Sweet Valley High #32 – The New Jessica (Or The Wakefield Twins are SO Emo!)
May 8, 2010

I’m embarrassed to admit that this book heavily influenced me way back in the 6th grade, and continues its influence this very day.

6th grade was the first time I tried dyeing my naturally blond hair black, and effectively launching me my lifelong love affair with being an emo girl. Back in the day, we called it “goth”, but I am modern and relevant and I will call it emo. Of course, being only in the 6th grade, my mean mother refused to buy me permanent black hair dye, because it was, you know, permanent and I was 11. Of course, this just made me more angsty and emo.  So, as much as I’d like to believe that my interest in dark hair was because I was the edgiest 11 year old on earth, reading this book reminded me that while I certainly was edgy, I was also easily influenced by bad YA fiction. Not much has changed in 20 years…

Please note that while Jessica obviously looks like a dude on the cover of this book, I did not notice that at all when I was 11. I thought she looked beautiful and exotic and cool. Obviously, I needed an eye exam.

Our story begins with Jessica feeling suddenly SO OVER being an identical twin. After borrowing the silky, peach dress that Grandma Wakefield gave Elizabeth for her birthday, Jessica is SO MAD that she is mistaken for Elizabeth one more time. (I’m sorry but this dress sounds like people were more likely to mistake Jessica for her grandmother, but what do I know about fashion.) This unexpected apocalypse forces Jessica to retreat to the most awkwardly named department store on earth – Lytton and Brown – with Lila Fowler. Lytton and Brown sounds more like a funeral home, which is totally apropos because it is there that Jessica hatches her brilliant emo scheme to put an end to this identity crisis shit for ever! She will dye her hair black, pretend to be European and change her name to Jessa Fields! OF COURSE!

Can I say something about the imaginary black hair dye that Jessica utilizes to make her transformation to Jessa Fields? If you are in 6th grade, and hoping to locate this fabulous shampoo-in hair dye that makes your hair silky and beautiful and rinses right out when you get bored with your transformation…get ready for heartbreak. As a certified home hair dye specialist, with over 20 years of experience fucking up my own hair, I can tell you that this shit DOES NOT exist. I’m still a little sad about it too. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t invent hair dye like this?

Also, despite what SVH will have you believe, changing your hair color does not make you look like a different person. Of course you would never know this based upon the reaction that Jessica receives when she arrives at school with her new black hair. Maybe it was heavy make-up and the uber-stylish olive green leather skirt and lacy tights that did the trick, because even her teachers don’t recognize her!

While Jessica is becoming the continental emo hipster Jessa Fields, Elizabeth is moodily writing in her journal. No, seriously, she really is. Elizabeth writes in her journal about how FACINATING her new boyfriend Jeffery French is, even though we never find out what is so amazing about him except that his eyes crinkle up when he smiles. Oooh! Wrinkles. HOT!  Oh, also his voice gets “husky” sometimes, which confuses me. Isn’t husky a style of jeans for chunky boys?

Anyway, Elizabeth is totally losing her shit about Jessica dyeing her hair. And I mean TOTALLY losing her shit. She writes in her journal, “I don’t want to make too big a thing out of this, but I really feel lost every time I look at her and see a stranger staring back.” Seriously? Your sister used temporary dye to change her hair color, its not like she’s Heidi Montag and she had a face transplant!

Its like Jessica is Clark Kent or something. She has darker hair, new clothes and a fakeass British accent and everyone’s like “Who is that?”

I cannot tell you how many times I showed up at school (and maybe even work) with a radically different hair color, only to be met with apathy and only the occasional comment like, “Hey, did you dye your hair?” No sensation. No teachers asking if I was a new student. Thanks, Sweet Valley High for unreasonably raising my expectations, only to leave me let down and disappointed…..AGAIN.

