Sweet Valley High #18: Head Over Heels
Title: Head Over Heels
Tagline: Can Bruce Patman really fall in love?
Summary: Bruce Patman and Regina Morrow in love? No one at Sweet Valley High can believe it. Regina is beautiful and shy, one of the nicest girls at school. Bruce is a real snob, and the only person he’s ever cared about is himself.
Jessica Wakefield figures the romance can’t last. She knows Bruce too well. She’s even willing to bet Lila Fowler that Bruce and Regina break up within two weeks. The stakes are high, and Jessica can’t afford to lose. If she has her way, Regina and Bruce won’t be happy for long.
NOPE. He fucking cannot, and he fucking should not. Run far, far away, anyone who catches his eye. Run far, far away.
[Dove: I know everyone loves Regina, and has fondness for this book, but I just can’t get past her being in love with Bruce Patman. Nor can I get past Liz being dubious of this relationship but not warning her that Bruce refused to take no for an answer from her, and the only reason she remained unraped was the fact that he didn’t expect her to bite him, and when she ran away, she only needed to take two steps before running into Todd.]
[Raven: I am not in the mood for this absurd redemption arc.]
White girl with dark hair clings to a white boy with brown hair. She’s grinning and staring off into the distance to our right, he’s staring at the camera a little dazed and a little like he’s about to murder someone. She wears a purple dress, he’s in a white shirt and blue jeans, all of which somehow manage to clash with the weird yellow background. Neither of them look like teenagers, though she looks younger than he does. They’re both shown from about the waist up, within the circle that is the standard cover. Sweet Valley High is written in block-ish red letters along the top curve of the circle, 18 is in a little yellow flag to the left. Francine Pascal’s is written in red plain font (maybe Times New Roman) at the top of the book, Head Over Heels in that hideous yellow from the circle background at the bottom. Beneath the circle, the tagline is in black.
We open on Jessica oversleeping in her utterly trashed room and Liz waking her up so she won’t be late. They look exactly alike (except for a mole on Liz’s right shoulder, and I don’t remember this distinction at all) but are really very different. Liz can’t stand that Jess and her “friends” gossip all the time. It’s not okay unless it’s written in Liz’s gossip column, of course. She wants to be a serious writer, because a gossip column is definitely that. Jess never plans for anything and throws herself into every new project and relationship with all sorts of energy.
If by “energy” you mean “murderous intent and false rape accusations” then sure.
Liz asks to drive the Fiat to school because she has a carnival committee meeting after class. Mr Collins is running it, too. Why? Are there no other teachers who participate in anything at this school? [Raven: The other teachers are busy being character witnesses ar Mr Nydick’s trial.]
Anyway, it’s not a real carnival, Liz explains to Alice who has no idea what she’s talking about. Too much gin when she mentioned it last? It’s to raise money to donate to a special fund for handicapped children at Fowler Memorial Hospital. Liz is the chairperson, and there will be a couple tents with games and refreshments. Mr Collins thinks they’ll raise a lot of money now that they have community sponsors.
Fucking hell, way to halfass that fundraiser. You are all some fucking level of rich! It would make more sense to just collect money, but if you must do a fundraiser, put some actual fucking effort into it! [Dove: Remember when they ran a carnival in Twins and the whole school was involved – and that was just for fun, not even for a good cause? You’re being crushed by tweens. Do better.]
Jessica stresses over her history term paper. It has to be fifteen whole entire pages. Fifteen. The end of the fucking world, obviously.
Gossip on the way to school: Regina Morrow and Bruce Fucking Patman have been going out a lot lately. Liz doesn’t like him much, especially not after he tried to “take advantage of her” when she had memory loss. That’s a weak phrase for date rape, but at least you acknowledge it, ghostie! She doesn’t think Jess likes him much, either, when their relationship ended badly because of him. Well, okay, fair.
Bruce Fucking Patman is being very nice to Regina, meeting her between every class for a few minutes, opening doors for her, etc. That’s … that’s very nice? I mean, sure, okay, for Bruce Fucking Patman that’s practically angelic, but that’s a really fucking low bar, Wakefields.
Regina: Beautiful enough she was recruited by a modeling agency. Deaf, excellent lip reader so people can’t even tell she can’t hear them, and can distinguish tones so her voice “hasn’t been affected by her handicap.”
Well goddamn, we’re just straight into the Not Like Other Deaf People, aren’t we.
[Dove: That one really rankled me. Hell, why even bother making her deaf at all? She passes for hearing, she never has any problem with someone turning away while talking, and – spoilers – during this book, she manages to read lips while: walking next to someone, while Bruce drives, while she hugs Bruce, and – most annoyingly – while they’re lying on the ground looking up at the stars. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Regina to suffer with her disability, but I loathe the way she’s just a hearing person with “attribute: deaf” attached to her with no follow-through at all. Anna Reynolds was a much more realistic portrayal. Teachers fuck up and turn to the board while teaching. People chew gum. People forget to get her attention when they’re speaking to her and then get huffy she didn’t hear them. And just writing it all off as “Regina works so hard and passes for ‘normal'” is insulting. Yes, she works hard. But the ugly truth is that sometimes accommodation needs to be made, and all the hard work from the disabled person can’t get through that glass ceiling caused by other people’s thoughtlessness. And people not facing her while they talk cannot be worked around with pluck and beauty.]
Liz doesn’t know why, but she feels very protective of Regina, who has lived a sheltered life and doesn’t have much experience with boys.
Er. Why not? Everyone’s dating everyone else all the time (as long as you’re not a fatty, or poor, or the worst, a poor fatty). I know her parents are overprotective, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have experienced anything of “normal” teen life (normal for SVH, that is). Liz just wants to protect her because she’s deaf and of course no one with a handicap could possibly live anything like a “normal” life. [Dove: … but-but-but they just said she lives a “normal” life! How can this be both? How can Regina pass for hearing – to the amazement of everyone around her (it’s not an exaggeration to say this happens in every scene, “Oh gosh, you’d never know she was disabled!” *shudder* – and at the same time be so vulnerable. You can’t have it both ways ghostie. You can’t say over and over that she’s barely disabled, and then treat her like a baby because she’s so very very disabled.]
Carnival committee meets in the SVH cafeteria at lunch. They’re prepping before their after school meeting with Mr Collins, when they’ll learn the name of their parent adviser. You’re two weeks out and you still don’t have all your advisers? Fucking hell, could you halfass this worse? (Yes, I’m sure you can. And will.)
Olivia and Roger Barrett Patman join them. Of course Roger took the Patman name even though he only just learned that his father was a Patman and was raised by his mother his entire life. He who has the money gives the name, I guess. [Raven: I took this as Roger legitimising his inevitable claim on the full Patman fortune somewhere down the line. Take them for everything, Bart Boy!]
More gossip about Bruce Fucking Patman and Regina. Roger thinks Bruce Fucking Patman has really fallen for Regina, even though no one else actually believes him, except for Olivia, who thinks he’s become an entirely new person.
Over to Jess and Lila, gossiping and mocking Bruce Fucking Patman and Regina. Lila hates Regina because Regina is richer than Lila, and beautiful, and successful with modeling. Oh, Lila, I miss the depth you had in SVT, when you were more than just a beautiful rich girl who hates all other girls.
They end up betting on when Bruce Fucking Patman and Regina will break up. Before the carnival, Lila will write both their term papers. After, Jess writes both of them.
Lila, I’m not sure you win either way. Do you really trust Jess to actually write it and, even more important, to write it in a way that won’t immediately make it look like plagiarism? (At least we know Jess is a better writer than Elizabeth, for what that’s worth.)
Though she puts on a brave face for Lila, she thinks that if she loses, she might as well hang herself rather than write both papers. Completely understandable and not at all an over reaction, that.
If they don’t break up on their own, she’ll do whatever she must to make it happen.
Make sure Bruce Fucking Patman is the one who ends up buried in the Mercandy backyard, please.
