Everybody Has Even More Problems: Sweet Valley High #1 Chapters 4-7

Welcome to day two of our very first reading of Sweet Valley High! How’s everyone dealing with the high school drama so far? [Ariel says: I personally feel it’s an incredible opportunity to use all my favourite high school gifs!] 

Chapter 4

Well, Elizabeth, for one, is not having a great time dealing with the high school drama, so much so that she provides a handy summary of all of it. Even though we’re only on chapter 4. There’s just that much drama. [Ariel says: It’s all because of Jessica. That girl could find drama in a piece of salami.]

She hadn’t written a word for her “Eyes and Ears” column yet, and she still hadn’t thought of a topic for her history paper. And then there was Steven—something was going on with him that wasn’t quite right. It made her uneasy. And she couldn’t get over an even more alarming suspicion about her father and Ms. West.

Oh, and also there’s that whole thing where her dream boy might be interested in her twin sister, Jessica. We’re very conveniently reminded of this as another student bursts into the newspaper office to remind us that these three characters are basically the only people in the entire school.

Cara Walker burst noisily into the Oracle office […] “Liz,” Cara gushed breathlessly, “I’ve got a great idea for an [article]. The hottest new couple in the whole school is your very own sister, Jessica-”
“Jessica?” Elizabeth asked, surprised.
“[…] something like – ‘The hottest new couple at Sweet Valley High is the co-captain of the cheerleaders and the captain of the basketball team!'”

It’s pretty juicy.

“They were even seen up at Miller’s Point,” Cara continued. “And you know what goes on up there.”

“Yes, please tell me more about my sister’s implied sex life,” thought literally anyone in this scenario.

Elizabeth decides that since she doesn’t have anything else for her Eyes and Ears column, and since the evidence is clearly indicating that Todd Williams really likes Jessica, that this is the reality she must create for herself. [Ariel says: Given her identify as the writer of the Eyes and Ears column is supposed to be this huge secret, wouldn’t it be abundantly clear to Cara that Elizabeth stole her idea for an article and just used it in her shitty gossip column? To be fair, that’s actually where it belongs and not on, like, the front cover of this high school paper. That honour should always go to the hottest cliquerority news, of course.]

Elizabeth began typing it out, hardly noticing the tears that fell onto her typewriter keys. […]
Yes, Elizabeth told herself, they’re perfect for each other. I wish them the very best. I really do, she insisted as she folded her head in her arms and sobbed.

It’s like a melodramatic Plato’s Cave.

I've had weirdly lots of reasons to use Memento gifs on this blog recently, which has been great for letting me revisit when that hairstyle could possibly have been popular.
I’ve had weirdly lots of reasons to use Memento gifs on this blog recently, which has been great for letting me revisit when that hairstyle could possibly have been popular.

Suddenly, the school paper’s “good-looking adviser” (oh, California!) comes in and notices Elizabeth’s distress. She tells him her dilemma, but rushes out in tears when another character comes in with a reminder that these are the only three people in the entire school.

“Hey, Mr. Collins,” he said, “I’m the biggest idiot in the world. I’ve got the sports pages all laid out, and I can’t find the picture of Todd Wilkins.”

Sure enough, she runs into these only other people in the school, Todd and Jessica, then runs away again. The chapter’s perspective suddenly switches over to Jessica (which actually threw me for a loop, even though these books’ target audience are people a decade younger than me), who continues to try to manipulate Todd into asking her out instead of Elizabeth!

“My sister.” Jessica sighed and took Todd’s arm.
“Always in a hurry. Always rushing off to meet some guy.”

At the last minute, Todd balks from asking Jessica to be his date, reassures her there’s still plenty of time and leaves. Jessica gets so upset that she decides to… swing her hips about it.

Tears of angry frustration filled her eyes. She decided she would walk home from school. Whenever she was out walking, she never failed to attract a good deal of attention from passing cars.
The more the better, she thought, swinging her hips a little as she set off.

Chapter 5

Jessica gets said attention immediately, with maybe the worst pickup line ever.

