Friday, June 30, 2017

Team Sweet Valley #2: Win One for Sandra

Since this is yet another – and actually the only other Team Sweet Valley book – it must naturally come from Elizabeth's point of view. Prior to the start of the book, Maria convinced her to try out for the volleyball team. Even though she loved playing with friends, she didn't think she was good enough to be on a team. She not only made it but can't stop boasting about how much she's improved since joining. Also on the team are Cammi, Maria, Mandy, Ellen, and Kimberly. Yeah, that totally makes sense.

Their coach is Sandra. Though she works full-time as the coach for Sweet Valley University, she took maternity leave early and got a job coaching SVMS. Even though she's seven months pregnant, Liz says that doesn't let it slow her down. After one practice, she takes them out for ice cream. Her doctor told her she could have one indulgence day per week, which in her eyes means that she can have two massive banana splits.

Kimberly reveals that Sandra was actually on the Olympic volleyball team, but she just laughs it off because it really wasn't that big of a deal. In fact, she had way more fun competing in the California Games. Not only did her team win, but she became super popular in school. She even tells them about how she dated the cutest guy and still had time to win a bunch of middle school journalism prizes. She makes a comment about being proud of how hard some players worked, which causes Liz to modestly thank her before realizing she was talking to Mandy. That makes her vow to do the best damn job possible and become the hardest working person on the team.

Janet decides that the volleyball team winning will make the Unicorn Club look way better and pretty much goes off on Kimberly about how she must win because she's the captain. Kimberly decides to bring up Elizabeth as a scapegoat in case they lose so she has someone to blame. Janet makes it clear that she doesn't like Liz but then does a 180 and tells Kimberly that she just needs to work harder to make sure they win.

This leads to all the girls fighting with each other and showing off because they want Sandra to think that they're the best player. Kimberly keeps making snide comments about other players, especially Liz and Cammi. Liz comes up with an idea to throw Sandra a baby shower and have all the players chip in on a gift together, but Mandy came up with the idea first. That causes tension between the two of them because Liz can't help feeling like Mandy stole her idea.

Their first game goes so great that they win the meet and decimate the other team. Winston later tells Liz that it was hard to watch because they won by so much that it was more of a slaughter. Sandra gives them all praise, telling Liz that she blocked like a pro. Liz is less enthused when Sandra tells Ellen that she really hustled and put a lot of hard work into the game. Liz pouts but then decides that it's okay because Ellen probably did hustle a little more than usual.

Sandra gives them all a big lecture about what they did wrong in the game, which leads to Maria wondering if they did anything right. Liz then wonders if Sandra thinks they won the game or if the other team lost it. I will give you one guess. She then warns them that the next game against Big Mesa won't be nearly as easy.

It turns out that she was dead right because Big Mesa kicks their ass. They fight so much that Big Mesa pretty much just rolls all over them. Sandra is clearly disappointed and feels the same way during their next practice. The girls all start fighting, and Sandra keeps trying to calm them down but then passes out. They fight over what to do and who to call, and Ellen, Cammi, and Mandy all run to call their moms. Mandy's mom isn't home, Cammi doesn't have any change, and Ellen apparently can't remember her own freaking phone number. Kimberly finally brings up getting a lifeguard, since they're on the freaking beach, and Liz feels pretty bad when the paramedics arrive and one says seconds are valuable in cases like this because she realizes how many seconds they wasted.

Though she wants Jessica to go with her to the hospital, Jessica has gymnastics practice and can't make it. Liz goes by herself and learns that Sandra had her baby, Christopher, early and can't have any visitors. She runs into Mandy in the hospital and talks about her worries. Mandy points out that doctors can do miracles, which is a flashback to her having cancer, which leads to them exchanging knowing glances with each other.

After chatting with Mr. Bowman about all her problems, he tells her that she already has teamwork experience. She's all confused until he points out that she's part of a newspaper team. Given that she just takes over all the time, I don't think that's quite the same. She then tells the girls that they need to work together to win for both Sandra and Christopher. Kimberly is less than happy to let Liz take over until the other girls bully her into it.

It doesn't help that they can't get anyone else to coach the team. The swim coach agrees to show up to games and do all the official work but is way too busy with his own team to show up for practices. Their game against El Carro is pretty awful until Liz institutes a three hit rule where they hit the ball three times every time before sending it over the net. This lasts until the other team picks up on it and pretty much spanks them.

No worries though because they tied for a spot in the play-offs. All they need to do now is beat Big Mesa again. Luckily for them, it's raining so hard that day that the team never shows up. The official even gives them a few extra minutes before calling the game in Sweet Valley's favor. That puts them into the real play-offs.

Jessica and Lila watch from the massive crowd on hand, with Lila constantly talking about how she could play better and Jessica rolling her eyes at the idea of Lila do anything that might cause her to break a nail. Lila explains that she's only there because Janet demanded they all come out and cheer the Unicorns on, which leads to Jessica pointing out that Janet is currently flirting with Big Mesa guys. By the end of the game, Lila is with those guys too.

