So guess what, you guys? Jessica and Elizabeth are starting their sophomore year at SVU, despite the fact that there have been four summers since the damn series began. Yes, four summers. That's not my fancy, facetious way of saying that SVU went on too long. There are literally four miniseries that specifically take place during summer. And a thriller edition that took place at the very end of one of the summers, but not the latest summer, because Jess was still living at the Theta house. Who knows, it could've even been a fifth summer!
I like this cover. Jessica looks strangely like one of those overly made-up toddlers whose horrid mothers enter them in beauty pageants. Liz looks hawt and not particularly toddler-like.
The A Plot: Elizabeth, Jessica and their gross overuse of the word 'duplex'
Real talk: This is the worst plot in the damn book by a long shot. I hate it. You should probably just skip over it and go meet up with Todd in Plot B. I won't judge.
It's moving day for Elizabeth, Jessica...and Neil, who, despite the complete and utter hell those Wakefields and their friends put him through during their summer road trip competition, has decided that Sweet Valley University is where he wants to matriculate. Neil, you cray.
Okay, I'm two pages in, and already this book is giving me the shits. Grammar means nothing to ghostwriters. Question marks and exclamation marks are interchangeable. (Literally: the sentence, "How cool was that!" immediately precedes the sentence, "And how cool was seeing their names on the black mailbox next to the front door?" It's one or the other, people.) Whew. Rant over.
Turns out that the place they're moving into is run-down and has no electricity. Jessica loves it anyway, except for a stool in the garden which doesn't swivel. That's her tipping point, apparently. Non-swivel stools. Good to know.
Liz, meanwhile, is pondering the fact that she's starting the school year without a boyfriend "to fall back on." Jesus, she's co-dependent. She and Jess argue for ages over a bedroom they both want, but Neil shuts that crap down immediately. Liz agrees and says they'll settle it like adults later. Line of the book right here: "Neil stifled the unkind urge to ask what she knew about being an adult when Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield were paying her and Jessica's rent." Slam, Wakefields! If anything proves that Neil should get the good bedroom, it's the fact that he's the only one actually paying his own gol' darn way.
Hey, Steven's shown up! All he does is help the twins move a couch, tell the housemates that they have no hot water, and laugh at them for not thinking to call the telephone company prior to moving in. Snarky Steven could really grow on me, but he leaves before I can know for sure. After eating the pizza they were forced to order from a payphone (ha, iPhone-less suckers!) they draw straws and Jessica gets the awesome room. Liz has to live in the attic. How A Little Princess. Or Party of Five, depending.
(Segue: In my crazy, unhinged mind, Steven Wakefield has always looked like the Remington guy that Heather Chandler went down on in Heathers. I have no idea why. That thought has no earthly business being in anyone's head. All I know is that his mullet is outstanding, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Steven rocked one at some point in his life.)
The next day, Jessica meets with some adviser called Professor Wyckoff to talk about her major, and this makes the recap simply because 'Wyckoff' kinda looks like 'Whack-Off,' and I'm twelve years old inside. Heh. Professor Whack-Off. Anyway, turns out Jessica's not actually enrolled at SVU this year. Didn't she flunk out after her boyfriend not-died? The only problem, it seems, is that her payment was credited to Elizabeth, so after a quick trip to the finance building, Jess is back in the game.
Meanwhile, Neil and Liz are meeting with prospective fourth roommates for their duplex. I like to imagine that if this were a film, it'd be a wacky montage of failure personified, a la Bring It On. There's a punk-rocker, a chain-smoker, and a forty-year-old who uses acronyms. Neil doesn't understand how someone can actually say things like 'ASAP' and 'FYI' in conversation. I have a feeling that Neil would feel so left out in the social media world we're currently living in. You've gotta ROFL at the poor guy, don't you?
Oh hey, Sam Burgess is here. Apparently he goes to community college, not SVU. You know you're going bad when the fine educational institution that is Sweet Valley University won't take you. He's forgotten to send in his housing application and is now homeless. One guess how this is all going to work out. Sam gets shit from the housing officer, but brushes it off because "if Sam wanted to put the bare minimum of effort into everything he did and deal with the consequences, that was his own business." Hmm. That's kind-of an awesome life motto, to be honest.
While Liz is putting up flyers advertising the spare room, she runs right into Sam. Sam's all, "I need a place to live" and Liz is all, "Not on your life, bub." Sam wins. Instant roommate hijinks!
Actually, that's a lie. It takes them six more chapters to come to the conclusion that Sam should be their fourth roommate. I just cannot sustain the suspense for that long, because him moving in is a world of obvious.
