Friday, April 19, 2013

Sweet Valley High #88: Love Letters for Sale

Jessica needs to make some fast cash. Not only did she put a CD player for the Jeep on layaway, but she also wants to redecorate her room and get Sam a killer gift for his birthday. Elizabeth wouldn't mind some extra cash either because she wants to get Todd a warm up jacket to thank him for all the nice stuff he does for her. After hearing Lila and Amy whine about writing some letters, she comes up with a new business idea.

Jess asks Liz to help her write letters as a new business plan. Jessica will do all of the leg work, and Liz will write the actual letters. They hang fliers all over town, and Steven even takes some back to college. The way it works is that someone sends them the information and $5. They write the letter and send it back to the person so they can send it along to whoever needs it.

The first few letters are easy. Someone wants them to write a letter to their neighbor because the woman stole her cat, and someone else wants a birthday letter to his father because they're having some problems after his parents' divorce. Then they start getting some rougher letters. Some woman wants them to tell her husband she left town and is never coming back, stuff like that.

While all of this is going on, Shelly Novack pops up to reveal that she's having problems with her boyfriend Jim. He's so busy working on the paper and the yearbook that he never has time for her. Todd starts showing up to all the basketball games to support the girls' team, and he usually ends up talking to Shelly. She wonders if she has feelings for him, and asks the twins' business to write a letter for her.

Since she uses their real names, Jessica immediately flips out. She calls Steven for advice and he suggests that she tell Liz the truth. Instead, she rewrites the letters to take out all of the identifying information and gives that letter to Liz. Liz writes a long and romantic letter that makes Jessica wince, and she ends the letter by asking the guy out on a date.

Naturally, Todd starts feeling lonely and wondering why Liz never comes around anymore. She doesn't want him to know about the business because she wants the jacket to be a surprise, so she just keeps telling him that she's swamped with work. She doesn't do a good job of it either. She'll make plans with him and cancel an hour beforehand, or she'll call him the night before and say she doesn't have time for him.

He plans an elaborate date at home, and she once again cancels at the last minute. Shelly stops by and he invites her to join him for a movie. They have fun, and Shelly wonders if he really likes her. Todd gets her letter, and he wonders if maybe he and Liz are at a dead end. He writes to the company, asking them to write two letters: one to accept a date with Shelly and one to cool things down with Liz.

Jessica once again rewrites the letter and passes it along. Liz writes the letters, and Jessica thinks that she can grab them before the mail runs, but they literally run into the mailman and Liz hands them over. She then dresses up like Liz and tries to get the mailman to give her the letter back, which he refuses to do.

Liz gets the letter from Todd and absolutely flips out. She is so mad that she cries for days and doesn't even want to look at the jacket that just arrived in the mail. Todd and Shelly go on their date, but within the first five minutes, Shelly realizes that she misses Jim. They decide that they should just be friends and focus more on their own relationships.

Jessica explains to Todd what happened. Actually, Todd hangs out at the post office where they rented a box and kind of attacks her when she walks in LOL. She tries to talk to Liz but she doesn't want to hear it. Todd finally writes to the company again, and she agrees to give the letter to her sister. Liz is so happy that he still loves her that she writes him the letter he wants and delivers it with his new jacket.

Todd tells her that he loves her and that he loves the jacket. He makes her wear it and says that he won't wear it until he can buy her a matching one. A few weeks later, they walk around school in their matching jackets and everyone oohs and ahs about how they started a new trend. Oh, and Shelly talks to Jim and they write out a list of activities that they can try together so they can start spending more time together as a couple.

*This is all supposed to be anonymous, so how the heck do they hang dozens of fliers without anyone seeing them?

*Todd gets annoyed because Liz says that she's busy having plans with Jess, but then Jess goes to a concert with Sam. She acts all indigent that Todd would dare to doubt her, but she doesn't even bother to explain to him what happened. I guess he should just read her mind.

*How early does the mail run in Sweet Valley? The mailman stops by the house before the twins leave for school, which has to be at least 8 am if not earlier. On a good day, our mail gets here by 11, and I've never lived anywhere where my mail came before 9 am.

