Let me begin by saying that there is a reason this is one of the last SVH books to be recapped. It sucks. It is yet another SVH book dealing with racism, only the main Wakefield in it is Steven (who, as we all know, is boring).
Cheryl and her dad, Walter (who are BLACK!! GASP!!!) have moved to Sweet Valley because Walter is marrying Annie Whitman’s mom, Mona (#93 has the story of how Annie dealt with her own possibly racist feelings about that…).
Steven, never one to miss an opportunity to hang out with high school students in Sweet Valley, is teaching Cheryl how to drive his manual VW. They make some small talk, recapping #93, and then head to the Wakefield house, where Jess, Liz, Todd, and Sam are BBQing kabobs by the pool. Steven arrives with Cheryl and they decide to eat with the twins and co. The guys go into the pool, and the girls discuss the upcoming wedding between Mona and Walter. Jess tells Cheryl how Steven almost got married to Cara and then asks who Cheryl would like Jess to fix her up with.
The following evening, after a soccer game, everyone heads over to the Dairi Burger to celebrate; Cheryl and Steven sit at a table with Annie and her boyfriend, Tony. Annie asks Tony to be her date to her mom’s wedding (she has to ask?!?) and Cheryl is startled; she hadn’t thought about needing a date. So she turns to Steven and invites him.
Robin and Amy drop by the table “to say hello” and give voice to the questions that every SVH reader has been asking:
”So you’re home again, Steven,” Robin remarked. “What’s the special occasion?”
“No special occasion. I drive down a lot on weekends.”
“But not usually every weekend,” said Amy. “Is college that boring, or is Sweet Valley more interesting than it used to be for some reason?”
Steven looked puzzled.
I get the feeling that Steven is the kind of guy who often looks puzzled. Anyway, a few tables away, Jess, Lila, and their friends are watching Steven and Cheryl and debating whether anything is going on between them. Lila says she thinks it’s odd that “he’d like her that way.” Winston and Jess call her out on being racist, and Lila says she knows everyone is thinking the same thing but is too spineless to admit it. Jess thinks, My big brother is half of the very first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High!
Really? I mean, really?
As a side note, this book was published in 1993. And, as we all know, it’s set in California. So…
Later that night, Jessica asks Steven what’s up with him and Cheryl; he says nothing. Then he gets to thinking – why hasn’t he felt interested in her that way?? Is it because she’s black?? He decides that has nothing to do with it.
Annie asks Cheryl what’s up with her and Steven. Cheryl says there’s no scoop, then thinks about why there isn’t. She likes him as a friend, but doesn’t know if she’s interested in more with him. It’s not because he’s white, though, Cheryl decides.
Steven helps Cheryl practice driving a bit more, and they laugh about the fact that everyone’s been asking if they’re together. They go out to dinner that night – as friends! – at some place called Crooked Canyon Café. As they make their way to their table, conversations stop and people start staring. They are seated a few tables away from a group of skinheads. Cheryl just knows it’s because they assume she and Steven are a couple. One of the skinheads says, “I guess a California suntan isn’t good enough for him. He likes ‘em really dark.” Cheryl is mortified; Steven ushers them out of the restaurant.
Steven drives away, not knowing where he’s heading. He pulls the car over in a parking lot by sand dunes, and they get out of the car. He hugs her, saying it doesn’t make sense, and the next thing they know, they are kissing passionately.
When Cheryl gets home, she tells Annie about the kiss. Annie says, “I’d been thinking that a boyfriend was just what you needed to make you feel more at home in Sweet Valley.”
You know, I'd been thinking that too. What kind of loser spends time in Sweet Valley without a boyfriend?
Steven tells the twins about the kiss the next morning, and Jess is thrilled, saying she knew it’d happen. Liz says she’s happy for Steven. Steven is skeptical and asks if she really means it. Liz assures him that yes, she does. Liz notices that Steven isn’t acting “starry-eyed,” though, and wonders what’s up.
At school, the news about Steven and Cheryl is all anyone can talk about. Jess overhears some people discussing how anyone could be attracted to another race, and in the cafeteria, even Caroline Pearce says she thinks they’re making a big mistake. Suzanne asks why Cheryl doesn’t want to go out with someone who shares her background. Jess decides that she needs to set an example, so she goes over to where Cheryl is sitting and loudly tells her how happy she is that Cheryl and Steven are dating. Jess then offers to make the wedding cake for Mona and Walter’s wedding.
After school, Jess expresses her frustration to Liz and asks why people can’t just accept “true love”. Liz is skeptical of this being “true love” and reminds Jess that they’ve only known each other for a month.
