Sweet Valley University #8: Home for Christmas
Can someone tell me who these people are supposed to be on the cover? I mean, I can tell the twins because they're on every cover. I think the two on the far left are supposed to be Bryan and Nina... except they're not really in this book. And who are these other people? Steven? Billie? Bruce? Lila? Tom? Todd? Alex? Who!? Splainy!
We open with Steven groggy from being gassed. He's in and out of consciousness but thinks he has to help Mike because Mike paralyzed and therefore, helpless. Mike isn't the one passed out, Steven, that'd be you.
Mike is pissed Steven is taking so long. He smells the gas and, at first, thinks Steven is trying to do him in. Ha! That'd be awesome, but no. Mike has to pull himself along the floor to get to the kitchen. There is much angsty inner monologue about how he loves Jessica (shouldn't have hit her then) and how he's useless and will die there (okay, go for it). Then he passes out too. Steven is also passed out and his life is flashing before his eyes. His life is kinda lame (although in nearly dead Steven's revisionist history of his life, there's no mention of poor dead Tricia Martin just how much he loves Billie). Nearly dead Steven must repress a lot.
Liz and Tom (not Todd) are making out in the library. Liz is all “we're supposed to be studying” because she's a big tease. They are caught by the librarian. She says she's caught them making out four times now. Then Liz says it's the most embarrassed she's ever been. What about the other three times, dingus? Anyway, Liz thinks they need to stop making out until finals are over, so they can actually study. Tom is frowny. But then she reminds him that he's coming home with her for Christmas (like it's supposed to cheer him up he has no family and has to spend the holiday with the parents of his girlfriend). Then Liz shows him an invitation to the “first reunion” of her Sweet Valley High class. He gets to go to that too! Now, if I were Tom I'd say, “Screw, that. We just started dating. I'm not putting up with glowers from your family and you weird school friends. Also? Why the fuck are you having a reunion only like six months since you left high school?”
Tom is not psyched about the reunion. But I'm sure if he knew all the dangers that could befall you at Sweet Valley High... he'd be even less psyched. Liz can't understand why he's bummed because she's really dense.
Lila has a nightmare and wakes up screaming because her husband just exploded.
Back in the apartment o' doom, Mike falls to the floor. Miraculously, he feels it in his knees and is able to crawl across the floor on all fours. All you people who thought he was paralyzed? PUNK'D! He tosses a doorstop through the window to get fresh air. Then crawls to Steven and administers CPR. I wonder if Steven kisses like Jessica? Let's ask Mike.
Meanwhile, Jessica is having problems too. She has no one to take to the reunion! The horror! She's jealous of Liz and Tom apparently not realizing how dull they are. She meets with Isabella about getting back in the good graces of the Thetas. I've written only three recaps of SVU and I am already so fucking sick of the Thetas and Jessica's obsession with them.
Enid/Alex wakes up feeling “sick.” She doesn't seem to realize she has a hangover which is odd considering her backstory (see #2: Secrets), but then SV ghost writers don't really seem that concerned with continuity. (And for more on that, see below!) Alex, does eventually realize she'd been drinking when she sees hickies on her neck and realizes that she may have had sex with Todd. Ew, now I've imagined sex with Todd! I'm scarred for life!
Steven wakes up in the hospital. Mike is there. Steve thanks Mike for saving his life; then Mike inexplicably thanks Steven for saving his. I know! He says he was “headed for trouble” before. So it's a lucky thing that Steven shot him and set him on a better path. Mike reveals he can wiggle his toes now and Steven is so happy. They have a good laugh about laundry or something and are generally the best of friends. I KNOW! The ghostwriters must get all the good crack.
Jessica, Lila, Denise and Isabella are studying for finals. Jessica wows them all by knowing who Freud and Jung are. Wow! How amazing. That's not a high bar to get over, especially for college students. Lila thinks Jessica changed while she was away (she's so smart now with her knowing ridiculously famous psychoanalysts). Then Alison comes and kicks Jessica out of Theta house, because she's a bitch. While leaving, Jessica runs into James Montgomery, literally. He asks her out. She's happy because she thinks Alison will be jealous.
Liz is having trouble studying for her literature of African-American writers class. She's too busy thinking about how dreamy Tom is. So, she calls her friend Nina Harper. Ostensibly, this is because Nina is very driven and will keep Liz's nose to the grindstone. But there is one sentence that says, “Nina knew all those writers backward and forward” which obviously she would because she's black and must know everything about African-American literature! ...Even though she's majoring in Chemistry.
