formative fiction: Sweet Valley High #3 – Playing With Fire

August 18, 2013 2 Comments

When we last visited Sweet Valley, Jessica tried to ruin Enid’s life (the very same life Enid rebuilt from the smoldering rubble of meth ‘n’ mug shots); Ms. Dalton might or might not have slept with SVH football star/middling French student Ken Matthews; and Winston Egbert was crowned King of the Fall Dance. As the camera panned out of the SVH gym, Jessica’s ladyparts were set a-tingle after Bruce Patman gave her a Look with a capital L. (Careful, Jess – if Brucey Boy makes the rounds like you think, any further tingling he gives you might require a visit to a doctor.)

Let’s find out what our favorite little sociopath has been up to, shall we?

playing with fire

I’ll forgive you for being confused at the start of this one – it opens at yet another dance. This time, it’s the Sweet Valley High dance contest. This is not to be confused with the Big Disco Dance that Jessica was so concerned about a few weeks ago. Jessica’s major issue this time around is that Winston is her squire for this social event. I kind of love how the bizarre social constructs of “king” and “queen” are so strictly adhered to in Sweet Valley. There’s no way Jessica can get out of having him on her arm (“short of giving up her crown”), but it’s apparently worth it: As Liz helpfully lectures Todd, “She was elected fall queen, you know, and royalty’s entitled to certain privileges.”

Side note: Todd is bent out of shape over Jessica acting like a prima donna, and apparently he still hasn’t forgiven Jessica “for the time she’d made him think Elizabeth wasn’t interested in him”. Really, Todd? THAT’S what you’re pissed at Jessica about? What about the time she accused you of raping her? <insert sound of head exploding>

Also, I’m having a difficult time moving past Elizabeth’s outfit at the dance contest: “stylish but… casual wheat-colored pants and tan striped shirt”. YAWN. I’m a J. Jill-wearing, self-proclaimed Queen of Earth Tones, for Pete’s sake, but Step. It. Up.

Jessica prowls around the SVH gym like a recently paroled convict looking for Bruce Patman. After conferring with her BFF Lila Fowler (who apparently had a brief tour of Patman’s Pants Playground earlier in the year), she manages to lure Bruce over to rescue her from Winston’s clutches. They wow the crowd with their complex Dirty Dancing moves and win the contest. Afterwards, the entire school drives over to Ken Matthews’ house for a party.

After bragging about getting out of a speeding ticket for doing 82 in a 35, Bruce “Of the Sweet Valley Patmans” Patman puts the moves on Jessica. They make out in the lake and she pretends to be upset when he unties her bikini top. They take their party to the woods, where they lie down and roll around on the ground (take it from personal experience: look out for poison ivy!). Naturally, Liz chooses this moment to go into full creeper mode and walk up to them while they’re making “soft sounds” and “breathless whispers” in the dark (ewwww). Jessica inexplicably does not want to leave Bruce’s side and go with Liz, ostensibly to listen to a spirited debate between her and Todd about the best place to buy sensible shoes. In an attempt to distract Bruce from Liz’s interruption, Jessica lies and tells Bruce that Todd’s been messing around on her. (Psycho! I’m just waiting for this to become an important plot point later.)

In other news, SVH house band The Droids have been signed to a record deal. Their path to fame comes via a creepy old guy in red leather pants and a skinny tie who was lurking in the shadows during the opening dance. (When I was in high school, we couldn’t even bring kids who went to a different school to our dances. WTF?) Droid drummer Emily Mayer wants Liz to go all Almost Famous on them and follow their rise to stardom in the SVH litter box liner weekly newspaper, The Oracle.

Bruce is a bad influence on Jessica. She misses an important chemistry class to make out “brazenly” with him on the front lawn of the school, and she and Liz are fighting over his hold on her. Foreshadowing! (I believe kids these days would refer to her as “dickmatized”.) Jessica has also apparently solved two of her problems by pairing her two most annoying/undesirable hangers-on (Winston Egbert and heavyset Robin Wilson) together via a complex web of (nonsensical) lies.