Cheryl goes running with Rosa, another token minority (and so an obvious friend of Cheryl’s). Cheryl says that she feels like Jess is just acting happy about her and Steven to cover up her own prejudice. Rosa says all that matters is that Cheryl and Steven care for each other; Cheryl then wonders if she really is into Steven romantically. She tells herself that she has to make it work, just to show everyone.
That evening, Cheryl is in her room, trying to figure out what to say at the toast she’ll give at the wedding, when Steven shows up. Cheryl doesn’t know how to greet him and feels awkward, debating whether to kiss him or shake his hand:
Steven hesitated too. Reaching Cheryl’s side, he put a hand on her shoulder. Then he bent to kiss her forehead just as she aimed for his cheek. They bumped heads.
Steven helps Cheryl compose a really dry speech about how Mona and Walter fell in love and will now work to overcome social prejudices. Just the sort of toast everyone wants to hear on their wedding day. When Steven leaves, he kisses Cheryl (after hesitating again); she doesn’t feel any chemistry and wonders why.
The next day, Jess is all up in Steven’s business and trills about how happy she is for him and Cheryl and how that night is so big for them because its their first public appearance as a couple. Steven freaks and tries to invite Jess and Sam out with them, then tries to invite Liz and Todd; both already have plans. To not be alone with Cheryl, Steven then calls friends from college –
Wait, WHAT??? Steven has friends from college??!?!!?!?
- and invites them all out to the Beach Disco that night for dancing and to meet Cheryl. His friends are named Bob, Eve, Beth, Frazer, Hillary, and Martin. When Steven’s done with his phone calls, he sits back and wonders if he only invited Martin because Martin is black and therefore Cheryl won’t stand out. Steven decides, “Naw.” Then he wonders if he’s just inviting people so he won’t have to be alone with Cheryl; he tries to convince himself it’s just because he wants to show her off to his friends.
After Steven leaves for his date, Liz wonders what’s wrong with him again and why he was so eager to invite others to join him. Jess says it’s just because Steven wants others to be around to accept them as a couple. Liz wonders if she’s less tolerant than she thought she was.
Cheryl is relieved that Steven invited people along and is surprised to find out that not all of Steven’s friends are white. They start dancing, and eventually Cheryl dances with Martin. He’s a musician, just like she is, and they talk about that as they dance. Cheryl finds him very attractive and is having so much fun she feels a “pang” when the song ends and she has to find Steven. Cheryl tries to relax in Steven’s arms but can’t; she keeps thinking about Martin and realizes that she’s not in love with Steven. Cheryl then wonders if she’s only attracted to Martin because he’s black and if she’s only not attracted to Steven because he’s white. She decides that can’t be the case.
The next day, Cheryl is trying to study in an effort to get Martin out of her head when she sees Steven walking over to her house. She feels angry and wonders why he has to live next door instead of on the other side of town (hee!!). Cheryl tries to tell Steven there’s something she wants to talk about but Annie appears and asks if Cheryl wants to go dress-shopping with her. Cheryl tells Steven she only wanted to talk to him about the toast she’s going to give.
Jessica and Liz go shopping to buy supplies for the wedding cake Jessica has offered to bake. They run into Bruce, who asks what they’re doing and, upon being told, Bruce says, “These black-white liaisons certainly seem to be the latest thing… I saw your brother out with Cheryl last night. You must be very proud of the spectacle he’s making of himself.” He then suggests that half the cake should be chocolate.
Who knew Bruce was such a racist? Makes me wonder why he drives a black Porsche instead of a white one.
Cheryl and Steven have another driving lesson and then go out for pizza. Cheryl shows her speech to Steven. It is so incredibly awful that I have to share:
”Strangers might look at my father and Mona Whitman and assume they don’t belong together. An interracial couple, in some people’s opinion, is a classic case of ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ But by exchanging wedding vows today, my father and my new stepmother demonstrate that there’s nothing wrong with the picture. The problem, if there is one, is with the viewer.”
At lunch on Monday, Lila is kinda rude to Cheryl and Jess tells her she should be nicer and that she’s just being stubborn in not accepting it. Jess says that everyone else has gotten used to the idea of their interracial romance, and Lila says, “I don’t agree. It's one thing for everybody to be nice to Cheryl at school, when Steven’s not around. But what about the rest of the time? What about after school, the weekends, real life? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see people beating Cheryl’s door down, inviting her and Steven to parties and stuff like that.” Lila says that Andrea Slade is having a big party soon and both she and Jess agree that the ultimate test of whether Cheryl and Steven have been accepted will be whether they are invited.
