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The One Where The Twins Almost Get Offed by a Werewolf: “Love and Death in London”

20 Oct

As you may have guessed from my lengthy absence, Francine never answered the call to Bring Margo Back From the Dead. My heart is pretty much broken. After all, previous tales had filled me with great confidence in Francine’s ability to resuscitate Margo.

So because I am the vengeful type, I am going to go to town on one of the most redonkulous books in Sweet Valley history:

“Love and Death in London”

Shame on you, Francine. I’m going to snark this like a polaroid picture.

Let’s begin with the cover, which is probably the high point of the book.

I’m going to take a stab and suggest that the 35-year-old high class call girls in trench coats outside the Big Ben are Wakefield twins [no doubt on some top-secret assignment entrusted only to them by the Scotland Yard].

And judging by the god-awful bangs and over-zealous rouge on the twin motif, I’d reckon this book was printed circa-1993. Please note that Elizabeth looks one inch taller and one pound skinnier than Jessica. Bitch.

And as for the half naked werewolf scaring off the random brunette and her gay bestie….lets just leave that one, for now.

Elizabeth and Jessica have ditched their regular summer jobs at the Sweet Valley News for the greener pastures of London.

Elizabeth is her usual annoying self and waxes poetic about famous architects and the Great Fire of 1666 and St Paul’s Cathedral.

They move into a student boarding house where there are like, kids from all over the world! Wow! Conveniently, Elizabeth’s old French toyboy, Rene Glize is ALSO at the exact same boarding house at the EXACT same time! Maybe they will sneak out and drink tequila and have sex in the common room? But no, we have to wait another five years before she returns to London and jumps in bed with a duke.

The twins begin their illustrious jobs at the esteemed London Journal. Because a Wakefield wouldn’t get out of bed for a tabloid paper. Jessica is pissed about being assigned as a social columnist. Uh, no offence Jess but you’re INTERNS. 16-year-old undergraduate interns at that. Fuck her self-entitlement complex gets to me. Also, isn’t social commentary pretty much Jessica’s dream job? Swanning around London snapping Pippa Middleton or Rosie Huntington-Whitely. Or in those days, the likes of Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley??

But worry not – within their first week our twins are promoted to senior fucking crime reporters, which not only involves chasing leads on the nation’s biggest murders but also taking on the job of the entire Scotland Yard. I guess some inferior, non-Wakefield plebs can take on those pesky tasks of reporting on petty theft at the Oxford Street 7-11 or a pommy breaching an AVO.

Gold star, you two.

But we couldn’t have such wonderful criminologists in town without an epic crime. And so, in London that week there is a spate of brutal attacks on humans and dogs which are suspiciously like the work of a werewolf. Beware the full moon, bitches.

There is more to this wonderfully transparent mystery:

Elizabeth befriends/cheats on Todd with a sensitive beatnik type called Luke Shepherd. Luke is strong and kind and poetic and they make electric shocks together and all that shit, but the real appeal lies in his dark obsession with werewolves.  Hmm…something tells me there’s a link here. Given that Elizabeth is an amazingly perceptive journalist, you would think she might come to the same conclusion when he takes her out to a restaurant known as “The Slaughtered Lamb.”

Also, Luke is a fucking tool, because he leads Elizabeth to the conclusion that a werewolf is behind all the killings. Luke is an idiot. And surely Liz is too much of a skeptic to believe him? No! It’s all very logical, you see. What creature other than a werewolf would be capable of tearing the throats out of innocent Londoners?

[Man, if only they’d written this a couple of years later. I can just imagine Jessica’s headlines:

“Did a Werewolf Kill Diana?” or, “What Camilla REALLY Gets Up to When the Moon is Full”].

But I digress. Back to this riveting mystery.

The killings go on and on, with no end in sight. Mainly because they have two sixteen year olds on the job, and the policeman in charge of the investigation is a bumbling fool called Seargent Bumpo. [This is making Twilight look like the work of Bram Stoker.]