Elizabeth continues her downward spiral toward suicide because she loses her journal, which is filled with secrets like “Jeffery is sooooo cute” and “I’m sad that Jessica dyed her hair”. The trauma seems to make her delusional, because she decides that Jeffery is really in love with Jessica and her new look. She’s also convinced that someone intentionally stole her stupid journal. Would someone get this girl a Prozac please?

Jessica is too busy pretending to like espresso and read Paris Match to notice any of this. But when Elizabeth gets all emo and tells Jessica that Jeffery is totally into her new look, she does what anyone would do and tries to hook up with him. Apparently, Jessica thinks that the way into a boy’s pants is through his mouth, because she buys a bunch of food for him in the school cafeteria in an attempt to woo him. But, Jeffery only gets husky for Elizabeth, so he totally rejects Jessica’s advances.

Jessica meets a modeling scout who tries to get her a job modeling in the Lytton and Brown department store fashion show. Sadly, the owner of the store is not into her edgy, emo look but is totally hot for Elizabeth. He refuses to believe that Jessica and Elizabeth are twins because Jessica’s hair is black and she is so “unconventional and stylized”. He literally insists that Elizabeth come and model in the fashion show. So, Jessica just rinses that black hair dye out (because that’s totally how hair dye works) and both she and Elizabeth wind up in the fashion show!

Oh and Elizabeth finds her stupid journal and she and Jeffery gaze into each other’s eyes and they get all husky together, and I throw up in my mouth a little.



Sweet Valley High #7 – Dear Sister (or Head Injuries 101)
April 27, 2010

This was literally one of my favorite books growing up.

It starts out with Elizabeth Wakefield glamorously coma-struck following a motorcycle accident. I was probably 10 when I read this book, and OH MY GOD how I wanted to be in a coma. My in-depth medical knowledge told me that it was like sleeping, but with all kinds of dramatics like hospitals and doctors and stuff. Also, when you wake up and start acting just like your identical twin sister – and polar opposite – Jessica, no one really blinks an eye. Your parents totally buy you a sexy nightgown and a new green bikini and other neat outfits. Also, you have permission to be a sudden slut and plagiarist, ignore all your responsibilities and use your gossip column in the school newspaper to forward your suddenly slutty agenda.

So, who else could use a little Sweet Valley High coma right now?

But I digress.

While Elizabeth is whoring around the school, ignoring her nerdfriends and super-loyal boyfriend Todd, our resident sociopath Jessica is forced into performing household chores! It doesn’t stop there, either! Apparently there is some kind of Sweet Valley city ordinance stating that only one Wakefield twin at a time can be slutty and self-obsessed. This cruel twist of fate forces Jessica to pretend to care about someone other than herself and *gasp* wear conservative outfits!

Comas are all kinds of fun until someone gets hurt, aren’t they??

The true message in this story is one of balance. For every slut who wears a low-cut blouse and allows herself to be groped drunkenly by Bruce Patman, another girl must cover her breasts, abstain from alcohol and chastely perform household chores. There cannot be two drunken sluts at any given time. Ok, just kidding. The cast of Jersey Shore totally disproved THAT theory!

Anyhow, everything turns out OK. We learn the time-tested cure for blunt force trauma-induced personality disorders… You know, another smack on the head reverses it. Also, to protect the fragile virgin mind of Elizabeth Wakefield, she totally doesn’t remember how she was about to do the nasty with Bruce Patman! She also doesn’t remember that drinking is fun. Bummer.

I loved this book, and you will too!

The House of Night #1 – Marked (or The Wakefield Twins go Twilight!)
April 18, 2010

The House of Night is a ludicrous and derivative series of vampire-focused YA books, penned by PC Cast and her teen daughter, Kristin.

That’s right, because it takes two people to poorly integrate “teen slang” into the obsessively politically correct and preachy story of teens attending a vampyre finishing school in Oklahoma. Actually, if the Acknowledgment pages are to be believed, it also takes several of PC Cast’s high school creative writing classes to really flesh out ridiculous plot twists and sad pop culture references.