Todd wakes up, also hung over. (He's apparently a late sleeper because Mike and Steven have managed to make it to the hospital and sort out their lives between the time Alex wakes up and Todd does.) He has scratches on his back and wonders how they got there. Gee, I don't know! Todd is a real class act, because upon realizing he slept with Alex, his main concern is that Liz might find out because he's still in love with her.
Tom is justifiably confused when he learns that Ned and Alice Wakefiled know nothing about Jessica's marriage, Steven shooting her husband, or Steven going to jail (briefly) for said shooting. They were away on a cruise when it all went down, but still you'd think someone would contact them or some nosy neighbor would mention it when they got home. Ned and Alice are often oblivious but this sort of takes the cake, doesn't it?
Alex is trying to figure out if she likes Todd or not. She's making a list of pros and cons, I guess. She mentions in her inner monologue that she was always jealous of Elizabeth. Oh, and don't drink and fool around, kids. Then she maturely calls Todd and hangs up.
Todd is likewise confused, he picks up the phone but it's Liz's number he dials not Alex's. She's not home. Todd looks around his room and doesn't like what he sees, so he (also maturely) decides he'll just drop out and packs his stuff.
Liz and Nina see Todd's BMW leaving campus with all his possessions packed. Liz asks Nina if she did something wrong and didn't let him down gently enough. Nina asks what I'm thinking when she says, “Are you [fucking] nuts?” (The fucking is implied, of course, but it's clearly there.) Nina patiently explains to Liz that Todd actually dumped her. She also calls Todd stupid, which we've been doing in this community since day one. Good on you, Nina Harper. You're just like those sassy black women we've seen on TV!
Jessica goes out with James. She actually suggests they go to the same restaurant she went to with Mike on their first date. All class. She asks James to come with her to the reunion thing. He can't be as cool and rich and handsome as she says he is, because he agrees.
While Jessica is sipping wine at their old haunt, her former love interest is working on building up the strength in his legs again with a physical therapist. He thinks about how beautiful and perfect Jessica was and how she was so much better than him (haha, not if you knew what she was up to, bucko).
Todd didn't tell anyone he was leaving so Alex is sort of worried about him. She calls his parents' house to see if they know where he is, only to have Todd himself answer the phone. For some reason, Alex thinks it wouldn't be so bad if she really did sleep with Todd (she's still not sure). Todd is like “Oh yeah me too” but you know he's still thinking about Liz. They decide to go to the reunion together. Alex is psyched she'll get to go on Todd's arm (because she wants to be Liz, remember?).
Lila runs into Alison. Alison apparently has the hots for Bruce Patman, which Lila thinks is hilarious. Naturally, Lila decides to mess with her. Because Lila? Is awesome. Have I perhaps mentioned this? Lila tells Alison that Bruce asked her out loads of times and even invited her flying recently.
Mike and Steven are all chummy now. They exchange Christmas gifts. Steven got Mike a doorstop (it's literally a jackass). Mike got Steven a t-shirt that says “Powered by Natural Gas.” Aren't people who shoot each other hilarious?
Steven, Billie, Liz, Jessica and Tom all cram into Steve's VW Beetle (I thought it was Winston that drove a Beetle?) and drive to Casa Wakefield. They conspire in the car to not tell the Wakefield parents anything about Mike. Steven also takes this time to tell Jessica, “Surprise! Your ex-husband can walk again!” Then they arrive that their split level ranch on Calico drive which was magically not destroyed by an Earthquake! Miracles abound.
When they get there, Mike has left a message for Jessica wishing her a merry Christmas. Alice thought he sounded nice on the phone. Only if you don't know how he beat the tar out of her, I guess. Back at his own apartment, Mike decides a phone call isn't enough and he wants to propose to Jessica (again) the “right way.” He orders an engagement ring.
Tom breaks the Wakefield's dishes in a comical fashion. Yawn. (Later, he comically steps in chocolate cake and tracks it around the house but I get tired just thinking of it.)
Alice and Ned make everyone look at slides from their vacation. And, if I may go off on a tangent for a moment, I really hate it when people do that. I mean, no one really cares about how much fun you had when they were at home, fixing their clogged drain or whatever. Thankfully, Liz is saved from the boredom of the vacation slides by a mysterious phone call from a man saying he was “watching” her. Honestly, there are sometimes you're happy to have William White stalking you, I'd think. Just to keep it interesting.