But back at the hostel, some of the twin’s housemates have mysteries of their own.

Elizabeth is intrigued by social justice advocate Lina, who has headed to London all summer to work at a soup kitchen. She wears rags and looks somewhat familiar. Coincidentally, the young British Princess Eleina [who I’m guessing is Will and Harry’s cousin] has gone missing, and her face is all over the papers. Do you need a hint? Oh wait, you’re more than five.

There is also a snobby bitch called Portia who appears nightly at the Globe theatre. Only she’s not really a snob at all – she was just acting the whole time. All the time. Taking the Stanislavski method WAAAAY too far, methinks.

Jessica, meanwhile, is getting around with Lord Robert Pembroke, who is pretty much the English aristocracy’s version of Bruce Patman. She also gets VERY disappointed that Picadilly Circus doesn’t have any clowns. Dumbass.

Our story ends with Lord Robert inviting the twins over to stay at his manor. I’m sure he was doing a Prince Harry and thinking BINGO, but Liz goes and brings Luke the Werewolf along. That night, Jessica is the victim of a brutal attack when someone attempts to cut her throat. The book actually leaves on a high note, detailing how her limbs are all tangled, and she’s pulseless and soaked in blood.

“Elizabeth knew her tears would never end; her pain and sorrow could never be soothed. Her beloved sister was dead- murdered!”

Will Jessica die or is it just a hickey???? Only the second book of the story arc will tell…

Stay tuned for our super Halloween edition in the coming week!

Winston

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The One Where Yet Another Psychopath Fails to Kill the Wakefields: SVH #125 “Camp Killer”

13 Jul

Can we all take a moment to appreciate this awesome cover.

The guy with his hand in the fire.

Charlie Sheen on the right toasting marshmallows with the Sweet Valley gang.

The humorous attempt at perspective drawing which makes Elizabeth look like a dwarf.

And, oh wait. The axe-wielding psycho killer in the background about to lob her head off. [Like Margo, he was THAT close, but just couldn’t bring himself to do it.]

It’s another summer at Sweet Valley High, and all our fave gang are heading to Camp Echo Mountain, Montana, to live in sin with interstate campers and do the dirty on their long time loves back home. So really, just another ordinary summer for Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield.

Yet somehow, the ghosties managed to make this into a three-part story arc.

Elizabeth has finally met her match – a tough-talking, kick-ass chickie called Nicole Banes, who we know is tough because she wears a baseball cap. They fight over who gets the much-sought-after job of writing the camp play, and over Yale University student [read: wanker] Joey Mason. Must be those fricken coffee coloured eyes.

Also, Liz has found a replacement for Enid the Drip in one of my all-time favourite characters, Maria Slater. Maria is retiring from her acting post in Hollywood to Sweet Valley, and just happened to want an unglamourous job as a lowly junior counsellor for the summer. I guess Dancing With the Stars wasn’t hiring.

Anyhoo, Maria and Nicole have been best buds for several years, since Maria ditched out on Sweet Valley after middle school. Yet another spanner in the works for poor Lizzie, who even has to fight for a friend. I guess it would be difficult when you’re used to making friends by finding someone worth pitying and fixing their life.

I rather like in this book how Elizabeth just assumed she would be an awesome counsellor [the kids hate her]; and that she would automatically be chosen to write the play [she has to work for it.] I especially like this Nicole girl, who points out Elizabeth’s total hypocrisy in screwing around with Joey while knowing full well that Trusty Boyfriend Todd is pining for her back at basketball camp.

Also this: “I’ll fix her, and fix her good….” thought Nicole as she drifted off to sleep. “It’s payback time.” Ooh! Isn’t that just chillingly Margo-esque?

Meanwhile, another of Jessica’s dead boyfriends is quickly forgotten as she sneaks off to hook up with one of her camper’s older brothers, Paul Mathis. Sadly, Christian Gorman, the surfer dude who Bruce, Todd and Winston gang-bashed to death in the high school war seems just a blip on the horizon. She justifies her salacious behaviour by saying that Christian would want her to live “each day at a time.” Whatever helps you sleep at night.

