Sweet Vally Confidential Chapter 1:
Elizabeth now lives in New York City. She’s trying to escape Sweet Valley, Jessica, and the memories of Jessica’s undisclosed betrayal.
As Elizabeth walks into apartment, though, Jessica is leaving a message begging her to answer so they can talk.
“You going to get that?” David Stephenson, the young man standing next to her, asked as he stretched his arm over her head to hold the door open. David was six-three and at her five-six it was way over her head.
“That’s okay,” she managed, quickly ducking her face away from him, stealing a sliver of extra time as she put the doggie-bagged pork chop she was carrying carefully and more precisely than necessary down on the hall table. It gave her enough time to catch her breath and let the tears slide back down her throat.
I’ve never read a more heart-wrenching scene featuring a doggie-bagged pork chop.
David voices his surprise and concern that Elizabeth owns a landline. “This is supposed to be a modern book,” David probably protests internally. My thoughts exactly, David, whoever you are.
Apparently Elizabeth’s mother thought a landline would make her safer because Sweet Valley folk don’t understand that killers always cut the phone lines. Watch a movie, will ya Mrs. Wakefield?
Elizabeth tries to ignore Jessica’s voicemail, but this landline plot device doesn’t let her:
“Lizzie. Pick up.” The woman’s voice on the machine was plaintive. “Please. I really need to talk to you.”
Of course, Elizabeth could hear it from the kitchen. Could she ever miss that voice? Now so sweet, so seductive, pleading softly, spreading out the vowels, almost songlike. Liz … zie …
It actually sounds more like Jessica has turned into a zombie, which would be a cool and unexpected turn for this book to take. Sweet Valley Apocalypse has a nice ring to it.
David Whoeverthefuck is worried Elizabeth is missing an important call:
“It sounds important. Don’t you want to get it?”
Now Elizabeth was back in the room carrying two glasses of chilled white wine. David was sitting on the small low couch, so low his knees almost obscured his face.
She answered him completely composed, as if she were reciting dialogue in a play. “Actually, no.”
It had everything but the English accent.
I know sometimes I don’t recognise common idioms, but I googled this line to make sure “it had everything but the English accent” wasn’t a beloved phrase before commenting that it makes absolutely no fucking sense. I feel confident voicing my strong opinion after some vigorous googling about the matter. Did you know that some plays feature people that don’t have English accents? Crazy, I know.
David’s mind is blown because the voice on the recording sounded so much like Elizabeth!
To distract David from his detective work, Elizabeth tries to use Queen Bey:
“You like Beyoncé?”
“Really,” he said. “I mean, you could have fooled me. It was identical.” He wasn’t going to let it go so easily.
Since David cannot be so easily sidetracked by celebrities, Elizabeth brings out the big guns. She sits down next to David and contemplates whether she should distraction fuck him.
A direction she seriously didn’t want. Certainly not with this semistranger, a guy she’d barely spoken to before tonight. Her boss.
Elizabeth is so worried about David asking more questions about Jessica, so worried that there’s no other way she can change the topic (like saying, “I’d rather not talk about this”) that she both uses this possibility as a way to distract him and actually considers going through with it even though she clearly has no desire to. Because she barely knows him and he’s her boss. (I didn’t realize this would be so thematically complementary to Beautiful Redemption.)
It worked. He turned to her, delighted, a little surprised at the possible gift he was not expecting, all thoughts of the telephone message wiped out of his head.
Oh, well I’m glad it was an effective tactic. A real shame he didn’t take the bait with Beyonce.
Elizabeth takes this moment to explain she now works at an online magazine called Show Survey: Off Broadway in New York, which really draws on her experience working at her high school newspaper. Man, remember Sweet Valley High’s school paper? Back in those days, there were no digital editions!
We get a lot of details about how the magazine was founded and what kinds of interviews they do. SKIP.
There are a lot more important things to focus on, though, like was she on a date with David? And how exactly did Elizabeth wind up with that doggie-bagged pork chop?
