Sweet Valley High #2: Secrets

Sweet Valley High 2 – Secrets by Francine Pascal

Title: Secrets

Tagline: What Jessica wants, Jessica gets – even if someone gets hurt!

Summary: Jessica Wakefield only wants two things: to be chosen homecoming queen, and to dance in the spotlight with Bruce Patman. But there’s one girl standing in her way – Enid Rollins, her twin sister Elizabeth’s best friend.

When Jessica discovers Enid’s deepest, darkest secret, she has a choice to make: be nice and keep quiet, or reveal it to the entire school and clinch the crown for herself.

The queen will be breathtaking. But the quest for royalty is never pretty.

Initial Thoughts:

At the point of writing this, we haven’t officially started recapping High yet and I haven’t read this book since I was a teen. I re-read Double Love last week and was shocked to see what a complete nightmare Jessica was. This is not the scheming Jessica that I love from Twins, this is my mother as a teenager.

(Update for those keeping track of my dysfunctional relationship: I got disowned the day after my birthday. Further update: We’re talking again because her cat was hit by a car, and while she’s a whole bundle of other things, right then she was an old lady whose beloved pet had died, and that was genuinely sad.)

So while I remember this as a “comedy of errors” (absolutely no emphasis on comedy there), I feel certain that a re-read will have my jaw dropping at the illegal and monstrous shit that my supposed favourite twin pulls, just because she wants something that she won’t give a shit about two sentences later. Instead of finding it fun, I’m concerned that I’ll find it… not triggering, that would be going too far.

It’s more like, you know that uneasy laugh you do when someone tells an homophobic/sexist/something nasty joke, and you realise that you’re the only one in the room who thinks it’s offensive, and pointing that out would either torpedo your career or your safety, and the best thing to do is just walk away? That kind of feeling. That ickiness of, yeah, no, this is the opposite of fun, so why is everyone else laughing?

[Wing: Who in the world thought it was a good idea to write Twins with characters who could be delightfully charming only to send readers to this?]

[Raven: Jessica? See You Next Tuesday.]


We open not long after Double Love left off. Jessica is now dry after being tossed in the pool, but throwing a tedious diva fit about how humiliated she is, and how awful her hair is now – while the text anxiously reassures us that it is perfect, wonderful, aspirational hair because even the ghosties are frightened of Jessica. [Raven: Gotta, I was legit surprised and low-key pleased that this book followed the first immediately.]

And why shouldn’t she be furious? In the last book she: stole the car; snuck out to go to a pub with a sexual predator with a hair-trigger temper and then pretended to be Elizabeth when she got caught by the police; knowingly stole the boy that was trying to woo her sister, and then accused him of sexually assaulting her, simply because he didn’t fancy her. In return, Elizabeth, queen of overreaction, basically smiled indulgently and got her thrown in the pool.

I am now understanding why so many people gave me the side-eye when I said “Jessica is my favourite twin!” I’m sorry. I was basing that on Twins, where she was a monster, but she was fun. This is just seeing how my mother would behave if she was pretty enough to get away with her bullshit.

Talk with Cara Walker turns to the Fall Dance, and Jessica’s murderous desire to be crowned queen. Bruce is up for king, and Jessica is desperately in love with him, and has been since freshman year, apparently. (So ignore that whole obsession with Todd from the previous book.) [Wing: I’d say ignore that she ended up mostly hating him in Twins, but it’s believable she could change her mind about someone between middle school and freshman year. And this is clearly not the same Jessica we had in Twins.] [Dove: To be fair, in Twins she endlessly went back and forth over whether he was the cutest boy in seventh grade or a massive tool who treated her badly. Her flim-flamming on Bruce is perfectly in character. It’s more the fact that she claimed Todd SA’d her because she wanted him so badly and he didn’t want her, and now she’s like BRUCE IS THE ONLY ONE!] If they’re both crowned, they’ll preside over school events for many months, which will lead to him falling in love with her.

Reality check: Or, the next ghostie will have no clue that such a thing happened, and the next book will be gearing up for a completely different dance, one that probably breaks the space-time continuum, and our monstrous monarchs will be completely… well, not forgotten, you can’t forget what you never knew, but whatever the sleek word for that is.

We cut to Elizabeth and Enid. If I thought she and Amy Sutton were boring at twelve, we’ve reached new plateaus of boredom. These girls are sixteen, they have cars, friends, money, and boyfriends, and they’re like, “LET’S MAKE COOKIES!” [Wing: I found this kind of cute. Enid’s unhappy, her bff cheers her up by letting them make a mess with cookies. Not adventurous but sweet.] [Raven: As someone who’s spent every other day for the past couple of months MAKING fucking COOKIES, I feel seen and undervalued. No more cookies for you!] [Dove: This is Elizabeth we’re talking about. She will not be making exciting experimental cookies. She will be making the basics.]

But don’t worry, we’ve cut to a high-drama portion of the baking session. Enid is in floods of tears after dropping a measuring cup. It turns out that the tears are not about smashing the Wakefields’ measuring cup on the floor [Raven: If they can make a book about Ithig, they can make a book about smashing a measuring cup… Call it “Betrayed to Measure” or something], but in fact that she’s terrified of losing her beloved Ronnie. The asshole that was like, “Elizabeth? At a bar? Fuck that slutty bitch. I hope she dies.” So you can see why she wants to keep him around. He’s a prince.

[Wing: Elizabeth Wakefield. Elizabeth Wakefield. ELIZABETH FUCKING WAKEFIELD THINKS THIS:

Actually, Elizabeth had been noticing a nervous edge to Enid’s behavior ever since she’d started going with Ronnie Edwards about two months earlier, but she hadn’t wanted to pry. She figured Enid would tell her what was bothering her when she was ready. She didn’t believe that being best friends with someone entitled her to pry into her friend’s private business.


I call bullshit, ghosties. Though this is really bullshit to the Twins ghosties, because the High ghosties came first.

