Can Cara make Steven forget Tricia Martin?
"I may have betrayed Tricia's memory once, he told himself, "but I will never, ever do it again!" - Steven Wakefield, p. 4
As you have likely come to realize, Sweet Valley High novels are not typically complex. There's a prominent A-Story and a rather unimportant B-Story. Simple, like a sitcom. And similarly hilarious. I don't know exactly what Book 24, Memories, is, but simple ain't it.
For starters, the story Memories purports to be about is almost nowhere to be found in its first half. And speaking of starters, that story, focusing on Steven and Cara's possible relationship, started in Book 23 and has been an undercurrent in every book since Tricia died! While the book tries half-heartedly to catch up readers who haven’t been following along, in order to truly understand this one you need a little background on Steven and Cara’s fledgeling relationship. Most important of all is the dramatic change of heart Steven had toward Cara in the last book, basically because she’s learned what true loss means, which has changed her priorities and made her tolerable. Her parents divorced and her father and brother moved far away, so now she’s totally dateable. A little creepy, right?
Well, creepy takes on new meaning in Book 24, when Betsy, the once-drunk sister of Steven’s dead girlfriend guilt-trips him into ignoring Cara. She feels like it’s their job to keep Tricia’s memory alive, and is really angry with him for trying to move on. Worse yet, Steve buys this story and is so paralyzed by guilt that he can hardly get through a date with Cara without freaking out and running off.
On to the second Wakefield child. I was so pleased with the outcome of Liz and Todd's reunion at the end of Book 23 that I honestly believed she'd go a whole book (maybe even 2) without having any more romantic crises. What was I thinking? The first half of this book almost totally ignored the Cara/Steven issue to focus instead on the fact that Elizabeth meets a boy who looks a lot like Todd. His name is Michael Sellers, and he goes to Big Mesa High. She figures that if he acts like Todd, too, she's set! Crazier even than this assertion is the fact that her friends encourage her to pursue him rather than recognizing this romantic prospect as singularly unhealthy. And creepy. Unsurprisingly, Michael turns out to be a tool, and we hear little else from Liz for the rest of the book. Her only other remarks, in fact, are harshly judgmental and uncharacteristic comments about Cara. Weird, huh?
Eventually, the book returns to its main characters, who are happily united by the final chapter. Yet again, little Teddy Collins (Mr. Collins’ son) is used to glue things together. Betsy is persuaded by Elizabeth that she’s responsible for stunting Steven’s romantic growth, and apologizes to Steven and Cara by drawing them pictures of each other, which she has Teddy give to them as gifts after arranging a nighttime meeting with them via the old anonymous-note trick. And it works, of course. Little drawings of each other. Who knew?
How bizarre that all three of these stories are driven by intense psychological issues on the part of all three Wakefields. It’s not Betsy’s fault that Steven can’t get over Tricia, even if she’s not helping. Michael Sellers may be a jerk, but he’d probably be a little weirded out if he found out the real reason Elizabeth was interested in him. And even if Jessica had found the right uncle, she’d still have found some way to screw things up. Faithful to a dead girl, trying to replace a far-off boyfriend with a look-alike stranger, delusions of Hollywood grandeur; all in all, I think it’s time for a family therapy session.
I always knew there was something wrong with those Wakefield kids. It couldn't all be good looks and pizza parties for Liz, Jess, and Steve, it just couldn't! But I uncovered some very interesting information between the lines of Book 24: they are all suffering from acute mental illness. These things can happen in soap operas like Sweet Valley High, and I'm experiencing some serious schadenfreude over the fact that it's hit them all at once. You die-hards know what I mean. As winter approaches, I'm getting kind of sick of their perennial springtime or fall or whatever the hell fictional, Californian time warp they're living in. Some hard-core crazy will knock those jerks down a peg!
Okay, I know. Now I sound crazy. But what can you expect? I've been documenting these creeps for over a year, with no end in sight! Wish me luck.