In fact, it could be argued that House of Night is just SVH set in 2007 at a Vampyre Finishing School. No blond identical twins, though. 😦

Marked opens with Zoey Redbird, (a typical teenager, just like you and me) hanging at her locker, minding her own business, when out of nowhere some dead guy shows up and marks her as a vampyre. OMG! Can you believe it?

Oh, BTW – You and I have been spelling “vampire” wrong all these years. At The House of Night its “vampyre”. I know. Even my spell-check cannot withstand this abomination.

Anyway, the dead guy – a “tracker” – points at her and says some fancy words like “Night has chosen thee; thy death will be thy birth. Your destiny awaits you at the House of Night!” If the public humiliation was not bad enough, on her forehead appears a blue crescent-shaped tattoo! Oh noes!!!

Now you and I are saying “WTF??”, but our gal Zoey knows exactly what is going on. Thank God she’s here to explain it to us! Vampyres are totally part of society, and she learned all about this in science class. Something boring like genetics and hormones combine in certain teenagers and they begin to “change” into a vampyre. Somehow, the Tracker knows about this and shows up and “marks” the unfortunate teen. Or something. Zoey will either complete “the change” and become a full-fledged vampyre … or reject the change and die!

Despite knowing what is going on, Zoey is TOTALLY bummed about this turn of events. She totally doesn’t want to be a goth or emo kid, she just wants to be normal and hang out with her BFF Kayla and on-again-off-again boyfriend, Heath. But alas, that is just not meant to be… Zoey has to hurry and get to her local “House of Night”, which is a superfancy Vampyre Finishing School!

Just because everyone knows about vampyres, doesn’t mean that everyone is cool with it. Take Zoey’s mom and step dad, for example. They are soooo ignorant and lame and totally into Jesus, or as they refer to it in the book “The People of Faith”. But, we know that it’s really Jesus, because her mom reads those “Chicken Soup for Your Soul” books, and everyone knows what THAT means!

When Zoey’s lame parents find out she’s becoming a vampyre they think that she is totally evil now and they want Jesus and a psychiatrist to cure her or something. Zoey runs off to find her the only person who understands her, her grandma, a Cherokee medicine woman who lives on a lavender farm! Cool! Hippies!

While wandering around her grandma’s lavender farm, Zoey falls down and has a vision of the Goddess Nyx who is apparently the goddess of vampyres. Nyx tells her she is chosen, special and wise beyond her years. Nyx warns Zoey that “darkness does not always equate to evil, just as light does not always bring good.” Whoa. Deep.

When Zoey finally gets to the House of Night, it’s like the coolest, gothest place ever! Its all gas powered torches and buildings with pointy facades, but also flat screen TVs, Count Chocula and the ubiquitous “brown pop” which Zoey loves so dearly.  I find it HILARIOUS, that Team Cast name drops like there is no tomorrow, from Ralph Lauren to Banana Republic to Starbucks, but don’t take a side in the Coke vs. Pepsi battle.

Oh also, the food is delicious and healthy and cool. Of course it is! Because everyone knows that food prepared in an institutional setting is always DE-E-E-E-E-LICIOUS.

Zoey thinks she looks kind of cool and exotic with her new vamp tattoo and she likes to wear black eyeliner with sparkly glitter in it. But, she makes sure to remind us impressionable young ladies that it is NOT COOL to wear too much eyeliner! Girls with too much eyeliner look like scary, raccoon losers. Is that you, Mom? How did you get inside this stupid vampire book???

Zoey becomes instant best friends with a ragtag group of kids, each apparently representing a group that Team Cast wants to make a statement about. There’s country girl Stevie Rae, pretty blonde Erin, African American Shaunee and gay Damian. Each of these stereotypical characters appears to have been created so that they can behave in their assigned stereotypical manner, in a mind-bending attempt by Team Cast to condemn stereotyping.  Is this a vampire book or an after school special?

Zoey has supercool vampyre teachers, like Neferet, her ultra-beautiful and too perfect mentor. All the teachers are amazingly beautiful and read minds. This way, pesky fledgling students cannot outsmart them, and thus have no other alternative but to worship and adore them! Just like it must be for real-life high school English teacher, PC Cast!