Tonight wasn’t a real date with David. It was more like, Hey, you eat yet? No? How about we grab a bite at McMullen’s? Hence, the leftover pork chop.
Whew, glad that loose end was tied up so quickly.
It was okay, but somehow Elizabeth had gotten stuck with the tip. David was attractive enough— tall with a very good body, every muscle well worked out at least five times a week at a local gym— but the tip thing was a turnoff.
So presumably he paid for dinner, but Elizabeth is pissed about the tip? I get it if this implies that he is the kind of person that doesn’t tip in general and Elizabeth is a decent human who decided to pick up the slack. But it sounds like David paid and just asked her to cover the tip instead of paying for her meal…which seems completely cool to me.
Additionally, sleeping with the boss was a famously bad idea. In her four years at the Sweet Valley News, Elizabeth had never done it. Well, of course, Todd was in her life then.
Um, also wouldn’t her boss have been a teacher? Would she have even technically had a boss at a voluntary school newspaper gig?
Elizabeth thinks that David is hot…and that maybe the tip thing was an accident (okay so maybe he did forget, which I kind of get why that might concern Elizabeth, but I wish she’d move on from thinking about this.) She also informs us he’s a really nice guy like 20 times, so SHOULD SHE JUST SLEEP WITH HIM? I guess these are the kind of complex and adult decisions we’ll have to see our characters wrestle with in this book.
Elizabeth has only had sex with one guy since she came to New York, and it didn’t go anywhere beyond a few hookups. It also sounds like it was awful for Elizabeth but she breezes over it pretty quickly:
She cried after every orgasm. How embarrassing, but he pretended not to notice. Russ was not a man to complicate a good thing with feelings.
Elizabeth tells us he seemed like a ‘nice guy’, but I think he seems like a sociopath. If you’re sleeping with someone and every time they orgasm they cry…you at least like ask a couple follow-up questions.
David heads off, disappointed he’s not going to get laid when Elizabeth stands up to change the music and doesn’t sit back down next to him.
Once alone, Elizabeth thinks sad and mysterious thoughts about how Jessica betrayed her and now she’s here in New York and lonely.
One of the most interesting things we learn is that Bruce Patman is Elizabeth’s best friend and the only person from Sweet Valley that she’s still in touch with. I would say this is a shocking turn of events, but it’s probably only shocking if you just read the first two Sweet Valley High books.
The book abruptly switches to first-person, and Elizabeth reminds us, in detail, of things that happened back in high school/Double Love. Like when Jessica was being punished and wasn’t supposed to drive, but she bullied Elizabeth into letting her. I feel like we recapped that, but I don’t remember this specific scene where Enid gets into the car with them, or Jessica getting out of the car to ride with Bruce Patman instead.
When you think about it, it’s actually pretty sad that a 27 year old Elizabeth is still so fixated on high school. I know earlier in the chapter, Elizabeth recalled some events that happen post high school (and post books we’ve recapped), but none of them get the same amount of attention. Like this is a whole first-person flashback dedicated to it! Elizabeth makes a big point to even remind us about Ronnie who breaks up with Enid really early on in the series. Or remind us what shirt Jessica borrowed for her date with Todd:
That night Jessica wants to borrow everything of mine for her date with Todd. Even my new blue button-down shirt. But for one of the rare times, I’m not lending. My clothes aren’t going out with Todd, not unless I’m in them.
I get the urge to really tie all of this back together, but it feels so forced to remind us of all the past relationships/connections/dynamics and how they’ve changed or stayed the same over time. Like is the target audience people who only read one Sweet Valley High book? People who read them all but need to be reminded of the relationships? A new audience? Is reminding us what shirt Jessica wanted to borrow supposed to be fanservice?
At the end of the chapter and the flashback, Elizabeth remembers this moment where it seems like Jessica might sort of feel guilty for going on a date with Todd, but then she thinks, “She is a heartless bitch and I hate her.”