Friday, June 23, 2017

Team Sweet Valley #1: Jessica Goes for the Gold

The California Games are fast approaching. If you never heard of them before, don't worry because they were totally made up for this very small series. Like decades ago, California decided to host its own miniature Olympics for junior high kids. The top 25 teams in all sports would meet once a year to compete. Due to budget cuts, this got dropped to once every two years.

Jessica joined the gymnastics team and is the best one on the team because of her amazing natural talents. Little kids literally freeze when they see her around town or at meets because she's the best gymnast in the entire world. Some even ask for her autograph. She assumes that she'll take home the gold and that everyone will totally love her.

At one of their last meets of the year, she scores a 9.5 on the uneven bars, which is the highest score that anyone on her team ever got. That guarantees that they'll get to compete in the California Games. At that meet, she finally gets to see Dawn, who is the best gymnast on the Weston Middle School team. Everyone refers to her as the Weston version of Jessica Wakefield, which Jessica finds ridiculous because everyone knows there is only one Jessica Wakefield. Dawn places second and refuses to even shake her hand. Jessica graciously thinks that Dawn should be happy to come in second at a meet that involves Jessica Wakefield.

Weston only has two more chances to make it to the California Games, but both meets put them up against SVMS. Coach Arlin, the only coach we've ever seen in Sweet Valley books, tells Jessica to watch Dawn because she's so graceful. Jessica thinks that's insane because she's so clearly better. Dawn goes to the locker room, hides baby oil under a bandage on her ankle, and then competes on the uneven bars. After her turn, she spreads the oil all over the bars. Jessica slips and slides all the bars and scores a 5. something. When she accuses Dawn of putting oil on the bars, which the other girl quickly cleans off, Coach Arlin tells her to calm down before they get disqualified for unsportsmanlike behavior.

When Elizabeth gives her a whole lecture on how an eye for an eye is a bad thing, Jessica goes to Steven for advice. He tells her that basketball players cheat by putting sugar in the other team's towels. When guys rub their hands on the towels, the sugar gets all over, and as they sweat, it sticks all over them. After some experimenting, she figures out how to mix sugar with the chalk for the bars competition.

After her own performance at the next meet, she “accidentally” trips and spills the chalk. She then refills it with her own mixture. Dawn uses that chalk, can barely hold onto the bars, and falls. Jessica smirks about it and thinks she doesn't even deserve the low score that she gets. She completely ignores the fact that the coach has to carry Dawn off because she thinks she can't possibly be really hurt. Jessica then has to jump into action and replace the mixture before Lila can compete.

Two little girls chatting next to her the next day make her realize that Dawn really did get hurt. Jessica calls the Weston coach and says her name is Elizabeth Fowler. The coach says that Dawn has to rest for the weekend and see how things go but that there is a chance she might not be able to compete. Jessica calls her and then feels bad enough that she takes her a gift basket, but Dawn refuses to even look at her because she knows that Jess sabotaged her routine.

Since this is Jessica “No Conscious” Wakefield we're talking about here, she decides to just blow her off and ignore her from now on. The only problem is that she keeps thinking about how she might get hurt and how gymnasts get hurt all the time, which makes her too afraid to even get up on the bars. Her coach keeps pushing her, but she keeps putting it off. She can't even talk to Liz about it because she doesn't want anyone to know she's scared.

We also have to deal with Donald Zwerdling. After losing a shot to join the boys' team, he starts hanging around the girls all the time and becomes their towel boy. He tries to pick up tips from them, but they're way too busy to help him, so he starts trying to practice on his own. This causes him to use their equipment, get in their way all the time, and he even almost knocks Lila down once.

Jessica heads over to the Weston gym and can't help noticing that the school is super rundown and that it doesn't have nearly as many resources as her own gym. Dawn refuses to see her or talk to her, but she tells her that she'll just keep coming back, and she actually does. She shows up every day and helps Dawn really perfect her routine. This causes her to leave her own practices early and tick off her coach who still wants to see her on the bars.

Donald finally realizes that Jessica is scared and keeps aggravating her until she finally does her routine. It's of course the best thing ever and the best routine she ever did. The coach wants to take the whole team out to celebrate, but Jessica turns them down so she can help Dawn some more. Dawn makes a mistake, and when Jessica tries to help her, she comes down hard on her ankle.