(Suppose I could argue in-universe that Elizabeth learned her lesson from meddling so often in middle school, including when she forced a boy to reunite with his family assuming that blood family is always the best place to be. I can’t suspend my disbelief that much, though, no matter how hard I try.)]

“OK, what’s this terrible secret?” Elizabeth smiled in an attempt to lighten Enid’s misery. “You’re really a cat burglar, right? Straight-A student by day, jewel thief by night.”

“Come on, Liz, it’s not funny.” Enid refused to be consoled. A tear trickled down one chocolate-smudged cheek.

Don’t do this. When someone’s upset, they don’t want you making fun of their emotions. You’re just being a dick because you’re uncomfortable with their sadness. Basically, fuck off.

It turns out that Enid’s deep dark secret is actually both deep and dark. For those of you who assumed that the worst thing you could do in Sweet Valley was wear your day of the week panties on the wrong day, buckle in.

Two years ago, when Enid’s parents were getting divorced, she spiralled hard. She hooked up with a boy called George Warren (remember that name, peeps), and they got into drinking and drugs. One day, while off their tits on literally anything they could find (fandom likes to assume meth), [Wing: Why does fandom assume meth? In the 80s in southern California, I’d assume coke, or crack if they didn’t have the money or the dealer for coke. Speed too. Maybe some LSD.] [Raven: Doesn’t one of George’s letters specify Bennies?] [Dove: Because meth is funnier. And you have to be laughing at SV, otherwise you’ll hate yourself.] they went “joyriding” in George’s car (which isn’t actually joyriding, since the car wasn’t stolen) and they hit a little boy.

Since it’s not a Point Horror, the kid survived with a broken arm and concussion. Enid went to juvie with a rehab programme and George was sent to a strict boarding school.

And while Enid relays this in floods of tears, she thinks to herself how pretty Elizabeth is, not flashy like her whore of a sister. Elizabeth is nice. Elizabeth is kind. Elizabeth is gorgeous.

Enid. You’re dating the wrong person. Stop crying over Ronnie, and find the nearest lesbian bar. You can’t have Elizabeth, because she’s too pure, but I’m sure there are plenty of pretty blondes that would love to date a cute redhead with green eyes, a dark past, and a penchant for baking. [Wing: Hearts in my eyes. I want this.]

Elizabeth puts on her shoulder-pat/advice head. She says that she would tell Todd. She doesn’t acknowledge that he went a bit cold with her when there were rumours about her at Kelly’s, and that he magnanimously forgave her, before finding out that she’s as pure as the driven snow.

Basically, despite all the evidence, she thinks the boys at Sweet Valley High are decent.

She says that Enid should tell Ronnie, and if he really loves her, it won’t matter to him. If he really loves her? They started dating last week. [Raven: Standard teen bullshit is standard.]

Enid says that Ronnie is not like Saint Todd, the bastion of nice boys, he wants all of her attention all the time.

Enid adds that she’s been writing letters to George. They haven’t seen each other, but they’ve been supporting each other over letters. And it’s all perfectly platonic, but Ronnie nearly Columbined last time she had to go through her history assignment with a boy from her class.

Hey, why did you make bad romantic choices, girls of the 80s? Oh, because possessive boys just love you more than gentle ones. Jealous boys are the ones that love you. Boys are owed apologies for your behaviour that in no way affects them and happened before you met them. Boys are the only thing that make you matter. Your value is measured in how thin you are, how shiny your hair is, and how handsome your boyfriend is. Francine Pascal says so, and she’s a grownup, so she knows. Look how thin and blonde and married she is!

[Wing: Shame this is still a romantic trope to this day across all sorts of genres.]

Even Elizabeth thinks this sounds a bit weird. Only a bit though. She thinks if Enid just explains that occasionally she needs to speak to other human beings that are boy-shaped for reasons unrelated to fucking, he’ll calm his incel ass down.

George’s last letter says that he’s coming to Sweet Valley for a visit soon and he wants to see her. We get to see a letter from him, which says he’s doing really well, and he’s nearly ready to graduate and will be coming home once he’s done. Also, he knows Winston, so say hi to him.

Elizabeth, cluelessly, says that she can’t see why Ronnie would be upset about this. It sounds like Enid has been a real help to George.

Elizabeth thinks to herself that even with Sweet Valley being a small town, rumours and gossip are big business. All the while ignoring the fact she literally writes the gossip column. I know it’s called “The Eyes and Ears”, and Caroline Pearce writes the gossip column, but how on earth is “JW caught giving BP a BJ behind the bins!” not gossip? Do the initials make it classy? [Raven: Also, I thought that the writer only held the “Eyes and Ears” column until they were discovered and thrown in the pool? So as “Elizabeth” has been discovered and drenched, the title should move onto the next person? Or did I miss a memo?] [Dove: No. She’ll be writing this shitty column for the next 200 books. It’s her magnum opus.]

Anyway, Enid finally stops bawling, even though nothing is resolved, and nobody has said, “Ronnie is, at best, a complete tool, and at worst a possessive manchild abuser, and you should lose him and find yourself instead.”, the two happy idiots have a little joke about cookies and have a pillow fight, causing a letter to drift off the pile.

We cut to Jessica in French class. She sees Winston ogling her and is utterly repulsed, but moves into a more flattering position. I feel like every incel in the world has read at least one Sweet Valley High book and based their entire view of women on Jessica Wakefield. She is that fictional monster they all bitch about, the girl who doesn’t like anything but a hot Chad with tons of money, until a new hot Chad with tons of money walks by, and screams “rape!” when she doesn’t get her way.

The teacher, Ms Dalton, makes fun of her for not paying attention, and Winston tries to deflect the attention. This causes Ken to break out a heartbreaking insult. He calls Winston “dummy” and is described thusly:

The difference between Ken and Winston was that Ken was tall, blond, gorgeous, and captain of the football team.

So long, unwanted bullied squirt from Twins. [Raven: Growth spurt, I guess. Shame no one even references his tiny dwarven past.]