“Pardon me, Heaven—which way to Mars?”

I know I use this gif pretty frequently, but can you really fault me?

We learn a little bit about the man in “the jacked-up Camaro”, and it actually gets better. “Better”, meaning “wow, this writing actually got more absurd”.

She recognized him as Rick Andover, the most outrageous guy at Sweet Valley High—until he dropped out six months ago. […] He had the ice-cool handsomeness of a junior Clint Eastwood, and a hint of danger lurked in his sultry dark eyes. […] Jessica stared in fascination at the eagle emblem tattooed against the densely packed muscles of his forearm. […]
“I’m driving you home. That is, unless your mommy warned you never to take rides with strangers.”

kill all men sound of music

Naturally, this is enough to woo Jessica into the car, where the dialogue gets… unsettling…

“Don’t worry,” she replied, arching an eyebrow. “I’m fighting off the urge to attack you.”
He shot her a look full of unmistakable meaning. “Just as long as you don’t fight too hard. I’m not used to taking no for an answer.”

Jessica, still feeling the sting of Todd’s rejection, agrees to go on a date with Rick the next night, and she drops her off at her house… and gives her a kiss! Jessica assures us the experience is sexy.

He smelled sexy, but in a strange way—like leather and gasoline.

Good thing she assured us. [Ariel says: Well if the book says it’s not creepy, I guess I have to agree! Just like all those times Gideon and Christian’s behaviour was romantic and not abusive and psychotic.]

Jessica keeps her date a secret from her family, including her mom who thinks that Rick is “headed straight for trouble!”, and Elizabeth, who suspects that Jessica is sneaking off on a date… but with Todd! When will the wacky misunderstandings end?

Chapter 6

Jessica, in “her sexiest red blouse”, meets up with Rick, whom the book couldn’t be making it more obvious that Rick is trouble if it were a Taylor Swift music video. [Ariel says: This actually seems like a perfect fit for Jessica. She’s also completely terrible – it’s a match made in troubling heaven (which is North of Mars I hear).]

“Where are we going?” Jessica asked as Rick’s Camaro shot over the winding valley road leading to the coast highway. Before he could say anything, she answered her own question: “I know—that’s for you to know and me to find out, right?”
“Right. Hey, you’re a fast learner. I can’t wait to see what else you’re good at.” […]
He talked the way he drove—fast and dangerously. […] She caught the faint smell of cigarettes and liquor on his breath.

I-Knew-You-Were-Trouble-taylor-swift-33135055-250-150
Actually, it’s possible that T Swift was more subtle than this book, even though she’s literally going, “TROUBLE TROUBLE TROUBLE”

[Ariel says: What does talking dangerously entail? Is he mixing up his adjectives and adverbs?]

Rick takes her to Kelly’s, a bar with “the most notorious reputation [in] the whole valley”. Men stare at her, wolf whistle, and Rick orders ALCOHOL.

Rick ordered a couple of boilermakers, something Jessica had never heard of before. She was relieved to see that it was only beer, until the waitress placed two shot glasses of whiskey beside their foaming mugs. She didn’t even look at Jessica, much less ask for her I.D.

It is about this point where Jessica realizes that this was maybe a poor decision.

Rick’s eyes narrowed. “All tease and no tickle, huh? Didn’t your mommy tell you not to put anything in the window that you don’t sell in the store?” His fingers groped higher, and she noticed he was beginning to slur his words. [That was fast.]
This time there was no pretense in the way Jessica pulled away from Rick. Suddenly he didn’t seem so fascinating anymore. Just dangerous.

Rick refuses her request to take her home and forcibly makes out with her, a whole ten pages after we met him.

Just saying
Just saying

Another man at the bar notices this and offers Jessica a ride, and then punches out Rick when he protests. Police show up, the bartender threatens to press charges, and Jessica’s lies get on a whoooole other level.

“Maybe it’s best for your parents to find out. They might stop you from doing something even worse the next time. Now, why don’t you give me your name?”
“Uh . . . Wakefield . . .” she managed to choke.
“Wakefield, huh?” The cop peered closely at her. “Sure, I know you. You’re a friend of my niece, Emily Mayer. I’ve heard her mention Elizabeth Wakefield.”
“Emily? Oh, sure!” Jessica ignored his mistake.

