Mayday! Mayday! This is not a test! A TEENAGER IS FLYING THE PLANE!!
What’s worse: your boyfriend cheating on you; your boyfriend crashing the plane he’s flying you in; everyone agreeing that your cheating boyfriend should stay with you because you’ll never walk again without his love; you convincing yourself you can’t walk without his love; or your best friend tricking you into walking by hanging the life of your hot teacher’s child in the balance?
Marissa debates this pressing question with Lauren Shippen, creator of The Bright Sessionspodcast. The quest for an answer takes the podcast into untrod territory. Also, Jessica learns to cook.
Jessica and Lila are in love...ahh, if only that were the end of the sentence.
Frenemies Lila and Jessica think they're duking it out over a secret scion, romantically masquerading as a construction worker. Marissa and her guest, actor Mark Sullivan, walk you through it all, from the poolside objectification to the final knife fight.
Yep, you read that right. Knife fight.
Some music in this episode courtesy of Purple Planet.
Links, references, explanations:
Q: What happens when you’ve just published a book about impending girlfriend death and every fiber of your being says, “Can we go darker?”
A: “KIDNAPPED!” Marissa is joined by accomplished podcast producer Mischa Stanton (in a real recording booth!), and together they try and explain what the hell happened here.
As long as your here, why not check out some of Mischa’s other shows?:
The Far Meridian — New Season Premieres August 27th!
Sci-fi road trip sitcom StarTripper!!
Read Marissa’s original hot take on Kidnapped! from long ago...
Technically summer doesn't start until next week, but here at the Diaries, summer break is in full effect...and it's PERFECT. In this special between-seasons episode Marissa and guest-friend Alex Bishop dig into the series' first SPECIAL EDITION novel. Are you ready to bike a major chunk of the California Coast with nothing more than a couple of saddle bags and a heap of moxie? No? Well, neither were the Wakefield Twins et al, but they did it anyway, and lived to tell the tale (but just bear-ly).
Strap on your hot pink crash helmet! Just after Valentine’s Day comes a tale to warm the heart and then chill it so fast that it bursts and ruins your freezer. Pop culture lover and all-around funny gal Denise Boylan joins Marissa to unpack this tale of private jealousy, romantic gestures, and innuendo. Hot Clam Special, anyone?
In this episode I make some slightly incorrect assertions about someone named Jack Kerr, star of Dawson's Creek. There is no such person. But I wasn't too far off: Kerr Smith, who played Jack on the Creek, was 26 when the show started, not 32. Jack Kerr, in contrast, was a hockey player who died on Feb 16, 1933 at the age of 69. Freaky fact: the day after this episode goes live is the 85th anniversary of his death. I had never heard of him before writing this retraction.
The original 2006 blog post about DANGEROUS LOVE is behind this curtain.
In this episode, I make reference to some promotional material I wrote for the Sweet Valley Confidential launch. The book's pre-launch website (where these things were originally shared) has been defunct for a few years now, but you can take a look at my comedic flow chart, "Who's Your Sweet Valley Dream Date" here.
Just then, the man stopped to hoist the load up, as if to get a better grip. Part of the green blanket fell back as he shifted the weight, and Jessica felt her heart–almost literally–stand still. A woman’s arm was clearly visible, hanging limply out from underneath the blanket. – p. 60
If you remember the later years of the Sweet Valley High series — or even if you've ever perused the list of book titles — you know that, at some point, things in Sweet Valley get nuts. Instead of semi-annual kidnappings and occasional deaths, these later books offer non-stop action, murderers, the infamous evil twins, and these Fear-Street-style plotlines sometimes span several volumes. Looking back, it's hard to pinpoint a single book that marks this shift into Crazytown. One candidate is Double Jeopardy, the first Sweet Valley "Super Thriller."
Just kidding. Suffice it to say, nobody dies. Except Adam's girlfriend. She's still dead.
Is love enough to keep Sandra and Manuel together?
“Are you saying that your parents–” Elizabeth stared at Sandra. “Sandy, do you mean that you want to keep your relationship with Manuel a secret because your parents would object to the fact that he’s Mexican?”
My senior year of high school, I wrote for our school newspaper's entertainment section – I reviewed movies and restaurants. Once when trying to convey the delightful authenticity of a local Mexican restaurant, I noted that I was greeted at the door by a "jolly Mexican gentleman." Our staff advisor (think Mr. Collins, only angry and less handsome) returned it to me with one edit. The quote above was circled in red, and written next to it was a note: "borderline racist."
These words sprang to mind when reading Caught in the Middle. You see, I'm not sure there's a way to write about it without getting "borderline racist" stamped across the words. This book is about Sandra Bacon doing something her parents consider unthinkable: dating Manuel Lopez, a Mexican-American.
