This Sweet Valley High list is quite possibly the strongest to date. It kicks some serious butt, with a Special Edition, two perfect fives (and the other almost a five)! The books on this list remind us of how ridiculous this series is (hence the guilt) and at the same time how it is totally worth it!
“Special Christmas” (Super Edition)
Sweet Valley Scale: 5 out of 5 Twins
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: Second Place
Everyone at Sweet Valley High is in festive spirits. It’s officially Christmas vacation, with the annual parade just days away; secret Santas are out buying surprise gifts and everyone is talking about the holiday dance at the Patmans’ mansion. Jessica Wakefield is determined to be crowned Miss Christmastime for the parade and her sister, Elizabeth, is counting the days until her faraway boyfriend, Todd Wilkins, returns to Sweet Valley for the holidays. But then Elizabeth and Jessica’s holiday is threatened when their parents tell them a certain somebody is also visiting (and staying with the Wakefields) for the holiday. It looks like their perfect holiday, might be the worst ever!
Sweet Valley High’s second Super Edition captures what the world of Sweet Valley High is about: entertaining, melodramatic and so completely ridiculous that you may feel guilty for loving the series the way that you do. Even though I always mention spoilers I am about to blow two big things about this book – who the visitor is and why they are visiting. (The reason for the visit is one the big mysteries of the book and not ‘discovered’ until near the end, so seriously if you haven’t read this book, tread carefully. I have saved the reason this person is visiting for the last paragraph to try to help.)
The mysterious guest is none other than Suzanne Devlin, you know the evil rich girl from New York. Elizabeth and Jessica’s parents keep saying she wants to make up for her last visit (seriously, check out why in “Too Good To Be True” Confessions Of A Bookaholic: Guilty Pleasure Edition #5 – Sweet Valley High Books 9-13″, it was also a perfect five book), but the twins and their brother Steven are determined to be mean to Suzanne, hoping she’ll bail back to New York before her two-week visit is up.
Meanwhile, Todd comes back, and I can’t figure out why. They only had him move away in book #23 and this book is between books #24 and #25. Absence is said to make the heart grow fonder, so I just wish he could stay absent. Things between him and Elizabeth are awkward, and Elizabeth is disappointed, but realizes while she will always love Todd, she isn’t sure if she is in love with him anymore. Todd feels the same. True love can’t handle a few weeks apart apparently. They dance around this until the very end of course, because it is fun to feel the awkwardness between them, only not really.
One of the more entertaining storylines in this book is the crown for Miss Christmastime. Lila gets Cara to unintentionally cause Jessica to miss the pageant to be in the running (Lila tells Cara it is a good-natured prank to get Jessica on elf duty, helping Santa at the local mall. Cara was supposed to, but pretends to be sick, and does not know about the pageant). Without Jessica as competition, Lila is crowned and Jessica swears not only to get even, but to be the one riding the float in the parade as Miss Christmastime. What she does to Lila and their petty schemery back and forth is always the highlight of any book it is featured in. They are seriously the original frenemies!
