Hopefully everybody’s enjoying our return to the batshit insane world of Sweet Valley High while Ariel and I sort through all our recommendations we got for the next book (update: OMG), and also purge Grey from our system.
So I have a reminder, and something interesting for you guys to keep in mind. We’ve emphasized before that we like doing books like Sweet Valley High (and Magic Tree House and Goosebumps) not because they’re bad, but because they are very, very silly. They’re campy and full of goofball nonsense. So as we read a book doing that fairly well on Mondays and Tuesdays, remember as we read our other series about high schoolers on Thursdays and Fridays that does not do a good job with campy goofball nonsense. Just see how they compare.
Without further ado, let’s see check in on our favorite sociopath: Jessica Wakefield.
Sweet Valley High: Secrets Chapter 2
We rejoin Jessica, bored in French class, wishing she were instead at the beach “soaking up the rays in the bronze, wet-look, one-piece she’d bought the week before at Foxy Mama”, which is unquestionably the greatest piece of worldbuilding we’ve seen on this blog in a while, because there is a store in this world named fucking Foxy Mama.
We waste no more time than paragraph #3 to meet boy #1 in Jessica’s inevitable machinations:
she caught Winston Egbert, seated across the aisle, gazing at her with a goofy, lovesick expression. Yech! Did he have to stare at her like that? Even so, she found herself shifting slightly to a more flattering pose.
Jessica is like the Zoey that House of Night didn’t even know it wanted Zoey to be, much like how most Taylor Swift covers are the songs that Taylor Swift didn’t even know she wanted them to be.
As soon as Winston opens his mouth, it’s pretty clear he’s actually the worst. Although this is Sweet Valley High, so “the worst” basically means “tells jokes so lame that in the real world he would probably have to switch schools”.
“How [do] you expect to conjugate the verbs I’ve written on the board if you’re not looking at it,” [Ms. Dalton] needled in a pleasant voice.
“Mental telepathy!” Winston piped, swooping to her rescue with clownish gallantry. “She’s really Wonder Woman in disguise. Hey, Jess, show us how you leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
Boy #2 chimes in to tell Winston that he got the wrong superhero and to either shut up or “get out of here faster than a speeding bullet”. So we’re already convinced that he’s the better boy, but let’s see how Jessica explains it:
The difference between Ken and Winston was that Ken was tall, blond, gorgeous, and captain of the football team.
I love how the only difference she has is the positive qualities of one of them. I hope Jessica grew up to be a political commentator. “The difference between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is that Bernie is charismatic and has a wacky hairdo.”
But, lo, Ken is not the perfect match for Jessica, for he has his sights set on someone else… THEIR TEACHER. I promise this isn’t House of Night.
“I think think we can all settle down and get some work done now. Unless,” she added, eyes sparkling, “any of you has X-ray vision and can see the answers I have hidden in my desk.”
A ripple of laughter greeted this. Ken flashed her one of his thousand-watt grins. It was common knowledge that Ken was hopelessly in love with Ms. Dalton, who had been giving him extra tutoring after class to boost his near-failing grade. Even so, Jessica doubted that Ms. Dalton suspected that Ken had a crush on her.
You might be thinking, hm, it’s a little weird that Jessica would assume that Ms. Dalton would necessarily care, what with being a teacher and all. But to Jessica, the weird part is that Ms. Dalton has yet to properly capitalize on this information, like a chump.
She was always the first to know it when a guy liked her— as well as the first to take advantage of it when it suited her. Even Winston might come in handy one of these days.
Jessica begins to fantasize about the man she really wants: Bruce Patman. Fortunately, she has an entirely reasonable plan for how she’ll land this fine specimen of a man.
there was a way, even if he didn’t ask her [to the dance]. Jessica had been nominated for queen. Bruce Patman was up for king. […] She simply had to win. It was her big chance to make Bruce fall in love with her.
Just in case the plan was too subtle: Step 1) Jessica and Bruce win queen and king. Step 2) Bruce therefore falls in love with Jessica. It’s so simple. Why did I even have to explain that.
She would do anything, absolutely anything, to be queen.…
Anything. Maybe even some convoluted plan where she reveals her sister’s best friend’s shady past with drugs and drunk driving which will somehow help her become queen. Maybe. That’s what “anything” means.
After class, Jessica gossips with her friends Lila and Cara at her locker. We learn, in the somehow increasingly convoluted subplot about their teacher’s dating life:
- Lila’s father (one of the richest people in Sweet Valley) is dating Ms. Dalton, and she’s convinced she’s just in it for the money
- Ken is taking Lila to the dance, but she’s not super into him and does not care that he’s got the hots for someone else. The book completely glosses over that “someone else” is her father’s girlfriend, which strikes me as odd.
- Lila claims to have “seen the way [Ms. Dalton] drapes herself across [Ken’s] desk when alone in the classroom”
Jessica takes all of this information into consideration:
Actually, if Ms. Dalton was having an affair with Ken Matthews, it might even liven things up at school, she thought.
Holy shit, what is with the books we’re reading on the blog right now? Why is everyone nonplussed about teacher-underage student relationships?
Back in the realm of Jessica’s love problems (which are refreshingly not felonies) (yet) (IDK Jessica’s a loose cannon), Jessica explains what she looks for in a man:
“You have to admit,” said Jessica, “there is something wildly sexy about a man in a black Porsche— especially if he’s six feet plus and has gorgeous blue eyes and is incredibly rich,” she added.
And then, suddenly, Bruce appears. And the prose is beautiful.
Her knees went weak as warm Jell-O. […] Her eyes [were] riveted on the glorious spectacle of Bruce climbing the stairs with the loose-limbed grace of a young lion.
Oh woe, if only there were some kind of wacky hijinks that could get Jessica closer to Bruce while somehow ruining everyone else’s lives!