Also, Ken has a mad crush on Ms Dalton and needs extra tutoring to pull up his failing grades. Jessica thinks Ms Dalton has no clue, whereas Jessica always knows when someone likes her. [Wing: But not when someone is using her, or being a predator, or doesn’t like her, or why someone’s mad at her, or or or or — or anything she doesn’t want to know.] She plans to use Winston as soon as she finds a way to, but right now she’s all about Bruce.

After class, Lila makes her hatred of Ms Dalton known. That young, pretty bitch is dating George Fowler and our poor little rich girl is not taking it well. She thinks Ms Dalton is after his money. And even Jessica, the absolute monster who thinks nothing of making up sexual assault allegations against a boy who doesn’t want to date her, thinks that’s a bit harsh. In fact, she thinks it’s because Ken is Lila’s date to the dance, but she’s jealous of his affection for Ms Dalton.

Lila says that Ms Dalton is a round-heels little strumpet who drapes herself all over the desk when she and Ken are alone. Jessica doesn’t particularly believe that, but thinks the gossip would be exciting if it was true.

At this point, Cara Walker, whom we’ve barely met so far, walks up. They have a symbiotic relationship. Jessica the monster rampages through Sweet Valley with her lies, manipulations, schemes and gaslighting, and Cara follows behind at a more sedate pace, enjoying and passing on the gossip.

Jessica tells her that Lila thinks Ken and Ms Dalton are having an affair.

What?“ Cara screeched. This was almost too good to be true. “I don’t believe it!”

“Believe it,” snapped Lila, slamming her locker shut with an ear-splitting clang.

“You mean, you’ve actually seen them–”

The rest of Cara’s question was swallowed up as the second bell shattered the air. Jessica and Cara both slammed their lockers shut, then locked them.

Well, I’m sure that won’t do any lasting damage. And at least she’s a woman. People won’t even investigate that. They’ll just think Ken is a stud, even if he was a minor (a light google says that the age of consent is 18), which at age 16, he is.

[Wing: I suppose this is several years before the Mary Kay Schmitz rape case, which is the first big teacher-student case I can name off-hand. The student in that case was much younger than Ken, too. Still, I kept waiting for this to have severe consequences for Ms Dalton.]

[Raven: Bizarrely, I actually gave Jessica and Lila the benefit of the doubt here. It didn’t come over, to me, as malicious and premeditated rumour-mongering, more just like hyperbole and cattiness being misconstrued and miscommunicated. Jessica is a Grade 1 Bitch, no doubt, but here? Just a teen.]

Lila then rushes off for choir practice. Apparently she’s a soprano. Well, that’s a new trait that they never mentioned in Twins, despite the multiple singing books that were written. In fact, wasn’t Lila a terrible singer? Then again, so were the twins, except for when the plot required them to be terrific. [Raven: Yeah, Lila was so bad in the Rock Star Video one that she needed another girl to sing for her. I think. Then again, here she just says she’s desperate to get the lead soprano part… doesn’t mean she’s in contention, or even any good.]

Jessica’s thoughts return to her Bruce obsession. She asks Cara to speak to Ronnie, who’s on the dance committee, and see if he can swing the votes for her. Um… whut? Why not just get your friends to do that for you? Why don’t your vapid friends want to win? Cara says sure, but he’s probably lobbying for Enid, his girlfriend.

Jessica, by the way, is now “boiling” with rage. Boiling. Because some guy she doesn’t know probably wants his girlfriend to win more than her. Boiling. That’s healthy. Also, she has more reasons to hate Enid, she takes up far too much of Elizabeth’s time, which could be used to worship Jessica.

But then his royal hotness, Bruce Patman, shimmies past, wearing “off-white cords and a heather-blue sweater that matched his eyes” and Jessica has to chase after him.

She tells him that she doesn’t have a date to the dance yet, and he gives her a skeevy once-over glance [Raven: Which she ACTIVELY ENJOYS, for fuck’s sake], then walks off. Jessica fakes losing her necklace to keep him around, but that doesn’t work. Instead he leaves, and it’s Winston who is scouring the stairwell for a necklace that doesn’t exist.

At home, Jessica finds her mother strangely sober and washing a lettuce. That’s not a euphemism, that’s what she’s doing. She’s not napping. It’s weird.

Jessica demands to know where her twin is, and gets in a strop that she’s with Enid, calling her a “creepy little nerd” Alice’s response is a “gently reproving look”, and she mildly says that Jessica is suffering from the green-eyed monster. The entire scene has a gentle tone of “oh, that wacky Jess with her jealousy, narcissism and murderous intentions”, while Jessica lays unfounded insult after unfounded insult at Enid’s door, and Alice just nods and smiles and is like, “I’m a cool mom!”

Alice Wakefield is a COOL MOM!

This makes Jessica very defensive, and eventually she bursts into tears, feeling upset that she’s the one who introduced Elizabeth and Enid, and also screw Bruce Patman for not asking her out yet.

For half a second, this gave me pause. Is Jessica having a human reaction to rejection? Is she expressing distress and not vengeance? Ok, well that’s progress, because she was utterly loathsome in the previous book.

Then she yells that she’s the best friend Elizabeth has.

And I’m frightened of her again.

[Wing: I think you said it in the last recap, but it’s impossible to buy an actual friendship between Jessica and Elizabeth because of how Jessica acts in the exactly two Sweet Valley High books I’ve now read. In Twins, their friendship was believable, even when they were being shitty to each other (mostly Jessica being shitty to Elizabeth, to be fair). Not so in High.]

She storms upstairs in a huff and sulks in Elizabeth’s room because it’s neater – for those who care, this is the first reference of Jessica’s room being called The Hershey Bar because of the brown-painted walls, which seems so not-Jessica. [Raven: It’s not paint. It’s smeared-on excrement.]

While sulking that everyone has a date and woe is Jessica, she spies the missing letter from George from earlier. Unfortunately, it happens to be a letter that explicitly spells out that they were off their tits on amphetamines when they hit that kid.