Now it's Neil's turn to register. His adviser is one Professor Assata, which isn't as great a name as the Whack-Off guy, but it's got the word 'ass' in it, I suppose. Anyway, Neil doesn't want to reveal his big secret -- he's transferred from Stanford to SVU because his parents cut him off financially after he came out on national TV. As he puts it, "My father no longer has a son." Aww, that's horrible! Mr. Martin, for shame! Anyhizzle, Neil gets teary over his stupid unsupportive father but doesn't want to break down in front of the professor. Damn. Professor Whack-Off would've understood.
Sam's taking Liz out to dinner to prove that, like, he's a good guy? Or a good roommate? I don't know. They end up arguing, and Sam's still homeless.
At one point, Sam calls the house and Neil answers. Sam reveals that he doesn't have anywhere to live at the moment, and Neil finally (mother-effing doggone finally!) suggests that Sam come take a look at their spare room. When he does, Liz tries in vain to talk him out of moving in, pointing out all the bad things about the house. Sam's all, "I'll take it!" and this makes Liz annoyed. And horny. Annoyed and horny.
Moving day. Sam gets his gangster friend Floyd to help him move. Liz exits the bathroom from her shower just as they arrive, and is horribly embarrassed because she's in a towel "that barely skimmed her knees." Curse her for forgetting to pack her Amish towels! Sam makes a joke about how he's sweating from all the heavy lifting, and he'd like to borrow her towel now, and Liz decides that she will never leave her room again. Gone is the horny. Now she's just annoyed. (Wait...no, there's still a little bit of horny.)
Sam and Floyd waste no time making this house a home, adding Sam's beer can collection to everyone else's crap in the living room. Jessica comes downstairs and is all, "Ew." Floyd, realising that Elizabeth has a twin sister, gets exactly as excited as one would think a guy named Floyd would get when presented with twins. He argues with Sam's new housemates that the beer can pyramid ought to stay, and that chicks are only good for one thing. That last part kinda comes out of left-field. Liz thinks that Sam is going to be impossible to live with, despite the fact that Floyd's clearly the one she has a problem with. Blah, whatever, let's get to the good stuff.
The B Plot: Todd, Dana and the tears of a clown
Todd has decided that he really, truly, loves Dana in a big way. He even bought her perfume "just because it was a Wednesday." That is so unlike our Toddles, and not just because it seems strange that he would even know what day it is. I wish someone would buy me gifts just because it's Wednesday. Wednesday gifts ought to be a thing. Just when I think Todd could actually be normal, he randomly does a striptease and tells Dana to "behold my studliness!" Oh, Todd. This is why we love you.
Turns out that Todd's been crashing at Dana's place because he missed the deadline for the housing lottery, and surprise of all surprises, he's fairly comfortable with crashing at his girlfriend's every night and isn't really trying to find a place at all. Oh, Todd. This is why we hate you.
The next day, Todd's halfheartedly trying to find himself his own casa. One of Dana's roommates (Molly) yells at him to get off the phone, and he says, "No wonder he hadn't found a place yet, when he couldn't even get five minutes of privacy." Yeah, in someone else's house! Todd decides to get in the housemates' good books by cooking a fancy dinner for them all. Except that he can't. Cook. Because he's Todd. Todd can't cook. At all. He's so incompetent that he manages to completely ruin Joyce's (Dana's second roomie) expensive pots and pans. Joyce comes in and yells that, "I should have known it was your doing since it smelled like something died in here." I can't work out if she means that Todd's generally a stinky guy, or if it's a callback to the fact that he kind-of likes to kill things. (Or at least threaten to.) Joyce then says that everything he touches turns to gross, so I suppose it's the first one then.
Cut to Dana and Todd, coming home from a date and walking straight into this:
The housemates complain that Todd is taking up all their time, space, energy, hot water, et cetera. While they're listing all the reasons why Todd is such a Todd, Dana's "praying that he would keep his temper in check." Keep praying, Dana. To all the gods. Todd almost manages to get himself a reprieve, but ruins it by questioning why he's not allowed to leave his socks around but they can hang their "stretched-out bras and skanky, disgusting underwear" all over the bathroom. Molly's like, "Because we pay rent, fuckface!" and the three of them take a vote and kick Toddles out immediately. Dana boldly stands up for her man, telling the housemates that if Todd goes, so does she.
