Sweet Valley High #27: Lovestruck
Elizabeth Wakefield is trying to relax in the sun by the pool in the back garden on yet another perfect Sweet Valley day, much like how the last book began. However, Jessica won't shut up about all the work she has to do for the centennial celebration picnic that she's organising. This centennial thing has been going on since literally NINE BOOKS AGO when there was a really boring subplot about Bruce Patman getting voted president of the student committee for it. Jessica talks Elizabeth into helping her out by manning the kissing booth (Christ) and writing the copy for the posters.
"I mean a centennial only comes along once every hundred years."
That's right, Jessica. Very good.
There's also a big exhibition high school football game as part of the celebrations, but apparently Sweet Valley won't have a chance against Palisades (lousy Palisades, the Shelbyville to Sweet Valley's Springfield, the Eagleton to their Pawnee. Actually Sweet Valley is probably the Eagleton in this scenario) if Ken Matthews can't play. He's failing English you see, and the kids that play football have to keep their grades up in order to stay on the team, so no pressure Ken, but if you don't ace the next assignment then Sweet Valley will lose the game and in that case they might as well burn the whole place down and start over because Sweet Valley is NOT A LOSER TOWN.
The twins know about Ken's troubles because Bruce Patman told them about it for some reason, so Elizabeth calls Ken and offers to help him out with the short story he has to write for Mr. Collins. Ken is slightly annoyed at first, and asks where she heard about all this, to which Elizabeth replies "that doesn't matter", because it's none of your damn business how the Wakefields go about inserting themselves into your life. Ultimately, Ken is delighted with Elizabeth's offer to help him out and he's going to drop by the house that evening. We then switch to Ken's point of view as he's tying his shoelaces in the locker room after football practice. He's thinking about the meeting from two weeks before where his football coach and Mr. Collins went through his grades from the last while and came to the conclusion that he'll have to pass the next English assignment or he's off the team. Also, most inappropriately...
Bruce Patman was also there, and that seemed a little strange until Ken remembered that Bruce was the student president of the centennial committee.
Nope, it's definitely strange Ken. I kinda love how all the authority figures in this school haven't the faintest idea what they're at. "Let's have a classmate unnecessarily present while we go through your grades and detail how badly you're doing in English! It won't be humiliating at all and it's definitely integral to his role as student centennial committee president, because that's A Real Thing."
On his way out of school, Ken runs into his new girlfriend Suzanne Hanlon, who Elizabeth thinks is snobby, so I guess we're supposed to hate her. Everyone thinks they're a mismatched couple, because Suzanne likes classical music and can tell French dialects apart, whereas Ken likes the Rolling Stones and plays football, but she makes Ken happy, so everyone else can jog on. Suzanne invites Ken over for dinner that night to meet her parents. He hasn't told her about his failing grade and last ditch attempt to pass, because she's too fancy to understand it all and agrees to come to dinner later.
Ken drops over to the Wakefield house and Jessica immediately ropes him into being the boy half of the kissing booth for the picnic after the big game. He and Elizabeth then chat about his upcoming assignment, which is a short story, and how he's having trouble with it. Elizabeth suggests reading some good short stories for inspiration on how to structure one properly and then gives him a loan of one that she wrote, along with her notes and the outline and makes a big deal about it because she's never shown it to anyone before and she's trusting him with it now, like it's the One Ring.
Later that evening, Ken drives to Suzanne's mansion up on the hills where all the rich families live, mistakes the butler for her dad when he answers the door and generally has an evening of feeling awkward and out of place, particularly when Mr. Hanlon goes on a rant about how schools should spend more time on drama and arts rather than sport and producing "more stupid athletes." Ouch. This makes Ken sad and he starts to wonder if he's just a dumb jock, until Suzanne reassures him after dinner. He goes home and tries to make a start on his short story, but keeps faffing around, his typewriter is too loud, so he switches it off and then it's too quiet, he's got maths homework to do as well, so he does that first and then it's half ten at night. Suzanne calls him and invites him to the cinema with her friends the following night to see the Ingmar Bergman film The Seventh Seal and reacts in disbelief when he says he's never seen it and I'm starting to like her a lot less now. Ken's English homework is due in two days time though, so if he doesn't get it done right now then he'll have to do it the following night instead of going to the cinema. He knows all this but says yes anyway. Dammit Ken. Then he falls asleep at his desk and wakes up the next morning, knowing it's due the next day and he's still got nothing. DAMMIT KEN.
At school, Suzanne invites him to dinner with her mates before the cinema, but that will only leave him with an hour and a half between school and meeting everyone to get his short story written.