Back to Suzanne: Suzanne is trying her hardest to make up for her last visit, and she seems different. She looks ill and seems weak (you know this can’t be good). She tries to apologize to Elizabeth, but she shuts Suzanne down. Jessica gets their friends to play horrible tricks on Suzanne like leaving her nasty Secret Santa gifts. Soon Elizabeth (ever the pushover) begins to believe Suzanne and backs down from their plan to be cold to her. Steven quickly follows in Elizabeth’s footsteps, but Jessica refuses to fall for anything. So what if Suzanne collapsed while decorating the Christmas tree or has several bottles of medications that she is taking. That must mean she is a drug addict! (Oh, Jess…)
Jessica tells Aaron (the boy Suzanne was the worst to, second to Mr. Collins on her first visit) that Suzanne is still her horrible self and that she and Todd are seeing each other behind Elizabeth’s back. This isn’t true, but at least based on something. Todd and Suzanne saw each other a month back at a ski lodge and seemed to ‘connect’ but Todd wants Suzanne to keep quiet about it because of Elizabeth, even though they didn’t do anything and it wasn’t romantic. (I swear these people and their secrets!) Aaron agrees to help Jess, and asks Suzanne to meet him, but gives her a fake address. Before she leaves she has a glass of champagne with the twins to celebrate and takes her new medication (her scripts were just changed). Suzanne gets dizzy and crashes the car. She is rushed to the hospital, on the edge of death…
Final Spoilers Ned, the twins’ father freaks out when he finds out Suzanne had a drink because her doctor just called and warned against mixing medication. They find out Suzanne has been in an accident and go to the hospital. Jessica comes clean, but of course, no one deals with her. And all of the other truths come out. Suzanne has MS (Multiple Sclerosis), except that she doesn’t. After her hospitalization from the accident it is discovered that Suzanne never had MS – just a bad case of mono. I am totally serious, and trust me, I know!
Suzanne is thrilled she is no longer terminal, after months of being treated for MS, and anxious to celebrate. Everyone makes up. Todd confesses to Elizabeth that he is in love with Suzanne and he and Elizabeth break up amicably. (And even if Suzanne isn’t evil, this just undermines Todd and Elizabeth’s entire former relationship anyway.) I warned you about the ridiculousness, but even if this seems a little too much for you, you still have to read this book to find out what happens with the whole Miss Christmastime thing. Seriously, it is the funniest arc of this book. On any other list this would have taken first place, but “Hostage!” beat it out, barely. But you have to read this book – it is first-rate Sweet Valley!
“Nowhere To Run”
Sweet Valley Scale: 4.5 out of 5 Twins
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: Third Place
Elizabeth Wakefield is surprised when Emily Mayer asks to join the school newspaper. Emily is a musician, not a writer. Why would The Droids’ star drummer turn to writing, when the band is so popular? Then Emily confides to Elizabeth that she is having problems at home. Her stepmother has imposed a strict curfew and gets upset whenever Emily practices her drumming. What’s worse is that Emily’s father seems to suddenly agree with his new wife. Emily’s stepmother is bent on getting Emily sent away, and so far she’s succeeding. Can Elizabeth help Emily before the situation at the Mayer house reaches a breaking point?
Let’s get the B plotline out of the way first. Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s paternal grandparents are visiting from Michigan. The twins’ mother, Alice, feels insecure about her relationship with her daughters all of a sudden and starts acting weird. When the twins figure it out (towards the end of the visit) they make it better by asking their mother to help them plan a fabulous surprise party for their grandparents.
Back to the real story… Emily Mayer does not get along with her new stepmother, Karen. Karen refuses to let Emily have any kind of life (in an extreme way) because she has to babysit her new baby sister. Karen keeps changing the rules on Emily and not telling her about said changes, so Emily is always doing something wrong. She screams at her, belittles her and threatens her. The entire book I just wanted Emily to slap the bitch. I mean, this isn’t strict, this is mental and emotional abuse and it was hard to read without the promise of justice at the end. Emily likes a friend in the band and he helps her with some new equipment she gets when Karen comes home and starts screaming about it. She basically calls Emily a slut and launches into how she will not live with a slut (and the guy, Dan, is standing right there!) and then calls Emily’s mother a slut. Emily, who has told everyone her mother died, is stung, because the truth is her mom walked out on them years ago.
Emily, joins the paper, babysits her sister and kisses Karen’s ass after this incident, in hopes of not getting thrown out. She even sells her drums! (They were the one thing that mattered to her, so luckily Dan and Elizabeth conspire to buy them from her without her knowledge in case she changes her mind – aww.) Then Karen royally fucks up and causes her infant daughter to choke. Emily clears her airway and saves her when her father comes home to chaos. He accuses Emily of trying to harm her baby sister and screams at her to get out. (At this point I really wanted to punch him too!)