Lila drives her lime-green Triumph (wtf. That’s a terrible color for what kind of car? The only Triumph I know is a motorcycle, and I can’t imagine that’s what she has, not after all the motorcycle bullshit from before.) to meet her father at his office. [Raven: Triumph cars are very cool British sporty convertibles. Very chic, totally Lila. Also, I think this Ghostie is British. First, there’s the Triumph car, which I realise is a standard thing and not established in this book, but perhaps it was established by this Ghostie in a previous book. More damning is the repeated use of the phrase “couldn’t care less”, instead of the (frankly bizarre) American useage of “could care less”. Either way, I’m intrigued!] [Wing: Woah now, “could care less” is not standard American phrasing. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong.]
While she’s waiting for her perpetually-late father, at least when it comes to her even if not his work, she sees a hot, young construction worker showing off muscles in his strong arms as he carries heavy sacks of concrete.
I do like a good set of arms.
Even though she doesn’t even look at construction workers most of the time (you fucking snob), he’s cute enough that she not only looks but talks to him when he comes over. He’s Jack, and he’s not at all impressed when she identifies herself as a Fowler.
They only talk a couple minutes, but she wouldn’t mind running into him again, even if he’s a construction worker who acted like they were equals.
Secret rich boy? Secret rich boy. [Raven: Also? Any Eighties reference to a Construction Worker without further reference to a Traffic Cop, a GI, a Cowboy, a Native American and a Leather Daddy lacks integrity.]
Carnival committee: Skye Morrow, Regina’s mother, is their parent advisor. Their jobs: Liz is The Boss. Olivia handles prizes and decorations. Mr Fowler donated all the lumber and the tools for the booths and Ken Matthews will build them. Regina organizes refreshments, with Enid’s help. Todd and Roger cover games. I guess Olivia needs no help even covering two big, disparate things. Winston will be master of ceremonies, directing people and announcing prizes.
Announcing prizes? The fuck are you doing? Prizes are normally give out at the booths when you, oh, pop enough balloons or throw a hoop around a bottle. Are you doing some sort of drawing or something?
They take about ten seconds to plan all this and then head straight to the beach. Again, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work you’re putting into this fundraiser you think is oh so important. [Dove: And yet these scenes go on forever and are repeated far too much.]
Randomly, we learn that Enid’s boyfriend, George, is trying to get his pilot’s license and spending all his time in flying class lately. [Dove: The privilege is overwhelming. Also, these are not normal late-teen actions. All of the teens in this series fly planes and run classes at uni. Not one of them does anything normal, like… well, I don’t know what a normal eighteen year old does. My nephew is about the same age as George. He’s studying law at uni, works at Nando’s and pauses his busy schedule to call out casual racism, goes home for Christmas and argues with his sister over whether FNAF makes sense. (It doesn’t.) His sister, who is a year younger than the twins, watches endless FNAF theory videos and is mildly alarmed that her Alexa has become self aware and wants to do her harm. The latter may be linked to the former. As far as I know, she’s never run an entire carnival by herself.] [Raven: Considering her FNAF obsession, that’s definitely a good thing.]
We also learn that Ken is busy running for president of the Sweet Valley Centennial Student Committee and everyone’s surprised that he has time for the carnival, though he’s currently running unopposed.
Liz and Todd bet a hot fudge sundae from the Dairi Burger on whether someone else will end up running, too. B plot here or setting up for a future book? I don’t care either way.
Jess and Lila gossip over the oh so hot Jack, and Jess teases her about not knowing his last name.
Jessica laughed out loud. “Oh, boy,” she said. “Maybe it’s Jack-in-the-box.” She giggled. “Or Jack O’lantern. Or Jack the Ripper!”
Okay, that’s pretty cute for an SVH book, and an actual moment of friendship between Lila and Jess. [Raven: I am here for these moments.]
Patman family dinner, Bruce Fucking Patman stands up for Regina when his parents treat Regina like she’s an idiot just because she’s deaf and fully embarrasses Regina.
Not only is she embarrassed, she’s also nervous. The mansion is imposing even though she lives in a mansion just as large. His family is awkward toward her.
Still, she’s happy as long as Bruce Fucking Patman is there with her.
Ugh, Regina. You can do so, so much better. SO MUCH BETTER.
Mrs Patman tells them that she was hoping to be chosen as parent adviser for the carnival committee.
I don’t believe that for one goddamn second. The Patmans don’t seem like they’re super involved in PTA stuff, and even moreso, this doesn’t seem like the sort of fundraiser she’d give one flying fuck about. Not fancy enough or exclusive enough.
Bit of background on the hatred Mrs Patman has for the Fowlers. Nouveau riche, not like the Patmans and the Vanderhorns, some of the first families of Sweet Valley.
…who the fuck are the Vanderhorns? [Dove: Probably exactly like the Vanderbilts, but where we have Johnny Cash, they have Johnny Buck. Where we have the Vanderbilts, they have the Vanderhorns.] [Wing: NO FUCKING WAY JOHNNY BUCK IS THE JOHNNY CASH OF SWEET VALLEY. N O P E.]
Bruce Fucking Patman and Regina spend some time making out, even though she’s still anxious over all the things she doesn’t know. He tells her he loves her and says he’s never told a girl that before. She admits she’s never even kissed a boy before. He wishes he could bring her hearing back with his kisses. [Dove: And she manages to understand this, even as they both look up at the stars. Sure, he could be tapping her on the arm to get her attention, but the ghostie didn’t think of that, so I’m just going to assume that Regina has pivoting eye-stalks that are always fixated on Bruce’s lips, that way she can understand him, no matter where they’re both facing.] [Raven: Pivoting eye-stalks?! That explains why they put her on the cover of a magazine, I suppose.]
Oh, cool, we’re also playing If Only I Could Fix My Broken Girlfriend.
He calls her brave for living with her deafness, because of course he does. She says she’s not brave, she’s happy now that she’s living a “normal life” for the first time, and also she loves him too.
Bruce Fucking Patman gets super melodramatic over this, and this might be silly melodrama except he’s an asshole rapist [Raven: I mean, I know what you’re saying, but… (Also, if you’re using the word rapist, the word asshole is implied)]. Fuck off into a deep grave, Patman.
Later, the Patmans offer to match the amount of money they raise at the carnival. Mr Morrow thinks that’s generous and good news, but Mrs Morrow doesn’t like how Mrs Patman sounded when she made the offer. Worse, though, she went on and on about how well Regina’s adjusted to “her little problem” and made it sound like “Regina’s got two heads or something.”
Both valid reasons to be furious at Mrs Patman, but doubling the money raised is still a good thing.
Mrs Morrow admits she can’t be objective about the fundraiser and wonders if she should have followed her initial instinct to not take on the role. Her family supports her, though. Still, she takes off to rest because she has a headache. When she’s gone, Nicholas tells his dad that he’s worried because she’s getting headaches all the time these days.
Fucking hell, please tell me this isn’t going to be a brain cancer subplot. I cannot.
Bit of background on the Morrows: Kurt Morrow was a pro (American) football player when he met Skye, a top international fashion model. She was carefree and filled with laughter. Their lives were perfect. Then Skye took one final modeling assignment before she retired during her pregnancy. The magazine told her to lose 10 pounds. She ignored her doctor and took diet pills to lose the weight.
The diet pills caused permanent damage to Regina’s ear tissue.
This … this series which is so antifat, which presented losing weight due to bullying not only as easy but as what it takes to be happy, this series where the main characters are shallow as fuck and obsessed with their perfect model figures and their beauty, this series is going to blame Skye for “damaging” her daughter?
[Dove: I read this in fanfic at first, and assumed that it was much like our Mercandy backyard. Ok, so canon says that Sandra Ferris hasn’t been seen since book 31, and she’s probably still at school. Fanon says she’s dead and buried in the Mercandy backyard. In Regina’s introduction, it said that her hearing loss was due to medication Skye took, and I assumed fandom had run wild with that and made up diet pills because it was the most Sweet Valley reason imaginable. The fact that it’s canon is breathtaking. I can’t even right now. I’m actually scared that all the things I thought were fun throwaway jokes are actual plots. And, gotta be honest, I’m really looking forward to that Randy Mason one if it’s true.]
