Friday, August 19, 2016

Sweet Valley High #79: The Long Lost Brother


You probably don't remember Sara Eastborne because I think she only appeared in the book where Jessica entered the beauty contest because Sara took dance classes from the same teacher. She now gets her very own book and her very own chance to bitch about her twin brother Tim. Though she tells everyone that he's a straight A student and star of the track team who lives with their dad on the East Coast, he's actually in reform school after becoming an alcoholic and stealing a car. I think you get why she kept his real self a secret.

Sara also has a boyfriend named Bob. Bob is rich and snotty, which means that his parents are even worse. He takes her to dinner at the country club to meet them and then snaps at her for not paying attention. When she drifts off and thinks about her brother, his mom asks what she thinks about tanning beds and acts super disapproving when she can't respond. Bob lectures her on making a bad impression on his parents, despite the fact that his dad spent most of the night running away from the table to talk to other rich guys. Though he invites her to Lila's pool party the next day, he strongly recommends that she wear a specific suit so all the guys will stare at him and wish they were him.

It doesn't take long before she gets the big news that Tim is moving to Sweet Valley. He's on probation and got permission to live with his mom. As soon as he arrives, she tells him exactly what she told everyone about him and demands that he go along with her stories. Tim doesn't necessarily agree because he knows what can happen when you lie but begrudgingly agrees to do whatever she wants. Yeah, this will go well.

Saint Elizabeth is up to her old tricks again. Her article on Project Youth went so well that she decided to do a whole series on other services in town. She goes to an Alateen meeting and even gets to take a tour of the shelter for battered women. While attending an AA meeting, she has the chance to meet a new guy. Tim tries to convince her to dump her boyfriend for him before laughing it off.

It isn't until the next day in school that she learns he's Sara's twin brother. Liz briefly wonders why the other girl would keep him a secret and why she won't even look at him before introducing him to her own twin. Tim starts making friends right off the bat. Unfortunately, one of those friends is Sara's best friend Amanda. Though she tries to keep them apart, they have a spark and keep seeing each other.

You may remember Jerry “Crunch” McAllister as either the annoying kid from SVT or the drop out from Dangerous Love. He's suddenly hanging around all the time because he has it bad for Amanda. Though he keeps asking her out all the time and offering her rides, she keeps turning him down and ignoring him. Tim stops outside the Dairi Burger one night to admire his van. When the van turns up missing, Crunch blames it on Tim.

Since he has a record, the cops come to their house and take Tim in for questioning. Their mom hires a lawyer, and their dad flies into town to help. Sara realizes that this is big news and that soon everyone will know the truth. People start looking at her funny, and Amanda snaps at her for not being honest about her twin. When Sara tells her how she lost all her friends when Tim screwed up before, Amanda just walks away. Bob decides this will reflect badly on his parents so he breaks up with her and asks for his jacket back.

Though they have no proof, the cops tell Tim not to leave town. He begs Sara to believe in him but she can't after everything that happened in the past. When they go to school, Crunch actually shows up, picks a fight with Tim, and punches him in the face. Mr. Collins and some other teachers break it up, tell Crunch to leave, and send Tim to the principal's office where he gets suspended. I see Sweet Valley instituted its own zero tolerance before the rest of the world.

Having her dad around is pretty nice. They share some family dinners together, talk a lot, and he seems to have changed from the workaholic he was in the past. Sara eventually asks her mom if they might get back together, and she explains that they're finally friends and have no desire to be with each other. Liz, since it's always Liz, encourages her to go to a meeting. It goes so well that Sara finally starts making up with people. Though Amanda forgives her, she isn't quite ready to see Tim again.

Sara also has a long talk with her dad, which ends when he tells her that he's dating someone and wants to marry her. He also asks her to come visit him for a few weeks in the summer. To make up with her brother, Sara makes his favorite dinner: chili and cornbread. Since the police found the real thief, he's now free. When he doesn't come home, she checks her room and finds a note from him about how he decided to go back home with their dad.

That leaves her to rush to the airport to stop him. Their dad winks at her before hopping on the plane, and Tim agrees to come home with her. They laugh and have a good time together before calling their mom to tell her everything is fine now. Tim even jokes about how she should let him drive the car from now on. Crunch shows up at school, and Sara gets so mad that she pokes him with her finger, calls him some names, and tells him to leave. He and Tim both laugh before he apologizes to the other guy. Amanda then makes up with Tim too.

