This is the first book in the second “Lifeguards” series of SVU. If you had asked me a week ago if there was such a mini-series, I would've told you that you were high. No one would be stupid enough to put their life in Jessica and Elizabeth's hands once, let alone on two separate occasions. Those girls have killers shadowing their every move! But here we have it. SVU: Lifeguards. I looked at the cover and thought it was a Baywatch rip-off. My sister saw the cover and commented that it was like that time the characters on Saved By the Bell became lifeguards. In any case, it's a rip-off of someone, but I'll let you pick.
Luckily for me, the first part of the first “Lifeguards” mini-series has been recapped already by julieannie here. What's weird to me is that book was about 10 books previous to this one, and now it's the next summer. It took 100+ books to cover one year in Sweet Valley High but only ten to over a year in SVU. This is not the SV time warp I know and love. Frankly, I'm a little insulted that the editors decided to do SVU in something closer to real time. I don't like realism in my Sweet Valley.
From left to right we have: Theo, Elizabeth (maybe Jessica?), Ryan (Ben?), Jessica (Elizabeth?), Ben (Ryan?), Miranda and Priya
No Nina or Winston even though they're the only series regulars to appear in this book along with the twins. Discrimination!!
It's summer break (again). Elizabeth is driving, with Jessica and Nina, to Sweet Valley Shore. We're reminded that Liz was a lifeguard there last summer and that she dated a hot guy named Ryan Taylor, who is occupying her thoughts at the moment. Nina, meanwhile, had a crush on a guy named Paul but at the moment she is with Bryan Nelson. Except, Bryan is interning in Washington this summer and last time she called him, the phone was answered by a girl. Let's jump to conclusions, shall we? Nina declares that all men are dogs.
Last summer, Jessica was hot for Ben Mercer, who was from Chicago. They dated and kept in touch for awhile. But then their communication lagged. Ben was going to move to California but he didn't. (Not up-rooting entire life for perfect size six? Mind boggling!) Jessica wants to pick up things right where they left off, but she's not even sure Ben will be at the shore this summer.
Ben returns to the house when Jessica is unpacking. They flirt. Jessica thinks he totally wants her. But when Jessica asks how long he's been back, Ben mentions he returned early to help a “friend” with tryouts. Jessica assumes his friend is a male. Just for funsies, let's assume she's not!
Liz is walking on the beach alone. The ghostwriter helpfully tells us that her muscles began to “unclench” as she walked across the dunes. I think it'd take more that a view waves for St. Elizabeth to unclench, but whatever. Ryan appears and within seconds, they are making out. I want to call “cheating cheaters” but I don't know if Liz was supposed to be with Tom/Todd/someone else in #29. But whatever, it's Liz; chances are she's cheating.
Ryan tells Liz that there isn't going to be competitions between 'rival' lifeguard groups this year. He helpfully explains that lifeguards should be concentrating on saving lives and not beating other squads. You don't say, Ryan? I haven't read the first lifeguard series but now I assume it's like West Side Story with lifeguards jumping around and snapping their fingers whilst wearing red bathing suits.
The next morning, we cut back to Liz and Ryan. ...Elizabeth couldn't suppress the feeling of warmth that was rising up within her like a riptide. But instead of giving into it, Elizabeth just felt uncomfortable...”. She feels uncomfortable? How do you think I feel? I don't want to think about Liz's tides. Anyway, Liz thinks Ryan is cold, like a statue. I guess he was supposed to cream himself at the sight of her so she's depressed. Then they start making out. I'm going to spare you the descriptions of that, because I value your eyeballs. In any case, something is bothering Ryan and Liz doesn't know what it is. But instead of using the traditional method of asking him what's wrong she just frets about it and thinks about her tides.
Jessica tells Isabella, on the phone, all about her lurve for Ben on the phone. Isabella is in New York, interning as a buyer at a trendy boutique. I want to read bout Izzie's summer not this dreck. (“I just think it sounds cool, you know? Buyer, buying, to buy...”) Or Lila's. Where is Lila anyhow? The point of this passage is that Jessica is WAY over-confident about her relationship with Ben. How could things go wrong?
The next morning, Winston is there! Yay Winston! Okay, so he's not Lila, but I'll take what I can get. Winston makes pancakes for breakfast. I want a Winston. I never have pancakes. Winston lets them know that Wendy is also in town. Wendy was in the previous series. We learn she got engaged to some rich, music star, Pedro, and now lives in a mansion. Wendy invited Winston to stay at the mansion this summer. I think this Wendy must have really great taste to just invite Winston and not the twins. I approve.