Skye frantically tried to find a cure but there was never any fix. She devoted herself to her family but hasn’t forgiven herself and her selfishness. She doesn’t entertain anymore, she has blinding headaches that Kurt thinks come from guilt and anxiety, and she tries to hide all her turmoil from her children.
Kurt promises Nicholas that he’s been exploring some possibilities and there may be something they can do to help Skye.
… is there going to be a fucking magic cure?
[Dove: I love the way this scene reads as follows:
Nicholas: Gosh, mom sure is getting a lot of headaches. I wish Regina could hear.
Dad: You know what, son… *picks up phone*
Dad: *minutes later* Well, I’ve just called someone, and apparently Regina could have an operation to fix her hearing. Isn’t that marvellous?
Just out of nowhere. A cure. It’s the laziest ass-pull I’ve ever seen in my life. Like, if Skye didn’t get a headache that day – or maybe she did, but Nicholas didn’t feel bad enough about it to voice his concern – that call would never be made and the plot would never move forward? I know it later gives more detail, but at this point it really does read as if it only just occurred to Mr Morrow to see if there were any treatments available because Nicholas said something about Skye’s headaches.] [Raven: Absolute bullshit, start to finish. Why does everything have to be changed or “cured”? “Oh, they are fat? We must make them thin. And look, she is deaf! Let’s make her hear again.”]
Regina comes home all excited about her time with Bruce Fucking Patman, still awed that he loves her, and excited to share with her family. She finds her family preparing a celebratory champagne toast. Skye is awake again, headache free, and thrilled.
The family toasts to first Regina and then to the entire family before they drop exactly what I expected on Regina: Kurt found a year-long treatment program that may restore her hearing. That “may” quickly turns to a “will” by his third sentence.
Of course. Of course. Of course.
Regina thinks only of hearing Bruce Fucking Patman’s voice when he says he loves her.
Short background: Kurt read about a similar case last year and has been researching it ever since. He’s finally talked to the doctor involved, the Swiss surgeon Max Friederich. Dr Friederich has finished reviewing her medical records and though it is only successful in one in a thousand, the good doctor thinks she’s perfect for it.
Regina is thrilled … right up until she learns she’ll spend a year in Switzerland. Her family promises to visit her, and she may even be able to come home for two weeks at Christmas.
She asks if the procedure can wait. Kurt is leery of the delay but says they can probably wait until the school year is over. Regina doesn’t want to wait only that long, and she blows up at her parents, shouting at them about how she’s finally having a normal life, making real friends, doing well in school, and now they want to tear her away from it.
She refuses to go and storms out of the room, leaving her family shocked and horrified. [Raven: But Regina, think of the chocolate!]
The next morning, Regina dresses carefully to cover the fact that she spent most of the night crying. Kurt and Nicholas are in the kitchen, but Skye isn’t up yet, too upset about what Regina said.
Regina apologizes. She should, but she also had some really good points. It was not the right time or way to finally tell her parents how she felt, but she does need to have that conversation with them.
Regina still refuses to go, even though she recognizes now how much her family loves her and wants what they think is best for her. She’s too happy to feel like a normal person in Sweet Valley to want to leave.
Regina, if Sweet Valley makes you feel normal, you need to look at your life and look at your choices.
Kurt swears they will stand by her no matter what she chooses, but she needs to keep an open mind about everything and give it some real thought.
Bruce Fucking Patman picks her up for school. She hurries out to meet him because she doesn’t want him to come inside, not that morning. There’s no need for him to learn about Dr Friederich, because she’s determined to stay in Sweet Valley.
She is torn, though. She’s finally found a place she feels comfortable and at home, a place where she and all the other students aren’t struggling to do regular things the way they did at her special schools, but she also wants to hear.
(You cannot expect me to believe that her specialized education was that much more difficult than Sweet Valley where they were already complete shit at dealing with a deaf student. I know, I know, SVH came before SVT, but in-universe continuity would be fucking useful, goddamn it.)
[Dove: I find it impossible to believe that a disabled-friendly school was harder than “normal” school (note: the book uses that word, not me). I fucking love PonyCon. Not just because it’s filled with ponies and pony people, but because it’s got a proportionately large number of attendees with different disabilities. The facilities are always easy to navigate, the disabled toilets are clean and easy to find, and everything about it is set up to make life easier for everyone involved. Then I step back into the real world and find the disabled loos are behind a locked door upstairs. Fuck off with this “normal life is easier” bullshit. Disabled-friendly is literally there to be easier. And there is no shame in easier. People without your disability have the easier option offered to them by default, the world is built that way.]
Friends, modeling, school, a home she loves, those things are all important to her, but they’re not the main reason why she doesn’t want to leave. The main reason is, of course, Bruce Fucking Patman.
Fucking hell, Regina. He has you hoodwinked.
(Do I believe people can change? Yes. Do I believe Bruce Fucking Patman has changed in the thirty seconds between the last time he was a shit and now? Hell no.)
Regina, too, is young love dramatic, and if her beloved wasn’t Bruce Fucking Patman, I’d be charmed (and amused) by this:
Millions of people in the world have perfect hearing, she reasoned. But how many of them love someone with all their hearts who loves them back?
Oh, honey, I love your bubble of first-time love.
Except that it includes Bruce Fucking Patman.
She’s determined that Bruce Fucking Patman will never know about the treatment and that she’ll not leave Sweet Valley for it, because that’s what you do for someone you love, you make sacrifices for them.
Winston joins Jess and Lila at lunch to ask if they will contribute something to the carnival committee. Lila says it’s boring (though didn’t she end up enjoying it back in middle school? Especially when she brought her phone along with her? This bit of (not actual) continuity fail can be written off as not so much a fail as character growth. Things that were cool in middle school might not ring the same in high school), and they’re too busy with their term papers anyway.
Except Jess knows what she really means is that Jess is too busy with both their term papers because Bruce Fucking Patman and Regina show no signs of breaking up. Bruce Fucking Patman treats Regina like some sort of goddess.
Aside from the fact this is Bruce Fucking Patman who is terrible and needs to fuck off into the sun, I would take this as jealousy from Jess. Regina, who is rich and beautiful, now has the second richest boy at SVH wrapped around her finger when Jess couldn’t keep his attention.
Except it is Bruce Fucking Patman who is an abusive rapist, so fuck all of that noise.
Jess agrees to help Winston just to rub it in Lila’s face that she’s not worried at all about their bet. Double down on it, Jess, love this for you. That brash faking it confidence.
I can’t remember if we’ve talked about it in a recap before or only on a call, but when I’m not deeply annoyed by SVH, I can read Jess’s horribleness as a veneer over her deep-seated self-loathing and worry that compared to everyone around her, she is actually nothing. She’s beautiful, sure, but beauty is easy to lose, and she’s not smart like Elizabeth or rich like Lila or good at sports like … well, okay, I can’t actually remember the names of anyone in SVH, but she had sporty friends in middle school. [Dove: I was about to refute that, but I just realised all of Jessica’s good points are from Twins, where she’s smarter, more creative, and far more athletic than her sister.] [Raven: My refuting comes from Junior High, where she can run like the wind. So agreed.]
If I take it that way (though I don’t for a second think that’s what Pascal or the ghosties intended), this book so far (approximately 30% of the way through) is a prime example of it. No matter how she worries on the inside, she shows a confident, dismissive face to Lila, to the world.
Unfortunately, I usually can’t cut SVH that kind of slack, because look at all the bullshit we’ve dealt with not even twenty books into the series.
Lila suggests Jessica run a black magic booth, implying that nothing else is working to break up Bruce Fucking Patman and Regina, which is actually kind of funny and cute friendship mocking, but for the “malicious smile” she has when she says it.
Guess hot girls can’t have friends, Pascal. These books are such fucking role models.
Aside: OOOOOH, I do love that ghostie just set up a fun little question. Jessica has this thought: And if she thinks I’m going to give in without a struggle, she’s got another think coming!