In other news, Jessica really hates being Miss Teen Sweet Valley. She keeps missing out on dates and fun stuff because of her commitments. Though she begs Liz to help, her twin tells her to just call her runner up for help. After much whining and complaining, Liz agrees to take her twin's spot just one time and hands out samples at some store opening at the mall. Sara sees her and realizes that it's Liz, but when Amanda asks her, she says she can't reveal a twin secret.

*So the organization that offers protection for battered women lets some random teen visit their shelter. That would make me feel super confident as a resident.

*Liz says Jessica loves Tim's charming personality. He literally says something like, “there's two of you” and then laughs with them. Whoa, totally charming!

*Bob shows up at the end and asks Sara to be his date that weekend. When she turns him down, he races off and leaves skid marks behind. Bob is a tool.

*While Bob is a tool, so too is Sara. She contemplates breaking up with him early in the book but changes her mind because he's rich and popular.

*Bob gets so distracted when Jessica shows up to the pool party in a very tiny bikini that he gets hit in the head with a volleyball. He totally deserved it.

*Does anyone at SVH really want to read a series of articles about groups that help abused women or the homeless? I think Liz thinks The Oracle is way better than it actually is.

*Jessica thinks it's depressing that someone women let themselves get beat, which is ironic given that she marries an abusive asshole in SVU and then a second abusive asshole in the Sweet Life series.

*People really seem to hate Sara, but I kind of get her. She was a popular kid at her old school until her brother started hanging out with a rough crowd, drank all the time, and then started stealing cars. Literally every single one of her friends dropped her after that. I can get why she didn't want people to know the truth about him. Hating on her is kind of like hating on Sophia in SVT.

*I'm not a big fan of the Tim and Amanda thing. He knows how his sister feels and knows why she's worried, but it takes like 30 seconds for him to agree to go out on a date with her.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Baby-Sitters Club #125: Mary Anne in the Middle


For some reason, Mary Anne is now Mallory's best friend. Mrs. Pike apparently went back to work, and the two keep getting jobs picking up the other kids from school and sitting for them at home. Mallory confesses that she really liked Riverbend and really wants to go but isn't sure how to tell anyone, especially Jessi. Though she told her siblings, Vanessa is the only one who really gets it.

When the letter finally comes, she learns that she not only got in but that she got a full scholarship. That's when the kids finally put things together and realize that she's leaving and won't live there anymore. Mary Anne convinces her to tell Jessi about her acceptance letter. Jessi naturally isn't happy and gets really cold about the whole thing, telling her that she hopes she finds what she's looking for.

That pretty much sets the tone for the book. While sitting at the Pike house, Jessi encourages the kids to tell Mallory that they don't want her to go and kind of make her feel bad about leaving them, which will make her realize that it's a mistake. In her eyes, Mallory needs to stay and stick up for herself. That will make people realize that their words can't hurt her.

Mary Anne winds up right in the middle between the two of them. They both keep calling her to talk about the other one and complain. Mallory admits to MA that she plans to go to Riverbend. It all comes to a head when Jessi pushes her to make a decision in the middle of a BSC meeting. When Mallory tells them that she's leaving, they all get sad. Jessi flips out because she realizes that MA already knew and runs away. To get the two talking again, MA schedules them to sit together for the Barrett and DeWitt kids.

The BSC decided to make new decorations and ornaments for the retirement home. Kristy gets the brilliant idea to throw a party for the residents too and to invite people in town to come and bring food to share. Everyone goes overboard making decorations with their charges. Abby even gets the Hobart boys to help her make Hanukkah decorations.

While on their sitting job, Jessi kind of acts like a dictator. She tells the kids all about Mallory leaving before she gets there, which makes the kids go crazy and beg her to stay. Jessi also keeps telling Mallory what to do and acting like she's the only one in charge. When one kid doesn't want to make Kwanzaa decorations, Jessi snaps at Mallory for telling her she could make a snowman. They both call MA to complain about the other.