*When Liz writes the letter for Todd to send her, she thinks it's ridiculous that anyone would ignore such a great guy. Liz, I would like you to meet pot, pot, Liz.

*There's a throwback to the Soap Star book. Jessica and Sam go to a Bill something concert, the guy she met while working on the show. Apparently, she made such an impression after ONE meeting that he gives her free backstage passes.

*Jessica redecorate the Hershey Bar in this one, deciding to use a silver and purple color scheme.

*Liz really is a total bitch in this book. She keeps saying that Todd has no reason to doubt her because she obviously doesn't remember cheating on him so many times.

*I would say that this book is dated because people actually pay the twins to write their letters, but I actually worked for a company that wrote emails for people.

*Todd buys a deli meat and cheese platter, sparkling apple cider, and a cheesecake for their movie date. Not only did I never date this type of guy in high school but I never did as an adult either.

*Despite advertising everywhere, the only two SVH people who respond are Shelly and Todd. Would no one else really need them?

*Liz worries that they might need to hire on some new people or raise their prices, which is funny because they stop their new business after this book.

*Liz keeps saying that Todd should understand her predicament, but she never explains it to him. Seriously, how many teen girls blow off their boyfriends for two weeks because of homework and writing for the school paper.

*The Oracle is ridiculous anyway. Jim's photos get ruined, so he has to do a rush job, take new photos, and immediately process them. They act like the paper would be ruined if they didn't have pictures of a basketball game.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sweet Valley High #119: Jessica's Older Guy

Jessica and Zach, the college junior she started dating at SVU, are out at a restaurant when she sees Magda come in with some Thetas. Since she knows that Magda wants to date Zach, she needs to come up with an excuse to get them out of there without anyone seeing. She pretends that she smells smoke and convinces him to climb out the window of the woman's restroom. Zach asks if she's interested in someone else, and she gets around the issue by saying that she isn't interested in anyone in college since Ken is in high school.

Jessica then discovers that Liz plans to take her GED and stay at Sweet Valley University. After some thought, Jessica agrees that she'll stay too. Liz calls home and tells Todd, who is heartbroken at the thought of a long-distance relationship. Jessica calls Ken and he seems equally upset, but mainly because he heard it from Todd long before she bothered to call.

Part of the reason why Elizabeth wants to stay is because she got an internship at the school newspaper, which goes out across the country. The editor in chief turns out to be one of those gold old boys who treats Elizabeth like a (gasp) actual intern! He has her get coffee, answer the phones, make copies, send faxes, and all that other stuff that interns do. She fully expects to get assignments and actually write for the school paper, but he wants her to act like an intern.

Elizabeth decides to do the responsible thing and bitch like a baby to her twin all the time. She goes back, I believe twice, and he treats her the same way every time. After he dares to ask her to send a fax and get him coffee in a 10-minute span, she flips her shit. She quits, accuses him of sexual harassment, and storms off, thinking about her next article on harassment in the workplace.

Magda turns really cold towards Jessica because she saw her with Zach. Jessica decides to throw Liz under the bus. She claims that she was with Billie and Steven that night, and that her twin is the manipulative, crazy, pyscho, boy-loving one. Magda immediately changes her tune and offers to help Jessica find a date for the upcoming formal.

Jessica decides that they can do a twin switch. Elizabeth refuses, but eventually decides to go along with her plan. They pick out a sweet rose colored dress for Jessica to wear so Magda will think that she's Liz. Liz gets stuck with some velvet halter dress so everyone will think that she's Jess.

While all of this is going on, the gang back in Sweet Valley decide to try a little reverse psychology on the twins. Enid acts like she'll be the smartest girl in school and asks if she can take over Liz's column in the paper, and Lila says that she'll now be the best dressed and best looking girl in school. Alice calls to congratulate them, but lets it slip that she's sad they will miss their prom, graduation, and living in a freshman dorm. Billie and Steven get in on it, treating them to a disgusting breakfast of tofu and other natural food, saying that they need to eat like this to compensate for pulling three or four all nighters every week.

