Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweet Valley High #63: The New Elizabeth

When I was of an appropriate age to be reading Sweet Valley books, my favorites were Sweet Valley Twins. In fact, aside from the occasional book, I was never really into Sweet Valley Kids, High, University, or Nursing Home. As a result, my knowledge of SVH going into this little project was on the hazy side. I have to mention/thank the Sweet Valley High blogs out there, especially Shannon's Sweet Valley High Blog (http://shannonsweetvalley.com/) which is really comprehensive and a has been a definite help in figuring out exactly what happened and when.

One more thing before I write about Elizabeth Wakefield trying not to be a sanctimonious bitch. Like many Sweet Valley books, this one was written by someone named Kate William who doesn't really exist. I just found out who Kate William actually is (for pretty sure) and, well, color me a little disappointed. In real life she's a great and respected author. I knew she had written Sweet Valley books but I had no idea she'd written so many! In fact, I will be covering at least one of her real books (and probably more) right here. I've also met her, but that's neither here nor there. On with the book!

The cover terrified me so here's a picture of water (sorry, not the Pacific or a beach). People surf in water, you know:

When the book begins, Elizabeth has just done the most spontaneous and crazy thing ever in the history of her life: she got a perm. Way to live large, Liz! She walks into the Sweet Valley High cafeteria tossing her new curls carelessly over her shoulder and smiling flirtatiously at the lunch ladies. Or, she sits down at Jessica's table to ask about using the car that afternoon. And to be teased mercilessly by Lila "the bitch" Fowler. Since Jessica's friends think Elizabeth's boring, she must be and that's enough to get her to make a change.

Elizabeth spends a few hours after school considering hobbies (she thinks about and discards hang gliding and scuba diving) but realizes dangerous hobbies tend to be pretty expensive. Oh, just jump off a cliff and be done with it, Elizabeth. Finally, though, Liz finds a cheap hobby requiring lessons from a hot guy (who of course falls head over heels for Liz). Believe it or not, Elizabeth Wakefield is going to learn how to surf! Radical, dudes.

Elizabeth's teacher is an extremely cocky guy named Sean; he's a high school senior at nearby Big Mesa. So that's why it took him so long to fall in love with a Wakefield. Anyway, either due to her incredible good looks or to win a bet, Sean offers Elizabeth a month of free lessons and a rental surf board. In order for Sean to win his bet, Liz has to place in an upcoming surf competition. This means lessons three days a week which doesn't allow much time for anything else like, say, writing, which was important to Liz before she started caring about what Jessica's obnoxious friends thought about her.

Since we're talking about characters (well, I was until a minute ago), another important one is Laurie. In a plot that practically mirrors every other SVH book, Laurie has a major crush on Sean. He, of course, has no clue (at first she's just a pal even though she thinks they went on a date, then Elizabeth's beauty completely blinds him). And of course, *spoiler alert* Elizabeth finds out about Laurie's unrequited love and, as usual, wins the gold medal of meddle by forming a plan to get them together. But that's not 'til later in the book. Oh, one more thing about Laurie: she decides to learn how to surf in order to impress Sean. That's important later, too.

Since Elizabeth wants to keep her hobby to herself until she's sort of decent, she lies to her friends and family about what she's doing. As far as they know, she's involved in some marine biology project at the beach.

The book continues with Elizabeth's surfing lessons in way too much detail. Basically the only important part is that, naturally, Elizabeth is immediately a great surfer. Oh, and Laurie isn't, though of course she is jealous of Liz. Oh, and Ultra-Perceptive Liz can't tell that Laurie has an extra-special crush on Sean (she thinks they're going out). Or that Laurie is learning to surf even when Liz sees someone who looks like Laurie in the water. ("But Laurie doesn't surf," thinks Liz.) Yeah, she's a smart one.