Lila, meanwhile, has met the love of her life in Beauregard Creighton the third. The get caviar shipped from a gourmet shop in SoCal, and talk about skiing, and speak French to each other, just ‘cos they can. I still don’t know why Lila wasted a Summer at a hovel like this. But at least she keeps things spicy.

Speaking of spicy, let’s not forget Winston’s contribution to the gossip column – fearing that Maria Santelli was riding cowboys at the dude ranch where she spent the summer, Winston allowed himself to be seduced by a fifteen year old redhead.

Interestingly, Aaron Dallas spent most of his camp time with the other guys…

Late at night, the campers sit around the fire, making s’mores and telling stories. Camp Legend holds that an axe-murderer known as Crazy Freddy [I shit you not] lives in the bushes and comes out at night to terrorise campers. Throughout the story, there is an eerie premonition of “something in the bushes”…. which of course is “just a tree branch”, or “a twig snapping.”

This provides a perfect opportunity for Nicole to get at stupid, gullible Liz. She actually tricks Elizabeth into sneaking out into the night to meet Joey. Meanwhile, Nicole hides behind a tree with a rusted axe, pretending to be Freddy. The girl clearly has guts, but that is kind of creepy.

Their rivalry reaches a pinnacle with the Colour War, which sounds incredibly racist, but is really just a sports competition of the “red ream versus blue team” variety.

Nicole sneaks into the Camp Director’s office and changes Joey to her team. A teensy bit desperate, but whatevs. She also fails miserably in her bid to send Todd some written evidence of Elizabeth-and-Joey love notes. [Maria decides to intervene.]

The colour war ends with some kind of treasure hunt thingy which involves looking for a flag in the forest. Sounds kinda dangerous, what with a crazy axe murderer on the loose out there and all. But hey. Winston even bribes Elizabeth with pecan cookies [bless!] But she gets on her high horse and is all, “I don’t accept bribes.”

Bitch.

Of course, the hunt winds up with the twins right in the path of Crazy Freddy. Jessica is busy dry humping her man in the bushes, when a rough hand clutches her perfect face and a leering voice goes, “C’mon blondie, the forest needs you.”

For what, firewood? That’s kind of a weird psycho-line. I think I preferred Margo’s rasping.

Elizabeth momentarily forgets her bitchin’ as her twin-stinct is switched on, because, OMG you guys, they’re Wakefields! And one of them is in danger!

Meanwhile, Jessica is holed up and gagged in a hovel with Pauls’ sister. Like all kidnappings in Sweet Valley, the psycho talks rather suggestively [“Be a good girl, blondie! Open the door! Mwah ha ha!] but never actually molests anyone. Jessica calls him “Mr Freddy”, which makes me laugh.

Finally, Liz and Nicole band together with Joey and Paul to rescue our damsel in distress. Nicole even sacrifices herself, which isn’t really necessary at all because no-one dies. Not even Jessica’s boyfriend.

The Wakefields Get A Job: SVH # 131 “Fashion Victim”

6 Jun

This story arc was a bit of a landmark in the Sweet Valley series, as Elizabeth and Jessica said goodbye to high school for two whole weeks [!]  to learn about the big wide world of working girls [in the non-prostitute sense.] We also said goodbye to our early-90’s illustrated covers and hello to the Daniel twins. I’ll forgive the daisy-print onesie because I actually found them rather cute circa 1997.

I would really like to thank the Sweet Valley writers for preparing me so well for working life, because this book taught me SO many valuable lessons:

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The one where Margo buys blue-green contacts: Sweet Valley High #98 “The Wedding”

2 May

So I was browsing through my local Blockbuster Video store recently, when I came upon this cracker of a title: “Margot at the Wedding”. No shit.