Jessica and Ben walk to the beach. Jessica is actually surprised that he hasn't kissed her yet. Boy, these Wakefields are really full of themselves. They meet up with two new lifeguards—Theo (“a tall, lean African American”) and Miranda (“a trim and toned Amazon”). Miranda complains about the other girl she and Theo are sharing a place with. Her name is Priya and she sounds, well, she sounds like Jessica. All she does is talk about her boyfriend (bells should be going off) and complain about the tough work lifeguarding is.
Priya shows up fashionably late and when she does—gasp—Ben kisses her! Who could have possibly seen that coming?!? The ghostwriter melodramatically tells us that as Jessica watched them and “the world fell apart.” Oh noes! The boy I haven't seen in a year doesn't love me anymore!
Um, then Nina gets really upset. She thinks Ben is just like Bryan. Ryan sees her face and says she looks under the weather, and gives her the day off. Then Nina gets in an inner tube on the water and falls asleep. Which... is stupid for a person let alone a lifeguard. She, of course, wakes up on some strange beach. She meets a guy, then promptly passes out. Damn, Nina, I thought you had more sense. I'm oddly let down.
Then I am further let down. Jessica starts to cry over Ben. Miranda—who she is teamed with for the day—tells her to buck up, because she doesn't want Ben to see her fall apart. Jessica says she does. (Gasp! No! This is not my Jessica Wakefield. Why is she not throwing pizza and soda at him and pushing him in a fountain? I don't get it.) See, Ben never mentioned a girlfriend and he even flirted with Jessica before. She thinks he's pissed she blew him off after the Summer was over. Thankfully, Miranda convinces Jessica to “take no prisoners.” Miranda says she hopes Jessica can get rid of Priya since she's so annoying. I already love Miranda. Jessica always has the best friends.
Jessica marches over to their tower, with aims at being mean to Priya, I guess? Priya makes fun of her as stupid for going to some “local” college. Apparently Priya and Ben met in a Russian literature class when she corrected a TA about the order of Dostoyevsky's works. Jessica doesn't know who Dostoyevsky is. Even Ben mocks her.
Liz is paired with Ryan, of course. It is here we learn that Ryan was an alcoholic and his struggle has made him “more responsible.” Ugh. I just realized Ryan is Conner (from Senior Year) 2.0. He's all mysterious and broody. Gag. He invites her to dinner with his AA sponsor, Patti, that night.
Winston gets a job at an ice cream place. You'll remember (or not. If you, like me, hadn't read the first series.),Winston didn't make it as a lifeguard last year. Oh the indignity.
It turns out the guy whose beach Nina washed up on is a stereotypical, granola eating hippie, surfer dude named Stu Kirkwood. He lays her on his meditation mat while she is passed out. Nina, smartly, assumes he's a wack-a-doo and tries to defend herself when she wakes up. (Hey, it's more than Liz would do.) But it turns out he's a whole other kind of wack-a-doo and just tells her how the waves have been “mushy”but he can't let the “aggro” get to him or he'll never reach Nirvana. No, I'm not making this up. Stu lives on “SeaMist” a deserted island off of Sweet Valley's shore. How many deserted islands can one town have?
Liz and Ryan go to Patti's house for dinner. Apparently Patti and her husband, Arthur, own a pub. Pretty bad business for a recovering alcoholic. Also, she offers Ryan a beer and Liz flips out. Ryan turns it down but Patti drinks a beer. Liz continues to flip out. Ryan is like, “Leave it alone; you barely know her and her husband seems okay with the fact that she's falling off the wagon.” But you know our Liz can't resist the urge to get all up in someone else's private life.
Miranda tries to distract Jessica by taking her guy-watching. It's usually Jess's favorite sport, but unfortunately, once one has turned her down he's all she can think about. Miranda reassures her that Priya may be smart but she's not very clever (I guess that's a book smart vs. street smart distinction). But Jessica naturally takes the compliment the completely wrong way and decides she'll read Dostoyevsky too! She picks up Crime and Punishment because she loves those cop shows (Law and Order-esqe) on TV. I would've just thought she'd pick the thinnest one. But what do I know I only used to work in a bookstore and help a lot of stupid people pick out books.
Our first Ryan POV reveals that Patti has been drinking for a month now. He's tried to stop her, but she doesn't want to hear it. (Which is pretty standard with alcoholics. But just wait, I bet St. Liz can reason with her!) She even tries to get Ryan to drink too and he gets all broody and frowny.
I have this theory that Liz likes guys with “problems” so she can feel superior (and do the always fun superior dance). Because both Conner and Ryan are alcoholics. Todd is a rage-a-holic, which I believe stems from the mistreatment and tragic early demise of his sisterbrother. While Tom has intimacy issues since his family was killed by football. The only one I can't explain is Jeffrey, who dumps her so maybe he's an outlier for a reason.
Anyway, Stu keeps calling Nina “Little Mermaid” which pisses her off. He also insists on paying for her inner tube. Nina wants to pay him back, but Stu tells her to just put some “good energy” out there and karma will come back to him or some shit. Also? He owns the inner tube company.