Cut to Dana and Todd is a sleazy motel room. Since Dana's so clearly upset, Todd decides to cheer her up by asking her if she wants to give the vibrating bed a go. Spoiler: she does not. Apparently she's been lying there, crying for hours on end. Here's the thing, though -- I'm not sure if it's from the housemates-kicking-her-out thing, or the motel room's decor of "paintings of sad-eyed children in clown suits." WHAT?! Did Todd ask for the nightmare suite? That is, quite frankly, terrifying. Nobody has ever taken a woman to a motel room adorned with sad clown babies with any other intention but to face-stab her. Dana is going to get stabbed in the face here.
The next chapter starts with, "A sorry excuse for a man -- that's what Todd was." No arguments here, Toddles, although as the pioneer of Wednesday gift-giving, we really expected more from you this year. He also manages to clench his hands into fists and curses his powerlessness, because the secret to becoming a man again is to physically punch the concept of powerlessness in the throat. Or something. Really, I just want to know how poor Dana is and if her face is still un-stabbed.
Oh, and there's a great part here where Todd finds a flyer for a spare bedroom that looks promising, only it turns out to be for Elizabeth's duplex. He's all, "Fuck that."
Would you look at that -- Todd's blindfolded Dana. Did I tell you or did I tell you? After what's left of Dana's stabbed face is finally recovered, the world will ask: was Todd Wilkins possessed by the hateful spirits of the clown babies, or was the existence of the clown babies proof that the darkness was already in his heart? Joyce, the housemate who told him he reeks of death, will probably testify to the latter.
Dana asks if she can take it off, and he responds with, "If you're referring to any item of clothing besides the blindfold, be my guest." Hmm. Naked face-stabbing. Should've seen that one coming. Todd takes off her blindfold and reveals his surprise -- they're not in the nightmare suite at all! He's found a house that they can rent! It's a little far from school, and apparently it makes the Wakefields' run-down house look like the penthouse at the Ritz, but it's infinitely better than the sad circus motel, right?
Todd and Dana manage to move all their stuff into their place in like a day or something. But uh-oh -- they have no money. Like, not even for dinner. Who in the hell leases their house to two broke college students with nary a job between them, and literally zero dollars to their name? Todd thinks that "he should have been used to the feeling of utter inadequacy by now." Ahahaha! Has a ghostwriter ever trolled so transparently before? Todd's never been this self-aware! He manages to find some tomato soup and not burn it to hell like he did with whatever he put in Joyce's fancy crockery a few chapters earlier.
Later, Dana plays the cello, Todd thinks she's amazing, and they proceed to fuck loudly to further piss of the neighbours. Top that, Plot C!
The C Plot: Bloody Chloe and the Return of Wildman Watts (Part 1)
So, this is Chloe's first appearance in the Sweet Valley series, and please don't think I'm being mean when I say that she sucks and she deserves a painful death. Those are facts.
Chloe feels the need to tell us that she's wearing baggy grey cords (no belt). Those aren't my parentheses. Not sure why it's important to know that she's wearing (no belt), but it is. Don't be calling her some kind of belt-wearer, because she ain't. (Side note: Sam also hated belts in book #50. Ghostie, your bias against belts is both baffling and unneccessary to the story.) Chloe meets her roommate Moira, who is from New York, and is therefore a rampant bitch. Moira immediately recognises that Chloe's rich, even though how could she? Girlfriend can't afford (no belt) or anything!
I'm lumping Tom's storyline in with Chloe's, because they intersect halfway through the book in the most cringeworthy way possibly. Anyway, Tom's just finished moving his stuff into his new room when he meets up with Lance, an old friend from his football days. Lance subtly reminds us all that Tom used to be sort of a legendary wild man, and by subtly, I mean he exclusively calls him 'Wildman' and goes on about him being a legend. Oh, Lance. You don't even want to know how mightily Tom's fallen since then.
Lance takes Tom to a sports bar for some manly sports beers, and there they meet up with some of Tom's other manly sports friends, who are named Tony and Duke respectively. Of course that's what the manly sports friends are called. They too call Tom 'Wildman' and speak endlessly about his legend. One of them asks why they don't all hang out anymore. Because Elizabeth, manly sports friend. That's why. Tom decides that he doesn't want to be Wildman Watts anymore, except...oh, well, maybe for one night. That can't hurt. You go Tom! Get yo' kicks!
Chloe talks to her mother on the phone about not wanting to be a rich snob. I hate her.
Tom and Lance are having burgers for breakfast, because Tom has become totally fucking awesome post Liz. Lance is all excited about the upcoming football season, and mentions that the coach would be more than happy to have Tom back on the team, even though is that how football works? Doesn't he need to try out or something? Coach Taylor wouldn't have put up with that shit, nosiree.