Thinks to think is what I’ve always used, but then I learned that some people do think to thing (i.e., […] she’s got another thing coming), and it has me curious.
Elizabeth rocks up to the Morrow’s home after school. She’s supposed to meet Skye, but for a long time, no one answers the door. When Skye finally does, she looks terrible and says she’s not feeling well so she sent the servants home.
Oh boy, this is going to trigger Something Must Be Done in Liz, isn’t it.
Skye, of course, tells Elizabeth the entire story of why she feels so much guilt over Regina’s deafness and how it causes her terrible headaches and about Regina’s opportunity and how she refuses it. [Dove: WHY ARE PARENTS ALWAYS TELLING ELIZABETH ALL THEIR FAMILY SECRETS????]
She then asks Liz to help change Regina’s mind because Regina admires her so much.
Does … does she? We’ve not really seen anything like that since the Morrows moved to town, a mere being told about it if anything, and especially with Regina dating Bruce Fucking Patman, she clearly doesn’t care too much about what Elizabeth thinks.
Liz is torn. She does think that Regina is making a mistake, and even though Regina didn’t seem to mention Bruce Fucking Patman as her number one reason for not wanting to leave, Liz is convinced that he has a huge part of it. Liz doesn’t trust him one bit, try as she might.
And why the fuck would she try?! He tried to fucking rape her! He was awful and abusive to her sister! He’s a terrible shit all the away around and has been at least since middle school! Why must Pascal and the ghosties have her cut him some slack? W H Y?! [Dove: Why isn’t she telling Regina? The book endlessly goes on about how “protective” Liz feels towards her. PROTECT HER, YOU ASSHOLE.]
I don’t think it’s actually a malicious choice on their part, but holy fucking shit, that actually makes it worse. He’s a nice, rich boy from a good family who has his whole life ahead of him, we can’t hold one, or two, or three little mistakes against him. Hello Kavanaugh, Brock Turner, GMC out of New Jersey, and on and on and on.
Fuck that, and fuck this.
Liz finally says she doesn’t know what she can do but if Regina comes to her for advice, she’ll try to change her mind. Why in the fucking world would Regina come to you for advice? She’s already dead set on not doing it, she doesn’t want anyone to know because it might get back to Bruce Fucking Patman, and I’ve seen nothing that makes me think she’d trust you with this.
Fucking hell, creators, you can’t just tell me something is the way it is when we’ve not seen it before. Stop being lazy writers!
At least Skye isn’t solely relying on Liz (odds of Liz being the one to save the day? High.). They’ve invited the San Francisco boy who successfully went through the treatment to come talk to Regina about it.
Eight days out from the carnival, and Bruce Fucking Patman and Regina show no signs of breaking up, to Jessica’s dismay. While she waits for Cara and grumbles to herself in a completely bad mood, Ken Matthews (now tall and hot, formerly short and not hot) joins her to complain about Bruce Fucking Patman who has decided to run for president of the centennial committee. So much for that uncontested election from before.
Ken is particularly worried because Bruce Fucking Patman is a lot more popular now that he’s going out with Regina. People act like he went through an overnight transformation into a good guy.
The Love of a Good Woman, am I right? I’ll stay with him because I can fix him.
Jess sees an opportunity. She’ll convince Regina that the only reason Bruce Fucking Patman started dating her is because he needed to clean up his reputation before the election, which is for some reason important to him and his family.
Not a terrible scheme, in that it’s kind of clever and will focus on weak spots I’m not even sure Regina knows she has. Definitely a terrible scheme in that it’s awful to use and lie to Regina just to win a bet. Except that it also involves Bruce Fucking Patman, who, again, can fuck off into the sun.
[Dove: I love the way that her first instinct is to lie. I mean, of course you need to lie. He was emotionally abusive, cheated on you, and tried to rape your sister, so I can understand why you’d have to jump to a lie. None of those are big red flags you should run away from real fast.] [Raven: They say stick with what you’re good at.] [Wing: To be honest, Jess lying when she has much better truth to use is pretty in character.]
Carnival committee is also gossiping about Bruce Fucking Patman now running against Ken, because of course this is a huge, gossip-worthy deal, and also gossip is fine when Liz does it and terrible when Jess and her friends do.
Some of them believe Bruce Fucking Patman really did change for Regina, and I do believe people can change, but he was a fucking abusive rapist not thirty seconds ago, stop cutting him some goddamn slack.
Jess rushes in to tell them her new idea: a mother-daughter fashion show.
Erm. Um. Didn’t we do this already?
Anyway, Jess doesn’t mean she’ll do it with Alice or even that several mother and daughter teams will do it. Oh no, she wants Regina and Skye to do it alone. After all, they’re both models. Liz isn’t sure it’s a good idea because of how Skye’s been feeling, but Jess is certain she’ll be able to convince her.
The Morrows surprise Regina with Donald Essex, come down from San Francisco to spend the weekend with them. He greets her in sign language (“the international language of the deaf” which is an inaccurate description of it, but honestly better than I expected from SVH). [Dove: I legit lol’d at the idea of a ghostie thinking that ASL was a global language. Hint, ghostie: That A in ASL doesn’t stand for “all countries”.]
Regina is touched by how much her family cares about her and this opportunity. She wishes she could convince them that she’s happy as she is, happier than she’d be if she went away from the treatment, so they’d stop worrying about her.
They go for a walk and talk and after only a few minutes, Regina feels like she’s known him forever. He has all sorts of stories about feeling isolated and working hard to be accepted at “normal” schools.
He promises that he’s not going to pressure her, because it is a rough decision to make and some people are afraid of what comes after the treatments. They’re used to being deaf, or they’re afraid of hearing, of what it will mean to be “normal” all of a sudden.
Regina tells him that she’s not afraid. If it was only about her, she’d go to Switzerland immediately. She even tears up, all confused now. She’s being pulled in two directions, what her family wants and what she wants for her and Bruce Fucking Patman.
Jess barges in to use Elizabeth’s extension to call the Morrows because hers is buried somewhere in her dump of a room and she can’t find it. She asks to speak to Regina, completely forgetting that she can’t, and is utterly embarrassed by it, though she barely lets it show. Jess asks to drop by to talk to them about the carnival, and she’s allowed to, even though two seconds ago, Regina was about to leave on a date.
When Liz points out Jess made a big faux paus there, Jess says that it’s actually a compliment that she forgot Regina’s deaf, “She acts so much like the rest of us […].”
Fucking hell. [Dove: At this point, I realised that the Morrows have nothing in their house to make life easier for Regina. No text phone, like Anna had. No mention of the lights flashing when the doorbell rings. No special alarm clock. I guess it’s because she’s so “normal”. In an attempt to give me a normal life, Raven is going to insist that I walk for miles through the pain. Ok, so I’ll be exhausted, in pain, and miserable. But being normal is more important that acknowledging my disability. I need to be more inspiring. I really feel like you guys are not inspired by me at all.] [Raven: In future, can we establish that these descriptions are fictional, mmkay? Ta muchly.] [Wing: For a moment I thought, duh, Raven, it’s a fiction book, we know it’s fictional. Then I realized you mean the descriptions of you. Has someone taken it seriously?! Readers, Raven is the best.]
Liz promises to clean Jessica’s room if she convinces the Morrows to do the talent show.
… why? Even if you truly don’t believe Jess can manipulate almost anyone into almost anything, she’s not said a goddamn word about needing you to make a bet with her or offer her an incentive. What the fuck is wrong with you? You don’t even like going into her room!
Oooooh, never mind, it’s the day after Regina’s date, and Bruce Fucking Patman gave her a diamond bracelet, telling her that he doesn’t think she fully understands how he feels about her. [Raven: THROW MONEY AT EVERYTHING!] [Wing: *looks at receipts from stress shopping at the end of 2022* *looks at how many people she’s taking on a trip in October* *looks at her love language* Shut up.]