The book itself minces around stereotypes of Mexicans by making them all positive: the Lopez family is huge, making their "cheerful, cluttered" house full of life, unlike Sandy's boring, stuffy home. They throw big family picnics and parties, warmly welcoming Sandy into their fold, while Sandy continually puts off telling her own parents about Manuel's existence, certain they'll disapprove and hurt his immense, macho pride. And don't forget the bold, colorful Mexican heritage fiesta that the town is throwing! It's going to be a festive, upbeat blast, even if the Bacons don't like it.
So, while casting the racist Bacon parents as ignorant villains (the book refers to them as "ignorant" quite frequently), it still puts their racist opinions in print. To the Bacons, Mexicans in general are just "those people," "hot-tempered" and prone to "starting riots." Which, on second thought, sounds like kind of an abnormal stereotype. Maybe that's why the author puts aside the specifics of what the Bacons object to after the book's first chapters, leaving Mrs. Bacon to say only that "they're different from us."
Okay, you get the idea. Sandy won't tell her racist parents that she's dating a Mexican-American, and Manuel really resents being kept a secret, especially since Sandy keeps trying and failing to come clean to her folks. When she tries, hypothetically asking “what if I fell in love with a Mexican-American?” her mom is no help: “I have to say that I was thinking last night about what you asked me the other day, when you were talking about what would happen if you fell in love with a Mexican boy. I got so upset I couldn’t sleep. Sandy, if that really happened, I don’t know what I’d do.” Yikes.
Sandy even stops Liz from writing about the new couple in "Eyes and Ears" lest her parents read the article or hear about it through the grapevine. Liz is much chagrinned, but (of course) becomes Sandy's confidant.
Here's where things get good. Manuel wants to go for a ride on Sandy's boat, which Sandy dearly loves. She wants to take him, but knows her prying parents will ask where she'll be all day. Sandy's best friend Jean is tired of being asked to cover for Sandy & Manuel. In need of a new patsy, Sandy asks Liz to come with them on the boat ride, saying that Manuel wants to get to know Liz better. Liz thinks this is weird (because it is), but agrees. Sandy then tells Manuel that Liz really wants to come along. Manuel is bummed that Liz is crashing his romantic day, but he's a nice guy, so he obliges.
Are you still with me? Perfect! See, now Sandy can tell her parents that she's going to the lake with Liz, and it'll be true! Meanwhile, Manuel thinks Sandy's told her parents the whole truth at last. And perhaps everything would have gone off without a hitch, if it weren't for one huge, jaw-dropping, life-threatening hitch.
The boat explodes.
It starts as a simple engine problem. Sandy's not worried when she can't get the boat to start back up after sitting out in the lake for a while. But then there's an explosion, and Manuel and Liz are thrown into the water. But Sandy was tinkering with the engine when it exploded, and a piece of shrapnel knocked her unconscious. She's stuck on the boat!
Manuel bravely rescues her, and swims her back to the dock, watching all the while that Liz is swimming safely. What a great guy! And surely now that he's saved their daughter's life, the Bacons will welcome Manuel with open arms!
Alas, even half-conscious and badly burned (well, on her hands), Sandra can't give up her spineless crusade of secrecy. She actually asks Manuel to disappear, telling the police that it was just herself and Liz on the boat! After he saved her friggin life! Liz is not keen on going along with this plan, but she does anyway, because Sandy is right there, pleading with her to keep up the lie. The papers and everyone at school think that Liz saved Sandy's life, and that she's a hero — only Sandy, Manuel, and the Wakefield family know the truth.
I expected this charade to end with Liz coming clean to the public, unable to lie anymore for Sandy's sake. It would have been heroic, in a way. But no. Some witnesses saw Manuel slink off at the scene of the explosion (or someone like him; after all, how many young Hispanic men could there be in a Southern California town?). The cops pick him up, accusing him of somehow causing the explosion! Manuel maintains that he is innocent, so the police are forced to bring in Sandy...and her parents.
"Of course," we naively assume, "she's got to come clean about her romance now!" But still, no. This chick has the nerve to look Manuel in the face and say, "I've never seen him before in my life." For a moment, it looks like that's that, and they're ready to lock Manuel up without a trial. But then Manuel utters, "Sandy, how could you?"
Then Sandy starts to cry. Perhaps it was a result of the traumatic realization that her actions have consequences, something she seemed to be previously unaware of. She confesses to her parents, the cops, Manuel, even to Elizabeth, who's just slipped in, that she loves Manuel and all her lying was for their love's sake. She was ashamed of her parents ignorance, and knew they'd never treat Manuel with the kindness that his family has shown her. It's a nice speech, and it almost makes up for the fact that she practically let her boyfriend go to prison for attempted murder, instead of letting the public hail him as a hero. It works. Mrs. Bacon still seems to have some reservations, but she manages to keep from screaming and pointing at the riotous Mexican while her husband thanks him for saving Sandy's life, and announces that Manuel must be a pretty good guy after all.
I am not sure why, after all of this, Manuel still loves Sandy. She seems confused by that fact as well, but it's a happy confusion, and that's really all you need to get by in Sweet Valley.
Will anyone ever speak to Molly Hecht again?
BUY A MUG. DO IT FOR REGINA.