Sean totally flirts with Elizabeth, invites her over to see his surfboard collection and trophies, and suggests renting a movie for the VCR. VC what? I just love historical fiction, some of the words are so quaint! (Actually, I still have a VCR. I'm old school.) Even though Liz can tell Sean is flirting with her (she's not blind and deaf!), she thinks it's safe because he has a girlfriend. Elizabeth does turn down his second and third offers; she has to get home and pretend she isn't ignoring her own boyfriend (Todd) who's called her three times that afternoon. He is so the Dean to her Rory.

As the book continues, Sean takes Elizabeth for a ride on a surfboard built for two. Okay, fine, he just takes her to some special beach where they can't surf because they might be eaten by sharks. Live dangerously or not at all, I say. And Laurie is jealous. The budding Liz/Sean romance continues (though is interrupted by a Liz/Todd date) when Sean gives Liz a surfboard charm. Then he totally comes on to her and Liz finally realizes that he's really into her. She's still confused, though, because she still thinks he's dating Laurie. When he tells her he isn't and that he doesn't like her that way, Laurie happens to overhear it. Of course, she doesn't hear the part where Elizabeth mentions her boyfriend and the whole thing is a typical, predictable mix-up. However, Laurie resolves to be the best (surfer) she can be. How inspirational.

There's a lot more boring surf stuff. Like, Liz the Intrepid goes surfing the day after a storm, wipes out, and gets caught in a rip-tide. No one accuses a Wakefield of doing something half-assed. Um, not that anyone did, of course. After the frightening experience of wiping out and getting mouth-to-mouth, Sean didn't want to abandon Liz. Actually he still just wants to get in her pants. He asks her out to dinner (she says no) and insists on driving her home. Liz was supposed to go out with Todd that night but he cancels, presumably after seeing Liz in Sean's car. It's a hard life Elizabeth has.

The day of the big surf competition (or as Elizabeth tells her friends, the big biology presentation) finally arrives. Sean lets Liz use his special surfboard because he's sweet on her. Cute. (She ends up not using it.) While Liz is preparing for the competition, she overhears Laurie talking about learning to surf to impress Sean. So Liz finally knows about the Laurie/Sean situation and, as I mentioned, she gets up to her usual tricks.

At long last, it's Elizabeth's turn to compete. Of course, all her frenemies from school are there and of course they're simply shocked when her name is called. At least the SVH people sort of come through when they realize Liz is actually surfing; they start chanting her name and it's terribly exciting. Instead of showing all of Sweet Valley that Elizabeth Wakefield doesn't take no shit from anyone and can go adventuring as well as anyone, Liz decides to play matchmaker. She wipes out on purpose so Sean will be impressed with Laurie. Of course, everyone figures Liz is just a sucky surfer (can you imagine Elizabeth Wakefield actually surfing?) and Liz just goes with it in the name of romance of people she'll never speak to again. Still, they're impressed that Liz tried something new, so, success? Sure, why not. Laurie surfs next, and brilliantly, and all is well with her and Sean.

So, anyway, everyone's proud of Liz for trying something new, Liz feels she proved something to herself, and no one cares that she lied to her family, friends, and boyfriend for a month. Inspired by his sister, Steven Wakefield decides to take up hang gliding and adventure in the Wakefield family lives on.

In stupid sub-plot land, Caroline Pearce tells the school that Jessica signed up for http://www.sugardaddyforme.com/ (I'm guessing. We're only told it's a "computer dating service". Yes, I know this book was published in 1990 and no, I'm not a member if you're wondering about that. I just figured that sounded Jessica Wakefieldesque.) Jessica vows revenge on Caroline. She does this by bothering the crap out of Caroline at work--Caroline works at the amazingly named Unique Boutique and I'd love to know what genius thought of that name.

Jessica's plan is to be a really annoying customer. Well, she didn't get the brains in the family. The plan actually works for awhile; the boss is a bitch, Jess spills a drink on Caroline's sleeve, and makes her carry bags out to the car in the pouring rain, you know, normal work stuff. Of course, the plan backfires when Caroline quits while Jess is is trying on clothes. Caroline takes all of the clothes out of the changing room (including Jessica's own clothes) while Jess is wearing practically nothing. Have I mentioned how much I love Caroline Pearce?

