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Breadcrumbs and Blondes

Originally posted at LiveJournal on Feb. 25, 2012

EOTW page count:  1696

Anne Ursu.  Breadcrumbs.  New York: Walden Pond Press, 2011.  312 pages.
Review at Postcards blog.

I'm still planning my Nostalgic Review of the Sweet Valley books, to be posted at Postcards.  Meanwhile, the following are three books that somehow hadn't made it into my Elizabeth-and-Jessica-obsessed clutches before now.





Weird, I know -- how could I never have read the first two books of the original series?  Honestly, I was much more interested in the spinoffs Sweet Valley Twins and -- especially -- Sweet Valley Kids.  It was one of the Twins books that first introduced me to the franchise, back in second grade.

I'll save the more in-depth philosophizing about the franchise for that Nostalgic Review.  Right now, I'm just going to review the above-mentioned three titles.  


SPOILERS AHEAD.

  • Kate William.  Double Love.  Sweet Valley High #1.  Created by Francine Pascal.  New York: Bantam Books, 1983.  182 pages.

This is the front cover summary:  "Share the continuing story of the Wakefield twins and their friends---their laughter, heartaches, and dreams."  Most original soap opera pitch ever XD  Apparently Pascal considered making a teen soap first, and then turned it into a book series.

In this first episode of Sweet Valley High, sixteen-year-old sisters Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield...


(sure, they look sixteen…)

...like the same guy.  He's the star of the basketball team.  Jessica is an overly obvious flirt, while Elizabeth is too shy to admit her feelings about Todd, even to Jessica.  There's a big dance coming up.

Also, Jessica sneaks out one night with bad boy Rick Andover, who takes her to a bar and tries to assault her.  The police are called, and when they drop Jessica off at home, one of the officers mistakes her for Elizabeth.  The school gossip happens to be walking her dog nearby.

Also, the twins' older brother Steven is acting mysterious.

Also, their father is spending a lot of time with a female colleague.

Also, the two most prominent families in Sweet Valley are fighting over the high-school football field.

Double Love is sappy.  The dialogue can be exposition-ey ("...What's the matter? No hello for your older and infinitely wiser brother?"), the exposition is a gag-inducing club to the head ("Sister and brother stood smiling at each other, enjoying the special bond they shared."), and the main characters are a cross between Barbie and Mary-Sue ("Both girls had the same shoulder-length, sun-streaked blond hair, the same sparkling blue-green eyes, the same perfect skin… and generally blessed with spectacular, all-American good looks").

Double Love is also predictable.  Of course Elizabeth gets her guy, her name is cleared (well, at least to said guy, but that's all that matters), the dad's relationship with the sexy colleague is completely innocent, Steven's love life is fine, the high school gets to keep its football field, and Jessica is (*channeling the Nostalgia Critic*) hilaaariously thrown in a swimming pool at the end as punishment for being a selfish jerk.    


  • Kate William.  Secrets.  Sweet Valley High #2.  Created by Francine Pascal.  New York: Bantam Books, 1983.  118 pages.

Of course Jessica hasn't learned to stop being a selfish jerk.  There's another big dance coming up and she wants to be queen!  But Elizabeth's best friend's boyfriend is head of the dance committee, ergo said best friend (Enid) will probably get lots of votes.  Then Jessica finds out about Enid's deep, dark secret, which will surely make Ronnie hate her.

Also, one of Jessica's friends starts a rumor that the French teacher is dating a student.

This book/soap episode was a little more interesting than Double Love, at least in the way any escapist guilty pleasure is interesting.  It's not particularly thought-provoking, but it's a little less predictable than the last book.  I was actually interested in seeing if/how Enid would finally leave her overly jealous jerk boyfriend.

Anyway, Jessica again gets justly embarrassed at the end, which of course will not lead to any changed behavior in future books.
 

  • Jamie Suzanne.  Against the Rules.  Sweet Valley Twins #9.  Created by Francine Pascal.  New York:  Bantam Skylark, 1987.  104 pages.

In this spin-off series, Elizabeth and Jessica are in sixth grade.  Elizabeth is still the studious, responsible sister, while Jessica is the shallow jerk.  In this story, Elizabeth befriends a girl who's shunned by the whole school because her older brother is a troublemaker and her family is poor.  Sophia is a talented writer, so Elizabeth convinces her to write the upcoming school play, but Jessica and her snobby clique try to make sure no one will even audition.

Also, some family friends are going to L.A. and want one of the twins to keep their daughter company on the trip.  There's a popular musical playing in L.A. and Jessica will just die if she can't go.

It's really hard to tell why, as the books insist, Elizabeth and Jessica are such close friends.  Jessica is a bitch.  No matter how many times Elizabeth insists that Sophia is a decent human being, and not responsible for her brother's actions, all Jessica cares about is how "shabby" Sophia is and OMG how can Elizabeth associate with such an icky person and her "creepy" family and of course anything Sophia writes must be stupid!

And yet, Elizabeth thinks it's so unfair that she gets to go to L.A. instead of poor Jessica, who wants it more.

And then I have to remind myself that this is a shallow soap-opera-esque story with stock characters, not deep, dynamic individuals. Jessica is the popularity-obsessed jerk.  Elizabeth is the good girl.  Even when Jessica does admit that maaaybe Sophia's play isn't so sucky after all, you know it's just part of the sitcom Happily Ever After (until next week's episode - watch as the characters get into the same scrapes and learn the same lessons!).

And oh, is it ever a Happily Ever After ending.  Elizabeth throws Sophia a secret birthday party after her parents have forbidden her to see Sophia outside of school.  Elizabeth's parents crash the party and realize they were wrong about Sophia.  Mr. Wakefield drives to Sophia's house to pick up Mrs. Rizzo and bring her to the party.  Mrs. Wakefield offers Mrs. Rizzo a job.  Mr. Wakefield sets Sophia's brother up with a psychologist.  And Jessica moves on to planning the school's Mini-Olympics, and making sure only the coolest, jock-iest people get to participate.

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