The phrase "Hands-Off Hanlon" does not appear in this book.
Ken Matthews: The man. The myth. The m....aybe he should be spending more time working on his English homework? Molly McKellar joins Marissa to discuss this movie-star handsome captain of the football team and his many, many, highly relatable troubles in this, the first male-character-centered volume in the Sweet Valley High series.
So you love Ned Wakefield's dad jokes? We'll do you one better: a real life dad! Marissa's own actual father, the wise and weird Don Flaxbart, joins shares his thoughts and insights on this, the first "teenage romance of any kind" that he's ever read. Will the lanky boy get the imperious-looking girl he's sweet on? Marissa discusses this absurd question, and even more absurd book, with – cannot stress this enough – her very own father.
The old-timey, 2000s recap of this book can be found here.
Outtakes, b-roll, and real talk about the actually important moral of HEART BREAKER. Marissa is joined once more by former youth body-surfing competitor Russ Nickel, who points out all the dad jokes in the book and reads some favorite passages.
Will Aaron Dallas destroy Elizabeth and Jeffrey's happiness?
"It's not my fault!" he choked out, his throat constricting with hot tears."Everyone makes me so mad! What do they expect from me? It's not my fault!" - p. 77
So, Aaron Dallas is angry. It doesn't really matter what about; pretty much anything could set him off if he senses it's a slight or insult against him. This is especially problematic during soccer practice, as every rough steal or accidental push sends him into a blind rage. And, since he's the best player on the team, he puts Sweet Valley's championship hopes on the line when the coach threatens to boot him off the team if he doesn't quit wailing on people.
Now, you may be wondering why you should care about Aaron Dallas and his anger management issues (other than the fact that Francine Pascal told you to, which should be enough for some of us). The answer is simple: Elizabeth Wakefield and Jeffrey French are in a fight about it. Rational to a fault (well, not always), Liz sees that Aaron's behavior is way out of line. Jeffrey, though, is Aaron's best friend, and expresses his friendship through unquestioning loyalty instead of concerned intervention. He really doesn't want to hear Liz suggest that Aaron is in the wrong, and Liz is frustrated that Jeffrey won't listen to reason.
Of course, there is a reason that Aaron is so angry. His parents are getting divorced and his mother ran off with another man and left Aaron and Mr. Dallas to fend for themselves. Aaron's dad has anger issues of his own, but these are not the kind of dudes that talk about their feelings, hence the yelling and punching people. There is one thing that calms the Hulk, though, and it's a doozy: baby talk from his girlfriend, Heather. That's right. Baby talk. THE VERY THING THAT MAKES MOST PEOPLE WANT TO PUNCH THINGS IS THE THING STOPS AARON FROM PUNCHING THINGS! Sweet Pascalian irony. Blink and you'll miss it.
Heather is my favorite part of this book, mostly because of the well-deserved grief she causes for Elizabeth. Since Heather is dating Jeffrey's best friend, she and Elizabeth get to spend a bit of quality time together, much to the latter's dismay. To quote Elizabeth,"I mean, she's awfully sweet, but she's driving me crazy!". Liz is irked by the baby talk ("they sound like a couple of kindergartners!"), and by Heather's impetuous habit of sitting next to Liz and "making comments" about what's happening. Despite the baby talk, I felt like Liz was being awfully judgmental. Sure, the girl was annoying, but so are most of these Sweet Valley kids. What's more, Elizabeth hardly knows Heather.
As it turns out, Heather has been underestimated. She makes her own high-fashion wardrobe, and she only does the embarrassing baby-talk to pacify Aaron, who she's really concerned about. Maybe it's best to let the book speak for itself here:
"She was sorry about Elizabeth, because she really liked and respected her. But, well, Elizabeth Wakefield was so poised and smart, Heather felt that she herself always ended up sounding dumb and immature when she talked to the older girl. No wonder Elizabeth didn't want to be her friend." -p. 67
It's really Heather that ends up saving Aaron from himself. She convinces him to see a counselor for help after he punches Jeffrey.
Oh, yeah. He punches Jeffrey. Because Jeffrey was defending Elizabeth, who mentioned Aaron's misbehavior and suspension in an article for the school paper covering the soccer championships. Crazy, right? Why is Elizabeth covering soccer when sports is John Pfeifer's beat?!
The counselor makes everything okay so that Aaron and his dad start talking about their feelings, the coach lets Aaron play in the big match, and Sweet Valley wins. Aaron and Liz and Jeff and Heather can all be friends forever, or at least until some other major life event sets disaster in motion. I give it 3-4 books.