Chloe, too, is having breakfast. She can't work out how to pour herself cereal, and no, I'm not making that up. She looks around the dining hall in the hopes of finding someone who'll let her sit on their table, but this is college, for heaven's sakes. Everyone here is at least intelligent enough to realise that they ought not invite Chloe to play their reindeer games, so she sits by herself.
That night, Chloe and her floormates are hanging out, drinking diet soda and talking about which sororities they'd like to join. So I guess they're not intelligent enough to exclude Chloe from all their reindeer games. This is SVU, after all. Smarts are not a prerequisite.
Tom meets with his faculty adviser, a Professor Rosenbaum. That has to be the most disappointing professor name of the whole book, unless you count the fact that 'baum' kinda sounds like 'bum,' which I most certainly don't. My standards are a wee bit higher than that! (Hehe...'wee.') Tom's decided to be Totally Fucking Awesome again and drop all of his journalism classes. Rosenbaum's like, "Um, but isn't that your major?" and advises against it. Tom argues that with his lighter course load, he'll have more time for football, and suddenly the professor advises him to go for it, because football's Totally Fucking Awesome, and way cooler than dumb old journalism.
At Oakley Hall, Chloe and the girls are continuing their girly powwow. Or they're having another one. The timeline's kinda screwy. They talk about kissing, and one of them states that she made her boyfriend wait three whole dates before she let him touch her, and another argues that "there's a fine line between being a challenge and being a nun." Someone should slap that on a greeting card and send it to Elizabeth.
Chloe decides that what she really needs to fit in with the girls is to get herself a boyfriend, but ain't nobody got time for that! Why not just make one up? She convinces them all that she's going out with Tom Watts, whom she apparently met (for real) last year while visiting SVU. Seems Lila set them up on a blind date. So...when on the Liz-Tom-Todd-Dana-Gin-Yung timeline would that have happened? Did that happen? It would be so unbelievably snarky of Lila to set up Tom and Chloe while he was dating Liz, though.
Tom runs himself ragged, preparing himself for football. He's happy to be a doer and no longer a thinker, because thinking is for pussies and Liz.
Quick expo: this sudden and very obvious comtempt I have for Liz most likely stems from the fact that it's becoming increasingly clear that she was bringing Tom down even more than previously thought. Liberated Tom can have breakfast burgers and sports beers and even get laid if he wants to! This should've been Tom all the time -- they could have made him and Bruce be friends who go around having remarkable adventures all day long. And maybe, like, be pirates or something? That would've been neat.
Alright, let's get on with this. Chloe's still going on about her make-believe relationship with Tom. And Winston's there now, randomly. He's like, "Wait, is this Tom Watts you're talking about? I know him!" and Chloe's all, "...shit." Winston says that they live in the same dorm and used to be really close, but he hasn't seen much of him this year, on account of Tom spontaneously deciding to be Totally Fucking Awesome and all. Chloe decides to go on with her charade, especially now that she knows which building her would-be beau lives in. Tom, please, commence locking your doors.
Tom sees Elizabeth on his way home from practice one afternoon. As he's walking up to his room, he can't help but wonder what she thought of him in his football uniform, and then concedes that she must hate him for going back to his old ways. Just then, Chloe randomly shows up. Tom remembers her from their date, which evidently was "a favor to Lila." Why is he doing Lila favours? Do they even know each other? Chloe makes no secret of the fact that she's into him, and Tom, remembering Elizabeth's sourpuss reaction to seeing Wildman Watts for the first time, is all, "Yup, this'll do," and asks his stalker out.
Friday night, Tom comes by Oakley Hall to pick up Chloe. Moira, the bitchy roommate, expresses her surprise that he actually exists. Naturally, Chloe's got all her friends in her room, ready to meet Tom. He remains adorably confused by the whole situation. One of the girls mentions that Chloe told them he's back on the team, so he assumes that she's just bragging about having a date with a football stud instead of, you know, proving to everyone that her boyfriend's totally not imaginary. He ponders his options for a second, and then decides to throw the pathetic thing a bone and be the Totally Fucking Awesome super stud her floormates were expecting. The floormates swoon. Chloe swoons. Liz, meanwhile, is presumably sitting in her stupid attic bedroom, alone and unloved. Let's just let that one sink in.
Then Chloe full-on makes out with Tom in front of the other girls, and the two of them head off on their date. Tom's sufficiently freaked out now, when really he should be totally and utterly ready to take advantage of her. Because, and I quote, "whatever Tom was up for, Chloe was into it too." Booyah, Watts! That sounds like butt stuff to me!