Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sweet Valley Twins #20: Playing Hooky

Jessica and Elizabeth are both on the middle school basketball team, though Jessica is a much better player, and the team has a championship game coming up. Kent Kellerman, star of everyone’s favorite TV show is also coming to town, to film scenes for his show. Elizabeth learns from Brooke Dennis that her dad wrote a few episodes of the show and got to be friends with him.

The problem is that she tells Jessica the news, which sets her off. Jess tells Lila and they decide to be super nice to Brooke. Brooke is supposed to write an article for the school newspaper, but the Booster Club needs a new member. They convince Brooke that she’s perfect for the squad and Lila even offers to help train her, provided she get them tickets to the set that day.

Brooke does get them the tickets, but then they discover that filming is during a school day and finishes early in the afternoon. Luckily Caroline Pierce informs them that the gym teacher is out for the week on jury duty. Jess and Lila sneak away to the set and skip school. Liz discovers that the teacher is there after all and runs after them. When they sneak back, the principal sees Liz and assumes she’s Jess, so Jess and Lila get one week’s detention.

Everyone hates Jessica because she has to miss practice and miss the game. She convinces Liz to switch places with her and do her work after school, so she can go to practice. Liz has to interview a famous ballerina and the time/location changes. The principal tells Jess, thinking she’s Liz. Jess tracks down Brooke, who agrees to do the interview, but then Jess gives her the wrong location. The dancer heads out of town and they miss the interview.

This all leads up to the big basketball game. Jessica plays as Liz and of course helps the team win the championship. Brooke invites Liz to her house for a special surprise, which is actually Kent Kellerman. They get to interview him and have it published in the school paper. Liz feels so bad over cutting class that she confesses to her parents and the principal. He gives her the same punishment (cleaning blackboards) and she makes Jessica switch places and do the work for her.

*Middle school basketball is taken WAY too seriously in this book. Even members of the Unicorns won’t talk to her.

*If Jessica is such a superstar basketball player, then why was it never, ever mentioned in Sweet Valley High?

*What kind of world famous ballerina has time in her schedule to talk to middle school kids? She apparently flew to San Diego for several days, which is why they can’t make up the interview.

*I find the whole Kent Kellerman-Mr. Dennis’s relationship kind of creepy. He has to be at least 30-35 and Kent is supposed to be 16. Why exactly would he just randomly be hanging out at his house?

*BTW, playing hooky and skipping school are two completely different things. No one plays hooky in this book, just sneaks away from the school before class starts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sweet Valley High #55: Perfect Shot

Shelly Novak is incredibly tall, has incredibly legs and is really pretty, but she thinks that she’s a freak. She’s long had a crush on her best friend Greg, who taught her how to play basketball and helped make her a huge star on the team. He recently broke up with his girlfriend and she thinks she might have a shot. She keeps talking to her best friend Cathy, who encourages her to try it.

Randomly, a new ballroom dance class is being offered and a ton of SVH students are taking part. Both Jessica and Amy fall in love with Patrick McLean, who teaches the classes and plans on opening a real school when he graduates college in a few months. They naturally become obsessed with him and compete over him, even though he doesn’t really express an interest in either one.

Shelly attends the first lesson and sees Greg with his ex-girlfriend. She winds up dancing with Jim Roberts, a great photographer who is the same height as her and seems to like her. On the walk home with Greg, she gets the nerve up to ask him to the big dance, which honors high school athletes. Greg is uncomfortable and turns it into a joke, saying she’d tower over him and they’d just look silly.

The next day she tells Cathy about what happened and basically how he broke her heart. Luckily Jim is there to make her feel better. He never really noticed her before, but now he kind of digs her. They start spending some time together, but at first it’s just because she thinks it might make Greg jealous. Then she actually starts liking him. The one thing she doesn’t like is that he keeps trying to take her picture and she still thinks she’s ugly.

The local newspaper is hosting a contest for high school photographers, with the winner receiving a brand new video camera. Jeffery asks Liz to help him pick out his entry and they see Jim developing some pictures. One picture of Shelly is amazing and they basically pressure him into entering it in the contest. Olivia sees is and makes a comment to Shelly, who completes flips out.

