessica and Elizabeth's collateral relatives were awesome enough to name their child "Rex." And foolish enough to put the -y on the end, so people would forever think he's a girl.

Anyway, Todd Just Doesn't Understand, and he's all pissed, and he even got Elizabeth a pink helmet to wear, but she just won't disobey her parents, what a bitch! Jessica thinks that this rift in the most perfect high school relationship ever should spur Elizabeth to find somebody else. But Elizabeth doesn't want anybody else, so she throws her efforts into helping Enid plan her My Super-Dull Sixteen party and the re-opening of the Dairi Burger, which has been renovated and spiffed up.

Todd paid good money for that pink helmet, though, and it's not going to go to waste, dammit. If Elizabeth won't ride his hog (I can't resist, sorry) there are plenty of girls who will, and he takes them all out, and Elizabeth now is both sad and jealous. Also, have I mentioned that Todd's bike gives him magical powers? Behold: Crunch MacAllister, resident bully, is going to beat up some poor kid who scratched his van, when Todd offers Crunch a ride on his hog (LOLOL) to distract him. "You saved my life," says the kid who was about to get beat up, and to reward Todd's bravery, and motorcycle-owning status, and magical powers, the owner of the Dairi Burger offers to give his girlfriend "a free hot clam special," which cracked me up, because it sounds so dirty. What is wrong with me today? (But that really does sound dirty, right?) Only--oops! He thinks Todd's girlfriend is some girl named Mandy, who was riding on Todd's bike with him. Elizabeth is sad and jealous and hungry.

Strife between Liz and Enid ensues when Enid rides Todd's hog! (I'm going to stop, I promise. Soon.) But Elizabeth still shows up for her birthday party. Jessica goes, too, because she wants to be introduced to Enid's hot cousin, Brian. You know who else has come to this sixteen year old girl's party? Mr. Collins. Their teacher. I swear to God, he is a lawsuit waiting to happen. And then you know when it does he's going to be all, "WHAT? They're my pals." After the first half of the party, which is held at the Sweet Valley Country Club, Scoob and the gang are going to head down to the Caravan, for dancing. Jessica was supposed to give Liz a ride to the club, but Jess has disappeared with the hot cousin, and Liz is stranded...until Todd rolls up on his bike.

At first Liz is like, WTF? How many times do I have to tell you no? But then Todd makes this speech about how he's selling the bike because it has come between him and Liz. Then he sort of suggests that they go for one last ride on it together, and Elizabeth figures that once couldn't hurt, because she has never read a book in this series before. Once is enough. One line of coke? DEAD. Why should one ride on a motorcycle DEATH MACHINE be any different? She gets on the bike, and somewhere the specter of Rexy Wakefield's starts rattling its chains and moaning. Because Liz and Todd crash, of course. Or rather, Crunch MacAllister crashes into them. With his van.

Jessica is making out with the hot cousin when she remembers Liz, and she and Brian go back to get her from the Country Club where Jess left her. But before they can get there, they come across the scene of the crash, and "it doesn't look good" for Todd. Then Jessica sees Elizabeth, and wigs, and you'd think at that moment in her life she learns a lesson about punctuality and reliability, wouldn't you? Yeah. You would.

Jess and her family are at the hospital with Liz, who's in a coma. The Wakefield pere and mere are awesome, here. "She's alive, no thanks to you!" shouts Ned. "You broke your word to us, Todd," says Alice. I would be screaming: YOU LITTLE FUCKING SACK OF SHIT! I NEVER SHOULD HAVE LET MY DAUGHTER DATE A THIRTY-FIVE YEAR OLD! while I strangled the life from his body. But from Ned and Alice, this is pretty rough treatment. Todd feels even worse. Mr. Collins cruises home from Enid's birthday, checks the Tivo, sees there's nothing on, and then moseys on down to the hospital to see what's up. He arrives just in time to hear Steven Wakefield cry out that Liz has taken a turn for the worse! They don't think she's going to make it!

What they wore
: At the start of this book, Elizabeth shows up for school with her hair tied back with a blue ribbon, dressed in jeans, blue oxford shirt, and dark blue blazer. Todd is a loser, and he's not too bright, because does that sound like the type of girl who's going to be super-excited about her boyfriend getting a motorcycle? Also, Liz--that's a lot of blue. There are other colors, you know. Anyway, altogether, it's not a bad outfit. It is much better than the Detective Sipowicz shirt she's wearing on the cover, that makes her look like a linebacker.

Mr. Collins's typical school-day outfit is detailed for us: a blue crewneck sweater, worn with jeans and a tweed jacket. That's not bad, but doesn't it just scream to you that Mr. Collins is the type of dude who tells his students to call him by his first name, and considers himself their friend? I always hated that kind of teacher. My friends don't give me homework, dude.

Now for the party! We don't know what Enid, the birthday girl, is wearing, but we get a paragraph about Jessica's black-and-white satin jumpsuit held in place by two tiny spaghetti straps (noooo!). Her hair is piled atop her head and long black and white earrings [dangle] from her lobes. Jessica looked stunning. Or you know, like newsprint. A pop of color never harmed anybody. By the end of the night, Jess's makeup was streaked, and her satin jumpsuit was heavily wrinkled from the night of sitting by her sister's bedside. And I don't want to sound cruel, but maybe someone could get her something from home to change into? Because satin is really hard to iron. It scorches easily.

And Elizabeth is wearing a hospital gown, because she's in a coma! Uh-oh, uh-oh, it's seeeerious.

This is Courtney Love, out in public. Yeah, I know, I'm trying to forget she exists, too. I'm sorry. But there is a very important question I want to ask Ms. Love. No, not whether or not she is wearing a nightgown under that coat. Or why she suddenly looks a lot like Britney Spears, circa Extra-Crazy. A more important question even than that, which is: Does Olivia Davidson know she's missing a pair of socks? Because I think those were the ones she was wearing that time she used an actual vinyl record as a ponytail holder.