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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Unicorn Club #11: Angels Keep Out

Elizabeth has been feeling a little down lately but especially since Mandy ditched the Angels to go back to the Unicorns. While hosting a party for her club at home, the other girls get pretty depressed because they miss Mandy a lot. When she tells her mom about it later, Alice suggests that the Angels have a party at their house the following weekend. Liz immediately tells her friends and starts making plans.

Sadly, Jessica had the exact same idea while hosting a Unicorn Club meeting that day by the pool. Her reason for throwing a party is a little different though. See, one of the kids in the kid center told her that she thought the Angels were the best club because her brother, some popular and super hottie in the eighth grade, said that. Jess wants to throw a party and show that they are the best around. When Liz says she already made plans and that it was Alice's idea, Jessica just says that Liz heard them talking about their own plans, stole the idea, and the convinced her mom that Alice was the one to come up with the idea.

The Unicorns, especially Kimberly, fully believe that Liz overheard them and stole their idea. Kimberly is about ready to attack Liz in front of the cafeteria when Jess holds her back. They decide that they'll just throw an amazing party that will make the Angels feel stupid. At the kids' center, Mandy tells Liz that she feels bad that she can't come to her party. When Liz says that she can come to both parties and tells her that theirs is set for Friday at seven, Mandy can't meet her eye and says that some people may not like that idea. I feel bad for her.

When the Unicorns hear about the party plans, Kimberly and Jessica immediately decide to hold theirs on the same date and at the same time. Mandy begs them to reconsider and even suggests hosting a joint problem, but they act like she's a bug or something. They also plan to throw it at Lila's house. Jessica comes home and tells Liz about their plans, which causes her to freak out. She accuses them of being terrible people, Jessica says it's not their fault they choose the exact same time and that her sister is rude, and Liz says that the Unicorns are unfair and mean. Jess snaps back about how Mandy chose them, Liz actually starts crying, Jess kind of half ass says she didn't mean it, and Liz throws her out of her room.

Liz suggests that the Angels change their party plans, but Kimberly overhears and gives a loud speech about how their club is falling apart. They get right in the faces of each other, and Liz refers to Fowler Crest as Fowler Crust because it's so boring and people are tired of going to parties there. Jessica snaps back that they have a much better party plan and Liz is just out of touch. The only problem is that they have nothing.

Both clubs can't help noticing that the kids center needs some serious help. The roof leaks, they keep running out of food, and now the sink backs up. After Jessica gets doused with slime and gunk from the sink, she later tells her friends about a horrible dream she had about the sink. Mandy then comes up with an idea to throw a fundraiser at the center. Sadly, Liz comes up with the same exact day. Both go to the head of the center and ask for her permission. She gives it to them both and doesn't tell either club about the party the other planned.

While all this is going on, Liz develops one of those “I got it bad for you” crushes on Todd. Even though they kind of dated the year before, she now can't stop thinking about him. Jessica even catches her twin writing his name over and over again in her notebook instead of doing homework. When Liz asks him to the party, he calls it a date and seems pretty excited. In hopes of reaching a compromise with her twin, Liz tells Jess what he said. Jess just acts bored and tells her that there is no way Todd would skip out on an awesome Unicorn party just to hang out with Liz, even if he does like her. Bitch.

We then get multiple chapters of middle school espionage. Liz and Todd come up with a plan to fool Jessica. When she dresses up like her twin and approaches him, he pretends the Angels are still throwing a small party at the Wakefield house. She then goes to the Angels and brags about how she figured out their secret. Since they all know what really happened, they just pretend like they're pissed at her. Liz even accuses Jessica of bugging her locker. Jessica also listens to her phone conversations and follows her around the mall. Liz is too busy worrying about whether Todd like likes her and whether the Angels will throw her out for having a crush to really care about what the Unicorns do.

