This book has it all, from star-crossed love to life-threatening explosions and all kinds of shenanigans in between. This is one Sweet Valley High post you won’t want to miss it! 😉
“Caught In The Middle”
Sweet Valley Scale: 4.5 out of 5 Twins
Sandra Bacon has finally found a boy to call her own. Manuel Lopez is kind, sensitive, and handsome, and he is in love with Sandra, just as she is in love with him. But there is a problem: Sandra’s parents are racist and won’t approve of their daughter dating a Mexican, so the couple must keep their love a secret. But when eyewitnesses place Manuel at the scene of a near-fatal accident, only Sandra can clear his name. If she tells the truth she may lose her parents’ love and trust, but if she doesn’t she will most certainly lose Manuel forever.
This book was simple, short and a very quick read. Sandra Bacon is in love with Manuel Lopez. Everyone knows about it at Sweet Valley High and Sandra is terrified of her parents finding out. Why? Because they’re racist, but it is never really clear in the book, if Sandra is more afraid of her disappointing her parents or more afraid that they will forbid her from seeing Manuel ever again. Either way – Sandra is an absolute coward. It begins to drive a wedge between them, because Manuel is a gentleman and wants to meet her parents before they are officially in a relationship. And Sandra has met all of his family, and we’re talking cousins, uncles, etc.
Sandra tries to bring it up to her mother with a ‘hypothetical’ and her mother just turns around and says the most hateful things. I would be shocked except that my mother and a few relatives on her side of the family have totally said these exact things before, so it makes me more sad for the person saying them, than making me think, “How can anyone possibly think that way?” But using a hypothetical – really? Sandra’s mother must be the dumbest parent on the planet. But it gets better – Sandra does the same ‘hypothetical’ multiple times and her mother never gets it because her daughter would never associate with that kind of person.
So anyway Sandra keeps lying and barely trying (because her efforts don’t seem all that believable) and Manuel feels hurt because it just seems as though Sandra is ashamed of him. So, Sandra fibs and tells Manuel she will come clean with her parents before a boat trip they are planning the following week. Meanwhile, Sandra’s best friend Jeanie West refuses to cover for Sandra anymore because she doesn’t feel comfortable lying and their mothers are tight.
On the day of the boating trip Sandra decides to convince Elizabeth Wakefield to join her and Manuel on their boating excursion so she can use Elizabeth as a cover and not technically be lying, but Elizabeth and Manuel are both clueless to her actual motives. Sandra convinces Elizabeth she wants Elizabeth to get to know Manuel better (because they’re such ‘good friends’ – for real Liz, Sandra is a cheerleader and better friends with your sister) and that Manuel wants her to join them as well. Sandra tells Manuel that Liz invited herself along and there is nothing she could do about it.
Once they’re out on the water the motorboat’s engine won’t start up. Sandra tries to fix it. Suddenly sparks fly and the engine explodes! Manuel and Elizabeth are thrown into the water from the blast of the explosion, but Sandra has been knocked unconscious and is still in the boat. Manuel swims to the boat and climbs inside, knowing it will blow up at any moment because of the gasoline canisters near the motor, and rescues Sandra. Once they’re back in the water, Manuel tells Elizabeth to swim and not to look back.
He holds Sandra while swimming to the lake’s shore, behind Elizabeth. When they get to shore, people start approaching them to help and Sandra wakes up. She tells Manuel he has to go because her parents can’t find out she was with him – even though he just saved her. Bitch! Then she tells Elizabeth she has to claim that she saved Sandra. Elizabeth doesn’t want to, but is torn because she sees how desperate Sandra is to keep her parents from finding out about Manuel. Manuel leaves and Elizabeth is accosted by reporters, but says as little as possible and begs them not to print anything (no such luck).
The next day, everyone treats Elizabeth like she is some great hero and she can’t take it. (Her best friend Enid, boyfriend Jeffrey, and her family know the truth, and Jessica’s advice – milk it. Typical Jess.) Sandra and Manuel are both absent from school, so Elizabeth goes to see Sandra and tell her she needs to tell everyone the truth. Sandra’s mother forces Elizabeth to accept an expensive gold bracelet as a thank-you for her heroics. Sandra tells Elizabeth it is not a big deal and when Elizabeth gets firm with her, Sandra bursts into tears. Elizabeth feels sorry for her and is guilted into going to Manuel’s on Sandra’s behalf. And she agrees! At this point, I seriously wanted to slap Elizabeth – doormat!