Jessica smiles in a way that makes any normal person drop what they’re doing, and run like hell, and then heads for her father’s photocopier.

Some time later, possibly even months, we cut to Elizabeth and Todd on a double date with Ronnie and Enid at the cinema. Which is called Valley Cinema. The reason I mention that possibly even months have passed since the previous scene is this paragraph.

Todd and Elizabeth spoke in hushed tones while waiting for Ronnie and Enid to return to their seats with the popcorn. The two couples often double-dated, and the Valley Cinema was a favorite hangout. They’d always had a good time together in the past, but that night Elizabeth, too, noticed that something was off.

Guys, you’ve all been collectively dating about a week at this point. This book picks up right after the last one. Literally. Jessica is still bitching about her hair being wet from the pool. You guys do not have this epic history that goes back for decades. Ronnie and Enid got together no more than a week before Elizabeth and Todd. So unless there was a huge timeskip between Elizabeth and Todd getting together and their revenge against Jessica, there’s no time for them to have this lengthy history.

Unless of course, they’ve just spent the past week double-dating non-stop?

[Wing: I can’t get the image of Elizabeth’s planner filled with one- and two-hour double dates over the past week so they can build this kind of relationship history. Color-coded, of course. (I mock because I also color-code my planner and calendars.)]

Anyway, Enid and Ronnie are very tense tonight, there has been no hand-holding. Todd recalls with amusement that time that Ronnie was a possessive abusive shithead because Enid had the audacity to speak to a pizza waiter to make sure they didn’t put anchovies on her pizza. Lol. That boy so funny. [Raven: Ronnie is an absolute prick. At least Rick Andover had the decency to be exaclty what you’d expect.]

He says that if you love someone, you trust them. Apparently forgetting that time he had to work to make peace with the fact that Elizabeth – a girl he hadn’t even spoken to at that point in time – went to a bar with a guy, something he didn’t approve of. Thank god she never did it, eh? He can just claim to be accepting and open-minded. Smug tit.

After all this smugness about how caring they are, it finally dawns on Elizabeth to go check on her bestie. Who is sobbing in the bathroom.

Elizabeth tries to reassure her, saying that Ronnie won’t leave her, he loves her, but she doesn’t believe it. It never once occurs to her to tell her best friend, whom she allegedly values, that she is too good for this shit. She thinks it, but she doesn’t say it. For fuck’s sake.

Enid worries that Ronnie’s found out and he’s going to be super offended and he’ll regard this as Enid being unfaithful, you see he has all this trauma from his mother cheating on his dad. So fucking what? Get therapy, stop being a bastard. You don’t get to blame Enid (and by extension, all women) for your mother’s actions.

We cut to Enid’s POV after they’ve dropped off. Ronnie is still being curt with her, but says they’re going to park at Miller’s Point. Dude. Red flag. Run, Enid. Look how angry he is. This is not going to be a romantic canoodle. Run.

As soon as they park, Ronnie lunges for her, and thankfully when she pushes him back, he stops. After many awkward moments, he makes an excuse about not taking her to the prom, saying his dad needs him to work that night. He’ll let her know for sure soon.

Enid realises that he’s breaking up with her by degrees, and tries to keep him by trying to chat about school. Ronnie brings up the Ken/Dalton rumour and is furious when Enid defends her favourite teacher. He snaps that it’s probably true and drags her against him for another kiss.

When she pulls away, he asks how he stacks up against “Georgie-boy.” He grabs her arms and yells at her for cheating on him, lying to him, deceiving him, etc., and he doesn’t tell her where he found out from, mostly because he’s too busy accusing her of sleeping with all of Sweet Valley. I mean, if she’s cheating on him with George, she’s bound to be doing every dude in a 50 mile radius.

She snaps that he should trust her, and he finds that just hysterical because she’s a big fat liar.

As he drives her home in a furious silence, she realises that Elizabeth must have told him.

All this could have been avoided if someone had just given Enid the validation to leave him. I know I’m only two books in, but here’s what I see: a shy bookish girl, who believes herself to be not even a quarter as attractive as her Wakefield friend. This girl has a history of feeling unloved and unwanted and making bad decisions when feeling this way.

So why has that gorgeous perfect amazing best friend never once said: Enid, you are so nice and pretty and clever, why the fuck are you wasting your time on that shitstorm of jealousy and abuse known as Ronnie? If he’s the only option, having literally nothing is better than having him. You can do better. He doesn’t deserve someone as great as you.

[Wing: Elizabeth absolutely should have said this to Enid many times, but I don’t think it would have made any difference at this point.]

[Raven: Also, how fucking shitty was this “kiss-me / get-out-of-my-sight / kiss-me” routine? Ronnie is a fucking bellend.]

Over at the Wakefield Compound, Jessica is preparing herself for a night out – is this the following night, or did the most boring and awkward double-date start and end super early?

Earlybird Special?

Jessica is going to a party at Lila’s. She gloats that Elizabeth could’ve been invited if she’d been nicer to Lila (I guess that whole “You’re like a sister to me” thing when Elizabeth couldn’t stop lying didn’t mean that much to either of them), but Elizabeth says Lila’s a phoney. Jessica says that Enid’s no better.

Elizabeth goes to her own room and worries about Enid. It now clarifies that it’s been a whole day since the awful date and she hasn’t heard a word from Enid. She has called her, but Enid’s mum said she was too busy to come to the phone.

She tries again, and finally gets through to Enid, who is very curt with her until she blows up, saying yes, Ronnie knows, and he was furious. Elizabeth, very blithely – in an almost Jessica fashion – says, oh, but that was ages ago and it’s nothing to do with him. As if Enid hasn’t repeatedly told us that Ronnie is an uptight control freak with abusive tendencies, and would just let this kind of thing sweep by him with no care in the world. It’s no wonder that Enid thinks Elizabeth betrayed her. Elizabeth just kind of lets her best friend stay in this abusive situation, offering nothing more than, “I’m sure it’ll all turn out fine” and shoulder pats. Enid says that since only Elizabeth knew about the letters, what the hell is she supposed to think? And yeah, why not? I know that Jessica’s awful, but Elizabeth has been a terrible friend so far. And looking back, I feel like the only reason she was so accepting of Enid’s backstory is because she doesn’t really care about Enid. If she did, she’d back her up.