The gang heads up on the same night as the formal. While everyone sets things up, Todd and Ken sneak into the frat house. Todd sees who he thinks is Liz dancing and looking happy with another guy and rushes off, while Ken sees Liz dressed as Jessica and realizes who the real Jessica is and rushes off. Magda, meanwhile, reveals to Liz that Zach is actually still in high school.

The guys make a huge scene before running away. Magda glides up to tell Jessica the truth and thank her for saving herself from going after a younger man. She also takes the time to tell Liz, who she thinks is Jess, that she should be nicer to her sister and Liz is welcome to pledge Theta house. Jessica and Zach explode on each other, and he reveals that he was taking a few classes at college and his brother thought it would be fun to pass him off as a college junior. They eventually laugh about it, and Jessica realizes that she misses Ken.

The twins go back to the apartment and find all of their friends waiting. They watch a massive slideshow and realize what they're up too. At the end, they both decide to go back to Sweet Valley High and wait for college. Liz and Todd make up because she actually didn't do anything wrong this time. Jessica chases Ken down, who is about to drive away. She apologizes, confesses that she wanted to try something different, and tells him that she loves him. He makes her promise to never cheat on him again, and they make up too.

*Out of curiosity, I looked up national college newspapers and didn't find a whole lot of information. Are there really college newspapers that go out across the country?

*What did Liz really expect that she would do? On big college papers, freshmen usually wind up making copies and doing basic research, if that. She thinks that because she has a small amount of experience, she should get to work as a writer right away.

*I would really love for Liz to write about the harassment that she suffered and then get bitch slapped by one of the other college journalists. Granted, he acted condescending at times, but he gave her the same assignments that interns do all of the time. Hell, it's basically the same thing she did at the Sweet Valley paper.

*Once again, an unrealistic date. Zach makes a picnic lunch of brie cheese, bread, grapes, and pasta salad, and they sit on the quad and listen to jazz music. If you did this at my college, people would have given you dirty looks for getting in their way.

*Multiple guys hit on Jessica while she's sitting on the quad, which skeeves me out. There's no way that she looks old enough to be in college, and it just seems creepy.

*The halter dress that Liz wears is so short that she has to keep smoothing it down over her UPPER THIGHS. Why would anyone let her out of the house in that dress? Plus, as a college graduate, I have to say that this is not appropriate for a college formal. At all.

*SVU is now two hours away from Sweet Valley. Yup, that totally makes sense.

*Zach is all shocked that Jessica never went to Atlantic City because he thinks she went to Princeton. Why? Given the grade she told him that she was in, she's still only 20 and I thought most casinos banned anyone under 21.

*They serve champagne at the formal, which whatever. However, Jessica and Liz are there and they both drink champagne. Does the frat and sorority really want to lose their charters?

*It's awfully convenient that Jessica never thought about Ken or missed him until five minutes before he showed up at the formal.

*Jessica and Liz talk about finding an apartment together when they start classes. I guess my school was different because you couldn't live off-campus unless you were a junior or older or you lived with family. Plus, I don't know a whole lot of schools that let freshman live off campus, and they would enter college as freshmen.

*It's also very clearly the middle of the semester, so I don't know what they were thinking. It's not like they could just drop out of high school, take the GED, and immediately start classes. They would at least have to wait until the summer session.

*Poor stupid Liz. She couldn't even cut it skipping one grade in middle school, but now she thinks that she's mature enough to handle college.

*I like that they tossed in some characters from SVU like Magda. There's also a few mentions of Tom Watts in his Wildman Watts days, playing quarterback for the team.

*Billie points out that Jessica can't try our for the cheerleading team at SVU until next year, and it upsets her. I find it hard to believe that it never crossed her mind.

*Liz goes to a coffeeshop with Ian, her new buddy, and some of his friends. It turns into one of those grand "debates" that rich college kids seem to have and they totally look down on her for not knowing what they are talking about. It's actually pretty funny because they come across as those kids who learn everything from books and have no practical knowledge. They ream her for talking about capitalism while suggesting that communism is better and hey, you get some freedom with communism. Sure.