To conclude that storyline, Caroline had mentioned to Elizabeth that someone bearing resemblance to someone important to a Wakefield would be working at the Unique Boutique soon. Oooh, cryptic! Turns out that someone looks like Tricia, Steven's dead girlfriend. The book ends with Steven asking the girl out and with the usual SVH preview. And I'm finally done!


  • Lila and Amy talk about how a world full of Elizabeths would be boring while a world full of Jessicas would be chaos. How lucky for the world that there's one each; why, that's practically perfect.

  • On page 3, we learn that Lila is Jessica's best friend. I thought they were only best friends in middle school. Please tell me I don't have to read approximately sixty books to learn how they re-become best friends! Or do they?

  • Jessica's special dating site names are Magenta Galaxy and Daniella Cheese Fromage. I'll say it again, she sure didn't get the brains in the family. Magenta Galaxy is quite the name, though.

  • Although it never comes back to bite her in the ass, telling everybody she's off doing marine biology was pretty stupid of Liz. Of course, she's so brilliant and everyone loves her so much she could probably get away with answering, "A fugitive species lives in the abyssopelagic zone. It's ahermatypic, honestly! The deep layer is endosymbiotic*" should anyone ask her a marine biology question.

  • Funnily enough, Sean tells Liz that a good surfer probably knows as much as a marine biologist. Mr. Big-Shot knows where there's a reef so he must know the secret to saving all the poor little endangered sea turtles? I don't think so, kid.

  • Sean collects surfboards. His favorite was made by some surfer named Bob who could only use one arm and invented the modern surfboard or something. I had never heard of the guy--see how much I know about surfing?--but it turns out he's real. http://www.surfline.com/surfing-a-to-z/bob-simmons-biography-and-photos_907/

  • Some hot-shot Sweet Valley surfer could tell that Elizabeth wiped out on purpose. I thought Sean was the bestest ever so why didn't he know, huh? Guess he's not so special after all.

*Real live marine biology words. I totally looked them up.


  1. I always thought Jess and Lila were best friends, even though they routinely made each other's lives miserable. But then they did the Junior High and Senior Year and they weren't freinds at all, so who the hell knows. Not like we can expect things to make sense right? Anyway great recap. I don't remember reading this one. Magenta Galaxy? For real?

  2. Oh man, I HATE Elizabeth in this book. Even more than usual. She'd rather let her boyfriend think she's cheating on him than let him in on her super secret surfing lifestyle. Ugh.

  3. I find it amusing that Todd thinks Elizabeth is cheating on her when it's the one time she actually isn't.

  4. I didn't read any SVH books--mostly ones where they were kids or in middle school, but wow, Liz sounds really bitchy in this. Yay lying.

    Also--you still have a VCR? Oldschool! Do you have a betamax, too?

  5. I've never read a SVH book. I'm intrigued by the Sweet Valley Nursing Home series, though. I'm picturing Golden Girls with more Blanche.

  6. I was more into SVT too but I do remember purchasing this book when I was in primary school and sneakily carrying it home thinking I was all glamorous for reading about the twins in high school. Didn't realise how different it was!

  7. I never really read SVH either (loved SVT though), but I gotta say, if they wrote a Sweet Valley Nursing Home series, I WOULD BE ALL OVER THAT. Seriously, old lady Lila Fowler would be amazing. And the Unicorns would all have purple tennis balls on their walkers.

  8. Elizabeth really is horrible in this book. I'd always thought of her as the good twin so it's strange to see her being such a bitch! I haven't read much SVT lately so I don't remember if she actually was a nicer person or if I just thought she was because some ghostwriter told me so.

    I know that many of the Kids and High books were written by the same author but that the Twins books were mostly by others so maybe there's something in that, I don't know.

    I wonder who owns the rights to this Sweet Valley stuff (other than Diablo Cody) because maybe there's something to this Nursing Home idea... I hadn't realized it'd go over so well!