Back at home, she decided the confusion she’s feeling doesn’t matter. As long as she’s where Bruce Fucking Patman is, she’s where she belongs.
Jess shows up to ask them to do a special booth at the carnival. Liz is worried not everything will be organized in time, so Jess is trying to help. A+ manipulation there. Jess doesn’t even know that Skye is already feeling guilty over not being involved enough and yet she arrowed in right at that weakness. Impressive.
Despite Regina being certain her mother will refuse because she hates being reminded of her modeling career and what it did to her and to Regina, Skye agrees. It sounds fun, she claims, and it’s for a good cause.
Then, conveniently, she goes looking for the boys to offer them tea, conveniently leaving Jess alone with Regina, just like she wanted.
Jess slips the blade in real easy, first complimenting the gorgeous bracelet, talking about how much Regina cares for Bruce Fucking Patman, and then saying, as an aside, that it just goes to show you should never listen to rumors.
So fucking smooth, Jessica Wakefield. So fucking smooth.
Of course, Regina asks about the rumors. Jessica tells her not to worry about them, people get jealous when they see a happy couple, but, of course, Regina demands to know. begs for it, even.
Regina doesn’t even know that Bruce Fucking Patman is running for president of the Centennial Student Committee and though Jess thinks it’s silly, the Patmans care a lot about being in charge of everything. Ken is angry that Bruce Fucking Patman is running against him, and said that the only reason he has a chance of beating Ken is because Regina has made him so much more popular.
Cleverly, Jess doesn’t come right out and say that people think Bruce Fucking Patman is using her, she lets Regina come to that conclusion on her own, which is fairly damn brilliant of Jess. This is a terrible reason to manipulate Regina, but very well done.
Jessica can’t get the Fiat to start, again a very convenient breakdown considering it always works otherwise, which gives her the chance to meet Donald. He helps her get the car started, flirts with him a little, and takes off, priding herself on her excellent sense of timing.
Sure enough, Jess’s plan is working. No matter how many times Regina tells herself the gossip is stupid and nothing is wrong, she can’t help feeling uneasy. They’re going on a picnic that afternoon, and she knows she’ll talk to him about the election and feel much better.
She runs into Donald downstairs, and when he asks about the bracelet, she tells him it’s from a friend. Oof, not a good sign, Regina. She’s starting to think of Donald as another older brother and she decides to trust him.
They share more stories about transitioning between schools, and then Donald asks if her “special friend” is a reason she doesn’t want to go to Switzerland. She doesn’t answer, but he tells her another story. He, too, decided not to go for the treatment when he first heard about it because he’d just met a girl and he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her. Rosemary, a year older than him, and already in college. He saw her every weekend and hated the thought of not seeing her for a year. He even kept it a secret from her, but she eventually found out, and she was furious that he didn’t trust her enough to let her in on his secret. She broke up with him, and that was that.
[Dove: And she never spoke to him again. This trope really annoys me. In an episode of Home and Away in the 90s, Joey found out his new friend had AIDS. She snatched her hand away and started screaming at him when she cut her finger while chopping veg. Then apologised saying she is creeped out by blood, sorry for overreacting. By relaying part of those events to her mother, the mother assumes he now knows she has AIDS and explains. Joey then refuses to speak to her, blanking her at school, slamming doors in her face, and eventually the principal of the school – I know, right! – explains to her that Joey is not disgusted that she has AIDS, he’s upset that she lied. You know what? I don’t give a shit why Joey is pissed off with her. Use your words, you sanctimonious prick. You don’t get to act like you’re the bastion of goodness by blanking a vulnerable person wrestling with a huge decision. Ditto Donald’s fucking girlfriend. This is not moral superiority. It’s being a prick and claiming it’s because you have standards. And maybe you do. But the key word is still PRICK.]
Regina feels sorry for him, but knows that things are different with her and Bruce Fucking Patman. Even if he wanted her to go, even if he begged, she couldn’t handle being away from him for a year.
Ignoring who the guy in question is, this feels like such a realistic, dramatic first love reaction. I’m shocked by how well SVH has tapped into that feeling, and I can better understand why people loved this series when they read it while they were young.
For all the bullshit things we’ve pointed out and discussed and raged about, it manages to tap into overwhelming emotions, and that would be quite a heady thing for a younger reader, particularly if they’ve not felt quite so seen before.
Trouble looms almost immediately, though, because Regina can’t shake the thought of what Jess told her. If it was somehow true, she wouldn’t want to see him at all.
Donald asks her to promise to give it some real thought before she definitely says no. It’s a life-changing opportunity, and Donald knows how difficult this is.
She promises and realizes that she owes everyone, especially herself, to give it real, serious consideration. First step: have a long talk with Bruce Fucking Patman.
Of course, she doesn’t bring it up during their picnic, only tried to steer the conversation so that he’d tell her. Annoying. Instead she waits until they’re sitting in his car in her driveway to ask, which, okay, is actually pretty smart, to give herself an easy escape, not that she’s thinking of it as such.
We get to see a little into Bruce Fucking Patman’s thoughts, and apparently he intended his running for president to be a surprise. He thinks Ken will win and he doesn’t want Regina to feel bad if he loses to Ken.
Uh, right. [Dove: Genuine question, are there any girls out there who would be wooed by this? I was never into the whole school thing, so I’d be embarrassed at best.
Meanwhile, Regina takes it as him being rude and shutting her down, refusing to talk to her about it, and decides that of course Jessica’s right and he has something to hide. Not only does he have something to hide, but obviously that something is him using her for popularity and planning to dump her after, just like all the others.
Okay, again, barring the fact that this is about Bruce Fucking Patman, fucking hell, calm the fuck down, Regina. Talk to him! Don’t listen to the gossip! You love him, you believe he loves you, TALK TO HIM.
(Though, to be honest, this also feels like a real reaction some teenagers would have.)
She throws the bracelet and the ruby necklace down into the seat between them (…it’s a bench seat? I would not have pictured that for him) and tells him to go the fuck away. She’s not as helpless as she seems and she knows what he is. Everyone else does, too.
He gets angry then, understandably, and tells her that he doesn’t know what she’s talking about and she doesn’t want to tell him, she’d rather throw things at him and tell him how horrible he is.
If I had managed any sympathy for him, it would then be gone when he tells her she’s gone crazy and should tell him what’s going on. [Raven: While I do admire Jessica’s moxie in her nefarious scheme, I thought Regina in this scene went from 0 to 100 in the blink of a fucking eye.]
Liz and Todd show up at the Morrows’ house because Skye asked them to come over, but none of them are home. Instead, they talk to Donald who, of course, thinks Liz is Jess and flirts with her the way Jess did with him.
Liz can’t figure out why he acts like he’s met her before. Todd is furious that she’s keeping something from him.
SHE HAS A FUCKING TWIN SISTER. EVEN PEOPLE THEY KNOW CAN’T TELL THEM APART. WHY ARE YOU MANIFACTURING THIS FUCKING BULLSHIT DRAMA, GHOSTIE? WHAT. THE. FUCK. [Dove: Well, Todd hasn’t gotten jealous and possessive for at least 20 pages, so it was long overdue. Also, these two are the dimmest people that ever lived. I work with someone called Dove Danielson. I am Dove Daniel. We have worked together for a mere two years. We did not share a womb. In fact, we’ve never met. However, when someone calls me and is like, “Dove, I just want to run this L&D output by you…” I break in with “Yeah, I’m gonna stop you right there. Wrong Dove.” And Other Dove does exactly the same thing. I cannot fathom how identical twins forget that they are identical twins.] [Raven: HUNDREDS OF BOOKS ABOUT TWINS, and they don’t think that it could be a twin thing? LUDICROUS.]
At school, Regina comes to talk to Liz to tell her that she won’t be able to do the fashion show. Skye will figure out something to do in its place, they won’t leave Liz high and dry, but Regina is leaving for Switzerland on Friday to go through the treatment. Regina says she’ll miss Liz, who is a wonderful friend.
…since fucking when.