I honestly never thought I’d come out of the first couple of books as Team Enid. But out of everyone I’ve met so far, she’s the only one I’d want to go to the Dairi Burger with. The twins are a toxic nightmare that in no way did Twins prepare me for. Lila is largely absent. Todd is a stuck up asshole. Bruce Patman needs to die (as always). Yeah, guys, Team Enid. She needs a better best friend. And for everyone that says she’s twice as boring as Amy (including me several billion paragraphs ago) FUCK YOU.

[Raven: I’m still Team Elizabeth at this point, but it’s getting harder to root for her, that’s for sure.]

It is incredibly pleasing to watch Enid slam the phone down on Elizabeth.

Jessica swans past to make a snide comment about Enid, and Elizabeth snaps that it’s serious. Ronnie left Enid and she thinks it’s all Elizabeth’s fault. She then tells her everything and Jessica rallies and tries to get Elizabeth to stop caring about the situation.

“Don’t you see? It’s the principle of the thing. How could he ever trust her again, knowing how she’d covered up the truth? Honestly, Liz, I think it’s better Ronnie did find out. Whoever told him about the letters was doing him a big favor.”

Juuuuust laying the groundwork.

Over at Lila’s, Jessica, Cara and Lila are – scandal! – drinking red wine that Lila stole from her dad’s wine cellar [Raven: I do hope they stole something stupidly expensive]. They catch up on gossip with Dana Larson, who I wouldn’t ordinarily mention, but this is what she’s wearing:

Tonight she was decked out in tight black velvet jeans, a pair of sparkly pink leg warmers, and a purple satin blouse.

How do you wear leg warmers over velvet pants? They’re both furry material. I can’t imagine it looks good and it must look awful because they’ll stick to each other. Weird. Even for the 80s. [Wing: Not even Google could find me anything even close to this combination. Minus the leg warmers, though, Dana’s a hottie.] [Raven: Sorry Dana, but you’re no Mandy Miller.]

The gossip covers the Dalton/Ken stuff and how Ronnie and Enid have broken up. It’s only when Jessica hears that Bruce isn’t coming to this party that she feels guilty. Not for the stress she’s caused, but because Elizabeth is taking the blame for it. And really, Enid was “begging for it” (literal quote) by leaving her letters lying around. And now it’s all futile because Bruce is taking a 19 year old college girl to the dance.

Side note: who are all these losers who are in college and keep going to dances with 16 year olds? I’ve never been to uni, but I have to believe that there are more exciting things going on there than at high school with a bunch of minors. And the 16 to 19 age gap is a weird one. Once you hit your mid-twenties, you won’t even notice it, but there’s such a difference between a minor with two years of high school left and an adult in college. Or there was when I was that age, even without the school/uni aspect. We had a 16 year old friend when we were that age, but it was less a friendship of equals and more that we realised that he would keep going clubbing and stay out all night, and without any friends his own age, he might get into trouble, so it was more like keeping an eye on your younger brother, and kind of smiling with gritted teeth through the really hectic immature bits. Lovely kid, but so immature.

[Wing: I can see a freshman in college (where 19 could fall) going back to a dance with their high school partner who is a junior in high school (where 16 could fall). In fact, I have seen that, before schools started locking down dances to current students only.]

[Raven: Also, Bruce Patman is the best looking and richest and most be-Porsched sixteen-year-old-that ever did sixteen, so there’s that.]

Jessica moves over to Ronnie and bamboozles him into taking her to the dance, first by appearing to defend Enid, then making it sound worse, and then by saying they should go to the dance together as friends.

On Monday, the halls of Sweet Valley High are abuzz with the Dalton/Ken romance. Elizabeth does not believe it. Caroline Pearce does. And Olivia Davidson, a “feminist” who hasn’t yet learned about consent, thinks it all makes sense because a woman reaches her peak in her thirties, while boys peak in their teens. Guy Chesney makes the gross observation that they should run the story in The Oracle (Elizabeth’s new baby now she’s outgrown the Sixers), and have a centrefold of Ms Dalton. Even in Sweet Valley in the 80s, this is not cool and everyone present gives him the hairy eyeball.

They go in to French class and this is written on the blackboard.


After class, Elizabeth hunts down Enid, determined to sort their friendship out. She begs Enid to trust her, and Enid tells Elizabeth that she’s done enough, and she wants her to keep her big mouth shut.

Let’s pretend for a second that Enid is clueless about how much Jessica hates her – which I am willing to believe, because she’s emotionally needy. If she thinks Ronnie is a loving boyfriend, why shouldn’t she believe a smiling narcissist is being truthful?

But Elizabeth? Elizabeth knows Jessica. She knows all the shit that Jessica has pulled over the years. She knows that her sister cried rape in response to a boy not fancying her. Why on earth is she not immediately thinking that Jessica somehow overheard their conversation, even if it doesn’t immediately register that one letter might’ve slipped out of Enid’s stack?

Also, I want you all to realise that monstrous Jessica is the “best” Jessica we can have. This is a Jessica that looked into her future, saw that being a scheming bitch would leave her hated and alone, and corrected. It appears that she has corrected by beating Elizabeth into being even more spineless, so that she will forgive more. I guess she has been coasting by on not stealing the meeting with Beau Dillon, and Elizabeth is just like, “Thank you for not literally snatching money out of the hands of orphans dying of leukaemia, I will allow you to make up any shit you want and destroy the lives of everyone I care about, because when we were twelve you did a really shitty thing, and then backed away at the last minute, not for the greater good, but because you realised it would kill your popularity. And I’m proud of you for doing the right thing.”