Jessica reads Crime and Punishment for two whole hours. She thinks, “A guy kills his landlady and then feels bad about it. What's the big deal?” I laugh out loud, because of course Sociopathic Jessica wouldn't understand it.
Liz and Ryan leave and go prowl the beach for trash. How romantic. They discover college kids from Michigan (seems awfully far to travel, even if there's free beer) having a kegger. Ryan gets in a fight with the guys. And he tells Liz to get the beer out of his sight. She can't understand why he won't help her carry the heavy load. Duh, Liz. You're so stupid. She tries to “talk” with him but he doesn't want to. He walks away with his shoulders hunched. Melodramatically, the ghostwriter tells us that Liz feels something “die inside” when she watches him. I hope it was something vital.
Aww. To add to Winston's indignity, he has to wear a stupid costume with a fake handlebar mustache for his ice cream job. I guess it's old timey ice cream? Anyway, some bratty kids are mean to him. They rip off his mustache and steal his hat. Jessica—Jessica!—has to save him. SVU continues to find new lows for Winston to sink to.
Stu comes to see Nina while she's at work the next day. A blonde chick hits on him and she realizes she's jealous. Happily, Stu blows the blondie off and Nina thinks he's a faithful guy. Her trust in men is restored (?). That was fast.
Ben and Priya come to harass Jessica when she and Miranda are on duty. Priya finds Jessica's copy of Crime and Punishment and makes fun of her. Miranda tries to save her and says it's her book and she loaned it to Jessica, who has already finished it. Priya doesn't buy it. She and Jessica snipe at each other.
Then we have Baywatch action! Ooh! I'm so excited. Nina and Theo (Ryan likes to segregate the colored people from the whites, apparently) are partners. There's obnoxious parents who aren't paying attention to their kids. Two of them are on a raft that flips over when the water gets rough and they nearly drown. But Theo saves the boy and Nina saves the girl (also segregated by gender, naturally). When Nina returns to her perch she finds a note from Stu saying she really is a mermaid. I just hope they remembered to run n slow-motion!
Liz goes to harangue Ryan after work. He says it's hard to explain how he feels to someone who's not an alcoholic, but our Liz continues to push and push until he gets upset. And then she demands to know if he's been drinking. He says he hasn't and even thanks her for her concern (bullshit, he'd get all pissed at her accusatory tone, but whatever). St. Liz to the rescue again!
Jessica hears Priya and Ben come home and tries to avoid them. Instead of just saying they come in while she's about, Jessica has to go to the potty and can't hold it. Then she steps on a splinter and shouts and nearly falls down the stairs. Sweet Valley can never do things the easy way. Priya quizzes her on Crime and Punishment (Jessica should just tell her to shove it up her ass—she's not her teacher). Of course Jess knows nothing about the book and makes a fool of herself. After they're gone, she cries.
This is the time when I would call Lila. ...Okay, no I lie. If I had Lila's number, I'd never not call her.
Nina feels yucky after saving that kid. She tries to sleep but Jessica keeps making noise. She decides to take a mental health day because she's “sure” Liz will cover for her. Doormat alert! Liz does even though she's pissy about it. Nina goes and makes out with Stu.
Miranda and Jessica patrol the beach. They see someone in trouble down by Ben and Priya's area (they're too busy smooching to save the innocents). Jessica runs for it, but before she can get there, Priya actually trips her and steals the save. These people are supposed to be lifeguards! People could've died!
Winston is harassed by more evil children, and then arrested by the cops. For real. Wendy has to bail him out of the clink. She announces that she's filing for divorce from her mega-star husband!
Liz gets her hair done for her date with Ryan. It makes her late. (Naturally she blames Nina for making her work that day, but one would think she would've just skipped the hair appointment. I only ever had my hair professionally done for the prom and weddings. Sheesh.)
Miranda and Jessica are having a girls night when Priya and Ben come home. Jessica and Priya snipe about the tripping incident. Priya says she's lying and then starts to get all literature reference-y and not at all subtle way. But she gets Dangerous Liaisons mixed up and Jessica calls her on it (since she'd seen the movie. It's like the scene in Clueless about Hamlet.) Jessica does a victory dance.
Liz is indeed late. But, of course this is Sweet Valley and we have to make it extra special late. The Jeep dies. Liz sees a pay phone but—oh noes—the cord is cut and the Jeep won't start. She sits in the car and cries, cries, cries. Ryan is waiting for her at the restaurant. He assumes the worst, that Liz is standing him up (why? We don't know). So he decides to get whiskey from the bar. He downs it in “one swallow.”
I'll say it again: these people are supposed to be lifeguards. Never go to the Sweet Valley beach if you value your life.