The ghostwriter cuts to Todd then, and we're supposed to think it was him phoning Liz but I'm not fooled because I already recapped the next book. Although, Todd does creepily walk around the Wakefield's home and think that he “should be there” not Tom. Well, you shouldn't have dumped her for that skanky girl whose name I can't recall then, Todd. He runs into Winston, who is making out with Denise and Todd is jealous.
In the middle of the night, Liz creeps downstairs to visit Tom who is sleeping on the couch. They snuggle under the blankets together. Meanwhile, Steven sneaks into Jessica's room, where Billie is sleeping, to snuggle with her. Jessica listens to her siblings sneaking into other people's beds and thinks how back-assward this all is. Then she falls asleep and has a nightmare that she brought Mike to spend Christmas with the family.
Mr. Wakefield awkwardly comes downstairs when Liz and Tom are macking. Liz is obliged to hide under the couch and Tom has to make nice with her father, feeling guilty the whole time. Comically, of course.
When Jessica wakes, she discovers Mike has sent her a huge bouquet of roses with a card saying he misses her.
Todd and Alex go to the mall together. It's pretty boring except they both think about how much they miss Liz. But then Alex tells him she's going to wear a baby doll dress over a black unitard to the reunion! Because it's 1994 and that was awesome back then.
But then Todd literally bumps into Tom (there's a lot of literal bumping in these books). (Tom was trying to convince Liz she really shouldn't buy her father a tie for Christmas, to which she replies that she gets him one every year. Tom is scandalized AS HE SHOULD BE.) Alex and Liz manage to speak like civilized people, but then Todd has to ask Liz to save him a dance at the reunion. Really, how rude. In front of her boyfriend. Everyone gets glowery again and Liz is sad because this time last year the three of them we real close and now they don't speak.
Lila and Jessica espy the mall confrontation between Tom/Todd. They, being gossip whores, wish they could hear what's going on. They are then hailed by Bruce Patman. (Everyone is apparently in the mall. It is required.) Bruce taunts Lila about her ability to fly a plane, which is real nice after her husband just exploded. Bruce is a gem. He also says he'll see them at the reunion which is odd since he was not in their class.
On Christmas Day, Liz thinks that she had been expecting the shinola to hit the fan (re: parents finding out about Jessica's marriage). I wonder how the hell Liz knows what Shinola is when other characters don't know who Carl Jung is. They all open presents. During an exchange with Steven, Jessica tells him to “blow it out his ear” and I think they are going really too far with the non-curse phrases. Then after they open presents they all eat turkey dinner (very early, no?).
After dinner, Tom idiotically thinks that they managed to get through it without a major disaster. But then the doorbell rings. Ding dong. Major disaster calling. It's a delivery (and it's not what you think it is). The box is for Elizabeth. Inside is an angel broken into many pieces and a note that says “If I can't have you, no one will.”
But then another disaster rings the doorbell, and this time it's for Jessica. She thinks it's James because she's an idiot and didn't take the hint from Mike's phone call and roses. It's Mike, of course. He sees the horrified expression Jess's face and tries to beat a hasty retreat, but Alice insists he come inside. (Not that he could beat a hasty retreat anyway, because he still limps.) Mike and Steven have to make up stupid stories about how they met and how Steven introduced Jessica to Mike. Alice and Ned have got to be idiots to buy this load of shinola.
Liz thinks seeing Mike is too much for her (and she wasn't his freaking wife) so she insists she has to take a walk by herself to clear her head. Genius move when you've been getting threatening notes, by the way. She is then approached by a shadowy figure. Dun dun dun!
Mike and Jessica are finally left alone. He tells her he is sorry he treated her so shitty. He says he never stopped loving her but only agreed to the annulment because he didn't want to tie her to a cripple. But now he's not crippled, see? So he wants to make it up to her and love her and be with her and spend Christmas with her or whatever. He gets down on one knee asks her to marry him (again).
The book cuts back to Elizabeth. Because she is the luckiest bitch that ever existed, the shadowy figure turns out to be Todd not a murderer. He says he's been walking around because he needed to get out of the house, but she never calls him on the fact that his family lives in the fancy part of town so it's quite a hike, I would think. For some reason, she begs him to come back to SVU. And if you're wondering why he continues to moon after her, I think it's because she's leading him on like whoa. He agrees to consider it.