Neferet gets Zoey involved in the Dark Daughters, a vampyre sorority called headed by evil, blond Aphrodite (read: Jessica Wakefield). Aphrodite is a bitch AND a slut who Zoey catches trying to give a blood-sucking BJ to a “hottie” named Erik Night. Cool name for a boy who doesn’t want a BJ and pushes Aphrodite away. Just in case you impressionable readers took this as an invitation to put on too much eyeliner and start giving BJs, you can put down that eyeliner. As Zoey reminds us, “Those of us with functioning brains know it’s not cool to be used like that.” Oh right. Good to know…

Not that I approve of sororities in general, but the Dark Daughters does sound like my kind of sorority. They use marijuana and drink blood laced wine! Fun, right? WRONG! This is NOT cool! Joints are gross and drugs are stupid!

Despite fun (oops I mean wrong!) activities, the Dark Daughters is a typical sorority. The membership is exclusive, the members are snobby bitches and they are cruel to nerds who they use for their blood. (Yes, they really use the word nerd.) Zoey is SHOCKED and DISMAYED by this and vows to end this outrage!

So will Zoey rid the world of BJs and good times? Will she make vampyre sororities safe for nerds? Will BJ hater Erik fall for her? What kind of name is Aphrodite anyway? Is Zoey just Elizabeth Wakefield in a vampyre costume?

You are going to have to swallow your pride, wipe off that eyeliner and get to your local bookstore to find out. Or you can wait until I give away the ending when I tell you all about the ridiculousness of Book 2: Betrayed!

Hello, what’s this? Another blog?
April 18, 2010

Apparently, while I was reading Twilight, the entire planet was starting a Sweet Valley High blog. All the SVH blogs are funny and awesome and been around since long before I knew who Edward Cullen is. (So, 2008 or so for the historians out there). So, I was late to Twilight and now I’m late to the SVH resurgence. NOW Diablo Cody is making SVH into a movie, and therefore its all played out. Its basically Twilight already. *Sigh*

Everyone has recapped every fun SVH book. Ditto The Babysitters Club (which I didn’t read, but would have if I wasn’t already into heavy metal and Marlboro Reds by then).

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have things to say about the Wakefield twins, and the Girls of Canby Hall. And I will, don’t you worry about that.

But I’m different than the YA Nostalgia Snarkers you already know. For one, I am not stuck in the past. I don’t just lurk in the DirtyOldBooks section of Goodwill searching for YA goodness. Oh no, I march purposefully into the BrandShinyNewBooks Barnes and Noble and head straight for the YA section. I cleverly feign disinterest as I peruse such contemporary classics as The House of Night Series and LA Candy by Lauren Conrad. As a rule, I do not make eye contact with the teenagers I encounter there.

OK, one time I couldn’t contain myself and gushed about how much I LOVED Richelle Mead’s Blood Promise to a sullen-faced teenager skimming through a copy of it. I think I thought that having a superhip lady in her 30s endorsing the Vampire Boarding School-themed novel she was examining would ensure that she would totes want to purchase it…Sorry, Richelle I think I owe you a reader. My bad.

For the most part, I bravely pretend like I’m buying a gift when I haul my books to the counter. Its too bad I don’t have kids I could use as an excuse for lurking in the YA section. Its kind of like the ironic mirror image of teen-aged me loitering outside a liquor store looking for some old lady in her 30s I could convince to buy me beer. Except I’m the old lady and its books I want those whippersnappers to hook me up with.

Its a little sad. But awesome at the same time.

Also, I genuinely love some of these books. Not SVH or the House of Night, obviously, but my copy of Blood Promise is stained with my actual tears. I’m planning my summer vacation from work around the release of the last Hunger Games novel, Mockingjay.

So, you see its not just nostalgia and snark. Its not just SVH. Its modern. Its now. Its awful. Get ready.