What does Wakefield have that Winston doesn’t?

1 Jul

Pucker up, Lizzie. The Patman is in the house...

Elizabeth Wakefield is the centre of the universe. This I have been told very unsubtlely approximately 437 times throughout this series. Which is why it should come as no surprise that in SVT #85, Elizabeth is suddenly too intellectually advanced for sixth grade, and is immediately skipped to seventh.

Academically, the higher grade proves no challenge for the Miss Know-All crown’s perennial winner. But socially, she winds up ridiculed and friendless, not to mention losing her editorial position at the SIXERS for a photocopying job at the 7&8 Gazette.

Seventh-grade social life throws up much more than Lizzie bargained for, which I find a little hard to believe given the storylines we get when the twins eventually graduate from sixth class in The Unicorn Club.

The seventh grade girls wear makeup, and discuss boys, and play games such as “Spin the Bottle”, which Elizabeth has never heard of till now [She thought that perhaps it involved throwing bottles at one another.  For someone who writes the school paper, she clearly lives under a rock.]

Steven is awesome in this one.  He and Jessica hatch a plan to employ “reverse psychology” which involves talking up seventh grade and all the “wild parties” and “cool friends” she’ll have.

Jessica, meanwhile, hangs out with Amy, Maria and Todd, and starts writing for the Sixers to send Liz green with jealousy and running back to sixth grade.

The pinnacle of this book is when Liz sneaks out to Tom McKay’s party, where the kids are playing Spin the Bottle. When Bruce Patman’s bottle lands on Liz, she pulls out of the kiss, making her the laughingstock of the entire school. To prove her merit as a seventh grader, she is dared by Janet Howell to smack one on Bruce in the cafeteria at lunchtime the next week. Woe betides our poor twelve-year-old scholar!

But ah, young Liz. There’s so much I need to warn you about. In the next ten years you will be groped on numerous occasions by this lecherous youth, including when you are comatose; you will make out with him in your kitchen when your parents are away; and eventually you will do the deed, aged twenty-seven, after he’s been silently in love with you since university.

But back to the story. Liz walks away from the much hyped kiss in the cafeteria, and is left alone with no friends in her own grade as a result. From someone who didn’t actually get kissed till the long overdue age of sixteen, I find that a little hard to believe.

The next night, while all of sixth grade goes on yet another camp, Liz is all misery. Jessica has done a lovely job of making things worse by cabining with Maria and Amy, and talking up s’mores and bushwalking and all those fun things that Lizzie will miss out on.

But Mr Bowman and Nalice finally come to the rescue, and take Liz to a surprise party, where all her sixth grade friends are there to welcome her back with open arms. The camp owners have so kindly postponed camp for one night, so that everyone can celebrate Miss Wonderful and welcome her back to sixth grade, ‘cause as Mrs Arnette puts it: “even though you’ve proved yourself academically, you’re not quite ready socially.”

Doesn’t Mr Bowman have somewhere better to be on a Friday night?

But now for my top three gripes, which I will preface by saying that I actually loved this book as a kid. Liz not fitting in with the cool crowd was [not surprisingly] relatable, and I always fancied that she was actually more mature that all the followers of the seventh grade crowd. But a few points need picking:

  1. Elizabeth was evidently a bright student, but I’m not convinced she was the smartest of all. Because, ahem, wasn’t I, Winston Egbert the winner of every spelling bee and science competition and computer prize there ever was? So why was I never offered a spot in the higher grade? Other candidates include Randy Mason, Donald Zwerdling and Lloyd “Bunsen Burner” Bensen, all of whom displayed scholarship well beyond their years. Bensen built his own fucking seismograph, for heaven’s sake.
  2. Nalice are at their absolute worst as far as parenting is concerned. What reasonable humans rock up to a spontaneous interview with their kids’ teacher on Friday afternoon, and decide in one hour flat to skip said kid ahead a grade, starting Monday? Did they consider the logistics of having a sixteen year old at University? Or Elizabeth’s feelings on the matter? Or the fact that she was miserable the whole time she was in seventh grade and all they did was chirp on about how proud they were? Or the impact it might have on the self esteem of the other twin? [and consequently on the entire Sweet Valley High series, which would never have unfolded without Jessica thinking she was god’s gift to the universe].
  3. “I’m so psyched you’re back with us,” Amy said. “I have to admit I was a little afraid of losing your friendship.”

              “That will never happen,” Elizabeth said. “We’re friends for life. You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried.”

Genius has spoke, peeps. You heard it here first.

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2 Responses to “What does Wakefield have that Winston doesn’t?”

  1. Daniella July 1, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    This is one of the very few SVT books I remember. And I agree with all three of your ‘picky’ points. Besides, in real Sweet Valley, they are SO beholden to Liz, that you’d think the entire 7th grade would conform to her, not try to make LIZ conform to THEM 🙂

  2. Jenn July 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    I love that they actually say she isn’t socially ready! Does that mean Liz is socially inept? Suddenly all the later books make so much sense…

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