Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#3- The Haunted House

Welcome to the first of many books where it's Halloween in the Sweet Valley Twins world. It's my favorite holiday though so I'm always more partial to these books. Anyway, in this one we find the twins and their friends spooked about the old Mercandy mansion. Apparently it's just really run-down and no one ever sees the man and woman who live there ever come out. Until the day Jessica and Elizabeth spot a new girl who's just moved to town. They find her name is Nora Mercandy and she's moving in with her grandparents because her mother has died. Liz and Amy of course become friends with the girl and she's perfectly nice, just a little shy. Jessica and the Unicorns however, decide it's their duty to make Nora's life miserable. Lila in particular is the one who really despises Nora after she beats her in a game of tennis. (Has anyone played tennis like that in middle school?) Not to mention Rick Hunter seems to like Nora and Lila likes him. Don't mess with Lila's crushes and you will learn that to the extreme in SVH. Lila is MEAN in this book. The girls treat Nora as their personal Unicorn slave. To make matters worse Liz and Amy are out of several classes working on the newspaper and they just happen to be the classes they have with Nora. So poor Nora feels completely abandoned because bitch Jessica doesn't tell her why Elizabeth isn't in class. Nora finds out the next day and Elizabeth is furious at Jessica for being a part of the bullying. Of course she doesn't tell anyone though and advises Nora to just wait it out until the Unicorns tire of her. What kind of advice is that?

I forgot to mention the reason why the girls are extra hard on Nora. Nora tried to take a stand and invite the Unicorns over to her house so that she can show them how perfectly nice her family is. The fabulous Bruce Patman meets them on the way and things don't turn out so good. Nora's grandfather comes outside and he's stumbling and speaking incoherently. So what's the reason for him acting this way? Well he's a ZOMBIE of course! Ah, 12 year old kids in the 1980's. Still Elizabeth is supposed to be smart and sensitive and it never crossed her mind that Nora's grandfather obviously had a medical condition? She just runs away when Nora tells her to leave instead of trying to console the poor girl? Ugh.

So Nora follows Liz's wonderful advice and does nothing. The Unicorns decide they haven't made Nora miserable enough yet and change courses. Instead of being mean to her, they'll be nice and gain her trust before they stomp all over her again. Nora falls for it which doesn't surprise me. She's new in town and naive enough to believe them. But Liz shows her smarts again and never suspects that their niceness might be a trick. Really? You could see it coming a mile away. So the Unicorns convince Nora to come dressed as a witch to Lila's Halloween party and sure enough, she gets there and she's humiliated. She runs away back to her house and finds Bruce and his buddies doing some good old-fashioned decorating (Toilet Paper). Liz, meanwhile, has followed her and the rest of the party decided to come too. Liz braves the house first and Jessica does the one good thing in this book and follows her sister inside. The rest come in and find Nora in the attic surrounded by magician's props and then find out that her grandfather actually was a famous magician. Everyone thinks it's so cool and Nora shows the kids a few tricks she's picked up from him. We also find out that her grandfather had a stroke and is NOT a zombie (I know, I was suprised too.) Wanna guess how it ends? Nora is finally accepted by Sweet Valley Middle School and gets a little date from super-cute seventh grader Rick. All is well again.

I always liked this book b/c of Halloween, but re-reading it now kinda bothered me. The bullying was just so mean, and those doing the bullying never get what's coming to them. The whole thing is just dropped by everyone. I know YA fiction does these things, but I don't know.... it just bothered me a little. I mean this girl lost her mother a MONTH ago and then has to deal with bullying? I can't be the only one who's bothered by that.

By the way did I mention Elizabeth and Amy dress up as clowns for Halloween? I found that hilarious as I wouldn't have been caught dead as a clown when I was 12.

So I originally was going to review these books in order but when I went to get my complete collection stored at my mother's house, I found out she had given them to the library a few years ago. I'm trying to get them all back but it's a slow process. So the next post unfortunately won't be #4 and will be picked at random instead from the ones I do have. And yes, I'm still recovering from the loss. Sadly, that news literally ruined my weekend. Aren't I sad?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#2 Teacher's Pet

I remember reading this book and really wanting to take ballet. I begged my mother and she said yes, but 2 days later I lost interest in it, as most kids tend to do. I seem to remember though that I constantly wanted to do what I read in books. I was a pretty shy child so I guess that was my way of trying to fit in. Books and movies made everything so nice, why couldn't I have the same experience? Good thing I got over that and turned out okay as an adult. Then again I saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland the other day and just for a fleeting minute (okay 20) I really wanted to be Alice. Oh well.

Anyway, this one starts off with Jessica and Elizabeth starting ballet classes. I always thought it was weird since Liz didn't seem like the type that would be interested in ballet, but maybe that was just another way she could be close with her sister. They're both in Madame Andre's class, as well as a lot of other girls in their grade. On the first day of class Jessica gets the bright idea that flashy and colorful means she will stand out more. So she puts together a ridiculously colorful outfit, glitter included, and goes prancing out to the room thinking she'll wow Madame Andre upon sight. To her shock and horror, Madame Andre rips her apart for dressing that way and insists all girls must only wear neutral colors and simple leotards. Then she proceeds to praise Elizabeth and ask why she can't dress more like her. Seriously? Madame Andre must not be too bright because you never compare one sister to the other. That's like the ultimate confidence killer and a sure-fire way of creating a lot of jealousy. Then again the series had to hurry and start making Liz perfect in every way or the SVH books wouldn't make sense, would they? Okay, now I get it.