Manuel surprisingly isn’t angry with Sandra and only worried about her. A few days later, when Sandra returns to school, however, he seems to have had a change of heart (also known as growing a pair). He tells Sandra he cannot keep sneaking around and if she wants to be with him, she needs to find a way to face up to her parents. Later that afternoon, police arrive at Manuel’s work and question him about the boating accident. Several witnesses place him around the boat before the girls went out on the lake. They make him come down to the station because they don’t believe that he had nothing to do with the boat. Again, Sweet Valley police are idiots. When a family is being held hostage they refuse to do anything because it is a prank, but they make a guy driving without a license come down to the police station when he is rushing to save his sister’s life and now this thing with Manuel. Ugh. It is probably because he’s Mexican.
It turns out that Sandra’s parents have pushed police into looking for suspected foul play. They accuse Manuel of tampering with the motor and he denies everything and doesn’t admit he was Sandra’s hero, but that he was helping her with his boat because they are friends. They bring Sandra and her parents down to the station and Sandra denies everything. And then when they bring in Manuel she claims she has never seen him before – in her life! Forget Elizabeth, I would much rather slap this girl.
When the police make moves to arrest Manuel, he says, “Sandy, how could you?” And finally Sandra acts like a decent person and tells everyone the whole truth. Manuel is a hero, not a criminal and they’re in love, but even though he wanted to meet her parents she was ashamed of their prejudices and didn’t want to disappoint them. Sandra’s mother still acts like a (censored – even I won’t say the word) and is in total disbelief, at first accusing Manuel of pressuring Sandra to lie for him, but her father who was only seen briefly in one other scene before this seems to have some sense. He encourages Sandra to tell them the truth and tells his wife to shut it – but in a proper and polite way. Once Sandra is finished her father asks Manuel if everything his daughter has just said is true and Manuel says that it is. Mr. Bacon tells Manuel that he would be proud of him if he was his son and that he is welcome in their home at any time (the mother is still beside herself).
After everything, Manuel takes Sandra back. Why? Or the better question: is he just that whipped or simply a masochist? It is a happy ending for all!
I just have to say that I think Sandra Bacon may be the most despicable Sweet Valley High character yet. Remember what she did to her best friend in Sweet Valley #30 Jealous Lies (Confessions Of A Bookaholic: Guilty Pleasures Edition #18 – Sweet Valley High Books 30-31) and now this. My mother could give her mother a run for her money on being a complete bigot and yet I would call my mom out on her crap whenever she said something and let her know that that was what it was – crap. And that is without being in love with someone who is a target of these attitudes. And then she was about to let Manuel get arrested after he saved her life! Sigh… Manuel you could do so much better. Also, Mr. Bacon didn’t seem like was all that prejudiced (he was hardly featured in the book) because he does a complete 180 very quickly. He extends an open invitation to Manuel, invites him to the country club dance so Sandra will have a good time there AND makes plans to go to the Mexican Festival the following week with Manuel’s family. So, I am curious if Sandra was just stupid and her father was never actually that bad.
I also wanted to mention a Freudian Slip, er, I mean typo on the ghostwriter’s part: “Sandra felt she had to pinch herself to prove she wasn’t coming.” I’m pretty sure the ghostwriter meant dreaming, but this is too funny not to mention. Must be the whole Latino heat thing. 😉
The B-line story: Lila Fowler’s birthday is coming up and she keeps dropping hints in the guise of transparent bombs (“You have to throw me a party, because I always throw parties for you.”) about it. But Jessica acts like she does not care and convinces everyone to do the same. Lila is furious when no one even hangs out with her on her birthday (which is a Saturday). The reason: Jessica wanted to throw a real surprise party for Lila, which she called a ‘surprise surprise party’. This would be nice if most of this plan didn’t involve making Lila feel like crap with the goal of knocking her down a peg after her father brings her back clothes from his trip to Rome. Jessica is totally getting off on hurting Lila’s feelings and making her feel awful – even if she is planning something for the day after Lila’s birthday. Who needs enemies, when you have friends like Jessica Wakefield?
Let’s see: a dangerous boating accident, an explosion, racial prejudices, criminal charges, star-crossed love, scheming and a surprise party… just another day in Sweet Valley!
Make sure to check out the next Sweet Valley High post because it is going to be Sweet Valley High’s very first Super Thriller – I can’t wait! 🙂