Lessons from a Sweet Valley Re-Read: Playing with Fire (SVH #3)

There are a lot of downsides that come along with moving, like packing, unpacking, searching for the iron for a good three weeks, and finding little bits of tape pretty much everywhere you look. An upside to moving? Finding gems like this:

That’s right, friends. Moving may have interfered with my blogging schedule, but now that I’m back on track, this feels like the perfect opportunity to reintroduce one of my favorite installments, Lessons from a Sweet Valley Re-Read.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know how much I loved Sweet Valley High growing up. I spent my days daydreaming about Ken Matthews in his Sweet Valley Gladiators uniform, and I wanted nothing more than to be as cool and glamorous as Lila Fowler. After re-reading the first two SVH books as an adult, I began to see things in a new light. I still envy the twins’ red Fiat Spider, I still think Enid Rollins is a total drip, and I still want to know what the heck a lavalier necklace is, but my thirty-something self is making a slew of fun, new discoveries about the Dairi Burger regulars. Now, I’ve uncovered a whole new batch of lessons from the Wakefields and their pals through my re-read of Sweet Valley High #3: Playing with Fire.

Of course Jessica can play any game…but DON’T PLAY THIS ONE, JESS!
The kids in Sweet Valley are fickle. This is something we all knew about Jessica Wakefield, seeing as how she has a new boyfriend in pretty much every single book, but the fickleness in Sweet Valley is more widespread than Caroline Pearce’s gossip. In book one, Double Love, Todd Wilkins goes on a date with Jessica and calls her noble; now he says he hates her (way harsh, Todd), even though he’s dating her twin sister, Elizabeth. In book two, Secrets, Lila Fowler starts a rumor that Ken Matthews is dating the hot French teacher, Ms. Dalton, and now, just days later, Lila is Ken’s date at his big lake house party? That really tells us two things: One, the only thing consistent in Sweet Valley is the menu at the Dairi Burger, and two…

KEN MATTHEWS IS SERIOUSLY THE BEST. Oh, I’ve said it before? Well, deal with it, it’s true. Sure, he may not seem super smart and he may not have the best judgment when it comes to his love life, but he’s forgiving. And he hosts the best parties in all of Sweet Valley. And when Jessica gets embarrassed by something Bruce Patman says, he steps in and suggests that everyone throw their bathing suits on and hop in the lake. Smooth move, Kenny. Change the subject and let the ladies of Sweet Valley get a look at your rockin’ bod. You may not be so dim after all.

Jessica Wakefield needs a major wake up call. Jess is without a doubt the most popular girl in Sweet Valley (even more popular than my girl Lila Fowler), but she needs a man-tervention to deal with the awful guys she keeps choosing. First it was Rick Andover, the most dangerous guy in Sweet Valley, now it’s Bruce Patman, who is officially the worst. He wants her to throw her tennis match because he can’t deal with losing to a woman. He makes her skip class, writes her a note from the nurse’s office (just how did he get that notepad?), and coyly tells her she needs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. (Ew.) He calls her fellow cheerleaders “a bunch of chicks with fat thighs in short skirts” (DOUBLE EW) and he thinks that a sweater around the shoulders is a good fashion choice. Still, none of this fazes our girl Jess and she continues to make excuses for him and does whatever he wants because he’s Bruce “1BRUCE1” Patman. She doesn’t draw the line until she discovers that he’s seeing some foxy redhead on the side. Only then does she throw a pizza in his face and dump a pitcher of soda over his head. Jess, Jess, Jess. This is something that needed to be done so long ago. Preferably in his shiny black Porsche because you know no matter how hard he cleans it, the stickiness of the soda will never quite go away.

Bruce Patman is disgusting. Did you read everything I just said about his “relationship” with Jessica? The boy is repulsive. How is this the dream guy of every girl in Sweet Valley? And how have all of Jessica’s friends dated him? Is there no code, ladies? Sure, he may have some sick dance moves, but that doesn’t make him Johnny Castle. If anything, he’s Robbie the Creep.

The internet makes life so much easier. When Sweet Valley High’s hottest band, The Droids, are approached by a music executive at the school dance, they’re stoked. He wants to sign them to his record label! He’s going to book them gigs all over California! They’re going to be huge! It’s not until after they play at a couple of super seedy dives and he makes a pass at their lead singer, Dana Larson, that they find out he was just a creep who had been fired from his label eons ago. Today, all they’d have to do is Google him and they’d be able to see that. And P.S. – why does no one think it’s odd that some older guy in leather pants is talking up a bunch of high school kids at a dance? Where are the chaperones? I’m looking at you, Mr. Collins. Don’t think your rock star good looks and well worn cords are going to save you from this one.

Elizabeth Wakefield…has super powers? Were there secretly more hours in the day in the 80s and someone forgot to tell me? I can’t think of any other explanation as to how Elizabeth Wakefield can find the time to keep an eye out for Jessica, try to meddle with Robin Wilson and Winston Eggbert’s non-existent love life, study for her chemistry test, make a roast chicken dinner on Jessica’s night to cook, and write her Eyes and Ears column, a series of articles on the Droids, and a short story just for kicks. The only explanation I can think of is that she must have the ability to freeze time like Zack Morris and Evie from Out of this World. No wonder why she wears casual wheat-colored pants and a tan striped shirt to Sweet Valley’s Fifth Annual Rockin’ Dance Party Contest. There’s no way she had time to shop for a dress.

Now that I’ve got a box full of SVH treasures at my fingertips, you can expect a lot more Lessons from a Sweet Valley Re-Read in the future. Sifting through these paperbacks, I already have so many questions, like:

How does Bruce deserve his own story?


What kind of spring fever causes terrible fashion as a side effect?


And WHY DO BAD THINGS HAVE TO HAPPEN TO KEN MATTHEWS?!


Stay tuned, friends!

 


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