Though she uses lots and lots of ice, she's seriously hurt. At the California Games, she has to skip the dismount that would win her gold and almost can't make a solid landing. Dawn does the best job of her life and wins gold, while Jessica takes home a silver medal. Since Dawn also scored something like two silver medals, a bronze medal, and another gold medal, she also wins a special prize for being the best all around gymnast.

At the ceremony, Dawn gets a little sad because she sees how Jessica's teammates rallied around her when her ankle went out. She realizes that she's so focused on gymnastics that she doesn't have time for friends like that. Jessica tells her on the podium that she looks forward to competing against her again and winning. Dawn tells her that they'll see and then gives a speech as she accepts her awards to thank her good friend for all her help. Gr.

*This was a series that I totally never thought I would find in the “wild” and one I thought I would eventually buy on Amazon. I literally squealed when I spotted both in the series at a thrift store.

*Jessica gets irritated after getting her big score because the judge tells her that she did a nice job and she expects him to tell her it was the most impressive routine he ever saw.

*Lila and Jessica have to tell Janet that they need to skip some Unicorn meetings for practices. Janet freaks out and then calms down because it will be so great when they bring home a gold and silver medal. Jessica points out that she can only win one medal in one event, which causes Lila to roll her eyes and point out that she would bring home the silver. Jessica knows this is as likely as a Wakefield twin failing at something but says nothing because she doesn't want Janet to get mad.

*Other random girls on the squad, other than Lila and Jessica, include Sophia, Mary, and Amy. We never hear anything about them or their scores though.

*Getting to the California Games makes no sense to me. Jessica is super good at the uneven bars, but she never says anything about the other events. They make it to the California Games because of their overall team scores, but then they all compete against each other. Wouldn't they just take the top girls with the highest scores instead of teams where one person may be great and another person is shit?

*When Ned realizes that two brand new bags of sugar went missing, Jessica makes up a story about watching a show about mysterious household goods that go missing. I would totally watch that show.

*I read somewhere that Team Sweet Valley was supposed to be an entirely new series but didn't do so well, so some of the books are just listed as SVT books. It makes sense though. In the second book, it sets things up for later books that never come.

*Everyone keeps talking about how Jessica is so amazing because of her experience taking dance classes and as a Booster. Except that her cheerleading squad really doesn't do anything special, and dance classes won't help with things like the vault or bars.

*Donald knows so little about gymnastics that he doesn't even realize the guys and girls compete in different events until someone points it out.

*Donald is extremely annoying. Amy takes a break from practicing her floor routine, Donald takes over and makes everyone watch as he does something lame and fails yet again, and she tells him that she really needs to practice more. Elizabeth is all shocked at how rude her friend is, but come on! They have like a week to get ready for a big meet, and he's just getting in the way and keeping them from practicing.

*Liz lectures multiple people about how they should be nice to and encourage him because he needs it, except that he doesn't actually need it. There is absolutely no reason for him to be in that gym and wasting their time.

*Jessica eventually decides that winning silver is okay because she can handle giving up Unicorn meetings, gossip, talking about boys, shopping, and all that stuff for a few weeks but that she isn't serious about gymnastics.

*Dawn apparently trains all the time. She's been doing gymnastics since she was a toddler, practices every morning, and practices after school and on weekends. It really annoys me that Jessica joins the team and starts winning first place prizes after a few weeks as well as beating someone who literally trained her entire life. Could they not just make a book where one of the twins loses because she isn't as good as someone else at something? That would much rather be a lesson than the crap books we got where they either deliberately lost like Liz and the whole surfing thing or only lost because they helped someone else for the first time ever.


  1. I wondered why there were only two books in this series.

    I agree about Jessica being able to beat someone who trained her whole life. It doesn't make sense cheerleading and dance might help but there's so much more to gymnastics. They never do say how well Jessica does on the other events.

    Donald was just annoying.

    1. According to Wikipedia, the books were later published as a special edition of SVT after the publisher canceled the series. Mine just says Team Sweet Valley though.

      As for the score thing, it's really confusing. They only made it to the California Games because she scored so high in "her event" that it brought up the team average or something. It's like they only do one event that counts or something...

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