SV wins the first game, but Big Mesa wins the second. Everyone gets super discouraged until they see Sandra making her way through the crowd. She winds up sitting by the sidelines like she did before and cheering them on as they win the last game and earn a spot in the California Games. Not only does Sandra tell them how happy and proud she is, but she explains that Christopher miraculously healed and that despite being born 2+ months early is ready to come home and will be there at the games.

Mandy does throw a baby shower but throws it at the Wakefield house. Sandra starts opening her gifts and finds out that they all got her the same thing: rattles with handles shaped like animals. She cries because it's proof that they all learned how to work together, but it's really because they all went to the same over priced store and could only afford the same thing.

*Sandra comments on Liz ordering mango ice cream because she was born and bred in Kansas and never even heard of mangoes when she was their age. On literally the next page, she tells them about winning the California Games. While it's possible that she moved to California later in middle school, it feels more like a mistake.

*In no way, shape, or form is going to a middle school competition more exciting than going to the freaking Olympics. She explains that her team were the underdogs in middle school, which is what made it more exciting because in the Olympics, everyone was as good as her team.

*She also tells the girls that she made the Olympic team despite not being very good and actually being worse than other women who tried out, just because she worked harder then them. Um, no, that's not how that works. Olympians are the best of the best. You don't get to that point just because you're a hard worker.

*This book once again makes no sense. There are apparently NO middle school volleyball teams already in existence. They all form teams and start playing, just to compete against each other in the hopes of making it to the California Games. That explains why the Sweet Valley team only had like three weeks of practice before their first game. Why even bother then? It's described in the first book as the Games highlighting the top players and the top teams. That shouldn't include kids who randomly decided they wanted to play a sport at the last minute.

*Lila says that Unicorns are never losers even when they lose when talking about how Liz and her friends are losers after losing a game. It made me want to punch her.

*The swim teach coach literally shows up to a game and spends the whole time looking over papers when they play. When they call him out on it, he says that he really needs to get the roster set for the next match. Would it really take him that freaking long?

*Janet literally tells Kimberly that once they win the California Games, it's okay if the reporters want to come and talk to her first about the Unicorns. I know she's self-absorbed, but is Janet really that delusional?

*Jessica excitedly jumps up and screams game when she thinks they won, but Big Mesa hits the ball back and keeps the game going. She pouts and thinks about how it's not fair that she wants SV to win so bad and how the other team just won't give up. Yeah, I'm pretty sure this is the only book where that doesn't happen.

*So, Liz goes to the over priced baby store, which has like white carpets everywhere and loads of stuff inside locked wood cases. She picks out an outfit that costs over $40 and then looks at stuffed animals, the cheapest of which is like $42. She gets the rattle because it's only $3, which is why all the other girls do the same thing. Is there seriously like no Target, Walmart, or Babies R Us stores in Sweet Valley? There is no way everyone in town can afford to outfit their nurseries in that place!

*In case you didn't notice, there is no resolution to this book. They get the chance to go to the California Games but don't.

*I'm a little confused by this book because it apparently takes place at the same time as the first book. That book had a few mentions of Liz playing volleyball but no references to her winning, but in this book, Jessica hasn't even competed in a gymnastics meet yet.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Nancy Drew Files #56: Make No Mistake (1991)

A bunch of people in River Heights are all sad because this millionaire named Clayton Glover passed away. His son Matt went missing five years ago during an avalanche in Colorado and is presumably dead, so no one really knows what will happen to his fortune. He apparently left behind a will that set aside money for his old housekeeper and for some charities in town. Before people get too excited about their new fortunes though, his son Matt suddenly reappears from the dead!

Matt claims that he woke up from the avalanche with amnesia and couldn't remember who he was. He remembered that he liked to write, adopted the name Gary Page, and became a newspaper writer. After spending a few years writing, he accidentally stumbled upon his dad's obituary and suddenly remembered who he was. Mrs. Adams, the old housekeeper, is sure it's him, but no one else is sure what to think except for Bess.

See, Matt was five years older than them but nice enough to invite all the younger kids to his mansion for ice skating, parties, and other events when they were younger. Bess had a crush on him back then, which quickly becomes current once she meets him. Matt starts inviting her over all the time and spending a lot of time with her. Tony, the leader of an environmental group in town, tells Nancy to come see him the next day because he can prove that this guy is not Matt.

Tony's office is pretty shitty. There's trash everywhere, no one really around, and lots of unpaid bills. He tells Nancy that he and Matt were like brothers when they were younger and that there is something about this guy that he doesn't like. Since he offers no real evidence, Nancy breaks into his office and winds up trapped when his dogs attack. The dogs are actually big sweethearts though, and Tony is more upset at her not trusting his gut feeling than her breaking the law.