Ken knew he should say no, but as he looked at Suzanne's smile, he knew he couldn't.
SERIOUSLY, KEN. Oh and then it turns out that football practice is going to run late that evening in order to nail down their new plays for the game, so this whole day is going tits up pretty quickly for him. He goes to the film that night and thinks it's really boring, but all Suzanne's friends love it and talk about it afterwards like it's the best thing since Battleship (I seriously love Battleship, you guys. I may have to distill my stupid love of that stupid film into a blog post at some point). Anyway, her friends are terrible and make Ken feel like a dick for thinking that Ingrid Bergman was in the film.
Ken could see the utter distaste in the condescending look Mark gave him. "Don't worry Ken," he said. "People make that mistake all the time. The two of them look so much alike."
Fuck you, Mark.
Suzanne reassures Ken afterwards again, and says that her friends aren't any smarter than he is, they've just seen more "truly great" films than he has and that in a few months time he'll be familiar with all of Bergman's films. However, Ken would rather spend an evening stepping barefoot on upturned plugs than watch another Bergman film and it's becoming clear that Suzanne is more interested in changing Ken than in trying to do any of the things that he likes. Either way, Ken is back at home and now it's two in the morning and he's still trying to write his short story. Elizabeth's one is amazing of course, and Ken thinks about how easily writing comes to her and how she hasn't shown this particular story to anybody else. It's called The New Kid and is about a guy who moves from New York to Sweet Valley and it's all about how brilliant the town is. Ugh. After a quick bit of inner turmoil, he does what we've seen coming from the moment Liz handed it over and retypes the title page with his name on it, thinking that no one will ever know, because only Mr. Collins is going to see it.
The next morning, Ken runs into Liz in the school car park and she asks how his story turned out. Ken gets all weird with her and is about to come clean because he "just couldn't betray Elizabeth" but then Jessica bursts in between them to give out about Lila Fowler, who is going off to New York and leaving Jessica to organise the picnic alone, so Ken goes through with the plan and feels terrible about it. That evening there's a poetry event that Suzanne has put together for the centennial and Elizabeth is reading something at it. Everyone else's poem sucks, of course:
The girl sat down, and the audience, led by Suzanne, burst into applause. Elizabeth began to giggle. She knew how much the poem must have meant to the girl, but it just seemed silly.
It would appear that those perfect Wakefield parents forgot to teach their perfect daughter any fucking manners. Elizabeth gets up and reads a poem about her mam and of course everyone wets themselves over how totally amazing it is and she finishes to a round of "full and sincere" applause because everyone else all night was just getting pity applause. She chats to Ken afterwards and he gets all squirrelly again when she mentions how relieved he must be to have handed in his story at school, so she starts to suspect that something might be up with him.
|I love that the rich-girl uniform of Sweet Valley is floofy hair and old lady pearls. O-P-U-L-E-N-C-E. And look at Ken there. So conflicted and hyandsome.|
A few days later, Elizabeth is in the school newspaper office finishing off her column for the centenary edition of The Oracle when Jessica bursts in (she does a lot of bursting into places in this story. I think it's her main mode of transport in this book) and she's in a state because the posters from the picnic have come back from the printers with the wrong date on them, because she was looking at the wrong month when placing the order so now she has to tipp-ex out the date and write in the correct one on a big heap of posters. This is not interesting enough for a subplot Jessica. More life-ruining next time, please.
Suddenly the editor, Penny Ayala, comes running into the office, declaring that she's got the perfect addition to the upcoming issue, a totally amazing short story that Ken Matthews has written! It turns out that Ken hasn't actually submitted it though, Mr. Collins just brought it in and handed it over to The Oracle staff without asking him first and now Penny has made copies for everyone to read in the staff meeting they're about to have. NOT COOL MR. COLLINS. Jesus, what is with these adults. Elizabeth reads the piece and realises Ken has stolen her story and tries to talk the staff out of publishing it at the meeting with some lame excuse about how they don't publish fiction, because she doesn't want to drop Ken in it without speaking to him first. Of course, the staff are hell bent on printing the story because it's "perfect", they're "awestruck", it's the most special and wonderful thing ever written (all of which functions as vicarious praise for Elizabeth's astounding writing skillz).
Elizabeth waits outside the boy's locker room to confront Ken, who then emerges lookin' all sexy.
His hair was wet and uncombed, and his shirt was hanging out of his pants. He looked as if he had just finished his shower.