Regina breaks down and tells Liz everything that happened with Bruce Fucking Patman, only leaving out that Jess was the one who told her about it in the first place. Why? Why the fuck would she ever leave it out? Again, ghostie is forcing this for the drama and it is not at all how things would go. Of course Regina would tell Liz that her twin sister was so kind and helpful about it. Of course she fucking would.
Later, Liz and Mr Collins talk about Bruce Fucking Patman and how he treated Regina. Mr Collins tells Liz that people do change and no one is all good or all bad. Which is true, but also: HE’S A FUCKING ABUSIVE RAPIST. Even if he has a billion good points, that’s a pretty goddamn big thing that should probably outweigh them all.
(I do realize that most teachers — hell, most adults — probably don’t know this about him, but still.)
Jess is at first thrilled to learn she won the bet, but quickly starts to worry that Lila won’t do a good enough job to pull up Jess’s grade, and if she doesn’t, it’s the end of the world for Jess.
… well no shit, fuckhead. Again, you’ll be lucky if she doesn’t get the two of you busted for plagiarism or cheating. Of course she’s not going to put in enough effort to do good work on your essay, just like you would have half-assed them both.
Liz and Todd have made up from their utterly pointless and unbelievable fight.
“This was the stupidest fight we’ve ever had.” Elizabeth laughed. “I can’t believe it didn’t occur to either of us that Donald thought I was Jessica.”
YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT IT’S A STUPID FIGHT. OF FUCKING COURSE YOU WOULD HAVE REALIZED DONALD MUST HAVE MET JESSICA. SHE’S YOUR FUCKING IDENTICAL TWIN. PEOPLE MISTAKE THE TWO OF YOU FOR EACH OTHER ALL THE GODDAMN TIME.
Ghostie, I gave you some compliments earlier, but this is fucking bullshit.
She tells Todd how bad she feels for Regina learning she was being used. Todd doesn’t actually think it’s true. Bruce Fucking Patman has looked miserable ever since they broke up.
Conveniently, Bruce Fucking Patman (or the Beast, as Todd calls him) comes over to talk to them. Why? Who the fuck knows. Why does Liz ever talk to him after he tried to rape her? Who the fuck knows. Why Todd gives him a break after he tried to rape Liz but goes caveman on any other guy who looks at her? Who the fuck knows.
Bruce Fucking Patman asks Liz to come to his house that afternoon because he needs advice about Regina.
And she fucking agrees to go.
What the ever loving fuck. [Dove: THIS.] [Raven: Also, THIS.]
At the very least, she doesn’t accept the drink he offers her, though that’s clearly not at all about the fact he tried to fucking rape her and very well might have drugged this drink and all about how uncomfortable she is being around an asshole. Not the guy who tried to rape her, just a generic asshole.
I take it back, I hate this fucking book.
He claims he has no idea why Regina is upset with him, and is shocked when Liz tells him about the presidential race and the rumor that he was using Regina. He only signed up to run five days ago, long after he started dating Regina, and he was going to surprise her with it if he won, because meeting her made him happy to live in Sweet Valley for the first time.
AGAIN, if this wasn’t about Bruce Fucking Patman, I’d find this plotline ridiculous and cheesy but also pretty damn cute.
Liz then breaks the news to him about Regina’s treatment. He’s not angry that she didn’t tell him, he’s sympathetic that she’s gone through so much already. He’s heartbroken and doesn’t know what to do, can’t stand the thought that she might leave not knowing that he loves her.
AND AGAIN, I could have been charmed by this plotline. BUT NOPE. [Dove: Again. This. This is so the right reaction, it’s not about him. It’s about her. But, y’know, rapist.]
He frets over what to do. Decides to write her a letter that he’ll make sure she can’t read until she’s already gone and it’s too late to change her mind. He doesn’t want her to change her mind. He loves her, and he wants her to do what’s best for her, and the treatment is what’s best. He explains about the election and the surprise, promises her that he’s not mad at her, swears he’ll love her forever.
Carnival committee on Wednesday, Liz is terrified they won’t get everything done in time even though they’re in pretty good shape with prep. Mr Collins shows up late to the meeting but he’s forgiven because Nora Dalton is with him, the young, pretty French teacher. Ms Dalton offers to have an international food stand and she’ll make crepes for it. [Dove: This is a breathtakingly boring and pointless scene that adds literally nothing to the narrative.] [Raven: That describes the whole tossed-off carnival subplot for me.]
Liz, Todd, and Ken go to the football field to check on the booths. The boys gossip about Mr Collins and Ms Dalton, but Liz likes Mr Collins too much to want to hear gossip about him.
Liz. YOU WRITE A FUCKING GOSSIP COLUMN. UNDER HIS SUPERVISION.
You goddamn hypocrite.
Bruce Fucking Patman runs up to give Liz the letter for Regina. Liz is furious that he’s going to torpedo Regina’s chance to get the treatment, right up until he asks her to sneak the letter into Regina’s suitcase so she won’t read it until it’s too late. [Raven: He actually says it’s the only way he can think of getting the letter to Regina, conveniently forgetting all about the fucking POSTAL SERVICE.] [Wing: To be fair, not sure he’d be able to get her address abroad and no guarantee the USPS would get it to her before she flew. I still think he had other options that Elizabeth, but I can’t fault him for that. (Look! I love the USPS! I don’t think we should privatize mail! But if I mail something to my next door neighbor, it is sent to a town two hours away for processing then sent back to be delivered. Due to budget constraints, it’s not all that logical with the processing centers!)]
Liz is so overwhelmed by how much he loves Regina and is sacrificing for her that she kisses him on the cheek.
The dude who tried to rape her.
There are a billion other guys at SVH you could have done this storyline with other than the ABUSIVE FUCKING RAPIST. [Dove: There are so many unused guys out there. We have a whole soup of names, but instead we have Bruce.]
Liz sneaks the letter into a scrapbook that she encourages Regina to take, even though Regina at first doesn’t want to be reminded of everything she went through. Liz, you really could have chosen somewhere, anywhere else to hide it.
During the next carnival committee meeting, Liz actually says she’s ashamed of the way she’s been talking about Bruce Fucking Patman.
Are. Are you fucking kidding me.
Yes, people can change, as she says he must have, but, again, HE TRIED TO RAPE HER.
This is some grade A level bullshit, Pascal and ghostie. Bull-fucking-shit.
This isn’t forgiving a guy who was an asshole, who maybe gossiped or threw fits on the football field or whatever. This is about forgiving the guy who tried to rape you, and this is a goddamn bullshit way to handle that story. In large part because that’s not the story you’re telling! You’re treating Bruce Fucking Patman as a run-of-the-mill asshole, not an abusive rapist, and that sort of walking back of horror is BULLSHIT.
They all decide to vote for him because this face turn means he deserves to win the election.
Fuck. that. noise.
And also, poor Ken.
Over on the plane, Regina mopes around, having lost even the excitement over the idea of being able to hear. She’s missing her family and home already, and she can’t stop wondering if Bruce Fucking Patman will come say goodbye.
Of course he didn’t.
She takes out the scrapbook, finds the letter, and bursts into tears. Not over her own pain, but over his.
She knows now that she made the right choice, pursuing treatment, because he sacrificed so much to make sure she could go.
Did he, though. Did he?
[Raven: Part of me wished no one found the letter until they collected Regina’s things after she arrived in Switzerland and completed her treatment at fucking Dignitas.]
The ruby pendant is in the envelope, too. She puts it on and thinks that he’s not a part of her past, this is only the beginning of their love.
Carnival starts off well, Jess is grumping around, Mr Collins throws the first whipped cream pie into Winston’s face making everyone laugh, and later that afternoon, Skye makes a big surprise speech. Of course the speech is really telling the story about “a little girl with a handicap and what she was able to do to overcome that handicap and live a normal life.”
Oh fuck off with this Inspiration Porn. (See, e.g., Stella Young, Inspiration Porn, and the Objectification of Disabled People.)