Anyway, Jessica runs away tearful and manages to get herself together to come back to class. Unfortunately she's ruined her chance with Madame Andre, who's now convinced that Elizabeth is the most perfect gift to her ballet class ever. Seriously I don't blame Jessica on this one. Madame Andre goes on and on and on about how perfect Liz's form is and how every move is magical. Gag me. If I had to hear my sister described like that I'd grow up to be a deceitful little witch too. Jessica considers quitting but Mamma Wakefield, still in parent form, convinces her to keep trying and sooner or later the teacher just has to see how good she is. Of course it doesn't work and to make matters worse, Elizabeth seems completely shocked when Jessica has to help with a move. No, you are not perfect Elizabeth.

The main point of the story is the big recital. Jessica wants the part desperately but doesn't think she has a chance with Elizabeth around. So she schemes and tells Liz the time of the audition has changed so she goes out shopping with their mother instead. Of course Liz ends up making it to the audition on time and lands the part. Jessica throws a fit and Liz thinks she's just jealous and doesn't understand. She then has a "lightbulb" moment and realizes Jessica is, in fact, the better dancer and deserves the part. So she pretends to twist her ankle at the last minute, Jessica does the recital and Madame Andre finally realizes her mistake. All is well again. In the Sweet Valley Twins world it usually does. No murder attempts here.

This one was kinda boring to me, but I tend to like the books when more of the other students have stories. Just having Jessica and Elizabeth go back and forth gets a little old. We do hear more about Amy Sutton in this book, and she becomes a major character from now on. Amy is a tomboy who hates the Unicorn club and she's a tougher, un-wimpy Enid Rollins.
So that's it for that one. Next is #3, The Haunted House, which gets more characters involved.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

#1 Best Friends

So it officially begins. My obsession with the Wakefield girls and their perfect life, perfect town and perfect family. I was unusual, I think, in that I started with this series. Most girls my age were already reading Sweet Valley High and never this one. Myself on the other hand, being a little childish for my age, started with the girls' middle school adventures (before continuing on to High, Jr High, Senior Year, University....) What can I say? And off we go.....

Best Friends starts off by introducing us to 12 year old twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. They are both in the 6th grade at Sweet Valley Middle School and start off the book doing exactly the same things. They wear the same clothes, share a room, and pretty much think alike. Or so we think.... it turns out each girl wants to branch out into different things but neither wants to share that with the other. Ahh, childhood. So many of these book's plotlines would be completely gone if only the main characters TALKED to each other! Anyway, Jessica wants to join The Unicorns, a club who's favorite color is purple and is made up of "the most popular and pretty girls in the school". I gave that statement quotations because I never really got that. I always remember thinking some of the girls in the club sounded really ugly, but maybe that was just the bad writing?? Either way that's the Unicorns and Jessica wants to join them. This book introduces us to many of the Unicorns- we meet Janet Howell, Ellen Riteman, Kimberly Haver and best of all..... Lila Fowler!

Lila single-handedly saved Sweet Valley from fading into oblivion. Seriously. She was the best character and never tried to hide her snobby, rich self. The later series SVH Senior Year made a MAJOR mistake in not including much of her.

So Lila lives in a mansion, wears expensive clothes and is one of the newest members of the Unicorn club, along with Ellen Riteman. Jessica is jealous of everything Lila has, so of course she must be a Unicorn also. Janet Howell, the president, wants Jess in the club also. I'll give Jessica credit in this book- she at least tries to get Elizabeth accepted. This was a Jessica before she turned into a major pain, and she seemed to somewhat care about Liz's feelings. So the Unicorns come up with a list of things Jessica must do before she can become one.

So where's Liz through all this? At first Liz doesn't want things to change between the two and decides she also needs to join the Unicorns. She goes to a meeting and nearly falls asleep. She then finds that she really likes to write and she and some of her friends decide to start a 6th grade newspaper. She's all excited about it and thinks it's something Jessica would do with her. Why she thinks that, I don't know. I knew in 4 pages that it wasn't Jessica's scene but Elizabeth knows her all her life and thinks she would? Whatever. Of course Jess doesn't want to and Liz is upset. She gets even more upset when she wakes up one morning and finds that Jess goes to school dressing differently from Elizabeth, something they have never done before. I see some of Jessica's meanness starting with this. I mean, why can't she just talk to her sister about it? It doesn't seem like a big deal to me.

The Unicorns then make Jessica play a prank on Lois Waller, a chubby girl who's considered a major nerd. She's supposed to make Lois eat a shaving cream sundae, which I think is hilarious. Sorry! I know it's mean but hey, at my school a bully/prank would have been a heck of a lot worse than that. Jess doesn't know how she's going to pull it off but then comes up with a brilliant idea. Elizabeth is friendly with Lois so she'll just pretend to be her! Which then starts a LOT of plotlines involving twin switches. Of course Lois believes it's actually Elizabeth and she's mortified and won't talk to her. But never fear!

Everything works out in the end. Liz convinces Lois it was Jessica who actually pulled the prank and they get back at the Unicorns with their own shaving cream sundae. Jess becomes a member of the Unicorns, Liz doesn't but works on the paper, and both end up with their own bedrooms. They realize they'll always be twins but that doesn't mean everything they do has to be the same. Aww....

We also get introduced to Ned and Alice Wakefield before they became parents who didn't care about their children, and Steven, the girls older bother. He's a freshman in high school and pretty cool in this series. He became a jackass in SVH and SVU, but he was a pretty average kid here.
The covers- the original one isn't bad. I actually think the twins look pretty, even if they don't look 12. It's a hell of a lot better than the updated cover that make them look like cartoon characters.

So that's it. I'm not the best writer (SORRY) but I loved these books as a kid and thought there had to be others out there who'd like to talk about them. Next up is #2 Teachers Pet.