“What terrible secret is Tricia keeping from Steven?”
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Horrible, horrible, the many hours I spent waiting for book number 12 to arrive. I should have looked more carefully at the estimated delivery time, but I don't think it would have made much difference. There are a handful of Sweet Valley High books that are mysteriously difficult to track down, and When Love Dies is one of them. More seasoned book collectors (anyone who consistently tracks down out-of-print texts that aren't written for pre-teen girls of the 1980s) probably know some common reasons why this occurs. Limited run? Warehouse fire? My theory, for this book at least, is that those many internet entrepreneurs who purge themselves of their Francine Pascal libraries just can't let this one go. It's got to be a sentimental favorite. Because for once, by God, this one time, someone in Sweet Valley has something both serious AND believable to stress about.
Who smells an ulterior motive? Much to Steven, Elizabeth, and Todd's eventual dismay, Jessica wants to fix her brother up with Cara Walker, who we all know to be nothing more than an attractive plot device. Allow me to elaborate: Cara is a notorious gossip. She knows everything about everyone everywhere, as if by magic. This allows her to alert anyone in Sweet Valley to whatever he or she needs to know for the story to progress. Now, Steve isn't really into plot devices, attractive or not – he prefers real girls. But there's no denying that she's very handy. In this very book, in fact, she informs Jessica that a handsome young TV personality is in the local hospital with a broken leg – a bad one, at that, as he's in the hospital for at least a week. This, in turn, leads Jessica and Elizabeth to become candy stripers at said hospital. All stars are aligned.
Based on this information and the title of this book, can you figure out the rest of the story? I think you might be able to get pretty much all of it, except for the part where Jessica is proposed to by the TV star and accepts, not because she actually wants to marry him, but because she's enticed by the idea of a prolonged engagement. But that's the cotton candy B-Roll of Book 12 (see sidebar), so it will have to wait for another day. I had the luxury of more than a mere synopsis – dialogue, inner monologue even! – so it was pretty easy for me to nail this one down by chapter 2 or 3. Tricia is dying. She doesn't want Steve to know. One of the twins would happen to run into her at the hospital while working. That twin would end up telling Steven.
Now, that might not SOUND "believable," as I called it in the opening paragraph, but I haven't given you all the details. Tricia has leukemia. Her mother's death is what lead her dad into alcoholism...somehow. She doesn't want to hurt him! She's being selfless! Really, REALLY stupid, but selfless!! Poor Steven! Poor Tricia!
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I have become desensitized to ridiculous plots. You're thinking that all this Sweet Valley might be really dangerous. And you are probably right. But I'm doing this for you! If I don't protect you from the sharp, rusty ridiculousness by digesting it for you, you might get Plot Tetanus! There's no vaccine for that, folks. But now that I'm infected, I'm going to hold on to this gem, Book 12. I love it. You will not be able to buy my copy on e-Bay, either.
It's for your own protection.