Is it all over between Regina and Bruce?
So this was cocaine, she thought, her face still flushed from the effects of the beer she had drunk. Funny, she would have expected it to look scarier somehow. She couldn’t imagine that innocuous white powder doing anything to anyone.
I honestly don't know where to begin. The sheer balls on this little book are mind blowing. This book is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
I have whined to you, dear readers, of the tragedy of painful breakups, the nuttiness of multiple kidnappings, and the discomfort of facing death and drugs in Sweet Valley. This book, with its peaceful (if sorrowful) cover painting and its innocuous subtitle, promises the former but delivers the pain of all the latter topics combined. Not only do Regina and Bruce break up, but Bruce also cheats on Regina with freaking Amy Sutton, and Regina finds out that she was the only one that didn't know. She finds out at a party that Bruce cheats on her DURING; she tells everyone there that she hates them; she meets a kind of shady kid and his much shadier acquaintances; they go to Kelly's; everyone that betrayed Regina tries to tell her who to befriend; she goes to a party planning to be only an innocent bystander, and then she drinks some beers, snorts two lines of coke and fucking dies of a heart attack.
I knew this was going to happen before I started this book, because it is difficult to know anything about Sweet Valley High without hearing about On the Edge. But knowing didn't make the book any more comfortable. I was essentially ill over every word of it. Bruce’s character has changed a lot since his Playing With Fire days, I thought. He loves Regina, who is great, and the fact that he could even fall in love with a (formerly) deaf girl seemed to prove his status as a new man. So, when the last book had Amy Sutton claiming that she and Bruce would be doing a little more than studying as they prepared an “oral report” together (wink wink, wink harder than this series usually winks), I figured she was full of it. Really, I didn’t think Bruce would fall so easily. But all she has to do is hint that she’s willing to kiss him, and Bruce is all over Amy as if he’d never frenched before (which I suppose could be true, but it seems unlikely of the only boy at Sweet Valley High whom we know to be guilty of seducing drunk chicks).
Knowing the consequences of everyone’s careless actions and frivolous comments only served to color them as even more callous than they might otherwise have seemed. For example, here’s Amy, hoping her fling with Bruce will take off sooner rather than later:
I don't mind being the "other woman" for a little while, but it'll get boring soon. I want the whole world to know Bruce and I are in love. And I want him to take me to the country club and buy me lots of expensive presents and stuff. How can he do that if he's still going out with Regina?
Jessica’s no better. Her friendship with fellow cheerleader Amy makes her virtually oblivious to Regina’s feelings. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is torn. She wants to tell Regina about the rumors of infidelity, but knows that spreading unsubstantiated rumors isn’t a great idea either. Worse yet, the twins are throwing a cookout (essentially this volume’s “dance”) and Bruce, Regina, AND Amy will all be there.
Jessica had just been telling her sister that she couldn't wait for the cookout. "There's bound to be lots of scandal," she'd said. "Especially since all three members of the 'love triangle' will be there.”
That was what Elizabeth couldn't understand — how her sister could actually relish the prospect of a romantic World War III.
This is precisely what goes down at the cookout. If this were a “Romantic World War II,” I’d say that Amy is instigator Germany, Bruce is misguided tagalong Italy, and Regina is poor, devastated France. In “Romantic World War III,” I have no clear cut analogies, but I think Amy is probably North Korea, Bruce is, like, Iran under Ahmadinejad , and Regina is...Greece? Sweden? It’s unclear... regardless, Bruce and Amy actually run off to MAKE OUT BEHIND A TREE! Regina is right there by the pool! When Liz goes to distract Regina so she doesn’t see them (it would suck to find out that way, Liz worries) Regina sees Bruce and Amy together and realizes that everyone knew she was being cheated on except, well, she herself. Bomb explosion!! She storms off in Bruce’s car, telling him he can pick it up the next day. The keys will be in the mailbox.
In the wake of this mass betrayal, Regina is angry and despondent. The book’s title suggests that something serious is happening, but oddly enough, Regina is not “on the edge” during this book. She doesn’t really rebel and act badly, she just angrily avoids friends that remind her of what happened with Bruce and tries to be a good friend to a troubled guy she meets at lunch, Justin Belson. At worst, she’s merely “on edge.” It’s only her peers that are freaking out about her new friend Justin and his crowd, who are purportedly into drugs. But the Sweet Valley tradition of changeable perspective (on any given page, it is typically the character we are focusing on whose thoughts and opinions we are presented with) lets us know that Regina hasn’t really changed at all, and merely feels for Justin, who has struggled so much more than she has in life. As the author tells us on page 71, “He appealed to her, yes, but she wasn't sure in what way.”