Long before they went crazy, Jessi made plans for a sleepover with her BSC friends and Dance NY friends. Mallory refuses to go until MA convinces her to come. Jessi naturally isn't happy to see Mallory there but agrees to let her stay. It turns out though that her NY friends think Mallory leaving is a great idea. Jessi overhears one girl talking about her, shouts at Mallory for trying to turn her only remaining friends against her, they fight, and Mallory goes home alone.

The party at the retirement home goes almost perfectly. Jessi does try to force Mallory to take one group of kids to one specific area. Everyone pretty much ignores their fighting though. A bunch of people brought food, Watson donates a new Christmas tree, and they even have the kids sing Christmas songs. It goes so well that everyone forgets about the big fight for a few hours.

When both Mallory and Jessi call her the next day to complain, MA finally flips her lid. She tells them both to come right to her house and makes them sit down to talk. Mallory confesses that she couldn't talk to Jessi about leaving because leaving her best friend was so hard and that she couldn't handle it. They end up crying and making up.

During a BSC meeting, the gang kept trying to come up with a replacement for Mallory. They finally decided not to bring in anyone new, which upset her because it made it seem like she was so expendable that they didn't even need to replace her. While they all stayed late to talk about the party, she skipped out early. MA brought up the idea of doing something special just for Mal.

That's why the whole club minus Jessi show up at her house in the morning with balloons for their very own We Love Mallory Day. Her siblings make her breakfast in bed, they then take her to Henrietta Hayes' house, who presents her with a writing award, and then they go to the mall. The owner of the bookstore where she worked during that project thing gives her a journal and says that she looks forward to holding Mallory's first book signing there.

The BSC then take her to meet Ben, who is waiting to take her to the movies. The last stop is Claudia's room. She finds a big teddy bear holding a heart they all signed and a ton of junk food set out for her. Jessi rushes in at the very last minute with two tickets to see Cats in Stamford before she leaves for school. They all have a good cry before both Mallory and Jessi thank MA for being their friend.

*Stacey agrees to help MA convince Mallory to go to the party. She stops by the Pike house for about five seconds, and as soon as Mallory says she isn't going, Stacey literally rolls her eyes, throws on her jacket, and says there's no point arguing before taking off.

*Jessi is such a brat. You know that if she got the chance to take off and go to some exclusive dance school that she'd bitch at Mallory for not supporting her.

*Ann recommends that we try not to take sides when friends fight because we risk alienating one person. She's clearly never been friends with a group of teen girls. It's almost impossible not to take sides.

*Claudia wears a tie dyed tee shirt that she made herself then cut fringe around the edges and added beads to with matching earrings made from the same beads.

*Everyone keeps bringing up the time that Dawn left and how MA got emotional but managed to handle things. Um, what? Mary Anne was a huge bitch who ignored Dawn and treated her like crap until the very end.

*Jessi points out that Mallory celebrated Kwanzaa with her family the previous year. Except that Jessi and Mallory were in sixth grade back then and now still in sixth grade. I can't even count how many holiday celebrations these kids had.

*I can kind of see things from both sides. I get that Jessi doesn't want her best friend to leave, but she has to get how hard life is for Mallory. On the other hand, Mallory really should have talked to her about all this stuff.

*Some people online have commented that the school wouldn't let kids get away with what they did to Mallory, but I was bullied pretty bad in school by a popular guy and his friends. When I went to the principal, he literally told me that boys would be boys. Apparently “boys” enjoy inappropriately rubbing up on girls, throwing food at them in the cafeteria, and slamming them into lockers. It got so bad that I ended up being tutored at home for a whole semester, so I totally get Mallory in this book.

*I will say that I'm not sure why they picked Mary Anne to be the confidante in this book. She never really seemed to have much of a connection to either girl in the past.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sweet Valley Kids #50: Jessica and the Secret Star


While Lila is super excited to show off some new bracelets her dad brought her back from NYC, Caroline comes in with some big news about a new girl in school. Jessica originally ignores her because she already heard about the new girl from Elizabeth. When Maria Slater actually walks into the classroom though, Jessica can't get over how familiar she looks or how she looks so much older and more sophisticated than anyone else. They become tentative friends, though Maria wants to check out the school newspaper too.