*Reading through these books now, I wonder why we were supposed to empathize with Jessica so much. She tells Ken that she loves him and will never cheat on him. Guess what happens in the next book? Oh that's right, she falls in love with someone completely different.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Goosebumps Series 2000 #14: Jekyll and Heidi

Heidi's parents died, and I actually feel sorry for her because she's pretty down at the start of the book. She had to move across the country to live with her Uncle Jekyll, and all she really remembers about him is that she once asked if he was Frankenstein because he has a fully stocked lab and works as a scientist.

After she gets off the train, she notices that her uncle isn't there to pick her up. She does meet a young man from town named Aaron. He tells her about a creature that keeps attacking the village, and he makes it clear that no one likes her family. When she asks for help getting there, he gives her some directions. He also makes it clear that he has no interest in walking her home or going anywhere near the house.

Heidi sets off and finds the house pretty fast. Her cousin Marianna rushes out and warns her to leave and get out. Before she can elaborate, the housekeeper comes out, welcomes her, and shows her to her room. Marianna keeps telling her to leave her uncle alone because he's a busy man and always working, but Heidi goes down to his lab anyway. He seems excited to see her, but like Marianna said, he's super busy.

Dinner time is always odd at the house. Marianna and her dad barely talk, and when they do, it almost seems like they talk in code. One night, Heidi hears screams coming from the village. When she looks outside, she runs into her uncle who says that he didn't hear anything. She goes into town the next day and finds the village ripped apart. She screams that it wasn't her uncle, and a reporter demands that she take them into the house. A group of locals grab her and throw her around, saying that her family is filled with creatures. Aaron manages to save her, telling the crowd that she's new and doesn't know anything.

At dinner, her uncle asks Marianna if she plans to go into town and she just shrugs. Heidi finds it odd because she hasn't yet seen her cousin leave the house. While wandering around later that night, she accidentally finds an old journal hidden in a secret area of the bookcase. It's filled with notes from someone who keeps changing into a creature. She thinks that it might be the journal of the original Hyde and gets pretty excited.

Heidi eventually starts questioning her uncle and wondering is he is the creature. She sneaks into his lab and sees him drink a bunch of potions and start changing before running out of the lab. He also locks her in her room one night, and she later catches him listening to her on the phone.

This all leads up to the creature attacking the town again. Heidi goes outside, and the creature turns and attacks her. Jekyll comes running up to help her. He grabs the creature and it slowly transforms into Marianna. He explains that she got bit by a weird fairy creature on vacation and she's changed every night since then. He keeps working on different potions to save her.

The villagers all attack and set fire to the house, but they make it into the lab. Jekyll has an escape route that will lead them away from the house and to safety. Heidi tells them to go along while she runs upstairs and finds the journal. She manages to grab it just in time for the villagers to grab her and drag her outside. Aaron saves the day again, and he manages to pull her away from the crowd.

Heidi goes to stay with Aaron's family until they can find some more of her family. She decides to tell him about the journal, and while flipping through it, he finds a page that says it's Marianna's journal. It turns out that she just used an old journal to record her feelings about becoming a creature. When Heidi gets to the last page, she swallows hard and blinks it shock. The last page reveals that Marianna watched her sleep one night and bit her on the shoulder.

*Yeah so that Marianna twist was not a real twist. Marianna is constantly sneaking around and dropping cryptic comments that show she's the creature early on.

*Aaron is such a random character. It's not like they hang out or anything. She meets him at the station, and then she doesn't see him again until he needs to save her. God forbid a girl be able to save herself.

*The first few pages actually are pretty sad! Heidi starts talking about how she cries every time she thinks about her parents, how she has really dark periods because of their deaths, etc.

*This book is so outdated even for the late 90s. The townspeople hated Jekyll as soon as he moved there because they knew he was trouble just based on his name.

*The image of people driving cars up the hill to torch an old house made me giggle.