All right, I know I said it would be awhile before I got back to Sweet Valley High, but I’m either a glutton for punishment OR I’m just focused. Like I said a few posts ago, I am looking forward to getting to Season 6 of Sweet Valley High where evil twins, doppelgangers, werewolves, psychopaths, fame, and family feuds become the norm. That is why I started rereading the series in the first place. They might be shameful, but I just don’t care. And I have 25 books to get through until I’m at that point. 25! Sure it’s a lot, a full season and then a handful of books, but I can finally see the light – I’m almost there. So, I read this telling myself that it was one more book down between me and where I want to be. Eye on the prize… 😉
Sweet Valley Scale: 3.5 out of 5 Twins
Ken Matthews has regained his sight, only to face another battle… Now that he has recovered, everyone assumes that Ken is sure to win back his old position as quarterback for the Sweet Valley High Gladiators. But everyone is stunned when Ken’s toughest competition comes from the shy new junior – Claire Middleton! Terri Adams, Ken Matthews’s girlfriend, sees Claire as a threat, not only to Ken’s football career, but to Terri’s relationship with Ken as well. Can Terri find a way to get Claire off the field so that Ken can resume his rightful place on the football team?
It’s the first book of Season 5, and it does a good job of meeting expectations – this book sucked a little bit, or maybe a lot, but it was Sweet Valley High meets feminism so I don’t want to be too harsh. Anyway, Scott Trost, Sweet Valley High’s new replacement quarterback, after Ken Matthews was temporarily blinded when a drunk driver ran him off the road (oh yeah they went there – if you missed out, check out my post here), has been suspended because he’s failing one of his classes and is on academic probation. The football team has an important two weeks coming up, so there is going to be tryouts for a new quarterback right away. Everyone assumes Ken will try out because he has his sight back now, mostly. And it’s a good thing too, because apparently everyone else sucks.
Claire Middleton is a new student at Sweet Valley High and Elizabeth Wakefield is supposed to interview her about being “new” which they have done in every book that has a new student – what the hell – but the interview doesn’t go as expected. Claire isn’t mean, but she is very defensive and acts like each question is a terrible invasion of privacy. But Claire is a little more interesting than a lot of people might have thought because she decides to try out for quarterback, and despite the football coach pouring over the rules with the principal trying to find a reason he could tell her that she couldn’t try out. They realize they have to let Claire go for it however, and hopefully she sucks so she won’t make the cut.
There is such a commotion about a girl trying out for the football team that people actually show up to watch. And Claire blows everyone away because she actually is a football god…dess (see what I did there?) and soon it becomes clear that the only real competition for the quarterback position is between Ken and Claire. Normally, I would be all for a girl beating a guy because that’s the way it should be, but Claire is kind of a bitch. Not a mean girl, snobby bitch, more like she doesn’t know how to interact with others socially – just so clueless that being rude is her default and she doesn’t seem to understand she’s being rude kind of bitch. For example, Jessica Wakefield approaches Claire after a game one day (Jessica is vetting her for her sorority Pi Beta Alpha because the sorority recently took some heat about being “too exclusive”) and Claire takes one look at Jessica’s cheerleading outfit and tells Jessica that cheerleading is sexist and exploitive and they’re just a bunch of silly girls prancing around and screaming. And Claire seriously doesn’t seem to understand that this could be offensive. So clueless she is, mean she is not.
(And a quick sidebar – I do not understand how someone can say girls should be allowed to go out for “boys sports” and turn around and say cheerleading is sexist – talk about a hypocrite. It’s just like how some of my friends are stay-at-home moms or wives and people are down on them like they should be working – usually other women. Feminism is not about women going out and having careers, it’s about each woman being empowered to make the choice that’s right for her. All right, I’m done.)