Much of it was still a pot-smoke blur, but one thing was clear: no one wanted her in Sweet Valley. She didn’t belong there anymore. And she wondered whether she ever had.
What's worse than mourning the sudden, unexpected death of a young friend? Being the person everyone considers responsible for that death.
That's the premise of Outcast, and it might be true. Molly Hecht, at whose crazy party Regina Morrow tried cocaine for the first time and suffered a heart attack, was never a popular or well-liked girl. Now, everyone's suspicions that she was deserving of scorn have been categorically confirmed, and Molly herself is starting to believe that she's no good.
Here's what happens: Molly tries to talk to Elizabeth about how terribly guilty and lonely she feels, but Elizabeth basically runs away, not ready to forgive Molly for her role in Regina's death. Then she tries to visit Regina's grave, so she can apologize and seek forgiveness in person, so to speak. But Regina's brother Nicholas is there, and upon seeing Molly, he launches into a very uncharacteristic "What the hell are you doing here?!" kind of speech. Poor Molly gets no comfort at all from her parents, who are mortified that she threw a trashy party at all, not to mention that she allowed someone to die while attending it. Even Molly's old beau Justin Belson doesn't want to talk to her; associating with Molly only makes him feel more guilty.
This sob story is starting to get old. Won't someone realize how desperately sad and lonely Molly is feeling? Can't anyone admit that Molly's not to blame for Regina's death? Well, yes. Someone can and will, but only because he's going to take advantage of her.
That someone is Buzz. BUZZ! The horrible drug dealer that’s currently in hiding from the police! He finds Molly and uses his scum-of-the-earth charm to convince her that he’s the only one who knows how she feels. Lonely, unloved. Then, once he’s got her on his hook (figuratively speaking, of course), he reels her in by asking her to run away with him to Mexico. Running away sounds pretty awesome to Miss Molly, so she isn’t concerned when Buzz asks her if she has any money, then asks her to empty her college savings account to pay for their escape. That’s totally cool.
On the surface, Buzz’s come-on of empathy might seem plausible – after all, Buzz is way more responsible for Regina’s death than Molly is, and he’s such an “outcast” that the cops are chasing him! But shouldn’t Molly hate Buzz? Or at least be revolted by the sight of him? As a drug dealer, his trade – and, more specifically, he himself carrying out that trade – are a major part of what made Molly’s life so grim even before Regina’s death. Before Buzz offered her a shoulder to cry on, Molly had already vowed to try and sober up, lest more juniors die at her future parties. Why would she fall for Buzz now?
Basically, the book addresses this question thusly: Molly is weak and conflicted. That’s why she needs help, and fast! Guess who’s going to help her. I would give you three guesses, but if you’ve ever read this blog before, you already know the answer: Elizabeth to the rescue! Upon seeing how badly Molly is being treated by angry peers (and treating Molly badly herself), Liz is determined to let Molly know that Regina’s death wasn’t Molly’s fault. Regina alone was ultimately responsible for taking the drugs that killed her. She didn’t know she had a heart condition, and that the cocaine would kill her, but that’s the risk you take when you mess with the white stuff. Regina’s death was Regina’s fault. And God’s.
Liz can’t get to Molly on her own, so she enlists Justin Belson to help. She’s particularly worried, as she stealthily stalked Molly one afternoon and watched her withdraw a large amount of money from the bank while looking sad. She pleads Molly’s dire case to him just in the nick of time, and the two manage to catch Molly sneaking out of her house. They put two and two together and realize that she’s running away. Little do they know, she’s going with that awful Buzz! Justin pulls some pursuit driving tricks and cuts Molly off at a curve in the old abandoned highway (?). Elizabeth calls the cops from a nearby pay phone, but not before Buzz and Justin have a knife fight. Well, only Buzz has a knife. See, he really, really, doesn’t want to stay in Sweet Valley. He’s willing to cut up anyone who tries to stop him! Justin is forced to retaliate by finding a stick and using it to knock the knife out of Buzz’s hand. It works! You see, “He knew that Buzz was high on something, and he just prayed that would make Buzz’s reflexes slower than normal.”
Once Buzz is arrested, Molly is pacified, and everybody is back home, word seems to spread quickly that Molly is not to be shunned any longer. Even Nicholas Morrow and Jessica can see that she’s not to blame, which is really very big of them, as they are, respectively, related to the deceased and extremely shallow. She swears to clean up, she joins the Oracle staff, and she might even apply for that scholarship that Pi Beta Alpha started in Regina’s memory (see “B Story”, sidebar). To me, this seems like the height of gall, but apparently the students of Sweet Valley think it’s perfectly grand. And maybe so. I will let them judge, as they are better than you or I could ever hope to be.
In closing, I’d like to apologize for my prolonged absence. I read this book long ago, but didn’t write up the review. I have a good excuse, a really great one: a dog ate my book.
Seriously, though, I spent the night at the home of some friends, and one of their dogs chewed off the back section of my book.
That makes it kind of hard to look for quotes. :) Sorry.