Nancy then hears about Jake Loomis. Loomis was a landscaper in town and worked for Glover. After his death, he left River Heights for Chicago and opened some huge landscaping business. Gary Page, Matt's old identity, wrote a story about Loomis. Nancy meets his old editor who gets irritated that people might not believe he's actually Matt but does let it slip that he never talked about his past and never mentioned that he supposedly suffered from amnesia. Nancy and George both meet Loomis who makes up excuses for why he didn't realize Gary was Matt, despite knowing him his entire life.

Matt keeps throwing all these parties and has no problem spending his dad's money. He starts driving his dad's vintage car, wearing his old watches, and spending a lot of money on new clothes. Bess is so over the moon that she refuses to listen to anyone who tells her to slow things down. When Matt invites them over one day, he convinces them to go for sleigh rides and even rents horses from nearby.

Someone in a red jacket runs in front of the horses carrying Nancy and George. The horses flip out, Nancy tries to calm them down, and the reins break. She wakes up in a room in the mansion to learn that George landed safely in a snowbank. Once she feels better, she finds a wet red jacket in the closet. She suspects that someone though she was Matt because she was wearing his hat, but the only person who could have worn the jacket was Mrs. Adams.

Though she does kind of suspect this 60+ year old woman, everything changes when Nancy stops by one day and finds her crying over cake. Matt explains that every time she made him or his dad a cake when he was younger, his dad would treat her to a bakery cake made just for her. Since she made him pie, he decided to treat her in the same way. Mrs. Adams confides in Nancy that she was sure he was Matt because he called her Addie, a nickname only he knew about, but not she's not so sure. She's so allergic to chocolate that she once had a massive reaction and almost died in front of him, which is something kids don't forget.

Nancy then comes up with a plan. She has Tony call Loomis's office and pretend that he's Matt with a request that they meet in River Heights at seven. She then goes to Bess and convinces her to carry a micro recorder over to Matt's house and lie to him about something to catch him. Bess only agrees to help if Nancy will let her prove that he's the real deal and then drop it.

Bess brings up his 18th birthday party and really does catch him. The real Matt has two cakes shaped like a one and eight with mocha fudge frosting. Fake Matt says he had a purple and white cake in the shape of a football because he was a football star in high school. When she makes up an excuse to leave, he grabs her and the recorder accidentally falls out. Loomis then appears and flips out.

Nancy tries to run inside and help but only makes this worse. Turns out that Matt is really just Gary Page. He met Loomis, who noticed the resemblance between him and Matt. When Matt's dad died, Loomis trained him on how to be the real Matt and brought him back to town. Gary suggests that they bring the girls in on the scam and that they'll split the money with them. Tony's dogs suddenly burst into the room all freaked out.

Not knowing that the dogs are sweethearts, the two men run for the hills. Tony catches Gary, and Nancy knocks Loomis out with a judo kick to the back, seriously. The cops then come and arrest them both. Tony tells her that his dogs hate water, so he tossed water on them to freak them out before breaking into the house.

In the end, Carson writes up a press release. Glover set aside a large sum of money for Mrs. Adams, donated his house and grounds to the city – provided that they open the grounds up for ice skating like his son always loved and name the museum inside his house after his son, and gave money to a bunch of charities like Tony's environment group. Everyone takes a moment to think about how he was such a great guy. Bess then announces that the whole experience makes her think that anything can happen and that she realizes the real Matt might be alive and ready to come home. Ugh.

*I'm guessing that River Heights is somewhere in Illinois because Nancy goes to Chicago for a few hours two different times.

*Mrs. Adams is so allergic to chocolate that she almost died from eating a cookie with candy in it, yet she has no problem cutting and serving a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting that other people eat. Um, that's not how food allergies work...

*Nancy discovers that new Matt has the same scar on his wrist that old Matt has but thinks he created it because it's pink and not skin colored like older scars are. Yeah, I have a massive scar that is 20+ years old on my ankle that is still pretty pink.

*New Matt passes a lie detector test but fails when he says he was never in Colorado where the avalanche happened. Carson explains that new Matt was so caught up in his lie that he believed everything Matt experienced happened to him but that he never learned about the avalanche, so he couldn't pass those questions. Yeah, okay.

*Thanks to this book, we now know that River Heights High School colors are purple and white!

*Mr. Glover is like the richest man in River Heights but has a total worth of $10 million when he dies, which really isn't a lot-lot. There are houses in my area that sold for half that amount or more recently.

*Ned calls a few times and has to break plans to come home the next weekend because of a big test. Nancy is all sad, even though she breaks plans with him all the time, but I'm just surprised that she didn't run off and cheat on him.

*George is super worried about fake Matt because of the age difference between him and Bess. She's 18, and he's like 23. I knew girls in college who weren't much older and dating guys in their mid to upper 30s, which was way creepier.