Shelly goes off on Jim about how he broke his promise to her. He says that he wanted to win, to show her how beautiful she really is, but she won’t hear it. Liz calls her (of course) and tells her how great the picture is. She calls Jim to tell him she’s sorry, but all he says is that he withdrew the entry and hangs up. Mr. Collins conveniently knows the guy running the contest and when she talks to him, he agrees to get the photo back in.

Shelly wants to talk to Jim, but he ignores her and keeps running away from her in the halls. When the winners are announced, Jim wins the grand prize. Shelly apologizes for being a moron, but she still won’t look at the photo. At the urging of her friends, she sees it and she can’t believe how great she looks or that Jim named it “Poetry in Motion”. She sends him a note, signing it with that name and they make up. Greg sees how great Shelly looks and asks her to the dance, but she turns him down because she wants to go with Jim.

Amy and Jessica make a bet over who can get to dance with Patrick first at the dance, with the winner buying the other a new outfit. Jessica goes all out with a brand new dress, thinking Amy will lose. When she gets to the dance, she sees Amy in the exact same dress. To make things worse, Patrick shows up with a super hot woman and thinks the girls just look kind of cute together. Nice to see that someone remembers they are jailbait!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sweet Valley High #53: Second Chance

Kristin Thompson is an ace (hee-hee) tennis player at Sweet Valley High. Her mom was a semi-famous pro player, but settled down a little when she was born. Her parents opened a chain of tennis clubs and then her mom got back into the swing of things (I seriously can’t help myself) and was flying to Wimbledon, when her plane crashed and she died. Kristin kind of keeps this from everyone and keeps to herself.

Liz Wakefield though isn’t deterred by anyone. She and Enid are starting a chapter of Big Sisters in Sweet Valley and one of the girls seems perfect for Kristin, mainly because she loves tennis. Liz suggests Kristin join the group and she isn’t sure because she doesn’t have a lot of time. See, she practices tennis from the moment she gets out of school, until dinner and in the early mornings too. After a three-minute long talk with Liz though, she’s sold on the idea.

When her tennis coach Dorrie has a dentist appointment, she has a whole afternoon to herself. She ends up watching some people heading towards the tennis courts and sees Bruce Patman playing. The other kids want to see her kick his butt…er, play him and she finally agrees. In the middle of the game, she realizes how bad it would look for him to lose to a girl and throws the game. Nice role model! Bruce is so appreciative that he asks her on a date.

The thing is that there’s a huge tournament coming up and she needs to focus. The winner of the tournament gets to train with a world famous tennis coach, become part of his team and compete in the Avery Tournament, which is some huge kind of deal. Kristin should focus all of her energy on that, but no woman can resist Bruce Patman.

Although he’s supposedly changed since Regina, he goes right back to his old methods. He tries wooing her and making himself the center of her life. The night before her tournament, he suggests ice cream and then takes her up the coast for a concert instead. The next day, she plays horribly and almost loses the match. Her dad lectures her on staying out late and acts concerned about her social life.

Then Bruce asks her to be his date at some swanky party thrown by his parents. It’s the night before the final tournament and she knows she should stay home, but goes anyway. Amy thinks she’s his date for the party, even though everyone else knows he asked Kristin. Kristin ends up feeling ignored and neglected, as Bruce spends the whole night dancing with Amy.

At the tournament, Kristin loses to another girl and feels terrible. Dorrie confesses that her mother planned on retiring completely from tennis after Wimbledon because she wanted to spend more time with her family. Kristin wonders if she should do the same thing. She loves tennis, but loves the idea of dating too. Her “little sister” cries to her because she tried out for a big deal tennis camp and failed, so she thinks Kristin won’t like her anymore. Kristin realizes she was acting the same way, makes the little girl feel better and decides to focus all of her energy on tennis and making next year’s team.

When school starts again, Bruce makes a big deal of her ditching him at the party. Kristin goes off on him and puts him in his place. He then proceeds to tell other people that she wasn’t a very good tennis player and he couldn’t date her. Yeah, I bet Amy is better at “indoor sports”. Then Kristin gets a call from the coach. One of the players sprained her ankle and can’t play for a month, so he wants her on the team. Despite wanting a normal life five pages ago, she agrees to be on the team.

