Sweet Valley Confidential: Chapter 11
The chapter kicks off with Steven and Aaron making salad. Steven is now living in Aaron’s one-bedroom apartment since he lost the house to Cara in the divorce. So apparently that much time has passed, since Cara only found out Steven was cheating on him two chapters ago. Or the divorce somehow went through in less than a week, since Elizabeth’s date with Liam in chapter 7 took place roughly a week before they were going to go to her Grandma’s birthday party, which hasn’t happened yet. Jesus Christ, reading Sweet Valley Confidential is like trying to understand when LOST starting doing all that time travel shit.
Anyway, let’s see how things are going in the brand new Steven-Aaron household. Bearing in mind that this is a book that didn’t realize that outing someone without their consent is a really, really, really bad thing to do, but was ok because Jessica had a gay roommate once who just loved her (seriously), so we can probably expect a fairly low bar…
Sometimes Steven was struck by how heterosexual his homosexuality was.
Oh dear god in heaven.
“I’m not saying I’m not going to the birthday dinner. I just want to make sure I’m not sitting next to my faux sister-in-law.”
“And I’m not crazy about [Todd], either. […] He’s hard to look at.”
“Not really.” Steven smiled.
“You think he’s good-looking?”
“Right. Hey, I’m in love, not dead.” Steven gave Aaron an affectionate guy tap on the shoulder.
Why a “guy” tap? Did Pascal need to specify this just in case we saw the gay couple share an affectionate tap on the shoulder and think they were gay? I’m kind of not convinced Sweet Valley Confidential is actually cool with gay people when it feels the need to slap “no homo” disclaimers all over its homosexual characters.
Because this whole subplot is really only going to get worse, it tries to rationalize Jessica outing him.
What would have happened if Jessica hadn’t forced his hand?
In the better part of his mind, he believed he would have told Cara. It was just a matter of time.
Which prompts a flashback to when he definitely didn’t feel that way.
At the top of my lungs I shout, “How could you fuckin’ do that to me!”
I think I would have leaped at her except I feel Todd holding me back. I didn’t even see him come in the room. Now I’m straining to break his hold.
“Please Steven, I…” Jessica moves as far back as she can against the wall.
“Don’t ‘Please Steven’ me. You’re just a bitch. You know what you’ve done to Cara?”
“Me?” Jessica says, pulling up enough courage to defend herself. “How about you?”
“You promised you wouldn’t say anything. I told you I was going to deal with it.”
“Yeah, right. How long have you been waiting to ‘deal with it’?”
“None of your goddamn business.” I shake out of Todd’s grip. […]
“You may not believe this, but I wanted to help you. Both of you.”
“Yeah, like you’ve ever wanted to help anyone in your life but yourself. I always knew you were selfish, but I didn’t know you were vicious.”
So here’s what I do like. I’m glad that (at least in this scene), everyone here has a point, but has primarily done wrong despite that. It’s messy and hard to untangle, and that’s a compelling way to explore characters! What I don’t like is that the book really doesn’t get that outing someone is one of the major issues here. I’m not even certain if it really believes that Jessica was being selfish, which really compromises the thing I do like about this scene.
Anyway, it’s really hard to write jokes in this space, so let’s make fun of how Sweet Valley Confidential just can’t resist making literally anything sound dramatic:
Meanwhile, at Jessica and Todd’s house, only minutes away, a similar situation was taking place.
Only instead of salad, it was Chinese takeout.
Why did this require three paragraphs. Why did we need two dramatic reveals to learn that Jessica and Todd were eating Chinese?
The fact that [Todd] really did like takeout made Jessica’s life home cooking-free.
Dear book. This really isn’t revealing as much about the characters as you seem to think it is.
How were they ever going to move on when everything around them stayed the same?
That’s a good question to explicitly narrate around two-thirds of the way into a stagnant narrative about two characters who haven’t actually done anything since it started.
Seriously, this book is so uneventful and so repetitive about how uneventful it is that the jokes just write themselves. …in the book itself.
Of course, nothing is perfect, but the good of Sweet Valley life far outweighed the bad […]
All this was going on in Todd’s mind, and Jessica could almost read it. It was easy, because it was always the same.
PRO WRITING TIP: If you’re two-thirds of your way into a book and your characters are explicitly pointing out that nothing has changed since the book started, maybe you’re not quite at the final draft yet.
Unfortunately, the rest of the chapter isn’t about Chinese food. It’s a Jessica flashback to right after Steven’s flashback. Everyone in this chapter is just eating dinner and having flashbacks and it sounds like a nightmare.
I stand there, stunned; I can’t move. He’s so wrong. He doesn’t understand.
Oh, good. More of this. Tell us how the closeted gay guy you just outed against his will is in the wrong here, Jessica. This is what I want to read more of in this story.
“It’ll be okay. Whatever it is, he didn’t mean it. Please, stop crying.”
I can’t. And it isn’t what Steven said, it isn’t what anyone said, it’s the feel of Todd’s arms around me […] All the longings of five years are answered.
I have no idea if this is an improvement or not.
All I feel is passion, that same wild passion that I felt five years ago. It’s all back. I’m out of control. And so is he. And we kiss and it’s so deep and I need it so badly.…
But I can’t! I lean my face away from him. I’m still in his arms.
“Oh, my God!” It’s not my scream. It’s Elizabeth’s.
OMG. IT’S FINALLY THE SCENE WHERE ELIZABETH FINDS OUT ABOUT TODD AND JESSICA. FINALLY. How does Elizabeth react?!
“Oh, no! This is a nightmare!” Elizabeth puts her hands to her face and sobs.
Good… good… kind of… doesn’t seem like a real reaction, but good…
“Can you believe it? He’s dead. Winston is dead!”
WAIT SO SHE STILL DOESN’T KNOW YET