Cara Walker overhears their fight and it adds fuel to the gossip.

At lunch Jessica offers to talk to Enid for Elizabeth. Elizabeth is so upset about everything, that she figures it can’t make anything worse. Then she feels guilty for questioning the movies of her obviously psychopathic sister. Elizabeth is dim as hell.

Jessica then talks to Enid, and Enid is cold and snappy, and is my new favourite character.

“You shouldn’t be so hard on her,” Jessica cajoled. “I’m sure she never meant to hurt you. You know how these things are.”

Enid stopped to look at her. “No, I don’t know how these things are,” she answered coldly. “Unlike some people, I’m not in the habit of stabbing my friends in the back.”

You go, Enid. You tell that monster!

Jessica basically lays all the blame at Elizabeth’s door, while sounding like she’s defending her. Then she says that Ronnie is saying terrible things about Enid, and the whole school is whispering about her behind her back, and then is utterly gleeful to hear Enid’s comment that if the lives forever, she’ll never forgive Elizabeth. Jessica is like, Boom. Done. Got that boring bitch away from my sister. [Wing: The sister she doesn’t particularly like but if Jessica can’t have her, no one can.]

After school, Jessica tells Elizabeth that she’s going to the dance with Ronnie, because she’s such an angelic matchmaker. Her goal is to get Ronnie and Enid in the same location, then they’ll have a magical dance and fall in love all over again. Elizabeth is sceptical, but ultimately is won over by her adorable sister, because her motivation is: brains or spine: pick one. [Wing: LOLOLOL] [Raven: I mean, even I rolled my eyes at this one. The transparency is insulting.]

Jessica then adds the Enid has been badmouthing Elizabeth, and Jessica thinks that she’s always been jealous and has been waiting for an excuse to spew all this vitriol. Even Elizabeth expresses disbelief at this.

At school the next day, Elizabeth confides in Sweet Valley High’s answer to Robert Redford, Mr Collins. Also, don’t you love it when young “hip” books try to make a cutting edge pop-culture reference and it’s a swing and a miss? One of the recently-written Virginia Andrews books (ghostie, obv), does the same thing. “[Name] looked just like Nicole Kidman”… said no sixteen year old about their friend of the same age ever. I was born in the 80s, and even I wouldn’t reference Nicole Kidman. [Raven: It could be worse… he could be Sweet Valley High’s answer to Robert Mugabe.]

Mr Collins says that someone who knew about the letters outside of Enid and Elizabeth must have let it slip. She remembers Winston knows George, but he’s not malicious. Mr Collins, apropos of nothing, says he probably did it for attention. Dude, you’re an asshole. We all know what really happened, but if this theory was true, maybe he just let it slip to a friend and it mutated. Since, y’know, that whole Dalton/Ken thing went from Lila being jealous her date is hot for teacher to they’re banging in the supply closet right now.

Olivia comes in with a stack of letters about Dalton/Ken, which causes Mr Collins to get snappy and throw them out because he fancies Ms Dalton. I do not care about Mr Collins, his shitty advice, his moronic favouritism of the beige paint sponge that is Elizabeth Wakefield, or the fact that she’s only getting stroppy about Ms Dalton’s innocence because he fancies her.

Elizabeth goes to see Winston who confirms that he didn’t tell Ronnie. He barely knows him, and George made it clear that Enid should be distanced from him for her reputation – but George is a really good guy now, and Winston’s looking forward to seeing him when he moves home.

Elizabeth piously thinks to herself that she’s very awesome for seeing the sensitive side to this ugly nerd, and actually he’s much better than Bruce Patman. Uh, duh. Bruce Patman is basically Trump in training. Billions of people are better than him. You don’t get a medal for noticing that, despite his lack of sexiness, you stuck up cow. [Raven: Okay, I think I’m actually Team Winston.]

It is the day of the dance and Elizabeth is at the Dairi Burger with Todd. And I would just like to give you this current pop-culture drop, that’s going to make you all swoon.

“Hey,” he said, “you don’t look too happy for someone who’s going to the dance tonight with the most fantastic guy on the West Coast.”

She forced a weak smile. “Burt Reynolds is taking me to the dance?”

Burt. Reynolds.

After all that mockery about Johnny Buck and Melody Power(s), I kind of want to go back to it. The names were awful, but at least it didn’t date the story. I’m not entirely sure that sixteen year olds were swooning over Burt Reynolds in the 80s. I don’t have an older sister, but the “big girls” at primary school were all about Duran Duran and A-Ha, with a bit of New Kids thrown in. This might just be the UK/US divide though. Even so, reading it in the early 90s made me wonder what was up with these girls to endlessly swoon over Robert Redford and Burt Reynolds, while I was mad about Eddie Furlong, who I thought was probably too old for me, being three years older. Not three decades. [Wing: I doubt teens in the 80s were losing their shit over Robert Redford or Burt Reynolds, but baby!Wing was apparently besotted with Magnum, P.I., played by Tom Selleck. This is one of the few things I actually find embarrassing, and I was too young to even remember it!]

[Raven: In 1983, Burt Reynolds was 37 and his career was at the start of its decline from the late Seventies. I do think it’s a tough call to make. If you were writing this today, who would you legitimately pick as a heartthrob for a sixteen-year-old? If you pick someone age-appropriate and modern, they could prove to be a flash in the pan in the next few months, and then your reference is lost. If you pick someone who has a bit more cache, they’ll likely have a few more miles on the clock, and while their name will have the recognition factor down the line, their useage may seem ludicrous (as it does here). I just googled for Eighties Heartthrobs, looking for someone who could fit the bill, and all the actors who might do didn’t break through until the mid to late Eighties (like Patrick Swayze, Keifer Sutherland, Michael J Fox)… yes, they’d had small roles, but this reference needs to have star quality. So I checked for late Seventies heartthrobs, as those would have built up a following at the time of writing, and sure enough, Burt Reynolds was high on the list. It’s tricky. On reflection, I may have gone for Christopher Reeve, as he was Superman in 1978, but even that’s not ideal. Maybe an Osmond?]