Kristin wins her first match, with Liz, Jess, AJ, Jeffery and a bunch of other SVH students watching. Bruce approaches her after, wanting to take her out to celebrate her victory. She once again puts him in his place, pointing out that she has to focus on the important things in life and he isn’t one of them.

Oh and there’s a big essay contest going on where students must write about Sweet Valley in the year 2000. God I feel old now. The winner is named the king/queen of some stupid ball and a gift certificate to the local music store. AJ immediately starts writing his essay and Jessica just thinks about how good she’ll look as the queen by his side.

One more comment: I like when the books try to point out volunteer stuff, but I hate that it’s barely mentioned again! I remember Liz’s little girl pops up in the next book because she takes her to a bookstore and Jessica’s guy/psycho thinks she’s her twin. After that though, the little sister program just disappears completely.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Baby-Sitters Club #92: Mallory’s Christmas Wish

Mallory Pike wants an old-fashioned Christmas this year. After deciding on it, while taking a walk with Jessi, she rushes home and tells her parents her idea. Luckily, everyone in the family agrees. This year, they’ll make cookies, have holiday dinners at home, make gifts for each other and even make their own Christmas decorations.

Vanessa hears on television that the news wants to film an old-fashioned family Christmas and submits her own family. They love the idea so much that they offer the Pike family $10,000 if they open their home to the film cameras. After some careful thought, they decide to do it.

Apparently the Pike family has never seen a reality show before because they hate it almost as soon as it starts. The cameras follow their every move during the holidays and make a huge mess in the process. The film crew wants to add more lights to the house, the director accidentally steps on Pow and they generally make a nuisance of themselves.

At the same time, the local nursing home needs help running a fair to raise money. The BSC volunteers to help price things and (of course) sit for shoppers’ kids. The cameras follow Mallory there and Uncle Joe decides not to have anything to do with their family Christmas because he sees what happens when the camera is around. The cameras also follow them to a tree farm and ruin the experience. First they make Mallory repeat the same conversation over and over again. Then they make the family wait an hour, just to strap a camera to the roof of their car, for a POV shot of the tree.

They also follow the family to the mall, so Claire can see Santa. They promise the family that they can skip the line and go right up front. The manger denies them access and doesn’t even want them filming, so they try to get the family to leave. The kicker comes when they decide to film them opening gifts on Christmas Eve. They keep making them stop and start and Byron throws a fit.

Mr. Pike asks them to leave and they have a serious discussion. No one wants to do the show anymore and when the crew comes back, he tells them to leave. They give them back the check and have their perfect Christmas after all. Even Uncle Joe comes by for a few hours.

*Claire is the only Pike that still believes in Santa and the kids act kind of snotty about it. Considering she’s only five, I’m not sure I get why it’s a big deal. Half that family should still believe!

*Mallory makes a big deal out of the BSC having their Christmas party at her house. She bought everyone a journal, but it really annoys me that there’s no description of what anyone else gave.

*The Pikes do a really cool thing where they make a wish on a slip of paper and draw names. The person who draws your name has to find a way to fulfill your wish. Mallory wishes for the greatest Christmas story ever and Vanessa gives her a blank book, saying it hasn’t been written and to get started.

*Vanessa wishes to be rich and famous, so Adam gets her a fake newspaper that says she was elected president and a stack of fake money. It’s really cute, but not so realistic for a 10 year old boy.

*Claudia’s mom donates library books to the nursing home sale. Yeah, I live in a super small town and even my library has book sales. It’s a good way for the library to make extra money.

*Do we really need to go over the contract thing? You know, how the Pikes can’t just walk away from a contract to do a TV show because they aren’t happy.

*So, the TV show is being filmed this year, but apparently it won’t air until next Christmas. That seems like kind of a waste to me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Friends Forever Super Special: Graduation Day

It’s time for the oldest living middle school students in the world to finally graduation from eighth grade. Even Dawn, Abby, Jessi and Mallory make appearances in this one. I found it a little hard to read because it kept shifting between each member, former members and even the kids they sit for. It didn’t blend as well together, as it does with the BSC super specials.

