Sweet Valley Confidential Chapter 8: Jessica Almost Cheats On Todd

I just had a conversation with my roommate about how she was obsessed with Sweet Valley High when she was a kid. She was unaware that Sweet Valley Confidential existed. I also had to break the bad news to her that Sweet Valley Confidential exists.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Chapter 8

“Now, Matthew,” you might be saying. “This book isn’t that stupid.”

Jessica worked for MYFACEISGREEN, an environmental promotion company that helped introduce new, green beauty products for the popular cosmetics market.

God, I have so many questions about this.

  1. Who decided the best name for this company was “My face is green”?
  2. Who decided that the best way to stylize that was all as one word?
  3. In all caps?
  4. As opposed to the unpopular cosmetics market?

We learn that MYFACEISGREEN (I am going to write out the full name at every possible opportunity, because it’s fucking MYFACEISGREEN, you guys) is funded by Lila Fowler’s father, because basically everything moneyed in Sweet Valley comes from one minor character’s family.

The backbone of every good fictional economy!
The backbone of every good fictional economy!

This contact helped Jessica get the job, but she turned out to be a natural at marketing. The book stumbles a few times trying to convincingly describe what this entails.

She could socialize and advertise all at once by syncing her Twitter and Facebook accounts for both.

And just finds all kinds of amazing new ways to make a company called MYFACEISGREEN seem even less plausible.

After [that success], she had a lifetime supply of unused seaweed masks and had discovered that by toasting them on top of the stove she could crisp them up enough to eat as a snack.

You guys, I work as an editor for a medical communications company and I am freaking out over how not FDA-approved this sounds.

But on top of her newfound mad skills with marketing and/or synchronizing Facebook and Twitter accounts, the new job presents one more bright spot in Jessica’s apparently otherwise miserable post-Sweet Valley High life.

Most of the people in the office were new to Sweet Valley and had no idea about her background. She was not the lesser of the twins, because hardly anyone knew she had a twin. It was the first time in her life she was being taken seriously as her own person.

I don’t doubt that there was serious sibling rivalry, and we did only read all of two Sweet Valley High books before this, but weren’t we under the impression that Jessica was the cool one? Or at the very least definitely someone who had her own clique, admirers, gang of people who thought Elizabeth was totally not as cool as Jessica?

I’m not sure I’m seeing it this way.

We also learn about how much the vice president values her work. We also learn his name and that “If Jessica could create the perfect man, Michael would come pretty close”, so queue love triangle in three… two…

Additionally, it was obvious to anyone with any perception that he was more than a little interested in Jessica.

andrew lincoln yay

Oh man! Could this beautiful man who is suddenly a character almost halfway into this book suddenly be a contender for Jessica’s affections, on top of that whole Jessica-Todd-Elizabeth (+ Irish bartender guy?) web of FEELINGS we’ve got going on now? If only we could find out, and also get an absurd marketing project happening at MYFACEISGREEN!

This last week he had been involved in a project for promoting a new face bronzer made entirely of organic flower stamens. Once applied it lasted for days, a terrific advantage until you wanted to take it off. Then it was more like a stain than a surface coloring. How to get around that? How to make that seem like a plus? Only one person could possibly do that.

I fucking love Jessica’s company, you guys. This is the stupidest thing we’ve read in a while, and last week Jessica was pretending to be an airplane.

Jessica solves his marketing problem immediately (by suggesting “Why would you want to take it off?” – I’m definitely not qualified to weigh in on whether this is brilliant or stupid. I didn’t watch Mad Men.), and he invites her out for champagne. Jessica texts a white lie to Todd about being stuck at a meeting and accepts! I can’t wait for all the classic Jessica about to unfold!

A glass of champagne and more talk about how fabulous she was was appealing.

Andy_Classic

But, lo, there is not more talk about how fabulous she is. This is Sweet Valley Confidential, which means that once they get to the bar, it’s page after page of straight exposition about feelings.