Steven has the cold, which he passes onto Jess. She winds up staying home sick from school, and the two fight over the television before deciding to watch a sci-fi movie about aliens. One of the kids in the movie is Maria. Jessica flips out and decides that they absolutely must become friends. She even invites Maria over to hang out at her house. After she leaves, Jessica discovers her backpack. While looking it through it to find her phone number, she finds a red notebook that she thinks is her journal. It's all about how Maria is in hiding to learn more about normal kids before her next movie role.

That's all Jessica needs to hear to learn that her new friend is an undercover movie star. She winds up letting it slip that she read her diary. Maria acts a little odd before asking her to keep it under wraps and not tell anyone. She'll never get ready for her next movie if people treat her like a celebrity. Maria even brags about some of the stars she knows like Johnny Buck.

Since this is Jessica, she only keeps her mouth shut for a few days before telling the whole Unicorn Club. Mandy is a little hurt because she and Maria bonded while getting ready for tryouts for the drama club. They decide to invite Maria to a slumber party and get her to confess the whole thing. If she tells them herself, she won't hate Jessica for spilling the beans.

Janet hosts the whole club and Maria at her house that weekend. While playing Truth or Dare, Jessica asks Maria if she's secretly an undercover movie start, and she confesses that she came to Sweet Valley to prepare for an upcoming movie. She also tells them about all the famous people in the movie and how they're actually filing in Sweet Valley. They can all come and watch the filming in person, and she'll even introduce them to the celebs.

Maria joins the newspaper staff and accepts a job writing about the drama club tryouts, which is how she meets Mandy. She winds up getting along better with Amy and Liz than anyone else and even lets them read a short story she started writing. It's oddly enough about a movie star moving to a small town to prepare for an upcoming movie and is written inside a red notebook. When Liz hears the story about Maria's secret past and all the rumors, she puts two and two together.

Lila comes up with some big news. Her dad recently redecorated her yacht and agreed to let her have a part for all the movie stars on it. Since they're coming to town the next week to start shooting, she tells Maria that they can come a few days early for the party. Maria agrees before running home to cry on the shoulders of her big sister Nina. See, Maria isn't actually a star and there is no movie. She hasn't worked in years and came to take a break from acting until she's older. Nina tells Liz the truth in the hopes that she can help, but all she really does is talk to Maria about telling everyone the truth.

Mandy and Maria agree to work together for the tryouts and even agree on doing Romeo and Juliet. They just can't agree on what scene to do or who will play who. On the day of tryouts, a mystery man plays Romeo to Mandy's Juliet. Halfway through, he rips off his hat and mustache to show that he's Mandy. They then switch parts and finish the scene. Both make it into the club.

The day of the party arrives. Everyone is having fun when Maria shows up with her sister and parents. She makes a big announcement about how she really is just a normal girl and how no celebs are coming to the party. People start applauding her for no real reason. Jessica apologizes for going a little crazy, and Lila laughs it off because at least she got to throw a killer party. Oh, and some random girl named Pamela keeps following Elizabeth around and dressing just like her.

*Alice is a little suspicious that Jessica is faking being sick to get out of a quiz at school. If she still can't tell when one of the twins is faking it, she never will.

*Maria shows up for the first day of school in a suede skirt. I thought she wanted to fit in with typical sixth graders?

*Lila initially refuses to let Jessica make a purple banner for the party because her dad's yacht uses shades of puce and apricot. They then have a fight about the color puce. I looked it up, and man, is that an ugly color!

*Um, why doesn't Jessica try out for the drama club, and is the drama club mentioned again? I know she acts in school plays later, but I'm not sure the books ever mention the plays being drama club productions.

*I get that these kids are only in sixth grade but come on! Jessica can't understand why Maria has time to hang out by the pool or write an article because she should be out signing contracts all the time. They have to know what actors actually do.

*Maria wears a long black velvet dress with a white satin bow around the waste to the party, which sounds much more age appropriate than a suede skirt.

*One of her biggest acting roles was as a giant roll of toilet paper in a television commercial, and yet they still think she's a huge star.

*Maria complains to Nina that she's at least a head taller than all the boys in school. On the cover though, she's barely taller than Jessica who is relatively short when compared to the guys.