So Kristy is feeling all out of sorts. She keeps noticing that the other club members are changing and she doesn’t like it one bit. Kristy decides that they need a ton of projects to keep busy with the kids during the summer, before everyone goes off to high school. She’s shocked to learn that Stacey and Claudia both want to cut back on their jobs because Stacey plans on being in NYC a lot and Claudia wants to work on her art. Even Mary Anne wants to stop sitting for the summer and spend some time with Dawn.

The school has a tradition, where students have the option to write a letter to their future self. The school sends the letters back to the kids, when they graduate high school. Kristy works on a bunch of drafts herself, many involving her dad. She finally writes one about the BSC and how it changed her life. She kind of realizes that things are changing, but sometimes change is good.

Stacey spends the whole book freaking out because her dad and Samantha are coming to graduation, as is her mom. The only thing she really cares about is what’s going to happen and worries that they’ll have a fistfight. Of course everyone shows up and gets along fine. She also brushes over her and Claudia’s relationship, thinking that it might work out for the best.

Mary Anne keeps thinking about Logan and feeling bad about their breakup. She says that they talked things over after the breakup and realized it was the right choice, but it still feels unfinished because they don’t talk to each other and ignore each other in the halls. They meet for pizza and don’t get back together, but they do talk things through and she feels better about it. She decides that it’s best for them to go into high school, being able to date other people.

Claudia decides to throw an all BSC party right after graduation. Unfortunately, she has to pass all of her classes first. Stacey tutors her in math, but then she gets a D on her last science assignment, so she has to help her with that too. She gets passing grades in all of her classes, but fails science. The school lets her walk down the aisle with her class, but she has to take summer school and pass science class to get into high school.

Mary Anne is thinking about the letter, when she sits for the Pike family with Mallory. She tells the kids and they want to do something too, so she suggests a time capsule. Then she decides to make a large time capsule with their favorite charges. They bury it in her backyard, with plans to open it when the Pike triplets and other 10 year old charges, are about to graduate high school.

*Claudia’s science project was on what type of music helps a plant grow faster. Did she steal that idea from Charlotte, who did it in one of the earlier books? No wonder she failed, she did an elementary school science fair project!

*SHS supposedly has 1,000 students and I find that really, really hard to believe. Kristy says that kids from other towns and school districts have their own middle schools, but share a junior high. That still seems highly implausible.

*Kristy puts the original BSC flyer in the time capsule, Dawn puts in a copy of the newspaper, Jackie opts for a baseball and Claire donates her favorite teddy bear. They have to dig up the time capsule when Claire flips out that night over losing her bear. I swear that I read this exact storyline before or saw it on TV.

*So Dawn has to send her time capsule item back to Stoneybrook because she won’t be there when they bury it. Yet the next day, she’s there when they dig it up. Plus, she’s there that morning when Mary Anne gets the call from the Pikes. Um, couldn’t they wait like two hours or a single day for her to get back?

*I know that schools let out at different times, but it’s kind of ridiculous in this book. Dawn comes back a few days before graduation and Mallory is back like two weeks before.

*Charlie gets his own letter back from the school, but it’s mainly about his dad leaving. He also has a lot of wishes for his mom, like hoping she meets a good guy.

*The letter writing thing is kind of ridiculous too. What, does no one ever move or change addresses? How would the school track everyone down? Plus, you’re talking about hundreds of letters!

*I don’t know about you guys, but my end to middle school was nothing at all like this. We didn’t do the caps, gowns, tassels, walks , speeches, valedictorian or anything like that until I got to high school. When I finished middle school, I think I got a pat on the back from my parents.

*Jessi got picked to do some special international dance tour with a group from NYC. Yeah, I totally see an 11 year old girl going around the world with a ballet troupe. Speaking of Jessi, she writes about intolerance and how it’s totally affected her life and made things so hard. So says the girl who gets to tour the world.

*All in all, I was kind of disappointed by this book. I kind of wanted to see something more, but it felt rushed and confusing. There was too much back and forth between characters and too much focus on the time capsule. The girls didn’t really even spend a lot of time together until the last chapter. And even then, they only talked about sitting for a few minutes. On the plus side, they agreed to meet up in 12 years, when they all graduate from college. It’s sweet, but Claudia probably needs like 15 years!