Emily goes to Elizabeth’s house, shaken and upset and determined to track down her mother and live with her. Elizabeth’s grandmother tells her a story about how she married her husband who had been a widower and had trouble adjusting to his teenage son. Eventually she did, but before she did she was unfair to him. It was just frazzled nerves. Emily buys it, her father and stepmother come over and apologize and suddenly everything is okay again. Yes, in real life it wouldn’t be, but again this is Sweet Valley. (UGH!)
The only disappointment of this book was that Emily’s parents were never put in their place. I mean calling your child a slut and throwing her out of the house, when she has been nothing but helpful and the model student and daughter is not just frazzled nerves, but whatever. This is a great book that anyone can enjoy, so long as you can get past that Emily’s parents never get the sense knocked into them. I’m taking a walk!
Sweet Valley Scale: 5 out of 5 Twins
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: First Place
When Elizabeth Wakefield learns that Regina Morrow has returned from Switzerland unexpectedly, she drops by for a visit. But a strange woman answers the door, claiming to be Regina’s aunt and says that Regina cannot have any visitors. With the help of her twin sister, Jessica, and Regina’s boyfriend, Bruce Patman, Elizabeth discovers that Regina and her parents are being held hostage! If they call the police, the Morrows, will be killed. So she, Bruce, Jessica and Regina’s brother, Nicholas, hatch a plan to rescue the Morrows on their own. But will they be too late?
I loved this book! Loved, loved, loved! This book played up mystery and suspense, albeit Sweet Valley style, but it works. So, rather than launching into too much of what happens, here are the basics: Regina is being held hostage at her home, by one of the kidnappers, a woman pretending to her aunt. Her parents are being held by her partner, and the mastermind behind all of this, back at his place. When Elizabeth meets ‘the aunt’ she feels something is wrong, goes to Bruce who confirms Regina doesn’t have an aunt and they call the police, who ignore them because they’re teenagers, so it must be a prank. They enlist the help of Jessica, and Regina’s brother, Nicholas, and set out to first do some recon, which involves going undercover, and sending secret notes to Regina who is able to send her own note back to them, telling them what’s what.
They know the when and where of whatever is going to go down and have to rescue the Morrows before that happens. They split up so they can rescue Regina and Regina’s parents at the same time. After they too, are held at gunpoint, and given the whole ‘my evil plan is’ and the why of it, the cops finally get a clue and arrive to save the day. As soon as everyone is rescued, the Morrows invite everyone over for pizza and a ‘We were just kidnapped, but aren’t anymore’ party at their place. Are you serious? (If it were me, I would find a nice quiet corner and keep my taser close, just saying.)
I loved the story of this book, but I also love underdog detective and crime solver stories, so that is no surprise. I also loved the rescue team. Jessica and Bruce are not my favorite people. Jessica the victim of how she is written and Bruce is just an ass. He is only bearable under the influence of Regina, and that says more about her than it does about him. BUT while he is dating her, he is a pretty good guy (like flipping a switch). But in this book they are fighting for the forces of good and the way they trade insults and infuriate each other is very entertaining. I also love any time Jessica and Elizabeth are on the same side, with a common goal. They make a great team, each with different strengths and usually it is about Elizabeth fixing Jessica’s mess or becoming a victim of Jessica’s indirectly, so these kinds of books are always refreshing.
This book had some serious sleuthing, clever quips and off-the-charts chemistry. Give me more like this please! 🙂
Strongest list ever, right? Right? I know the whole MS – oops, I mean mono thing was not just a facepalm moment, but an epic facepalm moment, but I like that kind of ridiculousness. I prefer writing crazy to high school crazy, as long as the writer commits – and they do! 😉 The next few lists are each going to have a Super Edition on them, so be sure you don’t miss out on any of the fun. Until next time… 😉