Elizabeth moans to Todd that Enid’s still angry with her, and it’s almost as if someone is feeding her lies to keep her mad. And in unrelated news, Jessica thinks that Elizabeth is better off without her. And it might not be kind, but Jessica means well.

Christ. Enid, stay mad. Your supposed best friend is a wet sponge with the IQ of shaving foam.

Then they blow straw wrappers at each other, and it’s hilarious. Oh, the fun of young people doing wild and impetuous things!

[Wing: Those poor servers, having to clean up after all the SVH shits.] [Raven: I mean, the good kids just use straw wrappers. The bad kids pelt the walls with handfuls of their own shit.]

When she gets home, she and Jessica have to clean their rooms or they can’t go the dance. Who’d have thought Alice the drunk would be the one moving this annoying plot along. At this point Elizabeth finds the stray letter and it finally dawns on her again that Jessica is a vicious vindictive malicious spiteful bitch who will destroy anything in her path, no matter how shallow and pointless the goal. [Raven: At least she saw the letter and went “Jessica is a bitch” immediately. No soul-searching and cosidering other options. Straight to the truth.] [Dove: Oh god, this book could have gone on even longer if the Unicorns still existed, while Liz tried to figure out which Unicorn – not her sainted sister, of course – was the one who spilled the tea.]

Side note: why didn’t Jessica just keep the letter? If she hadn’t taken a copy, she’d have never been found out. If Elizabeth knew that letter was there, then it should have dawned on her that Jessica could have seen it, whereas if she was only pretty sure the letter was there, but it wasn’t when she went to check, the fault could have fallen on Enid losing it. There would be no reason why the saintly Elizabeth would have someone else’s letter for any permanent reason. [Raven: Sure, she could have binned it, but perhaps Jessica has more resect for the hallowerd dictats and offices of the U.S. Postal System.]

Enid goes to Ms Dalton’s house. She’s “thinner and paler” than she was two days ago. I guess that’s the price of being a perfect size zero in Sweet Valley. One day of stress and you look like Skeletor without the camp glee. Also, George Fowler has dumped her. A+ boyfriending there, asshole.

I thought Enid was going to give words of support, but actually she’s just there for advice, because her asshole abusive ex is far more important than a young woman losing her career over a false rape allegation.

By the way, we’re two-for-two on false rape allegations. Both levelled by angry young women who can’t have the boy they want. Thank you for that, Sweet Valley. Victims of sexual assault have a hard enough time as it is, but do feel free to keep up this narrative that vapid shallow harpies make up rape because they can’t have their own way. Thank you.

Francine Pascal, you absolutely suck. You are an awful human being who clearly hates women.

(According to interviews, she claims to have had the final say on every detail in the books. While I don’t for a second believe that’s true, if that’s your story, you have to live with the consequences.)

Anyway, Ms Dalton indulges this nonsense in the face of her failing career and points out that by refusing to hear Elizabeth out, she’s treating her the way Ronnie treated Enid. Enid should go to the dance tonight and make up with Elizabeth.

She adds that she probably shouldn’t say anything, but she’s thinking of quitting her job. Enid is not happy to hear this. She and Ms Dalton have both been accused of something they didn’t do, and they must face it the same, walk into the dance with their heads held high.

When Ms Dalton doesn’t reply, Enid leaves in floods of tears. Yelling over her shoulder that Ms Dalton is “running away” from her problems.

Dude. It’s not about you. You were my favourite so far, but this is a very selfish reaction. You need therapy. Your problems are very real to you, but you should be able to see that other people’s problems a) exist; and b) are bigger.

You’ve been dumped over something you did do (writing to George) that’s been blown out of proportion, she’s about to lose her job over something she would never even consider doing. These things are not the same. This is not about Enid’s deep dark past, I don’t think Ronnie gives a shit that she nearly flattened a kid with a car doing 90mph. He’s just ticked that she talked to another dude.

[Wing: Enid’s selfishness works for me here. It feels very realistic for a teenager to be focused on their own problems and not all that empathetic toward anyone else’s. That the book makes this the right thing to do because it works is utter bullshit.] [Raven: It also makes sense for me, as it’s being used as the catalyst to have Ms Dalton stand up to her own issues, which as a trope is well documented.]

Later when Enid is getting ready for the dance, there’s a knock at the door. She gets super excited that it’s Ronnie, but even better, it’s George! AND HE’S TOTALLY HOT NOW. He’s more muscular, taller, and sexier. And he’s here to ask her to the dance. Yay!

Who cares about resolving the abuse issue! Who cares about Enid’s self-worth being built on whether or not she has a boyfriend! In fact, who cares that she’s so fucking alone that the only person she could speak to was a teacher who was about to lose her job!


(New tag, btw)

Over with Elizabeth, she is boiling with rage while ironing the frills in her dress. Which is one of the most Elizabeth sentences I’ve ever typed on this site. [Wing: She pretends she’s flattening Jessica’s head! This is some spineless Elizabeth bullshit.] She has a conversation with her sister that anyone but Jessica could see is filled with ice and undercut with spite, but Jessica takes all her words at face value because narcissists do not give a shit what you say or how you say it, unless they want to turn it into drama.

Jessica takes a moment to mock Winston for daring to run for king when he’s so nerdy. Elizabeth smiles like a serial killer.

[Raven: I rerally enjoyed Elizabeth’s passive agressive responses here. It’s so out of her saintly character, and I’m here for it. Okay, so the denousement is weaksauce, again, but this was good.]

At the dance, Elizabeth spots Caroline Pearce – who, the narrative pauses this thrilling tale to tell us looks ugly af, “hideously girlish in a ruffled pink organdy dress that clashed with her hair“–and goes over to speak to her.