Everyone in the tent applauds her and then Liz when she says nothing could have been done for the carnival without her (which, for once, is giving Liz credit for something she actually did), and then announces that Bruce Fucking Patman won the presidential election.
Two weeks later, they have a reunion party for the carnival. Jess calls this a stupid idea, and she’s not wrong. Anything for a party, I guess. It’s also the day Mr Collins makes the donation to the hospital. They raised over $800. Is that before or after the Patmans matched it? Also, it seems pretty low for a fundraiser that involved such an impassioned speech from Skye and also a bunch of rich teens throwing pies at the class clown.
(Yes, even taking into account that apparently $800 US in 1985 is around $2,206.77 today.)
Jess continues to mope around, the confronts Lila about the D she got on the term paper, and an order to meet with the teacher. Lila, of course, got a B-. Jess, you are a fucking idiot. Lila waves all of this off as unimportant. If Jess does well on her final, she can still pass history.
Meanwhile, Lila has much more important news. She’s going to her father’s building to see Jack again. She’s almost certain he’ll ask her out this time.
Jess is also depressed because she got a letter from Donald saying he didn’t mean to lead her on, so now, at the ripe old age of 16, she feels washed up and over the hell.
Jess, you are a fucking drama llama, and I kind of love it. Sometimes.
She decides that Lila needs a taste of her own medicine, which she will deliver by getting to know Jack herself.
Lila tries to impress Jack with the idea that she might go to Europe that summer. He says he used to go sailing off the south of France. She decides this means he can’t possibly be an actual construction worker because he’s too sophisticated and refined.
He tells her he has a boat and he wishes he was out on her right now. Lila doesn’t understand why he isn’t, but she controls herself. First he has to fall in love with her, then reveal his true identity, and then whisk her away to meet his family in the south of France.
And before all of that, she has to get him to ask her out.
He doesn’t take her bait, and eventually she asks him if he wants to drop by a swimming party at her place on Sunday. He agrees, and she doesn’t understand why she feels so nervous around him.
Lila’s thrilled and can’t wait to see her “mysterious prince” on Sunday.
Which is, of course, setting up the next book, where Jack might destroy Lila and Jessica’s friendship. Dun-dun-duuuuuuun.
I said it before, I’ll say it again. There are two big problems with this story: One is that it involves Bruce Fucking Patman, abusive rapist. Any other guy, and while it would have been melodramatic, it also could have been fun and sweet and a little charming. BUT IT’S NOT AND WE’RE EXPECTED TO TREAT HIM AS IF HE’S NOT AN ABUSIVE RAPIST.
Two is the way it tips, time and again, toward inspiration porn. That’s showing people with disabilities as either inspirational because of their disability or a good person only existing to inspire able-bodied people.
I’ll be honest, there was less of it here than I expected, but I do not give SVH the benefit of the doubt, but it was still there, particularly toward the end, and it is fucking bullshit. It’s harmful unconscious bias, it reduces disabled people to one thing meant to benefit able-bodied people, and it’s lazy, bullshit writing.
[Dove: I did not like this one. Like Wing says, the relationship would have been charming if it had been anyone but Bruce. But largely I was annoyed by how undisabled Regina was – it cannot be understated how many times a character thought to themselves that “you’d never know she was deaf” – which was quickly followed by “she’s such a vulnerable soul, bless the fragile disabled girl, she cannot think for herself”. It’s hard to enjoy the story when this is shoehorned into every scene. And it’s incredibly patronising. Also, even if Regina was more disabled than the story has the nerve for – if she needed an ASL assistant during class, if she had to remind a teacher not to face the board while teaching, if she missed key parts of sentences because someone turned away or was chewing gum, if… I don’t know… her house had any technology to make life easer for her, she would still be able to make an assessment on who she wants to date. She’s not a moron or a baby or mentally deficient. She just can’t hear.]
[Raven: I think I can muster up a very low Meh for this one, but only just. I like Regina, but there were just too many things wrong with this one.
The Inspiration Porn was stultifying, for a start. The whole carnival sub plot was asinine, and frankly it’s a total shock that someone doesn’t hoof Winston in his fucking annoying balls on a daily basis. And the Patman Redemption Arc was actively insulting.
It’s weird, the whole Duelling Ghosties thing. The Ghostie who penned the attempted rape scene may have ran with a much tamer stage direction when creating 1BRUCE1’s defining moment (thus far). And like Jessica’s hugely OTT nonsense from the first books, it does leave the later Ghosties the impossible task of putting the Genie back in the damn bottle. If the plan was always to have 1BRUCE1 turn face, then why make his heel moves so fucking appalling? And of course, this is literary discussion rather than debate over the actual acts themselves.
I do hope that we don’t get all “New Year New Bruce” now. And I’m assuming that Regina does come back, and sooner than after a whole year. But hey, who the hell knows? (Note: if you know, please do not tell us.)]
Oh my God, do people actually think Raven is going to make Dove, like, run marathons and shit? Oh no 😳 But on that subject, yes, you need to start being far more inspirational in your disability, Dove. We’ve been friends for years now, and your bravery in the face of disability hasn’t inspired me ONCE! For shame!
It’s infuriating to me how everyone in SV just forgets Bruce is an attempted rapist, especially since at a later date there’s an attempted rape storyline that *is* taken seriously (no actual spoilers), and that character is ostracized. Rightly so, but he’s literally no worse than Bruce Fucking Patman, who all of SV has forgiven/forgotten. That character isn’t mega rich though, so there’s a lot to be inferred there.
The timeline of Regina’s storyline (no spoilers, Raven, I promise!) makes no sense, especially when you take into account the first 100 books have to take place over a roughly 4-month period. (Book 100 takes place at New Year’s.) These poor Sweet Valleyans and their terrifying time loop!
Wing, “another THING coming” is the official, correct, idiom. However, I never knew this until I was in my teens, because “another THINK coming” made so much more sense to me. You had ONE think, which was wrong, so now you’ve got ANOTHER think coming, which will be right. However, I don’t want to have to fight off idiom pedants who think I’m stupid for not knowing the real expression, so I’ve adjusted to conform. WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY! (But on that subject, which do you subscribe to: all of A sudden, or all of THE sudden? You will pry “all of a sudden” from my cold, dead hands, I don’t care what anyone says on that one.)
Also on that subject, Raven: “could care less” is absolutely NOT universally American. Most of us understand it’s “couldn’t.” I don’t even think it’s regional, just . . . I dunno, personal?
Dove, 100% you need to text me some of the things you’re now unsure whether they’re canon or fanon! I’ll do my best to answer lol That would actually be a fun game – “Is this a real SVH plotline, or something we just made up? The answers will shock you!”
For the longest time in American media, people would say “I could care less”, leading most Brits to assume that all Americans do not understand how that phrase works. Although I do remember Lucia in The Opposite of Sex explaining that it’s wrong and why and I cheered.
I will do my best to be brave and inspiring in the future, I’m just not sure how. I mean, I’m a 40-something person who does maths for a living. Do you think maybe the problem is you? Do you think maybe you should be more inspired that I do maths, despite my mobility problems?
I just texted you the most exciting plot line I wondered about. And annoyingly, that was the one I was most looking forward to. I’ll try to remember the others and ask you about it, because you’re right, this could be a really fun game.
I’m inspired that you do maths but not because of your mobility problems. You’re a woman, and women are just inherently bad at maths. However did you rise above your station?
I’ve now spent so much time thinking about the think-think and think-thing options that I can’t actually remember which one I grew up using. I know I went head first into defending the think-think in the recap, but now I don’t remember what I did use.
I want this.
Another great recap! Love the pointing out of the ableism and othering of Regina – I don’t think I read this one but I read one of the other Regina-centric books and all of that would have totally gone over my head as a kid.
Oh and team “another think coming” all the way, I don’t see how “thing” could possible make sense. According to MW, “think” is the original wording.
Thank you! I enjoyed writing the recap far more than I expected.
Thanks again for another great recap and cover description!