Meanwhile, Terri is all insecure about her relationship with Ken now that he’s going to be playing football again. She feels like there is no place for her in his many fans, and he isn’t making things any easier on her by being insensitive and basically having zero time for her – instead he spends his free time with his fans. Terri is torn about wanting him back on the team. On the one hand she isn’t sure where she fits in, and she is also worried that it’s too soon for Ken to start playing again. His vision isn’t perfect and he keeps having “blackouts.” On the other hand, he is the most happy when he’s playing.
Terri’s friend John Pfeifer keeps teasing Ken about how good Claire looks in her uniform and then one night while Terri and Ken are on a date at the Dairi Burger, Ken invites Claire to join them when he sees her there. Ken is just trying to support Claire, because most of the other guys on the team are being total jackasses and pulling mean pranks on her, but Terri doesn’t seem to understand that being a nice guy and falling for another girl are two different things. Terri lets her insecurities get the best of her when she overhears Jessica and Amy Sutton in the locker room plotting to get back at Claire after what she said about cheerleading. Terri remembers how she saw Claire crying in the locker room the previous day. She noticed a picture of a boy named Ted before Claire had shut her locker and left. Terri tells this to Jessica and Amy and they decide to make up a personalized cheer for Claire mentioning that they know “about Ted.”
There is a final tryout scrimmage game to determine who will be first string quarterback and who will be second string quarterback (their regular second string guy was injured so that this book could be relevant). It’s basically down to Claire and Ken. But Ken’s eyes have been bothering him and there is an incident during the scrimmage game. Ken quickly recovers but Terri doesn’t know what to do. Whenever she tries to talk to Ken about it, he accuses her of “mothering” him and they fight. But it doesn’t matter because Jessica and the rest of the cheerleaders do their “special cheer” for Claire. After that, Claire leaves quickly, even though they’re in the middle of a game, one that happens to have a big turnout, even from the local paper, because apparently a girl playing football is that big of a deal.
Elizabeth runs over to Jessica and demands an explanation. Their brother Steven is there too, and they tell Jessica that Ted was Claire’s brother and a football star… who recently died from a brain tumor. Good work, Jess. God, you’re such a bitch. The cheerleaders feel awful, even our favorite sociopath, Jessica, but the damage is done. Terri knows that she’s responsible even though she didn’t know who Ted was either and goes to Claire’s house to apologize. She tells Claire that she told the cheerleaders about Ted, not knowing who he was, and that she was jealous of Claire, thinking that Ken might fall for her because of how pretty and athletic Claire is. Terri encourages Claire to talk to the coach to see if she still has a chance to make the team after she walked out, and Claire agrees on the condition that Terri talks to Ken about how she’s been feeling. Terri goes to Ken’s next and comes clean about everything. Ken tells her she is being silly and he loves her and nothing will change that. Blah.
The coach knew Claire’s brother so she’s officially on the team as the second-string quarterback. That Saturday at the big game against Big Mesa, Ken is playing really well until he isn’t. His eyes are giving him trouble again he keeps messing up passes, but the coach doesn’t bench him. Why not? He has a perfectly good second-string player! Ken messes up the game and basically helps the other team score so now Sweet Valley is losing in the fourth quarter before the coach gets smart, benches Ken, and puts Claire in the game. She not only makes up for Ken’s mistake, but she wins the game! Everyone is happy and the boys who used to hate the idea of playing with a girl are over it, and are parading her around the football field. Ken and Terri are good. Terri and Claire are good. Claire and everyone else, including those bitchy cheerleaders, are good. Everything is good. I mean after all this is Sweet Valley we’re talking about. 😛
Well that’s done – thank God. I seriously hope the next book is better – it’s classic Lila against Jessica so it might be. I love how Sweet Valley revolves around twin sisters and yet is one of the most chauvinistic series that I have ever read. I think that this is as “feminist” as these books will ever get. So, I hope you enjoyed it while you could, I’m sure we’ll be back to girls defining themselves, their worth and their lives around the boys they date in no time at all. On another note, I really wish this series had a lesbian or two. All right, I’m done. Until next time!