Only in Sweet Valley.
Cheryl and Steven go on a double date with Annie and Tony to some concert at the park. Cheryl looks at how happy Annie and Tony seem with each other and the way they’re snuggled up, while she and Steven aren’t even touching. When Annie and Cheryl go to get sodas, Annie says how much fun this is and how their double date is the kind of thing she always imagines Jessica and Liz doing. Cheryl replies, “We’re not exactly Jessica and Elizabeth,” pointing out their skin colors.
Another “only in Sweet Valley” moment – everything always has to come back to the Wakefield twins!
When they return to the guys, Cheryl wonders why she’s together with Steven. She tells herself, I’m not trapped. I’m free.
Steven and Cheryl go to his house, where Jessica, Liz, Todd, and Sam are all hanging out while trying to bake the wedding cake. Steven notices how affectionate the other two couples are and slides his chair closer to Cheryl’s so he won’t give the impression that he’s afraid to be affectionate with her. Steven wonders why he never has the urge to make a pass at her.
The cakes Jessica made have turned out horribly, as expected. As he eats some, Steven realizes that he and Cheryl just don’t fit together the way he and Cara did. Jessica asks if Steven and Cheryl are going to go to Andrea Slade’s party, and the room suddenly tenses up. Steven squeezes Cheryl’s hand and thinks he’d better get used to being left out of things, now that they’re together. But Jessica just remembered – Andrea had called earlier, trying to get a hold of Cheryl to invite her and Steven! They may be okay after all!
Surprisingly, the party is not described, except in dialogue afterward. Jessica tells her parents that Steven and Cheryl are “crazy about each other” (Liz doesn’t exactly agree) and that they should have Cheryl over for dinner. When Liz says that maybe Steven doesn’t want them to make a fuss, Jess replies, “It’s our duty to make a fuss. Do you want Cheryl to think that Mom and Dad are like the parents in that old movie, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”
So Cheryl is invited over for dinner. Steven notices how well his parents just accept her, like they don’t care about her skin color. Then he starts thinking about why he’s not feeling chemistry with Cheryl. He wonders why he kissed her that night and if he’d stopped thinking of her as a person and started thinking of her as a black person.
Steven goes back to college for three days (a record, I’m sure), and then cuts class to drive back to Sweet Valley. He’s decided to break up with Cheryl and hopefully go back to being just friends with her. But a bunch of people interrupt them – first Jessica, then Annie – and Cheryl has to leave before Steven’s said anything. Steven then thinks that maybe he shouldn’t break up with her because it’d “send the wrong message” after all they’d been through together.
Steven is conflicted. So he turns to the one person who’s always there, eager to help: Liz. Liz thinks about how you have to know what’s in your heart in order to listen to it; helpful as always.
Steven and Cheryl make pizza together and talk about the toast some more. Cheryl thinks it’s not right yet but she doesn’t know how to make it better. Later, after Steven’s left, Cheryl talks to Mona about her upcoming wedding. This is so painful:
Cheryl: I’ve never told you this, Mona, but I understand what you’re doing and I think its great.
Mona: What do you mean?
Cheryl: You know, dating and marrying my dad. I think it’s great that you two don’t care what people think, that you decided to show everyone. I’m proud of you and Dad for proving that there shouldn’t be a barrier between the races.
Mona: We’re not out to prove a point… This marriage is about love, like any other marriage…
Cheryl: You mean, it's about love between blacks and whites. Between a black man and a white woman.
Cheryl finally realizes that she and Steven may have come together for the right reason but they’re staying together for the wrong one. AND, she’s finally ready to write a real toast.
The wedding happens. Everyone’s dressed up and excited. The wedding cake has turned out well, too. At the reception, Cheryl gives her toast and talks about how love is what’s brought them together and how precious it is. After her speech, Cheryl sits down and meets Steven’s eyes; without speaking, they both know it’s over between them. They decide they’re just the best of friends now, not a couple.
Lila asks Jess what happened with Steven and Cheryl; she can’t believe that they broke up just after all the fuss settled down. Jess shrugs and says maybe they were just proving a point. Lila says that maybe they just blew up, like every other dumb couple that breaks up.
Cheryl passes her driver’s test and drives to SVU to tell Steven. He’s happy for her and happy to see her, though he says he’s really glad they’re not still dating; she agrees. They wonder if there’s ever been a weirder breakup. Then Cheryl sees Martin, who asks if he can call her sometime; she says she’d like that.
This truly was the worst SVH book ever.
Coming up next: Sweet Valley gets crazier in A Night to Remember!