When Regina is invited to a party at Molly Hecht’s house, she doesn’t really want to go except to support Justin, who used to date Molly and is clearly still in love with her. Justin has split with Molly because of her reckless ways, and her friendship with a shady character named Jan Brown. When told that someone named Buzz will be there, Regina is even less excited about the party. But her brother Nicholas and her friends (especially Elizabeth) are so concerned about Regina’s “new crowd” that they warn her constantly to be careful, which really just pisses her off. She knows they mean well, but she just can’t understand why they don’t trust her judgement.
This Buzz character is pretty scary (“Buzz. Just the name gave Regina chills.”). Bruce and Amy (who really are working on an oral report together, which just happens to be about drug use) find out from Amy’s cousin that Buzz is a notorious drug dealer that the cops are trying to bust. Pretty gritty stuff for Sweet Valley. When Elizabeth hears about Buzz and his likely presence at this party, “All she could think about was Regina, Molly's party, and the horrible-sounding Buzz.”
The last few chapters of this book contain so much soap-opera-quality gold that I would quote every line if I could. For example, when Bruce calls Regina to warn her about Molly’s party and the shady characters known as Jan Brown and Buzz, Nicholas forces Regina to talk to Bruce at last, and this conversation transpires:
BRUCE: This guy Justin Belson, how much do you know about him?
REGINA: Enough. But then how much does anyone ever really know someone else? I thought I knew you, and I’d never have guessed in a million years you’d treat me the way you did on Saturday night.
BRUCE: Okay. Touché, Regina.
Way to go Regina! Alas, all the warnings turn out to be correct. It’s not that Regina wants to drink beers or smoke pot or snort coke, but she also doesn’t want to seem any squarer than she already looks at this party. She’s coaxed into drinking some beer, and teased about being a goody two-shoes, and then Buzz shows up and all hell breaks loose. Literally, someone shouts, “Shut up! Everyone shut up! It’s Buzz!”
Once the coke is out on display, Regina is coerced into trying it, being told (and believing) that it’s fantastic and harmless.
Buzz laughed. “Is that what they’re teaching you now? That you can get addicted to coke? Listen,” he added, “if you’ve got money, this stuff is the passport to heaven. It won’t hurt you, it won’t make you fat, it won’t get you hooked, all it’ll do is make you happy.”
It is very, very easy to picture millions of preteen girls reading this passage with a sense of excited horror. It’s the perfect set up, really, because when Regina is willing to try not one, but TWO lines of coke, it seems for a second that everything will be fine. And then she feels her heart start to race, then a little more, and all of a sudden Nicholas and some cops bust in and break up the party, rushing Regina to the hospital. Liz and Bruce are called in at Regina’s request. But it’s too late. Regina had an undiagnosed heart murmur, and the cocaine has killed her.
Whoa. As if this isn’t heavy enough, Regina has written and mailed a letter to Elizabeth that arrives after Regina’s death, thanking her for being a good friend and apologizing for being so snippy. Why the letter? It was too hard to say in person.
I am really curious to hear how many of you swore off drugs because of this book. Killing a sweet character like Regina is such a boldly “Just Say No” move that part of me thinks Nancy Reagan might have ghost written this book. Oddly enough, a similar story to this played a big part in keeping me off drugs, only in the form of a health class video where a little kid with an unknown heart condition (of course) finds cocaine under his brother’s bed. I was about 12, just the age I’m sure many of you were when you first read On the Edge.
The closing scene of On the Edge features a heartfelt memorial service for Regina in the gym, where Elizabeth gives a speech and Nicholas reads a poem. And there in the crowd are Justin and Molly, who haven’t spoken since Regina died. I am really going to miss Regina, but I’m looking forward to watching Molly Hecht, Jan Brown, and Justin Belson squirm in the next book, which stars Molly as a social pariah (since Regina was essentially killed at her party). In the meantime, let’s all celebrate Regina’s life and remember her death with some cheesy merchandise that I cooked up for just this occasion.