Who was she kidding? This was not full disclosure. And what was she really going to tell Todd when she got home? This kind of thinking was pure, familiar Jessica Wakefield, but now it came with a tinge of discomfort. […] There must be something pushing her, she thought. Why would she have lied to Todd? Should she trust her instincts? Instincts know in a flash what takes the mind so much longer to figure out.

Speaking of things that don’t really take all that long to figure out, how about more words about how Jessica’s feeling conflicted? I’m not sure if I get that Jessica is conflicted yet. If only this could be explained with confusing figurative language.

Instincts could be good and, often, useful; they could even save your life. And clear thinking could be wise, but nothing can stand up to the power of that uncontrollable tornado that sweeps out everything in its path. Nothing matched the power of love.

Worse, there’s only one bit where the book tries a little too hard to assure the readers it’s taking place in the present day that we can make fun of!

All of the [bar patrons] seemed to be BBMing on their Blackberries and texting on their iPhones

Just one oddly granular description of the modern world? We get all those words telling us about feelings rather than showing us feelings, but that’s it for words telling us how the modern day is specifically different from when they were in high school?

pirates that's not good enough
WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE ON ANDROID PHONES? WHAT ARE THEY DOING? WE NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS.

The only interesting bit is where Jessica realizes that she could fix her relationship with Elizabeth if she gave up Todd. It goes on for a while, as you might have guessed for the above quotes, but that’s pretty much the gist of it. But she decides that she can’t, and decides to leave her drink unfinished, thank Michael and offer her help at work again, and leave. Which does leave us with this delightfully miserable description of Michael:

Knowing he had lost, he just sat there and finished his champagne and what was left in Jessica’s glass.

And this leads to – you guessed it – more explicit explanations of what the scene that we just read about means.

By the time she got into her car, the enormity of what had just happened and the decision she’d made brought tears to her eyes.
She was losing Elizabeth again, this time consciously giving her away, and it was very different from what had happened eight months earlier. Then, she had no control. This time, in total control, she had chosen Todd.
Now she fully understood what she had done that horrendous time eight months ago

And it doesn’t even make sense. THIS is when she fully realized that having a secret affair with her sister’s fiance was a bad call? But she didn’t take agency for it then either? But she does take it now because this is different because… why? I don’t think it’s really that different to decide to get together with or stay with a person. I’m pretty sure people are making choices either way, there.

Ugh, do we even want to read this chapter’s fucking flashback scene?

I’m feeling so guilty, it’s like choking me

I really don’t think this is going to add-

I like lean over and hug my sister.

really don’t think there’s anything worth-

There is nothing left for us to do but cry. Which we do. Hers the happy tears, and mine? Who knows? All tears look the same.

…ok, maybe I spoke too soon, because that was beautiful.

Oh hey, I get to use this gif twice this week. I mean, I *have* to.
Oh hey, I get to use this gif twice this week. I mean, I *have* to.

Fine. Let’s read the flashback scene. Elizabeth is driving Jessica home from the airport after she abandons her husband in France. Despite how awful she feels, she has to laugh at the awful “Welcome Home, Jessica” sign. Elizabeth informs her that it was Todd who made the sign. Oh, man! That’s significant because Todd and Jessica actually secretly love each other. How will that play out?

pushing my Jessica the Adorable button, I smile and shriek, “I love it!” and rush in to hug my soon to be brother-in-law.

Jessica stays with them, and it’s mad awkward for her and Todd. Additionally, due to a poorly chosen not-real expression, Elizabeth sort of goes full Chicken, Chicken on us.

Elizabeth is like clucking around the two of us, making sure her chicks are comfortable

Because this chapter just won’t fucking end… things get weird. You know how we’ve been complaining that Sweet Valley High keeps alternating narrators between Elizabeth and Jessica every chapter? And that on top of that, each chapter also alternates between third-person narration and first-person narration? Which is… mechanically questionable to say the least?

I shit you not, in the span of the next six paragraphs, this chapter goes from Jessica first-person to Jessica third-person to Elizabeth third-person to Elizabeth first-person.

