rereading: Sweet Valley High Super Edition: Special Christmas

I promised myself that in 2015 I was going to reread the Sweet Valley books heaped on a top shelf in our library, and then I got overexcited and couldn’t wait for the start of the new year. So I semi-cheated: I read one of the Christmas special editions, since it’s Christmas.

It has such a pretty cover.

It's a little creepy how excited they both are by that gift.
It’s a little creepy how excited they both are by that gift.

It’s really different reading this book as an adult. When I read it as a teenager, I HATED that Todd ended up with the evil Suzanne Devlin. It felt like she “won.”

On rereading…Todd isn’t such a prize. The part where he accuses Elizabeth of starting an argument (for trying to find out why he’s acting so weird around Suzanne) instead of just telling her the truth made me want to reach right into the book and slap him.

Also, Elizabeth sounds so trapped by her long-distance relationship with Todd that it comes as a relief to see her escape it.

Still, it had been a long time since she had been on her own–really on her own, without Todd to think about. She wondered now how it would feel to get excited about seeing some guy in the hall, to spend hours getting ready to go out…

That’s just really depressing, coming from a sixteen-year-old girl.

Also, Elizabeth is too damned nice. Charged with phoning Suzanne to let her know that they don’t want her to visit, she instead waffles on about how Suzanne will be bored in Sweet Valley. She’s the first to feel sorry for her, the first to forgive her, and hands over the gently used Toddster at the end like a saint–no tears or anger or sarcasm to make anybody else feel guilty or uncomfortable. And it just strikes me as really unhealthy.

I’ve seen people remark on how this series does a lot of fat-shaming and body policing (which it does, though less obtrusively in this book), but I think it’s also worth noting that it presents “constant niceness and selflessness” as unexamined Good Things for girls, which isn’t great either. The ideal teenage girl as modeled in this book looks beautiful and acts so accommodating, she might as well not be there at all. It’s creepy, and I wanted therapy for poor Liz.

I loved Jessica in this, though. I mean, she was wrong in thinking Elizabeth would be devasted-unto-death by losing Todd, but it wasn’t an entirely stupid thing to think, given how invested everyone is in Liz-and-Todd as a couple. And at least she didn’t roll over immediately in response to “niceness.” Sometimes “nice”-seeming people really are awful, but Jessica is the only one who takes that possibility seriously.

Things I would not have been allowed to have when I was sixteen:

  • a bottle of champagne, especially when my parents weren’t in the house
  • a Secret Santa exchange that took place over the Christmas break–there’s no way that would have worked. People would have forgotten it, or blown it off, or used it as an excuse to be horrible since it wasn’t happening under school supervision.
  • a school dance that took place at one person’s home, for similar reasons.
  • a week-long Christmas visit from an out-of-town boyfriend.

Now you need to go read this post at Cliquey Pizza I just found.


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