I did love this book as a kid because it was the first Regina-centred story, but it is also where the wheels came off Regina’as arc for me. It annoyed me then, and still does, that, despite having it repeatedly drilled into us that Regina is so special that nobody would know she is disabled, she wasn’t allowed to continue to be deaf, a miracle cure had to be conveniently at hand. I’m not criticising people who seek medical treatment they believe will improve their quality of life, just frustrated by the tendancy of teen novels and tv of the 80s and 90s to not want to allow their disabled characters to stay disabled. The poorly explained mystery cure storyline is almost as frustrating as the book/episode-long storyline, where a regular character develops a life-changing condition at the beginning of the book or episode but is all better by the end. Without wishing to give too many spoilers, SVH is about to use this very trope very soon indeed!
The problem with the magical cure storyline, apart from the fact it is very rarely explained with any credible scientific terms, is that it renders the disability irrelevant. The disabled character is rewarded for their pluckyness in ‘overcoming’ their disability by not having to be disabled any longer! Everyone will have learned a valuable lesson about bravery in the face of adversity but nobody has to make any long-term accommodations for a long-term disabled character and nobody has to think seriously about issues of accessibility or inclusion, phew! It also eroniously helps to spread the idea that most disabilities can be cured. As someone who has been disabled since birth, I’ve lost count of the number of times that family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers have excitedly told me about some miracle cure for blindness or for joint disorders they’d heard about, regardless of whether it has anything to do with my actual conditions or how early a stage trials are at. I always thank them politely as I know they mean well, but it does get exhausting, especially my beloved dad spent lots of time and money, not to mention emotional energy, taking me to doctors all over the country in search of a miracle when I was a child, none of whom could really help.
In terms of Regina not having problems integrating at SVH, this seems like absolute nonsense to me. Given how the school completely fails to provide accommodations to, albeit temporarily disabled students, in future books, SVH’s SEN provision seems non-existent. As you so rightly say, needing accommodations is not a failing that can be overcome if the disabled person tries hard enough, all the bravery in the face of her ‘affliction’ wouldn’t help Regina if the teachers forgot and kept turning their backs on her, unless she has developped x-ray vision of course, which might explain some of the errors in this book! I went to a much better mainstream school than SVH for while but, even there, they couldn’t adequately accommodate me so I attended a residential school for visually impaired children, many of us also had other disabilities too, where I flourished both socially and academically. I’m therefore uncomfortable with this book’s implication that mainstream school must always be better and that attending a special school denotes some kind of failure on the disabled person’s part to conform to non-disabled norms.
Sorry for the long comment, looking forward to your next recap, I remember Showdown being quite action-packed!
It’s weird, I hadn’t even really considered how disabled people have to be “fixed” by the end of their arc. I just accepted it, just like all fat people have to be thin and pretty and have a boyfriend by the end of theirs.
It’s a nasty trope that has just embedded itself into my brain as “a thing we do”.
The disabled person “passing as normal” and then being “cured” reeks of the media that tried to tackle mental health and ends with the mentally ill character deciding to go off their meds and walk cheerfully into their future with their new boyfriend. It’s clueless, it’s wrong and it’s damaging. It tells non-disabled people that disabled people are inspirational and “normal-passing” (and if not, we’re just lazy and self-pitying), and it tells the disabled that we’re “doing it wrong”. The normies expect better of us, and we need to try harder to appease them.
I’m glad that things have moved on since the 90s. I read a book where the hearing-impaired character’s disability did not hold her back, but did need accommodating, and it was so refreshing. In fact, one day I went out for a cigarette (back when I smoked) and it started raining, and my reaction was “Oh, no! My hearing aid will get wet.” And then I remembered that I don’t have one. But I’d been so immersed in this character’s lived experience, it stayed with me. We need more books like this. It was Bittersweet by Kimberly Loth – though TW: Suicide.
I don’t know what the general media’s impression of a school for disabled people is like, but their opinion must be very low. Having never attended one, I just assume it will be like any other school, except with more ramps, handrails, easy-access toilets, and teachers trained to accommodate different difficulties. Oh, and probably more assistants for any children that need one-to-one help during class. Even at a “normal” school, that was a thing that happened regularly, we had a couple of students with dyslexia, who had people to help them with their note-taking.
I can only assume that they think it would be like a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with all disabled students running (or wheeling?) rampant with their unseemly disabilies. Not like Regina, who is so very very beautiful that you’d never know she was disabled.
Bruce Fucking Patman is a rich, white, handsome, young man. And this is 1980s America. Of course all is forgotten, to say nothing of forgiven, when it comes to his attempted rape. At the risk of being trite, I’m not surprised but I am disappointed.
I’m starting to weave a fan theory in regard to Dark Valley and why the Wakefields must be the center of the SV universe. The town of Sweet Valley is cursed and (somehow) the curse has become intertwined with the Wakefields. Sweet Valley draws people to it, and once in, only a rare few are able to leave (but will be inevitably drawn back? I don’t know enough about SV lore yet.)
I love this theory. It is disturbingly true for the recappers, as well. Now that I’ve started, I don’t even want to escape, no matter how angry I get.
It’s Hotel Sweet Valley baby!
You’re right Dove, the miracle cure storyline really is so prevalent that it just seems the norm now. Disabled representation across all media is generally terrible. I was just talking to my husband today about how film and tv creators are still reluctant to cast physically disabled actors. This not only means less work for disabled actors but that the majority of disabled characters are played by non-disabled characters who can’t relate to the lived experience of disabled people, something which makes me really uncomfortable.
The special school I went to was probably quite different to a mainstream school. Yes, we did have ramps, grab rails, etc. but all the students were blind or severely sight-impaired so the school grounds had some textured paving and braille signs. All the books and class materials were produced in bra ille too so the noise of the braille printers in the school building was a constant in the background. Classes were very small, but the thunder of six braille typewriters in one classroom was pretty deafening too! The younger kids lived in on site houses with ‘house parents’ who looked after us and also taught us how to cook and do other household tasks, the kitchens were all designed to be used by blind people too. The sixth form students lived in a hostel which was divided into separate flats with the staff having their own flat in the building and we had a bit more freedom. It meant that, when I started university, it wasn’t such a schock for me as I was used to being away from home and had also learned lots of useful living skills. It was an academically selective school so the work was hard and challenging but I enjoyed that too. All in all, I’d say special school was a great benefit to me.
I’ve never had a deaf student, nor did I go to school with one, so I can’t comment on those accommodations, but I have had blind students. Which is tricky since I teach in a computer lab. The braille machines are fascinating to me, that they’re so efficient with 6 keys. The biggest issue that I can remember was waiting for the county to provide supplies. It was the county’s job to convert the texts, etc, since they had the capabilities and the school didn’t, but the delivery dates were few and far between, so sometimes teachers would be left waiting for papers they needed for their curriculum. It also forced teachers to plan much further ahead than they normally would or didn’t allow the flexibility in content that commonly happens. I presume that your school was able to be on time and flexible because they would have access to the necessary machines on site.
I think we have to go with the first 10 books of SVH are retconned into not existing. Jessica didn’t do that to Todd, Bruce didn’t do that to anyone. He remains a shithead as (often) needed, but not to the level he was before. They introduce other characters to be the truly vile ones so they can keep Bruce cleaner. But we should all look at his clearly John Barrowman model and know what that means. It means a whisper network Liz!
Bless you for adding skin color like it’s not a foregone conclusion in Sweet Valley. Which makes me think, who is the first character of color on the cover? It could be Manuel Lopez, but I think it’s Patty Gilbert.
Another hoary trope: He Just Needs the Love of a Good Woman™️
Is there a connection between the Vanderbilts and Johnny Cash? Vanderhorn is Marie’s family
This is unfortunately a commonly used plot point, which is so dumb that I assume it was either mandated from Francine of none of the ghosties had ever met twins. In college, I lived with a teammate whose twin was on another school team and I know how often they were mistaken and how utterly used to it they were. “I have no idea who’s waving at me, clearly they think I’m x.” *waves back*
There’s a whole stew of Peters
Ken fucking BUILT the carnival. Justice for Ken~