A tenacious writer and truth-seeker like Elizabeth isn't swayed by hot quarterbacks though and asks him what the hell he's playing at, in a matter of words. Ken is duly ashamed and apologises to Elizabeth, explaining the pressure he's under and how he couldn't face what would have happened if he'd failed the assignment, that he was planning to come clean to Mr. Collins after the game and offer to write a new story. Elizabeth then informs him of the story's upcoming appearance in The Oracle and Ken's total despair at this news makes her feel sorry for him. He resolves to sort it out himself somehow and heads off with his handsome face "set in determination". Suddenly he's ambushed by Suzanne who's heard about his story and tells him how proud of him she is and starts babbling about how he could win some writer's competition where the prize is to go to a seminar in Yale and if he gives up football he'll have more time to focus on writing instead. All poor Ken gets to say during the whole conversation is "Suzanne-", "Yale?", "Drop football?" and a glum "Yeah" before she runs off all excited.
That evening, Ken goes home and sits in front of his typewriter. Suzanne calls him up and invites him to a centennial exhibit at the library, but he tells her he's got work to do and can't come and she immediately gets all mean and snappy and slams the phone down, pretty much making her an insta-villain. Ken gets on with typing as a story forms itself in his head and he ends up with five pages of a short story, all his own work. On Monday morning he catches Elizabeth on her way to the printers with the finalised edition of the paper and persuades her to swap out the stolen story with the new one he hands to her. She reads it and agrees and when the paper comes out, all anyone is talking about is Ken Matthews, because his story explains everything that happened and now rumours are flying that he's going to be kicked out of school.
Ken is summoned to the principal's office, where Coach Schulz and Mr. Collins are also waiting for him. (Bruce Patman must have been busy.) Ken explains everything and Principal Cooper tells him that normally he'd be given a failing grade in English and suspended for three days, but these are "extenuating circumstances" (i.e. we've got a game to win and rules don't apply to football players, which is definitely something that's never gone horrifically, appallingly wrong) and they're all super impressed with his honesty and bravery and the replacement story was so well-written that Mr. Collins is going to give it a C, even though it deserves an A, but it means he can still play in the exhibition match against Palisades. Yay. He runs into Suzanne afterwards, who gives him shit, saying he humiliated her and that she never wants to speak to him again. Ken is sad until he meets the rest of the football team and they all think he's great, so that cheers him up.
It's the day of the game and the centennial picnic and Jessica is in yet another crisis because she forgot to call back and confirm all the food with the caterers, so there's nothing to eat at the picnic now. After declaring that she's going to leave town and that it's the biggest disaster since the Titanic, (surprised she didn't throw her usual "137 kinds of.." into her outburst here, really) Jessica calms down, works out that she's got five hours to figure something out and decides that SHE'LL be the caterer. Elizabeth and Enid are at the game and it looks like it's going to be a tie between Sweet Valley and Palisades. Then there's a few pages of football, football, football, Ken does a thing and wins and everyone is delighted. There's a huge crowd around him to congratulate him and Suzanne turns up, asking him to forgive her and they kiss. Then she immediately starts bossing him around again and tells him to hurry up and change so they can go to some history lecture at the library and meet her terrible friends afterwards for dinner. Ken's like "eh, nope, I'm going to the picnic" and Suzanne tells him to grow up, that he doesn't really want to go. Ken tells her he's going and realises that he was never really in love with her after all and that she must not have been either because she kept trying to change him.
"You see, Suzanne, history lectures bore me, art films bore me, your friends bore me, and if you want to know the truth, I guess you bore me too."
DAMN, KEN. So that's that anyway. The picnic is in full swing, the decorations look great, The Droids are playing on the bandstand, because duh, and Elizabeth takes a break from the cold sore station, I mean kissing booth, where she "must have kissed a hundred and fifty guys this afternoon". In the meantime, the food at the picnic turns out to be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and loads of crisps and Jessica has been hiding in the bushes because she thinks everyone is mad at her over it. Bruce comes over and finds her while she's talking to Elizabeth and pulls her up on stage. Jessica still thinks she's in trouble but Bruce makes an announcement that Jessica's cost-cutting measures for the food means that more money was raised for charity and isn't she brilliant for thinking of that, yay everything is great!
Thank GOD for Dana Larson, is all I'll say.
Dana Larson, the lead singer was wearing a red parachute-silk jumpsuit and prancing around the stage in a near frenzy.
LOVE YOU DANA.
Things I counted:
Number of pages: 160
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 1 (Shoddy.)
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 3
Number of Suzanne's mates with excellent names: 1 (His name was ALLAN PARTRIDGE!)