Chris-Bosh-Hands-on-Head-and-Screams-GM7-NBA-Finals

I get it. It’s not that confusing that the present day is third-person and the flashbacks at first-person. It gets repetitive, but I don’t think the technique isn’t inherently flawed. And all of these perspective shifts are denoted in the book with section breaks. But take a look at this shit and tell me if this is really necessary.

Nor does she notice— not consciously, anyway— the fact that he and I are rarely in the same room together. And when we are, we barely look at each other.
~~~ [pretend that’s a section break]
</strong>That’s the way it had continued for that entire week: Jessica Wakefield, living in the same house as Todd Wilkins, who just happened to be writing at home, all day, every day, for the next ten days. They had given him an extension on his deadline for the second and third piece. Of course, Jessica wasn’t working, so she was right there, too. Elizabeth kept talking about what a perfect trio they would make, what fun they could have, the three of them together, if only she could have been there, but she wasn’t. She had to work. All day, every day.
That’s how Jessica destroyed her sister’s life.
* * * <strong>[Yes, this is a <em>second</em> style of section break]</strong>
Perhaps, if Elizabeth had looked more closely or been less Elizabeth … But of course, that was impossible. Though she was always very observant, when it came to her sister, her acute observation was blinded by an unconditional love that no one should have after the age of five.
Besides, on the surface the Jessica-Todd relationship didn’t look any different than it had for years.
~~~ [back to this first shit again I guess]
It’s not that I don’t know that there’s tension between Todd and Jessica, but they’ve always had their little problems, even in high school. Though on the surface this last week, they seem like old friends. Sometimes, anyway. And, after a couple of glasses of wine and a nice dinner, pretty comfortable with each other.

Who is saying what?! When is any of this taking place?! WHY DO I HAVE TO TRAVEL THROUGH FUCKING TIME AND SPACE TO READ WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FUCKING SWEET VALLEY HIGH PEOPLE?

tardis time and space vortex
WHY DOES READING THIS BOOK FEEL LIKE THIS

We end this Jessica chapter with past Elizabeth’s internal monologue (obviously), and see that Elizabeth totally didn’t get it.

But there’s an undercurrent that keeps me a little uneasy. Neither of them thinks I know what it’s about, but I do. Though it makes me unhappy, there’s nothing I can do about it.
It’s possessiveness. On both sides. They each feel they own a piece of the same person – me.

lol about that

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8 comments

  1. Maple Reply

    Jessica’s job is the most depressingly realistic thing in these books. Do they not pay her enough to buy food, despite “really valuing” her work? Unpaid interns eating their stupidly-named company’s seaweed masks is a sadly believable scene from the dystopian present.

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    • matthewjulius Post authorReply

      Oh, she’s not an intern. She’s a rising star in the company. As hard as SVC is trying to be modern, they didn’t quite capture that.

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  2. wordswithhannah Reply

    That scene with the seaweed crisps was legitimately hilarious. However, so was the my-mom-learning-about-the-Internet-in-the-late-90s level grasp of technology. Please tell me that someone searches for something on “the Google” next.

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  3. Utsutsu Reply

    While I can’t comment on the post (reading it makes me uncomfortably angry, and besides, I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to watch high school drama unfold while I was *in* high school, so…), I can comment on that beautiful Walking Dead gif. I just started binge watching the series from the beginning. It did freak me out, since no one is ever that happy or excited in the actual show…. >.>

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    • matthewjulius Post authorReply

      Oh, I have bad news about next week if today’s post made you angry

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      • 22aer22 Reply

        We should discuss the Walking Dead! How far are you into the series?

        Let’s just all resign ourselves to being angry this whole book.

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        • matthewjulius Post authorReply

          A few episodes into season 5, then I out it on pause. It got too depressing even for me :/

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          • Utsutsu Reply

            I’ve been binge watching it to procrastinate during finals (which I’m still doing right this second as I type this comment!) and I just got to season 5. It’s a rough ride, especially if you decide to watch it all at once…
            Still better than SVC though.

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