I haven’t gotten around to borrowing it yet, partly because I’m too embarrassed to go back in there on account of the bizarre stares I copped when I cracked up laughing, right there in the Rom Com aisle.

Furthermore, I realise that no amount of Nicole Kidman and Jack Black brilliance could possibly live up to my vision of a movie by that name- I’m talking a Lila Fowler and Magic Jungle Prom Juice and Margo-posing-as-a-caterer-to-spy-on-Elizabeth saga.

It’s only fitting that today I recap one of the finest titles in Sweet Valley history – the story of George and Grace Fowler [and Margo]: Sweet Valley High #98 “The Wedding”.  Luckily for me, it’s among the 20 books that made the cut and scored a place in my new [smaller] house. However, I’ve had a ridiculous amount of difficulty getting the book back off my housemate. I was so sure that she only borrowed the book to humor me, but judging from the amount of difficulty I’ve had prising it off her, I’m pretty sure she’s been converted.

I now pronounce this the second best book in Sweet Valley history.

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Sweet Valley: Out with the Old, In With The New

17 Apr

Last week we re-visited one of the turn-of-the millennium editions of Sweet Valley University, an incredibly trashy Secret Love Diary that made “The Evil Twin” look like the work of one of the Bronte sisters.

Call me a Luddite, but the Sweet Valley I reminisce about was that of the Miller’s point rendezvous, and letter-writing dating services, not Conor McDermott’s moody thought poems and Lacey Frell’s fricken emails. And so, to continue our look back at late-nineties-early-noughties YA fiction, lets examine the Sweet Valley of old, and how it compared with the titles that emerged from that god awful Y2K period.

Outfit recaps below the cut!

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Mr Collins isn’t the only perve in Sweet Valley! SVT Super Edition #9 The Twins Go To College

6 Apr

Ah, this old book. A favourite of mine, when I was eight. I remember thinking how old they looked on the cover, something which is going to come in handy later in the book. Seriously, though, the twin on the left could pass for eighteen – a far cry from the doe-eyed blondes who stepped onto the cover of “Teacher’s Pet” in 1986.

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Sweet Valley Confidential: The Verdict? Perfect! [Warning, Spoilers]

30 Mar

Unlike the sugar-coated, predictable, solved-in-sixty-pages plots of our bygone series, Sweet Valley Confidential is surprisingly… real. Told through a series of flashbacks – to high school, to SVU, and to the events that led to the war between the twins – each chapter provides just the right amount of tantalizing detail to keep you in complete suspense. It was absolutely unputdownable – to the point where I was pacing my living room like a maniac, screeching, “Lila had a boob job?!” “How the fuck did Liz find out?” and “Who has Steven been screwing all this time?”

And yet, it reflects just enough of the series we so lovingly snark, with the resurgence of original Sweet Valley personalities like Caroline Pearce, Ken Matthews and Jeffery French. It harks back to those defining events – the death of Regina Morrow, the demise of Enid-the-Drip – that even snarky old me remembered with a fond smile.

All the while, the book poked just the right amount of fun at the Sweet Valley franchise, with self-referential remarks such as

“Bruce Patman kissed her [Elizabeth] ! That had never happened before. At least, not while she was conscious anyway, but that’s another story.”

Yes, folks, a warm-wine-in paper-cup reference from fan favourite “Dear Sister”.

Although heavy on those age-old Sweet Valley-an themes of true love, sisterhood and commitment, the emotions ‘Confidential dealt with were surprisingly raw. For once, not everything fell into place for our twins, as even they had to cope with rejection, criticism and the realisation that they were  –  shock horror – not the perfect sized-six beings of the past.

Before I give you the story straight up, let me add this disclaimer: my recap can not do this epic work of chick lit the justice it deserves. Recapped in chronological fashion, it seems a little blah, but this suspense-filled book is anything but. Go and get yourselves a copy [or if you’re an Aussie* befriend your fellow Americans / have a super-awesome reader who will express mail you a copy].

Heavy spoilers below the cut!

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