At this point, Ms Dalton walks in. Someone asks where Ken is. She flinches, then moves over to Mr Collins, and they start dancing together. Cool. So glad that one was resolved. I mean, it hasn’t been resolved. At all. Nobody’s investigated anything. And why would they? The alleged victim is a boy. And nobody can rape a boy. She’s pretty. Power imbalances aren’t a thing. The age of consent isn’t a thing. Lucky kid that, banging a 25 year old teacher.

Just pointing out that this situation is a terrible plot point that makes no comment on the topic it brought up, beyond “gossip = baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad”.

On that topic, Todd provides some gossip. Ken was so pissed off that Lila started the rumour that he dumped her.

Next Enid walks in with her hot boy. She comes over to Elizabeth and apologises. She adds that George is much better than Ronnie. He likes her for her. Ok, cool, but Enid, do you like you yet? Then Elizabeth says she knows who the leak, but she can’t say. All she can say is that person will be getting what’s coming to them.

Fucking Elizabeth and her need to protect that absolute monster. Enid says that she might even need to thank whoever leaked her letters, because things are better now. Even Elizabeth rolls her saintly eyes at this one.

The king and queen are crowned. It’s Jessica and Winston. This is Elizabeth’s grand revenge on her sister. To inflict her shallow spiteful ass on a perfectly nice guy who doesn’t deserve it. And yes, Winston does have a crush on her. But she treats him like dirt – and that’s on the rare occasions when she even acknowledges him. What Elizabeth has done here has punished a nice boy for imagining her sister is as pretty on the inside as the outside. Jessica will just drop him the minute the official dance is over, and Winston will just spend all school events (as long as the ghostie knows about this) being ignored by his official date. [Wing: Why does it make them official couples for these events anyway? This makes no sense, ghostie.]

This is not a punishment for Jessica. It’s one for Winston. [Raven: I don’t think he’d mind, if we’re to believe the extent of his crush for Jessica. Also, Elizabeth’s revenge wasn’t even “rig the King and Queen thing so it’s Jessica and Winston”, it was “spread a rumour that Jessica has the hots for Winston.” So Winston, in my reading at least, actually won the title fair and square. But Elizabeth’s revenge was just as out-of-proportion and genteel as the last book’s dunking. Finally, they describe Winston as a scarecrow with knobbly wrists… I guess those years as the lynchpin of the Boosters did little for his nerdy physique?] [Dove: I just think Winston being used as any kind of “gotcha!” moment is spiteful no matter how you spin it. The joke is that someone as perfect as Jessica could fancy such an ugly, nerdy unfuckable mess as Winston, and no matter what angle you come at it from, you have to accept Winston as “less than” for it to be a punishment. And the whole school and the narrative does just that.]

Elizabeth confronts Jessica and tells her to pretend she’s overjoyed, otherwise she’ll tell everyone what Jessica did to Enid, in the Eyes and Ears if necessary. And again, like that will stick. Elizabeth is angry now, but at the next dance, she’ll just roll her eyes indulgently at the sight of Jessica officially dancing with Winston while jacking off Bruce Patman and be like, “OMG, my wacky sister is so lolzy”.

Jessica seethes and plots and grudgingly kisses Winston for a photo – Wing, please tell me that forcing students who aren’t romantically involved to kiss is not a normal part of formal dances – and then sees Bruce looking at her. And she vows that she is getting into those very expensive pants by the end of the next book.

[Wing: I have never seen forcing students to kiss be a part of formal dances, but I wouldn’t have been super surprised for someone to call for them to kiss, even if it wasn’t from, say, the official photographer but rather another student.]

Final Thoughts:

That was infuriating on every level. I have the first three books in a bumper edition, which I bought thinking that Twins was a bit kiddie, and maybe I was ready for High. I didn’t like it. Teen Dove didn’t have the vocabulary, but these books are just as basic as the Twins, the style is basic, Jessica is a full-blown monster, Lila is heading the same way, Elizabeth is a sponge, I have never liked creepy Mr Collins, I’m not that fussed about Ms Dalton.

Enid is my favourite character, and knowing what I know about fandom – possibly I know more about fandom than the actual books for High – that’s not a good thing. Also, being my favourite character is not a gushing compliment, it’s just that she’s meh. And in comparison to a despicable monster and a despicable wimp who covers for the monster, that’s good. But it’s all about context.

The story was awful. Nobody learned their lesson. Justice was completely absent. Do awful things, nobody cares. The worst thing that’ll happen to you is that you’ll have to find a different hot boyfriend. It’s fine. Ruin lives, whatevs.

Awful. I hated it.

[Raven: I quite liked it.

I mean, it wasn’t GOOD. But it was okay… ish. I’m warming to the fact that the situations are more “adult”, and themes are darker in places. I can overlook the continuity from Twins, if it’s background stuff (still not over NewToddGate, but Colossal Ken Matthews is fine), and I’m quite liking Liz with her bitchiness and pettiness at times… even if she needs to work on her retaliationary acts.

But even though I quite liked it, all that Dove and Wing are saying is correct. The writer hates women, Enid needs to work on herself, Jessica is a GRADE ONE MONSTER, and so on. Plus, Ronnie needs yeeting into the sun, and ending the Enid thing with her and George together at the dance is both not great for Enid’s self opinion, and just reinforcing Ronnie’s terrible opinions becasue yes, it seems that he was actually RIGHT about that scheming witch.

So, again, no good messages for anyone. I do hope things level off soon, becuase I think the framework does work, if not the details. Tweak the settings, and we’re in business.]

[Wing: Dove hit all the important points. What I have left is this: Despite the fact that a bunch of things do happen in this book, and the last one, it feels like nothing happens and Twins books now feel like they were mostly jammed with plot. Not all of them, of course, but many. I’m not entirely sure why SVH feels so much less active. Some big things happen off-screen, there is inconsistency even within the same book, and it seems very much tell not show in places where it would make a lot more sense, and be more engaging, if we saw it.

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