Both clubs hang up posters for secret parties that tell guests to go to a location for a map and directions. The Unicorns get to the center first and set up a huge casino night event, while the Angels throw a carnival party outside. The lady in charge tells each club that she already started getting some work done to explain why the Unicorns can't go outside and why the Angels can't go inside. Things go fine until Jessica realizes that she was so busy spying on her twin that she completely forgot to bring food for the party. Outside, Liz realizes that she was so busy thinking about Todd that she forgot to bring drinks for the party.

The twins run into each other in the kitchen, and Jess catches Liz trying to steal some soda. They have such a huge fight that the lady in charge – I seriously cannot remember her name! - runs out to check on them. She tells them that she agreed to let both parties happen because she though they would work out their problems and get along. The twins make up and agree to combine both parties. Mandy helps Liz move the refreshment table to an equal distance between both.

Todd approaches Liz and asks if they can spend some time alone. Not only does he totally hold her hand, but he actually kisses her on the lips! So scandalous! The Angels confront her and tease her about her little crush, but they then tell her that it's totally okay to like boys and that if she had told them about Todd, maybe they would have found dates too. Jessica, feeling a little jealous of her twin, decides to take a break and have some fun instead of focusing on guys all the time.

*This is one of those books that flips back and forth between Jessica's and Elizabeth's point of view, which I find super annoying.

*To keep up with the Unicorner, the Angels call “their table” the Angeliner. You have got to be kidding me.

*When the twins fight over the dinner table about who had the idea for a party first, Steven goes from taking sides to encouraging them to fight it out to begging his parents to ban them both from throwing parties.

*All the Unicorns shoot down Kimberly's idea for throwing a party on the beach because it sounds messy and like a lot of work. And yet in high school, they seldom throw a party away from the beach!

*Kimberly wears these shoes that she is obsessed with that are brown loafers with a platform sole. Does anyone else totally remember wearing similar shoes?

*Seriously, why did Mandy go back to the Unicorn Club? In this book, she has more in common with Liz, hates that her friends – especially Kimberly – tell her what she can and cannot do, and is really upset with Jessica for eavesdropping on her sister. It's pretty clear that she's better suited for the Angels.

*In the hopes of impressing Todd, Liz asks her friends what they think about an outfit that consists of a red and black checked sweater, black miniskirt, and black pumps. Is she in seventh grade or a streetwalker?

*Jessica gets angry that Liz throws her out of her bedroom when they have the fight and she brings up Mandy because she did try to apologize. Um no, she basically said like oh that didn't come out the way I wanted. When you apologize to someone, you really only need two words!

*Kimberly and the other Unicorns, but especially Kimberly, keep making rude comments about the Wakefield house, like how party guests will be so disappointed and how it's such a rinky dink yard. Jessica keeps getting annoyed but doesn't really speak up, and it even starts to annoy Ned. I'm pretty sure I would snap at some point.

*Lila's dad hired some chef from France to be their personal chef. The girls meet at her house to pick out dishes for him to make for the party, but Lila says her dad won't spring for everything they want because it will cost too much. Is it weird that I assumed they had some type of live-in chef already? Doesn't Mrs. Purvis cook for Lila like every day?

*Mr. Fowler says it's too much for him to make another donation to the kids center, but he pays for a bunch of stuff for the party. Not only does he rent all the casino games and equipment, but he also rents costumes to make the girls look like real dealers. Are you seriously telling me they could raise more money from their middle school friends than he put out for all that stuff?

*I'd really like to know how much money they raised. They only charged $1 for a game outside or for a bag of chips inside. Someone says there were around 200 kids combined at both parties. I can't imagine they raised enough to do anything really significant.

*Liz worries about telling her friends about her crush on Todd because they keep talking about how crushes are stupid and how there is more to life than guys. They also say that only girls like the Unicorns have crushes. Then, they're all surprised that she thought they wouldn't like her if she had a crush!

*While talking about guys in the end, Maria says there is no one cuter than Bruce Patman. Yeah, I seem to remember that even sixth grade Marie found him repulsive.

*Jessica going off about how Mandy leaving the Angels for the Unicorns proves that they're the better club doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you consider that Mary, one of the original Unicorns who was in that club for like 12 years and 100+ books, actually left them for the Angels.