Man, I bet this wacky misunderstanding isn’t going to get around the whole school overnight somehow!

Chapter 7

Meanwhile, Elizabeth continues to conversely be the saddest of sacks.

The morning was bright and sunny, as it almost always was in Sweet Valley. Why can’t you get a cloudy day when you really need one? she mused.

She realizes she’s late to school – and for a science test! – and rushes out the door, ignoring Jessica, who says she needs to talk to her about something urgent! When will the madness end, you guys?

Not any time soon. We still have like 100 pages left.

Bruce Patman stepped out of the group. He was smirking.
“Didn’t know you had it in you, Wakefield. Really awesome.”
“What?” Elizabeth stopped short and faced Bruce.
“You know, Wakefield, you know. And now I know.”

[Ariel says: But how exactly do they all know? Obviously, Rick knew which twin he was really with, and I can’t imagine him having many friends to gossip with since he dropped out of school. That leaves the cop who started this whole mistaken identity nonsense. So this cop calls his niece late at night when he gets off his shift to gossip about Elizabeth Wakefield? IN WHAT WORLD?]

Elizabeth and Enid talk about Bruce, whom incidentally is gorgeous and rich and star of the tennis team (MORE BOYS, Y’ALL), before Enid turns the conversation to what everyone is talking about, but runs off to talk to Ronnie, looking “almost relieved to delay her conversation”. BUT THINGS GET WORSE.

“Why were you talking to her?” he asked, still frowning.
“To Liz? She’s my best friend!”
“Maybe you should be more careful about choosing friends. Everybody’s talking about that stunt she pulled last night.”
“Everybody? Ronnie, that’s not true. Besides, we haven’t heard Liz’s side yet.”
“Enid, it’s all over campus. Caroline Pearce saw the squad car bring Liz home.”

And now even Enid’s love life is in danger! Because somehow Caroline Pearce knew about the mistaken-identity conversation that happened in the bar just by seeing one of the Wakefield twins being driven home in a cop car. Jessica’s life-ruining powers are super powerful, you guys. [Ariel says: Oh my god, I was going to say the same exact thing! That’s why I really think it was actually the cop spreading gossip, because why the fuck would anyone assume it was Elizabeth getting out of a cop car. Clearly, it would be Jessica. Fucking JESSICA.]

Elizabeth gets home and GUYS, THERE IS MORE DRAMA

“Steve, you were supposed to go back to school last night,” Alice Wakefield said.
“Mom, don’t get uptight. I didn’t miss anything important today.”
“That’s not the point. You’re being very secretive.”

What’s up with Steve?! I dunno, he’s been in the book, like, once. So far this subplot is just “Steve has a problem too”.

Enid finally explains what’s up to Elizabeth on the phone later, and after freaking out, Elizabeth figures out what somehow nobody else in the entire school could:

In a flash, though, Elizabeth realized that she did know someone who would speak to [Rick]—Jessica!

Doesn’t everybody know that Elizabeth and Jessica are twins? And maybe have gleaned some small details of how the two are different? How has this not occurred to a single person? [Ariel says: Chapter 1 clearly established that you can see their personality differences in their eyes. It can’t be that hard to figure out the truth about what happened last night.]

Elizabeth confronts Jessica, but Jessica has yet another problem. God, being a rich, white, beautiful blonde teenager in California sounds tough.

“Our brother, a member of the Wakefield family, has been spending every weekend,” Jessica got out between sobs, “with Betsy Martin!” […]
“Jess, are you sure? I can’t believe it. Betsy’s been doing drugs for years—she sleeps around—”
“And her father gets bombed out of his mind every night,” Jessica said wildly.

Yep, this is probably worse than the “Jessica got Elizabeth put on parole” thing. I bet there isn’t even a non-romantic explanation for Steve hanging out with Betsy! That would just be too wacky for this book.

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