Will Elizabeth lose her best friend?
"I must look like a real idiot," she whispered to Elizabeth. "Who ever heard of a cripple coming to a dance?" - Enid, p. 101
One thing I can say confidently about the Sweet Valley High Novels: they are meticulously copy-edited. No matter how ridiculous the story gets, spelling and grammar remain pristine.
I don't know about later editions, but my original 1985 copy of Book 20, Crash Landing, had an alarming number of typos. I wouldn't bring it up, except that it's never happened before, so it was a little jarring. On page 36, Enid's boyfriend George is referred to as "Goerge"; on page 67, Robin says to Elizabeth, "Can I ask you womething?"; on page 72, Mrs. Wakefield tells her daughters, "We're going out on Firday night"; and on page 141, Enid tells Elizabeth, "I think George really is in love with Robin Wilson now. I've been trying to hang on to him, and that isn't fair."
If you can't find the spelling error in that last example, you can stop looking – it's not there. But in this crazy book, Enid's attitude about her boyfriend's infidelity is definitely the most glaring error.
Those of you who took the trouble to read "The B Story" in my previous entry will recall that George and Robin Wilson have fallen in love, whatever that's supposed to mean, because of their mutual passion for flying. George's mindset is reiterated as Crash Landing begins: "Her passion for planes and flying was as great as his; she was the first girl who ever understood his dream of becoming a pilot." So, there it is everyone, a perfectly sound explanation for leaving your girlfriend for one of her classmates. George was ready to break the news to Enid, too, right after taking her on his first solo flight. Perhaps the book's title is a clue to what happens next: the plane crashes into a lake after the engine gives out. George and Enid die immediately upon impact.
Gotcha! Nobody dies, guys, don't worry. That's a different book. But while rescuing an unconscious George from certain death, Enid injures her spine and loses feeling in her legs. Doctors are hopeful that she'll recover, but for the time being, she's paralyzed from the waist down. Given these unfortunate circumstances, George decides that now is not the time to leave Enid for another girl, especially since he feels responsible for the crash and the injury. He goes to Robin's house to break the news.
When Jessica and Lila (on speaking terms again after bonding over being similarly abused by Book 19's Jack) see George leaving Robin's place, they jump to conclusions. They assume that George is seeing Robin behind Enid's paralyzed back. While this is not exactly true (they've decided to STOP seeing each other) their suspicions were encouraged by Robin's initial reaction to George's plane crash: she fainted. Of course they tell Cara Walker what they saw, and next thing you know, Robin's a pariah again. Even Elizabeth doesn't want to be seen with Robin! It's just like when she was fat, lo, those many months ago (see Power Play).
If things are bad for Robin, they're even worse for George, who is forced to spend every spare minute with the girl who he wants to dump, the girl who saved his life, the girl whose heroics left her in a wheelchair. He's having a hard time hiding his heartache from Enid. Poor George! But who are we kidding! If things are bad for George, they're even worse for Enid, who is concerned that George seems distant and uninterested, not to mention the fact that, pardon my French, she's FUCKING PARALYZED.
Or is she?!
After reparative surgery, doctors expect Enid to recover. But she simply doesn't improve, even after several weeks of therapy. Eventually, doctors suspect that the condition has become psychosomatic, which they insist is perfectly normal. She's still in her wheelchair when Sweet Valley High's 197th dance of the year takes place. She tells George that he can go dance with somebody if he wants, and this guy has the balls to go dance with Robin. Enid, who hasn't heard any George/Robin rumors, is none too happy about the way the two look together. She throws a fit, and sinks deeper into the pit of weakness and despair that she's stuck in.
All of this is really bothersome to Elizabeth, who is highly concerned about Enid's change in behavior, apparent depression, and persistent inability to walk. Jessica, however, casually reminds her of a simple fact that has been stated and restated throughout Crash Landing. As long as Enid's in a wheelchair, George refuses to leave her. It occurs to Elizabeth that this fact could be the root of Enid's failure to recover, and so, my friends, she develops a plan.
With the help of Teddy Collins (yes, that's the son of famous English teacher Roger Collins), Liz plots to use the power of adrenaline to get Enid onto her feet. She begs Enid to come over (Enid's turned into something of a homebody), then plants little Teddy, an excellent swimmer, near the Wakefields' pool. With the pretense of fetching sodas from the kitchen, Elizabeth leaves the scene and Teddy goes to work. He "accidentally" drops a toy into the deep end, and dives in after it. Having been told by Elizabeth the Teddy can't swim, Enid freaks out and, sure enough, bolts out of her chair onto shaky legs to save him.
Believe it or not, readers, THIS is where the story gets farfetched. Amazed that something in her mind was actually keeping her from healing, Enid decides that she's been unfair to George. He doesn't love her anymore, so she shouldn't try to make him stay. Yeah. Let me share with you her words to Elizabeth on page 147, after the breakup occurs.
"Well, he told me that Robin had refused to see him until I was all better. He admitted that he wanted to go to her sooner, but she wouldn't let him. So I guess I can't even be mad at her!" [ed: Ummm...what?]
"Do you feel angry?" Elizabeth asked gently.
Enid shook her head. "That's the funny thing, Liz. I don't. I guess these things just sort of happen sometimes. And the truth of the matter is that I was trying to hang onto George because I was scared. I knew he wasn't happy with me any longer, but I couldn't bear to admit that I might be losing him. I made things really hard for him – and I told him how sorry I was."
Jesus H. Christ. I'm not saying that she's wrong, but what the hell! Isn't she supposed to be mad at him? And at her! I mean, he was cheating on her! They were seen kissing! In Sweet Valley, that's pretty much third base, and if my boyfriend didn't have the decency to break it off with me before rounding third with a new girl, in love with her or not, I think I might be a little angry. And I'd definitely be pissed at the girl if she was a friend of mine. Am I wrong? No. I am not. That was a rhetorical question. I am most definitely not wrong. The emotions I am describing are, in fact quite reasonable.
Can we ever trust Sweet Valley High novels again? How could the powers that be let such a horrible error in judgment slip through to the presses? Perhaps the next installment will be slightly more grounded. As Enid says on page 148, "Just because you crash once doesn't mean you'll never soar again!"
A word to the wise: don't count on it.