At the Patman manse, Jessica plays tennis with Bruce rather than studying for her chemistry test. She plans to copy off of Emily Mayer. Too bad Emily is spending the evening practicing in a basement with the rest of the Droids and hasn’t studied one bit. Bruce channels his inner Julia Roberts’ husband in Sleeping With The Enemy by getting pissed at Jessica for being a good tennis player, so she lets him win.

Jessica loses again the next day when she flunks her chemistry test. Bruce makes fun of her and then tells her he knows where Mr. Russo keeps the tests. He won’t tell her where, though, until she makes out with him on the lawn in front of the school. (What is with this guy and rolling around on the ground? Doesn’t anyone ever make out in a car the way I did when I was in high school?!)

When the weekend rolls around, Liz, Todd, Winston and Robin pile in Todd’s sensible Datsun to go check out the Droids’ debut show at a club. It’s a shitty dive bar that probably doesn’t check ID at the door, which is good because they’re all 16 (including the band members). Despite the band’s “eye-catching red jumpsuits” (is anyone else thinking of Devo here?), the evening is a bust. Winston and Robin are just not that into each other. On the way back to Sweet Valley, they spot Bruce’s black Porsche (license plate “1Bruce1”, natch) parked on a side road leading to the water. Maybe Bruce got my memo re: making out in a car.

Okay, so they’re wearing eye-catching red helmets, not jumpsuits. Whatever.

Meanwhile in Sweet Valley:

  • Lila has apparently moved on from Bruce to Ken Matthews, who has apparently moved on from Ms. Dalton.
  • Enid is still in lurve with George, her former benzo-popping boyfriend.
  • Trouble in paradise? Wakefield matriarch Alice is mad at Wakefield patriarch Ned for being disinterested in her work (and for namedropping his sexy partner Marianna West too much at home).

Bruce shames Jessica into quitting the cheerleading squad. When he starts breaking all their dates, she stays at home and gives Robin makeovers, while crushing the poor dear’s dream of joining Pi Beta Alpha (you know, the SVH sorority? You mean your high school didn’t have a sorority? Pity.)

Jessica later has a change of heart and tells Robin she’ll support her PBA pledge if she (Robin) breaks into Mr. Russo’s office and steals the chemistry tests. Her master plan is for Robin to stuff the tests in Emily Mayer’s locker and then guilt Emily into using them so Jessica can cheat off her again. It fails.

OMG this book is never going to end. Let me wrap it up quickly:

  • The Droids never had an actual record deal. The creepy manager was just trying to get in Dana (the lead singer)’s pants. The pants she wears to HIGH SCHOOL. BECAUSE SHE’S 16. Grody.
  • Todd and Liz set up a way to expose Bruce as the douchenozzle he is. This culminates in a showdown at Guido’s Pizza (the Dairi Burger is not the only hangout in Sweet Valley!) where Jessica throws a pizza at him and Bruce falls into an artificial waterfall (this is actually kind of awesome).
  • Jessica rapidly returns to her not-awesome self and then asks Winston to take her out on a (pity) date, because she can’t not be adored for more than 5 consecutive minutes.

In the aftermath at Guido’s, Robin asks Liz about the PBA pledge Jessica promised her. Liz decides she’ll do an end-run around Jessica and nominate Robin herself, knowing full well this will throw the sorority into CHAOS! Dun dun dunnnn – get ready for Power Play, SVH#4!

Favorite line of the book: The Unexpected Eyebrow Wiggler of the Book comes to us courtesy of Todd Wilkins: “I heard somewhere that identical twins have identical talents.”

“Talents”, if you know what I mean…

Second favorite line(s) of the book:

Jessica, to Liz, who has asked to borrow a miniskirt to wear to the Droids’ show: “You can keep it forever. I’ll never need it. Bruce can’t stand New Wave clothes. He says they look cheap. But don’t get me wrong – that skirt would look cute on you with a black body suit.” Ha! New Wave clothes. And body suits! Ohhhh… I used to have like, 15 of those bad boys.

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