Back to Jessica, who tells Mike no dice. She says she's too young to settle down with anyone and if she gets married again she wants it to be forever. Mike presumably limps away (we don't see his walk of shame). Then, after having this mature realization about the fact that she's just not ready for marriage (which any one of us could have told her in, say, book one of Sweet Valley Twins) she decides she has to own up to her parents. She tells them everything.
Naturally, her parents freak out. I mean, their son was arrested and their daughter married and no one told them. But Ned is sort of overly dickish when he says:
“Why did I even bother as a father?” Mr. Wakefield said, anger creeping into his voice. “When I think of all we tried to do for you, all the values we hoped we'd instilled. Well, let me tell you, my dreams of that are shot!” [...] “You disappointed me, and embarrassed me.”
To which I respond, when did he ever act fatherly or try to instill values in his children in these books? He acts like it's a shock that Jessica is flighty and boy crazy and does stupid stuff. Plus what's with the “me”? I think Jessica is the most embarrassed. Jesus.
But then the next day they all make up and it's happy schmappy again. There is actually a group hug. Ugh!
And then! Back to the awesome. OMG! When they are getting ready for the reunion, Liz asks Jessica what sex is like. I KNOW! Jessica says that movies make it out to be more than it is. And then she says “Oh and use birth control; do you like these earrings?” in the same manner one would say "I think I might have an STD; can you pass the salt?" Sometimes I kinda do like Jessica when she's giving her “older” sister the talk and not being a sociopath.
Then the reunion. Alex goes with Todd. Liz goes with Tom. Jess with James. Lila goes alone and actively decides she's going to be fabulous and not let the “widow” whispers get her down. Is she ever not fabulous, I ask?
As Liz and Tom are getting out of the car they encounter the HUGE continuity error to which I was referring earlier. Her name is Olivia Davidson and she died in that Earthquake that also didn't destroy the Wakefield's home. Hilariously, Olivia says “I've only been gone four months, but if feels like forever!” Tell us, Olivia, what is Heaven like? Is Regina there? Does she say hello?
Lila runs into Bruce and demands to know why he's even there since he was a year ahead of them (which I was wondering about). Lila is always around to ask the probing questions. She discovers Bruce has been drinking and, instead of telling him off, asks him where he's hiding the good stuff. They go off together and drink Cristal, and generally be rich and awesome like on The Fabulous LIfe. Lila is surprised to realize she is having fun with Bruce!
Tom and Liz are nauseating. I'll spare you. It makes Todd ill, as it should. Todd, the prince, decides to kiss Alex to make Liz jealous. Alex misinterprets it as actual feelings for her. Prince, I say! Why did you ever let that one get away, Elizabeth?
Todd later asks Liz to dance when she is talking to Penny.
Awesomely, we are told that Lila and Jessica have a bet going. Lila says there will be public violence, which I think is sort of a safe bet, considering this is Todd and Tom we're talking about. Jessica also thinks there will be violence, but not in public. When Lila sees Liz and Todd dancing, she goes to Jess and is like, “Can I put more money on it?” And Jessica pretends to be all indignant like “This is my sister's life!” and then says, “Besides, I only have five dollars.” I DO LOVE THEM SO!
Alex sees and gets pissed at Liz, because apparently she is foisting herself on Todd. Is it me or was she smarter when she was Enid? She stalks away in a jealous rage.
Liz belatedly realizes she probably shouldn't be dancing with her ex. She tries to go look for Tom, but Todd won't let her go (classy). He tells her he loves her, etc. Liz protests that she's with Tom now and Todd still won't let her go.... and then Tom shows up. They get in a pretty awesome fist fight. Tom, being a former football player, is much larger than Todd (though I would assume Todd is taller?) Whatever. Tom kicks his ass. Everyone is kind of horrified because Todd's nose is all bloodied or somesuch. But I personally find it sort of satisfying to see Todd, who punched out just about everyone who ever came near Liz, punched out himself.
In the interest of kicking Todd when he is down, Liz goes to him and tells him he 1) is stupid, 2) has ruined his life, 3) will never get her back (ha, we'll see about that last one!). Then she turns to Alex and says that he is her “problem now” and Alex looks at Liz with hatred. Hatred!
Then Liz runs after Tom and tells him she loves him and only him and they make out. Oh Christ, I think. This is going to be one of those endings. But no. We end with Lila, who tells Jessica to "Pay up." Yay Lila!